By Chris Furguson

Athena, a Las Vegas native, arrived in San Diego with a Poison Ivy (Batman) costume, among others.  “I’ve always liked the sensuality of Poison Ivy, and adored her character design.”

Katie, a young woman from Los Angeles, came to Comic-Con as a humanoid GLaDOS from the game “Portal.”  “It’s my favorite video game possibly of all time,” said Katie “and the character of GLaDOS is just so incredibly interesting.”

Romeo, a San Diego resident, had been dressing up as a Cobra Crimson Guard (“G.I. Joe”) for years.  “I’ve had the costume for years,” said Romeo, “and I’m a fan of the design.”

Cosplay, the amalgamation of “Costume” and “play” began in Japan in the late 1970s at anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comic book) fan gatherings, where some “otaku” (Japanese for “obsessed”) would not only talk about their favorite characters, but dress up as their favorite characters.

The trend caught on in the United States a few years later at conventions like the San Diego Comic-Con and others.  Nowadays, a popular arts convention that doesn’t have some people dressing up seems out of place.

Birth of the Cosplay Celebrity

For a lucky few, a good cosplay at the right time and place can life changing.

Raychul Moore, a 27-year old freelance video game journalist who once worked for GamePro magazine and a sister site called gamegirl.com, dressed up for the 2011 Comic-Con as “Baby Doll” from the film “Sucker Punch,” a superhero version of the Disney character “Snow White” and a female version of the Marvel hero Thor..

Moore, who has been at the previous Comic-Cons dressed as Natasia Kassle (Danger Girls), Supergirl (DC Comics), Kratos (God of War) and many others said that she had been making Halloween video game character costumes for years.

“Cosplay was always something that interested me,” explained Moore.  “So when I finally was able to go to my first Comic Con I just knew I had to cosplay!”

The following year, Moore achieved a significant measure of internet fame when she arrived at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2009 dressed as Cammy White from Street Fighter. Her costume, accurate in many details, wowed many convention goers, YouTube video makers and professional photographers.

Immediately afterwards, Moore began doing more modeling and other journalism work, some of which was spurred on by her new fame.  Still, Moore is a fan of cosplay at heart.

“The infamous Cammy costume just earned me a whole new group of fans from the cosplay side of things and allowed me to really dive into a new passion,” said Moore.   The most humbling thing about my Cammy cosplay was when CAPCOM called me ‘the best Cammy cosplayer around.'”

Moore currently has several projects going, most of which may be found at her website, www.raychul.com.

Another cosplayer who made an emergence in the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con was Jessica Nigri, a 22-year old from Phoenix, Arizona who first dressed up at that convention.  Her costumes, a very accurate rendition of “Rikku” from “Final Fantasy X-2″ and a very revealing version of “Pikachu” from “Pokémon,” drew plenty of attention thanks to her figure and big smile.

“It was such an unreal experience considering I hadn’t even heard of the term ‘cosplay’! I was just a con attendee who wanted to show her love for her nerd culture,” explained Nigri.  “Little did I know what would come from this decision.”

What came was, after drawing huge attention from YouTube users KassemG and sxephil (Phillip De Franco), Nigri became an internet darling.  Her new fame led Nigri into spokesmodeling, online interviewing and other endeavors, many of which are detailed on her website, www.jessicanigriofficial.com.

“It was so amazing meeting everyone,” added Nigri, “because I have made some awesome life long friends from it all.”

Jessica’s Facebook fan page  has over 48,000 likes as well.  Currently, Nigri has more than 20 different characters, including several pokémon adaptations,

This year, Nigri was walking around Comic-Con as Anya Stroud from the upcoming Gears of War 3 and as Eloa from a new comic book “Knightingail.”  Nigri was also doing interviews for Rugged TV, an internet based video magazine.

A New Type Of “Cosplayer” Emerges

With the sudden fame of women like Moore and Jessica Nigri, another cosplayer who became internet famous for her costumes, more and more models are arriving at conventions like Comic-Con and dressing up, not for any specific love of the character they’re wearing but in order to generate some attention.

Some of these “costumed non-cosplayers” were advertising themselves as potential booth babes  (women whose job is to draw extra attention to the booth they’re working in) and other types of modeling.  Others were looking to draw attention to themselves through skimpy or revealing costumes in order to promote their own websites or other businesses.

Some of these mostly young women had little clue who they were dressed as, unlike the supposed “true cosplayers,” who know as much about their characters as possible.

“I have respect for any cosplay who has spent time and money into making each of their costumes,” said Moore. “Now the girls who just go to a Halloween Store and buy a Princess Peach costume and that’s their cosplay, that I don’t respect as much. Anyone can do that.”

Moore later added.  “I also don’t fully agree with the cosplayers who will only pose for people who are with a major outlet or who have an expensive camera. If you’re only cosplaying for attention or coverage, then you have missed the point completely.”

Another cosplayer, who wished to remain anonymous,  suggested that fans of cosplay could tell the pros looking for attention from the fans who really loved their characters.

“Most people here, I think, can tell someone who loves their costume and someone who is using their look to get famous.”

While conventions, complete with cosplayers, take place all over the world throughout the year, the next San Diego Comic-Con will be held from July 12 through July 15.

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