Summary of Heroes of Cosplay

There have been many articles written about Heroes of Cosplay including an initial review of the first episode by myself.

There’s been a lot about the show that’s been written, but I wanted to see how it all would play out, because as everyone on the show said, “It was an evolving show.”

I’ll be the first to admit that there are problems with the show, including the highly criticized edited on the show (even with people not cast in the show). And yes, I can tell you that Jessica Nigri and Yaya are still friends.

Beyond this though are the various legal and respect problems surrounding the show such as Bryan Humphrey and Darrell Ardita of BGZ Studios who were suing the show for using photos without the photographer’s consent. I have learned that even those who did sign away the rights for their photographs to be on the show are not even getting complimentary credits from SyFy, despite them asking. In an update Darrell has won his request from SyFy, we will let you know more as it is announced.

This bothers me more than anything else shown on the show. This is because this is a legal issue from a major company that should know better, and I would say does know better. For those who do not know, SyFy is owned by NBC Universal Comcast, a publicly traded company with the symbol: CMCSA. Legal issues like these can be very damaging to a company’s stock performance. In fact I would be very curious to hear NBC Universal Comcast’s opinion of these in the stockholders meeting, which according to my research is on September 24th at GOLDMAN SACHS COMMUNACOPIA CONFERENCE.

More than this though according to Darell: “Very soon after my response, SyFy did the unthinkable. They turned it around and started attacking the cosplayers in question – which was completely not my intention. SyFy threatened to compromise the careers of the cosplayers featured in the show. Reality TV production at its best.” Personally I think “compromise the careers of the cosplayers featured in the show” is an empty threat, basically because I thought: “How?”

Now I have not seen any of the contracts signed, but logically it does not make sense, because what is the worst that NBC Universal Comcast can do? Not book them (the featured cosplayers) to work on properties? Not have the actors and other stars from other shows on NBC Universal Comcast go to conventions or promote their shows at said conventions, which as you can imagine would be another large set of legal problems for NBC Universal Comcast, and be very detrimental to their own shows, original, co-produced, or licensed. Plenty of other shows and networks, movies, etc. would be more than happy to step in and take any of the places left vacant by NBC Universal Comcast.

NBC Universal Comcast needs the conventions even more than just a source for fan relations, should there be a second season, there may be plenty of conventions that have major concerns about allowing such things to be filmed at their venues, given the legal issues surrounding the show. In addition several of the judges did not know they were going to be featured on the show until they were being miked up.

Prior to the announcement of the show I have interacted and created media with half the cast. As stated in my prior article I do know Yaya and Riki, and I have interacted with Holly (she is even a featured person in one of my academic videos), Chloe, Monika (even as recently as Anime Expo [where I conveyed a message from Alodia to Jessica Nigri through her as they were sharing a booth]), and I did know who Victoria and Becky were through the mutual relations of friends (and it is amusing that everybody on the cast shows up in Facebook as “people you may know”). Prior to the show I had never directly interacted with Jessica, Jesse, or Jinyo, which has since changed.

I normally do not participate in the live-tweeting of shows and commentary, but for this show I have been. And as such I have had wonderful conversations with the cast particularly with Jinyo, Becky, Holly, and Victoria.

Here is an example with Jinyo:

Jinyo's Awesome Response To My Sportsmaster Armor

Jinyo’s Awesome Response To My Sportsmaster Armor

As I said in my first article about Heroes of Cosplay, this show while featuring cosplayers is not necessarily directed to cosplayers.

Not participating various drinking games I have seen about Heroes of Cosplay, I basically kept on watch to see if and when my friends (aside from the above) are shown on the show, and I have sent screenshots of the show to friends when they are featured. Several of them also well known cosplayers themselves.

Katie George on Heroes of Cosplay

For example Katie George, a World Cosplay Summit USA Representative in 2012 on Heroes of Cosplay at Anime Matsuri

One thing I did not like overall, was the showing of people being physically sick and hearing it too. We saw this with Jessica and Riki, and I never like when I see things like this on reality TV, it shows people at their worst, and I think it was unnecessary. It was good that the crew got Becky the care she needed for her eyes, but I still think something like that could have and should have been prevented by the crew, because what if she did lose her sight? They could have checked to make sure that the contacts were taken out the night before. Jessica talks about her experience on her tumblr.

There are several issues discussed with cosplaying being a career, and while it can not be a full-time career for everyone, as I state in my presentation, it can be a significant supplementary income in various forms, from print and product sales, to commissions, to corporate sponsorships (paid cosplaying gigs). In addition and this goes to the nature of work, what is “full-time?” And these are increasing, you see more artists working with cosplayers doing cross-promotion and videogame, comic, and media companies hiring cosplayers to work at shows and as a part of other media properties. Yaya and Jessica are two of the prime examples of this and they do have very high visibility, but they are not the only ones. Several of our friends (here at Nerd Reactor and several of mine personally) do make a supplemental income through cosplay (and I, to a degree as well). We also saw in the show the Holly and Jessica of Crabcat have even done costume work directly for Guillermo Del Toro.

As we know, seen and discussed, all reality shows are edited to increase drama, whether it was real or not. Comics Alliance has a wonderful and shared overview of just some of the edits done on the show. This being said though, it is also a responsibility of those on the show to not give the drama curators something to emphasize (at best) or turn into something that would demonize you.

This is something that happened with Monika. Unlike many just watching show, I was also following along with Twitter, Facebook, etc, and reading the commentary from cosplay friends and Becky herself. However for many who were just watching, like the people I was watching with, they were not tweeting, or interacting on Facebook (at least not with cosplayers or members of the cast), and they did not have the nicest of things to say about her (and she saw the social media commentary by others). Monika has been portrayed as a reality show TV villain and bully, and as you know in cosplay, the only villains should be the characters we cosplay. From my personal experiences, she has been cool and has done something good with helping out in Cosplay for a Cause.

Monika at Jessica's Booth at Anime Expo

Monika at Jessica’s Booth at Anime Expo

There are some other things too I have questions on. Now there has been a lot of controversy especially surrounding the last episode with the Doctor Who group, and reading the posts from multiple angles actually gives me different questions.

These quotes are direct from Chloe Dykstra’s tumblr post:

“People don’t like when the odds are stacked against them in a way that feels unfair (though the cast entirely made their own costumes and paid for almost everything).”

“Holly mentioned that we spent [a buttload of money] shipping things here”

The question is did the Heroes of Cosplay cast members pay for everything, and if so why?

When I am doing work, especially professional work I like to be paid at least for my travel and expenses, at a minimum. As an actual television show, with a backing by SyFy (NBC Universal Comcast), why are the cast paying for anything? NBC Universal Comcast should be paying for the materials, the transport costs, etc. at the time of, or providing reimbursement. From the quotes here it did not seem that NBC Universal Comcast did the first, and I am not sure if they did the second. I would definitely like to get a clarification on this. Such things would give cosplayers pause about joining a second season, because not everyone can afford such large shipping expenditures, much less con travel and hotels.

I have spoken on the negative, which mostly has to do with the production of the show, now I would like to talk about the positive aspects.

People were introduced to a large, wonderful, and colorful world. A world that is expanding at an exponential rate. And are now participating in it.

Perhaps said here best by Victoria on her fanpage:

Victoria Talking about first cons and cosplays because of Heroes of Cosplay

Victoria Talking about first cons and cosplays because of Heroes of Cosplay

You saw this constantly from every (usually Anime Expo) B-roll, to every competition with all the amazing competitors, even if they were shown briefly. But like I said, you saw amazing cosplays.

Cosplay is a community activity done with friends, family, and loved ones. You see this with Jinyo and Victoria, Holly and Jessica, and Riki and Chris, as they collaborate on making costumes. You saw this with J. Lance and Becky in the creation of Elizabeth and the flower effect from BioShock, and Chloe in the creation of Deathtrap for her Gaige assisted by her father.

Chloe as Gaige from Borderlands, photo by David Ngo

Chloe as Gaige from Borderlands, photo by David Ngo

You saw this even further with a skit performance from Yaya, Monika, and Riki. Here the collaboration was international.

Again as I said in my prior article, we all support each other in various ways, from providing photoshoots to product, to even voices and video. Cosplay is and is shown as a community activity, to be enjoyed by the friends we have and the friends we have not made yet.

It has inspired people to learn more about cosplay, not in a reality show format, as in true documentary and Cosplay: Crafting A Secret Identity from PBS was something that people looked to it to learn more.

In fact it was one of the most watched shows on PBS overall.

Most Popular Videos on PBS 16 August 2013

Most Popular Videos on PBS 16 August 2013

In the finale it showed Victoria and Jinyo becoming engaged, which can always be a wonderful thing. You always hear in many circles of “cosplay families” and “cosplay partner(s)” and sometimes these go beyond being a cosplay family and partner into families bound by love of their shared interests and for each other. This was the best part of the show, not the costume making, not the competitions, but this.

Overall Heroes of Cosplay, did something good, even if that was not the producers’ intent. It introduced people into a culture they did not know about or understand. The show presented several of its own misconceptions about cosplay, but some of these misconceptions were eroded while the show progressed, and easily shown as false with a little bit of research and/or actually attending a cosplay event/convention.

This show made people want to learn more about cosplay, get involved in it, see what is all about for themselves. Each of the cosplayers provided various inspiration for other people to get involved, to try something, go to conventions, to try and start cosplaying. You can see that from Facebook and Twitter.

Heroes of Cosplay would be a better should should it reduce the forced drama and focus more on the friendships, family, fabrications, and fun (I’m assuming they will not make similar legal mistakes by the way). This is something to think about for the second season should there be one; show people being heroes outside of cons with cosplay, show them being “heroes” more (like with what happened with Becky as a princess in the first episode), show the charity events, show more about Cosplay for a Cause with Riki, show how people inspire, things along these lines. Show the fun, keep it fun, and you will have something truly wonderful.

Once more the cast:

Yaya Han – Yaya is one of the acknowledged legends of cosplay whose entrance at each convention – always in full costume – never fails to create a stir. A source of inspiration and intimidation to the contestants, Atlanta-based Yaya Han is often a judge at contests.

Riki LeCotey – Riki moved from rural Canada to the United States to follow her passion for cosplay. A special effects technician on sci-fi films, she is also the founder of Cosplay for a Cause, which has raised money for victims of the Japanese Tsunami.

Monika Lee – Monika is from Atlanta and a student at the Georgia Institute of technology, where she’s majoring in industrial design. A cosplayer since the age of 13, competed in numerous craftsmanship contests winning several “Best in Shows” and various other awards.

Victoria Schmidt – Victoria is co-founder of the geek fashion and style blog settostunning.com. A passionate fan of cosplay since high school, she’s especially proud of being Princess Leia on LucasFilm’s Star Wars float in the 2007 Rose Parade.

Chloe Dykstra was almost fated to be in the cosplay community; her father is an F/X legend, having worked on the original Star Wars and Star Trek films. An actress and model, she hosts the Just Cos show on YouTube’s Nerdist channel.

Jessica Merizan and Holly Conrad – Jessica has performed in regional theater in Southern California since she was five years old. Together, she and fellow cast member Holly Conrad co-founded a costume fabrication shop, cosplay community and new media entertainment company.

Holly was mentored by her very qualified grandfather, Dorse Lanpher, an F/X animator for Disney and others. She now works in the special effects business for several major studios, in addition to her business with Jessica.

Becky Young – Becky has created costumes since attending San Diego Comic-Con in 2006. A trained actress, she has voiced Video Game Nussie on Maxim Radio and was a judge on CBS Sports’ Guitar Hero Competition show. She lives in Burbank.

Jesse Lagers – Jesse lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works as a software systems administrator. He hopes that success in cosplay competitions will lead to his own business creating costumes and props. Jesse is a stickler for realism and authenticity in all of the costumes he creates.

About author

Lawrence Brenner
Lawrence Brenner 22 posts

Lawrence Brenner is a journalist/writer/photographer/videographer and academic. He has also presented on the Rise of the Cosplay Economy at Anime Expo.

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