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SYFY WIRE cosplay

First Look: Cosplay expert Andrew Liptak examines fandom fashion in Cosplay: A History

By Jeff Spry
Cosplay Hero

If you haven't yet observed the obvious trend surrounding fandom, let us point out the indomitable fact that cosplay is a vast and creative enterprise that has grown to envelope every corner of the geek universe.

Cosplay: A History is a deluxe upcoming release from Saga Press celebrating the colorful kingdom of cosplay being compiled by writer/historian Andrew Liptak and SYFY WIRE has a first look at some of the images that will grace the pages of this nerdy tribute tome when it arrives in 2021.

Cosplay Slice 1

The debate on when the first cosplayers paraded out in their homemade costumes may have started with annual Halloween festivities, living history attractions in New England, or Civil War reenactors donning homemade outfits to enhance the realism.

Liptak, a dedicated cosplayer and member of the storied 501st Legion himself, is currently traversing the globe snapping photos and interviewing enthusiasts at pop culture conventions, comic book fan events, fantasy book fairs, and horror fright-fests for material to include in his captivating book. He's been cosplaying since high school and bought his first set of Stormtrooper armor in 2003. After college, Liptak began to travel around New England to take part in 501st Legion activities where he found an incredibly creative community.

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"While most people started with something like a Stormtrooper or TIE Pilot, they'd inevitably go on to do other things. I went on to do light up costumes for Stargate SG-1 and Duncan Jones' film Moon, while I've steadily built trooper after trooper," Liptak tells SYFY WIRE. "At the present moment, I've got a First Order heavy trooper from The Force Awakens, a Shoretrooper from Rogue One (my current favorite), a regular clone trooper from Attack of the Clones, and I'm currently working out the kinks on a 212th Airborne clone trooper from Revenge of the Sith."

Inspiration to craft this upcoming book came from his interest in the history of the 501st Legion. At the same time, he was working closely with The Verge colleague Bryan Bishop and realized that costumers working today occupy a fascinating place between the intersection of fandom, entertainment, and technology.

"The 501st grew up during a time of enormous transition and growth in the cosplay world, and is a useful microcosm," he says. "People can take part in their favorite franchises, either by embodying their favorite characters, or creating some sort of clever costume that represents some part of the story. 

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"Costumers are enjoying a period where there's an incredible amount of tools and talent access right now. You can go on Thingiverse and print up a ton of accessories and even full costumes if you have access to a 3D printer. Go to the store and buy foam flooring sheets, and you have the raw materials for any number of pieces. Facebook groups and websites like the Replica Props Forum are online oases for makers and builders, and will often help aspiring prop/costume/cosplayers with getting started. 

"Plus, there's the maker movement out there, and people are realizing that it's incredibly rewarding to make something with your own hands, rather than buy it off the shelf," he adds. "I know friends in my local 501st group who have quit their jobs or opened side businesses where they turn out movie-quality props, masks, lightsabers, Halo costumes, garments, and more."

But as fascinating as the current state of cosplay is, Liptak is also interested in exploring where it came from by researching the history of halloween costumes, Hollywood designers, and old costume masquerades from the earliest conventions. Cosplay: A History is a deep-dive examination into the dynamic story of cosplay and how it has grown to become a world-wide phenomenon.

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"Adding to the creativity and craft are mainstream TV shows like The Expanse, Battlestar Galactica, Lost, Game of Thrones, and The Big Bang Theory, which have translated into a realization that these entertainments aren't just dorky pastimes reserved for high school outcasts," he explains.

"Cosplay has been around for a long time, and I don't see it as something that's related to just science fiction and fantasy properties. We're a species that really relates to stories, and cosplay is a tool that helps convey a story."

Enjoy our sneak peek at Cosplay: A History coming in June 2021 from Saga Press in the full gallery below, then tell us which particular aspect of the cosplay realm you feel most alive in.