Hellboy will always be cosplayer Christopher English's favorite costume. Hellboy is not only one of the characters he loves most, he was English’s very first attempt at cosplay. It opened the door to the whole community and set him on a path to creating incredible costumes.
English was a little bit late to the cosplay game. He was always into comic books and science fiction, so a friend asked him to go to a convention with him. English just so happened to wear a costume and just bought things at a party store to create it. At the convention, he saw tons of people in costume, many of whom offered him help with his DIY creation. It was then he realized this was “a big deal for people.”
“I decided after that moment that I was going to take the next year until the next convention and work on my one costume and really give it my best shot,” English told SYFY WIRE. “That’s when I learned about cosplay and how to make things, and this whole world opened up to me after I went to my first convention. If it wasn’t for that, to this day I wouldn’t know really too much about cosplay.”
So he went back to work, on a much more bespoke version of Hellboy. He learned how to do makeup, craft out of different materials, and all kinds of other skills. Makeup provided a particular challenge, and he tried a lot of products to see what would work best with his pigmentation in the way he wanted to represent it.
“Prior to this I had no experience doing makeup whatsoever. It’s not a part of my daily routine, so I was starting from absolutely zero to trying to do this elaborate body makeup,” he said. “That was definitely a challenge, and even to this day there’s still a lot I need to learn as far as makeup goes, but I can get my Hellboy down, so that’s the main thing.”
Since learning the craft on Hellboy, English has made numerous other unforgettable costumes. He has cosplayed as Drax, M'baku, and Green Lantern, and decides what's next based on what would be challenging for him. He also loves creating big armor and weapons.
One of the essential things he considers when creating something new isn’t just whether he can make it, but whether he can wear it. Many artists create fantastic looks, but don’t worry about how it might anatomically fit a character. It’s something he didn’t consider until he started cosplaying.
“When you’re trying to make it 3D and fit on these armors that exist in the cartoon and gaming worlds, what you find is that it’s not possible to do all the time. The first thing I look at is, how can I actually wear this anatomically? That’s a big thing for shoulder armors, belts, leg pieces, arm pieces, and things like that, because for the art there’s no strap or buckle, it’s just there,” he explained. “But when you’re trying to wear it, you have to account for it… When making a costume I always think, it’s great if I can make it, but if I can’t wear it, then it’s no use to me."
It’s not just the love of creating these costumes that keeps English coming back to the cosplay community. The kindness he experienced from everyone also stuck with him. One of the things he thought was great about that first convention was the fact that everyone was there to have a good time.
“There was no religion or politics, just pop culture and science fiction and a love for comic books and all these different things brought everybody together,” he said. “That’s what appeals to me the most, the fact that people from all over the country, all different backgrounds can put all that aside just enjoy pop culture. That’s what kept me coming back. It’s still like that today. Everybody can put all those things aside and have a good time at the convention for the most part.”
That’s not to say there isn’t the opportunity to make conventions even more welcoming places, and English is trying to do just that with fellow fans. A year ago, he started Chicago POC Cosplayers with a friend as a way for people of color to feel welcome in cosplay. There are a lot of great groups in Chicago, but English received a lot of comments asking where minorities could meet and discuss what’s specific to them in the community. Topics like racism can be hard to discuss in general groups with people who don’t understand it because they don’t experience it.
“There we can discuss topics like colorism and racism and bigotry in the cosplay community. With that said, probably I would say that is a small percentage of the minority experience in cosplay, but it does exist and it does need to be talked about,” English explained. “That’s the place we go to talk about it and we also go around to conventions and we spread inclusivity and positive messages. I do my diversity in cosplay panel at conventions as a way to also spread the message of being inclusive and being appropriate."
Everyone in the community can help make a difference by sharing the work of everyone who cosplays including people who are minorities, disabled, and plus size. They should receive the same attention as those who conform to the western standard of beauty and by sharing everyone, it can spread the message of being inclusive.
“To me, I feel like if you show that there is an infinite amount of ways to cosplay, then people will start to better grasp that concept. But if you only show that in order to be a cosplayer you have to be primarily white and primarily thin, then it takes away from what the whole thing is about,” English said. “If we share everything and we show that you can be plus size and cosplay. You can be black and cosplay. You can be hispanic anHispanicy. That goes a long way into helping the cause.”
You can see more of English’s cosplay on his Instagram.
Get to know Christopher a bit better below: