Thursday, 22 May 2014

Dash Shaw's Cosplayers - Connection through Deception

Impersonating dishonesty

I have to confess that I love reading books about sad people. More accurately, I love reading stories about miserable, mediocre people. The sadder they are, the more I like it. As long as they are actual characters and not just proxy for horrible misery and gloom. Think about Jimmy Corrigan, the smartest kid on earth. He is a sad, weak, middle-aged man whose melancholy and grief is a product of both his personality and his environment. He is caught in this wheel of unhappiness with endless questions about the meaning of his life, which he eventually tries to resolve. It makes for a fantastic read. He is a fully formed pathetic character and I loved him for it.

Annie the Cosplayer and her nameless friend, which I will refer to as "the photographer" for lack of an actual name (though she is apparently called Verti, according to Fantagraphics), are just as sad and miserable as one could hope for. Both are alone, longing to connect with someone. Their meeting and its connection to cosplaying proves key to understanding their relationship. They first meet at Otakon while Annie is cosplaying as Sailor Venus from the manga Sailor Moon. Cosplay is more than just about the costume. One also adopts the maneurisms, speech patterns, expressions and looks of the subject. It is about becoming the character completely. The cosplayer transforms oneself; acting and behaving like the character they are impersonating. Its obvious that someone dressed as Gambit or Magneto is not truly that fictional character, but it is deceitful nonetheless. This dishonesty permeates the entire book and their entire friendship. It is on nearly every page. Annie even carries a green screen in her own home. Her online interactions are always conducted under a false name (orlyman, lazymercenary, etc.). Special effects are even performed with a hidden camera `spy film`. The entire basis of their relationships is a lie.

The photographer is fascinated by Annie and they become friends, although it seems quite one-sided. Annie is not herself in their first meeting. She is Sailor Venus, played by Annie. She doesn`t just lie to others, but she is constantly playing a role with herself as well. She wants to be an actor and is extroverted when she is cosplaying, yet she is naturally shy and insecure. She displays mean characteristics and completely lacks empathy. The photographer is not any better; she longs for a deeper connection to someone and is willing to trade the truth for it. She maintains their deception until the end; the deception being that what they have is a friendship, and that they are making a film. It is through their deceptions of one another and the rest of the world that they are actually able to connect to each other. "You might see one of us and think we're delivering your mail, or waiting on your table, but we're actually acting and we've given you a bit part". But their friendship crumbles when one of them realizes that her false life leaves her feeling empty. The photographer meets a boy and wishes to form an honest connection with him. Annie discourages her, but she tries anyway. She lies, but it rings false. She convinces the boy with her lies, but she can't convince herself anymore. She is not Scarlet Witch, nor is she Daenarys Targaryen. He is not Magneto, nor is he Khal Drogo. They are who they are, and no one else. The sadness ends once she realizes that she does not need to lie to make a connection.

Just some guy

This comic book is too short and it manages to be more meaningful and more beautiful than most major releases. I didn't want it to end so abruptly, but the experience will stay with me for a long time.

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