Oz Comic Con's national cosplay competition has been some time in the making. It started in April in Perth, travelled to Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane, finally landing in Sydney this past weekend. Along the way they gathered the best talent to be found in each city, bringing them all to Sydney for the final. It all culminated this past Sunday when a winner — the best of the best of the best — was finally crowned.
That winner was none other than Brisbane's Major Sam Cosplay, who put together a stunning cosplay of La Carlotta from Phantom of the Opera — it was so impressive that it was even noticed by the actress who is currently playing the character in theatres worldwide. In a fitting coincidence, her costume also perfectly matched the shiny, shiny trophy. The winning costume was a labour of love, with more than 350 hours of work being put into it over the course of two months. If you're interested in seeing how a championship costume comes together, Major Sam has intricately recorded the process in a series of posts on her Facebook page. Her costume won out over a group that consisted of a master airbender, a Diablo barbarian, a blood-elf death-knight and even the Space Pope himself, each a representative of a different state. Next April, Major Sam will take on the role of ambassador for all of Australia, flying to Chicago to compete in C2E2's Crown Championships of Cosplay (for a prize that includes an actual crown).
So why is this a big deal? Australia sees plenty of cosplay competitions in any given year, but this is the first of its kind. We've seen national and even international cosplay competitions before with Madman Nationals and the World Cosplay Summit, but there are a few major differences to this one. Firstly, this is the first major competition where any costume from any media is accepted — which is how we ended up with film costumes, video game costumes and even Futurama in the finals. Secondly, Oz Comic Con's competition doesn't require a skit — making the competition much more concise to watch, and the judging more focussed on the actual craftsmanship that went into these cosplays. With nine out of every ten cosplay skits being downright painful to watch, this is good news for cosplayers and community alike.
Oz Comic Con is also one of the first Aussie conventions to source judges from outside the cosplay sphere, taking its lead from the C2E2 event in Chicago which this year hosted Face Off judge Neville Page and Ann Foley, the costume designer from Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Australian guest judges were no less talented, with NIDA's Head of Costume, Fiona Reilly, and makeup artist Colin Wilson joining cosplay royalty Yaya Han on the judging panel. Given that these people do costume for a living, it says something that they were so impressed by the cosplays that people have cobbled together in their spare time with little to no formal training.
"The talent is raw from a lot of these people, it is amazing," says Wilson, taking a moment to commend all the entrants before they announce the winner. "As a body painter and a makeup artist I've seen a lot working in film. This is raw. They're not actors, it's not created for them: it deserves a lot of respect." Fiona Reilly was no less impressed, adding: "I've been trying to lure some of them into the profession. I think some of them should be making a living out of it."
Hanging around the stage after the competition had concluded, I could hear plans for next year already forming. The contestants from this year who didn't quite make it were rearing for another go, and many from the audience had been inspired to give it a go themselves. Even Sunday Cosplay — the designer and creator of this year's sexy gold dragon trophy — was deep in thought, planning how he could possibly outdo himself on next year's trophy. I'm expecting something bigger and even shinier, if that's at all possible.
Our winner Major Sam has some helpful advice for anyone who wants to take home next year's shiny mythical beast trophy. "Choose a costume that shows off a lot of different skills," she stresses, as you want your costume to impress all the judges. "Do fabric, do hard parts, style a wig, interesting make up. Also, aim for perfection rather than size. Quality over quantity." She'll be busy making her own costume in the upcoming months, with the intention to premiere a brand new — and no doubt even more impressive — costume in Chicago next year.