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Masters of disguise

Students trade street clothes for spandex and pleather

UMBC students with a passion for costume play often step into another world by donning new clothes and a new personality.

By day, they appear as average UMBC students in unassuming ways, mingling in The Commons or on the Quad. On occasion, these students will abandon their academic personas to be warriors, pirates and mercenaries for their passion, for the sake of fun or, quite recently, for Katsucon tickets.

Those tickets ended up in the hands of Joey Hunter, the first place winner of the UMBC Cosplay contest that took place during the second annual RetrieverCon last semester. On Saturday Nov. 15, Hunter trekked to the third floor of the Commons and waltzed into the Skylight lounge armed with a mock blood-stained spear and a spiked shield the size of his barrel chest. His six foot body was covered from head to toe in armor and his face was concealed by a horned mask with a T-shaped slit for the eyes, nose and mouth.

“I love my armor, but this mask is extremely painful,” he projected through his mouth slit in a rough, raspy voice for the costumed characters who had crowded around to coo their admiration. It took Hunter a total of three months to create his Dragonslayer getup from one of his favorite video games, League of Legends, which involves many types of warrior characters in a battle arena setting. His shield was made of painted foam and cardboard. His body armor was fashioned from a mannequin’s torso, which he purchased online and painted himself. In fact, most of the materials, which costed him an estimated $300, were bought primarily online, some of which were shipped from Europe.

Serving as the judge of the cosplay contest was UMBC’s own Cosplay Coalition. During the fall semester, this group of enthusiastic students was officially established as a club after two semesters of avid costume play. Each year the Coalition, along with thousands of other people, show up at the Gaylord National Resort in February to attend panel discussions with voice actors from their favorite anime shows, take professional pictures with fellow fans and show off their hand-crafted creations without ever having to break character.

Pat Wheltle, an active member of the Coalition since its beginning, attended the convention last year. While juggling his studies in information systems and emergency health services, Wheltle spent a total of four weeks transforming himself into Enjolras from Les Miserables, the broadway musical inspired by Victor Hugo’s epic novel. He could be seen marching around the halls of the Gaylord hotel, wearing a red vest with gold embellishments he had sewn together himself. With a six-foot red flag draped over one shoulder, and an imitation revolver poised in his right hand, he occasionally stopped to fire a fake round and yell “Vive la France” at those passing by. He said, “I’ve had a lot of fun with my Enjolras costume. Being able to go around and randomly break out into song was a lot of fun.”

Cosplayers like Wheltle and Hunter have awaited the convention all year long and will arrive at Katsucon in full costume, rarely reverting back to their true personalities until they return home.