Comic-Con by Orlando Gili

A photography project exploring the culture and community of cosplay at London's recent Super Comic-Con

In 1970, Detroit-native and comics fan Shel Dorf moved to San Diego, California to set up a one-day convention named Golden State Comic-Minicon. The event was intended as a prototype for a larger type of ‘Comic-Con’ and later, along with Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, Mike Towry, and Greg Bear, Dorf went on to set up San Diego Comic-Con International, which is now regarded as the birthplace of the large-scale comic book convention.

It's not often a Dalek raises money for a child to receive life-saving surgery

As Comic-Con developed, a culture emerged in which its attendees began to dress like and emulate the behaviour of their comic book heroes. Today, 45 years on, Comic-Con exists internationally in multiple locations, one of which is the London Super Comic Convention (LSCC), which has now existed for four years.

We caught up with some of the attendees to speak about what brought them to LSCC...

Swarley Whitlock, 31, costume designer, from Cardiff, dressed as Batman

How would you describe your background?
Same as most people's who cosplay, I love comics video games and movies and love building costumes.

What’s so special about Comic-Con?
It's a chance to hang out with my friends from all over the UK and see some amazing artists.

How many years have you been going to Comic-Con?
I've been going to cons for a few years now but it was my first London Super Comic Convention this year after being told by others it was worth going to.

Could you speak about your outfit and why you chose it?
After watching The Dark Knight Returns [animated film based Frank Miller’s comic] I decided I wanted to make a Miller-style Batman costume purely because I love how Miller’s Batman style is different from what most people are used to seeing. It's not the tactical armour suit like Christopher Nolan’s Batman and it doesn't have the long ears on the cowl or that weird gruff voice that everyone seems to think Batman has.

Do you view cosplay as a subculture or more of a hobby?
Cosplay is a hobby, which is fast becoming attractive to other people who are either wanting to gain fame or profit from it. I'm not against anyone trying to make a name for themselves so long as there isn't any bullying or cat calling, which has been happening a lot in the cosplay scene lately.

Joey Green, 38, works for film prop hire company, from Kent, dressed as Gotham City Police

How would you describe your background?
I always wanted to work in the film industry, making props and costume, but prefer the 9-5 job so cosplay is a great platform to execute the same level of production.

What’s so special about Comic-Con?
It's just great to meet like-minded people and very soon you become part of a very caring, supportive community of people.
I also met my better half at such an event.

How many years have you been going to Comic-Con?
Since 2010.

Could you speak about your outfit and why you chose it?
I have too many to list but I have always been a fan of American police departments, collected items for years. Putting together a Gotham City Police uniform seemed to be a natural choice. 
I am not really a Batman fan but I love the realistic look of the modern cop uniforms.

Do you view cosplay as a subculture or more of a hobby?
It's a hobby but at the same time it is used constantly for positive reasons. The quality of costumes gives people the chance to view a mobile exhibition. When used in conjunction with fund raising, the results are astounding. It is not often that a Dalek raises money for a child to fly to America and receive life saving surgery but in this medium, trust me, this is common.

Phillipa Allen, 22, music tutor, from East London, dressed as Captain America

How would you describe your background?
Nothing special, born and raised in a suburban area living with my mum, dad and little sister.

What’s so special about Comic-Con?
To me pop culture events like London Super Comic Convention are my happy place, great people, great panels and great stands to throw your money away. 

I’ve met some people with crippling shyness who suddenly become a person you wouldn’t recognise

How many years have you been going to Comic-Con?
Six years.

Could you speak about your outfit and why you chose it?
Well the costume itself, started as a plain blue unitard, which I decorated. The gantlets, boot covers, and belt are made from artificial leather and EVA foam. The star on the suit was made form more EVA foam and the shield I bought. As to why I chose the character, I'm a big Marvel fan, have been for years. The Avengers, in particular, is one of my favourite Marvel series.

Do you view cosplay as a subculture or more of a hobby?
I think cosplay is a subculture to a vast number of people and I completely understand why. For me personally it is border-lining between the two.

Callum Darcy, zombie hire and tour operator, from Essex, dressed as a zombie

How would you describe your background?
I’m married and recently had a new born child with my wife and work 9-5. So really on paper I guess you could say fairly normal. I also like comics, video games and love movies of all kinds. But when I’m dressed head to toe in gore, dripping with blood I transform into something much worse. I feed on the screams from the public, at different events I’ve caused panic attacks, hysterical behaviour and well lets just say some people who I’ve come across have needed new underwear.

Where are you from?
Im from Braintree in Essex.

What’s so special about Comic-Con?
I love Comic-Con as there is no hatred or prejudices. Everyone always gets along and you all tend to have similar interests. It’s one place where you can feel like a celebrity, as everyone is always asking for your photo. Growing up in secondary school I was always bullied fairly often, as being a bigger guy was almost like painting a target on your back. At a Comic-Con there’s none of that as they are all there for the same reason and usually with a similar background to you. I’ve met some people with crippling shyness or a past trauma who flock to Comic-Con and suddenly become a different person, a person you wouldn’t recognise.

How many years have you been going to Comic-Con?
I’ve been going to cons for the past five years but only for the last three years dressed up with zombiehire.co.uk.

Could you speak about your outfit and why you chose it?
My outfit is designed by our make up artist Clive Double who has stripped and ripped as to where it should be as authentic as possible. Scuffed/frayed knees from where he has been scurrying around and ripped shirt and sleeves from where he’s been foraging in bushes.

Do you view cosplay as a subculture or more of a hobby?
Personally I think it all depends on who you ask as everyone is going to have a different view on the matter. For me it’s a hobby and a job now, one of the coolest jobs I had. I know a fair few people who have also turned it into a profession, people who actually build and create the props and costumes for other cosplayers too.