Thursday, 5 June 2014

Becoming 'Arrow' 1: The 'cos' in Cosplay

The 2013 edition of FedCon brought us actor John Barrowman who, in turn, brought me into contact with his current work on a TV series, Arrow. The London Film and Comic Con later that year showed me the fun of cosplay, which is basically a combination of creating a scifi or fantasy costume and 'roleplaying' the corresponding character. So, after all that, I sat down and started watching the Arrow series, first season, which turned out to be one of the more amazing shows of our time. Arrow is the story of Oliver Queen, an engaging rich boy, who falls victim to what later turns out to be a conspiracy and is shipwrecked and needs to master various survival skills  in order to ultimately get back to his own city which is ripe with corruption and deprivation. He then picks up the persona of "Arrow": a hooded vigilante archer in order to cleanse and purify his world. The series follows Oliver in both time frames, both when learning his skills and while using them for the greater good.

Half way through the first season, I started to feel a growing need to 'do' something connected to this show, moreover as I became acquainted with leading actor Stephen Amell through his Facebook activities. He struck me as a person who by virtue of his work is on a ride towards a bit of self-discovery and that sparked my interest even more. And then in my mind, these two ideas came together and thus the idea was born: to ‘become’ Arrow. So first of all, a costume needed to be acquired. So let’s start with the ‘cos’ in cosplay!

I quite quickly abandoned the idea of making a ‘screen correct’ (i.e., looking exactly like what you see on the show) costume which is the objective of many cosplayers. In this case I foresaw an endless search for the ‘right’ materials as well as a thick, warm and uncomfortable costume, as that is usually the tendency of ‘Hollywood costumes’. I instead set out to capture the essence of his costume and the various accessories as well as possible and do the rest by roleplaying. Besides, there is not one exact ‘look’ of ‘Arrow’ as he is often seen in the shades where all colours are blurred. Upon study I noticed his jacket and hood had various shades of green and green-brown, depending on the picture and the lighting. I then searched the Internet for materials and fabrics that I could use, and a dear archer friend provided me with some used arrows to be used in the costume.

Then I made a costume design, transferred that into patterns for the jacket and the hood, and decided to deal with the pants later. And then disaster struck; as I was happily sewing all parts together, my –quite old- sewing machine gave up on me and refused to sew another stitch. I was thus forced to complete the costume by hand; I almost gave up at that point but somehow found the patience to complete the work. Looking back, this may actually have been a blessing since in this way I was able to ‘empower’ the costume with an energy that would later be able to help me with the roleplaying part.

The result is a not-screen accurate costume that I am quite happy with as it captures some of Arrow’s essential character qualities: stealth, secretiveness and the ability to hide in the shadows, much more than a dark green costume would do. Adding a fitting pair of pants, a LARP bow (for safety) and a quiver with some painted arrows completed the costume.

I have now worn this several times and cosplayed the character (with some surprising results, and I’ll talk about those when discussing the ‘play’ in cosplay!) and there are some thing I am going to change: the hood is too large now, and the quiver needs a better and more stable ‘harness’ to be worn comfortably. That will be ready before the next occasion I’ll bring him out: The London Film and Comic Con.

Stephen Amell as Arrow (autographed)

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