I know it’s been a long time since you’ve been here. We didn’t have space travel. We didn’t even have air travel (other than the Wright Brothers’ few airborne minutes). We don’t know much about you Mr. Skygack, only that you came from Mars to document life on Earth. Most people never spotted you, but one person created drawings of your observations. He must have been a satirist because he always drew you comically misunderstanding everything you saw. But that was more than a century ago, and you’ll find it hard to believe what’s happened here since.
You started something we Earthlings call ‘a social phenomenon.’ And it gets bigger every year. It’s called cosplaying (They probably should have labeled it ‘Skygacking,’ but life’s true innovators rarely get credit for their creations). This phenomenon has to do with people dressing up to look like characters from science fiction and fantasy. Thousands of people are doing this costume playing, and you were the first one they imitated.
Before going on, I should explain what science fiction and fantasy are here. When you observed Earth, nobody used these names much. Now, everybody knows them. If a story is about human-like robots or people going into outer space, it’s called science fiction. Even though we can now really go into space, we still call stories about space exploration science fiction. We’re quirky that way. If a story is about dragons or strange beings with wings, it’s called fantasy. I know what you’re thinking; you’re a space traveler, and there’s nothing fictitious about being from Mars. But most Earth people aren’t very enlightened.
Now let me describe how you initiated the phenomenon I mentioned. It started with a few people dressing up like you (or like the you they had seen in that artist’s cartoons). They wore their Mr. Skygack costumes to parties. They were such a hit that over the years, other costumes started to appear. One of the most often seen is Superman. You may have heard of him. Superman appeared on earth thirty years after your departure. He came from the planet Krypton, and because Earth has a yellow sun instead of the red sun his native world had, he developed super powers (like running faster than a speeding locomotive and being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound). Like you, Superman is thought to be a fictional character. But any man who was ever a boy knows Superman is real.
You may have crisscrossed in space with the Starship Enterprise a few times. A lot of costume players like to dress as Mr. Spock, the ship’s science officer. He’s from Vulcan. You’ve no doubt visited there more than once. You can imagine how intriguing the pointed ears are to bland-looking Earth people. Besides, now there are two Spocks to imitate, the old Spock and the young Spock. Have your travels taken you to the Klingon world? Earthlings are fascinated by the lumpy, overhanging Klingon foreheads. A number of Klingon cosplayers have even learned the language. It isn’t real cosplaying unless you can voice your character.
And that’s the point. Cosplaying isn’t just about wearing costumes, Mr. Skygack. It’s about something much more. Cosplaying is the creation of another dimension of being. If only for an afternoon, its practitioners get to step out of their daily lives, and in a sense explore aspects of their own personalities by seeming to become someone or something else. They play the roles of larger-than-life heroes and villains. They are Spiderman, Hulk, Joker, Batman, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, and even Chewbacca. Many play the role of a famous British time traveler by the name of Dr. Who. (I know these names are unfamiliar to you; they’ve all popped onto our cultural landscape since your visit). By assuming the personality of a character, cosplayers create a world within a world, one inhabited by colorfully surprising and varied elements. Cosplaying allows not so much an escape from reality as a means of brightening its more pale aspects. Personal imagination and creativity flourish in a unique way. Why should the wonder of pretending end with childhood? Remember the things we learned about life by that pretending?
So Mr. Skygack, if you ever decide to come back here don’t say you weren’t warned. Remember you started it. Take your usual copious notes because there is much to be learned from the alien-looking species called cosplayers. When you see the robots, the space creatures, the super heroes, the sorcerers and sorceresses streaming into a big city convention center, you’re really just seeing humans looking for ways of enriching the human experience.
Here are some superhero cosplayers for your examination, Mr. Skygack
Above, are cosplayers at an event titled Comiket in Japan
The famous American comedienne Lucille Ball once cosplayed Charlie Chaplin
And Charlie Chaplin learned the hard way that not every character is an appropriate cosplay choice
Mr. Skygack, this cosplay character is farther beyond the standard reaches of reality than most