Anthony Misiano, more commonly known as Harley’s Joker, has a cult following and is even regarded as something of a sex symbol among the Con set. I asked if he agrees with that sentiment. “Dear god no, people are nuts,” he tells me with a self-effacing sense of humor. “I’m a funny-looking, nimble noodley, fuzzy scruffy man, borderline antithesis of sexy.” (Tell that to his 76,000 plus Facebook followers!)
It took Misiano over a year to put together his costume, born from a love of the Joker and a creative itch to work on a new project. He claims it takes three to four hours to go “from naked to Joker,” which includes not only a three-piece suit, but elaborate hair and makeup. He originally only intended to go to the San Diego con–he’s a native–but his popularity has taken him to six in the past year.
He’s still not used to his new-found fame, though. “It’s very strange and largely undeserved in my opinion,” he says. “It’s nice to have a platform from which to showcase my work and actually get an audience’s reaction, but it never stops being strange, amusing, and humbling.”
Still, cosplay can be tricky to navigate, especially for women; it can very much be a “man’s world,” and many women characters have tight fitting or revealing costumes that open the cosplayer up to sexual attention, wanted or otherwise. “I have had a few men make inappropriate comments or cat calls, or creep around a corner and try to sneak pictures without asking first, which isn’t cool,” Sutton admits–though she chooses to believe those instances are “in the minority.”
And it’s not just men doing the creeping–Sutton has seen women harass half-naked men just as fiercely (sometimes moreso) as their male counterparts. Then there was this incident: “I had a woman once ask my husband if she could kiss me mouth to mouth because she has always fantasized about making out with Emma Frost,” she tells me. “We had to explain to her that we were married, and that I was not really Emma Frost.”
Conversely, female cosplayers can steal the show from their male counterparts. (I mean, hello, boobs.) “I think male cosplayers actually don’t get the credit they deserve,” Emily tells me, “which is kind of unfortunate since some of their work is really amazing!”
At the end of the day, though, cosplay is a rewarding means of self-expression and a way to be part of a community of like-minded people. “It’s a very unique art form that permits one as much creative freedom as they wish, yet also as many strict guidelines as one wishes to follow,” Misiano explains.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see a woman dressed as Buffy and a man dressed as Cookie Monster laughing and talking about how much they love Doctor Who,” Sutton agrees. “Everyone that attends cons is there to participate in the ‘nerd’ community, and fans from across the board are welcome and accepted.”
What’s not to love about that? Now if I could just find someone to make me a Daenerys costume…
Check out some of Victor Gamez shots from San Diego ComicCon: