Men vs. Cosplay calendar delivers a decked-out dude a day to your desk

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For several years, the Men vs. Cosplay calendars have been redefining the term “Time Lords.” (Apologies to the stuffy Doctor Who characters, but that’s what you get when you hide yourselves away in another universe for years at a time …)

Now, Men vs. Cosplay 2017 is in the final hours of funding on Kickstarter, so I asked MvC founder and blog friend and onetime Nerdvana Middle-earth correspondent Anabel Martinez to tell us a little bit about the project and how it has evolved over the years.

What’s different about Men vs. Cosplay this year?

The calendar used to be a monthly one. But after the first year the Men vs Cosplay calendar launched, the word spread among the guys and their friends. The project evolved into a page-a-day calendar, featuring over 300 cosplayers and groups, after we made a great connection with a commercial printer that do a small run for us. I had a longer recruitment process — April through June — so that we had more time to get a good combination of guys. I didn’t want just popular male cosplayers in the calendar; I worked really hard to reach out to guys who have never been featured anywhere before (despite having amazing work!).

The calendar itself is all-genre, from comics to movies to video games to anime and even original characters (like Steampunk). We’re also working to tie certain character to certain geeky holidays. (A Doctor Who cosplayer on International Time Traveler’s Day, Star Wars cosplayers around May 4, etc.)

Why the switch last year to 365-day calendars versus monthly?

After the first two years, I was flooded with interest. I had hundreds of amazing submissions, but only 18 months to fill up. I got kind of burned out and felt really bad about turning so many guys away. I told my husband, “I don’t think I can do this anymore if we can’t find a way to grow.” When I met the page-a-day calendar printer, it was do or die. I Kickstart the calendar every year as this is a fan project (I can’t afford to otherwise), and the expenses rose with the new format. I talked to the guys and told them that I could include 300+ (instead of just 18) if we could band together to fund it. I’ve been very fortunate that we currently have three years under our belt, and we’re hoping to get the fourth year funded by July 6. (Almost there!)

Where did the original idea for Men vs. Cosplay come from?

The ladies of cosplay, actually! I am an artist alley chica, and my husband is a cosplayer and a prop maker who would vend alongside of me at conventions. I noticed so many female-dominated projects, but almost none with mixed genders, and zero male cosplay projects. I wondered why it was, and it seemed that guys were shyer about promoting themselves. I joked on Facebook about just doing a male cosplay calendar myself, and a few months later a cosplayer (Cap Santiago) told me that if I did it, he wanted to be in it. Having a guy I didn’t know acknowledge the idea and express interest kind of boosted my confidence about biting the bullet and trying to make it happen. I thought it would be weird, as a female cosplayer, to coordinate a bunch of guys, but it actually worked out great!

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve discovered along the way?

In general, cosplayers never cease to surprise me with their stories. I used to make assumptions about cosplayers when I saw their images online. “Oh, that person looks like a professional.” “Wow, that person must have a lot of free time, that costume is very detailed!” I soon learned that appearances mean *nothing* in this hobby. I’ve started to ask the guys for small biographies about themselves and their work. I got a Witcher 3 cosplayer who spent over a thousand hours building his suit in his spare time to make it as accurate to the game character (Geralt of Rivia) as possible. I had a young-looking cosplayer dressed as Captain America who was serving in the National Guard. I’ve had many cancer survivors who use cosplay as an outlet to challenge themselves.

It’s very humbling just how willing people are to help when they also believe in the thing you do!

A huge amount of the cosplayers bring up that they are very introverted and cosplay is one of the few ways they can break out of their shell in the super-welcoming community. In general, cosplayers come from all walks of life and everyone has a personal story about what got them into this hobby and they come from all walks of life. I’ve had: tattoo artists, a priest, veterans, fathers/grandfathers, students, firefighters/police, strippers, professors, Weta artists, and more! Or, the biggest lesson you’ve learned? 100 percent to never be afraid to ask for help, to adore/acknowledge the people who help you out, and to listen to strangers who offer help or advice.

CAPTAIN AMERICA (MARVEL) | Cosplayer: Skydance MacMahon | Photography: Sam Apple Cummins
CAPTAIN AMERICA (MARVEL) | Cosplayer: Skydance MacMahon | Photography: Sam Apple Cummins

If you try to run a Kickstarter on your own, you will stretch yourself too thin, quickly burn out, and hate life. When I started, I quickly got in over my head. Running a Kickstarter is a marathon and a thousand unknown factors come into play. One person can’t do it all on their own. I learned to swallow my pride and accept what I was good at (reaching out to guys, coordinating the project, making some graphics) and focus on that. I have friends help me out with everything: Local friends help me with our Kickstarter video (Sam Mort and Chad Stafford for this edition), a graphic designer friend in California (Raven Cruz) helps me with graphics and the limited-edition shirt design (a tradition), and hundreds of project fans, calendar guys, and friends spread the word and pledge what they can to help me cover all the Kickstarter costs. Other cosplay enthusiasts and fellow Kickstarter runners will also share advice on how I can improve the project every year.

It’s very humbling just how willing people are to help when they also believe in the thing you do! I do my best to pay it forward. A lot of people were inspired by this calendar and ask me if I can help them out. I really happy to do it, because I wouldn’t be where I am without that kind of support in turn.

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