“If you’re going to go to a convention, I do think it does make a huge difference if you’re dressed up,” says Midknight Dragon. “I think [getting] much more involved with the community, that’s so valuable about going to conventions.”
Midknight Dragon first attended MCM Midlands Comic Con in 2012 and decided to cosplay at the event too as Misa Amane from Death Note. Since then she has dressed up at every convention she has attended, cosplaying characters such as Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones and Sweet Pea from Sucker Punch. However, she has gained quite a following after cosplaying characters in latex; notably DC Comics characters Catwoman, Harley Quinn and John Constantine, as well as Selene from the horror film franchise Underworld.
Our interview was conducted on the Sunday of MCM London Comic Con and very nearly didn’t happen given the difficulty in actually finding her. Once located, the result was a delightful discussion. Cosplaying as Spider-Gwen, in latex (“I’m really liking it,” said Midknight Dragon of the costume) she later had a shoot with photographer Papercube in the cosplay (photos of which are included here).
Courteous and thoughtful (she had positive things to say about those she had worked with; photographers, costume makers and fellow cosplayers), we talked about how cosplay had increased her confidence, her experience body painting and her involvement in videos highlighting Comic Con etiquette.
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Who have you been cosplaying at MCM London this weekend?
This weekend I have done Emma Swan [from Once Upon a Time], which I did as a very casual cosplay that I could just chill out in. I’ve also done Grunge-Harley, with my friend Mojo Jones as Grunge Ivy, which went down ridiculously well. People love Harley and Ivy anyway, but the grunge take on it was a bit different. We literally put it together in one night. People loved it and it did look pretty cool. We got some good shots. I was dropping safety pins left, right and centre though, that was the only thing (laughs). I had safety pins all over me, but it was great, it was really good fun. And obviously Spider-Gwen today… latex and… shiny stuff.
How did you get into cosplay?
I had a friend who had gone to Comic Con before and they dragged me along to MCM Midlands [in February 2012]. It was only for one day. I went dressed up to that. Literally every single Comic Con I’ve gone to, I have gone dressed up.
This was where you cosplayed as Misa Amane from Death Note?
Yes, it was! I don’t have many photos from back then, because I didn’t even consider having photos taken at that point.
That was your first convention and you decided to cosplay as well. What made you want to go dressed up?
As a kid, I did enjoy dressing up, but I never really got to do much of it. I just thought it would be fun to do. I’d recently watched Death Note and I thought, “I could pull that off. I’ve got blonde hair.” I absolutely love that kind of gothic lolita clothing. I thought if I’m going along to something like that, I might as well go dressed up and make the most of it. To be honest, I’m glad I have, because I’ve found the occasional time I’ve gone to MCM London on a Friday, and I’ve not gone dressed up, it feels so different. It’s a very different experience because you don’t feel quite as involved. Nobody ever really stops to talk to you for any reason, unless you know them. Whereas if you’re in costume, you could talk to pretty much anyone, especially if it’s somebody from something you’re cosplaying. Like, if I see a Spider-Man or Silk today, I could just go over and go, “Hey, look (raises hands), we’re both Spidey people, it’s awesome!”
With your first convention where you cosplayed Misa Amane, you said at the time that you were taking an incredible leap out of your comfort zone.
What was the experience like for you?
It was very different. As I said, I didn’t really do much dressing up before then, except for when I was very young, and even then it was sort of… Indians and pirates (laughs). For me it was just not like anything I’d really dressed in before. Since then there’s been a substantial change in my confidence, because back then I was very, very timid. I’ve changed a lot since then. But it was out of my comfort zone, I wasn’t used to going to big social events like that, especially not in costume. I did make quite a few friends there and it was a good first experience.
It was earlier this year at MCM Birmingham where you took part in having your body painted as Poison Ivy (with Bodypaint Events UK).
That’s pushing you further out of your comfort zone. You would say that cosplaying has increased your confidence?
Yes, I would easily say that. It has done a lot for my confidence. Body paint I was absolutely terrified to do, not going to lie. I just applied for it because I thought, “Oh it’s MCM Birmingham, it’s quite close to where I’m based. To hell with it, let’s give it a go, let’s apply.” I honestly didn’t think I’d get chosen to do it, so it was a bit of a surprise when I got a message back. I was like, (shocked expression) “Oh… oh God, I’ve got to actually prepare myself to do this now. What have I let myself in for?”
It turned out that the body painter [Katie Plumbley] lived not very far from me at all, which was a neat little benefit. She was absolutely lovely, so I got to meet her very briefly beforehand, just to chat and say, “Okay… I’m really scared. I don’t know what I’m doing.” But the whole experience was great and I can’t wait to do it again at some point in the future.
It’s pushed your confidence to the point where you would want to do it again?
Yeah, let’s do it again! I’m going to admit, I didn’t think I’d want to do it again after I did it the first time, but I’m all up for it now. It was something I did look at and think, “Okay, this is going to really boost my confidence if I do this.” So I think it is worth doing. I’d recommend it to anyone. Seriously. It’s terrifying at first, but pretty much everybody [that was] painted there I’ve become friends with and they were absolutely lovely people. They did a fantastic job.
You’ve said that both Selene from Underworld and Selena (Catwoman) are some of your favourite costumes. After this weekend, does that still stand today?
I have to admit, I am liking latex Spider-Gwen. Especially as today I’ve been shooting with the Real Cindy Moon, who has made a gorgeous Silk. She’s also doing latex, so it’s been all of the shiny butt footage today (laughs). We’ve just been very silly, dancing and shenanigans. Some really good shots as well. Got some more coming up with Food and Cosplay and Titans of Cosplay as well. I can’t wait!
So Spider-Gwen has crept ahead? It’s now your favourite?
Spider-Gwen is definitely up there.
What is it about the character and costume that makes it your favourite?
I have to admit, I did see the design of the character before I started reading the comics. I looked at it and thought, “That’s a really cool costume, I want to know more about this character.” Since then, I downloaded a load of the comics, geeked up a bit, so I know a bit more about her personality, poses, little kind of props. I’ve got some headphones today which I’ve been using.
If I fall in love with the character, then that’s it, I’ve got to cosplay them. I’m just like, “That’s on my list. That needs to be done.” This one in particular I worked with Catriona Stewart, who is an incredibly talented latex maker. She custom made this for me and she’s done such a fantastic job. I’m so happy with it.
You’ve said that your cosplay for Selene is not the most comfortable to wear.
Latex catsuits are not the best thing to wear in May. They’re not always the best in October, certainly not a Saturday thing. Saturday’s just a definite no on that front. But May, no. It’s too warm. You pretty much boil. This time around I’m getting quite cold whenever I go outside because latex pretty much adapts.
Selene is particularly uncomfortable because you’re not only contending with the latex, but a corset, which traps the heat even more. It’s also hurting your back and your ribs, and everything else (laughs). I really do ask myself sometimes, “Why on earth am I doing this?” Then I look at the photos and I’m like, “Totally worth it!” You get to chat to so many different people as well.
They’re like, “Oh, that’s an awesome costume.” You get to have a little chat with them about anything.
You’re suffering for your art, putting yourself through the pain cosplaying Selene, but in your mind it’s worth the pain when you see the finished product, the photos?
All cosplayers are just masochists (laughs).
Yeah, I’d say it’s definitely worth it. For the whole experience… just being in costume is a confidence boost. You’re being somebody else for the day, so it’s taking the whole escapism thing to a different level and living it for a day, or a weekend.
You do find a lot of cosplayers that will act in character as well. Some of them are professional actors. You go over to them and you’re like, “That’s uncanny how similar they are.” I think that’s great, I love it.
Not something you would do?
I do sometimes. But for the most part I’m just me, and silly. But it depends on the character I suppose. For Harley Quinn I’d say I’m definitely in character (laughs).
No acting required?
No acting required! I just make mischief wherever I go anyway.
You’ve had people describe your cosplay of Selene as “the best I’ve seen.” These are actual comments people have said about your Selene cosplay from your Facebook page. I have not made these up. People have said:
“Has to be the best Selene I’ve seen.”
(mouths “Oh my God”)
“You are MY favourite Selene.”
“Always a treat to see more of your Selene.”
“Always lovely in latex as Selene.”
“You look amazing in latex as Selene and beautiful too.”
Oh, I’m going to go all emotional here (laughs).
“You look absolutely incredible as Selene.”
“You look awesome as Selene.”
“Your Selene cosplay is So Gorgeous!!”
“Your Selene is breathtaking.”
“I love your Selene.”
And, “Your latex butt is perfect.”
(Laughs) You know, I’m not going to fit out the Excel doors at this rate, my head’s going to swell to such a size…
How does it make you feel seeing comments like that?
Well I just look at it and think, “That’s really nice.” I don’t know how to react really. A lot of money and work has gone into that, and as a result it makes it feel that much more worth it. I genuinely feel very flattered by that. Also complimentary butt comments are always good! I mean, butt comments all the time!
It’s lovely, and I love the people who follow and enjoy my work, I genuinely do. There’s so many nice people on there. I met a few people today that follow my page, had a brief chat with them. It’s really nice. I don’t know if all of them are a part of the cosplay community. I know some of the people that do follow me are either fans of latex, or just randomly seen [my cosplay of Selene] and like the movie. They’re not necessarily cosplayers. It means that much more, that despite the fact they’re not normally a cosplay fan, they think it’s awesome. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside (laughs).
Did personal experience play a part in wanting to get involved with those videos?
Yes, definitely. I’ve had a few things happen to me, I’ve heard a lot of stories. MCM’s not been too bad, but you do inevitably get inappropriate comments, especially when wearing latex. Latex is one of the worst, because for some reason people think it’s a fetish thing. Everybody’s a person in the end, so it doesn’t give you the right to treat them any different. It’s disrespectful if you do make inappropriate comments, or try to touch somebody inappropriately. It’s just very uncomfortable for everyone involved.
I know a lot of photographers as well who have literally gone off the handle at the people who have done such things. I had an experience of that at LSCC originally. There were some people around who made some quite inappropriate comments, wolf-whistling, and so forth, and the photographer had a good old shout at them on my behalf. I didn’t even get around to saying anything (laughs), which is very nice that they were so defensive of me.
I will do everything I can to promote awareness, so at least we can try and prevent it. Inevitably I do think it’s something that will never be completely eliminated. It’s a shame because it does put a bit of a damper on the amount of work you put into a costume, or how you’re feeling about yourself. It just makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. But the more we can do to prevent that from happening, I’m in for it! I know the Two Geeky Guys are making more videos for that as well. Melvin will be reappearing.
Will you be appearing in more videos with them in the future?
It depends which cons they’re going to in the future, but I hope so.
This seems to be something that’s seen more online, inappropriate comments on social media. I don’t know if you’ve had that yourself?
Oh yeah, plenty of that. I think social media does tend to blow things out of proportion, but at the same time it’s a genuine problem and it’s not acceptable. It doesn’t matter what a person is dressed like. It’s not justified making horrible comments. It’s just people coming past and saying things like, “Oh, do you wear that everyday?” or “Are you going to show us a bit more skin?” Stuff like that.
You’re like, “On what grounds would you ever say that to a complete stranger?” It’s a horrible thing to do. I know it’s a lot more commonplace online. I’ve had a few messages which have been quite inappropriate in their own sense. But certainly in person, I do think there’s something quite wrong there. I always find that happens when I’m not normally with somebody. So if I wander off on my own in latex I feel like I’m much more of a target for that kind of behaviour, whereas if I’m hanging out with my friends, everything is fine because we’re in a group. Then again, the cosplay community is all around you. So if somebody overhears that, often they will do something about it. People can empathise with that. And not just empathise with it. If I heard somebody saying that to somebody I saw walking past, I’d probably fly off the handle a bit as well! I’d say, “What the hell!? That’s not cool.”
At the start of the year you posted up a photo showing six characters you wanted to cosplay…
Saying that they “will definitely be happening.”
(Sighs) Oh no (laughs).
Notably Sergeant Calhoun from Wreck-It-Ralph, Thranduil from The Hobbit and Mystique from X-Men hasn’t happened yet. Are they characters you still plan to cosplay in the future?
The truth is I’ve got bits and pieces for all those costumes. Sadly, it’s not a question of me having plans and them not coming to fruition. It’s the fact that other things have happened first, or a friend has asked me, “Oh, will you do this with me?”
And I’ll be like, “Oh yeah, screw it.” Then I kind of forget how many days there are in the year and I’m running out of time to do these things for conventions this year.
Mystique is definitely one that will happen. It’s one that I keep going on about. I just need to find a body painter who is available to help me out with that, because that is definitely going to be a body paint project for me. So yes, they’re all works in progress. They will happen, because if I’ve started something I will finish it. It just sometimes takes a bit longer for other projects when I’ve got other suggestions flying at me left, right and centre, and I’m like, “Ooh, that’s cool! Oh, I want to do that now! Oh, more latex!” I get so easily distracted.
What is the most enjoyable part of cosplaying for you?
I’d say the social side of things. I don’t interact much with other people. The socialness of MCM… it’s my dose of socialness.
In that you’d let people come to you rather than you taking the step to interact with others?
No, not so much. It’s more that the conventions are my social thing that I do. Before MCM I would say I was a fairly antisocial person, before any of the conventions that I go to really, and it’s brought me out of my shell a lot. Most of the friends I have are made through conventions, because it’s the first time I’ve actually found people that I have quite a lot in common with.
I’ve lived in a lot of remote areas growing up, so that probably hasn’t helped. [Back then] most people I’d known didn’t have the same interests, whereas at conventions, you’ll still find something to talk about. You find they like this thing that’s the same as yours, or they like playing this game, and then you’re like, “Oh, I’ve never actually [come across] anybody else who plays that game!” You make these links.
You often get the meets as well, which is pretty good. I went to a Dragon Age meet last year. Admittedly I didn’t put as much into that cosplay as I wanted to, but I met some amazing people there and I bumped into them this year and had a good old chat with them. It’s great, because you can make plans with them in the future as well, so you can make even more costume plans!
Finally, is it true that you have an interest in retro consoles and games?
Yes (giggles), very much so.
What’s your favourite retro video game console and favourite game to play on it?
(Exhales) Aaaugh… oh, that’s a really difficult question. I like so many different consoles and games. (Pauses) I’d say the Nintendo 64. I’ve got the Pikachu N64 and his cheeks light up when you turn it on. Fave game to play on it… it’s going to have to be The Legend of Zelda. I know it’s a cliché.
Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask?
I love both, but Ocarina of Time… it’s the one. It’s that game you can play a million times over and just fall in love with all over again… and again (laughs). I can play it for hours and hours and then I wonder what on earth I’m doing with my life (laughs). That actually should be on my cosplay list at some point as well. I should definitely fit Zelda in there. It needs to happen. But Okami for the PlayStation 2 is one that occupies that special place in my heart! I mean you get to play as a wolf within Japanese mythology for goodness sakes!
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Thank you to Papercube for arrangement and photos. You can check out his work on his Facebook page.
Interview by Shalimar Sahota.