I got the French edition of Cosplayers: Perfect Collection in the mail. This collection is maybe more “perfect” than the U.S. one because it has the Christmas Special in it, which will come out later this year as a separate pamphlet comic in the States. Apparently, Christmas Specials are not a thing in France, so it wouldn’t make sense for it be a separate item. Seeing this French edition is cool for me a few different reasons… One is that the issues never came out in France. I redrew and corrected and added a bunch of things for the collection, so France will only see the better versions.
Different people like cosplay for different reasons. This book reflects what I personally like about it. I love the theatricality of it, and it’s DIY quality. I love that it’s a merging of fantasy with reality. I love its origins in comic book fan culture. Drawing cosplayers is interesting because the characters originate in drawings, but they’ve been filtered through reality, and now I’m filtering them back into the unreality/fantasy. Elements have been added that weren’t there before: Gambit wears glasses now, Batman has a mustache, the suit is a bit wonky or “off,” or characters have changed their gender or race. Rendering these differences or idiosyncrasies was more powerful to me than drawing them to look like the character that inspired them. That’s part of what I love about cosplay… it seems to both represent how fandom is wider and more inclusive and humanistic than most of the stories/characters that the fans are fans of, and also how the fictional world informs (or invades) the real world.
While working on Cosplayers, I read a 1974 interview with J.G. Ballard that boosted my spirits, or confirmed that I was chasing something interesting. He said:
Surrealism itself is behind us today; it is a finished period. For Dali to be able to paint soft watches, it was necessary that real watches be hard. Today, if you ask someone the time on the street, you might see the face of Mickey Mouse on the dial. It is a typical and entirely commonplace invasion of reality by fiction. The roles have been reversed, and from now on literature must not so much invent an imaginary world as explore the fictions that surround us.
He said this in 1974, but I think it’s even more relevant today.
Another reason that the French edition is exciting to me is that I love French movies, especially the later movies by the French New Wave. I like French movies more than any French people I know! And Cosplayers I think was (slightly?) informed by French movies that would follow two women wandering around having short episodic adventures, especially the 1987 Eric Rohmer movie Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle. That movie is composed of four short episodes where the first episode is them meeting.
The later movies by the French New Wave directors are great maybe because the public seemed to stop caring about them, but they kept making films anyway. Hail Mary is one of the best Godards, and Akerman’s Golden Eighties is one of my all-time favorite movies… The perfect combination of positivity and negativity. I have been in an Eric Rohmer zone for a while because I just read his biography, as well as his own writing translated and collected under the hilarious title A Taste for Beauty. It was only barely more understandable than Godard’s Cahiers writing. Whenever I see Rohmer’s influence on American directors (like Whit Stillman and Noah Baumbach), they make it more like comedies. I like it that Rohmer movies aren’t comedies. They’re not that funny. They are not funny enough to be comedies, nor dramatic enough to be dramas. Very little happens. People talk endlessly, although the subject matter of the films never seems to be what they discuss. They are not surreal, although they are slightly unmoored from reality. The films never seem to be on the side of the characters… they are seen from afar, with a spiritual dimension. They are their own thing. They are sort of like if Blind Date episodes were directed by Robert Bresson.
Dash Shaw is the cartoonist of Cosplayers.