By Mark Squibb/October 28, 2021
Of all Halloween traditions, the wearing of costumes is perhaps the best known and most beloved.
Children and adults alike don outfits that might be scary or funny or fantastical, and for a single night or two of the year put on a show and pretend to be someone else.
Come November, the costumes go back in the closet, and often sit there until next Halloween
Some folks, however, visit their costume closet much more frequently.
Cosplaying, or ‘costume playing,’ is a hobby where folks dress up as their favorite characters and play act as that character.
“You’re basically pretending to be the character,” said Bay Roberts cosplayer Andre Sparkes. “It’s for kids, it’s for adults, it for all ages.”
Sparkes’ cosplay grew out of his love of Halloween and costumes.
“I loved Halloween since I was a kid,” said Sparkes. “Even as an adult, every Halloween I would still dress up to go out with my kids.”
He dates his first ‘official’ cosplay to 2018, when his wife, author Kate Sparkes, was invited to sell books at Sci-Fi on the Rock, an annual science fiction, fantasy, and horror convention held in St. Johns.
“She was invited by a few of her colleagues to set up a table to sell some books,” said Sparkes. “So, me and my boys said, ‘Well, if we’re going to be at the convention all weekend, we might as well dress up.’”
He went as supervillain Bane as portrayed by Tom Hardy in Christopher Nolan’s 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises, the final film in his Batman trilogy.
“It turned some heads, because of my size, and because I stuck pretty close to Tom Hardy’s version of Bane, and I was asked by some of the people working at the convention to do some meet-and-greets out front, and I kind of got hooked after that,” said Sparkes.
He plays many characters, often doing multiple versions of the character, including Thor, Punisher, and Judge Dredd.
But there’s one character who takes the spotlight as Halloween approaches.
“One of my favorites, especially this time of year, is Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th,” said Sparkes.
Voorhees was introduced in the 1980 slasher film Friday the 13th, a film made quickly and cheaply to cash in on the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween. In the film, camp councillors preparing to re-open Camp Crystal Lake, despite its history of bloodshed and violence, are picked off one by one by a mysterious assailant. The film has shades of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Where None, though with more emphasis on onscreen violence than solving the mystery of whodunit.
The film was an instant success, earning almost $60 million at the box office against a budget of just $550,000.
Not surprisingly, more Friday films followed. As of today, there are 12 official entries in the franchise, besides fan films, video games, novels, a short-lived TV series, and a never ending line of memorabilia.
At the centre of it all, is Jason Voorhees.
“Anyone who steps foot in Camp Crystal Lake, he dispatches with great enthusiasm, shall we say,” said Sparkes of the machete-wielding monster’s many, many outings.
Though the films follow the same formula (stalk, kill, repeat), the character of Jason has evolved over his 40-plus year history.
Voorhees appears in the first film not as the killer, but only as a ghostly apparition, a trick to jolt audiences in the film’s closing moment. It is instead his mother, Pamela Voorhees, dispatching camp counsellors. In the second film, Voorhees dons a burlap sac and pitchfork, having not yet found his iconic hockey mask, which he would collect from one unlucky councillor in the third film. As the films progressed, creators introduced gimmicks to try and keep the series from getting stale. At one point, Voorhees is resurrected from the dead by lightning a la Frankenstein’s Monster. In another film he battles a girl with telekinetic powers. At still another point in the series, he takes a trip to outer space. In one of cinema’s most anticipated crossovers, he does battle with Freddy Kruger of the Nightmare on Elm Street films in 2003’s Freddy vs Jason (both franchises were real life rivals at the box office throughout the 1980s).
“His mask, and his look, changes in every single film,” said Sparkes. “And because he looks so different in every movie, there are so many different versions of the character you can do.”
Sparkes’ has recreated six versions. For each look, he may change the mask, clothing, make up, or weapon to better match how Jason appears in a particular film.
Though he has only been cosplaying for the last few years, the very first time that Sparkes donned a Jason costume was at a video he worked at way back in 2003.
“Freddy vs Jason just came out, so we thought it would be neat to dress up as Freddy and Jason for the release of the movie,” he said.
A long-time fan of the franchise, Sparkes said his favorite would probably be Friday the 13th Part Six: Jason Lives, or Part Four: The Final Friday.
“Which, of course wasn’t actually the final Friday,” he laughed.
Sparkes said the horror genre taps into people’s fascination with the unknown, and the mythology and legends that surround things that go bump in the night, and that horror films like Friday the 13th put viewers in the presence of danger and death but in a safe, controlled and fun way.
“When you watch the news and you see these horrible things happen, because it’s real, it’s sad and depressing,” said Sparkes. “But when you watch a movie, because you know its not real, you can kind of laugh at some of the kills or the way it happens, because it’s not real, it’s just a story, its just a movie… Even as a kid, you like being spooked. I’ve always liked going to haunted houses and seeing all that kind of stuff.”
For those interested in cosplaying, Sparkes suggests you pick a character that you know and love and think you can do a good job imitating.
Putting together your costume could begin with a simple trip to the thrift store.
“If I need a blue work shirt, I’ll go to Value Village or a thrift store and find a shirt that looks similar, then I’ll go home and beat it up a little bit,” said Sparkes. “Or you could order a costume and then make it your own. You don’t have to be an expert to do this kind of stuff. You just have to have fun.”
He said that cosplayers are often approachable and ready to make costume suggestions or recommendations, and that anybody interested in cosplay should attend local contentions such as Avalon Expo, Sci-Fi on the Rock, Atlanti-Con and Horror Con, where they’ll likely meet cosplayers.
“If you’re an adult, or a kid trapped in an adult’s body like me, don’t be afraid to visit that part of your childhood,” said Sparkes. “Costumes of all shapes and sizes are fun for everybody.”