Comics and cosplay: The psychology of expressing oneself

24“Creative expression is the ability to use our minds and imaginations to create something that represents ourselves. Humans are naturally creative and crave personal expression,” states The Innerwork Center.

“Comics, like any other art form, are capable of complex expression and storytelling.” defines the Boston University Art Gallery.

Comic book categories are superheroes, manga, science-fiction, action-adventure, horror, humor romance and children. The common elements are image-style, word-image relationships, lay-outs and drawing inferences. Superheroes are a popular category.

Superheroes are sources of personal expression. An individual may have an inability to express intense feelings and negative emotions. Cosplay can convey the feeling of confidence, strength, happiness, love, excitement, sadness and pain.

Cosplay, or Kosupure, was coined by Takahasi Nobuyuki in 1964. He visited the World Con Los Angeles and saw fans of science fiction and fantasy wearing costumes of their favorite character.

Cosplay is “a visual or external expression of fandom typically through costume, clothing, masks, make-up, armor or props. It allows young adults to feel validated and even help them develop emotional literacy.
In many ways, related to emotional development, cosplay is limitless. It can create a buffer for social anxiety, depression and loneliness. A person can process and discuss emotional reactions to fictional character’s narratives,” states Drea Letamendi, psychologist.

The psychology of Cosplay is “a method of escapism and a way to be someone else even for just a few hours,” said Robert Mueller, Ph.D.

“I feel more confident and comfortable in myself. I feel able to do things. It also helps me express my conflicting feelings,” shares Moon, an 18-year-old male cosplayer.

The compact list of classic Superheroes are Captain America, Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantomah, Susan Storm, and Wonder Woman. These characters address social justice. Spider-Man addresses poverty and X -Men grapples with discrimination.

Batman is the protector of Gotham City. Superman is the champion for the defenseless and indigent.

Captain America reflects Patriotism. Wonder Woman represents truth, justice, and equality. Wonder Woman is an Amazon and embodies woman empowerment. Susan Storm is identified with feminism. Fantomah is associated with ecology.

Superheroes for the 21st century are Jessica Jones, Miles Morales and Kamala Khan. Jessica Jones has super-human strength, ability to fly, proficient hand to hand combat skills and a volatile temper.

Miles Gonzalo Morales is the first person of color and the continuance of the Spider-Man legacy. Morales is a biracial son of an African American father and a Puerto Rican mother. He witnesses the death of Spider-Man by the Green Goblin.

Miles Morale’s character is featured in the movie Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023).
Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, is a superheroine of Pakistani- American descent and Muslim heritage. She has the abilities of shapeshifting, appearance/size alteration, plasticity, malleability, elasticity, bioluminescence and regenerative healing.

Superheroes have elements of identity. Superheroes display integrity, vulnerability, human flaws, resilience, hope, empathy, moving forward from past mistakes, forgiveness and selflessness.

“Although comic book readership has declined in adolescence, more than 80 per cent of teens still read comic books in some form…” states Carol Tilley, assistant professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

“In 2020, 32% of monthly comic book readers were aged 18 to 29 and 56% were aged 30 to 50. Adults are the majority population of comic books according to this market study.

Digital comics sales were worth approximately ninety million dollars in 2019,” according to the results of the Market Data Gitnuk Study, Aug. 2023
Comic books and graphic novels address difficult subjects such as substance misuse. Iron man experiences substance misuse with alcohol. Green Arrow’s sidekick, Speedy, experiences heroin misuse.
Climate change, another deep topic, is a complex interaction of science, weather and human actions.

“I try to show while this stuff is complicated and super important, it is much easier to understand if you get the context. Explaining a topic is much easier if we tell stories and stories are there, if you look,” said Celline Keller, climate change comic artist.

Climate-change comic books are Afterglow, edited by Grist, Science Comics. Wild Weather by MK Reed and Jonathan Mill, Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett, and Keep Your Head Up by Aliya King Neil which are available in digital format.

“All I thought about when I authored my stories was, ‘I hope these comic books would sell so I can keep my job and continue to pay my rent,’” said Stan Lee, American comic book writer, editor, and producer of Marvel Comics.

“Never in a million years could I have imagined that it would turn into what it has evolved into nowadays. Every comic book is someone’s first.”

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