Hasslein Blog: Getting Into Character, Part Six: Ryan Espin


Hasslein Blog

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Getting Into Character, Part Six: Ryan Espin

by Rich Handley

Earlier this year, while preparing an article for Bleeding Cool Magazine issue #6, I spoke with eight cosplayers who shared their insights into why they enjoy dressing up, how they craft their creations, the mainstreaming of comic books, and the sexism and negativity that some women face regarding their participation in a once male-dominated hobby. That issue recently hit stands, containing truncated versions of the interviews I conducted with each costumer, in a roundtable format. Now that the article is in print, I thought I'd highlight each cosplayer by presenting his or her unedited answers on this blog. You can read the other interviews here

Cosplayer: Ryan Espin

RICH HANDLEY: How long have you been cosplaying, and what first drew you to the hobby?

RYAN ESPIN: I've been cosplaying for as long as I've been part of the Minions, which was February 2011. It was a gradual thing. I've always loved being in costume for Halloween, right down to nailing each one of my costumes to a tee, be it the Joker or a zombie JFK. When I found out the Minions of Gozer was happening, I was ecstatic to say the least about an opportunity to reenact my favorite movie of all time. Fortunately, I landed the role of Venkman and have loved every second of it!

Ryan Espin, with Jamaal Stone, Jimmy Roike and Eliko Aharon.
Photo courtesy J.A. Starr Photography and Minions of Gozer.

HANDLEY: Do you create your own costumes or purchase them—and if you create them, what goes into making a typical getup?

ESPIN: It required a lot of research. Watching the movie scene by scene, studying not only what he was wearing, but what props he had on him and trying to best replicate Bill Murray's hair with my Cuban hair! Of course, what I've discovered about cosplaying is not how you look, it's how you act and how you react to fellow fans. Fans love when I throw them obscure GB lines, or ask them what's on the other side of my ESP business card, and it's a blast to not only see them react, but to have fun with reliving that kick-ass movie with them!

For the suit, I try to do my best and create it with what I have available, and more importantly, what I can afford. Cosplaying is pretty pricey, especially when you're a Ghostbuster (I can't even imagine how those Stormtroopers do it!). I try to create my things out of what I can find, so the pack I wear is made out of Tupperware, wood, led push lights, spray paint and a lot of love. Granted, I know for a fact it's not the most accurate thing, but it's the best I can do within my means, and it's the best I could do to give my love and passion for this film justice!

Ryan Espin, with Jamaal Stone, Angela Williams-Dunford, Jimmy Roike and Eliko Aharon.
Photo courtesy J.A. Starr Photography and Minions of Gozer.

HANDLEY: Why does cosplaying appeal to you? What characters do you most enjoy portraying, and why?

ESPIN: As far as portraying characters, Venkman always wins for me. Granted, I'm a huge Back to the Future nerd, a Jaws geek, and an Evil Dead nut, but the Venkman role is one I've practically been impersonating since I could walk! I can't remember the first time I saw Ghostbusters, but Venkman was always my favorite character—the one I could relate to the most, and the one I always wanted to be.

Ryan Espin, with Eryn Roberts.

HANDLEY: In years past, those who attended conventions in costume represented a smaller percentage of total attendees. These days, that percentage seems to have grown exponentially. Why do you think cosplaying has become so prevalent, and how has the media played a role in this growth?

ESPIN: I feel like the media definitely has a hand in the increase in cosplayers at cons, but no doubt, in my mind, they're not the biggest influence. The biggest influence is the cosplayers themselves! I remember the first time I went to New York Comic Con. I wasn't in costume, I was in a t-shirt, taking photos, with people dressed as my favorite characters! But it was those people who had me intrigued. If they can dress as Darth Vader, why couldn't I? If he was a Ghostbuster, you damn well best believe I can be one, too!

Photo courtesy Paul C. Giachetti

HANDLEY: In 2012, the Internet was abuzz regarding the negativity being aimed at so-called "fake geek girls" by some male fans, and even some male comic book creators themselves. Have you encountered this bias—and if so, can you share an example or two, describing how you reacted to such negativity? In your opinion, why do female cosplayers have such a harder time than men in earning respect for what they do? And what can be done to improve the situation so that female fans are treated fairly?

ESPIN: The whole "fake geek girl" thing is a bit much. I feel like girls get a bad rep in general for cosplaying, and I feel like it's mostly because of the audience. The majority of the cons audience are made up of males. It's tough for a female in the comic world, especially since the majority of them are portrayed wearing barely anything at all. It's a subject that goes deeper than the "fake geek girls" thing. Some of my friends in the GB show are not only the geekiest people I know, but they're women and I know they've been accused of acting it up. It's ridiculous that someone just assume that because they're a woman that they're not allowed to dress up as Han Solo, too!

Anyways, my point is that the whole "fake geek girls" thing is just plain bullshit. Sure, I'm sure some people just ham it up for attention, but who's saying guys don't do that, too?! And how would this be limited to cosplaying? There's always been naysayers. Believe me, I've heard some of them directed at me. The bias and that mentality will probably never go away, but the best way to fix that is to just ignore it completely and cosplayers, do your thing!

Left to right: Ryan Espin, Jamaal Stone and Casey Bartolucci

HANDLEY: Finally, how large a role do think cosplaying has played in the widespread acceptance of the comic book genre, encouraging many more fans to openly embrace their comic geekdom? And why is cosplaying ultimately a good thing for the comic book industry, as well as for Hollywood?

ESPIN: Comics have greatly risen up from what people would dismiss as plain childish to what it is today. I feel as though what has to do with that is who comics are being targeted towards. In the '60s, when all the camp comics happened, a subculture of alternative comics occurred. Out of this, people like R. Crumb would challenge the superhero-only crowd, and an audience was expanded. Then Frank Miller would release The Dark Knight Returns, no doubt one of the most influential, important and serious comics of all time. Things like Maus would come along, and Watchmen. However, the campy superheroes aimed for kids would join the ride, and new audiences would come across it. And the reason being the stories became truer, full of heart, wisdom and, above all, honesty. Comics became a serious medium, one that could do what others could not, and because of that, you're guaranteed a broader, wider audience. Cosplaying, in my opinion, is the icing of the cake when it comes to good stories. A well-told story is the most important element, and as one who cosplays, I'm honored to share that story, celebrate that story, with others.

Stay tuned, as additional installments of the "Getting Into Character" series will be posted this and next week. As each new interview is uploaded, you'll find it listed here, along with the other articles in this series.

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