Though the art of cosplay began in New York (at the first ver World Science Fiction Convention in 1939) and the name was first used in Japan in the mid ’80s, it has grown into a global practice. The cosplay community today is made up of a vast network of talented and eager artists and craftspeople spanning practically every corner of the world, and the UK is no exception. Though some of the community’s biggest names hail from the US, Eastern Europe and East Asia, there’s a wealth of home-grown talent living and working across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that could use a little more love and attention on the world stage.
One of the earliest comic cons in Britain was the British Comic Art Convention, an annual event that ran between 1968 and 1981, usually in Birmingham or London, and birthed the Eagle Awards. The convention also became a “who’s who” of future British heavyweights in the industry with attendees including Titan Books publisher Nick Landau, Marvel UK editor Dez Skinn, writer Alan Moore and artists Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland. Today, the British convention scene is growing exponentially every year, with the MCM Expo group attracting millions to their shows across the UK, including flocks of new and seasoned cosplayers. The London MCM show has also become a regular stage for budding talent to qualify for the EuroCosplay Championship.
15. ANGEL MARTIN
Known online as “LittleBlondeGoth,” Angel Martin is something of a rising superstar on the European cosplay scene. She won her first award in 2013 at the Eurogamer Expo Cosplay Masquerade, cosplaying as Fran from Final Fantasy XII. A year later she competed at conventions in the Midlands and London resulting in two more wins, before competing twice in the Eurogamer Cosplay Championship, claiming the title in 2016 with this incredible look from Diablo III.
Amazingly (and enviously) she only began cosplaying a few years ago, “by accident,” which is more than a little impressive considering her award-winning achievements. “A last minute decision to attend MCM Expo turned into a last minute panic to find a costume that didn’t make [me] look like an idiot.” Her not “idiotic” Demon Hunter costume is entirely hand-made using foam, acrylic and MDF.
14. JOHN C. HADDOCK
John Haddock, or “JayCosplay,” is an English cosplayer and prop-maker currently based in Ireland. He’s been a regular face in the cosplay world for over a decade now and his incredible work has been plastered all over dedicated cosplay-friendly sites and magazines. He’s perhaps most well-known at the moment for his intricately detailed Fallout: New Vegas costumes like the NCR Ranger one pictured.
Taken at Ayacon 2011, this particular costume took John four weeks to craft the jacket, helmet, body armor, gun, belts and gloves “from scratch,” using EVA foam, cardboard and a good coat of paint to achieve the realistic “weathered look.” It’s been featured on both Steam and Bethesda’s official blogs/news sites, giving it a near-official seal of approval from the creators.
British-Chinese cosplayer “Lina-Lau” has an impressive body of work stretching back over the last decade and is mostly known for her elaborate anime and Japanese video game costumes, including characters from Naruto, Loveless, Dogs: Blood and Carnage, Crisis Core, Black Butler, Persona, Steins;Gate and — as pictured here — the Macross franchise.
Female characters like this one of 2059 pop sensation Sheryl Nome from Macross F are actually rare for Linakkuma, who usually prefers dressing as anime “pretty boys” (or “bishonen.”) Macross F is a chapter in the long-running mecha series that combines giant robots, bio-mechanical alien threats and epic space battles with inspirational J-pop songs and sparkly idols. This great shot is part of a series taken in Hong Kong that included a cameo from Sheryl’s love rival, Ranka Lee.
12. PIXIE LATE
Professional cosplayer, model, YouTuber and self-professed “kawaii fashionista” Pixie Late has been grinding hard since 2012 to grow her sizeable following (a cool 30k on Instagram so far) and her impressive wardrobe of wigs, clothes and adorable accessories. Based in London, she’s a regular face at the capital’s biannual MCM London Comic Con.
According to her Instagram, she’s possibly also a face to spot in 2017’s Justice League among the Amazonian army after being invited on set by Zack Synder to take a few cheeky selfies in full Thymisciran armor. Her variations on her D.Va costume from Overwatch, one of which is pictured above, is a fan favorite. The South Korean tank hero — and former professional gamer — has been reinterpreted by Pixie as everything from a Playboy bunny to a gaming school girl.
Not only is Aurore a super-talented cosplayer but, just to add to her nerdy credentials, she’s also a former game developer and current producer for Unity Technologies, which is best known for developing the cross-platform gaming engine, Unity. Given her professional interest, it’s unsurprising that most of her cosplays are video game characters, like this incredible one of Monster Hunter‘s Zinogre Blademaster Armor.
Most of the costume was made from Worbla (thermoplastic) and craft foam over a period of six months with the sword taking only three days. Photography credit for the fantastic coastal shot goes to Lucas Ambrosio. As well as Monster Hunter, Aurore has created amazing versions of characters from Street Fighter, like Crimson Viper, Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider series and Kait Diaz from Gears of War.
10. ROBIN YARDLEY
Otherwise known as “King Tide,” Robin Yardley is a cosplayer and prop maker from Worcestershire who has found fame as the British answer to Jason Mamoa. Not only did he prove himself worthy of commanding an army of Dothraki warriors and melting Khaleesi hearts with his formiddable Khal Drogo costume, but, after the actor took on the role of Aquaman, Robin continued his homages with this royally good impersonation.
You can’t save the world alone, as the tagline for Justice League tells us, and suitably Robin doesn’t cosplay alone, either. He’s part of the “Justice League of England,” a super-team up of cosplayers decked out in some seriously impressive replicas of the League’s costume from the 2017 film. They even made a group trip to see the film in full cosplay travelling on London’s (very un-League-like) DLR.
9. STACEY REBECCA
Otherwise known as “Stacey of Gotham” online, Stacey Rebecca is a London-based cosplayer whose diverse portfolio of character costumes has garnered her a keen following in the hundreds of thousands. From the Powerpuff Girls‘ Mojo Jojo, to Adventure Time‘s Finn the Human, to Mary-Jane Watson to Beetlejuice, there seems to be no bounds to what/who she can morph into.
Her recent run of Arrowverse cosplay are possibly what she’s best known for, thanks in part to the expert photography skills of Lucas Ambrosio. Her gender-bent Green Arrow could easily be mistaken for an official alternate universe Oliver Queen (Olive Queen..?) but her self-professed favorite from The CW show is Nyssa Al Ghul, because “it’s a) beautiful and b) comfy as f**k!”
8. RIOT ROGERS
Also known as “Lady Riot,” Riot Rogers made a big splash at London’s Super Comic Con in 2016 with this panel-perfect replica of Carol Danver’s 2012 make-over — complete with bottle blonde quiff and a handmade jumpsuit and satin gloves. The incredible look even drew the attention (and approval) of screenwriter and producer Steven DeKnight (showrunner for Netflix’s Daredevil) praising it as “out of this world” on Twitter.
As well as Captain Marvel, Riot has created similarly stunning cosplay as Elektra, Resident Evil‘s Jill Valentine, Poison Ivy, She-Ra‘s Evil Lyn and a wild mash-up of RWBY and Battlefield. As a fashion student, she carefully crafts every inch of her highly-detailed costumes herself with WIP shots regularly uploaded to her fan pages as proof of all her hard work.
7. PHOENIX SPIDER
Though only beginning her cosplay career in 2015 at London MCM Comic Con (as Black Cat) Phoenix Spider has built up a strong and varied body of work since then, putting her Theatrical Costume and Make Up degree to good, geeky use. “I’ve been into dressing up since I was a little girl,” she explains on her Facebook fan page. “I grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man, X-Men [and] Dragon Ball Z.”
Her cosplay ranges from the cutsey — Christmas-themed Harley Quinn, autumnal Poison Ivy and Scooby-Doo‘s Velma — to the downright spooky — Marvel’s Lady Death, Thor: Ragnarok‘s Hela — and deadly, like this fantastic rendering of Domino, snapped by JMW Imaging. “The whole cosplay clothing and culture [has become] a big part of my life […] I keep pushing myself to do bigger and better projects.”
6. ALIEN LOVES PREDATOR
Most cosplayers are made famous by one or two signature looks but rely on constantly churning out new costumes to excite their audiences and win competitions. “Alien Loves Predator” does things a little differently. Individually, this cosplaying duo are “Abi The Xenomorph” and “Pedro The Predator” and together, they play out what a real life Alien/Predator fan shipper’s wildest dreams might look like.
Their steady stream of photos documenting the two enemies-turned-life partners going about their daily business around pubs, beaches and unsuspecting members of the British public are made only more delightfully weird by how convincing their costumes actually are. They even have backstories: “Separated from the Hive at chest-birth, Abi stands as an individual, independently free-thinking Xenomorph […] She’s rarely seen without her Predator Counterpart or Marine Handler.”
Cosplayer and self-confirmed “crazy cat lady,” Yuka is also passionate about “video games, travelling, learning new languages, fashion, photography and writing.” So, just a little on the creative side. Most of her looks draw from anime characters like this brilliantly put together Simon cosplay from mecha favorite, Gurren Lagann, which was apparently four years in the making.
“I started working on Simon back in March 2008 but every time I made plans to cosplay as him […] I lost confidence to wear him. When I found out my friends were going to cosplay from Gurren Lagann at KitaCon 2012, I finally got Simon finished. I figured four years was long enough for being ‘in progress!'” Yuka is joined in this photo by Carlo (“Zombi-zone“) as Kamina.
With over 50,000 Instagram followers, this Liverpudlian cosplayer, known by the short and sweet handle, “Jet,” is a real cosplay superstar. Jet began his cosplay career back in 2011 and has been “addicted” ever since. His taste in characters leans heavily into anime, particularly of the “bishonen” (“pretty boy”) variety like Black Butler‘s Sebastian, Free!!‘s Rin and Rei, Levi from Attack on Titan and Tokyo Ghoul‘s Ken Kaneki.
His take on Sasuke Uchihina from Naruto Shippudden, pictured above, is ridiculously on point — as if the character literally jumped off the screen and into the real world. More recently, his focus has switched to replicating characters from hit shonen series, My Hero Academia, like Aizawa, and an alternate villainous version of heroic protagonist, Midoriya/Deku.
Based in Liverpool, “Smallfry” has been cosplaying and prop-making since 2008, and you can certainly see what a decade’s worth of hard graft and effort looks like in the sheer scale and level of detail in her work. Her cosplay covers a wide scope of characters, from “simpler” costumes like Yu-Gi-Oh! duelists and trainer classes from the Pokemon franchise to big showstoppers like the Bleach costume pictured.
Here, she’s dressed as fan-favorite Captain of Division 10, Toshiro Hitsugaya with his quintessential white, spiked hair and hard stare. But, she’s also gone the extra mile and created his amazing Daiguren Hyonrinmaru Bankai, too (one of the forms that the unleashed power of the “spirit” within his sword can take.) As well as costumes, her hand-made Pokemon plushies can also be seen roaming around UK conventions.
2. NEIL LOCKWOOD
Better known by his cosplay name “Xaerael,” Neil Lockwood came in third place at 2008’s winter MCM London Comic Con masquerade, which is especially respectable considering his entry — FullMetal Alchemist‘s Alphonse Elric — was his earliest attempt at cosplay. It was then that “the bug bit [him.]” Since then, he’s “virtually spent all [his] free time experimenting, learning and making things that will […] inspire.”
In 2011, he was crowned the winner of the EuroCosplay competition with this unbelievable Skeksis costume from The Dark Crystal. Speaking to MyMBuzz in 2012, Neil revealed that, yes, it was as time-consuming to create as it looks. “It took a LONG time. […] Even after I’d won the ECC qualifier […] I still had three months of work to do on it. […] I spend a huge amount of money on courses and video tutorials from professional studios.”
1. KYLE WHITTINGTON
Going by the name “Sketch McDraw” across his online platforms, Kyle Whittington has only been on the cosplay scene since 2010 but has quickly become synonymous with the idea of bringing seemingly “impossible” characters to life with ludicrous amounts of accuracy. His version of Namco’s cyborg samurai fighter Yoshimitsu from the Tekken and Soul Caliber games is terrifyingly realistic.
As well as Yoshimitsu, he’s also brought Afro Samurai‘s teddy bear-masked, robotic warrior Jinno/Kuma (pictured) to life, along with Soul Reaver‘s Raziel, Final Fantasy‘s Cloud Strife, RWBY‘s Adam Taurus and the Winter Solider. Speaking to MCM Buzz in 2012, he said that his first ever attempt at cosplay — Zack Flair from Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core — was “just an excuse to make a Buster sword.” Kyle also works on commission, creating props for other keen cosplayers.
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