Thanks for visiting my blog again. I think it’s a good idea to interview more cosplayers this year. Today, I’m having a discussion with Bill Romanelli. He’s the CO of the West Coast Avengers. They’re a very active cosplay group and charity organization who specializes with characters from the Avengers franchise. Where else can you see Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, and the rest of the Avengers team in real life? I don’t get to have conversations with superheroes very often, so this is pretty exciting for me. Thanks for visiting us, Bill.
Q: Why did you become interested with the idea of cosplay?
A: First of all it merits saying, emphatically, that while I’ve always been a comic book fan, there was a time when I swore I would never be one of “those people” who dressed up in costumes. I could leave that for the “fanatics,” as for me, it was the line I thought I would never cross.
That changed at a Free Comic Book day event, where I met some members of a group called The Avengers Initiative. I learned that they don’t just dress up for the fun of it, they also go in costume to children’s hospitals and charity events, to help people smile, and share a common loves of heroes, real and imagined. I decided on the spot I had to be a part of that. Now, four years later, I’m the CO of the West Coast chapter.
Q: For those of us who are unfamiliar with the West Coast Avengers, would you mind explaining some details about the group?
A: We’re an all-volunteer costuming group that 1) shares a love of cosplay and superheroes and 2) believes in the connection between “cosplay” and “Cause Play.” Our purpose is to truly represent the heroes we portray, in both how we look and how we act. Most people join because they want to be part of the work we do visiting kids—and adults—in hospitals, cancer wards and so on, posing for pictures at baseball games and fun runs, and giving back to the community. That said, there’s also added social enjoyment that comes with being part of a group like this – many of us have become good friends.
(Anyone wanting to learn more about the group is welcome to visit our Facebook page or the Avengers Initiative website.)
Q: Does the West Coast Avengers have affiliated branches in other parts of the nation?
A: Yes, we have chapters on the East Coast, Central US, and Hawaii, and we’re looking to grow. I know there are huge numbers of cosplayers in places like Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington DC, Chicago, and Kansas City – we’d love to hear from folks in those areas (and others) who might be interested in starting a chapter.
Q: Will you please explain your cosplay persona?
A: I cosplay as Hawkeye (aka Clint Barton) from the Avengers
Q: I’m not going to lie. It seems like Hawkeye is a little bit less popular than some of the other Avengers. Granted, I still think he’s cool. Is there a special reason why Hawkeye is your character?
A: It was a good fit for me – my real life has a lot in common with the character. I have a family, and I’m about the same age as Jeremy Renner (although he has better hair). I’m also a pretty good archer in my own right, and I’ve always been a fan of superheroes who don’t actually have superpowers, but are willing to step up and use the skills and talents they have to fight the good fight.
Q: How long have you been with the group?
A: Four years now.
Q: Does the West Coast Avengers have any upcoming charity events?
A: We’re just coming off a pretty busy couple of months, but we are working on an event with the Sacramento Children’s home in the coming months. We do a couple of summer events in Southern California as well, but we’re currently doing a lot of work to get more active in that part of the state.
Q: Comic books and superheroes are really popular for kids. What are some of the positive messages kids can take away from superheroes like the Avengers?
A: One of the best things about comics and superheroes is that they teach about things like honor, courage, sacrifice, and fighting for what’s right instead of what’s popular. They help us continue to believe in a world where, no matter how hopeless the odds, the good guys can still win in the end, and that there really are things worth fighting for.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about cosplay?
A: There’s nothing like seeing a little kid’s face light up when their favorite hero walks into the room. And if that room happens to be in a hospital, the joy that kid shows is only matched by the gratitude of the moms and dads in the room with them, who are so grateful that they and their son or daughter can forget, even for just a few minutes, about their situation and just be a regular happy kid again.
I have to admit I also enjoy the cons – I used to tell myself that I’d go to the cons in costume only because it helped with recruiting new members. That’s still true, but the number of Hawkeye fans out there is growing, and they are committed! I get stopped a lot for pictures, and that part really is a lot of fun.
Q: One of the things I find challenging about cosplay is the price for making costumes. It’s definitely not free. Do you have any cost efficient tips?
A: The most costly part of the process is the mistakes. Yes, you learn from them, but the cost of the materials you have to throw out and then replace adds up quick. My advice is to learn from others who’ve been doing it for a while and are willing to share their skills and knowledge. That will ultimately save you a lot of time and money.
Q: I’m thinking about commissioning someone to make a steampunk Daredevil costume. What are your thoughts about crossover characters?
A: I say it’s just like any other form of artistic expression –if YOU like it, go for it. I’ve seen some amazing crossover costumes – in fact sometimes I had no idea who the characters were, but it didn’t matter because the costumes were so incredible and well-made. Same goes for gender bending – there’s a guy in the Bay Area who does a male Harley Quinn that is just perfect, for example, and lately I’m seeing a lot of first class female Starlord costumes. Comics and superheroes are a creative medium—and while I do think some degree of respect is due to the mythos and canon of the characters and their stories, there’s no there’s reason costuming shouldn’t be just as creative and boundary-less.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: Like you I am also an author. I’ve published three traditional books and last year I published an e-book called “Unleashing My Inner Geek” on www.thesnippetapp.com, which tells the story of how my love of comics has truly enriched my life.
Q: I’m thrilled you took the time to answer my questions. Hopefully, I can get to know you and other members of the West Coast Avengers a little better down the road.
That concludes another fun interview! I learned a lot of information from Bill's answers. Many people envision superheroes on the big screen, comic book pages, and video game sequences. But there are plenty of people who are heroes in real life. I believe the West Coast Avengers have a really good cause and it feels comforting to know individuals are trying to make a difference. You don't have to fight supervillains to serve a greater purpose. Bill's interview also shows that cosplay can be very meaningful in its own right. I left some live links within Bill's interview. If you want to learn more about the West Coast Avengers, visit their official website or Facebook page. Is any0ne thinking about joining their group? Contact them and let's see what happens. Please support Bill's written work on Amazon or wherever it's available. I'm definitely going to search for his work on Amazon in the near future. Leave a comment if you want to say anything about this interview.
I have some upcoming appearances this month. Next week, I'm serving on a self-publishing panel at the Redondo Beach Public Library. It should be a fun and interesting experience. Christopher J. Lynch is hosting a full self-publishing seminar from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the library on June 10th. Then we're going to have a great panel afterward with plenty of Q&A opportunities. Maybe I'll see some of you guys at the event. For those of you who live in Northern California, I'm giving a steampunk workshop and presentation at the Vacaville Town Square Library on June 15th from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. It's part of Vacaville's Summer Reading program. We're going to see a lot of terrific steampunk themes at the event. Be adventurous and give us a visit on June 15th. I hope you enjoyed Bill's interview and have a good week.