At San Diego Comic-Con, ‘the cosplay chooses the cosplayer’

The Pottermore Correspondent

Harry Potter and Hermione Granger Cosplayers
Two cosplayers as Harry Potter and Hermione Granger at San Diego Comic-Con.

Meet some of the best dressed fans from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

This was my first ever Comic-Con. I’d heard about it, obviously, and been tenuously captivated by the idea of fans dressed head-to-toe in costume for a convention in San Diego.

But actually being there was extraordinary. As Eddie Redmayne would later tell me, it sends adrenalin pulsating through your body just to be among crowds that big and fiercely enthused.

Dumbledore Cosplayer at the Warner Bros. Fantastic Beasts wand booth
Cosplayer Kim, in his amazing Dumbledore costume.

It is quite unlike anything I’d ever been to; something of a grittier Disneyland with the crowds of a Quidditch World Cup. It is also, to me, quintessentially American but that could be attributed almost entirely to the colossal pizza pretzels on offer at the food stalls.

Easily the loveliest thing about Comic-Con is the cosplayers. You cannot help but fall in love with all of them for their unfettered enthusiasm. 2016 was the year of Harley Quinn and Deadpool – I counted 27 Harleys and 24 Deadpools, but there must have been more in a crowd that size.

Marvel Harry Potter Crossover Cosplayers
L-R, ‘Hufflepool’, Reed Richards in Ravenclaw robes, ‘GryffinThor’ and Doctor Doom as a Slytherin student.

130,000 people turn up for San Diego Comic-Con each year, many with children or dogs dressed in miniature superhero costumes. It’s huge. Obviously the Harry Potter cosplayers have a special place in my heart. It’s been nine years since the last book and five since the last movie was released. Yet here they are, still joyously living out their fandom in costume.

Two Umbridge Cosplayers face off
Two Umbridge cosplayers face off, outside San Diego Comic-Con.

Over the weekend of this mad, wonderful event, we saw two Albus Dumbledores, two Dolores Umbridges, two Rubeus Hagrids, a Severus Snape, a Molly Weasley, a Luna Lovegood, a Ginny Weasley, numerous Hogwarts students out of school and even a few Newt Scamanders. Whenever there was a camera pointed in their direction, they stepped very much into character – as you can see.

L-R Molly Weasley Hagrid Umbridge Luna Umbridge Dumbledore Snape Cosplayers
L-R, cosplayers dressed as Molly Weasley, Hagrid, Professor Umbridge, Luna, another Professor Umbridge, Dumbledore and Snape.

So why do they do it? To talk to these cosplayers, it’s about much more than fun. It’s about paying homage to J.K. Rowling, it’s about friendship, and it’s about identifying with the core of a character.

Molly (above) made her own Mrs Weasley costume for the event. She says, ‘I have had fans of Molly Weasley come up to me and say they have always wanted to hug 'Mama Weasley' and tear up with joy to see her.

‘It is an honor to cosplay as such a great character. She is truly one of the most beloved from the stories. After seeing the movies, I decided that she was the one character that I was most like. I am a stay at home mom. I sew, I crochet, I garden. I debuted this cosplay at Cosplay L.A.'s costume competition, where I proceeded to yell at the top of my lungs, on stage, at Ronald Weasley for the car being gone and no note. The crowd roared and I had the time of my life.’

Dumbledore Cosplayer and Mad-Eye Moody Cosplayer at Comic-Con
L-R, Andrew and Eric in costume as Dumbledore and Mad-Eye Moody.

‘Dumbledore has so many layers and I feel that I personally relate to many of them,’ says Andrew, who has stepped out as Albus three times in the past year. ‘He is kind, but he has authority. He has many secrets and does not always let people in to know his true self.  

‘I find myself to be very similar – I can be very reserved about my true self, yet when I cosplay I become more outgoing and larger than life.’

‘The character of Mad-Eye Moody appeals to me. He’s a character that’s been through so much and he’s still a good guy,’ says Eric, playing Mad-Eye for the first time today. ‘I just like the idea of someone who’s been dragged over broken glass, over all these years, and he still gives himself to the mission. The cosplay chooses the cosplayer, I say’.

Gryffindor Quidditch Cosplayers
Katie in her Quidditch costume with a Ginny Weasley cosplayer

‘Everything about the Harry Potter universe means so much to me, I can’t even tell you,’ says Katie, who wears her Gryffindor Quidditch robes regularly as Katie Bell. ‘My friends and I meet up at Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter about four times a week. Cosplayers all know each other and it means the world to all of us. Do you want me to call you a Dumbledore or a Newt? I know a Newt who’s here today.’

Katie slips her phone out of her robes and calls some cosplay friends. She says ‘get over here’ and none of them question her – they just appear moments later in full costume.

This is how cosplay works. It’s a community. It’s a network of remarkable people finding their confidence through dress-ups. It’s a little bit beautiful, actually, and no, you’ve got something in your eye.

Newt Scamander Cosplayer
One Newt Scamander cosplayer, who met Eddie Redmayne as he gave out wands during the Fantastic Beasts Hall H presentation.

And you can enjoy a slideshow of some of the great cosplayers we met at Comic-Con here: