You’ve known Comic Con was coming for months now, but as usual, you procrastinated and forgot to buy your ticket. Now it's just a few weeks, or days, maybe even hours away! All of your friends are excited you’ll be coming, but by now they’ve already all settled on creative and fun cosplays and you don’t want to be the odd person out! You're starting to panic because a.) there’s no time to make your own cosplay, b.) you don’t really have that much money now anyways because you just spent it all on your overpriced ticket, and c.) you don’t even know who you’d want to cosplay as anyways!
We’ve all been there. It’s terrible. But I promise, you’ll get through this.
The question you’re faced with now is how to make the most out of your last-minute decision-making by still getting to participate in one of the most enjoyable aspects of Comic Con: the cosplaying!
In this how-to, I outline different levels of "procrastination danger" and, in the spirit of Comic Con, I decided to correlate them to specific comic book villains! You'll see that some villains—some cosplay conundrums—are a little worse than others, so depending on the level of severity, I share specific solutions for each level.
So please, peruse the sections until you spot your exact procrastination-scenario, read and soak up the knowledge I’ve gleaned from doing this for the past five or so years, and then get to cosplaying!
The Penguin (Batman)
Procrastination Level: Mild Panic
If you feel like the Penguin is terrorizing your cosplay plans, then you're not in too bad of a place. It's more annoying than anything. Sure, you haven't spent the last year methodically planning out every detail of the perfect cosplay, but you've probably at least put some thought into it, so you already know who you want to be. Plus, you still have a little bit of time. Not much, but some.
If you normally go all-out in designing your cosplay and making sure every piece is handmade, hand-painted, and hand-sculpted, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but this year you're going to have to try something different.
The Procrastination Strategy I recommend for this level is: Cutting Corners.
For this strategy, focus on one aspect of your cosplay and make it your own. Maybe that's the weapon the character is known for, maybe it's making sure you can apply the perfect makeup, maybe it's an iconic piece of the costume itself.
Keep in mind that time is really going to determine the quality of the outcome though. This isn't the time to make an exact to-scale replica of Frodo's hairy feet/slippers, or to craft an entire Iron Man suit out of worbla, but you probably have time to make something that looks a little more DIY.
For the clothing: I'd suggest skipping the step where you create hems and collars, and maybe even opting out of reinforcing seams (if you only plan on wearing your cosplay once). Instead of drawing your own templates, trace shirts and pants from your own wardrobe and add a seam allowance to the template.
For the accessories: Think of creative ways to simplify your creations. Did you know that you can make demon horns out of toilet paper rolls and super glue? You can make adorable fluffy tails out of yarn! You can turn oatmeal and cereal boxes into hats and crowns! The key here is using household (or inexpensive) items on super simple projects.
Once you've finished your main piece, this is where repurposing and thrift-shopping comes in. If your character usually wears black leather pants and you have a pair of black leggings or black skinny-jeans—use those! And if you don't, maybe a local thrift store has a pair on sale. You can find generic jean jackets, glasses, belts, boots, and all sorts of things that could stand-in as pieces for a cosplay in your own closet or at a thrift store.
Recap: The key to the Cutting Corners strategy is to:
Devote your time/energy to one aspect of the cosplay that you can't live without,
Focus less on the "quality" and more on making it resemble the character enough that people will recognize it, and then making sure you finish it in time,
Being flexible by supplementing other pieces of the cosplay with more generic items from your own closet or the thrift store.
Negan (The Walking Dead)
Procrastination Level: Moderate Fear
Okay, a Negan-level fiasco is a little scarier than a Penguin-level one, but even Rick and the gang were able to come out of his tyranny on top! And you can too! At this stage, you're likely dealing with even more of a time-crunch. Comic Con is probably less than a couple weeks away and you have no idea who you want to go as.
If you've procrastinated until this point, you might be worrying that your cosplay options are nonexistent, but have no fear! You still have some options!
However, the Procrastination Strategy I recommend for this level is: Lowering Your Standards.
Lowering your standards feels a little like when The Will (Saga) was on the phone with his ex-lover The Stalk as she was gunned down unceremoniously by Prince Robot IV. Actually, maybe it feels more like you're The Stalk in this scenario, considering she was the one who had her chest blown apart.
Regardless, just keep reminding yourself that there will always be other Comic Cons and next year you won't procrastinate as much!
For this year though, you're going to have to swallow that pride, as you will likely be falling into one of a few categories: the cliche, the cosplay that is overdone this year, the lazy cosplayer, the Halloween costume shopper, or a number of other extreme-cosplayer pet peeves.
But who cares! At least you're in costume!
For the clothing: You want to think quick and cheap! This means exerting the littlest amount of effort and money for the biggest gain. My partner has been Clark Kent two years in a row now, and all he has to do for this cosplay is put on his favorite Superman t-shirt, throw one of his suede work blazers over it, grab this pair of glasses we have without the lenses, buy a newspaper, and call it good! This is the level of creative "laziness" that you need to embody!
If you own any themed t-shirts, preferably ones with just the character's emblems or faces, that's a great start! If not: it's time to go...*drumroll*... THRIFT SHOPPING! You see that Hulk face shirt, grab a pair of purple pants/shorts.
Another tip at this stage is to purposefully select characters that are wearing everyday clothes. Usually, these characters are more about the accessories anyways. Which brings me to my next point...
For the accessories: Wigs can make or break are last-minute cosplay! Same with make-up, glasses, and other simple accessories. If you have a plain brown tanktop and a brown/white skirt, buy yourself a small dragon stuffed animal and suddenly you're Daenerys Targaryen. Ash & Misty, Han Solo, Cat Woman, Tina Belcher, and Marty McFly are just a few other examples of cosplays that are easy to piece together using just a few items.
This strategy is also a great entry point for new folks into the cosplaying world! Reusing personal items can help make your cosplays unique while also giving you a taste of what it takes to plan-out your future cosplays.
Recap: The key to the Lowering Your Standards strategy is to:
Select a character with a simple outfit or signature look,
Create the simplest and most literal representation of your character (i.e. Dany has blonde hair and dragons, so all you need is a blonde wig and a stuffed animal),
Peruse thrift stores for popular superhero-themed t-shirts and/or costumes and accessories.
Thanos (Guardians of the Galaxy/The Avengers)
Procrastination Level: Severe Chaos
The doors open to Comic Con tomorrow—or maybe they open in just a couple hours!—and you have officially run out of time! Honestly, if you are finding yourself in this situation and still thinking about how you can cosplay this year, I commend you. That's some true dedication right there!
For master-procrastinators like yourself, the Procrastination Strategy I recommend for this level is: Resourceful Half-Assery.
By this point, I hope you've already lowered your standards and made peace with cutting corners, because you need a healthy dose of don't-give-a-fuck to be able to pull this strategy off and to wind up on the other side satisfied and fulfilled.
For the clothing: Clothing? I'm not sure you have the luxury of having character-specific clothes for this cosplay, unless like in previous suggestions you have something lying around in your closet. I've seen some resourceful half-assery with cosplayers coordinating the colors of their outfits to resemble characters (like maroon and gold for gryffindor, wearing a pink dress and slapping on a black belt and a headband to be Blossom). Once again, the key here is to choose a character that would be simple to portray, so it is likely a very popular character with a straight-forward design or signature trait.
For the accessories: Face paint. Face paint can spruce up even the most average-looking cosplayer. Maybe you skip the clothes (I mean, don't go nude, but perhaps just wear your normal attire) and instead you do mermaid maid on your hairline, or slathering your face in orange and drawing on a cat nose and whiskers and calling yourself Garfield. Just make sure to think fast because you really don't have the time to make anything perfect.
Recap: The key to the Resourceful Half-Assery strategy is to:
Select a character with little-to-no outfit necessary,
Scramble to select one or two items from your closet or a simple accessory,
Quickly get dressed so you can run out the door and make it to Comic Con in time, ignoring the judgmental glances.
Hopefully some of these suggestions help you figure out a last-minute cosplay, or at the very least helped relieve some of the stress you've been experiencing about it! If anyone has any direct questions, please feel free to ask below!