Greetings and salutations friends and fans of cosplay! I’m back, bigger than life and twice as ugly, with a brand new in depth interview with epic cosplayer, Mary Mercenary! This one is a real treat for me, as I’ve known her for a few years now and I’m a huge fan of her talent and creativity. She’s a midwest transplant, originally from Florida, now based in Ohio. This lady is geek culture to the core, showing her sci fi love with several tattoos and cosplays ranging from Mystique and Black Canary to Baroness and Starbuck. She’s a rare combination of a Star Wars and Star Trek fan, favoring the illustrious Captain Jean Luc Picard. She’s a vegetarian, a dog lover and she’s no slouch academically, boasting a bachelor’s in Anthropology. So without further ado, let’s peer into the mind of Mary Mercenary!
How long have you been cosplaying?
If we get technical, the first time I ever wore a costume to a convention was in 2009 when I wore Mystique, but when I first started at it as a hobby was in 2011. It has since spiraled out of control, haha!
Who were your cosplay inspirations?
Back then I had no idea what cosplay was or what it was really about and I didn’t know anyone in the hobby so I was just winging it. Now I tend to draw inspiration from the people I know. She’ll kick me for writing this, but Joe C. one of my closest friends in the hobby and a wonderful costumer, is who I look up to now.
What drew you to your signature character?
I’m definitely most known for the Baroness from G.I. Joe. Even when I’m not in costume I’ve had folks walk up to me and ask me if I’m the Baroness, ha! In real life, I wear glasses. Contact lenses can’t be made for my particular prescription so I’m pretty much always wearing glasses in costume. I don’t mind taking my glasses off for photos, but it can be kind of a pain walking around half blind, so I talked to my husband about getting a set of Baroness armor made for an upcoming JoeCon. Now, I knew of the character and always thought she was awesome, a badass lady in glasses, what’s not to love, but never thought about commissioning a set of her armor because I knew it would be a big investment. But my husband was all for it as Baroness is his favorite and the rest is history. I get to portray a fun villain and I get to see! Win win.
Is there a character you have wanted to do, but haven’t had the chance to yet?
I have a pretty long list of costumes I’d like to do. This winter I’ll be working on a few: Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat X (crossplay), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Valkyrie, and Cobra Viper. If I have time maybe Cable, too! Aside from that I have a couple of “Holy Grail” costumes in mind: Jaffa/Anubis Guard from Stargate (the movie), and Artemisia from 300: Rise of an Empire. I’ve always wanted to do a costume from the Sailor Moon universe but haven’t been able to settle on one!
What are your feelings on gender swapped character cosplays?
I love both genderbending and crossplay! It gives us the ability to portray characters in a new way or try a character you might not normally try. In this hobby, you’re really only limited by what you can come up with.
Do you make all your own costumes, and do you think it is a must to do so?
If I have the ability to make something myself, I like to do so, or at least attempt it! You learn a lot by doing. And failure is always an option, ha ha! That said, I don’t feel that you must make everything yourself. Sewing is not my strong suit. I’m getting better, but it’s not something I enjoy or am particularly good at, so if I needed an elaborate costume piece to be sewn I would consider commissioning one of the many talented folks I know! But this is a hands-on hobby and there’s a certain amount of pride that comes from knowing you made your costume yourself.
I know you’ve been involved in using cosplay as an outlet for charity work, can you tell us a bit about that?
I’m a member of the Finest, a G.I. Joe costume club, and earlier this year we concluded the Girls of the Finest 2016 Charity Calendar campaign. This was our second year and we raised just short of $10,000 dollars for the USO. A lot of our members are current or former military so it was wonderful to be able to raise funds for a charity that supports our membership as well as hundreds of thousands of military personnel and their families throughout the United States. The main item we use to raise funds is a 2016 calendar featuring female members of the Finest in their G.I. Joe costumes depicting iconic scenes from G.I. Joe art throughout the years. It’s been a lot of fun and a labor of love. We received overwhelming support from the fan community and we can’t express enough our gratitude to everyone who supported us during the campaign!
Body positivity has been a hot topic in the cosplay community. What are your feelings on women and men of larger sizes cosplaying characters that are traditionally portrayed as fit or smaller?
Well, to start off with comic and anime characters are designed, for the most part, with exaggerated ideal body types. Bulging muscles for men, large breasts for women, and unrealistically narrow waists for both are only a few of the things that real people in costume have to contend with. Real humans vary so greatly in size and shape so most of us are going to be outside of that unrealistic “ideal.” My opinion is this: go for it. If you find a character that you love then by all means, cosplay as that character! It bothers me when people make remarks like “Oh, that’s fat Batman.” No. That’s Batman. There’s no such character as “Fat Batman.” Wear what you want. You don’t owe it to anyone else to look a certain way in your costume. I think this goes beyond just size and shape as well. Cosplay should be for everyone regardless of size, shape, race/ethnicity, age, or ability. Just have fun!
Cosplay is not consent is a big issue in cosplay. Have you been a victim of overly aggressive or inappropriate fans?
Yes, this is something I’ve had to deal with. I had a man try to film down the top of my corset when I was kneeling down talking to children. I’ve had my backside photographed, which I then found later on the internet! And there’s always someone to make an unwelcomed suggestive comment or turn a hug into a grope. The majority of people I meet while in costume are great, but sadly things like this happen to cosplayers all the time. At Dragon*Con my friends and I made it a point to go everywhere in groups. The fact that we had to is both scary and disheartening. To those reading, I’ll ask you to keep an eye out. If you see someone acting inappropriately towards a cosplayer please say something! And if you’re the one in costume don’t be afraid to speak up and say no. Everyone has the right to feel safe and comfortable in costume.
Overly sexualized cosplay has been a hot button topic, do you think that this sort of thing is a contributing factor to the Cosplay is not consent issue?
First off I have to say that while “sexy” costumes aren’t generally a part of my aesthetic, every cosplayer has the right to feel safe in their costume in public no matter how much skin they show. Personally, I’m not in this hobby to be the costume police. Every person has a right to dress in whatever costume they choose. Slut-shaming has no place in this hobby from other costumers or fans. There’s an expectation that if you’re in costume people will look at you. Yes, please, look at the costume I’ve spent a lot of time, effort, and/or money on! But there’s a difference between looking at the costume and leering or staring at the person wearing it. Don’t assume that a woman in an outfit you deem “revealing” is seeking sexual remarks, advancements, or wants to be touched. In fact, please don’t assume that of any cosplayer. There’s a dangerous parallel here to the notion that women who are dressed “improperly” are responsible if they’re assaulted. That argument is dead wrong in every instance. Revealing versions of costumes are certainly a trend at the moment, but harassment is not limited to people wearing them. I’ve received unwanted attention and experienced other people’s inappropriate behavior in just about every costume I’ve ever worn, even ones where I am completely covered. It’s a sad reality that many, if not all, female costumers will have to deal with this at some point. Now that cosplay has become somewhat mainstream and has a large and varied social media presence movements like Cosplay is not Consent have come about to help address a problem that’s likely been around as long as cosplay itself. I’ll take a moment here to once again ask readers to help. If you see someone acting inappropriately please, say something to convention staff or security! You can be our biggest ally! A little basic courtesy common sense go a long way. If you’d like a photo of/with a cosplayer, just ask! Most will happily pose for you. Always ask before touching and respect their answer if a cosplayer says no.
What’s the oddest picture request or reaction you’ve had as a cosplayer?
Once at JoeCon while dressed as the Baroness I had a fan ask to take a picture with me and if he could hold my shoes in the photo. Recently I was attending a convention not in costume and was asked to pose for a photo with someone I didn’t know because he “could tell” I was a cosplayer.
Do you have advice for a novice that would like to get into cosplay?
Don’t be afraid to experiment with materials and don’t be afraid to fail. You will fail and that’s okay. It’s even okay if you cry a little bit. We all start somewhere so don’t be intimidated. There are a lot of fun, like minded people out there in this hobby, so don’t be afraid to seek them out and ask for help. And if someone’s a jerk, they’re not worth your time.
How can people reach you or follow you on social media?
Where can we see you in the near future?
For me the 2015 convention season has come to a close, and boy was it an outstanding one! In 2016 I’ll be attending Lex Con, Gem City Comic Con, Derby City Comic Con, JoeCon and Dragon*Con for sure. My Facebook page is the best way to keep up with my convention schedule!
It was an absolute treat to get Mary’s thoughts on the world of cosplay and its hot button issues. Be sure to check her out on Facebook and instagram and if you see her at one of her many con appearances, be respectful and try not to ask to hold her shoes. I’ll be back soon, picking the brains of those more gifted than myself, until next time, file this interview under complete. – Todd of Basement Fodder