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Imagine if superheroes and gaming characters came to life...

You could watch Deadpoolrsquo;s muscles rippling under his costume. And maybe even hear Black Canaryrsquo;s fatal cry. Or watch Eren Jaegerrsquo;s Titan in action!

Superheroes DO come to life.

And so do cartoon characters, Manga characters, comic book villains and gaming heroes.

All thanks to Cosplay (or costume play), which sees passionate fans become their favourite characters, often going to great lengths to achieve perfect mimicry.ldquo;Quality Cosplays take massive amounts of time and dedication and often an equal investment of cash to ensure the best possible results,rdquo; explains Ray Whitcher, Co-Founder, LegionInk - a South African NPO Community with the core goal of providing support and exposure to all creatives, all around the globe. LegionInk is also the organiser of various social events, including the rAge Cosplay competition and the Artistrsquo;s Alley (platform for artists at rAge).

ldquo;Cosplayers are more often than not self-funded. They generally sew and assemble their costumes with their own skill and experience. This means that the quality of the Cosplay will grow as the individual Cosplayer's crafting skills improve,rdquo; says Whitcher.

But this isnrsquo;t your grandmarsquo;s tea-cosy sewing club...

ldquo;Cosplay is as vast as pop culture itself and is pretty ubiquitous in the genres it covers, so video games, comic books, films, board games and anything else you could think of can and will supply source material for Cosplay,rdquo; continues Whitcher.

The rising popularity of Cosplay is not to be sniffed at. Cosplay has millions of dedicated participants around the globe, and many more fans of the pastime.

South Africa is no exception.ldquo;The Cosplay event at rAge has grown massively over the past three years, seeing a rise of nearly 100% in entrants with each subsequent competition (it went from 20 participants in 2010, to 40 in 2011 and then to 70 last year). We're actually expecting well over the 100 mark for this yearrsquo;s competition and possibly another 50 non-competitive Cosplays,rdquo; says Whitcher.ldquo;What gets me most excited is that the Cosplayers travel from all over South Africa to attend rAge, which is rapidly becoming known as the biggest Cosplay event of the year.rdquo;

In fact, if Whitcher and his team have it their way, next yearrsquo;s rAge Cosplay event will not only shatter previous Cosplay event records, itrsquo;ll also make it easier for South African Cosplayers to realise a dream: Competing at the World Cosplay Championships!

Currently, the only South Africans who get there are those who have the bucks for flights, accommodation and entry fees. But the rAge Cosplay event is the perfect platform for a local championship competition, to identify South African Cosplayers who have what it takes to compete internationally, and bankroll their adventures.ldquo;This doesn't mean that the rAge event will solely be the national qualifier. We'd still run the normal competition as well, but the country's top Cosplayers would compete separately from the others,rdquo; explains Whitcher.ldquo;The major centres have several cosplay competitions throughout the year, like Cape Town's Free Comic Book Day, Jo'burg's ICON and Durban's UMICON. These smaller events can actually function as regional qualifiers, with each competition yielding a top three, who would compete at the rAge Cosplay eventrdquo;.

For now, Cosplayers can look forward to a fabulous competition experience. This yearrsquo;s rAge Cosplay competition has been totally restructured, with judging taking place in a private judging area.ldquo;Firstly, it means the judges will have far more time to appraise each costume as well as provide a more private and less stressful environment for Cosplayers that aren't necessarily comfortable with being on stage. We also have an all-new judging panel that will be comprised with well-versed and knowledgeable fans of the three categories of Anime/Manga, Western Pop Culture and Gaming, as well as newly-introduced group categories and also a quality of craft category (which will judge the actual construction of the costume),rdquo; explains Whitcher.

Cosplayers will also get their own rest area, provided by LegionInk, where they can put their feet up and give their alter egos a chance to cool off.

If yoursquo;d like to get up close and personal with many of your favourite comic heroes and faming characters, then donrsquo;t forget to visit NAG magazinersquo;s stand, where you can be photographed with three of SArsquo;s top Cosplayers, Yamaki, KomboKitten and Jiraiya!

And if you need inspiration, then join the Cosplay support structures available to new and existing cosplayers on Facebook, including Cosplay South Africa ( www.facebook.com/groups/3415749605), Cosplayers South Africa ( www.facebook.com/groups/172052599477606),nbsp;Rockin' Cosplay ( www.facebook.com/groups/277331169002044)nbsp;and, of course The LegionInk Cosplay Pagenbsp;( www.facebook.com/LegionInkCosplay).

Aspirant Cosplayers can also chat directly to some previous winners on their professional pages, such as last yearrsquo;s winner, Yamaki ( www.facebook.com/pages/Yamaki/144862615700823?fref=ts), Morgue Chan (nbsp; www.facebook.com/TheMorgueChan?fref=ts) or Kombokitten (nbsp; www.facebook.com/pages/KomboKitten-Online/276062659100118?fref=ts).

Herersquo;s the advice from Steven Tu, one of the judges of the 2012 event:nbsp;ldquo;There are a few things that I wish all cosplayers would take into heart.nbsp; Get on , strike your poses, hold them for a while.nbsp; A good guideline is to see/hear the cameras go off, and when they calm down a bit, do the next one. Five to ten seconds per pose is good. Three to five poses is also good. Check out the judgesndash; by this I mean make eye contact, and hold it, and see if they want anythingndash; like turning around, etc. Engage the people toondash; they are who yoursquo;re doing this for after all! Be in-character. If you donrsquo;trsquo; know your character, you should. Research! The top cosplayers always do this, and itrsquo;s free. Donrsquo;t be shy! Yoursquo;ve already spent so much time and effort on your cos, make the most of it! Enjoy it! Enjoy the hell out of it!rdquo;

He also had plenty to say about the winners in last yearrsquo;s competition, illustrating the fact that passion, attention to detail and a sense of adventure are crucial to success.

Sakata Gintoki, played by Jes (first place in the Anime category) won because sheldquo;was in character even before she stepped on the stage, with a couldnrsquo;t-care-lessnbsp;demeanournbsp;that fits Gintama absolutely to a fault... Then, there was the Gangnam Style dance that Team Gintama was part of organising, that was first performed on stage, and all over rAge, and was pretty darn fun and memorablerdquo;.

Donrsquo;t miss seeing this yearrsquo;s cosplayers in action at SArsquo;s biggest gaming event of the year!

Dates: 4nbsp;Octoberndash;nbsp;6 October 2013
Show times: Friday: 10:00-18:00 | Saturday: 09:00-18:00 | Sunday: 10:00-16:00
Day ticket: R70 per person
Weekend ticket: R120 per person
Kids under 6: Free
Venue: The Coca-Cola Dome,nbsp; Northgate
Website: www.rageexpo.co.za
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