When it comes to finding a superhero, you don’t have to go very far. Sometimes, you just have to look within.
Carlo Angelo Y. Garces discovered his inner superhero four years ago, when he entered the world of cosplay. By donning costumes—in his case, superheroes ranging from Batman, Green Lantern, and Power Rangers, to his favorite Spider-Man—the financial planning and reporting head is “able to transform into something cool.”
His superpower: cheering people up. Indeed, if the sight of Spider-Man sporting a face shield as he shops for essentials in the mall, or Batman getting his COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t make you smile, we don’t know what will. (Read: Avengers Assemble to Praise 6yo Boy Who Saved Sister From Dog Attack)
Encouraged by the positive response a Spider-Man cosplayer was getting as he helped promote the superhero’s movie in 2017, Carlo built the courage to slip into skintight costumes himself—an empowering feeling for someone who was overweight as a kid and young adult. Today, the trim 33-year-old has over 70 superhero outfits to his name and needs no more than five minutes to put them on.
We catch up with Carlo to find out why he cosplays in the time of COVID-19 and the public’s reactions to seeing a superhero in the supermarket.
Why do you like cosplay?
Cosplaying gives me happiness and fulfillment for many reasons. For one, it fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a superhero (well, not in super abilities, but at least in tights). Second, it became my way of expressing my love and passion for superheroes. Finally, it became my venue to unwind from my work (an eight-hour-or-more job, sitting in front of a computer doing reports and computations) and to make more friends, from those who love cosplaying to those who are fans of superheroes like kids and kids at heart. (Read: Gal Gadot Hosts New Series About ‘Wonder Women’ Around the World)
Where do you get your costumes?
I usually order my costumes online. Some, though, are commissioned from my crafter friends. Cost varies depending on the complexity of the suit, as well as the modifications. For example, if you want your costume to look more realistic, you may want to have built-in shoes. Armored suits, of course, are more expensive.
Why is Spider-Man your favorite?
I think he is the most human of them all. Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego, is an ordinary teenager who is considered an outcast. He is regarded as a nerd, is always struggling with his finances, and always needs to cope between his personal life and his life as a superhero. In a similar way, I can relate to him. We may have many struggles in life, but at the end of the day, there is that side in us that makes us a hero. (Read: ‘Mang Jose’ The Movie to Premiere At The BIFAN Film Festival In South Korea)
Why did you start going public with your cosplay?
Honestly, at first, doing cosplay in public made me quite nervous. But during these most challenging times, we need to find ways to cope with the situation.
Wearing my costumes (especially the ones with masks and helmets) serves a lot of purposes. First, I follow safety protocols because these costumes have masks and shields, as required for those who go out. Second, when people see a “superhero” in public, I have to set a good example. Finally, being a superhero in public brings smiles and cheer to the people around. It may be a fleeting moment, but the impact lasts and helps lessen the sadness we all are facing with this pandemic.
What memorable responses have you experienced from your cosplay?
Even though people wear masks and shields, you could see through their eyes that they are smiling and having fun!
For the most part, I get complimented and even thanked because I made their day. One person told his colleague, “Even though times are hard, we should now smile because Spider-Man is here.” They even joke that someone is now here to save us from the pandemic.
There are also a few who immediately video-call their kids at home. We get to talk quickly, say hi, and I see their priceless smiles. While these are all very heartwarming, the best part is that some of these acquaintances are now my close friends! From a simple selfie, we then have a short talk about why I cosplay, and then we become friends through social media and talk about other things. The wonders these costumes do—meeting and making friends with people from different walks of life. (Read: What we can learn from Filipina superhero Wave’s trending face-off with Chinese superhero, Aero)
Public cosplay, of course, is not all fun. There will be others who will criticize and ridicule you. I just think that what I’m doing is not something everybody will understand. Instead, I just focus my efforts on those who appreciate what I do.
What do you personally get out of cosplay?
The first thing that I get from public cosplay is the fact that it has helped me boost my self-confidence. Dressing up in public is a nerve-wracking thing to do but then when you’re focused on why you’re doing it, the feeling of anxiety turns into fun and excitement.
Second, people’s acknowledging what I do keeps me going. From personal satisfaction, I wanted to transform my love for cosplay into something that I can share with other people, both superhero and non-superhero fans.
Finally, I get to use my love for superheroes as a means to spread my belief and faith. Religiosity should not be confined to the walls of the Church. By using other means to spread our faith, we can attract more people to know who Jesus is. Using these costumes to propagate good vibes, to explain parallelism between a superhero’s role and who God is, is my unique contribution in showing to the outside world, that indeed, Jesus is our Greatest Superhero—and all other heroes just follow and mirror His light and goodness.