MCM Fringe – Event Organiser Oliver Welham talks Legend of Zelda and Black Butler meets

10370888_10204031267327496_3505230963042267370_n

Along with the multitude of stalls, events, cosplay and all the other fun things to experience at MCM London Comic Con, many con-goers take it upon themselves to hold their own events and meet-ups as part of the MCM Fringe Festival.

Oliver Welham is the organiser and host of the The Legend of Zelda and Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji) meet-ups and photoshoots taking place across the October comic con weekend. I had the opportunity to ask Oliver some questions in relation to the event, the series and his experiences of cosplay and MCM in general. Details for each event can be found by clicking on the above links. Pictures are provided by Oliver Welham to illustrate previous meet-ups.

 

How did you discover cosplay? 

I think I discovered the core idea of cosplay at a young age without really knowing what it was. The earliest I remember was in early middle school I think, where we had a fancy dress day and I scrambled around to find pieces for an Ash Ketchum (Pokémon, Season 1) costume. I had a red hat, but I remember making the white front-facing part out of paper and gluing it on. I used a marker pen to draw the lightning shaped lines under his eyes…that didn’t come off for days!

As for cosplay in a convention-attending sense, I was 16, first year of college and an anime fan. It’s on that basis I made friends there and we ended up watching various episodes of [Neon Genesis] Evangelion or Ghost in the Shell on one of our laptops in the canteen. I can’t remember which of us first discovered that there was an anime convention and that there was a place we could actually meet other like-minded people. After getting on the wrong train, we made it there and were amazed to see, even back then, how many people were in costume. I remember making a determined mental note that I wanted to cosplay. I’d been play-acting as characters since I was a kid, so it’d be the perfect excuse!

How long have you been cosplaying now? 

I didn’t attend another MCM for a few years after that, I moved around, lost track of those friends and didn’t get a chance to watch much of anything interesting for a while. It wasn’t until I convinced a few work colleagues to come with me to another convention that I got the chance to go back and even then, I didn’t cosplay (much to my disappointment). Only one of those friends came with me in the end and we walked around and spotted so many people in costumes I recognised. I remember asking at least one Miku cosplayer for a photo with her, and getting photos at the Magic: The Gathering stand, in front of a green screen. And though I only went for a single day, and a couple of hours at that, I still felt pretty down at the end of it that I hadn’t cosplayed.

I ended up moving to Finland and lost contact with people. It got lonely out there, being in a country where I didn’t speak the language, so I got back into anime, hunted down groups of people that were into the same things and re-rediscovered MCM and its Facebook group. I started to gauge what sort of series were being cosplayed and watched the group’s opinions on things. It became clear that people loved home-made costumes more and that more well-known characters were both loved and hated for their recognisability. So, finally, I taught myself how to use a sewing machine, bought some green fabric and made myself a tunic.

What made you first attend an MCM Comic Con event?

As mentioned, it was something we discovered at the age of about 16. The strange thing is that at the time, the two friends and I who went were pretty reserved. We were loud within our little clique but outside of that, we were pretty quiet. We had this strange notion that we’d go out to MCM, meet a load of people and happiness would rain from the sky. If I remember correctly, that first time we went, we didn’t even speak to anyone but each other. It’s really funny thinking back on it.

What made you decide to make the change from being an attendee to a Fringe event organiser? 

May 2013 was the first time I cosplayed. After trawling through the MCM Facebook group page, I found that there were other people planning to cosplay Link and other Zelda characters. I remember that a guy called “Link Lovejoy” was hosting a Zelda meet on one of the days, so I clicked ‘attending’ and looked forward to meeting like-minded people. The meet was pretty small, but pretty fun. It gave me a chance to see how meets between fans were set up and how fans came together to prance about and act out their favourite characters as a group. So many great photos were had by all!

When I looked through the MCM group for October of the same year, I saw that no meet had been planned. Asking around if people were hosting one, I got mumbled hopes but nothing concrete. Without a plan, I went to MCM October 2013 as Link again. I remember running around mock sword fighting for photos with just about anyone that would stop to cross swords. I met a bunch of new people and ended up with a battle scar as well as many memories from the event.

I think it was the fact that I spent a lot of time on the forums and noticed that there was a large number of Links, and with the release of A Link Between Worlds, there were a lot of people interested in Zelda in the MCM group. I asked the others, then switched the event from private to public and started inviting anyone that mentioned Zelda on the MCM group. I really wanted a large group meet as good as the first one I’d been to. We as a group were going to revive the Zelda meet!

What made you want to hold two Fringe events instead of just one? Has it been hard to plan and organise these events?

For the Zelda meet, it happened on a Sunday. I spent the two months leading up to the event chasing down every Zelda thread and letting fans know about it. On the Friday and Saturday, every time I saw a Link, Zelda or other Legend of Zelda character, I let them know when and where the Zelda meet would take place on the Sunday. I even remember running into some cosplayers twice or three times and reminding them again, completely forgetting I’d spoken to them at least once before. There were even a few that remembered me from the MCM group. I don’t think there was a net-surfing cosplayer that didn’t know the Zelda meet was taking place.

For May, my girlfriend Zora and I had hosted the Zelda meet, but had been part of the Kuroshitsuji [Black Butler] meet. She and her friends (now also my friends) were part of a Kuro fan group that ran Kuro-themed meets every MCM London. In May, that fell to Will Hallam after various bits of in-group drama on the Kuro family group… along with disinterest from other Kuro group members and them moving on to cosplaying other characters. Will rounded up all of the Kuro family group members he could, but it seemed that if you were not in “the family”, you didn’t know about the Kuro meet. After the event, Zora and I spoke to Will and it was agreed that we’d help out with the Kuro meet for the October con and drum up as much press for it as possible.

The planning has been a little tough. People join the event but want them both to be on both days, or separate days, or earlier or later. The easy way out would be to simply hand one day of the event over to someone else and wash our hands of the second event for each fandom but Accuracy Not Guaranteed (our cosplay group) never does anything easily. We decided that the Legend of Zelda meet needed to be the Saturday. It is the busiest day and we figured it would likely be a bigger fandom than the Kuro one. That meant setting the Kuro meet on the Sunday. Both meets are set mid-afternoon, which allows people to wake up and get there with enough time to get costumes and make-up on.

What is it you love so much about the particular series that you’re holding meets for? Why did you choose these over any possible others?

Zelda is a great series. It’s helped me a lot through life in a strange way. The games reward exploration, they reward talking to people and going off the beaten path. It’s also iconic – don a green hat and a tunic and you’re instantly recognised as either Link, Peter Pan or Robin Hood… add that Hylian shield and there is virtually nobody that attends the event that doesn’t know who you are… even if you hear, “Hey look, it’s Zelda!” every ten minutes or so!

As for Kuroshitsuji, I’m still not sure what caught my attention. It was definitely the fandom before the series itself, which is surprising. I met the Kuro group and they were all dressed up beautifully in smart attire and Victorian-style outfits. If nothing else, I had to watch the series just to find out how the actual characters interacted. Black Butler captures you in the first episode. Sebastian himself makes the series, often doing things that make you grin or laugh. Some of the characters are just so over the top or flamboyant that they scream, “Cosplay me!” (Grell). If nothing else, the characters alone are beautiful and from watching the series I now have three more characters on my ‘to do’ list.

Since The Legend of Zelda and Kuroshitsuji are both popular and expansive franchises, what is your favourite game of the series and season of the anime (Season 1, 2, Book of Circus etc)?

I am not sure which of the Zelda games is my favorite. My first entry was Ocarina of Time. I still remember trying to play other songs instead of just the Song of Time on my ocarina. It was that game that first inspired me to ask my parents for an ocarina at the age of 14, to learn to play it and to eventually buy my own 12-hole ocarina. If nothing else, it inspired me to learn a whole new skill. I have to admit that there were glitches and annoying parts of the game (Water Temple rages), but overall, I think it’s impossible to forget the first play-through. I still sit playing the Song of Time on my ocarina every chance I get.

As for Black Butler, I’m sort of torn between Season 2 and Book of Circus. I love Season 2 because of Claude and Alois. Though a dubious pairing, it’s a ship that sets the fandom crazy and Alois matches Zora so well. Book of Circus really swept me up though. I started to feel sorry for the First Stringers as the story unfolded and the ending really tugged on my heartstrings. I really need to do a Joker cosplay. I’ve already spent ages thinking about how I plan to do his skeleton prosthetic. The Book of Circus characters’ costumes are so bright and vibrant and to me, are surpassed in elegance only by Count Drocell. (=But secretly, any scene with Mei-Rin has me squeeing like a fanboy!

Are there any characters in particular from either series that you would like to cosplay most?

I have borrowed Zora’s Grell cosplay, wore lipstick and pranced about in an effeminate way. That was great fun, but we have to make the rest of the costume before I wear it out (and buy some heels).

As for costumes from either series that I want to cosplay….from Zelda, Hyrule Warriors Link, and maybe Vaati? I’m not interested enough in the designs of the other male characters to put too much effort into them. I’ve made three different coloured tunics now also, so unless it’s something special, I am not likely to make another. Instead, it’s the items and various bits of armour that really interest me, especially the bombchus. One day I plan to make some remote-controlled bombchus and have them skitter about the MCM Comic Con.

What would be the one cosplay, your dream one if you will, that you would love to make?

This one is easy: Ramierez from Skies of Arcadia. As much as the Zelda series has had its grip on me, probably my favourite game of all time has to be Skies of Arcadia. I had it on the Dreamcast and out of all the characters, I have to say Ramierez stood out to me, even more so than Vyse. I love his silver ice shard-like sword, his immaculate uniform and the way he moved. He was the perfect villain to me, so very similar to Sephiroth from the FFVII series.

The main reason I haven’t done this cosplay yet is because I like the character so much. I threw Link together and have worked on the costume and props, but there are still things about my craftsmanship that I’m not really happy with. Ramierez will sit on the idea shelf until I have enough skill, time and money to do the costume justice.

What can people attending your Fringe events look forward to seeing? 

For the Zelda meet, lots of posing, ocarina-playing, sword fights, battle poses, lots of drama and energy. Expect a whole sea of green as we had a good twenty or more Links in May and this meet may just be bigger still. If you want to see your heroes portrayed well, there will be a perfect cosplayer for you. Come along and grab some snaps! We have had cosplayers of all ages, sizes and shapes show up and its really great to see that the Zelda fandom has no bounds.

For the Black Butler tea party, there are a lot of non-Black Butler cosplayers and non-cosplayers coming. This meet might even overshadow the Zelda meet. We have some games planned, there are likely to be a lot of energetic fanboys and girls snapping pictures of Sebby, as well as Death-gods chasing demons around. We may have a circus act going on if enough members of Noah’s Ark show up, but we’ll promise not to steal anyone! Look for blankets, tea cups and a sea of black and red on the Sunday.

What’s your favourite MCM Comic Con memory?

Getting a bit sappy, I have to say it was meeting my now girlfriend. I had just had a mock fight with an Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Ezio that had got a little bit… energetic? He got a little frustrated with me and pushed my shield back into my face. We finished there, bowed and he walked away. A friend confirmed he got the whole thing on camera and we set off in a random direction. It was at that point my cheek started to feel warm and I felt the blood running down my cheek. I didn’t want to get it on my tunic so looked around for the nearest, friendly-looking cosplayers (and anyone that looked like they had a backpack!). It turned out I had run over to the Black Butler group and after declaring I needed a tissue, most of them were rolling about laughing. Zora, dressed as Alois, was the only one to take the situation seriously enough to offer anything other than laughter and wiped my cheek. We have that on video too… I still remember my friend saying, “This is Link getting medical attention for his man wound,” then turning the camera to me. I ended up saying something stupid like, “Take that, Zelda!”

Even with that mishap leaving a small scar on my face, I’m glad it happened. I’m glad to have met everyone last October. I made many new friends, got into a new fandom and generally mentalled about for three days solid. Even the nights were spent being hyper and playing Magic: The Gathering in various hotel rooms until 4am.

 

Are you thinking of attending one of these MCM Fringe events? The Legend of Zelda meet and photoshoot will take place at 2:00pm on Saturday the 25th of October at grass area near the Novotel. The Black Butler/Kuroshitsuji meet will take place at 2:00pm on Sunday the 26th of October also at the grass area near the Novotel.

<

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2014 MCM BUZZ – Movies, TV, Comics, Gaming, Anime, Cosplay News & Reviews