The Beauty and the Cosplaying Beast

It’s a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme…Okay, maybe I’m a bit too excited to remember exactly where I was going with that. But can you blame me? I mean, not only did the world just get an updated version of one of Disney’s very best stories, but as you’re about to see, I was able to get swept up in a Beauty and the Beast photo session that was so life-like, I had to keep a close eye on the surrounding candelabras out of fear that one might start singing to me.

This magical recreation of the famed classic tale was brought to life by two of the most active cosplayers in the Midwest; the duo known as Knightmage and SuperKayce. In addition to being amazing cosplayers, the team nicknamed SuperMage are also incredible people. Together they’ve raised thousands of dollars for charities both local and national and show absolutely no signs of slowing down in 2018.

Knightmage – Photo by ThePortraitDude

C4: What got the two of you in to cosplay?

Knightmage: “For me it started in 2011 when I decided to make a Halloween costume. I’ve always loved to dress up for Halloween. I wanted to be The John Stewart Green Lantern. Even though I had never been to one I knew of cosplaying at conventions but I didn’t know how vast that world was. I also didn’t know that there were places you could customize and buy bodysuits or commission projects from people. Since John Stewart wasn’t a costume you can find in stores I had to make it. I made the costume and went out partying on Halloween and soon after I started getting asked to do local charity events because I had this cool superhero costume. That led me into creating my second costume then third and so on. Pretty much all of 2012 was just doing charity events, parades, birthdays and hospital visits. A few well-known cosplayers took notice of me online and started asking what conventions I attend. Well, again I had never been to one. I finally attended my first convention, Cincinnati Comic Expo, in the fall of 2012. The minute I stepped on the convention floor it was like a whole new world had been shown to me. I was hooked.”

Kayce: “For me it started in 2009 when I saw an article for an event called the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois. Back then, cosplay hadn’t exploded into the global phenomenon we know today. So, seeing a festival where nerds like me gathered and dressed up as some of my favorite characters was like seeing Heaven for the first time. I have always been a comic reader so I decided I would attend and dress up as Supergirl. I threw together my first costume by dyeing a shirt and skirt I already had blue, buying red tube socks to put over my sneakers, and making a cape out of a red sheet from Goodwill! Wearing that costume was unlike anything I had ever experienced prior to that day. The confidence and pride you receive from wearing a costume literally fuels you to build your next one. So, like Knightmage, I began creating my second costume then my third and so on. I started to love to teach others about cosplaying which led me to be invited to my first show, the rest is history!”

Superkayce – Photo by ThePortraitDude

C4: How long did it take you guys to meet one another and become the super cosplay duo you have become?

Knightmage: “We met in 2014 but our cosplaying duo adventures began in 2015 when a fan of Kayce’s suggested that she cosplay as Dagger from the Marvel Comics Duo, Cloak and Dagger. She approached me to be Cloak and I was more than happy to do it. From that moment, we became the best of friends. We had so much fun as that duo that we wanted to do more, so we started collaborating on costumes. While we both have a similar love for fandoms there’s been a few characters that one of us had no clue about, but we made the costumes anyways because we knew it would be fun. Along with doing tons of duo costumes we also started guesting at conventions together. It’s great because we’re able to showcase and talk about our separate costuming styles yet when we collaborate we complement each other because of those separate styles. We make a pretty great team.”

C4: I don’t think anyone can argue that. Since Cloak and Dagger, how many pair costumes have you done together?

Kayce: “We’ve done about sixteen or seventeen together now. A few of the costumes one of us already had so the other just made a costume to go along with it. Michael [Knightmage] has done over a hundred costumes and I’ve done close to sixty so it’s been easy to select a few costumes and think of character to pair it with.”

Knightmage and Superkayce – Photo by ThePortraitDude

C4: Now that you’ve been in the cosplay circuit for some time now, who are some other cosplayers that you look up to?

Knightmage: “This is going to sound so cliché but it’s so true for me. I look up to and am inspired by the cosplay community as a whole. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to conventions all over and meet some of the nicest and most creative people out there. The same for being online, I’ve connected with some incredible people. I truly believe that everyone has something to bring to the inspiration table. Some it’s their outlook about cosplaying and others it’s their creative abilities. I’ve been able to acquire something from so many people that it has helped me not just be a better cosplayer, but a better person too.”

Kayce: “Michael thinks his answer is cliché but honestly I’m gonna get sappy. Michael inspires me daily. He literally pushes me to be a better cosplayer, friend, and all around human being. The world needs more people like Michael and I 100% support what he stands for. I feel truly blessed that I have found such an amazing friend and cosplay partner.”

Knightmage and Superkayce – Photo by ThePortraitDude

C4: What are you guys trying to do, make everyone cry!? {ha ha} I do know that Kayce isn’t the only one who looks up to you [Michael]. Many people consider you the voice of the African American cosplay community. Is that something you strived to be from the beginning?

Knightmage: “I don’t know if I consider myself a voice for the ‘African American cosplay community’, but I do recognize that I indeed have a voice. And with that voice there are individuals who take some form of inspiration and motivation from it. It’s extremely rewarding yet humbling to know that you’re impacting others in a positive way. I also recognize that me being African American and having some of the personal stories I can share really connects with people who can relate. Also, having some of the opportunities I’ve had makes an even bigger impact because truth be told, African Americans or cosplayers of color in general don’t get the spotlight as often as others. So, I do feel prideful in these opportunities and knowing that I’m making a difference because representation absolutely does matter. When I first started cosplaying I had absolutely no goals set. I stumbled upon a hobby I loved and I just wanted to have fun doing the charity stuff and going to conventions. I can now say without a doubt that cosplaying has become a passion. I look at it as my vessel to be able to give back as well as my way to express myself creatively. I think over time my passion for cosplay as both an art form and philanthropic outlet started to really show and people just dug it and what I was doing. Now that I’ve found myself at this point, I do have goals but it’s really just to continue the course of having fun while creating and making a positive impact not just within the African American cosplay community but the whole cosplay community in general.”

C4: You mentioned some of your charitable contributions. What lead you guys to be so active with all of the organizations you donate to?

Knightmage: “For me that’s what got me started in cosplay so it’s really important for that aspect to stay a main focus. When I started getting invited to conventions it got to a point that I had to choose between doing a charity event and going to new places for conventions. That really tore me up inside because both had become important. So, I decided I could do both. I could attend a convention and still help out various charities. So, what I do at conventions is I give away photos of my costumes and autographs for free and just ask for a donation of any amount which 100% goes to a charity of my choice. I try to find a charity to work with that is local to wherever I’m at. Everything I do cosplay wise has to be charity related in some way and I’m totally nonprofit when it comes to cosplaying. To date I’ve worked with over sixty different charities throughout the United States and Canada. I still do a lot of hands on charity work like the hospital visits so it’s a total win-win for me. I get to have fun and give back at the same time. At Christmas I like to try and go a step further. In 2014 I was able to payoff layaways at a local ToysRUs in Niles, Ohio dressed as Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z.”

Kayce: “I love to use cosplay to give back! I think it’s important and honestly can really help give the hobby meaning. I have done 15 charity events such as Superheroes Fight Cancer, Reading Rocks, raising money for Spina Bifida, etcetera. Back in 2015, since we were well into costuming together, Michael asked me if I would like to do something for Christmas with him. We partnered with the United Way of Central Indiana and their Christmas Service where you adopt families in need for the Holidays. We were sent info on a few families that were in need of clothes, toys and food. A few days before Christmas we personally delivered the gifts to their homes in Indianapolis dressed as Batman and Robin. In 2016, we wanted to do the same thing but amp it up. We raised money and embarked on a three day Christmas charity tour that took us through two states and ten cities stopping eighteen times. We again dressed as Batman and Robin but we also did The Grinch and Cindy Lou Who. We started in Youngstown, Ohio and ended in Indianapolis. We stopped and donated items to Animal Shelters and Rescue Missions. Paid off layaways at various ToysRUs stores and paid random grocery shoppers bills at various grocery stores. We also donated toys and visited with kids at various Children’s Hospitals and again partnered with the United Way and made home visits to families. It was an incredible experience for the both of us. We’re always thinking of something we can do and we’ve already started planning what we want to do for Christmas this year.”

Chip, Cogsworth, and Lumiere – Photo by ThePortraitDude

C4: I don’t even have words for how incredible that is. You guys are both the epitome of what good can come out of this community. Too often, people hear about the small group of haters and trolls that get associated with cosplay. How do you guys handle those types of people and how do you suggest others that are just getting into this hobby deal with them as well?

Knightmage: “One thing I always tell people is to be prepared for the negative aspects of cosplaying. I talk about how the cosplay community is one of acceptance and love but it would be really naïve to think there aren’t bad spots. If you’re in a costume, there’s a good chance you’ll get your picture taken. Then there’s an even better chance that the picture will end up online. From there the picture is at the mercy of the internet world, and the internet world can be a cruel place. The thing though is that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, how your costume looks or how the photo looks, someone will find something negative to say. It’s easy to say, ‘just ignore it’ because truthfully there’s more love and support in the community than anything else. But it’s also easy to focus on that one negative comment over the hundreds of positive ones.

The real trick is to surround yourself with good people; those who will support and encourage you. Whenever I’m having a bad cosplay moment, I know I have Kayce and others to lift me up. I also look at it in a few different ways because the comments come from two different places; other cosplayers and those who are not directly in or familiar with the community. When I see other cosplayers making the comments, it’s typically from a place of either competition or personal insecurity about themselves. As a cosplayer, you pretty much know the deal. You know the unwritten rule that there are no rules in cosplay. You can be whomever you want regardless of size, gender or race. It doesn’t matter if you made or bought it. It doesn’t matter what your skill level is or how much you spent.

We know that none of that truly matters as long as that person is having fun. I always say, ‘what you eat won’t make me poop’. You can do whatever pleases your heart and if you like it, then I love it. So, when bullying and cruel words happen it’s typically because that particular cosplayer feels threatened in some way. That’s their defense mechanism to make themselves feel better. It’s 110% wrong but unfortunately no matter how much we know that, it will continue to happen, especially with cosplay becoming more mainstream. That’s why I believe it’s extremely important for the more well-known cosplayers, the ones who are seen and heard the most, to lead by example. It won’t totally make all the negative go away but it will spread and bring more positivity.

As for attendees doing it, I think that comes from a place of ignorance. Many don’t know of that unwritten rule from earlier. Though ignorance is absolutely no excuse for being a troll or hater, I think again, it’s on the people who have the voices to step in and teach.”

Kayce: “Honestly, Michael hit the nail on the head. The only thing I would add is from a female in this community, make sure you are comfortable in whatever cosplay you choose to wear. You don’t need to transform yourself to meet anyone else’s standards. If you would like to show skin, then show skin. If you don’t want to show skin, then don’t. If you would like to crossplay, then dress up like a male character. You make yourself happy and the rest doesn’t matter!”

Knightmage and Superkayce – Photo by ThePortraitDude

C4: That’s as good as I’ve ever heard it explained. We’ve talked about conventions so much now that I feel compelled to ask; what are some of your favorite conventions to attend?

Knightmage: “I can honestly say that I’ve never had a bad convention experience so there’s a lot of favorites. I also can say that I don’t have a preference between comic conventions and anime conventions. C2E2 in Chicago was my first big convention. I had such a fun time there. It’s like a perfect blend of convention and cosplay going during the day and friend nighttime hangout time. Dragon-Con in Atlanta is of course up there on the list. Such a great chaotic time with jaw dropping costumes everywhere. Colossalcon in Sandusky, Ohio…the best way I can describe that convention is that it’s like Dragon-Con but in a Water Resort. And also, there are smaller conventions like All Americon in Youngstown, Ohio that are really fun because they feel a little more personal because of all the interactions with people. I think conventions are what you make them and a lot depends on the company you keep when you’re there. That’s why I love travelling with Kayce. The fun doesn’t stop when we’re together.”

Kayce: “Oh my God, there are so many amazing conventions! My list is very similar to Michael’s; C2E2 and Dragon-Con! GenCon is also a must for me because I am a huge table top gamer. GenCon is a large gaming convention held in Indianapolis. Superman Celebration is in my top five too because it’s a convention set-up in a festival format. Cosplay, celebs, and funnel cakes…what more could you want? Michael and I have been very blessed in cosplay and in 2017 things are going to be bigger & better! We have gained some incredible opportunities such as traveling to Canada for a second time and helping a small anime con called Dokidokon start up and create a unique atmosphere for their guests.”

C4: That’s a great list. We’ve been to most of those, so I can definitely agree with those choices. Before we wrap up though – do you guys have a favorite convention story?

Knightmage: “Oh wow! Again, there’s so many that I can think of. It’s always fun and humbling when someone goes full on fangirl or fanboy over a costume but it’s even better when it’s simply over you. Many stories come from just hanging out with friends. And, of course, many come from embarrassing moments like learning the importance of a dance belt. Probably my favorite moments really come with interactions with kids whether it’s in a convention scene or charity event. There’s something indescribable about seeing a child’s face light up because their favorite character is standing in front of them, especially when it’s a child battling an illness. For that moment, they get to escape. If I absolutely had to choose just one moment though it would be the time I did an anti-bullying event at a local elementary school. It actually ties into one of your previous questions. I was Batman for the event and the assembly with around two-hundred kids went great. A few days after the event, one of the teachers contacted me to tell me how one particular kid couldn’t stop talking about Batman being there. He kept saying ‘Batman looks like me. I can be Batman’. Out of two-hundred kids he was one of a handful that was African American. He had never seen Batman being represented as anything other than Caucasian. That moment and the realization of exactly how powerful cosplaying can be really stuck with me.”

Kayce: “I have to agree with Michael, kids are absolutely the best and create the most lasting impressions on us. During one of my first shows as a ‘guest’ cosplayer, I debut Astrid from the movie How to Train your Dragon 2. I was behind my table goofing off when I heard a little squeal and then fast wheels moving. I looked up to meet a little girl in a walker named Bella. She was staring at me like I was the real thing and I was breathless for a moment. She broke our silence by asking if I brought Toothless and Hiccup with me. Throughout 45 minutes I sat on the floor and discussed one of my favorite movies with a little girl who led a very hard life but didn’t let that affect her personality. I learned later on that Bella suffers from Spina Bifida. Several months later, I went on to help the family raise money for Bella and the Spina Bifida Foundation. They have changed me and have become intertwined in my regular life.”

Knightmage and Superkayce – Photo by ThePortraitDude

C4: You guys certainly represent the best this community has to offer, so thank you for doing what you do. Real quick though, are there any new duo builds you guys have in the works that we may see debut soon?

Knightmage: “If you could see our messaging log, there are so many ideas on the table. We have to juggle in our personal projects too, but somehow, we make magic happen. Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Edward and Alphonse from Full Metal Alchemist, which this is one that Kayce really wants to do that I know nothing about, but it’ll be fun. Doctor Fate and Zatanna. Mystique and Magneto. Eventually a duo spawn will happen, which will break the internet. The list goes on and on.”

For anyone wishing to follow either of these amazing cosplayers online they can be found at
Knightmage – @Knightmage on Twitter and @Knightmage1 on Facebook and Instagram
SuperKayce – @SuperKayceCosplay on Facebook and Instagram

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