San Diego Comic Con 2020 was unlike any previous edition of the annual pop culture circus. There were no endless queues, no screaming fans, minimal celebrity sightings. There were no cosplayers prancing around in their zany outfits. Hall H was no more the room where it happened.

But that didn’t stop the Over30Cosplay group from hosting a panel of their own during Comic Con @ Home to encourage those no longer in their salad days to become a part of the cosplay community.

Supporting Cosplayers 30 and Up

Over30Cosplay is a global advocacy group dedicated to promoting and supporting cosplayers aged 30 and above.

“We make sure that anything you want to do, anything that you want to create, you have the means, the support, education and experience to do it. We have tons of members who are professional costume designers and make-up artists, award-winning people that can show you how to do whatever you’re looking at,” says John D. Callison, CEO and founder of Over30Cosplay.

Tony Swatton, Over30Cosplay

Over30Cosplay member Tony Swatton in his workshop.

One of these exemplary members is Tony Swatton, master blacksmith and weapons maker, who has created props for films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Thor, The Last Samurai, Blade and games like World of Warcraft and The Legend of Zelda.

Besides crafting swords, katanas and daggers that look like the real deal, he also forges intricate suits of prop armor for men and women. Swatton doesn’t just cater to big production houses, he works on private commissions too.

Cosplayer extraordinaire Jen Greeley says that Over30Cosplay is not just a platform to share ideas and resources but also a great support system for its members. 

Greeley, who also doubles as reporter and photographer for the group, says:

[It] is a community that John created for us so we can feel comfortable, involved and feel part of a group of people. There is so much joy and community spirit that comes from all the people that look at the [cosplay] pictures and watch what the others are creating. It motivates people and makes them feel comfortable because you need that sometimes to go to events and know that you’re not alone.

The most important thing about cosplay, says Greeley, is to have fun – with your friends, with your costume, going to new places and meeting new people.

All for a Good Cause

57-year old Mary Sorenson Schwacher has been cosplaying for two decades now.

With the Covid-19 pandemic washing out all plans for conventions and fan events, ardent cosplayers have been at odds and ends. But Schwacher, a leading member of Over30Cosplay, is still costuming up: as a volunteer for children’s hospitals and libraries.

The award-winning cosplayer and costume designer mentioned several non-profit volunteer groups — such as Cosplay for a Cause and Kids Can Cosplay —that are always in need of costumed character performers.


A few Over30Cosplay members. (Photo Credit: Over30Cosplay)

“If you can’t find any organizations, think about doing videos for kids. A smile is free and spreading happiness is free,” says Schwacher.

By working together with hospitals and kids charities, the cosplay community is actively reaching out to the mainstream and spreading good vibes, added actress Patricia Tallman, who’s best known for her role as Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5. 

“They’re setting these massively positive examples of what grown-ups can do and still bring out the kid in all of us,” she says.

It’s All About Teamwork

Anders Hudson, 48, is part of a cosplay group with members ranging in age from 19 to 70 years young. Everything, from concept to costume design, is a collaborative effort.

It’s a massive undertaking for members who also have day jobs. There’s workflow management, attention to detail, and, most of all, commitment. 

“We all have that group project where somebody’s dragging their feet or goes off in the wrong direction,” says Hudson, smiling ruefully.

But a system of checks and balances and instantaneous feedback keeps things from turning into complete bedlam. And it’s the members’ day job expertise that helps them ace the work involved in group cosplay.

He says:

Having groups like Facebook, Pinterest, Google Documents, we can rely heavily on these things now to help us track what we’re doing along the way and share in real time. As an older person getting into cosplay, I’m grateful that we have the ability to do real-time collaboration. 

On top of that, it can all be done in the safety of their homes and without having to meet in person.

There’s No Wrong Way to Cosplay

When you put your heart and soul into the cosplay, factors like age and appearance become moot.

“There is no wrong way to cosplay,” declares Hudson. Talking about the time his group dressed up as characters from Disney’s Atlantis:

Everybody found a character they adhered to nicely even though sometimes the age ranges were 10-15 years out of what the original character was. Because of the strength of that group and the overall presentation, everybody, regardless of who they were, really embodied the character even though they may not have matched the world perfectly.

When it comes to group cosplays, having a definitive focus and lifting each other up sells the concept and makes it effective, he adds.

Take the Plunge

Overcoming his reservations and taking the plunge into cosplay was one of the best decisions of his life, shares Sherman Blakley, famous for his uncannily accurate cosplay of John Coffey from The Green Mile.

Once you’re comfortable in your character and costume, it’s time to learn how to gain exposure. If you’re looking for more eyeballs, it’s important to have a social media presence, says Blakley.

But it’s equally vital to do the legwork: go to cons, meet people, share your inspiration and experiences. 

Panelist Mary Sorenson Schwacher has a few words of parting advice:

Remember, cosplay is for diversity. We are all different, we come in different ages, sizes, colors and genders. No one deserves to be judged, threatened, bullied or trolled upon because their views are different. Please be kind.

Watch the entire panel here:

Main Photo Credit: Over30Cosplay