Anyone who has met me knows that “Nightmare in Silver” is my favorite Doctor Who episode. But NiS is so much more than just an episode to me.
We all have those things that have changed our lives, or mattered to us, or maybe even helped us through difficult times. Some have a series of books, and yes, for sure I do have Harry Potter, some people have music, others might have sports figures. For me, I have one episode of one tv show.
Over the years, people have asked me *how* this is possible, how can one thing, one character, change so much of a person’s life?
My best analogy is the “stone in the water causes ripples” cliché. One thing led to another, which led to another.
Before we moved back to Salem (we of course being myself, CJ, and 3 cats) we never really left the house. We didn’t socialize, we each had one or two friends that we saw on occasion and that was it. (and they are great friends, don’t get me wrong!) But it was always just us, sitting around the house, bored. And for me, getting dressed to go outside was hell. That was always a horrible point of contention for us. Going out meant having to get dressed. Having to put on some semblance of “normalcy”. We even had the chance to go to San Diego Comic Con for free one year and we said no. Crowds? People? Nope.
Fast forward to cosplay life. Getting dressed up? Yes please. I think I spend more time in my cosplay than any other outfit that I own. And aside from the issues with the cyberplanner itself, it is so comfortable to wear. I feel like myself in it. This was the first time in 35+ years that I wanted to go out, to talk, to socialize, to interact. Suddenly we have all these friends, and cons, and laughter and events and game nights and people over filling our lives with fun and life and love and everything that matters in this world.
That first stone to get cast into the water, the first ripple, was watching NiS that one night. That “A-ha” moment of “I wanna become this character” that brought cosplay into our lives, which brought conlife, and in turn forever changed our lives and the lives of our friends.
In short, none of this would have been possible before.
I haven’t written a blog post in a while. Recently I uploaded some new photos from a photo shoot and there were a few comments that could only be described as trolling so I thought it was time to get something off my chest.
It wasn’t just the trolls that made me decide to write this. After a few “Facebook friends” made their comments, I doubted myself, so in a moment of weakness, I deleted the whole album.
Doing that shoot was incredibly hard for me. You may not realize it when you see me running around a con with grapes and rope but I am very self-conscious. And I delete far more than I post. And in that brief period of self-doubt after the trash people thought they had a right to tell me what I could or couldn’t wear, I thought it was just easier to delete it, delete myself, off the screen, and deal with all later. Or not, depending on how I felt.
After some soul-searching, and some convincing by my close friends, my partner, and the wonderful photographer, the album is now back up.
The reason I reposted it isn’t just because I didn’t want the trash people of the internet to win, but the larger reason is that when I see these photos I am reminded that even though these pics are “of me” they aren’t just about me.
I think a lot of people in the cosplay community will agree with me – when I see a professional cosplay photo I see a team effort that goes into making those beautiful photos. And when I share mine I am not only sharing my own art (like the cyberplanner) that I have painstakingly created (with the emphasis on pain) but the art and skill of my friends and colleagues.
There are so many people that have helped me over the years, that have also invested time and talent into helping me make Mr. Clever come to life in these photos and in person.
The insane number of amazing photographers alone. It is not easy to capture (and edit) a wonderful photograph. It is even harder to work with someone like me, who has severe anxiety in front of the camera. Cosplay photographers often go unnoticed and are truly the unsung heroes of our community. The photographers that I have met and worked with over the years deserve a medal for putting up with me. Many times, they have worked with me for free, so yes of course, I am going to share their photos everywhere (and give them credit as often as possible).
Or the hair stylists that have helped me over the years. Running into the salon with pictures of Matt. “This is the color I need”. And the random make-up artist we met while in NYC for NYCC that color matched me and taught me how to put make up on for photos. Never would have known any of that if not for her.
And the friend who felt bad that I couldn’t wear the Abbyshot coat who went and got fabric for me. And the other friend who made me the coat that I wear now. This coat is amazing. The curator from the DW experience loved it. The person who made it should be proud of herself.
Even down to the tattoo artist who worked with me to make my cybermite tattoo come to life.
And that doesn’t even cover the emotional challenges that people help me work through: how hard it is for me to overcome the fear of cameras, the challenge of my body image issues, getting into character, overcoming the severe pain that I am in all the time now, and with this shoot in particular there was the added fear of because of my injury I was terrified that I was going to be unable to move.
Everyone knows how much this character and cosplay means to me. I have lost much in 2017. For a fleeting second, there was the thought that I could lose that too, and that was devastating. And I know there are people that don’t get that Mr. Clever is both my first and last cosplay. It is who I am and I cannot imagine cosplaying as anyone else.
But trolls will be trolls and after battling my own demons and winning, at least this time, I have taken the trash out, and that album is back up. Not just because I need it, or because Mr. Clever is who I am, or because I don’t want to let the haters win, but because all those other people deserve to have their work talked about too.
So the last thing I want to do with this blog is thank (some) of those many people and give everyone who reads this a way to connect with them and make some of that cosplay magic for yourself.
Above photos were taken by the amazing Vignette of
Creative Salem asked me to co-host a cosplay party with them at the gorgeous, historic Hawthorne hotel. What an amazing night. No words for how much fun we had. Its hard for a cosplayer like myself to establish themselves, so to speak, (that is *not* my end game. This is just an observation.) because I do cosplay such an obscure character from well, let’s be honest, a less than well received episode. So to be able to do something like this, and have it be “presented by Mr. Clever” made me so incredibly happy. I hope they do it again!
Lee Roberts aka Mr Clever is a cosplayer and artist from Salem. They are actively involved in the Cosplay is not Consent: Anti-bullying movement as well as being an admin for Boston Whovians.
Their Mr. Clever cosplay has been featured in The Nerdist, The Mary Sue, Nerd Caliber, on BBC America, the BBC affiliate Anglophenia, and was featured in Doctor Who magazine.
Their motto is “Upgrade everyone. Save all the kittens.”
Tell us a little bit about Mr. Clever:
Mr Clever is from the Doctor Who episode “Nightmare in Silver” written by my favorite author, Neil Gaiman. He is what happened when the Cyberman tried to take over the Doctor. For those non- Whovians out there, imagine an evil robotic entity that takes over 50% of an alien time traveler’s mind. The beauty and challenge of cosplaying him is that its essentially two characters in one. He was sassy, snarky, manic, manipulative and I adored every second he was on screen.
You’ve become known for cosplaying this character. Why him?
You know this is the one question people ask me the most and I am never 100% sure what to say. There are so many reasons why Mr. Clever clicked with me. I do remember when I first saw Nightmare in Silver, I lost my mind when he first appeared on screen and knew I had to cosplay that character. I loved his personality: snarky, flirty and suave. Maybe its because I have always loved all things robotic. Maybe its because it gave me a chance to make something unique, since I can’t sew which usually is a primary skill as a cosplayer. Maybe its just because he lets me get out of my own way and have fun. I don’t have a solid answer. I had tried other cosplays before and after him, but none of them fit me like he does. When I put on the cyberplanner piece it all just comes together. We just clicked – it was love at first sight.
What does cosplay mean?
Cosplay is hard to define, as it means different things to different people. For myself, I’m not cosplaying unless I am in character, not just in costume. Unless I am Mr. Clever.
But the beauty of cosplay is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. For some people putting on a costume and going out for Halloween is cosplaying, and that is totally ok. It’s the fun, the PLAY part of it that is key for most cosplayers.
Imagine your 10-year-old self all over again. What costume did you want to wear? What character did you want to embody so badly? Wonder women? Gandalf? A ninja Turtle? Its that same passion that makes cosplay fun and rewarding for all ages. Doesn’t matter if you made your costume, bought it at a thrift store or just make props, like me. It’s all about self-expression and fun.
Cosplay is for everyone. And everyone can cosplay.