Haters Gone Hate – A TL;DR retelling of my year as Mr. Clever

It’s been over a year cosplaying as Mr. Clever. I’m writing this because I wanted to document all of the ups and downs I have had in 2014, because so many people have asked me to share my experiences. This whole post may ramble or seem to jump around but stay with me because there is a point to make in all this even if it takes a year to make it.

The most common question I get is “How did you get started?” I started because all of my friends were having so much fun doing it, but couldn’t for the life of me find a character I was comfortable cosplaying. I hated and trashed all the costumes I tried. But I fell in love with Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor and thought I’d give that character a whirl. I tried different variations but none of them felt right.

Then I watched Nightmare in Silver (NiS) and lost my f***ing mind. I think my reaction was “OMG Another Neil Gaiman episode! OMG Amusement park! OMG Warwick Davis! OMG what are those cute little bugs? Wait…what’s happening to the Doc- OMFG that’s the greatest character EVER! THAT’S what I’m cosplaying.”

Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor and Mr. Clever
Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor and Mr. Clever

My husband, CJ’s, response “How are you going to pull that off?”
“I don’t know! But I will!”

I found a purple coat, which wasn’t easy because I’m allergic to wool. I made the fob watch piece, the bow tie, the hand pulsar, and eventually made the chess board, chess set, the trigger unit, Clara’s gun, various pieces of self-stick gold foil, and my favorite accessory – cybermites – which have sort of become my signature.

I’ve always been concerned about copyright issues regarding cosplay, so before I made the cybermites, I tracked down the original artist to make sure she was okay with my making them. Turns out she was. The costume was complete except for the cyberplanner piece itself.

I’m highly allergic to latex, silicones, urethanes, Sculpey, most adhesives, plastics, wood dust, copper, and gold. Mind you, I didn’t realize that most of these were an issue until I had already made a Cyberplanner piece and attached it. Which resulted in much screaming as I ripped it off my face and then much salve on my new found rashes and irritations.

Eventually, I managed to find about 8-10 different materials, blended together, that kind of worked. There are about 17-20 layers of various paints on it to make it look as screen accurate as possible. It’s not perfect, but I made it myself, and I’m quite proud of the look of it. Except it is extremely fragile. It breaks every time I use it. Keeping it attached for upwards of 14-17 hours a day, for 2-3 days in a row, is not an easy task.

It takes me about 1½ – 2 hours to get into costume. The task of putting my hair to make it look like Matt’s takes about 30-40 minutes. Putting the cyberplanner piece itself on takes another 30-40.

Removing it is just as difficult; the slightest bit of pressure in the wrong area, and SNAP. I have to be careful to limit the contact I have with the remover, which also takes paint off, so I usually have to repaint the edges after every con. I use toothpicks to slowly pry it off my skin and the last step involves using scissors to cut it out of my hair.

Because it is so incredibly fragile I need to be aware of who is on my left side, at all times. I have to be aware of how and where I sit, how I turn my head, how I eat, how I drive, and how I interact with people.

At my first real con, Arisia 2014, the Boston Whovians were having a large photo-shoot. I was dragged into it by a Whovian named Cat, who has since become a good friend of mine. I was anxious, panic-stricken, and overwhelmed by the amount of photos being taken. Most people don’t realize how TERRIFIED I am of being in front of people, and of getting my picture taken. It was during this that I also realized I needed to be very careful with how I posed with people as the cheek pieces snapped off in Cat’s hair after we posed together.

My friend, Lynn Wine, asked if she could get a photo of me alone. I reluctantly said yes, she snapped it, and I liked it, it wasn’t bad. I posted it somewhere, and I was shocked at the amount of places that photo has popped up since.

 

Arisia, 2014. Photo by Lynn Cheney Wine
Arisia, 2014. Photo by Lynn Cheney Wine

 

Despite my nervousness, I got involved with cosplay and Whovians groups, because I had such a great time at Arisia. Sadly, that con high didn’t last long. I started getting comments like “Why are you bothering, it was such a crappy episode”, “People will laugh at your cosplay unless it’s a femme version”, “A girl shouldn’t be doing it, you’ll never get it to look right”, “Give up now, people will laugh at you”, “Maybe if you wore a skirt”, “You should pick a better character”. (Edit: People were assuming I presented as female at this time) Someone followed me on Twitter because they noticed that a friend drew a picture of Mr. Clever for me. I thought that was cool until they explained further; “Anyone who would have a picture drawn from an episode that is largely reviled must make for an interesting follow, right?” Is that supposed to be flattering?

My photos were suddenly popping up everywhere, and seeing myself all the time made me cringe. The constant feeling of not being good enough, plus all the negative comments people were making, online and in person from people I thought were friends, was a lot for me. Around March, I was convinced that I was too old, too fat, too ugly, and that I looked stupid doing this. The new cyberplanner piece that I had was not holding up well anyway. So I trashed Cyberplanner 2.0, thinking I shouldn’t be doing this anyway.

After Anime Boston, where I debuted my Hello Clever costume, I reluctantly started working on Cyberplanner 3.0, the one I still wear to this day, and ended up wearing it for the first time at Free Comic Book Day, in NH. I was finally able to get a nice close-up shot, thanks to my husband. This photo also ended up being reposted, a lot.

Close up of my Mr. Clever cosplay. Photo by CJ Roberts
Close up of my Mr. Clever cosplay. Photo by CJ Roberts

I had already planned to take the summer off because of the heat, but there ended up being so many more reasons. None of them good.

I don’t make cosplay items professionally, but I am an artist. So pictures of my cosplay are on all my sites to show off my work. I posted the close-up photo on my Deviant Art page, my website, and other places. Then one of my followers on Deviant Art showed me this on Reddit.

It was flattering to be called “The Best” but this is when the worst of the hate started too. Someone thought I was transgender. (EDIT: I have since come out as non-binary) Since all my social media sites are to display my art, most of them are public, so it didn’t take long for these people to find me and start sending me hate mail. In less than a day I got about 40 anon messages riddled with transgender hate. Things like: “You don’t belong on God’s earth”, “If we see you at a con we will spit on you”, “We will key your car”, “You people confuse the rest of us”, “You shouldn’t be allowed to live”, and, “We will show you”.

Eventually someone in the reddit thread commented on how I was actually a crossplayer. Well, then a different type of message came in. These were very sexually graphic, telling me that in order to be taken seriously as a cosplayer I needed to “show more skin”, that I need to “show my T and A.” ( I won’t be explicit here, so keep in mind these messages were not G-rated) They described the positions I should get into to prove that I’m a girl, (note: they assumed I presented as female) telling me to post pics of my breasts, telling me that I need to come sit on their faces, and that if they saw me in person they’d “ show me how to be a real girl”.  Yeah, things like that. I was in shock; I sat in tears for days.

In the same period I was publicly scolded on a forum for “not playing nice with others”. And I was blocked from a cosplay group because I reported a racist comment made to another cosplayer.

People kept telling me that I’m an idiot for liking Mr. Clever as much as I did, that I’m not a real fan, that I’m clearly too old, too fat, too female, not female enough, not showing enough skin, etc. So I began to think that maybe cosplay was just not for me. I took the summer off.

But not without first writing all of this down and sending it in to iCosplay’s Anti Bullying campaign site. They published my “story” on the hate and threats. This was quite a turning point for me. The people at iCosplay have been key in helping me understand that this sort of thing happens a lot but that we don’t have to tolerate it. I became involved with their Anti Bullying campaign, and try to spread the word everywhere I go.

One day I had this epiphany. Despite all the haters and threats and people telling me I was worthless as a cosplayer, I had managed one great thing: I had met some of the best people I have ever known in my entire life. Not just con friends – real friends, friends that I can’t see my life without. Friends who told me that during all of this crap, I had inspired people to be themselves, and take chances, and be strong, and enjoy life. Con life had allowed all of us to come together.

So my friends convinced me to stick with being Mr. Clever, and we drove to Granite State Comic Con in Sept 2014, where one of my good friends, Harley Bean, asked if I’d be in her music video. Now if you think I hate photos, I can’t even breathe if there are video cameras around. But it was for Harley. And Nerd Caliber, who have been supportive of me from the beginning. So I said yes. And wow, was that fun!!!

We are about 2:22 in.

 

I also ended up getting into a cute selfie taken by my friend Christine. I tweeted it to BBC America. They responded. That was my first of three interactions with BBC America.

 

Selfie by Christine Evans. I’m using a screen cap so the reply shows up.

 

At NYCC, the awesome NY Whovian cosplay group was having their own large photo-shoot. This was my first shoot since my time off, and I was floored by how welcomed I was. Gone were the people making fun of me for my choice of cosplay, now it was replaced with people coming up to tell me that they read my story on the bullying and were inspired to continue to cosplay because of me. Now people were stopping me and complimenting me on how hard it must have been for me to push through this and how awesome it was that I didn’t quit.

The highlight for me at NYCC was posing for this picture and having Neil Gaiman reply to it. That meant the world to me. After all the crap I had been through since I started cosplaying one of his characters, it was nice to know that if nothing else, at least he thought it was ok!

 

This made it all worth it.
This made it all worth it.

 

In Nov, I wanted to attend LI Who, a Doctor Who themed con, but I was scared to go because I thought, as strange as it may sound, that if people found out I wasn’t watching the 12th Doctor yet they would hate me. It turned out to be the single greatest con I have ever attended. I got to meet Stephen Glastow who was one of the original cybermen. He remarked on how much how he loved my costume – which was a real highlight for me. My friend Amanda asked if I would co-host a panel on Prop making. People were actually interested in what I had to say.

I decided to be in the TimeLord Timeline, a Whovian costume parade. Of course I had to represent NiS (Nightmare In Silver). I was lucky to have Emily with me, because when we got to the room and I saw a STAGE, I pretty much blacked out. I tried to leave but Emily wouldn’t let me. When we were called, I panicked. So what do you do when you are stuck like a deer in headlights? You throw cybermites into the audience.

I also agreed to do a video interview at LI Who with the wonderful Hansi Oppenheimer for her documentary “Squee: The Fangirl Documentary Project.” I ended up freezing and having a panic attack in front of the camera. Thank goodness for my friend Nikki. She jumped in to help. I think I talked about my love and admiration of all things Neil Gaiman and Matt Smith. And possibly Nathan Fillion. I don’t remember.

And I got two more photos retweeted by BBC America:

It’s weird to me that people know who I am now, instead of being this outcast of the community. People talk to me now like I have something interesting to say. I’ve been interviewed a few times by various bloggers. And most of the groups that refused to interact with me are now asking me to post photos to their sites. I get requests to reenact scenes, and I see entire NiS groups at cons. A few people have told me, that because of me, they rewatched NiS and see it in a new light.

I suppose this is where I say “don’t let the haters get you down” but the truth is they WILL get you down. This stuff hurts. All I can say to that is: Surround yourself with good friends. Look to people with similar experiences for inspiration and guidance. Find anti bullying groups and talk to people. Write it down, call them out, tell anyone who will listen. And never, ever think you are alone.

I still get some hate every now and then. But for the most part, the most criticism I get now is the constant question of “When are you going to stop cosplaying as Mr. Clever”?

Oh sweeties, unless Neil Gaiman himself tells me to stop, I’m just getting warmed up.

 

 

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