Vampirella Draws New Blood as a Cosplay Queen
Far from the enclave of cheap wigs and thin cardboard many people still assume, cosplay has transformed in recent years into a true art form. Fans are eager and more determined than ever to see their favorite characters come to life and transcend the boundaries of the page, screen, and speaker. And as cosplay goes from niche to mainstream, artists are seizing on the opportunity to elevate it.
The acceptance of cosplay into widespread culture corresponds with greater than ever access to entertainment materials. Globally as well as locally, people have a stronger connection not only with the canon of their fandom, but to a greater community of fans who generate their own art and lore around the beloved characters. Earlier generations of superfans will say that fandoms have always offered opportunities for creativity; sites like Archive of our Own, Fanfiction.net, and Deviantart.com, however, have shown increases in traffic and activity in recent years as “nerddom” becomes less stigmatized. Cosplay, too, is growing more elaborate and seeing higher production values. Books like Cosplay World showcase the best of cosplay internationally-- sold alongside comics in comic book stores or in the photography section of wider bookstores, these compilations allow fans to feel closer to their idols and draw inspiration for their own creative endeavors.
Photographer Georges Leconte is among the professional photographers channeling their love for fictional characters into gorgeous photosets. He recently photographed Evgeniya Radilova cosplaying as Vampirella, of Dynamite Entertainment. Leconte noted specifically the dearth of female characters in comics that radiated the same kind of darkness as Blade, Punisher, Batman, and Wolverine, and found his inspiration in Vampirella. Next up was finding the right person to cosplay her, someone who could embody the superhuman shapeshifter’s dark and dashing style. “The moment she wore that costume, Eni was in character,” Leconte says of the shoot. “Her power, confidence and sex appeal escalated beyond my expectations.”
The use of real humans to portray fictional characters or ideals is nothing new-- artists have used live models to stand in for characters and concepts for centuries. In Leconte’s case, Evgeniya stands in for both Vampirella’s aesthetic and the photographer’s personal taste for the dark and gritty. “Upon shooting, it was virtually impossible to get a bad shot of her. Eni's toned physique, sensuality, and seductive gestures finessed the character in ways that nobody I knew can match. That definitely derives from her dedication to acting and performing. I had so much material to work with when the job was done.”
Vampirella herself speaks to 60’s and 70’s horror culture. Beginning her career as a hostess of sorts for other stories (a forerunner for such characters as the Crypt Keeper), she was eventually given her own storylines and went on to become a character in her own right. Nicola Scott and Kate Reth redesigned and rebooted Vampirella in 2016 for a crossover comic produced by Dynamite Entertainment. Radilova expressed her own deep appreciation for the character’s history and skills.
“She has many of the typical vampiric powers, including superhuman physical abilities, Shapeshifting into a bat and a mesmeric stare. She is not prone to the race's traditional weaknesses, such as daylight, holy water, garlic, or crosses. She exerts super- strength when facing her opponents and can move so fast that she appears as a blur of motion. She does not attack people to drink their blood, except occasionally when she herself is attacked or desires to kill. She can tell one's emotional state through their scent, hear things imperceptible to humans, and see clearly in total darkness. Her healing factor grants her great resilience and allows her to heal rapidly from her wounds and makes her immune to Earthly illness and toxins. She is almost always scantily clad in her signature red sling suit with a white collar and wearing shiny black knee-high boots. And of course, she is immortal. These are the characteristics that made me fall in love with Vampirella and become her as a cosplay character but even expand on that and put her on camera.”
The character has always been sultry and dangerous. Leconte’s photo set finds Radilova in the classic costume, bathed in red light that is offset by blues and yellows. She drips with (fake) blood and sensual danger. The costume Radilova wore in the shoot was designed by Katerina Lankova Couture.
The opening up of fan communities means more chances for talented people to collaborate on projects like these, and inject new life into established fictional universes. The massive collections of fanart, fanlore, fanfiction, fanwikis, and other forms of appreciation that have appeared in recent years serve to demonstrate that the royalties may belong to the original creator, but the inspiration belongs to us all.