This year’s cosplay contest will take place on August 26th as part of the third annual YukomiCon event, happening August 25th to 27th at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse.

If you’re unfamiliar with the pop culture term “cosplay,” get ready to leave your inner critic at the door to embrace the otherworldly, unabashedly geeky, and anything-but-mundane comic culture.

The word “cosplay” is a playful contraction of the words “costume” and “play.” Cosplayers dress up as a character of their choice, from superheroes, to anime, to movie characters, to video game characters.

As Yukon Comic Culture Society board member Reid Vanier explains, cosplaying is all about entering the fantasy world of a fictional character.

“Cosplaying is about finding a character you identify with and putting yourself in that role,” he explains. “It’s about celebrating whatever geek lore you run. You can become ‘Tuxedo Mask’ or the ‘Black Canary,’ and insert yourself into that world and mythology.”

With costume roleplay, there is an element of escapism that goes beyond merely reading comics and watching movies. You not only dress as your favourite superhero, you become that idolized character for the day (or the weekend).

“You get to remove yourself from real life for a bit and fully immerse yourself in a world you love,” Vanier says. “It’s a bit of theatre and actual play, something we need to remind ourselves to do as adults.”

Yukon Comic Culture Society’s board secretary and self-professed geek Carrie Jackson observes that many people who might not typically feel comfortable in social situations, are able to challenge social anxieties when in costume.

“As soon as you put some people in a costume, they feel more comfortable,” Jackson says. “I tend to be the same way.”

During this year’s Canada Day Parade, Jackson dressed up as Japanese manga character “Sailor Moon,” and loved seeing the reactions she received from parade goers and peers.

“It doesn’t matter what gender, sexuality or body type you are, if you want to cosplay it, you are able to cosplay it,” she says.

Take for example, celebrity cosplayer Justin Saint, who will be headlining, adjudicating and doing a makeup demonstration at this year’s YukomiCon. Saint is well known for his “crossplay,” which is cosplaying a character of a different gender. The makeup artist and costume designer is most known for his evil “Maleficent” portrayal (the antagonist from Sleeping Beauty), but he has also tackled brawnier characters like “Thorin Oakenshield” (a dwarf from J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit).

Saint is known for his efforts to promote positive queer visibility within the gaming community.

“Justin Saint is the single best ‘Maleficent’ cosplayer,” Vanier praises. “He really becomes a stunning, perfect vision of the character. It’s really something to see.”

In the fantastic, open ended world of cosplay, costume creation is no small undertaking, and many cosplayers spend hours fine tuning their realistic designs.

“There is a lot of craftsmanship involved in building the costumes, like working with plastic materials to replicate metal,” Vanier says.

International cosplayer and costume designer, Andy Rae, who will be returning for her second year of YukomiCon, specializes in armour construction. She has won multiple awards for her elaborate craftsmanship. She uses a thermoplastic material called Worbla to recreate armour. Rae will be hosting a workshop at this year’s event to showcase this contemporary technique.

Both Saint and Rae, along with other guests, will be judging this year’s cosplay competitions, which take place on the Saturday of the “geekiest weekend of the year.” This is your chance to show off your love for your favourite characters, genres, and costumes. As Vanier explains, costume entries can vary, from cursory off-the-cuff entries to intricate and expertly crafted costumes. In the past, he has witnessed impressive superhero cosplays like “Wolverine” and “Captain America,” as well as characters reimagined in hybrid or steampunk form.

While Whitehorse may not be blessed with large craft outlets like a Michaels Store, Jackson says that creativity and resourcefulness can still spawn from our limited northern materials.

“A lot of our cosplay is what we call MacGyvering,” she says. “That is, making costumes out of whatever we can.”

No matter the effort, from modelled armour, to closet finds, all costumes are equally celebrated.

“We want to honour the people that take the time to work with interesting and difficult materials to create quality replicas and we also want people to have fun,” Vanier says.

The cosplay competition takes place on Saturday, August 26, with the youth/family competition for kids, teenagers and families getting started at 2:15 p.m., and the live show starting at 2:30 p.m. Categories include: best group/family (all ages), best young adult (ages 16-18), best teen (ages 13-15), best youth (ages 9-12) and best shining star (ages 4-8).

The adult cosplay contest begins at 5 p.m. with prejudging, then the live show begins at 6 p.m. Participants aged 19+ can enter as individuals or as a group. Judging categories include: best in show, craftsmanship award (in which 80 per cent of the costume is handmade), best group costume, best stage presence and judges’ choice.

While the cosplay contest rules are generally open, Yukon Comic Culture Society wants to keep the event inclusive, fun and safe.

Weapons, sharp edges, or offensive iconography are not permitted in order to keep the event physically, emotionally and culturally safe. Registration forms are available online at www.YukomiCon.com and can be submitted by email or in person at Titan Gaming and Collectibles in Whitehorse. Registrants will be accepted until the first day of YukomiCon.