Artist Michael Wilson Talks Cosplay, Charity, and Character
I am very excited to have the pleasure of welcoming Michael Wilson this week. Michael is an exceptional individual, a very talented cosplayer, and our newest featured author. If this man isn’t a legend yet, he should be.
Michael, thank you so much for speaking with us today.
MW: Hello. Thanks for the opportunity. I’m excited to talk to you and give some insight to what I’m all about.
The pleasure is all mine, I’m very glad to have you. You seem to be something of a Renaissance man. You have been a cosplay artist since 2012, but you’re also a stunt man, and a Deputy Sheriff, and you’re in involved with a lot of community service. That seems like it would make for a busy schedule. How do you fit it all in?
MW: I’m like a shark. I need to keep moving to survive. I’ve always been the type of person to hold down multiple jobs. Once I started getting into acting and cosplaying that pretty much took over part of the load. Luckily with my day job, my off days fall on the weekend so that’s how I’m able to do a lot. They’re also extremely understanding with what I do.
At first it was difficult to juggle work, charity work, filming and cosplaying and not to mention personal stuff, like taking care of family members, having a relationship, friends time and then me time. But where there’s a will there’s a way.
I’m pretty much in my groove now and know how to plan accordingly to fit everything in.
It seems like cosplay might not be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of law enforcement, but I think it’s really cool that you do both. How does Knightmage fit into the life of Deputy Sheriff Michael Wilson?
MW: People are always shocked to hear what I do for a living. And on the flip side, colleagues were shocked to find out I like to dress up in costumes. Admittedly, law enforcement wasn’t my first choice of a career. I wanted to be a pro-wrestler. In all seriousness though, I’m extremely proud of what I do. However just because I wear a badge and carry a gun doesn’t in any way define who I am. Just as being a “geek” doesn’t either. That’s why I am public about my profession and daily life. I want to break the typical stereotypes that people have with cops and geeks.
On a deeper and more personal level, I love to help others. I’m a people person. But I also believe that structure is important. In that Knightmage and Deputy Wilson compliment one another very well. I need money to live, my day job provides that, but it also gives me the satisfaction of knowing I’m doing some good in this world. With the cosplaying side, everything I do is not only for the benefit of myself to fulfill the fun in my life but also for the benefit of others.
Every penny I make from cosplaying goes to charity. Every event I do is on my own dime. There’s no profit in it for me whatsoever. That’s really important for me. I say cosplaying has turned from a hobby to a passion and it’s so true. Being able to give back in the way of money or simply bringing smiles is an extremely important part of cosplaying for me.
I’m glad you brought up the work you do for charity, and I know you mentioned balancing work and charity work, because I really wanted to ask you about the community service that you do. You received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award last year for the work you do to help the community. What was that like?
MW: I’m still in shock over it. It’s a huge honor to receive and I’m extremely proud of it. Since then it’s really pushed me to do more. I really just love the fact that the White House acknowledged me as Michael KNIGHTMAGE Wilson.
Funny story with this though. I was notified about 2 months prior that I was receiving the award, but I didn’t really read the fine print. The day of the ceremony came around and I already had a charity event scheduled as Batman. That night, I saw on the news that it was a Presidential award. I was like “ohhhh THAT President!”
So I totally ditched the award ceremony from the President of the United States to honor my charity work because I was at a charity event. Batman doesn’t have time for ceremonies. He has work to do. 😀
And it sounds like Batman has more work ahead of him! I understand you will be partnering with Capes4Heroes in March. Tell us a little about Capes4Heroes and what you will be doing with them. Are there ways other people can get involved, too?
MW: Capes4Heroes is a 501 Non-profit organization that was started by Barbara Casado. Her second son, Maddox, is autistic. She found herself in a daily battle when her son refused to wear anything but a superhero cape. So she began making him all types of different capes. Other mothers saw the impact it had and started doing it for their children. From there it spread.
Barbara started the organization and to date has personalized and delivered over 8000 capes to children all over the United States. The idea came to do an “East Coast Cape Crusade,” which will see the organization along with a hero or two personally deliver capes to children who are battling life threatening illnesses or disabilities. They will visit Ronald McDonald Houses, traveling to 6 different cities in 7 days. I will be one of the people assisting by dressing up and helping deliver the capes. I’m extremely excited about this opportunity.
Donations to the organization are always welcome. You can do so and read more about it at www.Capes4heroes.com
That’s really awesome! To me, that exemplifies what art should be about, helping people, enriching people’s lives, and making the world a better place. I’m sure it will get lots of support from our readers.
I want to shift gears a little bit here, though. You recently made some comments on Facebook about the cosplay community that I found very interesting. You said that many issues in the cosplay community are caused by other cosplayers, and I was wondering if we could find out more about that. What’s going on in the cosplay community? Is it a supportive place?
MW: Absolutely it’s a supportive place! But here’s the thing, you can’t be naive about or neglect the dark sides of it either. In every community, whether it’s a community of sports fanatics or actors or musicians you’ll find the not-so-nice people. Even in your journalism field I’m sure you can attest to some bickering and negative aspects that people bring to the table. It’s just the way it is. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to feed into it and be a part of it.
With anything creative and competitive you’re going to have strong opinions. And that’s fine. I think it’s how you convey those opinions that’s important. When I say that cosplayers are their own worst enemy and many of the issues are caused by ourselves, I mean that I think at times we forget that at the core cosplaying is about freedom of expression. That doesn’t mean that your way is the only and right way. It means that the right way is in the eyes of the beholder, not yours.
That in itself may sound hypocritical of me considering I’m saying “there’s no wrong way to cosplay” yet saying the “people shouldn’t tell you how to cosplay”. I’ll take that on chin because I truly believe there is no wrong way to cosplay EXCEPT when your actions or words are negative in tone.
I don’t think cosplayers 100% realize the power and influence they have. Not just with young people, but for adults as well. I know many people don’t want to hear this and many would disagree with what I’m about to say, but many cosplayers now are legitimate celebrities in their own right. They are role models to tons of people.
Some people come to conventions just to meet the cosplay guests. Cosplayers are artists and models. It’s like admiring a comic artist or a runway model. The comic artist may not have created the character, but they bring them to life in the pages in their own vision. Cosplayers do the same, but instead of using pen and paper we use needle and thread. The models may not have designed the clothes they wear on the runway but they make it look badass. Same with some of the cosplay models. It’s simply another artform.
So with that being said, the words and actions of cosplayers hold a lot of weight with their audience.It can be overwhelming when you’re a socially awkward individual and you’re trying to fit in with others who enjoy a social hobby.
Here’s an example: Someone works hard to make their costume from cardboard. Or they save all their money to buy it, whatever. Once they get it they’re so proud and happy to wear it and show it to their cosplay idol. Then their cosplay idol voices their opinion and says, “cardboard is so cheap and anyone who wears it looks stupid.” Do you know what that cosplayer just did to that person? Totally devastated them! Another way it could have been put is, “personally I don’t like using cardboard but it’s definitely another way you can do it.”
Overall I just wish to see a little more consideration and responsibility from the more well known cosplayers. I’ve said it before, I know many people didn’t want or wish to be role models, but when you put yourself in the public eye, you don’t get to make that determination. With all that being said, though, still there’s always going to be more love and support in the community than anything else.
It’s really interesting to me that you talk about cosplayers as role models. Being a role model comes with a lot of responsibility, whether you are a public figure or not, but especially when you have a big public presence. What do you think that responsibility should look like for cosplay artists? Is there sort of a gold standard that members of the cosplay community should hold themselves up to?
MW: I don’t know if “gold standard ” is the right phrase. No one is perfect like that. It should just be a drive to a be positive influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I think that’s really good advice for everybody, and especially for those of us involved in the arts. It’s all about doing your best for the people that look up to you one day at a time and being true to yourself, living for that drive to be a positive influence.
You said before that all of the proceeds you make from cosplay go to charity. That is so amazing to me. I mean, that’s that positive influence we’re talking about right there. Are there other cosplayers involved in the charity work you do?
MW: There’s tons of cosplayers from all over who are involved with charity work. I’m associated with several different costuming groups that focuses on charity work in the Ohio and northern regions. Superheroes to Kids in Ohio, Heroes Alliance Ohio, The East Coast Avengers and Costumers with a Cause. I try to hook up with one of them when I can, but for the most part much of my activity is done on my own.
I try to work with multiple groups because, while the end goal may be the same for them all, how you get there may be slightly different. Some groups have a stricter standard on costumes while others don’t. Some groups will venture to do a private party for a sick individual while some may not. Every group has there own bylaws, so personally I think it’s best for me to spread myself around. And then with that being said sometimes it’s just easier for me to venture on my on. Either way, good stuff is getting done.
What’s it like working with other cosplay artists? Any favorite moments?
MW: I’ve been really fortunate to be able to collaborate with other cosplayers, and not just for charity work endeavors, but also with personal things too like photo shoots and costume team ups for conventions. I have to say that I haven’t had a bad moment yet. Every time it’s been really fun. I have so many favorite moments.
Still today when I’m asked to be on projects, Cosplay 24 being a perfect example, my eyes get big and I feel like the rookie basketball player who was just put on the Dream Team. I look at people that when I first started cosplaying like wow, I would love to meet them then fast forward a few months and I end up working with them.
I’m glad you brought up Cosplay 24. It’s a project that I’ve been really excited about, and I know a lot of other people are, as well. I would love to hear more about that.
MW: Cosplay 24 is the brain child of Chase Lawrence of Affliction Cosplay Photography. His vision is to bring together 24 cosplayers from all over with different backgrounds and insights about the cosplay community.
One thing that really sold me on this project is that it’s not just a photo shoot. It really is a mini-documentary on these cosplayers. It digs deep into the life of the cosplayer, and not just with words but with photos, as well.
Cosplaying is getting so popular that it’s just not enough to see these people in beautiful photos wearing their amazing creations. You want to know more about them on a personal level. You want to know what they’re all about. There’s some incredible people attached to this project and I absolutely can’t wait to get started.
It sounds like an awesome project. Have you worked with Chase Lawrence before?
MW: This will be my first time working with him. When I checked out his work and saw the passion he is, I knew I would be in good hands. And to top it off 10% of all book proceeds will be donated to The American Cancer Society for colon rectal cancer in honor of lost loved ones of his. Passion and a heart. Right up my alley.
What was your reaction when Lawrence first brought the idea to you? What did you say?
MW: The same reaction that I give everyone who asks me to be a part of something epic: “Me? Are you sure?”
Unless it’s the President of the United States, of course. And then you’re like, “Sorry, Mr. President, but I got places to be.” But that’s great, though, that really is, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Cosplay 24 get funded.
Are there ways that cosplay fans and members of the cosplay community can get involved with that project and show their support?
MW: Absolutely! The Cosplay 24: Behind the Mask campaign is going strong on Indiegogo right now. There’s some really cool perks to choose from too. And even if you can’t donate to the campaign then give the campaign a share on your social media site. Everything little thing helps.
Chase Lawrence was interviewed just here in the last couple of weeks by Jack Nickelz from Cosplay Connect University, and Nickelz asked what I think is a pretty important question. He asked what it was about Cosplay 24 and about the cosplay community that made Chase feel like Cosplay 24 was something that he needed to make happen.
And I wanted to pass that question along to you, you know, what is it about this idea that made you say, “Yes, I want to help make Cosplay 24 happen, I want to be a part of this.”?
MW: I jumped at the chance to be a part of this project because it really is unique to me. There’s tons of cosplay photography projects going on but none have actually delved into the personality of the actual cosplayer. With cosplay becoming more and more mainstream, people want to know what makes the cosplayer tick.
We all cosplay for some sort of attention. Anyone that says otherwise is just trying to sell you something. The recognition is always nice but it’s not necessarily needed. I love telling my story. I love that I can possibly inspire and motivate others. Just sharing photos of myself won’t accomplish that. You need to know a little something about me to say, “Hey, he’s like me so maybe I can do this, too”.
That to me is what makes this so special. The opportunity to not only showcase your craft but yourself, as well.
Well, Michael, I just want to say a big thank you to you for speaking with us, and for all the work you do. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I hope we get the opportunity to do it again soon! We are very happy to have you as a featured artist, and we’ll be on the lookout for more updates from you about Capes4Heroes, Cosplay24, and your work in the community.
MW: The pleasure has been all mine. I really enjoy letting people get to know the person behind the mask.
Don’t forget to show your support for Michael’s work on Cosplay 24 by visiting the Indiegogo campaign and donating today!
About Michael Wilson
Michael ‘Knightmage’ Wilson has been cosplaying since 2012. The 15 year veteran Deputy Sheriff and Stuntman has turned the art of cosplay from a hobby to a full fledged passion. From being a decorated Deputy Sheriff to working on big budget Hollywood films to receiving the Presidential Volunteers Service Award for his charity work, Michael continues to strive to be a representative of ideas and possibilities. (Read more…)