Pretty much anybody can cosplay — you just assemble a costume based on one of your favorite pop culture characters and, well ... wear it. And perhaps roleplay the character. But it takes another level of enthusiasm to not only cosplay a character, but also do volunteer work in the process.
That’s exactly what 4 Corners Ichigo Cosplay is all about, though — dressing up and helping at events in character.
The group originated at Ichigo Comics, a comic book store that co-creator April Loughridge opened in Farmington in 2015 but has since closed. Loughridge held a small comic festival at the shop, and that’s how some of the cosplayers met.
These days, the group spends a lot of time at Farmington’s Tales of Tomorrow comic book store and its Cosmic Cafe, which cater to the cosplay community of northwestern New Mexico — at least when public gatherings are safe and allowed.
During more normal times, members of the group, including co-founder Sarah Alcon, travel to conventions and discuss cosplay on panels and the like. This year — before you-know-what settled across the land — they attended both the Albuquerque Comic Con in January and the Kikori Con anime convention in March in Flagstaff.
“Cosplay has been a really fun outlet for me personally to express myself,” Alcon said. “I’ve also gotten to meet so many amazing people through the cosplay community, so it’s become an important part of my life.”
When they’re at home (again, assuming a quarantine isn’t in effect), Ichigo’s cosplayers can be seen in the wild at movie premieres, fairs, parties, and the Boys & Girls Club of Farmington on a regular basis, Loughridge said. After all, who doesn’t want to beat Wolverine at Pokemon?
“It makes kids happy and makes them have a better day,” she said. “Cosplay is my escape from everyday life. My friends have shown me the best in humanity, and it brings out the best in myself as well.”
Given the younger-skewing demographic that they are often summoned to entertain, members of the group most often portray superheroes or Disney characters. Loughridge is most frequently Wonder Woman or Belle (from “Beauty and the Beast”), and Alcon is typically Raven (from “Teen Titans”) or Anna (from “Frozen”).
Other themes pop up from time to time, though, including Star Wars characters whenever a new movie comes out.
Regardless of how one feels about children, they’re also sometimes the better age group to be around. Alcon said one of the group’s first events was two days at the Shiprock Fair: one with kids, the other around the general public.
Everything went swimmingly the first day, but during the second, the group’s Batman had to play a more bodyguard-like role, separating the cosplayers from some of the fair’s more inebriated guests.
During the pandemic, 4 Corners Ichigo has been regularly hosting Virtual Sketch nights, a continuation of a series of in-person events that the group held at Tales of Tomorrow. Both in-person and over the internet, the casual events involve members of the group and whoever else is interested in hanging out and sketching anime characters and the like.
Presently, they’re also working on new costumes – Loughridge was inspired to dust off a “Xena: Warrior Princess” costume she had previously started as another member of the group began putting together an outfit for Gabrielle, Xena’s comrade-in-arms.
The volunteer group is always on the lookout for new members. The process involves an interview and two volunteer events, and then you’re part of the group. 4 Corners Ichigo currently has around 20 members, 14 of which are regulars.
Alcon said potential cosplayers shouldn’t “be afraid to cosplay what you want to cosplay. If the character is from a series not well known or a series mash-up, just go for it! As long as you’re having fun cosplaying, that’s all that matters.”