“A cool little book” – Cosplayers by Dash Shaw

cosplayer-coverDash Shaw is one of those interesting characters who dabbles in a fair few fields. First and foremost we have Dash Shaw comics artist. His Bottomless Belly Button was our introduction to him (think Jason by way of Jonathan Franzen). Since then we’ve had New School and Doctors and about a half dozen others. For the uninitiated, he can be a little bit Daniel Clowes and a little bit Adrien Tomine at times but he also has his own unique thing going on. Cosplayers is a good example of that. We’ll get to that in a minute. We were talking about his various strings weren’t we? Shaw is also a film maker (his movie My Entire High School is Sinking into the Sea is garnering some great early word and features the vocal talent of the likes of Lena Dunham, Jason Schwartzman, Reggie Watts and Susan Sarandon), he’s acted a wee bit, he plays in a band… By which we mean to say, yes, he’s one of those depressingly talented people who make us all feel a little bit ashamed of ourselves.

I said we’d come back to the unique thing he has going on with his own comics, and howcosplayer-0 Cosplayers is a good example. This is a pretty high profile book, and the culmination (at least to date) of episodic work that Shaw has been doing for the last couple of years featuring the two characters that the book revolves around, Annie and Verti. You would think, then, that this might be a cohesive narrative, a sort of a modern spin on Clowes’ Ghost World. But it isn’t. Shaw is quite bitty. The episodic way in which he has approached these two characters over the last couple of years is much in evidence here. Although the book is called Cosplayers and although Annie and Verti like to dress up, the book is not really an in to the cosplayer world. Cosplaying is a backdrop of sorts to Cosplayers. What this feels like more than anything is possibly a slightly extended episode of a sitcom you like that features cosplayer-1characters who are into cosplaying. Annie and Verti like to make sort of inadvertent films, in that they film each other, in real life situations, with people who do not know they are being filmed. They then post these films online, earn some love and some hate, are approached by interested parties to maybe do something with a bit more finance behind it – and then, Wayne’s World style spoiler alert, it doesn’t really come to anything much.

Inbetween all of which, slightly Douglas Coupland-like, we have images of them dressing up, images of drinks and Dorito’s, adverts and agendas for conventions, all of which are slightly disruptive to the flow but in a way that feels intriguing, like Shaw is someone who is monkeying with the form – and you know how we like anyone who monkeys with the form. So it’s distinctive to be sure, and I imagine one of those books that is probably more likely to befuddle you average casual graphic novel reader but Shaw is firmly established now as someone who is going to do something at some point that will blow the socks off the comics world. Until he moves into sock blowing territory, Cosplayers will do us very nicely.

Any Cop?: Undoubtedly, Cosplayers is a cool little book (and we’ll be the first to admit that we probably didn’t “get” everything, as we are not by any means familiar with the cos-world). We’re glad we read it and we’ll look forward to what Shaw gets up to next.


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