“You look just like him.”
“I don’t know; it seems strange.”
“I’m telling you. The resemblance is uncanny. You really should go as him.”
Somewhere in the dim, Swiss-cheese-like memory that I have, that sort of conversation occurred between a couple of different people in 2014 and me. I’ll be honest; I didn’t see the resemblance others did. But these friends insisted this could work. So I brought my skills as a performer to the role, studied the costume and watched a video of the subject. I was going to try something unique for me – a cosplaying a real, live human being.
Specifically, bestselling author George R. R. Martin, creator of the Song of Fire and Ice saga. Or as most television audiences know it, Game of Thrones.
Now, think about that for a second. Most people go to these conventions as characters from fantasy – comic books, novels, movies, television shows, video games, etc. But instead of portraying a character who was part of the content, I would portray someone who had created the content. It’s a little outside the box.
But this could work because Martin is something of an eccentric. He dresses in a unique style, wears an iconic totem that is known to his fans, and maintains a distinct public persona. Approximate it very carefully and you can be convincing.
I tested the Martin cosplay at the final day of Anime Festival Orlando in 2014. The reaction was amazingly positive. At one point, I was able to set up a table to stage a mock signing – thus cosplaying an author doing a signing at a convention where there were authors doing signings. It was an incredibly meta moment.
Having tested it there. I was ready for the big time – Tampa Bay Comic Con 2014. The original plan was just one day as George. Just Friday. But…
- Upon arrival, I was mobbed by people wanting my picture.
- I attended a Q-and-A panel with Pedro Pascal, the actor who had portrayed Oberyn Martell in Season 4 of Game of Thrones. When I stood up to ask my question, he did a double-take. He thought I was George and had somehow come to see him in Tampa. The crowd reaction was fun.
- Convention staff asked me to return Saturday and enter the costume contest
- Repeatedly, I was told “the most amazing cosplay” or was mistaken for him.
As requested, I return on Saturday. I arrive in Tampa and park my car.
- Someone spots me in the garage and yells out “Oh my god; it’s you! You’re really here!”
- I am informed later a picture of me has trended to number one worldwide on Reddit.
- The local PBS station interviews me. They try to understand why cosplay a real live human being. I show how close we look alike and flash a wicked grin.
- I do a photo op with Richard Madden, the actor who portrayed Robb Stark. When I come around the corner into the studio area, he sees me, does a double-take and starts giggling.
- A large group of Game of Thrones cosplayers cajoles me into becoming part of their team – making it a meta-presentation (the author and his creations) into the cosplay contest. They do not win.
- A judge from the contest walks up to me in the lobby afterward and says, “That is so amazing. You look exactly like him.”
- I go to the afterparty and WIN the costume contest there.
- Multiple bar patrons, in various states of inebriation, are utterly convinced I AM George R. R. Martin. Sadly, one of those patrons is an elderly gentleman wearing a red negligee and a thong. He is overly friendly with severe boundary issues. Still, my drinks were comped all night, and The Castle management has invited me to become a regular at the bar…(and the bar manager at the end of the evening let me know they were in on the joke).
Saturday had blended into Sunday and with a couple of hours sleep, I returned yet again as George to the floor.
- The people at the University of South Florida Information Services program – the Library Sciences folks – asked to have my picture taken in their booth sitting at their table. As soon as I sit down, people line up, asking me to sign things.
So I did (with an asterisk, of course).
- One woman tried to get me into a discussion about the literary differences between Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and William Goldman’s “Lord of the Flies.” I asked why. She explained it was for her daughter’s AP English paper. I smiled. “So, trying to get crib notes from me?” We went over a few ideas. I hope I didn’t steer her too far off, as it has admittedly been two decades since I’ve read Kesey and four since Goldman.
- One woman beat me with her shoe; she was so upset about a particular character’s death.
- I did get a lot of hugs as well and even more smiles. People were euphoric to see me.
Well, most of them. Some of them did believe I was George R. R. Martin. And I wasn’t about to dissuade them – they seemed so happy to see me.
I have done this cosplay at other events since. I did it at a small con at a library where the staff thought I was Martin and assigned a security guard to follow me around.
At the Sarasota Ren Fair in 2014, a photo of myself and a cosplayer as Robert Baratheon made io9’s site with comments again about how I must be Martin’s doppelganger.
Finally, at this year’s Megacon, they forced me to register my pen as a weapon. (Think about it).
Now, two years later, George returns to this weekend to Tampa Comic-Con. And it should be fun – I’m going to a wedding. After all, everyone wants GRRM at their marriage.
But at the end of this, I wonder. Am I valued because people saw George R. R. Martin, or because people appreciated my ability to bring them that experience (sort of like an Elvis impersonator)? Who is the man in the mirror? D.G. or George?
Or am I just overthinking the whole thing?