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The ToonSeum Hosts a Cosplay Fundraiser

on Sun, 04/17/2016 - 13:46

Cosplaying—the act of dressing up as a favorite character—has been around for over 100 years. The very first science fiction comic strip, Mr. Skygack, from Mars by A.D. Condo, premiered in 1907, for instance, and fans of the series were dressing as the main protagonist within a year. Famed science fiction fan Forrest J. Ackerman, meanwhile, dressed in futuristic garb at the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939.

While the roots of cosplaying may be in the United States, it wasn’t until the fad hit Japan full force in the 1990s that the hobby reached worldwide significance. Nowadays one cannot attend any sort of Pop Culture convention without coming across thousands of people dressed in costume. Pittsburgh is no different, as anyone who ever attended Steel City Con, Tekko or Wizard World Pittsburgh can attest.

What was once a fringe hobby, however, has also developed into a charity effort in addition to achieving widespread popularity. Non-profit organizations have popped up across the country in recent years, with members dressing up in costume in support of their favorite causes. The ToonSeum in Pittsburgh, one of only a small handful of museums that cater to the cartoon and comic arts, is hoping to tap into that thrill of cosplaying while supporting a worthy cause on Saturday, April 23, 2016, when it holds its annual Ka-Blam! fundraiser, appropriately named “Cause-Play: A Masquerade Fundraiser for the ToonSeum.”

The theme is an ideal fit. Not only does the first recorded cosplay stem from a comic strip in 1907, but a significant number of popular cosplay characters likewise have ties to the comic arts. Conventions are filled with Batmans, Spider-Mans, Agent Carters, Catwomans and Deadpools, for instance, as comic book characters have become more popular in the Twenty First Century than at any other time in the past.

Cosplaying is an “equal opportunity” hobby, however, and many science fiction characters without any ties to the comic arts are also widely popular, especially characters from the Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who franchises. The ToonSeum recognizes that fact by welcoming any and all cosplayers, “from superheroes to Lawrencevillains, starship captains, Klingons, Tribbles, Furries, Stormtroopers, Ghostbusters, Jedis and more.”

The ToonSeum, located at 945 Liberty Avenue, has been celebrating the cartoon and comic arts since 2007. Its exhibits range from the educational and informative, like the current “Fear of the Black Marker: Cartoons by Keith Knight,” to the more Pop Culture-oriented Captain America exhibit set to coincide in May 2016 with the release of Captain America: Civil War and a Star Trek exhibit in the fall that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the original television series.

Being a non-profit, the ToonSeum relies on public support, and Ka-Blam! is its biggest fundraiser of the year. If you’re a fan of the cartoon and comic arts—and who isn’t?—the upcoming “Cause-Play” is the ideal opportunity to dress up as you favorite character and have some fun while likewise supporting a worthy cause.

(Ka-Blam! will be held on Saturday, April 23, 2016, from 8pm until 11pm at the Teamster Temple Union Hall in Lawrenceville and features live entertainment, celebrity Pictionary, best costume contests, food and beverages from many Lawrenceville establishments and a silent auction. Tickets are available both online and at the door.)

Anthony Letizia (April 17, 2016)

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