Cosplaying has grown massively in popularity over the past decade, and has quickly become an instrumental part of the pop culture convention experience. In our new Cosplay Focus series, That Hashtag Show is proud to highlight some especially gifted and dedicated cosplayers.
Brett Yee of The Brothers Yee Cosplay has won several awards including Alienware Video Game Cosplay 1st Place and 626 Night Market “Best in Show”, and will be featured on Marvel’s upcoming “Becoming” Digital Series Season 3.
When not cosplaying, he is a husband and stay at home dad of two toddlers (He’s often very tired). Brett is trained as a Christian minister and he serves on staff at Restoration Los Angeles Church in East Los Angeles. He also runs a non-profit tutoring center called C3 Tutoring.
You’ve cosplayed at a long list of conventions and events including San Diego Comic Con, Anime Expo, Long Beach Comic Con, Wonder Con, 626 Night Market, Star Wars Celebration, and plenty of birthday parties and church events. What inspired you to do it all?
I think credit has to go to the creators of the various franchises. Comics and sci-fi media for the most part give us tales of human interaction, issues, and conflict. They are hyperbolic extensions of real life. The best tales show us something of our humanity, our relationships with each other, our relationship with the spiritual/divine, and how we grow or don’t grow. Also, lasers and superpowers.
But often we see parts of ourselves in these characters. As kids we pretend to be these characters. Playtime for kids is experimentation, role play, and projecting ourselves in these characters. Cosplay, I think, is a natural extension of that play. Plus, it’s a creative outlet which I think many of us are built with. It can be therapeutic and cathartic and gives the creators a challenge.
Which costumes are you most proud of?
My top 3 cosplays are Mega Man X, Arnim Zola, and the Sentinel. Mega Man X is made from Pepakura papercraft, layered with fiberglass and bondo filler. Arnim Zola is mostly foam craft, but its main feature is a working screen on the chest that broadcasts a live video feed of my face using an Iphone app designed by my friend, Bobby. It’s probably my most expensive piece based on the technology inside it.
My Sentinel is my first basically all 3D Printed cosplay. Both Mega Man X and Sentinel required computer model design work and a lot of time spent sanding, filling, and painting. Shoutout to Tim who helped with sanding and Michaela who helped with 3D design work. Mega Man X took a year, though now with more experience in 3d Printing and resources in vac formming, I think it would take far less time.
You’ve also cosplayed as Cyclops of the X-Men many times. What’s so special about that character to you?
I have five Cyclops costumes: The original, the 90’s Jim Lee version, Utopia-era Cyclops, the one from the Bendis run, and a baseball version. I’ve always connected to him as a character. He’s the boy scout who doesn’t like to party but is serious about the job. He understands that leadership requires big sacrifices. He carries the burden of incredible power but it’s one that can easily hurt the ones he loves. He’s not necessarily popular but understands that that’s not what’s going to win the fight.
While I didn’t like what happened to his character in recent memory, I understand the possibility of that happening given his circumstances. His character arc makes sense even if it’s taken a darker turn. But as someone who relates to his struggles, I keep it in the back of my mind as something I could turn into if I’m not kept in check by my faith, family, and friends.
What’s your impression of the cosplay community?
The Cosplay community I would say is much like many communities. On one hand, many if not most are people that are super helpful, promoting of others, encouraging, and engaging. There is a camaraderie between people in a shared interest and goal. That being said, there is also a level of toxicity that exists. Body shaming, undo criticism, trolls, people that don’t give others credit, and flat out mean spirited people exist, just as in most communities.
For the most part though, people have been mainly positive, existing to help each other. As a person who makes some parts for money, I don’t really consider anyone my competition even if in a technical sense they are. We are doing what we enjoy. There are always going to be a variety of opinions and beliefs that are not directly cosplay related, but for the most part, there is a unity amongst cosplayers.
Has being involved in cosplay opened up any new doors for you?
Cosplay has certainly gotten me connected to media outlets and social media in a way that I never intended. People interested in cosplay have become friends through that interest. I always am on the lookout for friendships and going deeper with people, and cosplay is often a means to that. I’ve also gained various skills that I can use to fix things or do house or auto work!
*PICTURED ABOVE: Additional cosplay Brett has designed or helped design
Do you have an example of your art having a positive impact on another person?
On a practical level, I’ve gotten to pass on skills that I have learned to others. Knowing your skills or products are being used in others’ work is always fun. On the cosplay display level, seeing people geek out at your costume, telling you it takes them back, or its like the real thing, or especially see a kid smile is great too.
But on a spiritual level, I’m always trying to see if there are connections either live on the con floor or later on social media to be made. I’ve gotten to know a few people that I never would have met otherwise, and I’ve gotten to pray with them if they desire. Cosplay can be a conduit for me to give blessing to others as I believe God wants us to be.
You’ve also done a lot of group cosplay. What is it that you love about it?
I absolutely love group cosplay. There’s something special about organizing and arranging a group. I think as social beings, it enhances the experience because you’re all contributing to something together. And it’s infinitely more epic when you see a big team together, as it creates an even bigger and more intricate picture of whatever fandom brought to life. It’s a lot of fun when people know the characters and can interact a bit as well.
There seems to be a lack of Asian characters in pop culture currently. Does that affect the way you cosplay at all?
There is a bit of a lack in Asian characters, so it is of course harder sometimes to find something to cosplay if you want to get an exact look. And I do believe we need more representation, though I want to make sure they’re actual good characters and not just there for diversity’s sake. That being said, at least in my experience, I think most of the cosplay community has moved beyond making sure a certain cosplayer matches the race. Most of the time, people can accept that. Not all of course, but I think there’s been an improvement.
Where do you see cosplay going in the future?
Unfortunately I see it becoming much more commercialized. While having lots of premade products and pieces allows it to be very accessible, it can often take away from the craft of cosplay. But on the flip side, because its more accessible, it opens the door for many people to enjoy.
If you could give a new cosplayer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Enjoy it and take pride in your work no matter how you think you compare to other cosplayers.
If you’re interested in his cosplay work, check out The Brothers Yee Cosplay on Facebook or @thebrothersyeecosplay on Instagram. He currently has props available for purchase on his Etsy shop and can be contacted for commissions or nerdy banter at email@example.com Joe Looney Jersey