Interview: The Boston Super Heroes

Tuesday, October 27, 2015  By  Robin     No comments

In early May of this year, my library hosted our first big superhero day, Avengers Day. For more about how our day-long event was planned and executed, please head on over to School Library Journal for all the nitty gritty details.

In producing this event, we partnered with the remarkable charity organization the Boston Super Heroes (BSH). As an official charity group devoted to spreading their love of superheroes around the city, they had only just begun to work at large scale events when we nabbed them for our day. In speaking with the group founder, Anthony Ferranti, he confirmed their commitment to charity work and the special place libraries hold for the group, “We will always do library programs because libraries are a place open to everyone, for everyone to come to. We don’t want libraries to disappear.”

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The entire Boston Super Heroes group from Avengers Day, with their fans and a librarian or two.

The members’ enthusiasm, commitment, and sincere delight in sharing their heroes with comics fans of all ages continues to be inspiring. I got in touch with them again to talk heroes, libraries, and to gather advice for librarians on how to best connect with and partner with their local cosplayers.

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Group selfie before the heroes hit the main stacks, taken by Scarlet Witch (Faith D’Isa).

No Flying No Tights: How did you first get involved in cosplaying?

Faith D’Isa (Scarlet Witch): I’ve been cosplaying since 7th grade and can hardly remember how I started. I always did big Halloween costumes but then I think I found a group of Canadian cosplayers on YouTube and realized that people did Halloween ALL THE TIME and just as hardcore as I did. My dad started taking me to cons then and I’ve been cosplaying since.

Phil MacRamos (Nick Fury): Cosplaying felt like an extension of acting to me. Just improvisational theatre with an established character.

Amanda Gibson (Groot): I first got into cosplaying through anime. In high school I heard about Anime Boston and got a couple friends to go with me to check it out. I cosplayed Sebastian from Black Butler. It was awesome. That was my first con and it felt like home.

Peter Vann (Spider-Man): For my second year at Anime Boston, I decided to try wearing a costume at a convention for the first time and all the positive vibes and good times that ensued made me a cosplayer for life.

Sean Derr (Captain America): Already considering myself a huge super fan of comics and Marvel, I built and pieced together a replica shield because I thought it would be a cool collector’s item. For a completely separate reason, a group of friends and I decided to dress up like superheroes and surprise our friend for his bachelor party. Fast forward a year or so and I found myself in Boston with a free weekend, and lo & behold Boston Comic-Con was in town. I decided what better place to go and use my costume and shield again. While I was there I met some incredible people who showed me the world of cosplay, and I have been laughing, smiling, and having an incredible time ever since.

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Captain America (Sean Derr) with a young Thor.

NFNT: What led you to join the Boston Super Heroes group, and especially to join up for events like Avengers Day?

Faith D’Isa (Scarlet Witch): I found Boston Super Heroes through some mutual friends in the cosplaying community in my first year of college in Boston, and eventually joined up as an admin. I’ve done character parties before so this sort of charity work was immediately sounding like a great opportunity to me, especially as we’ve started to move the group towards a more charitable direction!

Phil MacRamos (Nick Fury): My first con was in Boston, met some folks for a photo shoot. Really connected with [Boston Super Heroes founder] Anthony Ferranti and he extended the invite. Great decision.

Amanda Gibson (Groot): I joined the Boston Super Heroes because I wanted to get more into cosplay and make friends with like interests. At the time I was thinking about making a Groot cosplay from Guardians of the Galaxy. I had a friend from school who joined the BSH on Facebook and I thought that joining as well would be a good opportunity to see other superhero/supervillain cosplays. I decided to help with the charity events because I know that if I was little I would have loved to see people in costumes like these and I wanted to use my costume to help and make people smile.

Peter Vann (Spider-Man): I met a few cosplayers (who now I consider friends) at Anime Boston this year at a superhero photoshoot and one of them sent me an invite via Facebook. I always wanted to do events that give back to the community, especially for the kids.

Sean Derr (Captain America): I heard about the BSH at [Boston Comic-Con] and joined up to be connected with people sharing a similar interest. I joined the Avengers Day event because I realized that I could actually use my newfound hobby to make more people smile and to help make lifelong memories for kids.

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Nick Fury (Phil MacRamos) checks out the library’s comics collection.

NFNT: What inspired you to choose the character you did for the Avengers event?

Faith D’Isa (Scarlet Witch): I’ve been a big Scarlet Witch fan since I was a kid reading comics. She’s been my favorite character since then (along with her brother [Quicksilver]), and because the film had just come out it seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring her to life for some kids who’d just been introduced to her.

Amanda Gibson (Groot): I chose to be Groot for Avengers Day because it is currently my only hero costume and because I thought people would enjoy seeing Groot there.

Peter Vann (Spider-Man): Spider-Man saved my life. I grew up watching his cartoons and reading his comic books as a child and his stories always hit home for me. A couple years ago, one of my friends was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in front of me and I was traumatized. Without even realizing it, I turned to Spider-Man for strength, especially with how he dealt with his guilt and anger from his uncle passing the same way. It still hurts to this day, but Spider-Man and Peter Parker’s character has given me strength and hope that life gets better through the tragedies.

Sean Derr (Captain America): I’ve always liked captain America, he’s a huge Boy Scout and does what’s right and fair because it’s right and fair. It echoed my own upbringing and I felt a connection. He’s also a man out of place and time, and at various points in my life I’ve felt similarly.

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Spider-Man (Peter Vann) amid the crowds of fans.

NFNT: What was your favorite reaction from an attendee during the day?

Faith D’Isa (Scarlet Witch): My favorite reaction during the day was the little girl who came up to Black Widow and I saying that she wanted to make sure she found us because she gets very excited about female superheroes and wanted to meet as many as she could. As a girl who’s been into superheroes, I know how isolating some of the media and merchandise can be so it was really great to be able to make her day like that. There was also the little boy who was slowly starting to believe we were the real deal and started quizzing us on our lives, and later said he was sorry that my brother died.

Phil MacRamos (Nick Fury): The kids in the quiet room sneaking up behind me, trying to figure out who I was.

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Groot (Amanda Gibson) greets Baby Groot and a young fan.

Amanda Gibson (Groot): My favorite reaction from the event was this little boy in a Spider-Man outfit who came with a baby Groot toy and let me hold it. He kept coming back to see me and asked me to stand with him in the group photo.

Peter Vann (Spider-Man): I remember one little girl was all smiles to see me like I was her long lost best friend and laughing through and through.

Sean Derr (Captain America): A boy asked if I was the real Captain America, to which I responded “of course!” His jaw dropped to the floor, smiled ear to ear, and gave me a high five.

NFNT: If librarians are interested in hosting such an event, what would you want them to know about what you do and what you’ll need to be a success?

Faith D’Isa (Scarlet Witch): If other librarians want to host an event like this I think they should definitely focus on the idea of maintaining how real this world is for kids. As adults we’re aware of the idea of these heroes being fictional but for kids, these characters are important and real role models. This means having your staff also help with that illusion (things like calling characters by name and talking to them as if they’re the real deal) and making sure your costumed characters are professional and in character, not to mention of course never letting kids see them out of costume.

Amanda Gibson (Groot): I think for these events, that librarians should know a bit about the characters that will be attending so that they can help keep the kids in the illusion.

Peter Vann (Spider-Man): I definitely need my freedom to roam and interact, but also take breaks for myself without drawing attention. Also, a little structure is nice but not standing stationed for picture-taking.

Sean Derr (Captain America): The green room space before hand was awesome. It allowed us to change on site and grab a break if needed while not breaking character in front of the kids. From experience, it helps having a few people act as controllers and come in to give the cosplayers breaks or pause a line of photos so we don’t have to be the bad guys, cause it’s way too hard to say no to a child.

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Story time with Captain America (Sean Derr), Scarlet Witch (Faith D’Isa), and Black Widow (Lauren Murray), as well as Peggy Carter at the front (Kelsey Young.)

NFNT: If librarians aren’t local to Boston, do you have any advice or resources you’d recommend they use to find similar cosplay charity groups in other areas?

Faith D’Isa (Scarlet Witch): I’d say definitely make connections with your local comic shops. Often these shops have contacts with costume groups in the area who might be willing to put on an event like this, either as customers or through doing special events of their own.

Amanda Gibson (Groot): I would ask cons or comic stores if they have any information about specific groups. This group at least seems really good at communicating with places we attend, so the places we have been should be able to get in contact with us.

Peter Vann (Spider-Man): Honestly, I got lucky that I met the people that I did and had the chance to join such a wonderful organization.

Sean Derr (Captain America): Join and connect with a group like the BSH and ask for information or contacts in their area. Most of us meet fellow cosplayers at conventions all over. We usually know someone that knows someone and we’re always happy to help especially when it’s something we love!

NFNT: Any advice for teens (or adults, or librarians) who are interested in getting started cosplaying? Resources on cosplay you’d recommend?

Faith D’Isa (Scarlet Witch): If you want to start cosplaying, dive right in! My first cosplay at a con was a manga character who wore a large white shirt and jeans—I didn’t know how to craft or sew yet but I just put myself out there and felt so welcomed into the community. There are tons of Facebook groups that are also great discussion forums for making your own cosplay and places to buy costumes and wigs to start off—just start searching “cosplay” and specify it to groups and tons will come up, from Disney to Game of Thrones and superheroes and everything in between! There’s also a new app called Cosplay Amino which is a social community for cosplayers where people post their costumes, ask questions, and share tutorials and ideas.

Amanda Gibson (Groot): Just go for it! Find a character that you absolutely love that you would love to be. Keeping that kind of mindset can really help you make a good cosplay. Personally, Home Depot and Walmart are my best friends when it it comes to supplies. I’ve been told there are a lot of good online resources for specific stuff as well and if necessary you can sometimes commission other cosplayers to make things.

Peter Vann (Spider-Man): My first Spider-Man suit was a blotched disaster and scared little children away. It’s trial and error with making the outfit but there are cosplayers and cosplay groups online who are willing to help. Also, don’t pay any mind to any negative comments towards your outfit or body. Cosplay is for everybody and is supposed to be a fun experience. If a random jerk says something otherwise, just ignore them and go about your business because at the end of the day, the positive outweighs the negative.

Sean Derr (Captain America): therfp.com is great for showing how to make props and building things. Attend a convention in the area and talk to the cosplayers there. We love talking about our costumes and props. If they can’t actually attend, try to just get in the lobby and ask people as they enter/exit.

NFNT: Any other comments or advice you’d want to share concerning the group, events like these, or the day itself?

Faith D’Isa (Scarlet Witch): I don’t really know what else to share other than how absolutely rewarding this experience is, and if people are on the fence about participating or hosting an event like this—do it! It’s a lot of work but the payoff is indescribable.

Amanda Gibson (Groot): Make sure you take care of yourself when you’re in costume. Keep in mind how functional the costume is when you are building it or else you may end up in trouble.

Peter Vann (Spider-Man): The staff did a wonderful job accommodating making the group feel welcome and I will always remember that day!

Sean Derr (Captain America): It was an incredible time and I’d be honored to do it again, so spread the word about groups like ours and people like us!

At the Brookline Public Library, we’ve now had the group participate in three events, including our Superhero Edible Book Festival and our Batman Day, both of which were a huge draw for our patrons young and old. The group is currently on hiatus in terms of booking new events until the new year, but never fear, they’ll be back in 2016.

Thanks to the entire group for partnering with libraries to make amazing memories for our attendees.

You can find the Boston Super Heroes at their website as well as over on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Tumblr.

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