Jamal fought Superman in 2014. It might not have been the "real" Superman, but, as far as he's is concerned, it was still pretty awesome.
"We started doing some action poses, making pretend we were really getting into it," Jamal told In The Know. "It looked so cool, it looked super realistic — he was the best depiction of superman I'd ever met."
That was at New York Comic Con, one of the dozens of massive annual events where cosplayers like Jamal go all-out to impersonate their favorite fictional characters. In this episode of In The Know: Uncommon Ground, we spoke with cosplayers about why gatherings like Comic Con can be fulfilling, community building and even life-changing.
With its roots going back to the 1930s, cosplay has only gained popularity in the U.S. in the past few decades. But the seismic popularity of comic book films and the constantly growing market for video games has made the hobby more common than ever. Despite that, Jamal still finds himself defending cosplay from others who don't understand it.
"The most common misconception — even still to this day — is, 'Oh, he's a nerd,'" Jamal told In The Know. "And people just don't understand that it really is a form of art."
And the artistry behind the costumes is undeniable. That's one of the reasons Michael AQ created Cosplayers Getting Coffee, a web series that brings cosplayers together for the first time to discuss their fandoms, costumes and passions.
"It's very fun to see these cosplayers have a platform or a voice to share what they do and love," Mike, who works with the series, told In The Know. "It's like the ultimate form of expression."
In many cases, that expression turns into friendship. Jeff, who's cosplayed as everyone from anime characters to Frozone from the Pixar film, The Incredibles, told In The Know he's made countless friends since he started attending cosplay events.
"It's just a way to get out there — to be around people who are like-minded," Jeff said. "I get to see new things, travel and meet a lot of people that you would never expect."
For Jamie, another cosplayer, that sense of community is obvious. She told In The Know there's something automatically connective about seeing other people dressed up as the characters you love.
"The people that I've met that wear the same characters that I do, you know right of that bat that you both love the same things," Jamie said. "So why wouldn't you want to be friends?"
Check out the full episode of In The Know: Uncommon Ground, above.