Using smiles and laughter as their weapon of choice, the X-Men of Toronto always apply their powers to the greater good, helping charities and making children’s dreams come true.
For many people, the thought of cosplayers brings up images of basement dwellers with no job or social life, trying to perfect a costume for next year’s comic expo. It’s an assumption many people still have according to Angel Song, also known as Cyclops, but he’s quick to say there’s a lot more to cosplay than simply dressing up.
“When people think cosplay, they think of awkward nerds, or the Big-Bang-Theory-type of guy. We have varying backgrounds though.”
The energetic cosplay group has been brightening people’s day since January of 2013. Though their challenges may not include stopping humans and villainous mutants from tearing each other apart in the ongoing struggle for peace, obstacles are still aplenty for the cosplay group.
“At the start acceptance within the cosplay community was readily available,” said Mat Russell, who takes on the role of Wolverine. “Outside of the community it was a little hard to establish ourselves.”
Time-management is a constant variable.
“It’s a pretty time-consuming endeavour,” Song said, adding the length of time it takes for some of the members to get ready on a consistent basis is an obstacle on its own. When he used to take on the role of the metallic powerhouse Colossus, he had to paint himself, preventing him from touching anything or anyone for an extended period of time. Richard East, another recent addition to the team, sprays his hair a different colour, paints his face blue, places contacts in his eyes, and three hours later he becomes the quick and nimble Nightcrawler.
At times, their costumes are made by hand, like Julia Wichlacz’s, who has the advantage as a fashion designer to create the Psylocke outfit herself. In other situations, a suit simply consists of a well-matched pair of jeans and jacket, with fake claws and a cigar completing the look.
The latest recipient of their heroism was the Uncle Neil and Friends Toy Mountain Show at the Birchmount Bar and Grill, which took place this past Sunday. After encountering them at Fan-Expo last year, Neil Haden, co-founder of the Toy Mountain Show, decided Toy Mountain would be a perfect place for the cosplay group to work their magic.
“After talking with them and noticing all the charity work they’ve done, I realized they were people I wanted to partner up with for the rest of my life,” he said.
George Papas, the co-owner of the Birchmount Bar and Grill, which has been the Toy Mountain Show’s venue for the past several years, said he appreciated the involvement of the X-Men. “It gets the kids excited, and they’re a great fit for the event”.
The toy drive managed to – quite literally in fact – pile in over 30, 000 toys by the end of the two-hour event. The combination of onstage talent, which ranged from Caden and his band, to other up-and-coming talent, and the presence of the X-Men, resulted in dozens of bewildered children. It’s a reaction the X-Men of Toronto have grown accustomed to, and they revel in the opportunity to surprise kids at events. Aaron Beam, who dresses up as Sabretooth, recalls a moment all the X-Men seemed to agree on when it came to picking a special moment their team was a part of.
“We were heading to a photoshoot one day, and there was a kid named Xavier who was having his first birthday party,” he said. Upon discovering the name of the boy, which matched the name of the X-Men’s leader from the comics – Professor Xavier – the team decided to take a detour on their way to their shoot.
“We just walked in there and made this kid’s dream come true,” Beam said.
The super heroes will be saving the day again on Dec. 14 at FrostCon, which will be held at the Toronto Ramada Plaza Hotel. All their proceeds will be donated to Blessings in a Backpack, which caters the needs of hungry students across Canada.