Holy spandex! It’s Super Hero Night at the Skeeters

jsoutherniconThere is something magical about looking out at the world through the eyeholes of a mask.

When your true identity is concealed and who you are is tucked away and protected, you have the ability to become someone or something else. You have the ability to shake off your inhibitions and express yourself in ways that the plain clothed you would never do.

On Friday the Sugar Land Skeeters will host Super Hero Night. While the crux of the promotion is to pay tribute to real-life heroes, there is also the element of fun as the public is invited to come in their superhero costumes or to wear their favorite superhero apparel. That, along with the story I did last week about the Skeeters’ mascot Swatson and all the coverage of the recent San Diego Comic Con got me thinking about how much fun it is to go to events in disguise.

Outside of Halloween, I have extensive experience appearing in two costumes. I am a former mall Santa and I have attended comic cons and other events as The Lone Ranger.

Joe Southern as The Lone Ranger with actor Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in the original Star Wars movies.

Joe Southern as The Lone Ranger with actor Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in the original Star Wars movies.

In the two seasons that I sat in a mall in the red suit and white beard I had hundreds of children come sit on my lap and tell me their Christmas wishes. Even my own children visited Santa without knowing who he really was. That was one of the most enjoyable side jobs I’ve ever had. There is nothing like being able to bring some joy and big smiles to small children.

And yes, there are even some disastrous moments, like the time a mom took a crying baby from my lap and walked off with a fistful of my beard in the process. She had the elastic band stretched as far as it would go before realizing what happened and untangled herself. As I looked back down the line of youngsters waiting to see Santa all I could see were dropped jaws and astonished looks.

When I first assembled my Lone Ranger costume for the Memphis Film Festival in 2008, I wore it without shaving off my mustache. It wasn’t until I got home and saw the pictures that I realized how stupid I looked, especially compared to the other barefaced Lone Rangers at the festival.

That’s when I shaved my upper lip for the first time in about 12 years. I’ve been clean-shaven most of the time ever since and every time I’ve been in costume. I’ve worn the outfit to Comicpalooza and to several parades and other events and thoroughly enjoy the attention I get. I love posing for photos and talking with fans. At Comicpalooza I even had celebrities ask to have their pictures taken with me!

HolySpandex2It’s weird when you slip out of the costume and back into street clothes how no one recognizes you or wants to take your picture. The first time I experienced that it taught me how empowering a costume can be. As a photographer, whenever I go to events like Comicpalooza, Space City Comic Con or even the Texas Renaissance Festival, I find myself drawn to people in costume. I have thousands of pictures of people dressed up and having fun.

A costume can make even the nerdiest and unattractive amongst us look and feel special. I’ve never considered myself to be an attractive person but I love the attention I get when I put on the blue suit, white cowboy hat and black mask. I see the same thing in the eyes of costumers – or cosplayers, as they are called – whenever they attend public events in disguise.

I really have a deep appreciation for members of the different Star Wars costuming groups such as the 501st Legion. They take it to a whole new level by making hospital visits and supporting numerous charities while dressed as their favorite Star Wars characters.

I also have a deep love and respect for people who dress in period costumes and portray characters from history, such as Civil War or Texas Revolution re-enactors. They have an educational motivation behind their costumes and weaponry that gives real purpose and value to what they do.

Even though re-enactors and those in period dress are not hidden behind masks, they share a lot with their costumed brethren in their desire to escape reality, entertain and have fun while doing it.

Whatever your motivation, it never hurts to leave the difficulties of reality behind and live a fantasy for a while. It’s magical and empowering at the same time. If you’re so inclined, this Friday’s Skeeters game would be a great chance to don your super suit and have a little fun. Who knows, you might even run into The Lone Ranger.

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