“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Trapped in a bustling mall at the worst possible time – lunch, I was in line at a restaurant when I spotted Captain America riding the escalator. Kitted out from head to toe in a leather headgear, handsome blue jacket and jeans and of course, a red-white-and-blue shield - he strode confidently while examining his surroundings.
I watched him as he ambled around the cinema on the seventh floor of the shopping mall, obliging passers-by for photographs. There was no sign, no accompanying Avenger partners, nothing. Just him. Strolling.
It was too good an opportunity to pass up. I dashed over and waited patiently past eager children and giggling office girls. His face, half-covered, appeared handsome and strong. He posed strong-man style next to his younglings, staring off into the distance with a look that said, “Yes, I am here to protect and pose.”
When it was my turn, I shook my head when he shifted into yet another stance.
“I just want to know if you made this costume.” I asked.
Caught off-guard, he relaxed and nodded sheepishly. I replied, “That’s just awesome. What’s your name?”
It was the first time he appeared abashed. His Cosplay (costume play) name is “Little Bun” or xiaomantou (小馒头). The irony struck me as I tilted my head backwards to speak to his 6″2 frame. The movie Avengers was playing in the theatres then but he wasn’t paid to be walking advertisement. There was no need to given the glamorous lure of Hollywood and Marvel combined. Why are you here, if unpaid and simply posing for pictures in a random mall? I asked.
He shrugged, “I had time. Besides, this is fun.”
Little Bun was born and bred in Shanghai, and currently studying in university. He participated in Cosplay events, even performed in the annual ChinaJoy Cosplay Competition – where lusty men photographed endless half-naked young women in World of Warcraft costumes and Goth-dressed, pimply teenagers acted out their favorite Japanese anime novels.
I took down his number, much to the embarrassment of my colleague who commented that I was too old to be chatting up a young boy. Undeterred, I showed up per his instructions the next weekend in Jingan’s shopping mall, where he and his Cosplay friends were participating in an “American Heroes” exhibit. After that, he said, they had to practice for their play for the upcoming ChinaJoy.
Sure enough, on a hot and sweaty afternoon, I arrived to a smorgesboard of costume-clad teenagers in a copyright confusion/crossover from Marvel to Star Wars to DC Comics. Storm troopers posed with a Red Darth Vader, ambiguous interpretations of Spidermen and Supermen jumped around.
Little Bun was popular as Captain America, holding babies and embracing young girls in mini-skirts. He was shy by nature clearly but the mask gave him a veneer of confidence as it did anonymity.
But isn’t that the case with all our favorite superheroes?