Located right in the heart of Camden Yards, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (GEM) has brought a pop culture explosion to the fan boys and girls in the Baltimore area for nearly 13 years. During that time, the 16,000-square-foot museum provided the perfect backdrop for special events with brides and grooms, zombies, pirates and princesses, little heroes, and of course, cosplayers.
In advance of Steve Geppi’s donation of comic books, original comic book and comic strip art, and other vintage pop culture treasures to the Library of Congress, GEM closed to the public on June 3, 2018. While the doors to the museum have closed, the memories made within its walls will last forever. Including those made during the annual Cosplay Masquerade, which invited everyone to come decked out in their best costume creations for a night dedicated to the subculture.
Given that a masquerade brings together guests for a party in fantastic costumes, merging the concept with pop culture was an easy fit. “The Cosplay Masquerade events were always a favorite, not only to GEM’s staff but also to our regular visitors. When Nadja [Martens] first tossed out the idea of hosting a fancy masquerade with a cosplay twist, everyone at GEM was immediately excited to start planning out the evening,” GEM President Melissa Bowersox said.
The inaugural Cosplay Masquerade, held on February 7, 2015, saw Batmans, Harley Quinns, Fairly Oddparents, Doctors, and more gather for an evening of music, dancing, contests, and food at the museum. While some attendees dressed in beautiful cosplay from obscure characters to mainstream superheroes, others incorporated the masquerade theme into their costumes.
Throughout the event, GEM Sales Manager Nadja Martens acted as DJ and kept the partygoers grooving until nearly midnight, while the spread by Rouge Catering made sure not even the Incredible Hulk went hungry. This particular show even included Beatbox, a beverage that recently won on the reality competition TV show Shark Tank, which proved a huge hit with the attendees. As did the Pixilated photobooth, where cosplayers were able to pose with old and new friends as they showed off their unique creations.
Along with discussing the finer points of creating costumes and socializing with likeminded hobbyists, the first Cosplay Masquerade also served as an adorable meet-cute for a certain cosplay couple. Dressed as Princess Ariel and Prince Eric, these cosplayers had their first date at the masquerade. As they strolled through the long corridor of the museum and admired the specially themed rooms, the pair grew closer and closer. In fact, that same couple is still together and attended the recent closing party for GEM to reminisce over that first magical date.
A major highlight of the evening was the costume contests in the categories of single female, single male, group, and couple. Judging the contest was Britany Marriott, Margaret Huey, and Rebecca Hawk. Marriott is a cosplayer, published writer, and illustrator done through her company Kurenai Kiba. She was also a featured subject in Neurotive Magazine for her weeping angel costume from the hit sci-fi show Doctor Who.
Huey is also a comic artist and illustrator who runs her own illustration business, Magga Draws. Cosplaying for most of her life, Huey was showcased in the portrait novel Cosplay in America. Hawk frequently judges masquerade contests and hallway costume events at Katsucon, Otakon, Nekocon, as well as several others. She has worked on promotional cosplay events for Funimation, Anniplex, and Interrobang Studios, along with serving as a “princess for hire” and face painter for several Baltimore/DC based entertainment companies.
Towards the end of the evening the judges announced Storm as the winner for best female, a Resident Evil Umbrella Corporation Soldier as the best male, a steam punk version of The Fairly OddParents for best couple, with an honorable mention for a Poison Ivy cosplayer. The big winner of the night took home two tickets to see Chicago at the Hippodrome, while additional prizes include an introductory massage at Massage Envy, gift certificates at Howl at the Moon, Dick’s Last Resort, and Tir Na Nog, as well as memberships to the museum. Along with prizes for costume contest winners, special items were given to each attendee.
“Seeing everyone in their unique costumes and hearing about the hard work they put into creating them was always a lot of fun. Plus our various exhibits served as a great backdrop for an epic cosplay headshot. It will certainly be remembered fondly by all who attended as well as by those who worked on the event itself,” said GEM President Melissa Bowersox.
The first Cosplay Masquerade proved so popular that GEM hosted a second event the following year on February 6. Similar to the first year, the event included dancing, drinking, costume contests, all culminating in an evening of fun celebrating the love of cosplay. Themed “Under the Sea,” this event featured the specialty drink Ocean Water, which was available in both alcoholic and nonalcoholic forms. Throughout the evening, cosplayers enjoyed the party atmosphere, shared tips, discussed costume choices, and wandered through the beautiful displays that the museum had to offer.
“Cosplay Masquerade: Under the Sea was such a fun and lighthearted experience. Everywhere I turned, I saw nothing but happy faces and that’s all I could ever ask for organizing an event,” Britany Marriott, GEM Sales Manager, said after the event.
Editor’s Note: Over the next few months, we’ll have retrospectives of some of the great exhibits and events held at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. Items from Steve Geppi’s gift to the nation will be on display at the Library of Congress beginning in Fall 2018.