DENHAM SPRINGS -- Dusty Ransome feels right at home whenever she’s dressed as someone else.
A lifelong resident of Denham Springs, cosplay has served as an escape for the 28-year-old who was bullied as a child for her dyslexia and dual ethnic background. She has a closet full of costumes — many of which she’s made herself — and she takes them out for any renaissance fair or comic book convention she can get to.
Donning the outfit of one of her favorite comic book or movie characters has always provided Ransome with a sense of comfort, one she hardly felt in her own skin growing up.
It’s why, though she’s long past the accepted age of indulging in “make believe,” she has no intentions to quit “suiting up” anytime soon.
“Half the time growing up, I wished I was someone else,” said Ransome, who was clad in an all-black leather spandex suit and red wig in likeness of Black Widow. “I wanted a moment other than Halloween to be somebody other than who I was, and cosplay helped me realize who I was as a person and what I wanted to do to help people. It helped pull me out of my depression.”
Last weekend, Ransome was surrounded by hundreds of others like herself, who enjoy the chance to dress as — or become — their favorite superheroes. And though not all dress up for the same reasons as Ransome, they all share one thing in common — a love of all things comic books.
The Livingston Parish Library invited comic book lovers and cosplay enthusiasts like Ransome to its fourth annual Comic Con on Saturday, Feb. 2.
Inspired by the mega-event that takes place annually in San Diego, the library’s Comic Con has become the parish’s very own celebration of comic books, movies, television, video games, and pop culture since the first one in 2015.
The library’s Comic Con gives visitors a chance to celebrate their many fandoms in an event that is free and open to the public.
And the public certainly showed up in force last Saturday.
More than 500 people attended and participated in the plethora of games, skits, raffles, and booths on hand. Lesley Campbell, head of youth services for the library who organizes the event along with the annual book festival, called it “the most successful” Comic Con yet.
“This was the biggest and best by far,” Campbell said as library workers cleaned the science-fiction madness that had ensued in the Denham Springs-Walker Branch for three hours. “We definitely had more people show up than last year, and that was the biggest we had ever had, until now.”
Comic Con offered a little something for everyone.
For “Harry Potter” lovers, there was the Triwizard Tournament — inspired by the fourth book in the international best-selling series — which challenged contestants in trivia, a relay race and rounds of Quidditch, not to mention all-day wand making.
For fans of “Percy Jackson,” the library opened up its East Meeting Room for Zeus’ lightning bolt toss, Athena’s archery challenge and sword fighting.
There were also comic books to peruse from Southeast Cards and Comics, live artist demonstrations to enjoy by portrait artist Sierra Bobo, and Pokemon characters to find in a scavenger hunt throughout the library. Representatives from STARFLEET Region 3, the Louisiana chapter of the International Star Trek Fan Association, were also on hand chatting with interested parties about their organization.
Comic Con concluded with an interactive skit, “Super Librarian vs. The Story Eraser,” about an evil villain who has erased all the library’s stories and the Super Librarian who needs the audience’s help to defeat the villain and restore the stories.
But most of all, Ransome said, Comic Con provided people a chance to mingle with others like themselves, who love diving into the imaginative world that comic books and science fiction provides.
“We have younger kids picking up the fandom,” she said. “And here, they’re learning it in a place that’s safe, they’re learning how to have fun, and they’re learning that you don’t have to stop having fun as a kid — you can have fun as an adult.”
For Ransome, it has been life-changing.
Ransome said she first became interested in comic books as a child, when her father gave her old copies of the original “Avengers” comic books. Those comic books became a learning tool for Ransome as she'd practice reading next to her mother, Linda, while she cooked in the kitchen.
Black Widow, the Russian-spy-turned-heroine Scarlett Johansson has played in six films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, quickly became Ransome’s favorite because she wasn't like the other women she saw portrayed in comic books.
Black Widow was never the “damsel in distress,” Ransome said, but someone who was smart, confident, and capable of holding her own in a tight spot.
Simply put, Black Widow was different — just like Ransome.
“Throughout all the comic books I read, a lot of the women weren’t relatable to me,” Ransome said. “They were usually the damsel in distress, but Black Widow was never that. She was the villain turned good guy, and she gave me a little bit of hope that one day, these people who are making fun of me will come back and be nice to me, and a lot of them have.
“When I started going through Black Widow, I realized she was it for me. She was smart, able to hold herself on her own, and more often than not she beat the heck out of Iron Man in at least 27 issues.”
Dressed as the crime-fighting hero last Saturday, Ransome took more pictures than she could count as children assembled at her side, wanting to know how she made her authentic Black Widow costume.
Ransome, who sowed every stitch of the costume herself, said it took her about a year to make because she had to get it was “just right.”
“I got out my sketch pad and freeze-framed the first ‘Avengers’ movie to view multiple shots to make the costume,” Ransome explained. “Then came the part of having people wrap me in duct tape. To build a cat suit, you have to put on a pair of long Johns and have people duct tape you all the way up to the neck in order to make it form fitting.
“But the whole time, I was just sitting there thinking, ‘I hate you people,’” she said with a laugh.
The Black Widow costume has paid dividends, Ransome said, as it has helped her connect with others and show people — especially children — it’s okay to believe in the power of “make believe.”
“There was a young kid who actually believed I was the character,” she said. “Playing along with a little kid and getting him to smile is what makes the entire thing worth it. I don’t know what this kid was going through, but dressing up was making him laugh, and I’m giving him a little bit of life.”
“Once you get that love for comics, you wonder if that has to end in adolescence, but the thing is, it really doesn’t,” Ransome continued. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you can always enjoy comics on a different level. It was through comics that I learned people may get you down, but at the end of the day, like they say, the Four will always be fantastic and the Hulk will always be incredible.”