Best Cosplay Ever (This Week): Babs Tarr Inspiration Edition [Interview]
Although cosplay has been present for decades within the comics, anime, and sci-fi/fantasy fandoms, social media has played an integral role in the thriving communities of costuming that exist, such as Cosplay.com and the Superhero Costuming Forum. Over the years, the cosplay community has evolved into a creative outlet for many fans to establish and showcase some impressive feats of homemade disguise, craftsmanship, and sartorial superheroics at conventions. In honor of the caped crusaders of the convention scene, ComicsAlliance has created Best Cosplay Ever (This Week), an ongoing collection of some of the most impeccable, creative, and clever costumes that we’ve discovered and assembled into a super-showcase of pure fan-devoted talent.
This week, we’re looking at cosplay inspired by the work of illustrator Babs Tarr. Best known in fandom circles for her Bosozoku Sailor Scouts piece, Tarr’s art frequently incorporates a combination of femininity and toughness in both her original work and redesigns of licensed characters, creating a world where magical women and girl gangs are one in the same. With the onslaught of cosplayers creating their own takes on classic characters and pulling inspiration from fan redesigns, it’s not surprising that Tarr’s provocative style and whimsical aesthetic have caught the eye of stylish fans and inspired many cosplayers to incorporate her designs into their costumes. We spoke to Tarr about her work and about the cosplay that her work has inspired.
ComicsAlliance: Your art porfolio is absolutely stunning. What’s your background in art and design?
Babs Tarr: I have been drawing since I was a kid. When I found out there were such things as colleges for art I knew I would be okay! I studied Illustration at the Maryland Institute and College of Art and I often did oil portrait work in the summer time to save money for the school year. Currently, I work as a game artist full-time in San Francisco and I do freelance on the side.
CA: From where do you draw most of your inspiration for your work?
BT: I draw my inspiration from all kinds of things — images, movies, fashion, anime, life experiences, and even other illustrators!
CA: What projects are you currently working on?
BT: I am currently working on an Adventure Time comic book cover, some character design and concept for another comic story, Cowboy Bebop zine, Fight zine, a video game/rockabilly pin-up themed project with some cosplay friends, some Hasbro toy concepts and I starting to prepare for Emerald City Comicon that is at the end of March in Seattle.
CA: One of my favorite things about your work is how there’s a strong sense of style and design used in a lot of your pieces, especially with the character redesigns. Do you ever channel certain fashion designers or specific clothing styles in your pieces?
BT: I definitely have my own taste in what’s cool and that’s what I try to incorporate in my characters, redesigned or not. I look up to tough ladies. I look up to ladies with tattoos and with half shaved heads and I love ladies with vibrant artificial hair colors! I make sure to capture that strength and fierceness in my drawings. I believe it takes confidence and strength to pull of such looks and I think that one of the reason people are drawn to my characters. Certain designers’ lines inspire me because they touch on something close to my heart, for example motorcycle jackets, spikes, graphic tees, ’90s grunge, neons, metallics, plaid, etc. It’s very much a mix of nostalgia and a wistfulness to express a more badass version of myself.
CA: Many of your redesigns have inspired cosplayers to channel your artwork, especially the Bosozoku Sailor Scouts. As an artist, how does it feel to see your designs incarnated into cosplay?
BT: I never expected cosplayers to dress up as my redesigns, not in a thousand years. It feels pretty f***ing amazing to have something you drew be created in the real world, especially by inspired fans. It’s happening so often now, I feel like I have a sort of MIDAS TOUCH of cosplay, haha! I love it! Just goes to show you how a lot of the superhero designs that exist today could use some extra styling. I am truly flattered that anyone would be so inspired by anything I’ve drawn that they would work so hard to make it real. My mom recently passed away but I got to show her most of the cosplays from this past year and she just really got such a kick of out it. That was amazing, and to each and every one of the girls that’s dressed up, from the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you!
CA: Which fictional character(s) are in dire need of a makeover?
BT: Next on my list of designs might be the Disney Princesses! They are so blank and sugary — I would love to give them some personality and sass! As a subject, I know they are so overdone, but I think I could do them in a way that was cool and stylish that no one hasn’t seen yet. Also on my radar is the outer Sailor Scouts, Batgirl, Storm, and any other fun suggestions people might give me!
WANT TO CONTRIBUTE?
Do you have a stellar cosplay that you would like to submit for Best Cosplay Ever (This Week)? If so, please submit your cosplay photos HERE (or email fashiontipsfromcomicstrips[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject line “Best Cosplay Ever”). Don’t forget to include cosplayer and photographer credit and links!