Behind the mask: Local cosplayers live superhero dreams
Over the past few years superheroes have dominated the box office. There have been too many comic related movies to name. With the rising popularity of comic book characters both on screen and off, a new sub-culture known as Cosplay has emerged.
Cosplay is, in the broadest sense, costumed role play in venues or events apart from the stage. In a literal sense, cosplay is the combination of the words "costume" and "play." Cosplayers dress up in custom costumes as their favorite characters, generally from comics, video games, television series, and especially movies.
Often times, cosplayers attend comic book conventions, charity based events, or social gatherings.
For one Bell Buckle native, cosplay has given him a sense of community and purpose.
Adam Prince, a painter and former Bell Buckle volunteer firefighter, is known as Nashville's Dark Knight. This is the result of the countless cosplay and social events he has attended dressed as comic book favorite, Batman. Since an early age, Batman has had a tremendous impact on Prince.
"I was six years old when I was first introduced to Batman," noted Prince. "When the 1989 Batman movie hit theaters I started collecting Batman memorabilia the moment the toys hit the shelves."
The collection has grown ever since. Prince has an entire walk-in closet dedicated to housing all his different collectibles and costumes--of which Prince now has several outfits to choose from.
"I have seven suits as of right now, but my favorite is the Universal Designs Replica, The Dark Knight," noted Prince, "It serves as a motorcycle suit when I'm not at a comic-convention or random event. The look alone when people see Batman drive past them on a motorcycle is priceless."
The random events Prince is referring to are the numerous charity events and fundraisers that he has attended as Batman. While he has taken part in several events for children such as the "I Am What I Am" autism benefit in Shelbyville and an event for the Make-A-Wish foundation, one particular moment stands out.
"I went to Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital to see a little boy after he got out of a pretty invasive surgery. It was all I could do not to cry behind the cowl," noted Prince, "The little guy had been through so much and he was still hanging in there. He was happy to see his hero come see him."
For Prince, donning the Batman cape is about more than just going out and having fun, it is also about helping people -- and this is something he learned directly from the character of Batman. When asked why he is so passionate about Batman, Prince is quick to respond.
"Despite that Bruce Wayne [Batman's secret identity] is a man with no powers, he spent his whole life dedicating his body, mind, and his wealth to protecting others. He never gives up. In my own personal times of need I've often thought WWBD? (What would Batman Do?)." said Prince. "To this day I try to give back to others when I can by doing charity events or visiting hospitals dressed as Batman. To see a kid's eyes light up makes me feel that maybe I can help make an impact on that kid and they too will find the strength to keep moving forward."
As well as using his role as Batman to help others, Prince has an active role in the Dark Knight News Site--a fan-based website that strives to keep people up to date on all things related to Batman.
"I have been with the Dark Knight News for four years now. I'm one of the many writers for the website as well as the mascot, some would say."
As many Superheroes have a trusty sidekick, so does Prince. His wife, Shannon Prince, has been right by his side at every event, also dressed up as some of her favorite characters.
"Shannon has been a great aport about it all because she was a Batman fan before she married me," noted Prince, "She dresses up as well and does the same things I do. It's awesome!"
Though fans of comic books, their love story is something more akin to a fairy tale. In 2003 Prince attended a Christmas event with a girl he had been dating for a couple of months. It was at this party that Prince was first introduced to Shannon, his then future wife.
"Shannon was showing me around her parents' and I saw a Batman Forever poster on her wall, along with other geeky things," said Prince, "She had my interest and I knew there was something special about her, but when I saw the poster she had my interest even more."
Not long after that, Prince's relationship with his current girlfriend ended and he knew he had to find the girl with the Batman poster. Prince tried to find her on Facebook and other websites, only to no avail. Prince even drove to the house where he and Shannon first met, only to find it empty. She had moved. Two years of searching later and Prince had almost given up.
"After my search, I thought that I was meant to be alone like Bruce Wayne--as funny as that sounds," said Prince, "Then, one day, Feb. 21, 2011 to be exact, she randomly messaged me on Facebook. We chatted and met up the following day after church for a lunch date and from that day on we haven't left each other's side."
When Prince isn't decked out in pointy ears and flowing capes, Prince and his wife enjoy their downtime by motorcycle riding, shooting at the firing range, hiking, hunting, and hanging out with friends.