Chances are that you haven’t heard about a brilliant little web comic called Romantically Apocalyptic. And for that I can honestly say I feel sorry for you. At the same time, however, I don’t. The comic is fucking weird. I think it’s brilliant but it is a confusing, complicated story.
Alright. Let’s start at the beginning. Romantically Apocalyptic is a post-apocalyptic web comic that was created by Vitaly S. Alexius. Alexius is a Russian immigrant to Canada and he is also an urban photographer. His work is a combination of photography and digital manipulation with a focus on run down, abandoned buildings. As you can imagine, his style has incredible visual power. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is stunning to look at. I would often see Alexius’s work pop up on the main page on deviantart.com but I was not a follower at the time. In fact, Alexius was at Anime North in 2010, the same time I was, and my friends and I walked right by his table. We recognised the work but not enough to care.
Around the time of that 2010 trip Alexius already had the concept for Romantically Apocalyptic. He had already started posting the comics to his deviantart page (the first comic was June 9, 2009 as seen by the time stamp here). Now there’s 234 pages- not counting all the pages that have parts a, b, etc.- over a six year period. It’s been slow going but that’s because the amount of work that goes into it is amazing. Because of the long process I actually started reading the comic itself fairly early despite the fact that it had been on deviantart for a couple of years.
So what is Romantically Apocalyptic (Or Romac as I will be calling it from now on)? The story takes place in a distant future from now. The world has been over polluted to the point that most of the planet seems to be dead. There are weird mutants in the wastelands and the people of the future like to take tours into the ruined remains of our world. The cities are pinnacles of technological innovation and people are mentally connected to the internet 24/7 through a powerful search engine called ANNET. Except a crazy being called Zee Captain spilled tea on ANNET and she went haywire, killing many people. Her creator, Dr. Alexander Gromov, ordered a nuclear strike and thus finished destroying what was left of life on the planet earth.
Romac takes place after all of that went down. The story itself follows four survivors as they attempt to live in a world with no other humans, no food expect for what they can find in cans and weird mutant worms roaming the land. The main character seems to be former tour guide Charles Snippy who has the worst luck in the world. He has found himself to be the friend/minion/follower of Zee Captain. Snippy’s fellow minions include a murderous, Captain-worshipping and mentally ill man called Pilot and a clumsy, cowardly man called Engie (short for Engineer). The comic started out in a one-shot, episodic formula but a complicated story involving aliens, evil machines and general mayhem soon evolved. I won’t give much else away. It’s a hilarious, often times heart breaking story that everyone should check out.
Snippy appeals to me the most because we’ve all been him at some point. He’s normal, cynical guy who used to work in a dead end, minimum wage job that didn’t pay enough to cover the cost of living. Yet he is a genuinely kind person who is just having the worse day ever. Unfortunately, his worse day ever is pretty much every day of his entire life. The things that happen to him can be quite fantastical and yet who hasn’t been in his shoes? Everyone has had a horrible day. And, like everyone ever, Snippy sometimes gives in. He just accepts that the world is crazy and his life sucks. But he still keeps going despite all of this. Snippy is going to make it through the apocalypse or die trying.
Actually, I think Snippy will make it through the apocalypse even if he is dead.
I adore angst and making good characters suffer. I’ve mentioned before that I am fascinated by mental health issues and what makes one person keep going while another falls apart. Snippy therefore is fascinating to me because he is a sane man who should have gone insane long before the apocalypse even happened. I think Snippy appeals to other people because he doesn’t give up. He’s inspirational in his tenacity.
It doesn’t hurt that he has the most incredible baby blues in the history of fictional characters.
The character design is another reason why Romac characters are so much fun. As they live in a nuclear winter, all the cast wear protective goggles, respirators/gas masks and winter coats. Captain’s face has never been revealed and Snippy, Pilot and Engie have never had full on facial shots. Snippy in particular stands out to me because he’s in an asymmetrical black and white jacket.
I think another reason why Snippy and Romac as a whole stands out to me is due to the fact that there’s a lot of interaction in the fan community. My fanfictions with the most feedback are Romac stories. My Romac cosplay photos are always reblogged on tumblr. It’s a small community so it’s not like there’s oodles of feedback but what fans there are love to communicate with each other. Romac fans love other Romac fans. We’re like a cult. The cult of lemonade (yeah, that’s an inside reference for all the Romac fans out there).
The biggest upside to a small fan community is hands down how accessible the creators of the source material are. If you post fan art on tumblr or deviantart then chances are Alexius or one of his team will either fave it, comment on it or post it onto Captain’s facebook page. His intern runs a Romac tumblr page. And you can meet him. I myself have met Alexius and his lovely wife Meeshka on multiple occasions. They travel to all sorts of conventions.
Alexius seems to be a quiet sort. He’s very gracious and seems to genuinely care about his fans. But it is Meeshka that draws you into conversation, pushes sales at their convention booths and generally lets you know that Alexius is at the con. Meeshka is a Canadian model and has been all of the main Romac characters. She has an incredible sales presence and would be perfect for a career in retail. And she is very verbal in her appreciation of anyone that shows up to the booth in Romac cosplay. I first met Meeshka at New York Comic Con in 2012 when I bought the first volume of Romac with a Canadian $20 and $25 USD. That amuses me for some reason. I was looking for American money when I pulled out a twenty dollar bill that was, for some reason, Canadian. I don’t even know why I was running around New York City with Canadian funds still in my wallet. But Meeshka was all “I’m Canadian!” so she took it anyway.
Now, I love Romac so of course I had to cosplay it at some point with the sole intent to meet Alexius. I hadn’t seen him at all at NYCC 2012 (and I had gone back to the booth the next day to buy volume two) but I knew that he would be at NYCC 2013. I pretty much demanded that Mad Maddox make me Snippy’s jacket.
I would have paid for it but she made it as a birthday gift. Hands down the best gift she has ever given me by the way. Then I was even more demanding that Mad and girlpuck dress up as Romac characters too. I should add that I did not force the girls into going back to New York for NYCC 2013 so I could attack Alexius in cosplay. We had already made the decision to go before then. We made girlpuck our Captain because she’s the tallest and I once saw in an on-line interview that Captain was always played by the tallest model. Mad went as Engie because his gear was easier to find then Pilot’s and also because we all loved that little Russian fucker. Anyway, in my demanding way, I made the decision that we had to go in Romac cosplay on the first day. Meeshka and Alexius loved it. And I got to meet Alexius for the first time! We actually made another person’s day too as a fellow fangirl was at the booth when we showed up. She got so excited and asked for hugs. I thought that she was way too happy to refuse so I said sure and gave her a hug. girlpuck practically tackled her. It was very in character for Captain. (As a side note, when girlpuck and I went back to the booth the next day in steampunk and told Meeshka who we were she was surprised. Apparently she had not known that those Romac cosplayers from the day before were girls. I don’t know how- we all have huge boobs and I’m all hip. But she told us we were pretty so it’s all good.)
I’d hunt down Meeshka and Alexius again in 2014 at Fan Expo Canada in Snippy cosplay. By that point I had a tradition of buying Romac merchandise every time I went to a convention.
Although the facial gear traps heat, Romantically Apocalyptic characters are so very fun to cosplay. I loved our group cosplay so much that I suggested a cosplay shoot. I think I was the one who suggested it anyhow. I am the one with the obsessive tendencies and I’m also the one who makes all the cosplay suggestions. Mad is more interested in the creative side of costume making as is girlpuck to a lesser extent. I’m the untalented spazz that comes up with the schemes and they execute the actual look. However, we all loved that photoshoot. We were up in trees, running around in the park and playing on a jungle gym. That shoot inspired other photoshoots including one where girlpuck’s boyfriend completed the foursome as our Pilot.
Charles Snippy took cosplay and fandom to the next level for me. I have never interacted with any other fandom’s fanfiction authors and I don’t write letters to the creators of the source materials I like. I have cosplayed multiple characters but no costume is as important to me as Snippy. I sometimes wear his jacket as my own regular, every day use jacket. I love how close the fandom is despite its size and I like that Alexius, Meeshka and other members of the Romac team are accessible. But most importantly, I’ve watched the comic change and grow over time. I’ve seen fan works be included in the canon story. Romantically Apocalyptic is simultaneously a fandom and a canon world that anyone can be a part of. Yeah, the story is sometimes confusing. But it’s so much fun in its confusion.
In the end, that’s how I really chose to cosplay Charles Snippy.