Why this 62-year-old grandfather is an advocate for cosplay

From Dragon Con to Comic Expo

BATAVIA, Ohio -- After a long career in corporate sales management, Tony Cioffi never thought he'd be spending his days in retirement wearing costumes.

The Batavia resident grew up reading classic 1960s science fiction and comics, watching "Star Trek" on TV, as well as all of the "Planet of the Apes" movies, along with "2001: A Space Odyssey." But the majority of this sci-fi fan's life was spent at "boring corporate type jobs."

Over the decades, he continued to consume science fiction series and fantasy literature, later sharing that passion with his children. From "Lord of the Rings" and other Tolkien works to the obscure titles he'd read as a kid himself.

VIDEO: Tony Cioffi talks about why he does cosplay | Watch below

 

 

 

It wasn't until 2008 that Cioffi attended his first science fiction convention and discovered cosplay -- the act or hobby of dressing up like a character from a book, comic, TV show, anime or movie.

During that time he was reading a series called "Wheel of Time" with his kids when they first heard about the Atlanta expo Dragon Con and knew they had to check it out.

"I wasn't aware of cosplay or what that was, but when you saw the quality of some of the costumes they were movie quality and that was intriguing to me," Cioffi said.

He was hooked.

As convention novices, Cioffi and his family didn't dress up the first year, but over the past decade they have made up for it by attending a range of expos, including the Cincinnati Comic Expo, Jordan Con and Dragon Con in full costume every year since.

And with each passing year, their costumes get more complex.

Tony Cioffi in his cosplay workshop. Emily Maxwell | WCPO

"One of the fun things is to be something very obscure and have someone recognize it," Cioffi said. "Even if it's just a few people in the convention."

While cosplay isn't a traditional outlet for most retired corporate professionals, Cioffi says he's a perfect candidate because he has the time and passion. He transformed his basement into a cosplay workshop, Cosmo's Factory, where he stores and constructs costumes. While not a cosplayer herself, his wife also helps with the majority of his projects.

Cioffi is also a member of ORCs, Ohio River Valley Cosplayers and Prop Builders, where he's found a community of local cosplayers. They also do several charities events and fundraisers throughout the year. 

The 62-year-old grandfather says he's gotten flack over the years for his hobby from friends and family, but after a spending decades as a diehard sci-fi fan, he frankly doesn't care.

Tony Cioffi makes all of his own costumes from a workshop in his basement. Emily Maxwell | WCPO

"There are people who think, 'This guy is a nut,' but it doesn't bother me. You don't do cosplay for other people, you do cosplay for yourself," he said. "I think it's good for people. You get to let loose and explore parts of yourself that you didn't know were there."

In addition to the community he's found through cosplay, Cioffi hopes to open people's minds to science fiction and fantasy and the important roles it has historically played in our culture, particularly the freedom to explore taboo topics in society.

"In the '50s and '60s there was a lot of racial tension and authors could explore the topics in society that polite people didn't talk about. 'Star Trek' was remarkable at that," Cioffi said. "That's the cool thing about sci-fi. You could get a message to people and address a lot of problems in our society that needed to be addressed."

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