If you’ve ever seen a convention goer with a sign that says ‘cosplay medic’ or ‘cosplay repairs’, then you have seen a con medic at work. Russell Thorne is one such cosplay medic, and he’s been a part of a growing presence at DragonCon, the Southeast’s largest fan convention, where he and his fellow cosplay medics help stitch, sew, and solder cosplays back together to get the cosplayers back out on the con floor and having fun again.
“Some people will call [our work] cosplay medics.” Russell said. “Some people will try to get away from the medic term because we don’t we don’t provide medical services. We are not the guys to come to if you’re suffering from heat stroke or something. If you’ve ever seen Red Vs Blue, one of the characters has a line where he says, “I’m not a doctor. Doctor’s heal people. Medics just make you more comfortable while you die.” And so I’ve always liked the medic term because I’m not here to fix your costume permanently. I’m here to get you through the convention.“
Thorne began his stint as a cosplay medic about five years ago.
Thorne stated, “Every medic you talk to is going to give you the same response for how they started, and it’s usually something along the lines of I had a simple first aid kit for myself or my friends. In my case, I was following around my girlfriend at the time, who had a symbol for a first aid kit for herself and her friends. And she just started doing it for other people.”
Cosplay medics have become increasingly prevalent over the past few years, and Thorne said it’s really expanded since he started just a few years back.
Thorne recalled, “Back in 2018, even at big conventions like DragonCon there were only about three of us that we ran into in total. We started talking to people who are in the same fandom, and we were talking like “Hey, what do you do? What’s in your backpack? How do you fix this?” And we realized that we could build a community of cosplay medics. We could just run with that and say “Let’s stay in touch, and let’s just kind of talk about what works and what doesn’t work.”
Thorne and his girlfriend at the time realized there was an opportunity to network outside of the conventions too online even after the con itself was over.
Thorne said, “I’ve never been the kind of guy to do anything by half measures, so we went home and we talked about it and we set up a Facebook page. We invited the three people that we knew, and we invited some other people that were like, “hey, maybe I’ll give this thing a shot.” The next year, 2019, we had 5 people, but before Dragon Con last year, we jumped into all of the Dragon Con official and unofficial and group photo shoots and all the [related] groups and we said, “hey, this is a link to our Facebook page. Come check if you if you need us.”
Thorne and his fellow medics post took off, and their services were in need more than ever at DragonCon.
“It exploded,” Thorne remarked. “At DragonCon last year each medic averaged around 150 to 200 fixes [through the con].”
Even with the passion Thorne and his fellow medics put into their work, of course they need breaks too and that can be a bit of a balancing act.
“We all do this because we like helping people,” Thorne emphasized. “There’s this moment you have where if you’re the only cosplay medic out there you feel a little guilty wanting to go sit in that panel that you wanted to see. You feel a little guilty enjoying this convention you paid to be at, because if you’re not out there on the convention floor with your kit then who’s fixing those cosplays? What if a cosplay gets broken and they can’t find you? So you feel a little bit like you let them down. You feel like you let yourself down. But with this whole community we have somebody who can come up to me and say “hey, my wiring is just destroyed. Do you have a soldering gun?” And I’m not good with electronics. That is a shortcoming in my skill set, but I don’t have to feel bad. I can pull out my phone, go into the Discord server, and go, “hey, Paige, are you around? I know you have a soldering gun.” And I’ll send that cosplayer to them and say “hey, I don’t have the I don’t have the solution and I don’t have the skills nor the tools, but here’s a person who does.” If it’s a minor fix, and the cosplayer can move, I’ll say “They’re over in the Marriott. This is where you’ll find them. This is what they look like. This is their [cosplay medic] flag.”
(photo: Uniquely Similar Photography )
Thorne and his group have become an incredible asset for cosplayers at DragonCon, but they’ve decided to remain independent from the organizing structure of the con itself.
Thorne mentioned, “First off there’s the liability issue of [being] an official part of Dragon Con where if I accidentally hit you with my hot glue gun now somebody official [burnt an attendee]. At the same time, when we hit that point of being an official part of the convention, that’s when schedules come into play. People have to be at a certain place at a certain time. And like I said, one of the most freeing parts about this is there are other people backing you up. If you want to go to a panel at this time, just post in the Discord. “Hey, hopping out of my kit.” Go to your panel, go to your event, and go to your party. I do a lot of stuff with the alternate history track, and I’m on panels. Talking about pirates. And so I won’t even be in kits. I’ll be dressed up like a pirate all day. I’ve got a light kit that I carry with me at all times, but some people are insane. Jordan is the most insane of us. That boy wakes up at 8 a.m. in the morning and is usually out until three or four at night. Always with a kit the entire time. He is the first one to post that he is going out and kit, and he is the last one to post that he is turning in for the night. I do not know how he does it. I do not know what energy drinks he’s on. I can not physically do that. That is not me. There are some people who will do the 8 to four 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. shift. I’m typically a morning guy. I’ll wake up at like 9, get my breakfast and then walk out there.”
Thorne and his fellow medics make sure to find time to bond as well, as their shared purpose has helped them develop camaraderie and friendship between the cosplay medic team.
“We do a group photo shoot Sunday at the end of the convention,” Thorne said. “It’s kind of our little meet and greet. We usually hang out for an hour, and then we all go out for ice cream. Because if you needed any more evidence that we’re one of the most wholesome groups you’ll find in the convention we all go out for ice cream.”
When asked what was a particularly memorable story that either he or other medics had shared, Thorne relayed a story he heard from two of the newer medics to come aboard.
Thorne replied, “It’s a funny story, but it gets back to why some of us are trying to get away from the medic term. So one of our newer medics, Rob and Jen, who are a husband and wife team, had been trying to get to DragonCon for the last 20 years and they finally got to go to their first Dragon Con last year. They decided they were going to cosplay medics for the entire weekend which is wild. Can you imagine trying to get to this con for 20 years and rather than see a whole bunch of it you want to immediately try to help everybody out during it? It’s amazing that helping as a cosplay medic was their choice for their very first convention.