Cosplayers portraying comic book, Star Wars, Disney and video game characters stride through Portland's Monument Square on Sunday, April 10, 2022. The group is looking forward to the two-day Maine Cosplay Extravaganza at the end of the month. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — The caped crusaders stepped out of the shadows in the narrow, graffiti-marked alley, into the sunlight on the busy Old Port sidewalk. Pedestrians did double takes, their hands instinctively groping pockets in search of camera phones.

A woman sipping drinks with friends at a curbside patio blurted out her surprise. 

“Holy f—, it’s Batman,” she said. “Can I take your picture?”

“Of course,” said the tall man in the imposing, pointy-eared costume.

He struck a crime-fighting pose with his partner, an equally well-costumed Batgirl. A light breeze ruffled their capes in dramatic fashion while camera shutters clicked. Their pictures done, the pair then strode off together, up Exchange Street, toward Tommy’s Park.

Cosplaying couple Keith (left) and Mollie Dinsmore strike poses as Batman and Batgirl for diners in Portland’s Old Port on Sunday, April 10, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The stunned reactions, smiles and photo opps are all in a day’s work for Keith and Mollie Dinsmore of Limerick. The married couple are veteran cosplayers who thrive on the attention they get, walking around in full superhero costume.

Now, after a year of planning, the Dinsmore’s are about to unleash the inaugural Maine Cosplay Extravaganza on April 30 and May 1 at Thompson’s Point. The two-day spectacular is set to be the state’s first convention dedicated to the art of cosplay. Past comic book and science fiction celebrations have featured cosplay as a sideline but never made it the main course before now.

Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as characters from movies, comic books or video games.

The Dinsmores enjoy cosplay so much, they often travel hundreds — or even thousands of miles — to cosplaying conventions around the country. Last year, coming home tired from one such gathering, they got the idea for the Extravaganza.

The Dinsmores are expecting the event to draw thousands. It will feature food trucks, a beer garden, live bands and — of course — costume contests. Also on hand will be ultra-realistic replicas of the 1960s Batmobile, Ghostbusters ambulance, a handicap-accessible version of the Doctor Who TARDIS and the Joker’s Crown Victoria.

To learn more about the local cosplay scene, we met up with a group of Maine cosplayers in downtown Portland on Sunday.

Keith and Mollie Dinsmore, Batman and Batgirl

Mollie (left) and Keith Dinsmore look prepared to fight crime as Batgirl and Batman in a Portland alley on Sunday, April 10, 2022. The married couple are the organizers behind the Maine Cosplay Extravaganza taking place on Thompson’s Point at the end of the month. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Q: Were you both cosplayers before you met?

Keith: I was a cosplayer well before her, as far back as 2013. That’s when I spent a little too much on my Batman Halloween costume — about $2,000 — and had to get some more use out of it. That’s how it all started. I decided I would just start wearing it out in the Old Port when the bars were closing. After the first time, I felt like a legit celebrity and decided I would continue to do it. 

Mollie: We met on a dating site and it turned out I had already met him as Batman but didn’t know it. And one night he asked me if I wanted to go out with him as Batman and I put together a very simple Batgirl outfit with a symbol on my chest and a filigree mask. 

Q: And it just clicked for you both?

Mollie: I’m what they call an extra-extrovert. I love the attention. The more, the better. 

Q: That’s awesome. I see your child and grandchild are here as well.

Mollie: We become a family, doing what we do — along with all these people we’ve met doing this. They’ve also become our family. Some people tell us they’d feel weird doing this. [We tell them] don’t feel weird. Never feel weird. It’s so much fun to be a nerd or a geek. We rule the world. 

Scotty Grass, Ghost Rider

Cosplayer Scotty Grass strikes a pose as Marvel comic book character Ghost Rider on Exchange Street in Portland on Sunday, April 10, 2022. Grass designed and created his mask at home using a 3D printer. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Q: What made you pick this hell-cursed, motorcycle-riding Marvel Comics character today?

A: I’ve been a fan for 30 years. I always like the anti-hero, vigilante characters. I’m debuting this one today. It’s my first time wearing it.

Q: How does it feel?

A: It’s warm. 

Q: Looks like it’s on fire, actually.

A: Ha. You’re right. I used my own 3D printers to make this. It took about two weeks. 

Q: What possesses a grown man, like yourself, to dress up like this, in public?

A: It’s a good time. It’s so much fun — and you don’t have to wait till the 31st of October to do this. You can do it any time of the year — and you don’t have to be a superhero. The sky’s the limit.

Katherine Sinhawk, Maleficent

Dressed as the Dark Disney character Maleficent, Katherine Sinhawk looks skyward in Tommy’s Park in Portland’s Old Port on Sunday, April 10, 2022. Sinhawk plans on taking part in the first Maine Cosplay Extravaganza at the end of the month on Thompson’s Point. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Q: Why are you portraying this rather evil character?

A: She is my alter ego. She’s mysterious and likes to cause trouble. 

Q: You’ve got a dark side?

A: Doesn’t every female? When you put a costume on, it changes your personality. You’re more outgoing, willing to talk to people. When kids recognize your character and get excited, you get excited as well. It’s a lot of fun.

Q: It’s a kind of performance, then? You probably don’t dress like this at home?

A: It is and I don’t. I’m a mom. I have two kids that are 12 and 16. I work full time and take care of a husband on disability. To be able to step outside that realm and be an evil fairy, glaring at people, is fun. 

Ryan Robb, The Mandalorian

Ryan Robb stands at the corner of Exchange and Middle Streets in Portland on Sunday, April 10, 2022, dressed as The Mandalorian, a character from the Star Wars franchise. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Q: Why The Mandalorian and not Boba Fett?

A: This character means a lot to me, personally, because he’s a dad figure. The show meant a lot to me when I watched it with my kids. I’ve got a younger daughter and it’s like she’s the Baby Yoda. The whole thing just hit home with me, the way he jumped into parenting. I’ve even written some songs that go with this character, too.

Q: Is cosplay getting bigger?

A: Yes. As COVID shut things down for a while people really went back to their comfort entertainments and this just shows that, young or old, everyone has a kid in them. They still love good vs. evil stories. 

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity. The Maine Cosplay Extravaganza runs April 30 and May 1 on Thompson’s Point in Portland. 

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.