Superheroes, villains descend on Portland for first Maine Cosplay Extravaganza

From Batman and Batgirl to Dr. Doom and the Joker, superheroes and villains swooped into Portland this weekend – with loads of elaborate accessories – for the Maine Cosplay Extravaganza at Thompson’s Point.

Cosplay is the practice of dressing up and playing fantasy characters, which has grown in popularity since the 1990s. Participants often become heroes or villains to raise smiles and support for charity.

The event’s organizers, husband and wife Keith and Mollie Dinsmore of Limerick, played Batman and Batgirl. Their costumes looked like they could be straight off a Hollywood set.

The Dinsmores said they were drawn to the strength of Batgirl and the character of Batman, who was orphaned as a boy and suffered pain growing up.

“I had a rather tough childhood (too),” said Keith Dinsmore.

He started out getting “a really, really good costume,” and played Batman walking around the Old Port as the bars closed. “We figured we’d get the most reaction there,” he said. “We were right.”

The couple have appeared regularly at birthday parties and charity events since 2013, but also don costumes to support causes like “Aiming for Zero,” which works to prevent suicide among military veterans.

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Cosplay’s growing popularity prompted the Dinsmores to organize the event. They were pleased with the turnout, estimated at 1,000 participants and spectators over two days.

Among them was Jeno Bianchi of South Berwick, a Ghostbuster. He wore the familiar tan Ghostbuster uniform complete with gadgets, like a “neutrona wand” that Bianchi designed with a 3-D printer. “Ghostbusters is one of the first big things I grew up with, Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles. It just stuck with me,” he said. “One day I found out I could be a Ghostbuster, and there I am.”

Markus Steelgrave laughs while doing magic tricks for a group of young girls at the Maine Cosplay Extravaganza, a two-day event at Thompson’s Point. From left to right, Zayn Albert, 14, of Portland; Ashton Sylvain, 13, of Portland; Drew Weaver, 12, of North Yarmouth; and Dev Perrin, 13, of North Yarmouth. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

When Bianchi isn’t a Ghostbuster, “I’m a teacher. I teach science. Very fitting, right,” he said with a laugh.

With him was Dr. Doom, a villain from the world of Spider-Man, played by Lisa Speropolous of Lee, NH

Dr. Doom is a man, but I put my own spin on it,” said Speropolous, a college professor at the Southern New Hampshire University. “I teach justice studies,” she said, smiling about the fact she plays a villain.

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Amanda Walker of South Paris came as Wonder Woman, complete with the suit, cuffs, tiara and boots.

Her brother, Dustin Holmes of South Paris, was Spider-Man. He set up in the convention hall with his Honda sedan covered in flashy red and blue Spider-Man colors with a black spider on the hood and “SPID3Y” on the license plate. “Spiderman is one of my favorite superheroes,” Holmes said. “This is my everyday vehicle,” except for the winter.

When asked for a photo, Holmes crouched down, just like Spider-Man.

Mollie and Keith Dinsmore as Batgirl and Batman. The couple organized Maine Cosplay Extravaganza. Photo by Steven Palmer

Walker and Holmes are part of HONOR, Heroes of Norway/Oxford Regions, whose members help raise money for charities with their hero appearances.

Chris Robley of Lewiston, a marketer for a music distributor, attended with his 9-year-old daughter, Esme. He was the Joker, she was Harley Quinn, the Joker’s sidekick. “It’s fun dressing up,” said the fourth grader.

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Close by was a Dr. Who fan group from the Lewiston-Auburn area.

Dr. Who was Bud Santos, who used to run a toy store in the Auburn Mall. Santos showed off what looks like a blue, British police box, a bit bigger than a phone booth.

“I built it,” Santos said. “This is the only TARDIS that is handicapped equipped,” he said, showing a ramp behind the box allowing wheelchairs to enter. “The TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimensions in Space,” he said, explaining how Dr. Who travels in time.

The event also attracted a group of professional cosplay actors from Quebec, ranging in age from 9 to 69. They said they have fun, and that when they get into costumes they become a bit like the characters. An introvert can become more animated, people who slouch stand up tall like a superhero.

For Dinsmore, the event’s organizer, putting on his Batman suit means “my voice automatically drops an octave,” he said. But he doesn’t capture all of the behavior.

Batman broods and never smiles. Dinsmore said he is a Batman who smiles.

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