On Cosplay, Fangirls, And Being Internet Famous: An Interview With Harley’s Joker
Like many of us, I am usually on the tail end of things that become internet famous — I just realized that cats doing funny stuff was a thing about two weeks ago. However, with Anthony Misiano (more commonly known in feverish internet fangirl circles as Harley’s Joker), I was right on the cutting edge. I am a Tumblr user, you see, and thus everything that has to do with inappropriate levels of fandom worship filters through us before they make a stop anywhere else. GIFs and imagesets of Harley’s Joker were popping up all over my dashboard before I even realized that he indeed had a Facebook fan page, a sizable following, and a pretty interesting story outside of all the makeup and eyebrow-raising. I recently sat down with Anthony (clad in a Hawaiian shirt and ready to recommend a veritable library of Jeff Goldblum movies to me) to find out more about what it’s been like to be internet famous.
TC: So, are you a serial cosplayer? Has that always been your thing?
Anthony Misiano: No. I’d never really cosplayed, outside of dressing up for Halloween. But I always got really into Halloween. I would always start planning and preparing for my costume in, like July — or sooner. But actually dressing up and going to conventions was never a big thing for me.
TC: So, what, did someone just tell you “Hey, you look like the Joker!”?
AM: [Laughs] I was trying to make a friend laugh, actually, years and years ago. And I made the top half of my face look angry, arching my eyebrows, and the bottom half be happy. And I looked at myself doing this in the mirror and thought, “Oh, my God. I look like the Joker.” And that was the first thing I thought — I don’t look like Jack Nicholson, I don’t look like Heath Ledger. I actually look like him, the character from the comic books, you know? And so it’s been in the back of my brain for the better part of a decade, just like, “I have to pull this off some day.”
TC: I can’t imagine that the first incarnation of your costume was so well put together.
AM: That would be the second incarnation. The first was in 2004, and I looked like a kid. I was so much younger –
TC: How old are you now?
AM: I am 27.
TC: So what did the first costume consist of?
AM: The makeup was still decent, and the costume was… it was… much more on par with a costume shop costume. It was a lot of velcro, cost like 60 bucks, pretty poorly made. I knew nothing about making costumes at that point. But what really changed, for Halloween in 2011, I thought “I want to do the Joker again, but I really want to go all out this time.” And I had made a film, Moonflower (it’s sort of my baby), and I ended up taking on a lot of the costume responsibility. So I learned a lot about how to make clothes look good on camera. You learn a lot about texture, decay, weathering, and so forth. All the things that make it very tactile. That’s why, when you watch any good superhero movie, they’re not wearing shiny spandex, because that would look really fucking stupid on a movie screen.
TC: So how did the following start to develop?
AM: Well, I went to a smaller Con this past March, WonderCon, and my costume got picked up by a few blogs and I got about, say, 30 or 40 new Facebook friends and I was like, wow, this is pretty cool. So I decided that for ComicCon in July, I was really going to go all out with the costume. And I was expecting maybe twice the initial response, you know, maybe 60 or so new Facebook friends. Not 20-some thousand, essentially overnight. So it was really unexpected. It just sort of happened from being picked up by blogs and Reddit and Tumblr and everywhere else.
TC: And now you’re internet famous. But you also have a regular job — what is that? What does your life consist of?
AM: Well, I have a pretty regular, 5-day-a-week job managing a few shops. It’s low-end management, so it’s lots of work for not a lot of pay. I’m at the bottom of that totem pole.
TC: And what do they think of all of this?
AM: Oh, they don’t know.
AM: No. I think it’s best that way, frankly.
TC: And as far as acting?
AM: When I’m not at work, I try to be as creative as I can. I’m an actor, of course, although right now I’m not working on anything outside of my own endeavors, though I am going to be working with a friend soon on a performance art piece. I am working on another costume, too, actually — a Harley costume, for my girlfriend.
TC: Wow, that must be a lot of pressure.
AM: We’re taking our time, finding the right materials, seeing what works and what doesn’t. There’s no rush there, you know.
TC: I remember you had to write this long message on your Facebook page to essentially leave your girlfriend alone… what brought that on?
AM: Well, you know, I don’t mind the flattery or the “exploding ovaries” comments, but when you’re doing things like saying, “He’s so sexy, I want to kill his girlfriend,” or trying to find her and making nasty comments about her, it’s like “Okay, tone it the fuck down, I’m a guy who wears makeup on the internet. It isn’t that big of a deal.” It crosses a definite line. And for me, it’s always been important that this never interfere with my personal life, ever. Because that’s what’s important. I enjoy what I do, but it’s not worth my personal life.
TC: Have you ever Tumblr’d yourself?
AM: [Hesitates] Once or twice.
AM: [Laughs] Yeah. Most of my Facebook traffic has actually been thanks to Tumblr, so I just kind of let Tumblr do its thing, you know? Fangirl out, be weird, whatever it wants to do. It’s harmless.
TC: Oh, come on, that has to be a weird feeling — you look on Tumblr and see these hordes of girls absolutely losing their minds, writing all these ridiculous sexual things about you. Come on.
AM: It’s weird because, for the last 27 years, I’ve known better. I’ve been in this skin and not been found attractive by the opposite gender. I know the truth of it. It’s like celebrities where it’s like, “That person is not good looking. Why do people love them?” It’s because they see their photo everywhere and it just has this effect on people.
TC: Do you really think that’s it? Because I think it’s way more about projecting their feelings about the Joker character onto you.
AM: That, too! But again, I’m completely aware of it. I’m not ego-tripping off of it. It’s not hard for me to let go of. It’s amusing while it’s in front of me, but then I click another tab on my browser, and it’s over. Because it’s not real fame. It’s not like I go to the grocery store and people are falling all over themselves.
TC: At the same time, I’m pretty familiar with the Tumblr niche, and I feel like the whole “comic book/cosplay/anime/Con”-group is particularly rabid when it comes to their fandoms.
AM: They are, but it’s only with a keyboard. In real life, they’re really timid and nice, usually. But you put them behind a keyboard and give them a little anonymity, and they lose their minds. That’s why 4Chan is such a cess pool of evil, because it’s complete anonymity.
TC: So has all of this led to any acting work?
AM: Nope. Not at all.
TC: Wow! That’s surprising.
AM: This isn’t real fame. Internet fame isn’t real fame in the way we think of fame.
TC: But still, there’s a difference between having a viral YouTube video over a funny accident and having a cultivated following about a specific creative skill.
AM: True. But it’s also on a relatively small scale, and I haven’t been doing it all that long. I have a lot more I want to do, a lot more that I want to try, and I’m not rushing it.
TC: Will you be coming out to the East Coast any time soon?
AM: There are a lot of expenses involved in that, so I’m not sure about doing Cons over there yet.
TC: What about starting a Kickstarter?
AM: [Laughs] I’m not really into the whole idea of begging people for money online to send me to New York to go hang out for a while. I don’t like the idea of asking for money for free. If my work takes me there, that’s one thing, but I’m not looking to start internet-begging just yet.
TC: So Los Angeles it is for now?
AM: For now.
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I had a number of other essays I wanted to write tonight. There were other topics that deserved attention, essays I humbly felt might shed light on the human condition, on the difficulties and odd experiences we all deal with on a daily basis. But here I am, writing a defense of pubic hair.
6. The Usual Suspects
When your audience is this big, how can you really “know” it?
Metaphorically or literally, you will be hungry. Hungry for something to do, somewhere to go, some point to getting up in the morning.