Join Ardella (our #TPToA host Rebecca Borkman) and her Ineffable Wife Echoing Artemis as they use the power of cosplay to sabotage the End Times (in seven chapters)
Chapter 1: My introduction to Armageddon
As far as Good Omens fans go, I’m among the newer devotees. Some have read the book religiously since it was released almost 30 years ago, toting around worn out, dog-eared paperbacks so rugged from repeated reading that only minor miracles and sticky tape hold them together at all.
My personal journey started a little over three years ago whilst travelling for work. I was assigned a twin room shared with someone named Melissa. Until then, we’d never even spoken to each other, but when she saw my copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods sitting on my bed she immediately launched into an enthusiastic elevator-pitch for her all-time favourite novel: a joint project between Neil and Terry Pratchett. A comedy about the end of the world.
I won’t turn this into a book review for Good Omens, but suffice it to say that within weeks my previous long-standing “favourite book of all time” had been unceremoniously booted from its top spot and replaced with this treasure. I went out and bought additional copies of Good Omens to share with friends. I listened to the radio play. I devoured fanart. I drew some of my own. I even created a costume based on the book before deciding no one would recognise it.
There were amazing artists and fan fiction authors already bolstering the comparatively small but overwhelmingly passionate fan community at the time. We enjoyed the occasional mentions of our favourite supernatural beings from Terry and Neil, clinging to their blog posts of new year’s resolutions and the idea that they’d gotten themselves a nice cottage in the South Downs. The followers of Good Omens were devout, the book a cult classic with many reading it at least once a year.
There had been talk of screen adaptations. Quite a few of them, in fact. None of them had come to fruition, though, and while many fans entertained themselves by putting together dream castings, most seemed resigned to the notion that it would never actually happen.
Then, in 2017, the news came: Good Omens was to be adapted into an Amazon Prime Video mini series. It was exciting, of course, but also concerning for a lot of fans who worried that the essence of the book they loved so dearly might be lost in translation. With Neil Gaiman at the helm as writer, executive producer and showrunner, though, there was hope that the story (as we knew and loved it) would make it to the screen.
I began handing out copies of the book to my colleagues in anticipation of a group viewing session after the series was released. As each one started to read it, another was told about it and came to me asking to borrow a copy as well. I ended up going out and buying additional copies to share so that as many people as possible could experience the world of Good Omens before the series hit Amazon Prime Video. In total, I now own seven copies of the book itself. It is still not enough.*
*These days, my Good Omens collection includes 7 copies of the book in various editions, the script book, the tv companion, the DVD and a reproduction of The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch created for me by Melissa. I also have a gallery worth of fan art prints, stickers, key chains, pins, jewellery and other assorted bibelots.
Chapter 2: The series is released
I was sent a screener of the first few episodes of the Good Omens series a couple of days ahead of its release on Amazon Prime Video. It took a lot of restraint, but I knew I couldn’t watch any of it without Melissa there with me. On the day it was released to the world she made a three-and-a-half hour journey to my house so that we could watch it together. We were excited. We were slightly nervous. We had planned to watch three episodes that night and finish the last three episodes the next morning. At 3am we finally went to bed having watched all six episodes in one sitting. It blew our expectations out of the water.
Very few elements from the book we loved had been removed. The adaptation had been handled with so much care it felt like a love letter to the late Terry Pratchett and the fans who had revered the book for so many years. Much of the script was word-for-word from the book, while the additions – characters, scenes, whole storylines – fit beautifully into the pre-existing universe. Far from detracting from the story, they helped to flesh out the world and add insight into the motivations of characters many had been craving more of for decades.
The following day, Melissa and I made no fewer than a dozen Good Omens cosplay plans and she headed back home. Both of us were a little concerned that the other person might not be quite as crazy obsessed scary passionate and would end up being frightened away by the enduring strength of our devotion to this project. I ordered customised friendship bracelets because if I was going to scare Melissa away, I’d rather it happen now than in six months time when I was neck deep in debt from creating Elizabethan gowns and a robe a la Francaise. Happily, Melissa seemed to be meeting me on the same level of enthusiasm and continues to wear her bracelet. At least, she does when I’m around.
With the release of the series on Amazon Prime Video, the Good Omens fandom exploded. Suddenly the world of fanart was flooded with amazing images, from spectacular paintings to laugh-out-loud comic strips. Artists who had been part of the fandom for years already found renewed passion and started creating and uploading new drawings. Newcomers to the world of Good Omens joined the fray and were welcomed with open arms. Cosplayers began pulling together costumes, fan fiction authors released thousands upon thousands of words, exploring and developing new and beloved ideas within the storyworld.
Best of all, Neil Gaiman himself was incredibly supportive of the fandom, encouraging creativity by sharing the works of cosplayers and artists on his Twitter account on a daily basis. Add to that the wonderfully vocal support of Michael Sheen, who portrayed the angel Aziraphale in the series and is himself a longtime fan of the book, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for an absolutely devoted fanbase.
Chapter 3: The first shoot
With a pre-planned trip to the US for Dragon Con fast approaching, Melissa and I started on the first of many cosplay plans – Crowley and Aziraphale’s modern day outfits, but altered to female appearances. Angels and demons don’t really have genders in the traditional sense in the Good Omens canon, and “gender-bending” characters is a recognised and appreciated practice in cosplay. We also arranged the first of many photoshoots and set to work preparing to portray our favourite immortal beings. We sewed coats, sculpted snake heads, painted shoes, hand-finished button holes, cut and styled wigs. I found myself wearing more and more tartan in everyday life. Melissa’s snake-themed accessory collection grew with impressive speed.
We planned to create gender-swapped versions of every outfit we see Aziraphale and Crowley wearing throughout history in the show, with the addition of a few creations of our own. That was going to take time – it still is, we’re in it for the long haul – and we knew we’d need a place to keep all our Good Omens-related images as the project progressed. By this stage, the expanded Good Omens fandom had christened the pairing of Aziraphale and Crowley “Ineffable Husbands”*. So we took this on board and created a new Instagram account under the handle @Ineffable_Wives. “Ineffable Wives” has since become a commonly used way to refer to gender-swapped Aziraphale and Crowley, and Mel and I stake no claim over the name as a whole, but having this Instagram page gave us a space to share our combined work with the fandom.
Once dressed for the first time as our angelic and demonic counterparts, we did the only logical thing you can do while waiting for your photographer to arrive: we took selfies and got crepes. Then we took selfies with crepes.
Stepping into the shoes of characters who have meant so much to us both for the first time was a pretty special experience. Many thanks to Etienne Reynaud, our wonderful photographer for this shoot who dutifully read the book I foisted upon him before joining us to document our first time portraying these characters. I warned him that our Good Omens love was strong, enduring and possibly scary. He either understood or has a good enough poker face that we felt comfortable letting our fandom flags fly.
*Back when I first hopped on board this ‘ship three years ago it was known as “Air Conditioning”. This came from the common practice of ‘ships being labelled with the first letter of each character’s name – A/C in this case – and I thought it was very cute. But fandoms evolve, and far be it for me to halt that progress!
Chapter 4: Rise of the @Ineffable_Wives
We began uploading photos to our Instagram account. Within a couple of days we’d reached over 300 followers, which we were pretty chuffed with. The account wasn’t really designed to draw in large followings – we just wanted a place to keep our Good Omens shenanigans – but we were overwhelmed by the warmth and passion in the fan community.
We also shared a photo on Twitter. During our pre-shoot selfie taking, we had spotted a backdrop that reminded us of Neil and Terry’s author photo from the back cover of an early edition of Good Omens. We couldn’t resist paying our respects to the authors whose work meant so much to us by recreating it. Neil retweeting that photo was unreasonably exciting for us.
On the day of our first shoot, Melissa and I had also decided to create a photo homage to a Tumblr post we’d seen in the fandom. The idea was that Aziraphale uses his halo as a reading light. We took it a step further and decided that his halo reading light also annoys Crowley, who is trying to get some reptilian shut-eye next to him. Melissa shared these photos on the Tumblr post with a link back to our Instagram account.
Within days, the Instagram account exploded. We watched, disbelieving, as the follower count ticked past 4,000 and continues to climb. The Tumblr post had gone viral, and is currently sitting at over 56,000 notes. That’s outrageous!
These days, it’s rare for one of our posts on Instagram to receive fewer than 1,000 likes. The community that surrounds Good Omens is massive, progressive and incredibly supportive. A truly safe space where, reflecting the characters and the world of the miniseries, LGBTQIA+ and marginalised groups are uplifted and supported. We’re just happy to be a tiny part of it.
Melissa and I are also far from the only cosplayers to portray Aziraphale and Crowley in female form. We’d been fans of the amazing duo of @Lazulicos and @Inelegantcosplay since they first started posting photos of themselves as the beautifully expressive pair. When @Inelegantcosplay commented on one of our photos, it felt like worlds colliding. We didn’t realise at the time just how collide-y they were going to get, but that’s a story for the next section…
Chapter 5: Dragon Con – David Tennant, the meet-up to end all meet-ups, and our American Wives
Melissa and I, along with a huge group of fellow Aussie friends, had been planning a trip to the United States to attend Dragon Con even before David Tennant had been announced as a guest. When that happened, of course, we lost our collective minds.
Given that Dragon Con is known to be one of the world’s largest celebrations of fandom and one of the main actors was going to be in attendance, there was bound to be a huge number of Good Omens fans descending on Atlanta. That, as it turns out, included @Lazulicos and @Inelegantcosplay, along with a huge number of other creators we’d been interacting with online.
We were lucky enough to get a joint photo with David Tennant, who was apparently overwhelmed by the number of Good Omens fans coming to meet him. He said that Dragon Con 2019 was the first time he’d been visited by more demons than Doctors.
We got to feel the full force of this amazing fandom at the Good Omens meetup on Saturday evening. Hundreds of cosplayers came along, all dressed as angels, demons, even a satanic nun and an antichrist. All sharing their love for this story, all singing along to Queen and all having an absolute ball. The energy was electric. I’ve never felt more at home among a group of strangers.
Among those cosplayers were our old internet crushes, @Lazulicos and @Inelegantcosplay. Over the course of Dragon Con, we met up for drinks, sought – and failed to find – a party to dance at and even dined at the Ritz [Carlton] together. We discovered a few too many parallels between us, the first of which being that our real names are almost identical. It almost felt like meeting our alternate universe doppelgängers, and we came to affectionately refer to them as our “American Wives”. We hope they don’t mind. By the end of the weekend, we had created an ongoing group chat and made plans for an overseas holiday together next year, so I’m pretty sure they’re okay with that.
Chapter 6: The second shoot
On our return to Australia, Melissa and I started on our next outfits. Having begun with Aziraphale and Crowley in modern times, we figured the next port of call was back at the beginning, in Eden. I began to work on many, many hours of hand embroidery while Melissa convinced me that we would also need to create wings. Massive, full-body length wings. Is she insane? Very probably. Did we do it anyway? You bet your ass we did.
I asked the amazing photographer @Fiathriel if she’d consider flying down from her hometown further up Australia’s east coast to shoot with us. Not only did she very kindly take a weekend to visit us and took over 1,400 photos over two days, she also watched the entire mini series in preparation.
Our shoots included sections in Sydney’s very own garden of Eden, shenanigans with swords, homages to actual scenes from the series, picnics in the park and more photo recreations of Good Omens memes. There are many, many photos on their way from this shoot, so if that’s something you’re interested in seeing, you’ll just have to hang out on our Instagram page. We promise you won’t be disappointed.
Chapter 7: The world that is to come
Between us, Melissa and I have already watched the entire miniseries more than 20 times – not including opening to scenes already committed to memory for costume references and fact checking. I’ve even written my own fanfiction. No, taking a leaf from the book of Thou-Shalt-Not-Be-Horny-On-Main-Pulsifer, I won’t be sharing links to my fanfiction.
I’m also a huge fan of Queen. I spent one of my many Good Omens re-watchings documenting every instance of a Queen song being used in the series. That includes barely audible segments of songs playing in the background.
Melissa and I have planned a trip to the UK, France and Italy next year. It’s going to include visiting many of the Good Omens filming locations, photos in our handmade Edwardian cosplays, and a stay at a cottage in the South Downs with our American Wives.
We’ve already started work on our Elizabethan outfits, with research and planning well underway for many, many more.
We’ve even had artists draw our likenesses as the Ineffable Wives!
Are we addicted? Possibly. Are we a little bit unhinged? Many probably think so. But we’re also working professionals who live pretty normal lives when we’re not walking around dressed as supernatural beings. We just have the added benefit of being a part of this wonderful, ballooning community of talented creators and friends who have all been brought together by one incredible story.
The community surrounding Good Omens is just… ineffably beautiful. Actively inclusive and supportive, whether they’re creators themselves or simply drinking in and celebrating the huge range of talents on offer. From artists and musicians to costumers and writers and beyond, members of this found family have all been drawn to a narrative that – in its essence – supports love in so many shapes and forms.
I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes us next.
Listen to The Periodic Table of Awesome’s ‘Good Omens’ review podcast here.