I’ve previously discussed the concept of cosplay as charitable work, but, until recently, I’d never been able to sit down with one of the “cause”players to discuss what they do. Part of that is my own sense of intimidation; these are the pros, royalty among cosplayers, in my opinion, and I’ve always felt an uncharacteristic shyness in their presence.
Recently, however, I got my shot. Pun intended.
I saw him at L.A. Comic Con. I had the great fortune (or, depending on how you look at it, great misfortune) of being dressed as Hawkeye. He was also dressed as Hawkeye. Unfortunately, he was the best Hawkeye I had ever seen, and I was immediately made aware of my own outfit’s rather amateurish look.
You can imagine my delight when he approached me to say, “Hey, great Hawkeye!”
His name is Trevor Newton, and he is the best darn Hawkeye you’ll ever meet. But more than that, he is gifted with a deep sense of gratitude and generosity, one that empowers him to share his story with certain entertainment journalists who occasionally go to Con dressed as Hawkeye.
GETTING INTO CHARACTER
Trevor is originally from Oregon, where he learned to shoot a bow and arrow as a teenager, a skill that foreshadowed his later Hawkeye fame. He’s a self-described “nerd” who moved to southern California in the 2000s.
But he wasn’t always a cosplayer.
“One of the first things I said I had to do was to go to San Diego Comic Con,” he said of his move.
Unbeknownst to me, I had actually seen Trevor only a few months before at San Diego Comic Con: Special Edition. He was in a fantastic Ronin cosplay and was so swamped by people wanting pictures that I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to him then, which is why he didn’t appear in my write-up of that con.
Trevor loves Star Wars, Marvel, and DC. His interest mainly lies in the screen adaptations, not the comic books, and he’s been a lifelong fan. As far as cosplay goes, however, he didn’t dip his toe in until 2019 — only three years ago.
His first convention was in 2009. “I was geeking out, having a great time at the conventions,” he said. He and his wife attended several years’ worth of Cons, where he watched those in costume from afar. “I would see the cosplayers and think they were absolutely incredible.”
He and his wife, Wendy, are no strangers to costuming. They love Halloween; they always go “all-out” on their costumes and have been doing it for years.
But when it came to cosplay, Trevor always balked.
“I would go to the conventions and see the cosplayers and go, ‘I can’t do that.’” He says he worried that he would feel self-conscious or silly.
But then, ten years after that first convention, he had what he calls an epiphany: “What the heck do I care what other people think?”
He decided on Hawkeye because, for years, people had approached him after mistaking him as “the guy from Hurt Locker” (Jeremy Renner). The resemblance is uncanny; when I sent a picture of him to my friends, they all asked whether that was actually Renner.
Even after his epiphany, Trevor underwent serious preparation for his first convention in cosplay. His first costume was purchased from a foreign website with a single click; it was Hawkeye’s latest look, from 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
Buying the costume wasn’t enough for Trevor, though. “I gotta get in shape,” he said to himself. “I gotta look the part.” He began hitting the gym in early 2019 and, later that July, drove down to San Diego Comic Con. His wife, Wendy, joined him as Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch from Age of Ultron.
All of his preparations weren’t enough to quiet the anxiety that had prevented him from doing cosplay for years, though.
“I put everything on and I looked at her and I said… ‘I feel ridiculous. I can’t do this.’”
With encouragement from Wendy, Trevor grit his teeth and walked to the Convention Center. Parking had been hard to come by, and the long walk felt like miles. I like to imagine Trevor thinking the same thing as Clint Barton in Age of Ultron: “I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.” But Trevor had committed to the look and he wasn’t about to chicken out, even if he was feeling some self-consciousness.
As they approached, however, he heard strangers talking. Talking about him! What could easily have been proof that all of his insecurities were true instead provided a very different message: “Oh wow. Look at that guy. Is that really him? Look at that Hawkeye!” Before he’d even picked up his badge, he was being approached for pictures.
His worries began to evaporate.
“And I was like, ‘Okay. This is kind of fun,’” he remembered, laughing. The crowd continued to grow, and Trevor was almost overwhelmed by the positive reception.
“We didn’t know anybody. Not a soul, as far as cosplayers go,” he said. But that didn’t matter, not at the convention. His hard work was validated, and the reception was positive; the strangers treated him like an old friend. The joy he’d felt at conventions over the last ten years was no less present in his cosplay; if anything, he enjoyed it more.
His fears of being seen as silly were supplanted by a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Near the end of the convention, he was approached by a woman with a press badge. It was Tania González, a correspondent from CNet.com, who ended up putting Trevor’s picture in an article of “Top Cosplays” from the convention. (“Which wasn’t even close to the truth,” added Trevor humbly, saying that he saw many other costumes that blew him away.)
Although Trevor hadn’t had the chance to meet or interact with many other cosplayers at that convention, he had caught the cosplay bug. “I can do this again. This was fun,” he said.
BEING RECRUITED INTO THE AVENGERS
The next month was D23 in Anaheim. Trevor opted to wear the same Hawkeye get-up as before, and this time, “I didn’t feel stupid. I felt comfortable,” he said.
As his family made their way through security they saw another Hawkeye, much to Trevor’s delight. It was an omen of good things to come.
Later in the day, he bumped into Griffin of Griffin’s Costumes, a Captain America cosplayer, who was there with his girlfriend, Alex, dressed up as Peggy Carter. Griffin’s impressive Captain America get-up had caught Trevor’s eye. (His hawkeye, if you will.) Little did he know, his casual request for a photo with a fellow cosplayer was about to change his life.
Griffin looked Trevor up and down, brow furrowed, and then asked, “Where have you been?”
Confused, Trevor pointed to the other end of the convention hall.
Griffin laughed. “We’ve got a group,” Griffin informed him. It was the first time that Trevor had ever heard of cosplaying for charity. Griffin offered him a card, and began explaining the work of groups like the Avengers Initiative. The idea, to paraphrase Nick Fury, is to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more. Groups like the Avengers Initiative (which is divided into regional groups like the West Coast Avengers) sponsors food and toy drives, arranges hospital visits, and helps support community fundraisers for non-profit. It’s a way for cosplayers who dress up as heroes to be heroes, too.
The idea immediately appealed to Trevor.
“I’ve been blessed in my life. I wanted to give back. ‘I can do this for charity? I’m in!’ I said. ‘I’m in!’”
Later in the day, he turned and came face-to-face with DoubleTake Cosplay. The two of them stared at each other, and the first thing DoubleTake said was: “Where have you been?’”
This time, Trevor knew that it wasn’t being asked literally.
DoubleTake invited Trevor to meet with him later for photos, after he’d donned his Iron Man suit. On the way to meet DoubleTake, Trevor bumped into Griffin again and invited him along. The result? Three Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, and Hawkeye), taking pictures with an ever-widening crowd.
“I was fanboying over it,” confessed Trevor. “They all looked amazing to me.”
He ended up standing in front of the Marvel booth with Griffin and DoubleTake for four hours, posing with people who lined up to take photos with them.
“I look at those pictures now and I feel ridiculous, because I really didn’t know what I was doing,” said Trevor. When he got into the car with his family to return home, he turned to his wife and said,“I don’t know what happened today, but it was life-changing.”
He says it took him two months to come down off that high; during that time, he reached out to the other cosplayers he had met and made some social media accounts. (You can follow his Instagram at Hawkeye.Cosplay.) Several of the people he had taken pictures with said that had been intimidated by a “professional” cosplayer, a sentiment that made Trevor laugh: he could not imagine anyone being intimidated by him, nor did he consider himself a professional.
(Funnily enough, this was exactly how I felt when he first approached me.)
His friendship with Griffin, Alex, and DoubleTake grew; nowadays, he says, they’re like family to him.
FOR THE GREATER GOOD
Trevor’s first charity event was in the fall of 2019 with Kids Can Cosplay, a hospital visit. He had first put on his Hawkeye suit in July, only a handful of months prior.
He did another event in December with Ronald McDonald House in Anaheim with Kids Can Cosplay. The mission of Kids Can Cosplay, according to their website, is “to make a positive difference in kids’ lives through interactive visitations and charity events… while… also educat[ing] them on the art of cosplay and how they too can bring their imagination to life.”
For someone like Trevor, whose own entrance into cosplay had been recent and who had benefited immensely from the encouragement and tutelage of other cosplayers, this kind of charity work fit like a glove. (An archer’s glove, if you will.) He was both learning more about his own cosplay, and helping to support others.
He described the reaction of other people to him in costume as “humbling.”
“I’m taking all these things I love so much, and bringing joy into other people’s lives, and doing these charity events… to know that they’re smiling, because of me… I was hooked.”
Reflecting back on his charity work, he said that, among the most enjoyable events he’s done were the USO events down in San Diego. A veteran himself, Trevor feels a particular connection to events for service members and their families. Many of the children of the service members are in a 7-14 range, a perfect age to enjoy meeting cosplay characters. He’s done three USO shows so far, including one on the USS Midway for Veterans’ Day.
Hearing him describe standing on the deck, looking out over the San Diego skyline at night, I felt a true sense for how magical getting into character was.
It was the calm before the storm.
Trevor and his new friends began planning out the latter half of 2020 and 2021, and then the pandemic hit.
“I was heart-broken; I had been so excited to get out there and do more.”
Despite setbacks, Trevor was determined not to let the pandemic stop his charitable work.
Currently, he’s involved with Kids Can Cosplay, Treasure Box Angels, the West Coast Avengers, the 501st, the San Diego-based Sci-Fi Coalition. He had had plans to work with the Las Vegas Avengers prior to the pandemic, as well.
Many of the events in 2020 were drive-throughs: back-to-school drives, toy drives, diaper drives. The drive part is literal; these events involve people in cars coming to the drives to see the cosplayers, who wave to them and occasionally chat through the windows. Not the close-up interactions at 2019’s D23, but it was still something.
Trevor estimates that he did between 8 and 10 charity events in 2020.
In 2021, he ramped up his involvement in charitable cosplay, participating in about one to two events each month.
“It’s incredible. I get to take something I love doing and combine it with the charity. I can’t imagine this not being part of my life.”
Naturally, I had to ask about how 2022 was shaping up.
His answer? “It’s nuts.” He had to create a spreadsheet because the calendar wasn’t cutting it. He is already booked out through most of the entire year; as in 2021, he’s planning to do about one or two events per month.
Scattered in among the volunteer work, there are conventions. In 2021, in addition to his bimonthly charity work, Trevor attended six: Comic Con Revolution, Anime Pasadena, Los Angeles Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con: Special Edition, and Salt Lake FanX.
And that doesn’t even cover the premieres…
REAPING THE REWARDS
Trevor’s involvement in the community and his charity work eventually drew the attention of Marvel Studios itself.
In 2021, Mark Chu-Lin, the club president of the Avengers Initiative (and head of the Causeplay panel from Comic Con @Home in 2021), posted to the online community inquiring whether anyone would be interested in attending a Loki fan event. Disney had reached out to the group to ask if any cosplayers would like to attend a pre-screening at the El Capitan theater.
Trevor submitted a picture of his cosplay.
What followed was an invitation to an advance fan screening of the Disney+ show Loki, attended by Owen Wilson and Kevin Feige. (Tom Hiddleston remotely attended from London.) “It was one of those memories I’ll never forget,” he shared with me. It would not, however, be the only time that Marvel took notice of his work.
He can remember the exact moment that he was invited to attend the Black Widow red carpet premiere. It was Friday night, he was at dinner with Wendy, and while waiting for food to arrive, he casually checked his phone to find another invite waiting for him. His wife had missed Loki because she was out of town, but Trevor was determined to share the experience of Black Widow with her. She attended the premiere with Trevor as Melina (aka Iron Maiden), while he wore his usual Hawkeye costume. This event was easier than Loki had been, according to Trevor; he knew people there (DoubleTake cosplay was in attendance, as well), knew how to pose, and was less intimidated… despite sharing shoulder space with Kevin Feige, Rob Liefeld and Clark Gregg.
Following Loki and Black Widow came invitations to more premieres: Shang-Chi, The Eternals… and, of course, Hawkeye.
The Disney+ series Hawkeye premiered in November. The attendees were more familiar faces to Trevor, made up of friends and acquaintances from his cosplay community. They had one goal: to have Trevor meet his double, Jeremy Renner.
“I was so nervous,” confesses Trevor.
He attended with his wife and daughter, all in cosplay: Wendy as Contessa Valentina, his daughter as Kate Bishop, and Trevor as–who else?–Hawkeye. They milled around the appropriately-colored purple carpet waiting for Renner for 90 minutes with no luck.
Inside the theater, security confiscated their phones, as per procedure, putting them into labeled bags and locking them away to prevent any leaks. “I was sulking,” said Trevor, chuckling. His selfie opportunity with Renner appeared to have vanished.
Seated in the far left second row, Trevor settled into one of five rows reserved for fans and cosplayers, most of whom he’d gotten to know very well over the last two years. His daughter, in the middle of the theater, was facing away from the screen, and suddenly, she began exclaiming, “Dad! Dad!”
It was Trevor’s doppelganger, Jeremy Renner. Trevor was wearing a black denim jacket, with bandages on his face à la a battle-worn Hawkeye. He rose, walking in between the front row and stage, under the gaze of his fellow cosplayers. He walked right up to Renner and said, “Hi Jeremy. I’m Trevor.”
Renner immediately greeted him, shook his hand, and pulled him in for a hug and a back pat. The entire theater erupted in cheers.
“It makes me tear up just thinking about it. Because they didn’t have to do that. Because they couldn’t have planned for that. It was a natural reaction from all these people to be so genuinely happy for me,” said Trevor.
Trevor introduced his daughter, Emily, and was in turn introduced to Jeremy’s daughter, Ava. To Ava, Renner said, “Some people tell me I look like your dad.” They stood shoulder to shoulder, with Renner pointing his finger back and forth between them.
A friend brought him a Sharpie for Renner to sign his badge. The two parted with Renner agreeing to take some photos with Trevor later on, when their phones were released; as Trevor made his way back to his seat after another handshake, he heard someone from the balcony calling, “Way to go, Trevor!” He went back to his seat with plenty of high-fives, sat down, and watched the show.
The day after the Hawkeye premiere, Trevor and DoubleTake cosplay’s families went out to California Adventure; a passerby called out, “Hey man, I love your Instagram!”
Unbeknownst to Trevor, his social media had just blown up, for reasons that would become apparent later. (He assumed, at the time, they were recognized because they were taking selfies with some people at the shawarma cart; while not technically in character, both DoubleTake and Trevor are hard to miss, especially when they’re together and getting shawarma.)
That night, at dinner, one of the other Hawkeye cosplayers messaged Trevor to say, “You win.”
“I win?” repeated Trevor in confusion.
His friend sent him a link; Jeremy Renner had shared their photos to his Instagram story, catapulting Trevor’s @Hawkeye.cosplay account to new heights.
As they say, game recognizes game.
NOT BUILT IN A DAY
After so much success, recognition, and involvement, I asked Trevor if there were any challenges, drawbacks, or negatives that came with his new hobby. I was hoping he’d make a “drawback” pun.”
Without skipping a beat, he answered, “Time. Because I want to do everything.”
Although Trevor has purchased most of his pieces (a few he spoke highly of are SimCosplay, ProCosplay, and White Sheep Leather), many of the alterations and props were custom-made; his arrow tips are 3D printed at home, one of his quivers was made himself out of PVC foam, and he’s currently in the process of sanding, assembling, and painting a new bow.
After a moment of consideration when I asked him about the downsides, he added, “Space.” With Wendy and his daughter also cosplaying, closet space comes at a premium. At this time, he estimates he has about 10 different Hawkeye outfits (and that doesn’t even include his DC or Star Wars cosplays).
“It’s been a ride,” he told me. “And I feel like I’m just getting started.”
As far as his cosplay goes, it’s more than just a costume; it’s an entire persona.
Jeremy Renner, he notes, is left-handed; in cosplay, he also does everything left-handed. This small attention to detail delighted me. Unlike Renner, Trevor is not left-handed.
While it’s tempting to reduce a cosplayer down to the outfit, it’s the person behind them that really brings the character to life, and talking to Trevor really felt in many ways like chatting with Hawkeye. (Does that make me Kate Bishop?)
He originally began cosplaying as Hawkeye because, he said with a self-effacing shrug, “I look like the guy.” But Disney+’s Hawkeye series breathed new life into the character, offering Trevor many insights to his character and ways that he related to him.
(Both Trevor and Clint Barton have three kids, for example. On the other hand, unlike Clint Barton, Trevor doesn’t appear to have a branding problem.)
I asked him, as our interview came to close, if he had any advice or closing remarks for newbies.
“Absolutely,” he said. “As somebody who was afraid to cosplay for so long that wanted to: don’t be. Just embrace it and do it. Cosplay’s for everyone, all ages, all sizes, doesn’t matter. Have fun with it. People love it. The community is very welcoming.”
(I think he knew I was asking for myself, a little bit.)
“Cosplay changed my life,” said Trevor, with a reverent tone that made it clear he doesn’t take his success for granted. “If you really want to do it, do it, and don’t worry about what other people think.”
Want to be a superhero? To support any of the organizations Trevor is involved with, check out the links below: