Jonathan Stryker has found viral fame with his incredible cosplay. And the way in which he can seemingly turn himself into any pop culture character you can name is astounding.
In high school, Jonathan Stryker was a self-described geek who loved reading comic books and was often the target of bullies. These days, however, he’s getting the last laugh, as his passion for popular culture has turned him into a cosplay sensation taking the internet by storm. And on his social media pages, Striker channels well-known characters using completely self-made costumes that are both wildly creative and slightly disturbing.
Stryker himself is a native Floridian who grew up in Miami with two elder siblings. And, in fact, his love of geek culture was influenced by his brothers; Stryker joked in a 2017 interview with the Miami New Times that he “absorbed their nerdiness.”
When Stryker entered high school, however, bullies picked on him for being gay. He would escape his cruel classmates by camping out in the school gym and devouring comic books. “I didn’t have a lot of friends; I didn’t talk to anyone,” he has said of that time.
Eventually, though, Stryker found common ground with others outside of the school. “I found these conventions where other nerds hang out,” he explained to the Miami New Times. “Everyone was dressed up. The people were awesome, and I could relate to them.”
In particular, Stryker had discovered cosplay conventions, where people shared his interests and accepted him. And the Floridian would himself become a big fan of the art. On his page on the crowd-funding site Patreon, he explained, “Cosplay was an amazing outlet where I could become the characters I loved and somehow showcase what I’m capable of.”
In fact, cosplay seemed to be a natural fit for Stryker, who had long appreciated performing and being the center of attention. However, getting to his current level of skill in the craft required both some serious commitment and dedication.
And real life intervened too, as right after high school, Stryker had to get a job. “I didn’t get to go to college right away because of immigration issues,” he wrote on his Patreon page. “So I worked.” He didn’t own a vehicle, either, so he had to make his own way to his place of empoyment on foot. But his cosplay goals kept him going.
Stryker continued, “I’d walk to work every morning with big dreams that motivated me to keep on walking. Eventually, I began building myself up.” In pursuit of his goal, then, he purchased a camera and began taking photography lessons. He also saved up enough for a car and to start buying the equipment he needed to do his art.
Now, the young man has described himself as “self-taught and with a lot of scars to show for it.” That effort, however, was “all because [he] wanted to have the tools to become someone one day.” And Stryker has certainly become someone; he’s since garnered more than 150,000 followers on Instagram alone, and his epic hand-styled cosplay costumes have been captivating the internet.
Stryker came to real prominence back in August 2017, when his week-long series of Disney character cosplays went viral. And there are themes to his subsequent work, too. In September 2017, for example, Stryker launched his “Cartoon Network Week,” which saw him appear as characters including Scooby Doo’s Fred and The Powerpuff Girls’ Ms. Sara Bellum.
Furthermore, Stryker channels these pop-cultural icons by donning perfectly put-together outfits and putting on wigs and makeup. “I pride myself in creating all my own costumes and props,” Stryker revealed on his Patreon page. But his efforts are often labor-intensive. While speaking to the Miami New Times, he explained that creating a character from start to finish can take as long as 20 hours.
There can be some ingenuity involved in the process too. When attempting to cosplay Roger from American Dad, for example, he turned to upholstery foam to craft the alien’s distinctive belly. But while some costumes are trickier to get together than others, the results are arguably worth the time that Stryker puts in to get everything just right.
Nevertheless, while Stryker’s handiwork is undeniably impressive, he also brings something extra to the table to make his cosplay efforts stand out. He revealed to the Miami New Times, “A lot of my characters went viral because I captured the character – even getting the facial expression just right.”
Stryker continued, “It’s not just putting on the costume, it’s about becoming that character: how they act, their face.” Sometimes, though, Stryker embodies his creations so well that it’s frightening – particularly when a character is already pretty disturbing to look at.
The cosplayer’s depiction of The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns, for example, was dubbed “amazing but horrifying” by one Instagram user. A similar sentiment was expressed by a commenter in reaction to Stryker’s version of EarthBound’s Ness. Perhaps because of Ness’ blank, black eyes, they wrote, “This is amazingly awesome and creepy at the same time.”
Given that Stryker has been doing cosplay since 2006, though, it’s perhaps no wonder that he’s so good at it. Even so, he’s not resting on his laurels. “Now I’m even going to school, so I can keep on learning and continue building the skills I need to not have to depend on anyone,” he has said on his Patreon page.
What’s more, he works solo in every aspect of styling and taking the photos that have brought him internet fame. “I’m known for creating every aspect of my own content: from setting up lights, backdrops, and taking my own photos to post editing, compositing and obviously making my own costumes,” he has written on Patreon.
But Stryker keeps busy outside of Instagram as well. He helps arrange the annual Out Con in Florida – a event specifically designed for the geekier members of the LGBTQ community. Thanks to his burgeoning popularity, he has also guested at cosplay conventions across the nation.
Additionally, Stryker has dreams of being a musician and has even recorded his first single. And the song, he has explained, has a meaning behind it. “[The track] spreads a message of body positivity: Whatever you are, put yourself out there. It’s about… feeling good about yourself and feeling sexy,” he told the Miami New Times.
Stryker still remains committed to cosplay, however, and aims overall “to create better content.” And with his Patreon page, Stryker hopes to raise funds to introduce additional content like videos and tutorials. There, he has explained, “I really want to grow and expose the quality of work you beautiful people deserve.”