• Conventions

    Cosplay Lessons from Lokai and Bele

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    IMGA0923Lessons learned or extrapolated while putting together a fairly simple cosplay for a major summer convention. This isn’t hard advice about how to make things or what to do or what to cosplay as, but things to think about when you’re planning that cosplay or starting to put it together.

    Pick A Character That Is Meaningful To Someone (You, Maybe)

    By this we mean pick something not because it’s cool or because you think it’s neat (although that’s still valid), but because it says something either about you or to you. That can be something as simple as loving the character or the episode of the show/movie/anime the character is from. It could be something little more subtle about how you like or identify with or feel about the character itself or some statement the character makes or represents.

    When my son and I chose to play Loki and Bele for fan Expo 2014, it worked for me on several levels. First, because we wanted something we can do together. Second, because it’s classic Star Trek and not only did I grow up on TOS, I feel like it’s under represented these days. Third, because the statement about how racism is stupid and shortsighted is still a good one.

    The meaning for you can be something as simple as because it’s fun, and that’s perfectly all right.

    Make It Something Appropriate

    And by that we absolutely are not talking about the matching your physique to the character. If it speaks to you, then I don’t care if you’re a 45 pound Klingon, or a 6’9″ hobbit. It doesn’t matter.

    Appropriate means that it’s something you’ll be comfortable playing. If you’re very introverted, and the character your cosplaying is extremely extroverted, you can see this is either an opportunity to be someone different than you are, which is part of what cosplay is all about, or you might see it as a source of stress. Measure against your own expectations, and be sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Just because your cosplaying a wisecracking superhero, doesn’t mean that you have to run around the convention making jokes and snide remarks. People don’t necessarily expect that, so don’t expect to yourself. But if the idea of it makes you uncomfortable, consider something else.

    Ask Yourself If The Cosplay Is Seasonally Appropriate

    Heavy armor or many layers of clothing may not work very well for you in the middle of summer. Likewise, something that leaves a lot of skin bare may not be the best choice for your comfort in a late January con. Too much sweat and you’re risking con funk. Too little fabric and you might be up for pneumonia.

    In our case, Fan Expo is held in late August, and we were fairly sweaty by the time we walked the three blocks from my hotel on. With a layer underneath, it might be okay for a dead of winter convention, but is probably better for mid-to-late spring or fall.

    Do A Little Bit Of Research

    See what other people have tried and failed (or succeeded) for similar, or the same, cosplays. Sometimes that awesome idea you have isn’t going to work at all and sometimes it will be spectacular. Don’t be afraid to branch out, but don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.

    Think About The Size Of The Convention

    Not so much physical size, but think about the number of expected attendees confined in that physical size. If the con is going to be big in terms of number of people present and clouded, and your potential cosplay has a lot of attachments or parts to a lug around, be aware of that and give it some serious thought ahead of time. You’re going to be putting yourself in this costume all day, possibly for several days, and maybe you’re going to have your picture taken every few steps. Think of it how much harder it’s going to be to get anywhere inside the con, and how much damage your hard work could suffer due to overcrowding.

    Accessories

    Try not to leave gathering all of your equipment and accessories until the last minute. Even if you enjoy that frantic rush to get everything prepped and ready, you’ll wind up spending more money. Yes it can be fun to throw a cosplay together in the last moments before the con, but that also makes it a lot harder on yourself than it needs to be. There’s also the likelihood that you don’t do your best work under that kind of time pressure. As long as you’re happy with the result, that’s what really counts, but you’ll usually increase your chances of being happy if you have the time to put things together exactly how you want them.

    Another consideration: all that money you’re spending in the last days before the con is money you won’t have available to spend at the con, and you certainly don’t want to find your self short of cash on the convention floor.

    Makeup

    If your cosplay requires facepaint, and Lokai and Bele certainly does, make sure that you don’t since cheap out. Yes try to find the smaller packages. Don’t be forced into the giant packs that will allow you do do your whole face several hundred times (unless you’re planning to do a lot of similar color bases over the next several years at multiple conventions). But get the good stuff. It works better, lasts longer, and washes off without taking a lot of skin with it.

    And I can’t stress this enough: don’t get your face paint and make up from the dollar store or in the aftermath of Halloween at Walmart. What you’re getting will not last an entire day, is harder to apply in the first place, and is made with the cheapest ingredients to be found. Can you say skin irritation, boys and girls?

    The better quality water-based stuff looks better, lasts longer, and you’ll have to do far fewer touch ups. Plus, it comes off reasonably easily with a little bit of soap and warm water. Or, if you wear as much as we did, a nice hot shower and a lot of soap. Just be sure to wipe down the tub while it’s still wet.

    For reference, we used Snazaroo and were really happy with the ease of application and staying power, but your mileage may vary, and it depends on what you want to do. Spend a little google time in research.

    Planning

    Maybe this step should probably go a lot earlier in the process, and we’ve covered bits and pieces anyway, but I’m thinking more about having a coherent cosplay plan. I don’t mean you have to be completely anal and plan every second of your time in shopping, creating, crafting, and wearing. But you should have a firm idea of what will take, and the ability to break things into lists. Here’s my list of needed supplies. Here’s my list of make up. Here’s my list of transportation requirements. Here are the basic steps I need to put it all together. Take your time. Figure things out.

    Right, Transportation

    Are you sure you want to wear those giant wings and carry that 8-foot foam sword on the subway? While wearing armor you spent six months building in the basement? Sure, the looks you get from the regular passengers will almost make it worth, but then you have to go home after the con ends of the day. Think about what it will take to get you where you’re going, how much of the pain it’s going to cause to get from from your front door to the convention floor.

    Reusability

    Are you going to wear this cosplay more than once? How difficult is it to get in and out of if you have to go to the bathroom? After a full day on the convention floor, how much work will be to return to normal existence? Can you wear the cosplay to another con? How important these questions are dependent great deal on you. Fun? Are you serious? Do you want to become a competitive cosplayer? And what about the masquerade?

    Like I said at the front of this post, all learned or extrapolated when putting together the rather simple cosplay pictured above. But, I’ll be honest, most of them didn’t enter our minds until it was already too late. My son and I thought about this cosplay six months ago. Cool, fun, we liked the idea, and it didn’t look hard. Easy to put together quickly, right? Well, we did have fun, and wasn’t that hard, but the costumes could been much better with a little planning and thought ahead of time, particularly reckoning with Toronto in late August.

    Next year, we have Anime North, Ottawa Comic Con, and potentially Montréal Comic Con as well. We’re giving Fan Expo a miss for reasons I’m not going to dive into here, but we do still have three major conventions in the year. And maybe a couple of little ones too. Definitely something to think about.

    Be well, everyone.

     

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  • Conventions

    Cosplay for the Con

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    So by now, you’re sick of hearing about Fan Expo and why I broke my promise to not go this year. Instead, this post is about cosplay.

    I made a suggestion to my family not too long ago, joking, mostly, about a potential group cosplay to do for a convention this year.

    To preface that, Erik and I have been pretty seriously discussing doing the two half-black half-white aliens from an episode of classic Star Trek, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, but I’m not sure how well it’s going to work. It’s barely 2 months before the convention, and we haven’t even looked at material or makeup. That needs to change, and very, very soon.

    But the group cosplay suggestion, which both daughters and my wife agreed to, the girls pretty much instantly, was that we would all dress up as My Little Ponies.

    Yes, really.

    Now, I don’t consider myself a Brony, though I do certainly ascribe to some of the more obvious general cultural tenets of the Brony movement. Friendship is magic, helping each other is cool, and it’s important to give a crap. Have I seen every single episode of Friendship Is Magic? Yeah, no. Have I seen some episodes? Absolutely. And while I personally find the writing predictable a lot of time, the stories are cute, and they play the emotions very well. The intended audience of young children, and not just girls, although it’s obvious they are the primary target, is well served by the show.

    The fact that it’s found a broader audience by being cute and clever, even if predictable, and warm and welcoming, is a good thing. So if I’m not a Brony, I respect the idea. And why would it bother me to dress up as one to entertain my daughters? The answer to that question is that it wouldn’t.

    There will be pictures. I’m sure there’ll be many pictures. Most of which will not be taken by me or any member of the family. That’s okay. I don’t care if they’re all over the internet, and if there’s a My Little Pony photo shoot on the day we pick that cosplay, awesome, because that will be an experience that none of us will ever forget.

    Experience is one of the most important things about life. If you spend all of your time grinding away at the same things day after day, with never a thought to the people and the world around you or your own personal growth and development, and life really is a waste.

    What I really want is for my kids to reach adulthood having had an awesome childhood, even better teen years, and to be fully prepared, well-rounded individuals ready to build their own place in society and their own families of awesomeness.

    I may have made mistakes along the way, and I wouldn’t be human if I hadn’t, but I like to think that things are working out pretty well when you look the big picture. I have three incredible kids, who, as I write this, are 15, 13, and 11. Every age has been my favorite for each of them, and I think that will continue for a while yet, but every chance I get, I want to give them something else awesome to remember.

    And if my dressing up as a My Little Pony works for that, I’m there.

    Of course, if we’re doing any cosplay for Fan Expo, we need to get started. No one really dressed up for Ottawa Comic Con, an only Erik bothered for Anime North and only for one day. He made his own costume to, a character from Deadman Wonderland, an anime I had never heard of until he started working the costume.

    But why did no one dress up? I blame myself for failing to get sufficiently excited by the idea. When I asked what people’s plans were, what they might be working on, I got lots of vague, noncommittal answers. I’ll call it a lesson learned. My Little pony idea has at least my daughters’ excited. Amanda is quite fond of the show, and Melanie loved the idea. Erik looked at me, arched an eyebrow, and walked away shaking his head. Not interested, but I’m not surprised. It’s certainly well below a 15-year-old boy’s dignity. I still hope he might change his mind.

    More generally, Fan Expo will be different.

    I’ve been trying to decide if I just how many of the four days I want to dress for and how many costumes. The ponies will be relatively easy to do. In fact, Amanda has a couple from last year we can probably add to for the girls, just needing completely fresh ones for my wife and me.

    If I can get my son’s excitement level up, we’ve got Lokai and Bele for another day. This could be a fun cosplay, probably a first day of the convention cosplay because Erik and I have even toyed with the idea of chasing each other through the con while wearing them.

    But can I do more? Should I?

    I have some ideas, most of them, unsurprisingly, accounting from classic trek. A couple those of are easy, just costing a few dollars, but a few dollars are harder to come by than a few minutes or hours of time. Financially speaking, it might be better to try to make costumes.

    I had been considering the idea of Business Gorn, which seems less attractive now that I’ve seen TuxedoVader. But the basic idea was a Gorn mask, the hand and foot accoutrements for a giant lizard, and wearing one of my lighter suits. Tuck the mask in and wear a tie and I probably wouldn’t even need the body paint the backup.

    I also thought of stealing a couple of costume ideas from the episode a mock time. Vulcan ears aren’t too difficult, though robes might be a little harder, though I have some thoughts on where I could get them. A Vulcan priest might be a lot of fun, but I don’t know if I have that much free time between now and then. Of course, there the ears with a classic blue starship uniform, a prop or two to make an easy Starfleet officer. Not Spock, per se, because I don’t have the hair for it, but surely he wasn’t the only Vulcan who ever enlisted Starfleet.

    I thought an Andorian might be fun to. The challenge would be the antenna. Blue face paint is probably not too difficult, as long as you buy decent grade stuff. Again, it comes into the idea time to make the costume. And my sewing skills are not the greatest. Who am I kidding? My sewing skills are negligible.

    But I do already have a costume in the can that has nothing to do with Star Trek, pulling out my Professor Stein costume from Anime North last year, our group cosplay. Doing that, Mel might dig out her Maka jacket and repair the scythe that is currently in two pieces in her room.

    I do need to give it a little more thought, and don’t know if I need to dress up every single day. Especially not if I’m the only one of my family who does. I do have a preference for group costumes if I I can get some of the other members of the family to participate and failing that, anything Star Trek is fair game. And if I’m willing to expand which series I’m looking at for aliens, there is a lot of selection over 700 plus episodes of Trek.Plenty of aliens available, but again it all comes down to time and skill. And participation for my family. But we should have one group cosplay in the bag at least . Beyond that, well, we’ll see.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Conventions

    The Future of Cosplay (For Me)

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    We did a family Steampunk cosplay for Ad Astra in April, and a group Soul Eater cosplay for the day we spent at Anime North in May. The girls wanted to do their own things for Fan Expo, and I had a hard time finding time to put anything together, worried (or even stressed) about too many other things, and making sure the kids’ summer worked well.

    And I kinda hated the wig I needed to play Professor Stein. Not to mention that I’ve really only watched about half a season of the show. The kids have all enjoyed Soul Eater, and I’ll admit it’s fun, but there are other anime series I enjoy more.

    But I’ve started to think about what kind of cosplay I might do in the future. And, actually, it wasn’t hard to come up with a pretty big list in short order.

    If we start from the premise of characters from shows, movies, or games that mean something to me, I have to begin with Star Trek (non-Trekkies ought to skip ahead a couple of paragraphs). Yes, the uniforms are easy to get, and the props aren’t hard to come by either, so that’s one (or even three) no brainers. But, switching up the species a bit can add some variety. Put some ears on and be a Vulcan in those uniforms, or shave my head completely to pass for a Deltan. A white wig and blue face paint get me most of the way to Andorian. And those are the easy ones. Branching out from the ship a little bit:

    • Gorn, but the lizard suit would be awfully hot, not to mention expensive)
    • Orion, on the order of the Andorian, but green, dark hair, and no antenna. And I’ll wear more clothes.
    • Remember “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”? A half black, half white paint job doesn’t seem too awful.
    • Remember “The Gamesters of Triskelion”? One of the thralls outfitted for battle, but carrying a coloured brain in a jar (one of the Providers).

    There’s plenty of possibility there, but expending my search into some of the formative and influential bits of media from my youth…

    • The Man in Black/Dread Pirate Roberts from the Princess Bride, because that would be awesome.
    • The Tick, although really I’m built about half way between the Tick and Arthur, but maybe I could pull it off.
    • Jack Burton, the hero in his own mind from Big Trouble in Little China. But this needs a wig. I couldn’t grow that mullet.
    • Condorman, but I think I’d get mistaken for the Vulture a lot.
    • Prince Colwyn from Krull. Cool outfit, but the movie was better left in my memory. It doesn’t hold up very well.
    • Last Starfighter uniform, because really, who doesn’t want to hit the Death Blossom button?
    • (Original) Battlestar Galactica uniform. In all its cheesy glory, I still like it much better than the modern incarnation.
    • Ming the Merciless from Flash Gordon, circa 1980. Not because the movie was necessarily good, but because I’d look awesome in a full goatee and over the top red and gold cape.

    And that’s just getting started. There just aren’t enough cons. Well, there are but I’d run out of money trying to manage cosplay for more than a couple. Might do that anyway.

    Be well, everyone.

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  • Conventions

    Ad Astra Cosplay Results

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    Since it almost seems like the steampunk weapons were more work (at least they took longer), we’ll start with those.

    We turned these:

    IMGA0630 IMGA0634 Nerf Shotgun 01

    Into these:

    IMGA0635(That’s a post-con picture. You can see a little evidence of use and, in my case, the loss of a small scorpion on top.)

    Mine (the shotgun) was pretty much done with layers of spray paint and made use of painter’s tape. The girls’ were much more intricate, involving a lot of handpainting and far more artistic ability than I’ve got.

    As for costumes, there was much shopping of thrift stores and craft stores. We’ve got a lot of stuff we didn’t use (hey, FanExpo is coming) to play with still. The girls were awesome:

    IMGA0652 IMGA0653

    I actually had two costumes, the traditional mad scientist and 2/3 of a three-piece suit I accessorized. Worked out fairly well, I think.

    IMGA0645 IMGA0655-closer in

    Bit of a difference in demeanor, no?

    We didn’t manage to take a lot of pictures since we were in costume most of the time (all of the time in the case of my oldest daughter}, and I need to raid two iPods to see everything we took, but I’ll get some photos up of other cosplayers shortly.

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  • Conventions,  Life

    Cosplay Prep

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    Totally forgot to post this, so it seems a little off now that the Con is over. I’ve added a couple of notes here and there. Pictures in a post I’ll be uploading in a few minutes.

     

    Many months back, my oldest daughter and I decided to go to Ad Astra, a (mostly) literary Science Fiction and Fantasy convention held in Toronto, a planned awesome father-daughter weekend. More recently, she decided that maybe, since we’re going to cosplay for Anime North in May, we should consider putting together something for Ad Astra as well. This sparked the interest of my youngest daughter (I only have two), who began to wonder if she’d like to come along. After going through the programming list with her, and after she sucked up to her sister a bit, it’s now a father-daughters weekend. (And was completely awesome. See my last post.)

    And after trips to a variety of thrift stores and other places, we’ve now got a pile of stuff we’re supposed to be turning into steampunk outfits. And the con starts Friday (this was written on the Monday before). And I’m out of days off. I am, however, on nights so I have some afternoon time. We’ll finish up what we need to in the nick of time, I think, as long as the bronze paint dries on my gloves.

    I’m using the word steampunk fairly loosely, too because I’m not all that interested in labels, really. The point of the cosplay is not to strictly adhere to an imagined aesthetic, however cool, it’s about bonding with my daughters and doing something fun. We went shopping. We mixed things together. We’ve sewn, hot glued, spray painted, and made jewelry modifications (fiddly damned stuff and those miniature pliers don’t really make things easier).

    Net result: we each have a nerfpunk gun (pictures forthcoming) and we each have a costume (actually, I sort of have 2, pictures of all of us also forthcoming).

    Are we done? Probably not.

    Are we ready for the con? Who knows?

    But it doesn’t matter if we are or not. We’ve had fun, and we’re going to have a great time next weekend. We are still trying to hammer out a schedule for the convention. There are three of us, after all, and I’m not giving my girls completely free run of the hotel.

    {And now we just need to worry about our Soul Eater cosplay for Anime North.}

    Be well, everyone.

     

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  • Conventions,  Life,  News

    Top 10 Ad Astra 2013 Moments

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    My daughters and I went to the Ad Astra SF convention in Toronto (technically Markham, but it’s attached) last weekend and we had an awesome time. A busy weekend filled with geeky goodness. We spent most of the weekend in costume (all of it in the case of my oldest daughter while the younger daughter and I took half of Sunday off), so I didn’t get a lot of pictures. Hoping that someone is going to post some, but frequent Google searches haven’t come up with much yet. Hint, hint. (A handful of pics in a slideshow here, including one of us with my head cut off, and a video recap here, which we do appear in briefly.)

    But with any experience, there are bits that stand out and I thought I’d share a few of those in brief.

    1. Stepping onto the stage with my daughters at the Masquerade so they (okay, we, but I stood in the back even though they made me go first) could show off their costumes to the waiting crowd.
    2. Heather Dale holding us in the room after the Masquerade to start the concert with a beautiful, vocal only version of “Mordred’s Lullaby”, standing up out of the audience to root us all to the spot and letting me know I’m maybe not quite as done with the Arthurian mythos as I’d thought I was.
    3. Talking my daughters into a posing session for a group of artists in our Steampunk cosplay, letting ourselves (and not fooling myself at all, mostly them because they’re far cuter than I am) be drawn in a variety of poses.
    4. After the posing session, having the artist GOH, Scott Caber who has far more major credits than they could list in the program, pull us aside to finish his sketches of my girls, sign them, and give them to us.
    5. Discovering two new anime series with my youngest then sharing them with her older sister. For reference, Ore Shura and Kotoura-san, and I recommend them both to any anime fan. The latter, in fact, is going to “appear” in the first episode of the Cyborg Bunnies Review.
    6. Meeting up again with two friends I made at World Fantasy last year, and being so absolutely and completely happy to do so and that I’d met them in the first place.
    7. Being privileged that both of those friends (who are both authors) allowed us to interview them for the podcast that we haven’t quite launched yet (but it’s close!).
    8. The poke in the brain Tanya gave me (not that she knew it at the time) to get back to my Japanese lessons. I’ve misplaced the bulk of what I have learned and need to fix that.
    9. My oldest daughter winning what she had to compete for at the Art Auction.

    10. Realizing that both of my girls actually wanted to hang out with me for the entire weekend.

    Okay yes, that’s really more than ten moments, but feel free to make your own list. There were a lot more besides, in panels, at the Pacific Mall, in the dealer’s room and just hanging out in the halls. Ad Astra 2013 was a great time, and I think we’ve decided we’re going back next year. It was a lot of fun and everyone who can should come join us.

    Be well, everyone.

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