They all have their reasons. "People ask me, 'Why the heck do you do this?' Because it's fun," Forrester says. "And also, I love the armor. Chicks dig the armor, too."


On a scorching Saturday in April, a dozen campy superheroes strut and stagger across Rio Salado Parkway to do battle at Tempe Beach Park. They have just left the Tavern on Mill, and most are three drinks deep on screwdrivers, squinting through their masks at the blazing afternoon sun.

At the head of this pack is Captain Bullshit, casting long shadows with his horned helmet and flowing black cape. Among his allies: Thong Man, sporting a silver spandex bodysuit and a painfully taut G-string; Firefly, wearing a shiny red luchador mask and bulbous codpiece; and Evil Eve, wearing little besides flesh-colored tights and artificial vines. Drivers honk and wave at them; they wave back and strike heroic poses.

This is supposed to be the "Epic Superheroes vs. Villains" battle, but so far, this motley crew is the only group here. They're all members of Arizona Costumed Revelers, a social group of Valley costuming fans who don a variety of guises for themed club nights and bar crawls. They're debating whether or not to grab drinks at Rúla Búla when the "opposition" finally arrives.

The second wave of superheroes is larger — about 40 people — and consists of such characters as Super Cow (udders and all), The King (somebody in an Elvis pantsuit with a gorilla mask on his head), Sparta the Custodian (weapon of choice: long-stick broom), and a Viking man who keeps lifting his loincloth to reveal hot pink spandex shorts that read "Pow!" on the crotch and "Smash!" on the ass.

Plastic swords and swimming-pool noodles fly as the two sides clash at the entrance to Tempe Beach Park. Cries of "Mwahaha!" "Die, evil villains!" and "Where's my wig?" fill the air.

The mock melee lasts about 10 minutes, and then the legion of superheroes boards the Metro light rail to catch a matinee screening of Kick-Ass at the Arizona Center. It's a small taste of the eye candy to appear at Phoenix Comicon.

Some Valley costuming fans, like Aaron Forrester and the Arizona Avengers, gear up for Phoenix Comicon and charity events for months. Others, like AZ Costumed Revelers, dress up year-round just to party. Costuming crosses all factions of fandom, from sci-fi to anime, and the weekend of Comicon brings them all together in a quirky catwalk where Yoda and Pokémon walk hand in hand.

Perhaps the best-known international costuming group is the 501st Legion — whose members dress as Star Wars stormtroopers, in white plastic body armor and helmets, and carry black prop rifles. Members of the Arizona chapter, the Dune Sea Garrison, will be at Comicon this year to host a mixer with women dressed as 1940s pinup girls. They're also scheduled to attend the Comicon "Geek Prom," a fundraiser for Kids Need to Read hosted by actors Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stand By Me) and Felicia Day (The Guild, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog).

Like the DSG, the Arizona Ghostbusters will be at the con to raise money for charity, complete with proton packs and their Ecto-1 mobile (which will probably be parked near a DeLorean).

Arizona Costumed Revelers will also be there, to promote their own "Wild Wild West Con" in Tucson next year. You might find them by the bar, dressed up as futuristic cowboys.

Each of those groups has invested time and money in the creation of their costumes and props, but few have put in the kind of hours Aaron Forrester has. For him, finally putting on his Iron Man armor will be an epic moment. The painstaking process of creating it has been an endless ladder of steps, filled with "all these little details."

To create the molds for his armor, Forrester used a computer program called Pepakura, which takes the dimensions of objects (like paper craft flowers, card-stock airplanes, or Iron Man's codpiece) and creates a numbered template which can be cut, folded, and glued into a 3D object.

Using Pepakura, data from an Iron Man costuming fan in Norway, and his own body measurements, Forrester created 3D paper models for each of the costume's 30-plus parts. Then, he assembled each paper model and coated it with resin and a thick layer of fiberglass.

"It starts off as card stock, just basic paper. The torso alone took 24 man-hours — just paper alone, not including fiberglass time," Forrester says. "Plus, I wanted to add some really fun details, like the vents in the back. There's lots of steps, lots of little pieces."

Once every piece was assembled, covered with resin, and formed in fiberglass, Forrester applied Bondo putty to them all. "It's basically automotive body filler, nothing special," he says. "You can get it at any AutoZone."

He sands the Bondo on every part, adds a layer of glazing or lacquer putty, and finally, a layer of primer. It's a long, hot, caustic process, and Forrester often wears a gas mask when working.

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6 comments
garage door repair irvine
garage door repair irvine

Maintaining a home can be very expensive. From running the electric to running the water, it all adds up. One of the most important and expensive utilities in the home is heating water. Having a proper hot water heater effects all different sorts of daily life. It is a fact than 10% of all utilities are spent on heating water, that's why having a proper residential water heating service is important. And a residential water heating service is there to help you figure out and choose exactly what is right for your home.

garage door repair irvine
garage door repair irvine

Maintaining a home can be very expensive. From running the electric to running the water, it all adds up. One of the most important and expensive utilities in the home is heating water. Having a proper hot water heater effects all different sorts of daily life. It is a fact than 10% of all utilities are spent on heating water, that's why having a proper residential water heating service is important. And a residential water heating service is there to help you figure out and choose exactly what is right for your home.

Jo Denny
Jo Denny

Oh wow, Costume parties are always fun man!

Louwww.anon-posting.at.tc

Terra Walker
Terra Walker

It's not a costume party:) There are groups of us that appear for charities, and Phoenix Comicon is the premiere pop-culture event in the southwest. You should join us sometime! It would be great to have another face.

Jason
Jason

HOLY SHIT! You guys managed to capture Pedobear on film! Hopefully you guys stopped him before anyone was carried off.

Ruth Carter
Ruth Carter

Almost everything you wrote about the 2010 Epic Super Hero Battle was inaccurate...and you didn't give credit to the organizers, Improv AZ. I think you need to publish a correction in your next edition.

 
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