If you wore any sort of costume out to Phoenix Comicon 2014 this past weekend, then we salute you. It took a lot of gumption to wear anything other than shorts and a T-shirt when temperatures were as hot as 110 degrees, particularly if it was made of spandex, pleather, or other non-breathable materials used in making much of colorful attire worn by many of the tens of thousands who attended the massive geek-a-thon in downtown Phoenix.
We've got even more kudos for those costumes that were especially impressive, imaginative, and inspired, including our 10 favorites that we spied over all four days of the annual event at the Phoenix Convention Center, the Hyatt Regency, or elsewhere.
Honorable mentions: Although they didn't make the cut, we also dug the Ooggie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas, a family dressed as the Wonder Twins and Gleek, and a pair of princes from Katamari Damacy.
Mystery Science Theatre 3000
It's been forever and a day since we've seen MST3K, but we were huge devotees of the snarky-as-hell cult television show back during its lengthy run on both Comedy Central and what was then known the Sci-Fi Channel (episodes like "Manos: The Hands of Fate," "Soultaker," and "Mitchell" were particular favorites). And, apparently, local cosplayer Joel Cranson was a big fan as well, since he came to Comicon dressed as Joel Robinson, the show's original protagonist. If you've never seen the show, the character is a down-on-his-luck temp who is stranded on an orbiting space station by his evil bosses at the Gizmonics Institute and forced to watch (and razz) bad movies along with a couple of homemade robots.
Although Cranson, who's renowned locally for the series of Star Wars fan films he's helped create, only brought along one of MST3K's robots, in this case the gumball machine-like Tom Servo, it was a fun bit of nostalgia to see his costume.
Freddie Mercury Cyberman
Of the many cultural exports that the United Kingdom has gifted the colonies over the centuries, two of our favorites are both the music of Queen and the wonder of Doctor Who. So when we spotted this Phoenix Comicon attendee sporting a hybridization of Queen's late frontman Freddie Mercury in his famed yellow jacket from the band's 1986 world tour with the malevolent Whovian cyborg foe known as Cybermen, it definitely caught our eye. It even included Mercury's signature mustache.
We weren't the only ones who dug the costume, as photos of it that were posted online over the past weekend got plenty of love, including such amusing comments as "We Will/We Will/Delete You," playing off the Queen hit "We Will Rock You" and the Cyberman's trademark battle cry.
Detailed doesn't even begin to describe this costume tribute to David Fincher's cinematic version of Fight Club that was created by Phoenix residents Robert Tucker and AJ Meleleu. It went beyond just looking almost exactly like the characters of The Narrator (portrayed by Tucker) and Tyler Durden (played by Meleleu), as they carried around a briefcase filled with an IKEA-esque catalog, airplane tickets, and what appeared to be handmade soap, which we sincerely hope wasn't crafted from human adipose.
Tucker also wore a nametag for "Cornelius" (the name used by The Narrator at the testicular cancer support group), Meleleu had a bar of soap bearing the Fight Club logo, and both handed out accurate-looking business cards for the Paper Street Soap Company similar to those featured in the flick. We are Jack's very impressed inner geek.
Strong Bad & Friends
Geeks from the Aughts are likely familiar with the infamous Internet flash cartoon website Homestar Runnerand likely its equally infamous villain, Strong Bad. In fact, the wise-ass scoundrel (who wore a wrestling mask like a luchador and spoke like Father Guido Sarducci from Saturday Night live) was arguably the site's most popular character.
He's a definite favorite of Valley resident Stacey Smith and her sisters, who grew up watching the cartoons on the site, including Strong Bad's series of hilarious responses to e-mails from fans. So much so that she wanted to go to Comicon as the masked fiend, while her siblings went as other characters from the Homestar universe.
Shauna Smith, for instance, dressed as The Cheat (a cat-like creature who serves as a sidekick of sorts) and Courtney Smith came as a peasant in flames that was "burninated" by Trogdor, a badass dragon that was invented by Strong Bad. Another member of the Smith family was costumed as the melancholic Strong Sad, who sadly was off attending a panel when we encountered the family outside of the exhibitor hall.
Darth Vader has naturally become sort of an omnipresent figure at Phoenix Comicon, whether its on posters and T-shirts being sold by vendors or the dozens of fans who dress as either the O.G. version Star Wars villain or a creative remix (like Elvis Vader, Pulp Fiction Vader, or Hipster Vader). Heck, we even saw an adorable tyke dressed as a pink ballerina Darth, complete with a tiara and tutu.
But probably the most memorable Vader at this year's event was proffered by Ryan Niebla, who came as Dark Helmet, the parody of the dark lord from Mel Brooks' Star Wars send-up Spaceballs. The Schwartz was definitely with the Peoria resident's costume, which boasted a jet-black necktie, oversized helmet, and even a snake-shaped ring. Niebla (wisely) declined to recreate the film's famous scene where Lord Helmet smashes head-first into a wall after his ship suddenly ceases going ludicrous speed, however.
Boris Badenov & Natasha Fatale
Valley residents Lauren Kline and Ken Stewart went old school when searching for inspiration for their Comicon outfits -- way old school. The pair flipped on the Wayback Machine and decided they'd go as the bad guy Russian spy duo of Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale from 1960s cartoon The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
"We were looking for something classic to do that not a lot of people would do at Comicon," Kline says. "A lot of people overlook the old school and go for The Hunger Games or other, newer stuff. We knew that a lot of the younger generation wouldn't know who we were, but a lot of older people are going crazy over it."
As if to perfectly illustrate her point, a 50-something gentleman (who likely remembered the bomb-toting characters from their misadventures as the longtime nemeses of "moose and squirrel") just happened to pass by and exclaim, "Hey, Boris and Natasha!"
18th Century Joker & Harley Quinn
It's safe to say that you can't swing a comically oversized mallet at Comicon each year without hitting attendees that are portraying either The Joker, his femme fatale sidekick Harley Quinn, or both. Matt and Sarah Rader of Phoenix, however, created a nifty reinterpretation of the deadly duo as figures from the 18th century, from the Joker's green-colored powered wig and foppish look to Harley's Marie Antoinette-style 'do, ball gown, and Venetian-style masquerade mask. The period-specific ensembles, including the frilly undergarments, were hand-sewn by Sarah who came up with the idea.
Matt, however, admits he initially had his doubts. "I was against the idea because everybody does Harley Quinn and the Joker," he says. "But she came up with the idea and did all the work and it turned out to be fantastic."
Samurai Finn & Samurai Jake
Speaking of Comicon cosplay standards being remixed into something cool, Cole Weaver and Julian Gladysiewski of Mesa took geeky favorites Finn and his loyal dog Jake from the ultra-popular Cartoon Network show Adventure Time and sent 'em back in time to create samurai versions of the characters.
"We had seen fan art pictures online of Finn as a Samurai and Jake as a Fu Dog dragon," Weaver says. "So we transformed them into both being samurai." That included making feudal Japan-style segmented armor done up in either characters' color scheme out of plastic and creating unique helmets for each, such as a kabuto-like helmet with ears inspired by Finn's trademark bear hat.
When creating a fantastically spot-on recreation of renowned Disney villainess Maleficent, currently the star of her own summer blockbuster, it helps to fashion a flowing gowns and horns that perfectly mimic the darkly dazzling ensembles worn by the so-bad-she's-good "Mistress of All Evil." It also doesn't hurt if, like Scottsdale professional cosplayer Aime Jaze, you bear more than a passing resemblance to Maleficent actress Angelina Jolie.
Jaze's similarity to Mrs. Brad Pitt and her stunning, screen-worthy costumes made her a cut above any of the other Maleficents that were at Comicon this year. As a big fan of both Sleeping Beauty and Jolie herself, Jaze (who cosplays with her husband Lance) was more than happy with portraying both at the event.
"After seeing the stills [for Maleficent] even before the movie came out, I knew it was something that I had to strive for, because it's just a beautiful character," Jaze says.
Group costumes are quite common at comic book 'cons whereby packs of friends will coordinate their cosplay in order to roll through the event as such geeky factions as The Avengers, the Justice League, or the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
And the best costumed ensemble we saw at Phoenix Comicon this year, hands down, was this pack of Dothraki from Game of Thrones. This eight-person ensemble not only donned leather-like gear to play the members of the HBO show's nomadic tribe of warrior horselords over the course of the weekend, they also put on a showstopping dance performance at the Masquerade costume contest that encapsulated the clan's trials and tribulations during the first season.
The whole thing was the brainchild of Casey Kaki and Alison Terry, two friends who came up with the concept and put together the outfits. So impressive was their idea that the troupe was awarded one of the "Best of Show" trophies at the Phoenix Comicon Masquerade costume contest.
Suffice to say, they're both avid Game of Thrones watchers, as are the other six people in the group. "Yeah, everyone is big fans," says Kaki, who played the role of Daenerys Targaryen, the Khaleesi of the Dothraki alongside pal Tommy Barresi, who starred as the musclebound Drogo in the ensemble.
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It's not the first time that the pair have conjured up something magnificent for a 'con, as they also helped create a "Steampunk Hocus Pocus" group costume that won an award at this year's Amazing Arizona Comicon in January. Hazi davrae!
Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.