It ain't easy being a cosplayer at Phoenix Comicon, or any other convention during the warmer months. It can be uncomfortable walking around downtown Phoenix to begin with, let alone layers of cardboard, PVC, or other costuming material. And believe us, you tend to do a lot of walking at Comicon every year. Local cosplayers toughed out both the warm weather and the physical activity to get where they needed to go, however, and did so in style while starring as any number of characters from the imaginative realms of sci-fi, fantasy, comics, and video games.
As is the norm at PCC, costumes were everywhere to be seen both inside and outside during the four-day experience at the Phoenix Convention Center, including hordes of Boba Fetts, Batmen, Wonder Women, and dozens upon dozens of Harley Quinns (seriously, there were a lot of those this year).
Some costumes and cosplayers went above and beyond the rest with fantastic and memorable attire at Phoenix Comicon 2015, including the following attendees that caught our eye and impressed the heck out of us.
Honorable mentions: Some of our favorites included Barf from Spaceballs, Elliot from ET: The Extra Terrestrial, a really great Khal Drogo, and a humorous Pam Poovey. We also heard there was a Bob Ross imitator and a Cornholio-style Beavis lurking about.
Teen Girl Squad
We're pretty big fans of Homestar Runner and have been for years. That said, our fandom for the infamously goofy web-comic of the Aughts sort of pales in comparison to local residents Stacey Smith, Shauna Smith, and Courtney Smith. Last year, the three sisters visited Comicon while dressed as such Homestar characters as Strong Bad, The Cheat, and Trogdor the Burninator. This year, however, they topped themselves by coming as the Teen Girl Squad, a crudely hand-drawn cartoon-within-a-cartoon from the website that parodies, um, teenage girls.
If you grew up in the '80s, there's a good chance you watched Jem, even if you weren't in the target demographic of pre-adolescent girls aged 5 to 12. And, if the online backlash to the recently released trailer for Jem and the Holograms, the upcoming big screen action adaptation of said cartoon starring Aubrey Peeples, is any indication, you might be kinda pissed about what Hollywood has done to the childhood favorite. Pam Crandall certainly was, which is why the Valley resident incorporated a protest of sorts in her costume tribute to the original Jem, as you can see below.
“[I] just felt disappointed because when I was growing up the character was just so powerful and strong. She was this businesswoman with foster kids and magic and all that,” Crandall says. “And in the trailer, she became successful on YouTube and her siblings were foster kids and there wasn't any magic. And it takes away from my childhood.”
In other words, don't expect to see her at the movie's première in October.
Rick and Carl Grimes
We encountered Rob Clark and his son Hunter near the booth for the Umbrella Corporation Arizona Hive, a local cosplay group inspired by the zombie-centric video game Resident Evil. And it couldn't have been a more fitting location, considering that they were portraying Rick and Carl Grimes from The Walking Dead. The father-son duo were in the Valley to visit family and decided to don costumes from a couple of their favorite characters from the hit AMC television show. And just like the myriad Comicon patrons dressed at Scorpion from Mortal Kombat had to endure people yelling, “Get over here!” in their presence, Rob and Hunter were constantly peppered “Carl, get in the house!” Hell, we even thought about saying it ourselves before someone else beat us to it.
One of the the first costumes that caught our eye at Phoenix Comicon this year was Derek Lookingbill's rendition of Professor Charles Xavier's signature hover chair. Like the legendary X-Men character, the 35-year-old Tucson resident relies on a motorized wheelchair to get around, albeit for nerve damage in his lower extremities and from chronic foot pain. Lookingbill, however used his condition as the basis for a cosplay with his wife, Alanta, who went as Phoenix. “If you get a bigger crowd around you, it's tough to be ignored. But it's also fun to dress to dress up,” he says. “I'm a nerd across the board.”
Although it's been more than a few years since we cracked open a U.S. history textbook, we're pretty sure that George Washington wasn't armed with a Gatling gun (or any other automatic weapon, for that matter) back when he fought in the Revolutionary War. So if you encountered Grant Harper of Goodyear at Comicon, you might have scratched your head at his costume – which featured the founding father wielding with such a massive armament – unless you're familiar with the video game BioShock Infinite. Harper was portraying a “Motorized Patriot,” an insidious automaton gone amok from the game that's one of its many enemies. “Think of it being like the George Washington robot from the Hall of Presidents at Disneyland if it could walk and was eight feet tall and had a motorized chain gun,” Harper says.
Knockout and Starscream
Cosplay, by it's very essence, is about becoming someone else entirely, if only for a little bit, which can be particularly enjoyable if you're playing a villain. After all, it's good to be a little bad once in a while. To wit: Local resident Rachel Cook enjoys playing the bufoonish Cybertronian villain Knockout from Transformers: Prime to various Arizona conventions like Phoenix Comicon. (She's even performed at local geek events in costume along with local hip-hop artist Vocab Malone). This year, she had some backup when her friend and fellow Transformer fan Claire Corcoran attended Comicon as Starscream.
Each created her own costume over a few months and earned some kudos at the event when they won first place in the “masters” category at the PCC masquerade and costume contest, including nabbing a $300 cash prize. They weren't the only Transformers fans who had a good showing at the 'con, as their fellow members of the Arizona Autobots costuming groups brought out more than a dozen different characters for the event, including Hound, Blaster, Windcharger, and Alpha Trion. We're still waiting for them to create an Omega Supreme or even Unicron, however.
Star Lord and Rocket Racoon (circa 2008)
As one would expect, Guardians of the Galaxy cosplay was quite prevalent at Comicon. So much so that it took a unique or spectacular take on the now well-known Marvel Comics characters to stand out from the crowd. Husband and wife Josh and Tara Hamano certainly did that, as their version of Star Lord and Rocket Raccoon were a bit different from what you saw on the silver screen last summer. Specifically, the Mesa couple costumed themselves as the characters from the 2008 comic book revival of Guardians of the Galaxy. “I read it back when it first came out and fell in love with them,” Josh says. “I guess my passion just got reinspired when I saw that the movie was coming out.” The local geek says that he doesn't mind all the Star Lords-come-lately that have sprung up since everyone went gaga for the movie. “I think they're all just as good,” Josh says. “Chris Pratt made it a little more cartoony and energetic, but it's a different take on the character.”
Another Guardians of the Galaxy cosplayer that stood out from the crowd (both figuratively and literally) was this towering rendition of Groot that was quite magnificent, had Rocket Racoon as a sidekick, and probably wound up in more than a few photographs over Comicon weekend. It also earned plenty of awe and appreciation during the annual masquerade and costume contest on Saturday night when it traipsed across the stage in Room 301 and even danced to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5, just like its cinematic counterpart. Getting off stage, however, was a different matter. It (understandably) was a difficult feat for the cosplayer, who came perilously close to tipping completely over while climbing down the stairs. Thankfully, some stagehand and the event's emcee (Stormtrooper TD-0013 from local Dune Sea Garrison) cosplay group were there to catch them.
Other than the oppressive heat and all the blasted reruns on TV, one of the hallmarks of the summertime – well, the last two at least – is the now-annual broadcast of another Sharknado movie. The so-bad-it's-good Syfy Channel movie franchise is about to release a third version (subtitled Oh Hell No!) in July, which is both good and bad news for Michele Snyder. The Chandler resident has created and worn a humorous costume inspired by the series for the last couple of years and had earned some attention on the Internet for it when she went to San Diego Comic-Con in 2013. She's also racked up some serious aches and pains from wearing the enormous getup. “This would be Sharknado number three,” Snyder told us. “This would be my third year doing and I hope it's my last one. For my back's sake, I hope it's my last year.”
It was definitely hard to miss this cosplayer as he walked around Phoenix Comicon as his Frankenstein costume, which stood at least eight feet tall and was equipped with LEDs and other attention-getting contraptions, towered above crowds in both the Exhibitor's Hall and elsewhere around the convention center. Fellow geeks weren't the only ones impressed with the monstrous getup, as it earned second place in the journeyman category at the annual masquerade and costume contest on Saturday. Fittingly, organizers played the Alice Cooper track “Teenage Frankenstein” when the cosplayer hit the stage.
Five Nights at Freddy's Characters
While we can't claim to be experts at any of the PC games in the Five Nights at Freddy's series, which involves defending oneself from the possessed animatronic creatures from a family pizza restaurant (think Chuckie Cheese meets Westworld), we've lost a few hours trying to survive the onslaught of its cute-yet-deadly beings. The game has a huge following, as evidenced by a bunch of Five Nights at Freddy's cosplay at Comicon this year. We witnessed one troupe of four attendees that impressively represented most of the cast from the first game that were getting kudos from fellow geeks, while separately encountering Mike Jacobsen's fantastic recreation of Foxy the Pirate elsewhere at the event.
The Tucson resident spent upwards of two months building and testing out the costume, including adding in glowing eyes and servo-powered appendages. “There are a lot of fans of the game who have made their own Five Nights characters,” he says. “I'm pretty big fan, too, and I liked the engineering challenge of making it.” Here's hoping that his creation doesn't spring to life on its own one evening in a case of life imitating art.
Normally, we wouldn't endorse getting near a gigantic mutated rat in real life. This being Comicon, however, where comic book characters and other imaginary beings come to life, it's sort of an okay thing to do. And when people saw Baback Moussavi of Las Vegas dressed as Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, many willingly came up to him for a quick photograph or to express their admiration for the costume and character. And while we admit to seeing plenty of Ninja Turtles at geek events, especially after the live action movie came out last summer, not many people have portrayed Splinter. “It's unfortunate that you don't see too many other Splinter costumes out there at all at [conventions],” Moussavi says.
Saturday evening is typically the busiest night of Phoenix Comicon, owing to the fact that there are parties, balls, and other after-dark happenings at both the convention center itself, as well as at nearby hotels and bars. One of the more popular events that evening is the aforementioned masquerade and costume contest in Room 301, which typically features hundreds in attendance checking out some of the best cosplay at the entire 'con. It's also a variety show of sorts, as some of the participants perform short skits or lip-synching bits to showcase their characters.
The biggest hit of the night took place when a crew of local geeks and cosplayers recreated the training montage from the 1998 animated Disney musical Mulan, which is set to the song, “I'll Make A Man Out of You.” The skit was a showstopper in every sense of the word and included a cast of dozen in full costumes, choreographed martial arts moves, and even an enormous Chinese dragon worthy of a parade. Needless to say, it easily won the “Best in Show” award at the masquerade.
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