If you've attended Phoenix Comicon at any point over the past couple years, it's likely you've seen Cara Nicole dressed in costume in the Exhibitor Hall, probably as her best-known alter ego AZ Powergirl.
Frankly, she's pretty hard to miss, even among the crowds of countless cosplayers that regularly attend the four-day event each year, as the statuesque blonde bombshell is fairly unforgettable when wearing the wowie-zowie red, white, and blue ensemble inspired by the DC Universe's Power Girl.
And like Power Girl herself, who -- for those who aren't comics nerds -- is the Kryptonian cousin of Superman, Nicole has numerous talents other than filling out a skin-tight spandex outfit. The cosplayer and comics aficionado is one of the creative forces behind local indie publisher 183 Degree Studio, which she runs with her husband and artist Alfred Trujillo.
Nicole is involved in many parts of the comic-making process, including everything from character design and editing to inking and lettering, and played a part in the creation of 183 Degree Studio's latest titles, Project: Shadows. Well, when she hasn't been jetting off to any of the numerous comics conventions or geek-related events she appears at each year, modeling, or appearing in a few films.
By her own estimation, Nicole's appeared in costume (either as AZ Powergirl or other personas at more than a dozen such cons and events in the last 12 months alone, including a very busy May.
Last weekend, she hit the Long Beach Comicon in California. This weekend, it's the Motor City Con in Detroit followed by a trip to Denver for that city's big geekfest. Sandwiched in-between is her hometown event Phoenix Comicon, where Nicole will host or be a part of four different cosplay-related panels and discussions.
Nicole's been doing the costuming thing in earnest since October 2010 and had plenty to say about the subject when Jackalope Ranch interviewed her via telephone recently, including some of her surprising choices of local places to shop for gear and what she had planned for Phoenix Comicon.
She also urges others to heed the call and join the ranks of the superhero-costumed legions and cosplayers to "do some good" or at least have a good time.
What are you wearing to Phoenix Comicon? I don't know yet, I haven't decided. I've got a few things I'm thinking about. I'll be as other characters too. There's a photo shoot tomorrow so if that goes well and I can get prints I might do a costume I've been working on [called] Steampunky Brewster. I obviously will do Power Girl and I always do Power Girl on Saturday. That's because sometimes what happens is that people don't recognize me if I'm in a different costume, especially when I'm a zombie with excessive makeup. So Saturday is always Power Girl.
Any sort of new costumes or variants that you have planned for Phoenix Comicon? I think I'm going to do one of my Silver Age suits. I have different concepts. I have the Silver Age suit and for Amazing Arizona [Comicon] I did more of a casual Power Girl with jeans and stuff. And it was actually from a cover of [an] issue one from the '90s, the re-release and a variant. She's got like a jacket and she's opening it up like a Clark Kent thing where you see the shirt underneath. So since I did it Amazing Arizona [Comicon], I don't want to repeat everything. I do have a new Harley Quinn I'm thinking about doing and few other things I don't want to mention just yet.
Is AZ Powergirl your most popular character? That's what I'm known as, AZ Powergirl. I look like Power Girl, regardless of the costume.
How long have you been doing cosplay? About two-and-half years. I started out as AZ Powergirl for the Arizona Pop Cultural Experence. I was with their version of the JLA.
What's your alter ego? I would have to say my alter ego is Cara Nicole and she's a writer. I do everything. I actually have a comic book company [183 Degree Studio] and we just Kickstarted our new book Project: Shadows. And I do additional writing content in that, I do some character design, some editing, and some lettering. I've worked with other creators on characters and write for other comic books as well. Project: Shadows is the one we're really focused on lately, because of our Kickstarter.
What other sorts of projects are you involved with? I also have the AZ Powergirl Quarterly magazine that we started and kinda pulled back on so that we could make it better. We also have the AZ Powergirl Photo Book. It's similar to an artist's sketchbook but its based upon many of my cosplays and jobs I've had as a cosplayer and different things that I do.
As far as what is cosplay? Well, this is kind of a rundown of what it is, at least for me. And I am, as far as I know, the only cosplayer that has one. It's not like a comic book. It just has narratives about this is what this costume is for and this is where it's from and this is some modeling jobs or acting jobs that I've done. Just some different things about being a cosplayer.
How many comicons or geek-type events do you appear at? Oh my gosh. Well, in 2012, just conventions and not counting extra events like charity events and Free Comic Book Day and store signings, I did 16 shows. One of those shows was Rapture Horror Expo which I'm staff at and that I helped to put on.
Who are some of your style heroes or heroines? I would probably have to say anything in a comic book and various artists. I seriously just look at the characters and I think about their personalities and I think about what would work in the real world.
Have you been influenced by any famous cosplayers? When I started, Yaya Han was about it. And she is a fantastic craftsman and a scary-good cosplayer and she's very well-respected and adored in the community and Jessica [Nigri] is as well. But when I started, I didn't even know about cosplay.
What is it about Power Girl that appeals to you? She's kind of exposed, but not so much as other characters. And she just resonates this confidence. She's just kind of off. I think of Power Girl as being a little bit socially [inept]. She wasn't raised on Earth, so she's a little bit off. Power Girl doesn't fit in anywhere if you look at her back-history, so she is a little awkward, but she rolls with it.
Which one of Power Girl's super-powers would you love having? Oooh...lemme think. Super strength, 'cause it's awesome! Like picking stuff up...I had to move a dresser yesterday and that would've been so much easier if I could've just picked it up and moved it.
What's your take on the DC reboot two years ago (a.k.a. "The New 52")? I'm not real thrilled. I mean, I'm digging Batman but, ehhh. Not really digging it in general. Some of the storylines, some of the books themselves, seem to be short and it just doesn't seem to be...I don't know what they were doing. I really don't. I'm not happy with some of the art and it's even more than Power Girl's terrible costume. But they tried to under-sexualize their over-sexualized characters in order to overcompensate the fact that people say, "Oh, well you're over-sexualizing those characters." And it's just not really working out.
Where do you usually shop for cosplay stuff? Ohhh...AutoZone or Home Depot (laughs).
Really? Like for goggles or whatever? No, just random stuff. I mean, a lot of times it's tools in order to make pieces. Like AutoZone really is my big place. I can get like mirrors and different pieces that I can use on costumes. I do a lot of what I call "modifying parts." So rather than taking raw material and turning it into a costume, I will take something that's already something and turn it into a costume piece. So I'll spray paint things that are already made or I use scraps of things.
What's the best costume store in town, in your opinion? If you're looking to buy a costume, I would probably say hit Easley's or Bubbles of Joy. They're both pretty good stores locally to get costumes. And you can also rent them from those places.
What if you're piecing something together? It depends on your suit. That's what it really comes down to. I shop for leotards and pantyhose at various Capezio's, but a lot of times you can't buy certain types of things. So we have some great seamstresses here locally if you need to make something from scratch and you can't do it yourself. Or thrift stores are great. So I would say visit thrift stores or find pieces that you can turn around and change.
What's the last piece of cosplay gear you purchased? The last one was when I was at AutoZone (laughs) and I bought some mirrors that I'll be using on a few different costumes. Like, I'm redoing the discs on my Silver Age Power Girl and I'm toying with doing a white Mary Marvel.
What item of costuming do you most covet at the moment? Seven-of-Nine, her corset. I so want that, but it's not something [practical] to wear all the time or even for a day. So I'm working on it.
What are five items that every superheroine or cosplayer should have in their closet? 1. A cape 2. A leotard of some sort 3. Boots 4. Gloves 5. A corset
What's the most impressive costume you've seen at Phoenix Comicon? There was an amazing Slimer last year. It was awesome and was the most impressive costume that I saw. It was really wicked.
Besides cosplaying, what else will you be doing at Phoenix Comicon? I actually have a panel this year on Thursday as AZ Powergirl. We're pretty much going to talk about what it's like to live the life of a cosplayer and some of the things that go on. I have so many things that just particularly pertain to me that people find very interesting. We've actually started working on a documentary about me. It won't be ready for Phoenix Comicon, but that's actually been in the works for awhile, some of the media things I've done, all the conventions, modeling jobs, acting jobs, and how it all goes back to this one thing.
And I also have a panel I've been doing for a few years now called "Anyone Can Be a Hero!" where me and some other superheroes encourage others to cosplay and not worry about how you look, because that's an issue for some people. "Oh, I can't wear spandex! I can't be a cosplayer! I can't do this because I don't look like this superhero!" Well, who cares? Get in a costume and enjoy yourself. Join with us doing some good at children's events, charity events, and have a good time and don't let concerns like "Nobody knows who my character is," or "I don't have the right body type," or "I'm the wrong race" stop you. Have fun with it.
What's the coolest thing about cosplay, in your opinion? Going to Circle K and having people be like, "Hey, can I have a picture?" That's so awesome.
What's the weirdest interaction you've had in costume? Well, some of those people get pretty weirded out by me. There was a 'con where I was a very, very grotesque zombie and my friends did not want to touch me. They didn't want to come near me, they were kind of afraid. People who had normally taken lots of pictures with me didn't want anything to do with me. I was oozing and it was just kind of disturbing.
Are people afraid to approach you at events? I don't know. Maybe at one point they were, but now its pretty normal. I get people that just kind of...they don't mean to be weird and so I don't want to badmouth anybody. Because sometimes people are a little awkward or they don't know what to do, they don't know how to talk to you. And they're trying to be polite, so maybe they stand around at your table forever, because what do you say? I really don't have any complaints or anything like that because people do the best they can. I really haven't had any really weird, weird things happen to me.
What's the weirdest that's happened to you at Phoenix Comicon? I'd say the weirdest thing would have to be that I won "prom queen" in 2011 at the Geek Prom. It is weird because I grew up a dork and you don't get to be prom queen when you're picked on and teased. So that was really exciting, but that was weird for me.
Note: This post has been edited from its original version.
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Cara Nicole (a.k.a. AZ Powergirl) is scheduled to host her own panel at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 23, in room 227AB at the Phoenix Convention Center as well as the "Anyone Can Be a Hero!" discussion at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 24, in 231AB.
She will also be a part of two other cosplay-related panels throughout the weekend and will be at booth 2311 in the Exhibitor Hall.
Phoenix Comicon takes place from Thursday, May 23, to Sunday, May 26, at the Phoenix Convention Center. Daily admission prices are $15 to $30 while a full event memberships is $50.