Nerd Culture

The 20 Best Costumes We Saw at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018

A cosplayer at Phoenix Comic Fest dressed as Morrigan Aensland from Darkstalkers.
A cosplayer at Phoenix Comic Fest dressed as Morrigan Aensland from Darkstalkers. Benjamin Leatherman
Phoenix Comic Fest was filled with both highs and lows for local cosplayers.

As you'd expect, the four-day pop culture event — which took place from May 24-27 at the Phoenix Convention Center — was a nonstop showcase of costumes.

Cosplayers from around Arizona got a chance to show off their best efforts and wowed those in attendance with their artistry, creativity, and hard work.

We came across some of the best costumes we've ever witnessed at the event, including all manner of outfits inspired by films, video games, books, and other geeky subject matter. (Heck, someone even dressed up as a Falcon Heavy rocket.)

It wasn't all cosplay bliss, however. An unforeseen incident on the third night of Comic Fest wound up derailing and complicating the plans and outfits of a few local costume gurus.

An emergency evacuation emptied the convention center on Saturday, May 26, after a false alarm caused the annual Masquerade Costume Contest, the biggest cosplay event of the weekend, to be postponed until the following evening.

And several of the people that were forced to leave the venue were cosplayers who were gathered inside for a pre-judging session for the masquerade.

The incident caused problems for several of them. Some were either unable to attend the rescheduled masquerade. Others had their outfits wrecked during the scramble to leave the convention center.

Valley cosplayer Prue Dense was one of the people whose costume was affected by the evacuation. Her expertly crafted costume, which depicted the Enchantress from Beauty and Beast, was ruined after she and other cosplayers were forced to wait outside the convention center for several hours.

“It melted and I melted,” she told Phoenix New Times.

That said, cosplayers are cool under pressure and are used to dealing with setbacks, including handling last-minute snafus with their costumes.

And that makes them amazing.

“[Evacuating] was a frustrating situation but obviously you roll with the punches,” Dense says. “It was obviously no one's fault and we all dealt with it as best we could.”

And that included finishing up the judging session outside of the convention center.

“We just kind of all stayed in a group and then we were told, 'Hey, don't leave, pre-judging is still happening.”

The story has a happy ending for Dense and other inconvenienced cosplayers, as they won honors at the masquerade the following evening (even if they weren't present).

We're also happy to give them their due in our annual list of the best costumes from Phoenix Comic Fest.

First, here are a few honorable mentions: Costumes that just missed making the list, but deserve to be applauded include a group of green plastic army men, a mobile version of Han Solo frozen in carbonite, Seymour and Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, a life-sized Funko Pop version of Harley Quinn, and a group cosplay from Aladdin.

Now that those are out of the way, here's a look at the best costumes we saw at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018.

click to enlarge Tell them what you want, what you really really want. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Tell them what you want, what you really really want.
Benjamin Leatherman
Spice Girls

When local cosplayer Casey Kaki and her friends roll into a local con in costume, they get plenty of attention. At Amazing Arizona Comic Con 2015, they scored kudos for a steampunk-inspired Wizard of Oz group costume. And at Phoenix Comicon in 2016 and 2017, they put on two showstopping kits inspired by Disney movies that earned them back-to-back “Best in Show” awards.

Kaki and her crew once again dressed to impress at Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 when they came as the Spice Girls. Kaki, who portrayed Ginger Spice, says she and her gal-pals were inspired by their mutual love of the famous '90s pop act. “We wanted to do Spice Girls because it totally brought back childhood memories,” Kaki says.

click to enlarge He who controls the spice controls the universe. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
He who controls the spice controls the universe.
Benjamin Leatherman
Leto II Atreides

Garth Davidson of Phoenix is a huge fan of Frank Herbert's classic Dune books. So much so that he created a costume of Leto II Atreides, the human/sandworm hybrid and “god emperor” who is featured in a few of the tomes from the legendary science-fiction series.

“The character is a symbiosis of a sandworm and human,” Davidson says. “He's lived for 3,500 years, has a galactic empire controlling all of known humanity, and he's created a golden path that keeps humanity from destroying itself.”

It's an impressive CV, which is equaled by the epic nature of Davidson's costume, which was more than 6 feet tall and towered over most Comic Fest attendees.

click to enlarge May Heavenly Father be with you. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
May Heavenly Father be with you.
Benjamin Leatherman
Elder Fett

One of the more humorous costumes seen at Phoenix Comic Fest was this amusing mashup of Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett with a Mormon elder. Tucson resident Matthew Copely portrayed the character, who sported a name badge proclaiming his membership in the “Church of Darth Vader Lord of the Sith” and carrying around a Book of Mandalore.

We've got no idea if the character rides a speeder bike, though, or if he wears special space underwear or went to Bespin on his mission. Like Boba Fett in the Empire Strikes Back, Copely was a man of few words.

click to enlarge Kraang rules. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Kraang rules.
Benjamin Leatherman

Whenever geeks do Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cosplay these days, it's typically characters like Shredder, Splinter, or the turtles themselves. Not so much with Kraang, the pink-skinned alien that served as one of the bad guys of the TMNT cartoon from the '80s.

One female Comic Fest cosplayer changed that at this year's event as she attende as a spot-on rendition of the character. In the words of Michelangelo, it was totally awesome, dudes.

click to enlarge The Simpsons did it. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
The Simpsons did it.
Benjamin Leatherman
Professor Chaos

Local cosplayer Anton Anderson came to Phoenix Comic Fest armed with a few costumes. First, he was Master Roshi from Dragonball Z. A few days later, he showed up as Mario from the Nintendo GameCube title Super Mario Sunshine. His best costume of the weekend, however, was Professor Chaos from South Park.

If you're unfamiliar with the character, he's the villainous-yet-hapless alter ego of Butters Stotch whose plans at world domination end up being quite harmless (like switching Bennigan's menus or stealing erasers). Or they were already done on an episode of The Simpsons.

Anderson says he hasn't encountered many South Park characters at geek events like Comic Fest and wanted to change that. “I figured it would be something fun to do and haven't really seen that much South Park cosplay,” he says.

click to enlarge The Jackson five. - DILLON ROSENBLATT
The Jackson five.
Dillon Rosenblatt
Multiple Michael Jacksons

Local cosplay queen Sara Moni and some pals came up with this fantastic group costume depicting the late Michael Jackson from some of his most legendary music videos. Moni, for instance, wore the white suit from "Smooth Criminal" and could pull off some of the King of Pop's moves from the video.

Meanwhile, her friends dressed as Jackson from “Beat It,” “Remember the Time,” “Black or White,” and “Scream.” The only thing missing was the zombified version of the singer from “Thriller.”


click to enlarge Hermoine Hatch as Wonder Woman. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Hermoine Hatch as Wonder Woman.
Benjamin Leatherman
1970s Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman costumes were in abundance at Phoenix Comic Fest. And most were rocking the DC Comics super-heroine's current look, which was most recently seen in her 2017 big screen adventure.

Tucson resident Hermoine Hatch, however, went retro and sported the classic costume from the 1970s Wonder Woman television show, which featured Lynda Carter as the title character. Even more impressive was the fact that the 13-year-old cosplayer sewed the entire ensemble herself. She even earned an honorable mention during Comic Fest's annual Masquerade Costume Contest.

click to enlarge "Leave everything to me!" - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
"Leave everything to me!"
Benjamin Leatherman
Powdered Toast Man

Long before Adult Swim was a thing, the original Ren & Stimpy was serving up salacious and subversive cartoon fun on cable television back in the early '90s. And one of the more memorable characters from the show was Powdered Toast Man, a parody of the superhero archetype.

David Douglas of Houston was a fan of both Ren & Stimpy and Powdered Toast Man, which was one of the reasons why he came to Comic Fest as the pseudo-superhero. “Plus, this is the only Powdered Toast Man I've seen at Phoenix Comicon or Comic Fest,” he says. “I love unique costumes that only a small percentage of the people get and they love it.”

click to enlarge As seen on Facebook. - CORY BENZENHOEFER
As seen on Facebook.
Cory Benzenhoefer
BBQ Becky

You can cosplay pretty much anything and everything these days, including memes and sociopolitical issues. This clever costume at Phoenix Comic Fest referencing the now-infamous “BBQ Becky” did both.

For those of you who haven't been on Facebook in the last month or so, the costume depicts Jennifer Schulte, the Bay Area resident who became infamous in April after she called the cops on a group of African-Americans barbecuing in an Oakland park.

Like the incident itself and the person who perpetrated it, the costume (which was worn by an unknown Comic Fest attendee) has gone viral online.

click to enlarge Yes, there's a spaceman in the top. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Yes, there's a spaceman in the top.
Benjamin Leatherman
Falcon Heavy Rocket

Back in February, Arizonans were astounded by the sight of one of Space-X's Falcon Heavy rockets streaking through the night skies. Attendees of Phoenix Comic Fest had a similar reaction when they spotted the impressive looking version of the now-infamous famous rocket strapped to the back of local cosplayer MeliFromTheMoon.

Measuring more than 7 feet in height, the scale-sized mock-up took a month and a half to build. “I thought the launch in February was absolutely fantastic,” Meli says. “So I was like, 'What could be better than to build a giant Falcon Heavy rocket backpack?”

And just like its source material, her version contained a red Tesla Roadster being driven by a spaceman, albeit in miniature form.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.