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.
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.
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.
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.
Whenever geeks do Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cosplay these days, it's
One female Comic Fest cosplayer changed that at this year's event as she
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.
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.”
1970s Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman costumes were in abundance at Phoenix Comic Fest. And most were rocking the DC Comics
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Thermians From Utah
Phoenix Comic Fest had plenty of strange and unusual visitors in attendance. Perhaps the strangest was a pair of beings claiming to be Thermians, the friendly alien species from sci-fi comedy flick Galaxy Quest.
While we couldn't determine empirically whether they were actual extraterrestrials (or merely cosplayers playing Thermians), the pair
Rocket Racoon/Admiral Ackbar
There were more than a few Rocket Raccoon clones bombing around Comic Fest, but none more memorable than the colorful and cartoon-like rendition crafted by cosplayer and artist Emily Unglued.
It wasn't her only memorable creation we encountered at the event. She also made an equally colorful and fun version of Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi, which was worn by a friend. Naturally, it referenced the character's signature catchphrase, “It's a trap!”
Popular video games oftentimes become fodder for great costumes at geek events. Case in point: the outfits worn by Valley resident Michael Robinson and his two kids at Comic Fest, which were inspired by the retro shoot-'em-up game Cuphead.
Robinson says they're avid players of Cuphead and figured it would be fun to cosplay. “I didn't even know about it until a few months ago,” he says. “And then my kids got me into it. Now my 5-year-old and I play it all the time.”
Toy Story Characters
When Tucson couple Johanna Schaefer and Danny Ferris were deciding on their costumes for Comic Fest, it started out with just them playing Woody and Bo Peep from Toy Story.
Then she thought, why not get their friends involved, too? “It just kind of grew from there,” Schaefer says. “So I got a group of our friends together to do all of the Toy Story [characters].”
By the time their crew rolled into Comic Fest, the retinue included Buzz Lightyear, Jessie the Cowgirl, and a pair of green-skinned aliens.
King Arthur and Patsy
Renowned cosplayer Amber Malinski, who graced the May 24 cover of Phoenix New Times , was plenty busy at Comic Fest. Besides judging the annual Masquerade, she posed for photos with fans, manned her booth in the Hall of Heroes, and wore several different costumes throughout the event.
She capped off the weekend by teaming up with her father, Randy Malinski, and portraying characters from the Monty Python-inspired musical comedy Spamalot. Specifically, Amber played King Arthur while her pops dressed up as his manservant, Patsy.
It was all in tribute to Comic Fest special guest Tim Curry. “Since he was going to be here, we just wanted to do something to kind of commemorate him that wasn't Rocky Horror and something that celebrated his Broadway career as well,” Amber says. “Spamalot is one of my favorite musicals and it was super-fun and it kind of tied into our love of Monty Python and our love of Tim.”
And according to Amber, Curry reportedly loved the getups, coconuts and all.
Mary Poppins and Bert
Two of the most memorable song-and-dance sequences from the 1964 Disney classic Mary Poppins was the inspiration behind these screen-accurate costumes worn by cosplayers Liz Todd and Forrest Schwyn.
“The 'Jolly Holiday' and 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' were two dance numbers that I really wanted to do at [Comic Fest] so I decided to make the costumes based on the performance,” says Todd.
And while the pair wore the outfits to Comic Fest with the intent of performing the dance sequences at the masquerade, things didn't quite go as planned. Thanks to the evacuation of the convention center, Schwyn wasn't able to perform due to illness.
“Forrest was sick the day the masquerade was supposed to
Todd still performed the dance number when the masquerade took place a day later, albeit with friend and fellow cosplayer Prue Dense filling in for Schwyn. Plus, she was dressed as another Disney character altogether: Cuzco from The Emperor's New Groove.
“I wound up doing the dance as Cuzco, which was probably the strangest thing ever,” Todd says, laughing.
World of Warcraft Armor
It's been said that success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, and persistence. For proof, look no further than Holly Taylor's amazing armor inspired by the online role-playing game World of Warcraft.
According to the Valley resident, it took
“I really stopped counting after awhile because it took so long,” she says.
And her hard work paid off at Phoenix Comic Fest's Masquerade, where she won first place in the “journeyman” category. Well done.
Enchantress from Beauty and the Beast
One of the casualties of the masquerade's rescheduling was this outstanding costume created by cosplayer Prue Dense. Made from a mix of fabric, EVA foam, and pool noodles, it was a real-life version of the Enchantress from Disney's 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast.
According to Dense, having to wait outside of the convention center in the sweltering heat after the emergency evacuation caused the costume to become unwearable. “It melted and I melted,” she says. “I had a vinyl corset and the vinyl [was] all wet from my sweat from being outside. So if I put it on, I would deter people 10 feet away from me because I smelled like B.O.”
She still earned second place in the “journeyman” category at the masquerade, however, thanks to the judges doing impromptu evaluations of everyone's costumes outside the convention center.
“It all worked out in the end,” Dense says.
Vanellope von Schweetz
A lot of time and effort went into Brianna Williams' cosplay of Vanellope von Schweetz's princess dress from Wreck-It Ralph. Almost half a year of it, in fact.
Starting in mid-December, the Valley resident spent six months analyzing concept art, drafting patterns, sourcing materials, consulting with other cosplayers, and putting together the costume. The result was an elegant and colorful recreation of the dress, which was built around a giant hoop skirt and was laden with 80,000 to 100,000 individually placed rhinestones.
“It was a lot of work,” Williams says. “I was literally working on the last couple things that needed to get sewed on during the day of the convention.”
The costume was so well-constructed that it survived some damage sustained during the aforementioned evacuation of the convention center.
“Because its so big and wasn't meant to move down a flight of stairs or through doors, the hoop skirt, unfortunately, cracked in a couple of places,” Williams says. “Coming down the stairs, there wasn't a whole lot of space, so we had to pick it up, which took like four of us. There were also a few tears and really bad scuff marks from just coming in contact with the railing.”
The good news, Williams adds, is that the costume can be easily repaired. And some even better news is the fact that she won first place in the “master” category at the Masquerade the following evening.
All's well that ends well.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Characters
The members of the Cosplay Clowns are the best of friends. So much so that they tend to finish each other's sentences when they get excited. And after the local cosplay group won the “Best in Show” award at this year's Masquerade Costume Contest, they had a lot to be excited about.
The group put on an action-packed skit during the event that focused on the hero's journey of Link in the Nintendo Switch game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
“Link starts out where he has no armor on and he has no weapons,” says member Payton Morlock.
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“And he's been asleep for 100 years,” another Cosplay Clown says.
“Yeah, and he has to build himself back up to become the hero and travel to all these places and learn new techniques,” a third member says.
“So that was the premise of our skit,” Morlock adds. “He gets the master sword at the end because now he's the great hero.”