Before it was canceled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Phoenix Fan Fusion was scheduled for May 20 to 24 at the Phoenix Convention Center. PFF has been rescheduled for September 25 to 27, but in honor of one of our favorite events of the year, here's a look at some of the greatest looks from 2019.
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Cosplayers had an easier time showing off their stuff at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2019. Thanks to the unseasonably cool weather during the annual geek extravaganza, which took place from May 23 to 26 at the Phoenix Convention Center, wearing a costume wasn’t a tortuous experience.
And there were definitely a lot of people dressed up at the event. Thousands of attendees came to Fan Fusion in costume, adopting the identities of superheroes and superheroines, as well as any number of characters from movies, television shows, video games, and books.
There were even celebrities who got in on the cosplay action. Adam Savage of MythBusters fame, who was a special guest at Fan Fusion, rolled through the event as Captain America.
He wasn’t the only noteworthy cosplayer who grabbed people’s attention at the event. Many costumed people stood out from the crowd or caught our eye as a result of their creative, clever, or impressive get-ups. And we’re taking the opportunity to laud those attendees who, in our humble opinion, wore the very best costumes at the event.
But first, a few honorable mentions: Costumes that just missed out on making our list, but deserve to be applauded, include the Spartan Spawn, Baymax from Big Hero 6, the attendee dressed as Totoro from the anime classic My Neighbor Totoro, and a trio of Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tubemen.
Now, on with our list of the best costumes and cosplayers at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2019.
Weird Alexander Hamilton
Smart Alex has a habit of creating clever costumes, including plenty of character mashups. Two years ago, the local cosplayer came to what was then Phoenix Comicon as Edgar Allan Poe Dameron, a mix of the late writer and the dashing X-wing pilot from the newer Star Wars movies.
This year, Smart Alex took zany parody musician "Weird Al" Yankovic and mashed up him up with the main character from the ultra-popular Hamilton: An American Musical. The result: Weird Alexander Hamilton, complete with a mini-accordion and rubber chicken version of Aaron Burr. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention Smart Alex’s cosplay of Goose, the cat...uh, sorry, Flerken from Captain Marvel. It even featured tentacles of sorts that emerged from his chest. Well done, sir.
Hellboy was a popular costume at Fan Fusion 2019, likely because of comic book character’s recent cinematic reboot. Vincent Gonzalez of Chandler (a.k.a. VCG Cosplay) was one of those who dressed up as the “Beast of the Apocalypse,” creating a fantastic-looking version that earned him praise from fellow geeks.
Gonzalez took references based off the comic books and made his own scaled version out of EVA craft foam. “Why did I want to do Hellboy? It was just a costume that I had in the back of my mind for years,” he says. “He’s honestly been one of my favorite comic book characters and I just had to do it.” We’re sure Hellboy creator Mike Mignola would dig it.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast Characters
Sisters Shauna, Stacey, and Courtney Smith have created some of the cooler costumes we’ve encountered at Phoenix Comicon/Fan Fusion over the years. In 2014, they came as characters from famed Internet cartoon Homestar Runner, including the infamous Strong Bad. The next year, they were members of the Teen Girl Squad, a spin-off of Homestar Runner.
At Fan Fusion, the trio was inspired by another subversive toon: Adult Swim’s legendary Space Ghost Coast to Coast. They portrayed three characters from the animated parody talk show, which ran off and on from 1994 to 2004. Shauna portrayed Zorak, the villainous and mantis-like bandleader. Meanwhile, Stacey was Brak (a buffoonish feline space pirate who shouted non-sequiturs like “All Hail Brak!”) and Courtney played Moltar (an evil scientist covered in lava who wore a containment suit).
“It was one of favorite childhood shows to watch,” Stacey says. “I think this kind of helped develop our weird sense of humor.”
The only thing missing was Space Ghost himself. Stacey says they tried to get a male friend to play the heroic character, but they couldn’t pull the costume together in time. “We wanted him to be our Space Ghost and he was thinking, ‘I could like get a galaxy [bedsheet] and then cut holes out of it. That didn’t happen, though.”
Eddie Wouters of Phoenix used EVA material, electrical conduit, and car seat foam to craft his version of one of Spider-Man’s most dreaded foes. And it looked as good as any version of Doc Ock we’ve seen in the pages of Marvel Comics.
We weren’t the only people who thought so, as Wouters, a member of the Arizona Avengers cosplay group, got plenty of attention at Fan Fusion for his efforts. He needed a bit of a wide berth while showing off his costume around the crowded convention center because of the get-up’s lengthy appendages. “Walking through the halls, people run into me non-stop,” Wouter says. He wasn’t worried about losing an arm, however. “Nah, its pretty sturdy,” he says.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Brothers Braeden, Ethan, and Kian Gilliss of Desert Hills have been going to local cons dressed as King Arthur, King Arthur, Sir Bedivere, and Sir Lancelot from Monty Python and the Holy Grail for years. During Phoenix Fan Fusion, their mom, Kellie, joined in on the fun, portraying the alleged witch from the 1975 comedy film as the family galloped about the con. It was a worthwhile experience for all, especially after Star Trek: Voyager actor Garrett Wang recruited the family to accompany him onstage for his panel on Sunday afternoon. It earned plenty of chuckles and cheers from the crowd, as well as a sweet memory for the Gilliss family.
One of the most iconic scenes in horror film history became the basis for this inventive cosplay by Jamie Giang. The Salt Lake City man used a full-sized bathroom door made from foam core boards to mimic the famous moment in The Shining where a deranged Jack Nicholson chopped his way through with an ax. He also dressed up as the character and scrawled “REDRUM” across the door for added effect.
Giang recreated the scene for his fellow Fan Fusion attendees in the exhibitor hall and elsewhere, including shouting “HERE’S JOHNNY!” We’re guessing the costume was a relatively easy thing for Giang to put together, which was probably for the best, considering all work and no play makes Jamie a dull boy.
Vyndi Cosplay put more than 300 hours of work into creating this badass-looking armor, which was featured in the hit video gameDiablo III
. According to her, it was a tremendous effort. “I made patterns for these pieces by tracing the armor in Adobe Illustrator, printed and sized them to my scale, and then built each piece layer by layer using the pattern as a guide,” she says. However, it was worth it when she took home a trophy at this year’s Masquerade Costume Contest at Fan Fusion.
Starbucks Cup From Game of Thrones
When Game of Thrones’ producers accidentally allowed an anachronistic Starbucks cup to appear in a recent episode of the fantasy show, it set social media on fire like King’s Landing after a Daenerys Targaryen freakout. It also gave Mesa resident Michelle Green an idea for a nifty, last-minute costume.
Using poster board and hot glue, she made a similar-looking Starbucks cup to wear at Fan Fusion after attending the first day of the con, including adding a “Winterfell Coffee” logo she printed out from the internet. Green also scrawled Daenerys’ lengthy list on monikers (“Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains, and the Mother of Dragons”) in magic marker on the cup.
“I was not planning on cosplaying this year, but the idea stuck and I knew I had to do it,” Green says. “I came up with the idea on Thursday night, scrambled to whip it together when I got home, and then wore it Friday and Saturday.”
And she got plenty of attention, too. “The response was very positive in person and online,” she says. “I was surprised on Saturday to hear people coming up and saying they had already seen my costume on Facebook or Instagram.”
We’re guessing that Connor Dziawura is a big fan of The Eric Andre Show, owing to the spot-on Kraft Punk costume he sported at Fan Fusion. If you’ve never seen the chaotically absurd Adult Swim program, the parody character is basically the love child of Daft Punk and box of Velveeta Mac 'n’ Cheese. He pops up on the show occasionally to harass celebrities with processed cheese slices or show hidden camera clips of him pranking people in public, also with cheese. (And did you guys know that he cannot die?)
As far as we know, Dziawura didn’t pull any cheese-related shenanigans during the con (probably because he would’ve been tossed out like Kraft Punk always gets booted off the show by Hannibal Buress). We’re not disappointed in the slightest, since Dziawura’s version of the character was perfect, right down to the sea of elbow macaroni glued to his helmet. No word on if he’s looking for a cheese wife like KP.
Katherine Stewart’s Mary Poppins costumes are practically perfect in every way, just like the Disney character herself. And each is made with love. “I've adored Julie Andrews since I was a child so I did classic a Mary Poppins when Dick Van Dyke was in town [in 2017],” Stewart says. “When the new movie was about to come out, a friend who runs a charity organization asked me if I’d make a costume for the new [version] and I said I would.”
So she rushed to get a costume together just in time for the release of Mary Poppins Returns in December. Stewart put everything together herself, including spending 60 hours just on sewing the blue jacket. “Drafted the pattern, made a muslin of it, altered the muslin properly, and then cut out the hero fabric, and sewed it together,” she says. “It was a lot of work but it turned out nicely.”
Henchmen for Hire
We gotta give some major props to “Ivan” and “Bruce,” the two masked rogues we saw patroling the exhibitor halls advertising Hench Co., their evil job placement company for bad-guy minions. Not only did they have one of the most original cosplays we’ve seen in a while, they stayed in character the entire time we spoke to them. And they did so while speaking with vaguely eastern European accents and speaking broken English.
“Is important for Hench Co. PR to stay in character,” Ivan says. “We are advertising.”
So what sort of evil services do they offer? “It depends. We recently branched out from merely having a regular department for regular evil. We now have space division for intergalactic evil,” Bruce says. If you need support of subordinates, we're your guys.”
Brett Steurer had sort of a Jeffrey Dean Morgan weekend during Phoenix Fan Fusion. On Thursday, the local cosplayer played Neegan from The Walking Dead, one of Morgan’s most prominent roles in recent years. From Friday through Sunday, however, Steurer portrayed The Comedian from 2009’s superhero flick Watchmen, perfectly mimicking Morgan’s look in the film.
Steurer's wife, Stacey, and a few of their pals also portrayed the superheroes of Watchmen. She became Silk Spectre II while friends buddy Kevin Mahoney and Jeanna Annaej respectively became Rorschach and Silhouette.
Stacey Steurer says they hatched the idea to do a Watchmen group costume back around Halloween and spent the months leading up to Fan Fusion crafting everything, including shoulder pieces, belts, and body armor.
“We really loved the movie and we loved the details of all the props and we spent a lot of time making all the accessories with Worbla,” Stacey Steurer says. “We just really love costumes and cosplay.”
Giant Sony Walkman
It was hard to miss Connor Hinz’s cosplay project at Fan Fusion. After all, a giant, rolling Sony Walkman blaring rock 'n’ roll music tends to grab people’s attention. That’s just what it did, as the 6-and-a-half-foot-tall wooden contraption was a big hit at the con.
The project was inspired by the Walkman worn by Star-Lord in the two Guardians of the Galaxy films. As such, Hinz dressed as the hero while piloting the giant version around the Phoenix Convention Center. Hinz says he was inspired to build the Walkman after witnessing another unique cosplay two years ago at Phoenix Comicon 2017.
“There was a guy dressed as Sean Spicer who had a [mobile] podium. I loved his idea, it was super creative,” Hinz says. “So I was like, ‘Alright, I have to do something just as good. This was the result, because why not?”
Unlike, Star-Lord’s tape player in the Guardians films, this one wasn’t going to be smooshed by some villain. “Yup, that's right,” Hinz says. “You can crush this one that easy.”
Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
Female cosplayer Emily Unglued and her buddies came all the way from Las Vegas to attend Phoenix Fan Fusion – and they came costumed as a famous group of Muppets. Along with friend and fellow cosplayer Elizabeth Jost, Emily created masks for each the characters in Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, the house band from the originalMuppet Show
. All five band members were represented, including Janice, Floyd Pepper, Zoot, and (of course) Animal.
“This is our second year coming to the Phoenix con,” Emily says. “We had a great time last year so we wanted to come back and do something special.”
According to the dude playing Animal, they also came to the Valley for another reason: “PAR-TEE! PAR-TEE! PAR-TEE!”
South Park Wanna-Be Superheroes
Local cosplayer Anton Anderson impressed us last year with his awesome take on Professor Chaos from South Park. He brought the costume back for a second time at Fan Fusion, only this time with some backup from his friends.
Anderson’s pal became other hapless, wanna-be superheroes seen in a few different episodes of the cartoon, including Wonder Tweek, Mysterion, The Coon, Super Craig, Toolshed, and the Human Kite. Together, they form the Avengers-like superhero group Coon and Friends. We're sure that Fan Fusion attendees who are fans of South Park loved their efforts.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Re-Imagined
Artful and elegant doesn’t even begin to describe the ingenious re-imagining of The Nightmare Before Christmas that was crafted by Southern California fashion designers Nat Lawson and Ken Hazlett. Inspired by the Venetian masquerade, the Italian theater, and other historical influences, the couple transformed Jack Skellington, Sally, and The Mayor from the Disney film into commedia dell’arte-like characters.
“Jack’s main inspiration is the sad clown, Pierrot. Sally’s main inspiration is the Harlequin, a trickster who thwarts his master to pursue his love of Columbine,” Lawson tells New Times via e-mail. “Mayor’s influences are the comedy and tragedy masks of the Carnivale.”
Together with their daughter, Bryn Hazlett Lawson, they wowed the crowd at Fan Fusion’s annual masquerade on May 25, earning the event’s “Best in Show” award, and rightfully so, given the stunning appearance of the costumes.
Queen of Hearts
Local costume queen Prue Dense had a pretty rough go of it at last year’s con. A malfunctioning fire alarm caused the convention center to be evacuated just prior to the annual Masquerade Costume Contest. As a result, her elaborate costume gown, which depicted the Enchantress from Beauty and Beast, was ruined after waiting outside in the heat for several hours. (Thanks to a pre-judging session that took place before the incident, however, she wound up winning an award at the masquerade.)
Thankfully, Dense’s experience this year was far less dramatic. She stuck with the Disney theme and came up with an elegant recreation of the Queen of Hearts from 1951’s Alice in Wonderland. It featured a nifty trick where part of the gown is pulled out to become a giant scroll adorned with the Queen's Card Army.
“I decided to do another Disney transformation costume because I hate myself and wanted to do something really challenging,” Dense says.
Her efforts impressed the judges at the masquerade as she won third place in the “masters” category. Props to you, Prue.
Captain America and the USO Girls
One of the biggest moments of Fan Fusion’s annual Masquerade Costume Contest came when this troupe of local cosplayers recreated the "Star-Spangled Man With A Plan" music and dance sequence from Captain America: The First Avenger. It was a rousing affair involving six USO Girls and others dressed as Cap, his on-screen love interest Peggy Carter, and even Thanos. The whole thing was the brainchild of Valley resident Hayl Daugherty, who worked with her friends Emma Bowen, Allison Daugherty, and Jennica Dombrowski to create the costumes. “This was my project, but I definitely couldn't have done it without my amazing pit crew,” Daugherty says.
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Gabriel Espino of Tinker Cosplay makes amazing-looking costumes and makes ‘em big. Really big. At Phoenix Comicon in 2015, the Tucson resident debuted an enormous Frankenstein’s Monster that dwarfed other attendees. In 2017, he created a towering rendition of the villainous Samhain from The Real Ghostbusters and won a “Best in Show” award at that year’s Phoenix Fan Fest.
For Fan Fusion, Espino became an eight-foot-tall version of Thanos from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which, depending on the source, is around the same height as the character in the movies). It’s totally epic and took an equally epic amount of time to construct. Espino says he worked on the costume an average of six hours a day over an entire year creating his version of the “Mad Titan.” A majority of the body was made from EVA foam while the head was cast in resin.
He debuted the get-up at the Tucson Comic Con last fall, where it won first place in the advanced levels of the event’s costume contest. And while Espino didn’t take home any trophies for his efforts at Fan Fusion, the reactions he’s gotten from geeks are rewarding enough. “I like seeing all the people’s faces light up when they see a full-size Thanos in real life,” he says.