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SDCC 2010: A Cosplayer’s Perspective

I’m exhausted. After my plane touched down in Minneapolis yesterday, I barely made it home before crashing for almost fourteen hours. Why? San Diego Comic Con is my annual personal vacation, so writing news till 4:00 AM isn’t part of the equation. Still, there is no rest for those who see SDCC as the Super Bowl of cosplay. Considering that my group of girlfriends and I started prepping for SDCC 2010 over 365 days ago, you can bet we take the show pretty seriously.

Game Informer has been dishing out news and previews from the show floor all week, but San Diego Comic Con is an entirely different experience when viewed through the eyes of a cosplayer. Read on to find out why. 

The Costumes

First off, it’s worth mentioning that cosplay has varying degrees of dedication. Like any hobby, cosplayers range from casual to hardcore. I’d say our group falls more toward the core side, as our SDCC cosplay experience involves planning groups a year in advance, 5:00 AM wakeup times for hair and makeup, and professional photo shoots.

I’m not joking when I say that costume preparation – at least in the early ideation stages – begins the moment the convention doors close the year before. I’ve already got two ideas floating around my head for SDCC 2011.

Planning this far in advance allows us the opportunity to work on more elaborate costumes, to help each other out with props or weaponry, and to save money to dedicate to the costumes in order to do them right. Still, no matter how much preparation is done prior to SDCC, the bulk of us arrive in San Diego sleep deprived from finishing the last minute details on our particular costumes. My Princess of Persia gauntlet resulted in a few sleepless nights just prior to comic con this year.

Another huge part of preparation? Ask any of the girls in my group and they’ll vouch that cosplay is a huge motivation to hit the gym. My Velocity costume was just what I needed to lose that stubborn 10 pounds I’ve been trying to get rid of for years. Spandex will do that to you.

It’s funny, because for an event that is all about entertainment, the stress leading up to SDCC can get to any cosplayer. The sleep deprivation, nerves from transporting fragile costume pieces, and uncertainty of how the final costume will come together can contend with enthusiasm for the trip. But once you are on the show floor, most of that melts away.

The Planning

Securing travel and lodging is another major piece of the puzzle when it comes to SDCC. Hotels around the convention center are allocated specifically for comic con months before the event, and are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. The problem is, most of the hotels within walking distance book solid within an hour of the reservation lines opening, making it a scramble for everyone to secure a room.

From a cosplayer’s perspective, location is key. My girlfriends and I tried to save money the first few years we attended con  and stayed a painful cab ride away from the convention center. Forget walking to try to save money. After carefully doing your hair, makeup, and situating your costume perfectly, a half mile walk will wreak havoc on your hard work.

Keeping this in mind, the past two years my girlfriends and I have opted to pay the premium to secure a spot at the Marriott adjacent to the convention center. Not only did this allow us to skip the cab fares, but we were able to pop into the hotel as needed to eat lunch, rest our feet, or drop off swag and purchased goods. Sure, the hotel was more expensive, but when you cram six people into one room the price is doable.

Another point we’ve taken away from past cons? Grocery shopping is a good idea. Not only does it save you money, but as a cosplayer you are never off limits for photos. People will ask for snaps when you are on the phone, standing in line for the bathroom, and, yes, eating. Disappearing from the show floor is a good idea when you need to refill your tank with some grub.

Lastly, if you plan on cosplaying all four days (or even five, if you count preview night), I’d recommend flying in Tuesday and leaving the following Monday. Cosplay preoccupies you all day, and no one wants to rush their preparation or packing to try and catch a plane an hour after the floor closes. Trust me, the added stress isn’t worth it. Fly in early, and leave late. Budget in that time to relax.

The Con

Obviously cosplayers have a different experience the months leading up to con, and look for different criteria when selecting lodging and travel options. But how is the convention itself different? Well, you don’t get to see much of it. At all. In the four years I’ve attended SDCC in costume, I’ve never sat in on a single panel. It also takes the full four days to survey the show floor. Being in costume means constantly being stopped for photos. Not that my girlfriends or I complain. When you work a full year on a costume, it’s nice to know that people appreciate your hard work. Geeking out with fellow fans is one of the highlights of any convention for a cosplayer.  

Hot spots on the convention floor for cosplayers aren’t necessarily the same, either. Often we make a point to stop by and see the talent associated with our costume, be it a signing for a comic property, a publisher’s booth for a video game costume, or panels associated with television or movie cosplay. Nothing is more gratifying than the creators of the character you are embodying giving approval to your look. I’ll take that over meeting random hot-body celebrity #5 any day.

Want to check out the fruits of our year-long labor? You can find a day by day breakdown on the subsequent pages. Enjoy!
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Day One: Thursday
The first day of San Diego Comic Con is usually a bit slower, as many people buy weekend passes for a few days of fun. As such, Thursday and Friday are usually the day we wear our personal pet project costumes, reserving the bigger, group-oriented cosplay for the weekend. I’ve got a bizarre goal of eventually cosplaying as every female character in the Top Cow library, so this year I kicked off my week with Cyberforce’s Velocity.

My personal approach to cosplay has me very aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Sewing from scratch is not one of my strong suits – instead, I focus on modifying existing clothing (dying, tailoring, and otherwise modifying found items), prop making, and armor fabrication. That being said, I commissioned my spandex bodysuit from the cosplay experts at Limebarb.com.  I polished off the costume by making the belt, painting some speedster shoes, and finding the perfect red bob.

Other costumes amongst my group of friends included Raychul Moore’s Cammy (always a popular one on the show floor), Rebecca Young’s movie-inspired Black Widow (it doesn’t hurt that she is a Scarlett Johansson Doppelganger), and Jessika Malic’s kawaii Moogle.

I can’t speak on the details of their costume preparation, (which goes for descriptions the following days as well), but I know that months of effort went into all of them.  Check out our prep snapshots and professional photos below.

Morning Preparation
[Hair and Makeup by Hydred Makabali and Nesreen Madain. Photos by Chanh Tang]


Professional Photos


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo from Marvel.com]


[Photo by Brian Recktenwald]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]

By the end of Thursday we all still had energy  and were excited about how our costumes had come together. Although stopped for a good number of photos, since I was cosplaying a more obscure character I was able to get some shopping done the first day – something unheard of at past conventions. My prize possession? A pair of Iron Fist zombie heels. Awesome.

[PageBreak]
Day Two: Friday

Friday again had us broken up into smaller groups, each wearing costumes we were excited about as individuals.

Friday marked the day that Mad Moxxi from Gearbox’s Borderlands finally came together. This was actually a last-minute swap on my cosplay roster, as Moxxi is infinitely more interesting than my original plan to cosplay as Lilith. Again, I commissioned the dress so to do it justice, from a friend and designer Samantha Rei Crossland. The hat was made from scratch by specialist Megan Bishop. The holster, various belts and other details were finished on my end. The megaphone prop is by far my favorite part, made out of a hairdryer and lampshade.

On Friday Raychul dressed as Poison from Final Fight, and Jill Pantozzi put together a group of “Elegant Lanterns” representing the full spectrum of allegiances. Friday was also the day the “Sexy Disney Princess” group walked the floor, a returning group of cosplayers from the past three years. You can spy Becky as Tinkerbell below.

Lastly, Christa Browning put a unique spin on Appa from Airbender, and Jesskia continued the Final Fantasy tributes as a Sexy Tonberry.

Morning Preparation
[Hair and Makeup by Hydred Makabali, Nesreen Madain, and Chrissy Salazar. Photos by Chanh Tang.]

 


Professional Photos


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by LJinto]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Brian Recktenwald]


[Photo by Brian Recktenwald]


[Photo by LJinto]


[Photo by LJinto]


[Photo by LJinto]


[Photo by LJinto]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]

[PageBreak]
Day Three: Saturday

The third day of SDCC is when you really start to feel it, which is rough since it is usually the busiest day for costuming. My girlfriends and I had been planning a crossplay group (gender-bending cosplay) starring male video game characters for months. Almost everyone opted for professional hair and makeup on Saturday so to do their costumes justice. This meant a 5:00 AM start time, which weighed heavily on us by the end of the day.

Raychul’s Goddess of War by far took the most time, as our makeup artist had to paint her entire body white before she could get into costume. Rounding out our group was Candace Miller as Altair, Ashley Hay as Starkiller, Christa as Link, Emily Hulsey as Mario, Andrea Fries as Wario, myself as the Princess of Persia, and Jessika as Elika.

This costume was the most difficult to make on a personal level because it required lots of leather working and molding with Wonderflex. Still, I’m very excited with how it came out. The gauntlet is now one of the crowns in my cosplay collection.

Being in a large group, we made sure to snap photos before hitting the show floor.  It’s notoriously hard to keep a group of friends together when everyone is being pulled different directions for photos. Pro-tip – take your pictures before walking the floor, and enter from a back door. It greatly increases your chance of staying together.

Not part of our group, but sill worth showcasing is Jill’s Ravager costume, which you can also find below.

Morning Preparation
[Hair and Makeup by Hydred Makabali and Nesreen Madain. Photos by Chanh Tang]

Professional Photos


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by LJinto]


[Photo by LJinto]


[Photo by Brian Recktenwald]


[Photo by Brian Recktenwald]


[Photo by LJinto]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by LJinto]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]


[Photo by Chanh Tang]

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