Combat Con’s Poster Child: Chad Light as Don Pedro Menedez de Aviles

What: Combat Con 3
Where: Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
When: June 13-15, 2014
How Much: $65 4-Day Fan Admission – $200 4-Day Warrior Admission
Website: combatcon.com

When speaking with Combat Con and ISMAC founder Jared Kirby before Combat Con 2012, he mentioned that science fiction author Neal Stephenson could be considered a poster child for Combat Con. In his own literary career Stephenson brings the world of real life Western Martial Arts which he practices at least weekly into his widely-praised depictions of combat in his works like Snow Crash and The Baroque Cycle. Stephenson hopes to bring more realistic depictions of WMA fighting into the video game world as well and promoted the Kickstarter-funded CLANG at Combat Con. However I believe I may have found a better poster child for Combat Con in the form of Chad Light.

Chad Light re-enactor of Don Pedro Menedez de Aviles at Combat Con with bullwhip around neck in costumeLight, 49, is probably more familiar to St. Augustine’s residents and visitors as Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. Until a year ago, Light made his living as a re-enactor at the Fountain of Youth Archaeoloical Park. When describing his vocation, Light called himself “an actor who’s a re-enactor or a re-enactor who’s an actor.” What caught my eye when first meeting Light was his sword, which I recognized as a David Baker-forged recreation from its distinctive hilt. Many St. Augustine residents recognize the weapon when Light wears it, having seen another version of it displayed outside the St. Augustine City Hall.

Steel sword showing pommel and intricate flowing hilt designed by David Baker

Chad Light’s Distinctive Reproduction Sword Hilt

A veteran re-enactor of over 30 years, the original 2011 Combat Con was instrumental in changing Light’s re-enactment practices. One of the workshops he attended that year was Jack Dagger’s class on throwing knives and hatchets. Light already had a familiarity and skill in throwing weapons, but had not incorporated them into his role as Don Pedro. That all changed when Light returned to Florida. He began each tour with a silent demonstration, first throwing knives or hatchets into a round of wood and retrieving them. Then he would throw the weapons backhanded as the crowd quieted down. By the time he was throwing hatchets and knives between his legs, he had his audience captivated and spellbound. Using the theatrical and martial skills enhanced by Combat Con 2011, Light went from a full time employee at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park to a salaried full time employee and was quick to attribute Combat Con as a critical step in his employment elevation.

Light didn’t make as much of Combat Con 2011 as he would have liked owing to an injury sustained while doing a horse stunt at Drake’s Raid in Florida, resulting in a broken collarbone. Nevertheless he attended the inaugural Combat Con and the whip class taught by Anthony De Longis, but wasn’t able to participate fully in the motions. He did buy De Longis’s DVD on whips, watching it over 30 times, and building up his fundamentals. Light had his bull whip when I spoke with him and later attended De Longis’s class that afternoon. He was quite pleased when I caught up with him later explaining that De Longis had corrected a few minor movements and techniques that he hadn’t mastered yet. When I asked De Longis about Light’s improvements, he agreed and praised him as an excellent student.

The Dedication and Background of a Re-Enactor

Re-enactor Chad Light at Combat Con in Las Vegas in Fancy Dress

Light Showing Off Another Side of Don Pedro

Discipline and research are important to Light, a former Army Special Forces officer who served in Panama, Desert Storm/Shield, and Somalia. He doesn’t have a TV or a telephone and only uses a computer for research. As part of their contracts, Light requires the other re-enactors to spend at least three hours a week practicing their swordplay. When questioned about possibly living at the park, Light said that he would if he could. Light is pursuing his doctorate in ethnography, specializing in palaeography. His undergraduate degrees are in psychology and history and he has a Masters in Behavioral Psychology. Yet his studies are much more practical and mundane as well, as Light, like many cosplayers or re-enactors, does much of his own sewing himself. While his external garb was historically accurate, he also doesn’t turn his nose up to machine-sewed undergarments, but pointed out that for many re-enactors this modern compromise would be going too far.

You could say that re-enactment is in Light’s blood. His father is a professor of language at William and Mary and a member of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association, a black powder weapons group. Light’s mother grew up in Spain and Light lived there as well as a child, when not attending colonial events with a father “who could crack whips”. Light’s father also served as an advisor on the semi-historical films The Last of the Mohicans and The Patriot.

Playing Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and Others

Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés is Light’s main role and he leads the re-enactment troupe the Men of Menedez. Light has respect for Menéndez de Avilés and studiously researches the Spaniard. When asked whether he would have liked Menéndez de Avilés in his own period, Light responded that, “Those around him thought he was charismatic and capable of anything. That would be hard not to like if you were around someone like that when your life was on the line.” Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was also wise in his own way, writing to the Spanish crown that, “There is gold and silver in Florida, but you can’t dig it. You need to grow it.”

Light also participates in the re-enactment of the sacking of Ft. Caroline named after the French king Charles IX. Fort Caroline had been settled by the Hugenots, Protestants fleeing France, but they were set upon by their Spanish neighbors in 1565. The French defenders of the fort were mostly massacred as heretics, establishing a bloody reputation for Don Pedro, especially among civilians. This was only furthered by his slaughter of bound Frenchmen who had been captured in their attempt to capture St. Augustine. Towards the native tribes Menéndez de Avilés was more gracious, writing edicts to protect them from Spanish settlers. A favorite of Phillip II, Menéndez de Avilés was made captain-general and governor of Florida. His downfall was curiously on account of some insects, the cochinille beetles, used to make red dyes. When Don Pedro sailed into a port he failed to declare the cochinille beetles and was prosecuted for it, his reputation slightly marred and his hopes of returning to live in Florida dashed. He caught typhus and died in Spain in 1574. Light travels to Spain multiple times a year, and has close ties with Spanish researchers and re-enactors as he conducts further research into the transatlantic leader.

One of Light’s other roles has actually been on-screen. Light is one quarter Native American and played a full-blooded Huron in Michael Mann’s 1992 Last of the Mohicans, serving as an extra. He participated in the field massacre of the English column and can be seen leaving Fort William Henry during its surrender. Additionally he doesn’t confine himself to the 16th Century for re-enactment; Light is part of the Historical Florida Militia American Civil War regiment. Besides re-enacting as Ponce de Leon, Light has also played the role of Navaraiz, a captain of Hernan Cortez’s. The 16th century was a brutal time: Navaraiz had one of his eyes put out by a pike. Light also plays another Don Pedro. Don Pedro Menéndez de Marqués was the nephew of Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and a subsequent governor of Cuba first and then Florida.

St. Augustine’s Attractions

The small town of St. Augustine hosts many re-enactment events with others close by. Light participates each year in the “School of the 16th Century” put on by the tourist development board in February. Re-enactors, primarily men, bring their families to enjoy a vacation on the Atlantic coast with their wives and children. Many children and wives join in the education with the children doing what their 16th century counterparts would have done. Many women participate in the combat-side of things, which is where perhaps the re-enactment ends. In another of Light’s activities, the monthly tercio of St. Augustine, there are at least 30 female college students out of a group of 150 re-enactors, Light estimates.

Drake’s Raid, which is one of the largest re-enactments that Light helps organize, is held annually in the first week of June. It commemorates Sir Francis Drake’s raid of 1586 in which the famed British captain sacked St. Augustine. Drake’s Raid attracts over 3,000 visitors annually. In September there is much pageantry surrounding the re-enactment of Don Pedro’s first landing in St. Augustine, which also draws thousands of spectators and participants. Another attraction is the Castillo de San Marcos, a stonework fort with firing cannon. For Light and others, the Castillo de San Marcos is also a bastion against Florida’s hurricanes. In an emergency Light plans to take shelter there.

Light Can be Seen As Don Pedro in Bruce Merwin’s Youtube Video of the Landing Re-Enactment

The Combat Con Connection

Anthony De Longis’s whips classes and Jack Dagger’s knife-throwing aren’t the only appeal of Combat Con for Light. He also attended Maestro Ramon Martinez’s sword class, pointing to him as the best Spanish sword master in the United States. Both Maestro Jennete Acosta Martinez (the wife of Maestro Ramon Martinez and a maestro in her own right) and John Lennox have come to the St. Augustine area for events, confirming that the world of WMA is indeed a fairly small one.

When Gaming and Re-Enacting Collide

Though Light was quick to point out that he is not a tabletop gamer (and certainly not a video gamer) and has never LARPed, he has played Wizards of the Coast’s cardstock Pirates of the Spanish Main game and got his “ass kicked” by his son. He spoke with pride about how the computer game Sid Meier’s Pirates helped his son with a presentation at school wherein his son drew an accurate map of the Carribean, labeling the chief ports, all learned through playing Pirates. Battle gaming or SCA fighting doesn’t interest Light, though he has had many LARPers join him as re-enactors who decide to “put the foam away and put on heavy metal”. In miniature wargaming oftentimes only the first rank or the first two ranks of a military unit are neccessary to fully detail; in re-enactment it is much the same with more detailed costumes like Light’s going into the first ranks and those with less historically accurate costumes able to fill out the rear ranks.

Oh My Kanzume Goddess! Cosplayer and Tabletop Gamer Toni Darling

Cosplayer Toni Darling dressed as Sailor Moon holding up Kanzume Goddess Gemini cardCosplayer Toni Darling is slightly amused to have been the subject of at least two internet memes, both based around her female Thor cosplay. The Arizonan was a cosplay guest at the 2013 Las Vegas Comic Expo and counts Sailor Moon, Tier Halibel from Bleach, and Lady Death, among her many cosplays. But Darling confided that her true convention preference is for gaming conventions like Gen Con, which Darling attended earlier this year in August and says she’ll never miss again.

Toni Darling the Gamer

At Gen Con 2013, Darling worked at the Japanime Games’ booth and is an avid player of both their Kanzume Goddess card game and Krosmaster: Arena. Darling points to Kanzume Goddess as a game which she can easily teach to someone who’s not a gamer. When playing the deck-building card game, Darling says that she always wants to buy Aquarius, followed by Cancer and Gemini. As for Krosmaster, Darling said that a Queen of the Tofus costume is in the works as well as a King of the Gobballs and went on to premier them at the recent New York Comic Con.

Darling and Friends at New York Comic Con 2013

As for her Gen Con experience, Darling says, “I’ll never miss another one.” She regrets that she missed an opportunity for a V.I.P. tour of the True Dungeon experience, but looks forward to fighting a giant or dragon with a party of her own next year.

Cosplayers at Las Vegas Comic Expo show some skin, Jackie Goehner as Witchblade, Toni Darling as female Thor, Red Sonja, and Brieanna Brock as Red Son Wonder Woman

Darling as Thor Joined by Red Sonja, and Red Son Wonder Woman at LVCE 2013

While Magic: The Gathering is cool with Darling, she is much more enthusiastic about Cards Against Humanity. She’s also a huge fan of Dust Tactics, having painted her own set of figures as well as having cosplayed as the Axis sniper Angela. If Darling had all the money in the world, she says she would want “beautiful hand-painted miniatures of every Dust: Tactics character”. That dream may have to wait, but then again, Darling’s primary panel at the Las Vegas Comic Expo was “The Business of Cosplay”, which saw the cosplayer dispensing advice on how to financially benefit from costuming, so it may be sooner than one might think.

To keep up with Darling’s busy convention schedule and to invite her to upcoming tabletop gaming conventions, visit her Facebook page at http://facebook.com/ToniDarlingAZ.

Las Vegas Comic Expo 2013 Cosplay Contest

Cosplay Contest at Las Vegas Comic Expo with Iron Man standing in Front with Palms Lit up By Lights

Iron Man Joins the Cosplayers For a Photo Op

An expectant crowd gathered Saturday evening at the 2013 Las Vegas Comic Expo, awaiting the start of the Cosplay Contest. Judging the event were cosplay guests Brieanna Brock, Toni Darling, Ivy Doomkitty, and Jackie Goehner, while Valerie Perez served as the MC. Perez occasionally made humorous asides as contestants strutted their stuff on stage, but more often, was a reassuring figure in her Wonder Woman costume with all the warmth and charm of Dolly Parton.

Cosplayers gathered on stage with a variety of costumes including Mami Kraven and Invisible Woman

Superhero Cotumes Predominate at Las Vegas Comic Expo

One by one contestants stepped onto the stage and turned around to model their costumes. Some delivered lines of dialogue. Kickass and Hit Girl had a lengthy interaction with a good deal of acrobatics involved. Later a second Kickass took the stage, this time with batons. There was a Judge Dredd who took command of the stage, three of the Watchmen in the form of the Comedian, Night Owl, and Rorschach, and a Flame Princess from Adventure Time. A Ghostbuster had to slowly turn to show off his backpack’s elaborate details. The cosplay of Edna E. Mode from The Incredibles had the audience in stitches, while some lesser-known costumes drew polite applause and a good deal of confusion. Solid Snake knelt on stage, pistol at the ready. “Gender bender,” spoken by Valerie Perez, introduced a Captain America as well as a Dr. Who later on. DC had both heroes and villains with a Red Son Superman and a Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Joker. Not to be outdone, Marvel had a Wolverine, an excellent Jubilee, and an original Nick Fury. Kraven the Hunter stalked the stage. Pinky Pie from My Little Pony was exuberant, matched only by the adult Ash from Pokemon, who was met with a roar of laughter when he did his victory pose. There were two separate pairs from web-comic Homestuck and finally two adorable children who shyly wandered about the stage, with the boy in a Captain America costume and his sister in Fantastic 4 get-up as the Invisible Woman.

Cosplay Contest at Las Vegas Comic Expo with DC characters Red Son Superman, The Comedian, Poison Ivy blowing a kiss, Catwoman, The Joker, Harley Quinn, and Rorshach

DC Characters Face Off Against Their Marvel Counterparts While the Judges Deliberate

As the judges conferred all of the contestants piled onto the stage for group pictures including a suggested Marvel vs. DC. At this point Tony Stark must have put the bottle down, because an Iron Man materialized onstage and posed. There was a brief Kickass-Kickass conference before they leapt up onto the stage, bringing Hit Girl with them to photobomb the Marvel vs. DC shoot.

Kickass Cosplayer Looking Uncertainly at Marel and DC Characters around him on stage

Kickass #2 Looking a Little Panicked About the Kickass Photobomb

The Results

Kickass looks down at a grinning Hit Girl onstage at the Las Vegas Comic Expo's Cosplay Contest

Entertaining Duo: Kickass and Hit Girl

First up were the honorees with the judges recognizing Kickass and Hit Girl. Though they had such good chemistry that they might seem to be brother and sister, Kickass later revealed that the two had only met earlier in the day. With only a quick rehearsal, the pair was quite entertaining. The Hit Girl cosplayer announced “I want to be Hit Girl when I grow up!” and then it was on to fellow honorees Karina Perez and Tiffany Silver as Blondie and Baby Doll from Sucker Punch. Perez won a signed James Stone comic, while her counterpart got a gift certificate to a local bar and grill. For Perez, even the honorable mention was a shock, given how “amazing” her fellow cosplayers were and the fact that it was her first time cosplaying. The acknowledgement has fueled Perez and Silver who would like to expand their Sucker Punch group to include more girls, while individually Perez has begun work on a Power Girl costume.

Sucker Punch cosplays from Karina Perez and Tiffany Silver with both using guns at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Honorees Karina Perez and Tiffany Silver as Blondie and Baby Doll from Sucker Punch

3rd Place: Anne Marie Page as Rydia

Green-clad Anne Marie Page cosplays as Rydia from her wheelchair with a female Frieza and Edna E. Mode behind her at Las Vegas Comic Expo Cosplay Contest

Anne Marie Page as Rydia from Final Fantasy IV

Coming in at third place was Anne Marie Page as Rydia from Final Fantasy IV. Page was a fan of the Heather Irete’s Mami cosplay as well as Josh Dietrich’s Halo ODST Medic. She spent Sunday at the Las Vegas Comic Expo in an Oracle costume, but looks forward to playing Kyoko from Magica Madoka and Hsien-Ko from the Darkstalkers video game. Page has been cosplaying for over five years and has played Sailor Saturn, Chii, and Olette from Kingdom Hearts II.

2nd Place: Josh Dietrich as Halo ODST Medic

Halo ODST Medic Dietrich waits his turn at the Cosplay Contest at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Halo ODST Medic Dietrich Waits His Turn

While he took Best in Show in the Sy Fy Channel’s Naked Vegas’ Cosplay Contest the evening before, “both events were fun” for Halo ODST Medic Josh Dietrich, who took second place on Saturday evening. Dietrich is a fireman in the Air Force and also a cast member of Duel at Dusk Productions where he performs under the name of Crow Shadowfire. Earlier on Saturday Dietrich was in a Jedi costume because he also cosplays with the 501st’s Neon Garrison. His ODST costume took him two weeks to build, but he has adding to it over a period of months, describing it as a “work in progress.” The chest, arms, and legs are constructed out of high impact polystyrene with straps and buckles riveted to them. A close look at his costume reveals that his mundane name is painted on just above his visor. In a sense Dietrich is cosplaying as himself or as he puts it, “I basically took my character and said if I joined in 550 years, what would I do? This is pretty much what I would be doing.” As for his own favorite costumes, he favored the manly ones with a lot of props or armor, picking out Judge Dredd, as well as Kraven and Deathstroke. Judge Dredd’s costume had “a lot of detail” and his cosplayed “had the character” down, but Dietrich had praise in general for the contest as well: “a lot of people put a lot of time into all their costumes. It really impressed me.”

Shaved head Jedi Crow Shadowfire waves his hand to pass through Stormtroopers at Exhibition Hall at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Dietrich Pulls the Old Jedi Mind Trick on the 501st’s Neon Garrison Stormtroopers

1st Place: Buck Steele as Kraven the Hunter

Closeup detail of Kraven the Hunter cosplay jacket with lightup eyes

Closeup of Kraven Costume

Twenty-two years ago Buck Steele sold comics and ball cards at a collectibles shop and met his future wife when she walked through the door. The love and affection between the two was quite evident after the costume contest, in which Steele took first place for his Kraven the Hunter costume. Mrs. Steele said, “I think he’s pretty amazing. He just blows me away with his craftsmanship and his creativity.” Buck Steele’s foray into cosplay is a fairly recent one with Steele first cosplaying the Red Skull the previous year. By day Steele works in auto parts in Pahrump, Nevada which is roughly 45 minutes away from Las Vegas. The discovery of a “big Macklemore coat” at a yard sale prompted him to make his Kraven outfit. Thirty to forty hours later, after taking time for the paint to dry, and his costume was complete. The fur coat started out white, but Steele airbrushed a lot of color into it and his tights, which are the only part of his costume he had to send away for. The lion on his chest has light-up eyes which Steele got from Radio Shack.

Buck Steele cosplaying as Kraven the Hunter complete with Spear and Glowing Lion Eyes

Buck Steele as Kraven Poses on Saturday Night Once Most of the Audience Has Cleared Out

When Steele went up to receive his prize, the showboating super-menace known as Spiderman jumped up on stage and the two mugged for the cameras, just as they had done earlier in the day in the Exhibitors’ Hall. Steele shared that the hardest part of his costume was keeping his “gut sucked in.” As for which era of Kraven he was playing, Steele easily explained “This is straight-up Steve Ditko. Amazing Spiderman 15, first appearance. I got to take a picture with the book today!”

Best Group: Mami and Team Magpie

Heather Irete in handsewn Mami cosplay dress from Magica Madoka

Heather Irete as Mami

Next up was the Best Group award with Team Magpie winning. Led by Heather Irete who cosplayed as the character Mami, Team Magpie also consisted of three other members who worked a giant caterpillar creature down over Mami to “swallow” her during the group’s first time on stage. MC Valerie Perez called for an encore performance, “Let’s see her get eaten again!”

Heather Irete in cosplay as Mami from Magica Madoka waits to get her head eaten

Heather Irete as Mami Waits to Get Her Head Eaten Off by Giant Caterpillar

Irete’s no stranger to cosplay, having sewn and attended conventions for the last twelve years. She even has her own online cosplay portfolio, Angelic Threads. Irete was also a panelist earlier in the day at the Cosplay 101 panel. She estimates that her Mami costume took about two months, not counting the wig. “Each wig that I’ve worked on has probably been around ten to twenty hours each; it’s not an easy thing to make.” As for future costumes, Irete was full of enthusiasm as she outlined plans to construct a Tamaki costume from Oran Highschool Host Club, picking a male character who goes in drag in a dress at one point. Irete’s costuming attention is grabbed by anything that is “really silly, sparkly, and shiny”, which the character in the dress will certainly fulfill. She’ll also be wearing an Attack on Titan costume and a Final Fantasy VI costume in early November to AnimeVegas, where Irete is on staff. She’ll be joined by boyfriend Brian, who made up a third of Team Magpie (and is also a consummate board gamer) and together they’ll play Setzer and Daryl.

Best Performance: Andrew Myers as the Zombie

Valerie Perez dressed as Wonder Woman fends off Zombie with a baton on stage at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Wonder Woman Defends Herself!

Andrew Myers dragged himself onto stage both when he first shambled his stuff and later when he went to receive his prize for Best Performance. He also spent a good deal of time trying to chase Valerie Perez’s Wonder Woman down, but was a suitably slow predator for her to evade. That and she used the podium for protection as she tried to keep the undead menace at bay, though there may have also been threats to use her Lasso of Truth. She definitely warded Myers off with one of Kickass’s batons.

Horribly burnt Zombie cosplayer Andrew Myers next to smiling yellow trenchcoat wearing Jubilee in crowd at costume contest

Andrew Myers as the Zombie Watches Other Competitors Alongside Jubilee

Best Craftsmanship: Manuel Samson as Deathstroke

Deathstroke cosplayer brandishes sword on stage at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Deathstroke Brandishes His Blade

While there were a number of contenders for Best Craftsmanship, the title and the prize bag of comics from Cosmic Comics ultimately went to the guy whose completed helmet included a face mask, wood paste, paper mache, cardboard, stucco, a helmet, and a clay mold for the eye piece. In other words: Manuel Samson as Deathstroke. Samson estimates that he spent a month or two on the costume with much of it made out of cardboard including the chest and shoulder pads. Samson is another new convert to cosplay, having only done it since June, when he cosplayed as Black Mask from Batman at the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con. Samson was particularly taken with the artistry and effect achieved by the Dragon Ball Z cosplay of Frieza, which featured a lot of body paint.

Cosplays of Deathstroke, Inspector Gadget, Data from Star Trek, and a Raccoon City Resident Evil SWAT Member

Manuel Samson as Deathstroke Joined by Friends: Inspector Gadget, Data, and RCPD Officer

Best in Show: Samantha Nicole as the Painted Doll

The contest came to a close with the Best in Show award, with the winner receiving a Captain America statue limited to 250 copies. In the end the prize went to Arizona resident Samantha Nicole as the Painted Doll from the film The Devil’s Carnival. Samantha Nicole was elated with her win saying, “I feel so honored and it’s really, really awesome.” Not only did she win Best in Show, but it was Nicole’s first time ever entering a costume contest! She got her start in January 2013 when a friend told her that she “sucked at sewing”, so Samantha Nicole set out to prove her wrong and it seems to have worked!

The Painted Doll as cosplayed by Samantha Nicole at Las Vegas Comic Expo with Knightingail standing to her right

Samantha Nicole as the Painted Doll Joined by Fantasy Comic Character Knightingail

In “The Devil’s Carnival” the Painted Doll is played by actress and singer Emilie Autumn. Samantha Nicole is a huge fan and will be returning to Las Vegas later this month to see Autumn perform live at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. For Nicole cosplay is also an expression of her fandom as she loves the movie, the character, and the artist who plays the Painted Doll. As for her next costumes, she’s working on a Jean Gray/Phoenix costume, but would also like to cosplay as a Gatoman from Digimon as “nerdy” as that may be. There may also be a Poison Ivy “with roses in her hair” in her near future, based off of the Batgirl Begins episodes from the third season of the animated The Batman.

Samantha Nicole cosplaying as The Painted Doll next to Knightingail at Las Vegas Comic Expo

Samantha Nicole Displaying the Mannerisms of the Painted Doll with Knightingail

Samantha Nicole’s Captain America statue will stand “with pride” on her desk and keep watch over the cosplayer as she continues to prove her friend wrong. Appropriately enough, two of Nicole’s favorite costumes at the contest were the Invisible Woman and Captain America, worn by a brother and sister pair. “I really loved the little kids. They just stole my heart.”

Every Las Vegas Comic Expo 2013 Cosplay Contestant in costume crowded into a group shot

All of the Cosplay Contest Contestants Including the Adorable Invisible Woman and Captain America

For more pictures from Las Vegas Comic Expo 2013 and further articles about the convention, be sure to visit Craven Games on Facebook.

Kapow! Las Vegas Comic Expo Set to Kick Ass (Too)

What: Las Vegas Comic Expo
Where: Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
When: September 28-29, 2014
How Much: $20-45 a Person
Website: http://lasvegascomicexpo.com

The Las Vegas Comic Expo returns this weekend to Las Vegas, hosted at the Riviera Hotel and Casino and runs from September 28 to September 29. The weekend show will pack in some big names and talent including comic book legend Neal Adams (Batman, X-Men, Green Lantern-Green Arrow), Joe Benitez (the exceptionally illustrated steampunk-themed Lady Mechanika), and Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), and Image Comics co-founder Whilce Portacio among dozens of other comic book writers and artists. Among the celebrity guests, male gamers who grew up in the 1990s will recognize Donna D’errico (Baywatch), while everyone should know the hulking form of Lou Ferrigno. The Excorcist’s Linda Blair has high billing along with True Blood’s Kristin Bauer, but for sci-fi/fantasy fans and gamers alike, who could beat Sylvester McCoy? Sure, he played the seventh Dr. Who, which by itself is platinum in geek culture, but he’s also Radagast the Brown in The Hobbit! It’s not too often that you get a chance to meet someone who has a miniature sculpted in his likeness (though that may change thanks to Mimic Miniatures Personalized Gaming Miniatures Kickstarter).

Tickets are $25 per day per person or $45 for the whole weekend at the door, but if you pre-register tonight (September 25), you can get in for $35 for the weekend or $20 a day. Doors open at 10 AM and close on Saturday at 7PM and 5PM on Sunday, though on Saturday night there will be a Cosplay Contest running from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM, much like San Diego Comic-Con’s Masquerade. But compared to SDCC, the Las Vegas Comic Expo (LVCE) is a much more intimate affair, with an attendance last year of just over 7,000. This year attendance is expected to remain consistent, if not exceed the inaugural year, which featured comic creators like Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy. Panels will run throughout Saturday and Sunday this weekend on topics ranging from “Zombies and Pop Culture”, “Women in Comics” to “Fantasy Writers” to “Promote Your Comic Book or Die”. While larger comic conventions have multiple competing panels, at the LVCE attendees will only have to choose from either the Main or Annex panels, so seating may be limited, especially at focused panels spotlighting a celebrity such as Sunday’s “Sylvester McCoy: The Hobbit” and “Kristen Bauer” on Saturday.

Gaming at the Las Vegas Comic Expo


The LVCE isn’t only about comic books, fantasy, science fiction, and popular culture, of course. It will also offer a lot of gaming, including many demos of games to the general public featuring King of Tokyo, Heroclix, X-Wing Miniatures, and Netrunner, which should be easy enough for casual gamers to pick up. On Sunday AEG’s Legend of the 5 Rings card game will be demoed from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM, which sounds like just enough time for a beginner to learn the mechanics of the incredibly complex card game. Roleplaying games will be supported with a strong Pathfinder contingent providing Beginner Box Bashes throughout the day in addition to Pathfinder Society Scenarios Mists of Mwangi, Black Waters, both parts of The City of Strangers, and one of the newest scenarios, PSS 05-04 The Stolen Heir, wherein heroes attempt to rescue a nobleman’s daughter, as well as the high-level PSS 05-05 The Elven Entanglement. For a full list of Pathfinder organized play at the Comic Expo, check out the Warhorn listings.

Gaming Tournaments at the LVCE

Tentacled eye stalk monster Shuma Gorath heroclix figure

Shuma Gorath in All His/Her/Its Glory!

Besides the demos of board, card, and roleplaying games, the LVCE will also incorporate a number of tournaments. On Saturday afternoon Patrick Booth will be running an entry-level Ascension tournament, followed by a DC Deckbuilder Tournament on Sunday. The winner of Ascension will take home a voucher for the newly-released Darkness Unleashed expansion, with the DC Deckbuilder winner receiving a voucher for the as-of-yet-unreleased DC2, which will release in December. Both come courtesy of Avatar Comics and Games. New players to Ascension can try out the game before the tournament, during the earlier demo sessions, and simply need to pony up the $5 to participate in the tournament, with all cards and counters supplied by Avatar. Las Vegas’s largest dedicated gaming store, Little Shop of Magic, will be running Magic: The Gathering tournaments on Saturday and Sunday based on Friday’s release of the much-anticipated Theros expansion with prize support coming from the store. Meanwhile Maximum Comics will provide prize support and run HeroClix tournaments on each day, as well as Marvel Legendary and Star Wars LCG tournaments. Prizes for Heroclix include such convention exclusive figures as Shuma Gorath (from Dr. Strange) and the Trinity of Sin (from DC Comics’ recent Trinity War), which have attracted the notice of some of the top contenders at the recent Heroclix World Championships, which were held in August at Gen Con, according to Dustin Hall. Hall, the LVCE Games Director, has already received notice of players traveling from Utah and California to compete. For an overview of prize support and tournament entry fees, please refer to the LVCE’s gaming page. As for miniature games such as Warhammer 40K or Warmachine/Hordes convention games organizer Dustin Hall says that there are plans to address that portion of the gaming community next year.

And Plenty of Cosplay

Besides Saturday evening’s Cosplay Contest, there will be many cosplay-themed panels and cosplayers in evidence at the LVCE. Cosplay queen Jacqueline Goehner is just one of many female cosplayers who will be sitting in on panels like “Cosplay 101”, “Kids Cosplay”, and “Business of Cosplay”. Goehner will be debuting her Starfire costume which will – based on her Witchblade costume worn at previous conventions – leave little to the imagination. While Starfire is an orange-skinned super heroine famous from DC’s Teen Titans, Goehner will also be cosplaying as Midna the Twilight Princess from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which should see her a bit more clothed. Goehner’s panel participation will include one on wig making and styling, another on making a body cast, and another on the process of making a Witchblade costume. Besides her Starfire and Midna costumes, Goehner also plans on cosplaying Wonder Woman and has plans for a fourth costume, but admits that she probably will not finish it in time for the convention.

Scantily clad cosplayer in Witchblade costume named Jackie Goehner

Goehner as Witchblade and Herself: At LVCE She Will Unveil Her Starfire and Midna Costumes

Blonde hair and a trident mark a cosplayer playing as Aquawoman at Phoenix Comic Con

Brieanna Brock as Aqua Woman at Phoenix Comic-Con

Also going as her favorite character of Wonder Woman will be Brieanna Brock, but she will be playing as the Red Son version of the character. In the Red Son universe created by Mark Millar, Superman is raised by Soviets instead of the Kents in Kansas. The Wonder Woman of that universe is much grimmer in appearance. Not to worry, the second character Brock will be playing is Leila from Code Geass, who will add a bit of color in with her costume. Brock’s Red Son Wonder Woman will be bolstered by a Red Son Power Girl and several other Red Son-inspired DC characters. Brock will be busy at the LVCE leading the Cosplaying 101 panel and helping the other panelists as the cosplay director. Brock has recently branched out past the superhero genre into the twin worlds of anime and manga which is what led her from only having read Death Note to exploring the world of Code Geass. As she says of her choice of Leila, “I love powerful characters that are portrayed as leaders and also value a team.” Both of the costumes are brand new for Brieanna Brock, who loves the challenge that a new costume provides. Speaking of her Red Son Wonder Woman Brock says “it was definitely a challenge and after being finished I feel proud to bring that inspiration to life. Showing it off is fun too, it’s a perfect opportunity to educate others about the character, the series, and cosplaying in general.”

In the female-dominated world that is cosplay, there are pockets of masculinity, which will be represented at the Las Vegas Comic Expo by the 501st Neon Garrison of Stormtroopers who will be featured in their own panel on Saturday.

The First Las Vegas Comic Expo

Three T-Shirt Designs from Zombie vs. Human I Run With Zombies Zombie Eating Power Up Mushroom and Zombie Unicorn or Zombiecorn

Zombie vs. Human Shirts

In 2012, Ralph Mathieu, owner of Las Vegas’ own Alternate Reality Comics attended and exhibited at the first Las Vegas Comic Expo and spoke highly of the experience as well as his vendor sales. Mathieu is particularly looking forward to seeing writer Gerry Conway at this year’s expo. Conway co-created The Punisher, helped kill off Gwen Stacy, and created the DC character Firestorm, but it’s his Spiderman-Superman crossover which Mathieu holds in particularly high esteem. Alternate Reality Comics is joined by many other Las Vegas local comic book stores in the exhibitors’ hall including Maximum Comics, Avatar Comics and Games, and Comic Oasis. Avatar chief Kristian Norberg said that the previous year was a “success” for his store and ran “fairly well”, paying for the booth rental and then some. Besides selling comics and merchandise to attendees, Norberg was able to take in and enjoy the Artists’ Alley at the 2012 LVCE. Any fears he had of a comic convention fiasco, such as the one Las Vegas witnessed in 2003 at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, were allayed by his experience the first year.

And Other Exhibitors

L.A.-based Zombie vs. Human will be exhibiting at the Las Vegas Comic Expo, selling a variety of men’s and women’s T-shirts with zombie themes, all in an effort for customers to be prepared “for the zombie apocalypse”. For proprietor Aaron Berg, the Comic Expo is a chance to be among like-minded company for whom their clothing line requires little to no explanation.

So Much Eye Candy: Cool Mini or Not at Gen Con 2012

While I didn’t get to see Cool Mini or Not at Adepticon 2013, I certainly saw CMON back at Gen Con in 2012.

Every time I stopped by the stretching Cool Mini or Not booth areas at Gen Con, I found a very packed, interested gaming crowd taking in all of the eye candy CMON had on display. Alongside Privateer Press, CMON seemed to have a tremendously successful Gen Con. Attendees new to miniature gaming could be excused for thinking that they were seeing multiple companies’ booths, but the unifying connection in every one of CMON’s 18 booth areas was the high quality and stunning visual displays.

CMON’s Display and Demo Boards

While the Wrath of Kings’ demo boards CMON had brought were functional and better than a simple flocked board, they were not as spectacular as some of their other offerings, but did put the focus squarely on the expressive sculpts of the miniatures. Players had the opportunity to battle as the thin warriors of House Nasier or the porcine warriors of House Teknes.

Piglike Teknes miniatures for Wrath of Kings battle against thin Nasier on desert demo board

Wrath of Kings Desert Demo Board: House Teknes vs. House Nasier

Realistic 28mm scale orange lava flowing over miniature terrain board for Confrontation at 2012 Gen Con

Confrontation Lava Demo Board

Cool Mini or Not kept Confrontation fans’ appetites whetted with a lava demo board of the game. I could have easily missed further Confrontation offerings because there really was so much to take in throughout CMON’s booth space.

There were also demo tables for players to try out Sedition Wars, Relic Knights, and Zombicide, but aside from the two Dark Age boards and Rum and Bones, the most impressive tables were reserved specifically for display purposes.

The Wrath of Kings Display Board

What a sight! The Wrath of Kings Castle was the definition of amazing and probably the envy of rival gaming companies. Designed and built by Rob Hawkins, the table took over 200 hours from start to finish. The Goritsi forces spilling out of the grey stonework buildings really put it over the top. The Goritsi definitely have a darkness to them and are comprised of the lupine Skorza, the female Blood Dancers, and would seem to be led by the red-clad Herald of Blood. Bearing such close resemblance to Confrontation’s Wolfen, the Skorza pose an interesting problem for brand recognition and differentiation, but since they are now released by the same company, the similarities should not matter. The Goritsi also boast the monstrous Ucuzo, which looks like a lab experiment gone awry (or perhaps deliberately concocted).

Pig warriors Union Workers miniatures from Wrath of Kings battle Skorza lupines and monster Ucuzo

A Monstruous Ucuzo Defends the Goritsi City Against the Invading Teknes

Arrayed against the onslaught of the Goritsi are the pig warriors of House Teknes. The rank and file of Teknes appear to be the Teknes Union Workers who wield massive swords. The Ironward is the figure reminiscent of Mad Max’s Master Blaster with a slave-driver on top of a pig warrior/Union Worker.

Beautiful stunning diorama of 32mm Wrath of Kings miniatures clashing at a castle or village

Woodland Scenics Armatures Used as Dead Trees in the Foreground of Hawkins’ Stunning Diorama

In his blog, Rob Hawkins refers to the diorama as a Goritsi City and details its construction in five blog entries, beginning with constructing the hillside foundation followed by the the construction of the buildings’ basic shapes. To enable faster gluing using super glues Hawkins uses Liquid Nails to coat the pink foam in the same way that latex paint is used to protect styrofoam from destructive aerosol spray paint.

Tentacled octopus Zalaak miniatures battles slender female Blood Dancers in Wrath of Kings diorama

Two Tentacled Zalaak Face Off Against Blood Dancers In and Near a Foamcore Building

The city’s buildings are constructed out of pink foam with thick art board used for the roof tiles. Hawkins estimates that over 1,000 separate roof tiles are on the diorama! The one detail that has puzzled me about the diorama since Gen Con is the seemingly unfinished black and white area. This is, in fact, an elemental’s head with white circles for eyes.

Wrath of Kings miniatures fight over a superb Goritsi city at Gen Con 2012 in front of stone buildings with red tiled roofs

The Black Cylinder and Dome is an Elemental’s Head! With White Eyes

Super Dungeon Explore: Von Drakk Manor

Soda Pop Miniatures Chibi Super Dungeon Explore miniatures display castle at Cool Mini or Not Booth

Super Details from Rob Hawkins: Von Drakk Manor

Von Drakk Manor was easily in the Top 5 of all terrain pieces throughout Gen Con for sheer quality and artistry. It also highlighted the expansion forces to CMON’s joint venture with Soda Pop Miniatures. The castle is just as stylized as Soda Pop’s distinctive, chibi figures and was also built by terrain genius Rob Hawkins. He has many more pictures of the stunning layout on his website. The fiery monsters were from the Caverns of Roxor expansion that CMON/Soda Pop released in limited quantities to Gen Con attendees, before they went on sale to the public in October.

Three Cartoonish Dungeon Explorer Miniatures in Cool Mini's Super Dungeon Explore castle with fire elementals at gen con 2012

Von Drakk Manor Plays Home to Caverns of Roxor Denizens at Gen Con 2012

Ron and Bones – Rum and Bones

CMON was also previewing another of its newly-acquired licenses, Rum and Bones. Originally titled Ron and Bones by TaleofWar, the game is a pirate-themed miniatures skirmish game with highly stylized figures. In a booth filled with so many other goodies, the pirate ship did stand out for its quality construction. Little has subsequently been said about Rum and Bones (that I have seen), though Table Top Hell is impressed by the game’s miniatures.

Gorgeous miniature 28mm pirate ship for Rum and Bones at Gen Con 2012 in the Cool Mini or Not Booth

Rum & Bones: Skirmish Pirate Game, Palm Trees from Pegasus Hobbies

From all that I could see of Rum and Bones, each model is a unique personality. The character Teruk’te wears a Sharkskin and will appeal to any gamer who has ever wanted a miniature that wears an entire shark as a costume! Tale of War Miniatures still has information in English available on the game including a downloadable PDF that explains the game’s mechanics, as well as displays the entire range of finely detailed miniatures.

Inside a miniature pirate ship for Ron and Bones at Cool Mini or Not booth at Gen Con with cannons

The View Below Decks Of the Pirate Ship’s Impressive Armament

One of the neater things about the Rum and Bones demo table is that it has been carefully constructed to match the miniatures’ base size and prevent them from slipping or sliding out of position.

Top down view of miniature model pirate ship for skirmish wargame Rum and Bones at Gen Con 2012

The Savage Teruk’te Alongside Pier Del Mocho in Aft Castle High Above the Sloot Gunner

Dark Age Industrial Shop Board

One of CMON’s original brands is Dark Age, of course. Even though I had seen them at the GAMA Trade Show, I still marveled over both of the Dark Age demo boards. Having played on the board with the rock outcroppings, most of my attention was taken by the industrial garage board. The details really bring the board to life with rigging over the top, bike chains used as industrial belts, vats of liquid, and multiple elevations to play on.

Post-Apocalyptic futuristic miniature game Dark Age industrial garage terrain at Gen Con 2012

Did I mention the working lighting? By varying the textures on the board, it creates depth and detail and adds a sense of realism. The diamond-plating used on some of the floor panels is particularly effective. It really does look like a place the mutant Skarrd would have taken over or would be in the process of raiding.

Closer look at industrial garage Dark Age demo board for miniatures at Gen Con 2012

Marie-Claude Bourbonnais as Rin Farrah from Relic Knights

Another attraction in the CMON booths was cosplayer and glamor model Marie-Claude Bourbonnais from Canada as Rin Farrah, one of the chief protagonists of Relic Knights. Bourbonnais posed for pictures with fans and gamers in her self-made costume and later explained that it was her first time attending Gen Con, let alone any tabletop gaming convention. For Bourbonnais it was different than comic and anime conventions, but still “a lot of fun” and reminded her of her high school’s tabletop games organization. At Gen Con Bourbonnais only appeared as Rin Farrah, but she has cosplayed as another Relic Knights character, Candy, in the past. As of early October (2012) she still had yet to play Relic Knights herself, but looked forward to receiving her complete game to try it for herself, but did say that she has watched demos of the game.

Busty Cosplayer Marie-Claude Bourbonnais at Gen Con playing Rin Farrah with miniature her costume is based on

Two Versions of Relic Knights’ Rin Farrah: Cosplay and Miniature

Watching others game is nothing new to Bourbonnais who spent part of her teenage years watching friends paint armies and play Warhammer 40k. While she never got into the hobby herself, for Relic Knights Bourbonnais will be playing Rin Farrah’s faction. Usually though she is quite busy working on her next costume. As a former fashion designer, she’s been sewing costumes and prom dresses since she was 19. Rin Farrah’s leather outfit was a first for Bourbonnais, who makes all of her costumes and props herself.

Yellow tinted glasses and yellow and black spandex on busty Hornet played by Marie-Claude Bourbonnais at Gen Con 2012

MC Bourbonnais as Canadian Superheroine Hornet

On Thursday Marie-Claude Bourbonnais initially appeared as the black-and-yellow spandex-clad Hornet, her character in the Canadian web-series Heroes of the North. Filmed in Bourbonnais’ home city of Montreal, the series is in English, available to view for free online, and follows the adventures of Canadian superheroes. The character of Hornet only appears at the tail end of the first season of the series, but becomes more prominent in its second season, says Bourbonnais. While she came to Gen Con to promote Relic Knights, another company specializing in 3D body scans had also contacted Bourbonnais about capturing her 3D image in the Hornet costume.

Blonde busty anime woman in green swimsuit on Pool location for card game Tentacle BentoBourbonnais also has the distinction of having modeled for a card in Soda Pop Miniatures’ Tentacle Bento card game and has subsequently cosplayed as that character, essentially doing a cosplay of herself. Bourbonnais was also the basis for one of two promotional pewter miniatures in support of Tentacle Bento’s abortive Kickstarter run.

And the Display Cases

Gamers could have also easily missed all of the wonderfully painted miniatures packed into the glass display cases at the back of the Cool Mini or Not booth areas given all there was to see elsewhere. Here and there though gamers’ faces pressed up against the glass that stretched yard after yard. Sedition Wars, Dark Age, Relic Knights, Wrath of Kings, and Confrontation all vied for visitors’ attention, but were safely locked away, like heroin just out of reach of a junkie. There may have been little puddles of drool on the carpet. As one would expect from the home of cool miniatures on the internet, almost every miniature was beautifully painted. The exceptions were the gray master sculpts on display in the cases.

Anime-influenced miniatures for the Relic Knights game with power familiars on display at the 2012 Gen Con

Anime-Infused Miniatures from Relic Knights with Chibi Power Familiars

On top of the display cases though, within reach of any eager gamer was the impressive winged form of the Titan Dragon for Confrontation. Fashioned out of resin, the figure is a true status symbol among miniature gamers with a hefty price tag of $300.

Red, black, grey, and white massive Titan Dragon miniature for Confrontation at Gen Con 2012

The Massive Titan Dragon for Confrontation Lives Up To Its Name: Free from a Display Case

Ravage Magazine

Cover of Ravage Issue 7 Advertising Zombicide Toxic City MallWhile I would have liked to browse CMON’s wares a bit more, all I really had to time to do was to pick up the first three issues of Ravage Magazine. Ravage is an import, translated from French, and plays off of the gorgeous artwork CMON and its affiliates have access to. Like Harbinger Magazine of the early 2000s but with a much stronger visual focus and appeal, Ravage focuses on a wide range of miniatures with Cool Mini’s lines featuring prominently, but there have also been articles on MERCS, Infinity, Privateer Press, and even a look at 6th Edition Warhammer 40k. There are some translation artifacts in the articles that vary from interviews with designers, to game overviews, to painting and terrain tutorials, but despite the language difficulties, the magazine is off to a very strong start and is now in April on Issue 7.

Cosplay at Combat Con 2012

While there were many armored and costumed warriors and Western martial artists at Combat Con in Las Vegas, some of the attendees were dressed up purely for their own enjoyment and not for practical reasons such as absorbing longsword blows. Indeed one of the target audiences for Combat Con besides WMA traditionalists and gamers are cosplayers, with a healthy number of vendors catering to steampunk and fantasy costume play. There were also several panels offered involving costume play at the convention; I attended “Weapons of Cosplay” and “Cosplay: Crack is Cheaper”. Whether used to improve one’s garb for LARPing or battle gaming or even to enhance a regular tabletop RPG session, the cosplay community has a lot of knowledge to offer the gaming community.

Three scantily-clad women cosplaying as barbarians in furs and leather in the Combat Con Vendors' Hall

Cosplay Panelists, Connettes, and Barbarians!: (L to R) Sami Miller, Sara Warner, and Jillian Saint

Weapons of Cosplay

Both of the cosplay panels I attended had mostly the same panelists and were somewhat sparsely attended. The “Weapons of Cosplay” panel ended up spilling out past the topic of weapons exclusively to encompass all cosplay costume considerations with prop master David Baker from Deadliest Warrior and the Hollywood Combat Center lending his considerable cinematic experience and expertise, joined by cosplayers Sara Warner, Sami Miller, and cosplay newcomer Jillian Saint who comprised the cosplay group The Connettes.

David Baker holding a metal spear with sharp edges at a 2012 Combat Con cosplay panel

Propmaster David Baker with Spear

A self-proclaimed “lover of metal”, David Baker makes real working weapons, but also a number of props or fakes. “Harbor Freight is your friend,” he advised, citing an investment at the store of $600 as a good, strong start into making your own weapons and props, including getting a scroll saw. For Baker copper and brass are easy to work with and dedicated cosplayers should learn how to solder. The bottoms can be cut out of 5 gallon plastic buckets and an $8 heat gun from Harbor Freight can be used to shape the plastic to the desired effect for armor or plastic components. Baker is fond of Bondo, an all-purpose bonding adhesive and proclaimed that, “God made Bondo. It’s proof that there is a god.”

Baker also pointed out how useful styrofoam, paper mache, foamcore, and PVC pipe can be in making prop weapons and that cosplayers shouldn’t look down their noses at these more pedestrian materials. Besides the expense of getting glue or Bondo which can end up being more expensive than the materials they are adhering to, for Baker the real expense is time. He explained that if he sells a weapon that it took him 20 hours to make for $200 that he would be back to making $10 an hour. His steampunk pistol, seen below, was entirely hand-crafted out of common, everyday parts, the crystal included.

David Baker showing a crystal-powered steampunk pistol at the 2012 Combat Con

Deadliest Warrior Prop Master and Weaponsmith David Baker Showing His Steampunk Pistol

Copyright Issues

The question of copyrights and copyright infringement came up with members of the audience contributing examples of cases they had heard prosecuted. David Baker expressed that he doesn’t make exact duplicates for clients, but instead makes weapons in the style or fashion of an existing weapon, such as Loki’s staff in the The Avengers and Thor. Though it’s not a cosplay weapon, the example of a modeler selling kits of the Doombuggies from Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride was brought up; in short order Disney had sent letters and lawyers were calling the man, ending his venture.

Practical and Safety Considerations

Someone pointed out that an important consideration for conventions is lightweight weaponry, because the cosplayer will have to cart the weapon around, in which case real steel or iron would be a detriment. Cosplayers must also be prepared to stop for pictures. Smart costumes, especially for women, will have pockets or another means of storage. Utility belts are excellent if the costume allows one. More importantly, cosplayers should ask themselves “Can I take a poop in it?” J.P. Dostal from Duel at Dusk Productions brought up the recent Labyrinth of Jareth and the need to consider the footprint for any outfit (or weapon). Apparently many women in elaborate ball gowns with hoops have the annoying habit of eating up doorways, if they can even squeeze through. Many costumes, such as Duel at Dusk’s four-legged Egress which resembles a landstrider from Dark Crystal, aren’t suitable for some convention floors (such as Comic-Con’s) and crowded vendor halls.

The talk then moved to the more important topic of safety for weapons. Cosplayers should consider how they will secure their weapons because not every convention or gathering will have a weapons check. Combat Con did; for a nominal fee of $1 or $2, Combat Con attendees could leave their weapons at the weapons check in the Vendors’ Hall, much as one might check a coat at a museum or theater. For those with an Airsoft without an orange or red tip, there could still be municipal laws resulting in fines (if not being actually mistakenly shot by law enforcement). Overall cosplayers should know their own gear and ensure that they have no ammunition for missile weapons to avoid any problems. For those with melee weapons, a great suggestion was to simply use a sheath with a handle since there is typically no reason to draw a blade.

There were further admonitions on safety, particularly pointing guns in faces or even putting one’s finger on the trigger of a fake gun is a big faux pas in the world of cosplay. Safety considerations even extend to corsetry, which can deprive the wearer of oxygen and blood flow. More humorously, they can lead to heavy flatulence once removed, we were informed. Keeping on the topic of gasses, especially when gluing together a respirator or gas mask for a costume, cosplayers should allow 72 hours for any glues to set, so they aren’t breathing in dangerous fumes.

Cosplay: Crack is Cheaper

I caught the tail end of “Cosplay: Crack is Cheaper” on Sunday, finding out that Sara Warner had spent $3500 on her Jack Sparrow costume including $700 for the deerskin coat alone. However the effects of her costume and her transformation into the Pirates of the Carribean character were so convincing that Sara was repeatedly mistaken for a man when in costume. One day during a grueling convention she kicked her boots off to give her feet a break, eliciting a comment from another convention attendee, “Wow, you have beautiful toes. If you weren’t a dude, I would totally suck those toes.” While this anecdote had us all laughing, the subject of costume authorship came up. Not surprisingly taking credit for a costume that others made for you is a big no-no in the world of cosplay. At the very least the tailor or seamstress is unlikely to work with you in the future. Warner is always quick to attribute her costume to its actual maker and suggests it as a rule of ettiquette.

Three attractive female cosplayers sitting at a table at the Cosplay panel at Combat  Con

The Connettes at One of Combat Con’s Cosplay Panels

Another surprising way cosplayers can shell out the big bucks is by politely approaching Hollywood professionals for bleeding edge makeup and prosthetics. While Halloween is a busy season for professional makeup artists, many will take on commissions during their off-seasons in between movie shoots for those willing to pay for the ultimate in costuming. For those without the money, Zappos.com was pointed to as a good source for inexpensive footwear and Hollywood Wig Outfitters for those in Southern California is “always a hit” according to Sami Miller. David Baker also suggested the Rose Bowl Swap Meet, for those in Southern California. William Wilson who runs the Tattershall School of Self Defense and is a steampunk aficionado pointed out another penny saver: skimping on the brocade for waistcoats by having false backs and even false bottoms. Not only is the practice historically accurate, but according to Wilson, “a true gentleman never removes his jacket” and therefore will never expose the cost-saving deception.

The Connettes Themselves

The Connettes were led by Sara Warner. When not dressing up in her velour Star Trek uniform, Warner is an LA-based actor, works on her next costumes, and does the occasional bit of gaming. Though she’s never done a Vampire LARP, she did play some Vampire: The Masquerade in her teenage years as well as D&D. The Connettes do not have their own website or Facebook page yet, but are looking for new female members serious about costuming. Anyone interested in joining up to cosplay with the Connettes can email Sara at sara.a.warner at gmail.com. For Warner, cosplay comes naturally as she likes “to slip into the garb of someone else, assume the role, and play the part”. Hence her vocational interest in acting as well. While she does enjoy the costume-making, Warner is all about the performance as an entertainer and performer. Warner cited the relatively low cost of Combat Con as one of its main draws: “Anyone who is interested in historical Western Martial Arts, weapons training, re-enacting, Renaissance festivals, LARPing, costuming with weapons (for poses and other things of course!) and acting in any kind of action productions would be out of their mind to miss such a comparatively cheap way to kickstart and/or hone skills at this fantastic event.”

With Warner was Sami Miller who was also a veteran cosplayer and a former Dagorhir player. Along with them they had brought Jillian Saint, pointing out that “she’s very new to it.” Saint had gamely joined in the cosplaying for Combat Con with a when in Rome attitude preferring barbarian garb to jeans and a T-shirt for the convention. Saint wears many hats in everyday life working 9-5 as an accountant/administrator for a law firm and doing freelance marketing in her off time. Though Saint’s not into role-playing games or LARPing, she does enjoy a game of League of Legends from time to time. Cosplay, on the other hand, she finds addictive, but so far she has tended to wear the designs of other costumers. Saint would like to play Chell from Portal 2 if she could. She enjoyed the demonstrations and performances, panels, and social events at Combat Con the most, acknowledging that she did like the workshops, but that she was unprepared for them, as many were geared towards trained combatants.

Like the members of Duel at Dusk Productions (and myself), Sara Warner and Sami Miller are already at work on their costumes for Wasteland Weekend in the California desert in September. Warner is currently working on all-leather gladiatrix outfit for the Mad Max-themed postapocalpyptic event.