Our last trip to Dallas A-Kon was following my first trip to the ER where I lost my thumb to our first cosplay (see My Cutting Edge Journey Into Cosplay). In that respect this trip was uneventful, though, A-Kon remains surrounded by drama. There was much frustration, sleepless nights and tired fits involved with our cosplay for this convention. While @skyberry13 loves anime there are very few in my list of watched animes so choosing a good anime cosplay we would both enjoy was somewhat of a task. Fortunately, The Legend of Korra falls within the anime category and to stay true to our mission of making LGBTQ+ characters more visible through our cosplays we decided very happily upon Korra and Asami. Unfortunately, we mismanaged our time and underestimated the specificity of patterns which this cosplay required.
I was personally ecstatic to tackle this cosplay as props-master and immediately hit the ground running. After asking around the New Mexico cosplay community on Facebook for the best place to find an inexpensive motorcycle helmet. I ended up swallowing my fear and walking into the local Harley Davidson dealership. Everyone there was really nice and, in searching for a helmet to fit my needs, I got a backstage tour of their workshop facility. I ended up finding the perfect helmet which I only paid $10 for. The paint cost more than the helmet totaling $50 worth of auto detailing paint: Garnet and Cherry along with a glossy enamel all by Duplicolor. As a perfectionist painting a motorcycle helmet with expensive paints I’ll say it wasn’t my best work but it turned out pretty well for photos.
The Equalist Gloves really had me stumped seeing as we do not currently have access to a 3D printer. I had the perfect gloves for the base from some of my old steampunk wear. We found pleathers in the clearance section of our Joanne’s for both the glove and the boots. I got colored rubber coated wiring from Ace Hardware for the accents and some flower LEDs for the central lighting.
Dallas A-Kon was four days this year beginning Thursday and going through Sunday. Fortunately, there is a great App for both Android and iPhone you can download that has the entire schedule with rooms and you can create your own schedule for the weekend. Dallas A-Kon has so much going on that it took about half an hour for us to go through the entire schedule and plan out the weekend. Of course, life does not always go as planned so the “schedule” was more of a guideline for us, but it is a great tool to make sure you do not miss any of your favorite panels. The convention had also moved to Ft. Worth, which was somewhat of an obstacle for us as we usually stay at @skyberry13‘s place in Dallas. Commuting into the convention every day was not great, but there was a parking garage across from the convention center that was $20/day which wasn’t too bad. Since A-Kon is so big, the convention was also spread between three different hotels in the surrounding area. While this could in the future be beneficial, the schedule having incorrect hotels, rooms and times led to much confusion throughout the weekend. But, being the first year in this venue the convention went pretty smoothly.
We checked in on Thursday to get our badges so we would not have to wait in that particular line the next day. The lines went reasonably quickly and the system was very well thought out. With badges around necks we rushed off to our first panel, Cosplay 101 with Ani Mia. It was in one of the larger rooms where many of the cosplay panels would be that weekend. It was well attended for being the first day of the convention and offered a great basic crash course on how to begin cosplay. Unfortunately this is where our convention day ends and our cosplay work begins. At this point our Legend of Korra cosplay which was not even 75% completed. We worked late into the night, I got some shut eye around 2AM, but @skyberry13 worked into the morning hours.
We wanted to be at the convention around 10AM so we dawned our Pokemon Go cosplay and drove all the way to Ft. Worth. We stood in line for the dealer’s room. Once it opened the line went reasonably fast, but the line was intimidating looking wrapping around half the convention center and then bunching up at the end. Anyway, we got to check out the wares, buying the ones we wanted most and scouting out the rest for later. The dealer’s room was split into two sections: the vendors of merchandise in the front and the artist’s ally in the back. Both were of substantial size with an infinite amount of wares to choose from.
Our first panel for the day was Beginner Leather Working with Karianne Gottschalk and Thomas Deal Willeford, both from the show Steampunked on the Game Show Network. We had seen them at A-Kon a few years before and they never disappoint. They called on incredible steampunk pieces they had seen from the audience and kept up an entertaining dialogue that, while it may have been a challenge for the sign language interpreters to follow, was endless fun for us as they discussed tools of the trade and favorite pieces they’d created.
The next panel we attended after another tour in the dealer’s room was Advanced Sewing for Cosplay, presented by Kirayume. This cosplay duo was well versed in stitches and sewing terminology that, while technically informative was also intriguing. And they did not stop at their detailed construction slideshow with step by step accompanying imagery. Not only did they have a slew of costumes with stitches for examples during the presentation, they actually did a live fitting for the audience to fully understand the application of their presentation. Needless to say, this panel was the best sewing and construction panel that we have ever seen. I highly encourage following Kirayume and their incredible builds.
Cosplay to Fashion: Why you’re already a designer with Quantum Destiny was a perfect panel to follow. Working at the opera this summer and spending time with the incredibly talented costume, draping, wig and wardrobe apprentices has got me thinking that this is a practical career move for @skyberry13. Hearing from Quantum Destiny, a Canadian cosplayer, about her transition from cosplay to applying these skills in the professional world of fashion was educational and exciting. One surprising piece of trivia she shared was that few of her colleagues in the collegiate fashion program she attended had even touched a sewing machine before enrolling. So, any cosplayers out there looking into fashion careers are leaps and bounds ahead of your peers. She showed pictures of her graduation collection which went on the runway for an award show in Beijing. This panel offered some great insight into, not only entering, but being successful in the highly competitive fashion world coming from a cosplay background.
Our next panel also included Quantum Destiny along with an international lineup for International Cosplay with Yaya Han & Huang Shan.
Yaya Han is a household cosplay name since Syfy aired Heroes of Cosplay where she was featured along with many other master cosplayers. While that show focused on American cosplay, we have been learning more about the international cosplay competition scene since speaking with Garnet Runestar at Sabaku Con and this panel gave further insight into the rigorous cosplay competitions around the globe. Huang Shan is a famous cosplayer from China where cosplayers compete more in groups than they do here in America. There are whole cosplay communities as many as a hundred will compete together. The judging system seems to be based upon the same principles, but with much more to prove at the front end than pre-judging and a skit. Yaya Han confirmed this, speaking with him throughout the panel in his native tongue and sharing jokes which were not translated for us. This gave the panel an international feel that most everyone in the room seemed to enjoy. As for Canada, well it seems that if you do want to move to Canada given our current political climate you best bring along an entire Joanne’s store if you’re serious about cosplay. With the high export cost from the U.S. it is hard to get essential and sometimes basic cosplay items through to Canada. So, their cosplay scene is much smaller since it is so much more difficult to create cosplay. But you wouldn’t know it with Quantum Destiny, she made cosplay look good and easy, sporting an incredible Princess Allura cosplay from Voltron Legendary Defender.
After this panel we attended Painting Armor and Props with Svetlana Quindt A.K.A. Kamui Cosplay. While this cosplayer makes some incredible cosplays (some of which she wore throughout the weekend) she still has a ways to go in explaining how she did it so others can be successful too. If you needed a success story in: why to quit your job and do cosplay full time, however, she is your poster girl! The majority of the panel focused on her rise to cosplay fame thanks to the hardworking man at her side who kept his job to help her become a professional cosplayer. They are the image of true love! While not all of us ran to our bosses’ offices on Monday morning to turn in our two weeks notice, it was an inspiring tale.
The next panel was held in the Hilton, which has a bar lounge where you can take your cocktails into any of the panel rooms there with you! Sipping a cosmo and rum & coke as we enjoyed the next panel was the definitely a highlight of the convention! The panel for Plus Size Cosplay: Altering for Your Body Type was composed of a fun and chatty group of women from all body types who, were not only a cheering squad for body positivity, but knew their way around the tricky sizing of sewing patterns and cosplay shortcuts. All busty and curvaceous women face the challenges this group of women were brave enough to discuss and they provided great alternatives to wearing cosplays you’re not happy with.
At this point in the evening we were too tired to attend any more panels and had a night of cosplay progress to get done so we once again retired to work on our Legend of Korra cosplay, which was supposed to premier the next day. As the title of this blog implies, it did not. I cannot tell you what time I went to bed and @skyberry13 never did, going on three days without sleep. All I can tell you is that I was riddled by nightmares which foreshadowed the very sad face that greeted me the next morning to inform me the cosplay was not done. Now, @skyberry13 is a classic procrastinator and like all great cosplayers that quality riddled every cosplay we have ever done. Up to this point we have never had a cosplay tragedy like Victoria Schmidt of Scruffy Rebel Cosplay experienced on Heroes of Cosplay, where due to poor time management the cosplay was not done on time. But every cosplayer has their day and this was ours.
With downtrodden hearts we dressed in nerdy street clothes and went to the convention. If our morning had not been disappointing enough, the first panel we wanted to go to was nowhere to be found due to errors in the guidebook. So, we spent that time in the dealer’s room trying to pick ourselves up.
Fortunately, the table top gaming room held in the Omni Hotel across the street had the perfect pick-me-up. One of the best kept secrets of Dallas A-Kon and a must for any con-goer, not just gamers is the painting of a minifigure for FREE. There is a company that attends every year and brings blank minifigures and paint for anyone to make one free minifigure. They provide you all the tools you need to paint it to perfection including a wax paper pallet and little water cups. It is a great way to enjoy the company of your friends and create something amazing to take home as a memento of the best weekend of your life!
Cosplay Q&A with Yaya Han was sure to continue our morning’s upward spiral. She had some great knowledge to share and her experience taught all of us. Many people just attended to be in the same room as the Syfy star, which is totally understandable with her magnanimous presence. Unfortunately, there were some very rude attendees that not only flustered the audience but got under Yaya’s skin as well. She, of course, handled it with grace and poise. Someone who has held her own in some of the fiercest cosplay competitions in the world is not so easily hurt, but it unfortunately did sour the panel a bit.
Extreme Cosplay: Creating Larger than Life Costumes and Effects was an informative panel. Their builds were incredible and they shared some good tips and tools of the trade. One of the subjects that received the most questions and, therefore, the panel centered around was: how to stay cool in such large cosplays. Many of the builds that these guys make are very easy to overheat in, much like mascot suits but so much bigger and with less insulation. The use of ice packs like the ones you take camping or the instant ones you can put in a jacket are prolific in situations like this. It was also advised to always bring an extra buddy or spouse as a handler to make sure that you can take breaks from pictures. Sometimes they might have to get a little stern with the crowd since your costume is so awesome, but its best that you stay hydrated. As true tradesmen they wore their build from the popular video game Overwatch around the convention the next day following all of their suggestions in this panel.
Afterwards, we went to the Dragon Age/Bioware Meetup. This really lifted our spirits. Even though we have not yet tackled a Dragon Age cosplay it is our favorite video game franchise and there are a few LGBTQ+ characters on our upcoming cosplay lineup. Before we even got into the room we saw the best cosplay of all: Josephine Montilyet from Dragon Age Inquisition. She not only had every detail of the costume with all the gilded Antivan glory down to toting her clipboard with the melted candle around, but she spoke in Josephine’s Spanish accent the entire time never breaking character even when I asked for a picture with her! If anyone knows this cosplayer I would love to follow her because she really took cosplay to another level!
We did attend the Cosplay Masquerade, which was held in a circular amphitheater that could well have held a circus. There was seating on the ground floor in front of the stage, but we sat in the higher seating circling the arena which gave a great view of everything happening onstage. Since this was like a stadium there were concession stands where you could buy anything from pretzels to wine. Of course, this also meant that there were no outside food or drinks allowed, however, staff designated a table right outside the doors where you could leave your food to return to afterwards if you wanted. The show began with a call for people from the audience to come onstage for a dance competition. It was a girls versus boys and the girls definitely showed the guys down. The cosplay competition was great and many of the panelists from our days at the con were actually competitors which made it really interesting. I’m not sure what the judging parameters were, but there were some interesting winners- one of the crowd highlights being a Pokemon group featuring all the Eeveelutions whose skit was Ash walking through the woods, which were painted fabric panels, and catching all the Eevees as he went along. Along with the cosplay competition there was also a hall cosplay competition for those who did not wish to go up in front of an audience and deliver a skit. The winners of this competition were equally impressive, those that were still wearing their costume anyway, and it would have been great to see those costumes onstage. Of course, of anyone we understand the terrifying possibility of doing a skit in front of such a large and skilled audience. Entering into the A-Kon Cosplay Masquerade is a very distant possibility if that. It would take us years to get to a level of craftsmanship where we would even consider entering, much less hoping to place.
Speaking of which, guess who finally finished their costumes! With the help of @skyberry13‘s wonderful mother (who for many years has been in charge of putting on musicals at their church and, therefore, has some experience in costume making) we dawned our Legend of Korra cosplays of Asami and Korra. We even were able to find another photographer for a photoshoot thanks to the Facebook Group: Official A-Kon ® Cosplay Group, which I highly suggest joining if you plan on attending A-Kon in costume.
One of the main panels we enjoyed on the last day was the appropriately titled Gravity Defying Wigs with Quantum Destiny. She has some incredible wig styling under her belt and was able to give a less complex explanation of how to do it than my friends in the wig department at the Santa Fe Opera. Anyway, she explained how gluing wefts of hair to a wig can give you the style you want and more volume in the areas you need it. She confirmed that Got2B is the best product for styling wigs, a well known fact in the cosplay world despite its higher expense.
The highlight of our day occurred at the end. Through the cosplay Facebook group mentioned above, we arranged a photoshoot with a young woman who is studying photography and needed more experience, Hope Holguin. Who proved to be one of the best cosplay photographers I’ve ever met. She arrived early and was incredibly professional. It was clear she had done this before and she was very gentle in assisting us cosplay photoshoot virgins in posing properly for the camera. But she led us fearlessly on an involved and athletic cosplay photoshoot into the depths of the water gardens and the heights of the tallest rock feature. She even literally got her feet wet trying to get a great shot. The pictures that resulted were incredible and will be featured in The Official 2017 Cosplay Directory to be handed out at many large upcoming comic conventions. But we’ll give you a sneak peek in our cosplay Gallery.