Wednesday, August 14, 2013

'Heroes of Cosplay': 'Wizard World Portland'

Becky's feeling Brave
BY MELISSA HARKNESS

What could possibly go better with Syfy's Face Off? Why a show all about cosplay, of course. Syfy's Heroes of Cosplay follows a number of experienced and new cosplayers through the planning, constructing and competition phases of their costumes.

This first episode centers on the competition at Wizard World Portland. Our cosplayers this episode are Victoria Schmidt (@ScruffyRebel), Becky Young (@Aktrez), the team of Jessica Merizan (@JessicaMerizan), Holly Conrad (@HollyConrad), and the only man Jesse Lagers (@MidnightArmor). We also get a look into cosplay superstar Yaya Han's (@YayaHan) costume creation process as she prepares for her role as contest judge.

Victoria, Becky, Jessica and Holly are all based in Los Angeles, so the ladies meet up for a fun night of bowling. As the evening progresses, Jessica shares that Yaya Han will be a judge at the big contest. Yeah, Victoria and Becky descend into a mild freak out which earns Victoria a gutter ball. Little do they know, but Yaya has her own costuming worries. She feels a lot of pressure to always have a new, better- than-the-last-one costume to keep her “brand” active and out there. It looks like most of the cosplayers we will be seeing on the show are trying to make some sort of business out of this expensive hobby.

Anyway, back in Atlanta, Yaya and her fiancé are having some trouble with her Fiora (League of Legends) costume. There appears to be a small problem with some uncooperative paint colors.

Victoria has chosen to cosplay Lulu from Final Fantasy X. She is just a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to her costumes, but luckily has a lot of help from her boyfriend, Jinyo. You should all send a little sympathy Jinyo's way; Victoria is very exacting when it comes to embroidery. Luckily, the man can embroider like a beast! Unfortunately, the embroidery machine coughs and dies before he finishes the job. Victoria has to head off to Wizard World alone while he stays behind to finish the embroidery appliqués. She is not a happy pony.

You may know Jessica and Holly from Morgan Spurlock's Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope and their Mass Effect costumes. (If you haven't seen it, you really should look it up.) They have chosen to cosplay their D&D characters. Jessica plays a tiefling, while Holly plays a white-haired dark elf. The fun part is that tiefling's have horns, and Holly gets to cover Jessica's head with plaster to make a cast to build the horns onto. That's trust y'all.

After a few scary moments, Jessica is finally freed from her plaster tomb. Sadly, they have some problems with making the horns and Jessica proposes that they buy some off-the-shelf ones to save time. They have a heated girl fight in the costume store and Jessica stomps back to the car. Holly eventually reenters the car and throws a bag on the floorboard with Jessica's horns. Jessica smiles happily and they rush off to pack for the con. I love these two; they are hilarious together.

Becky has decided to cosplay Merida from Pixar/Disney's Brave. She takes her cosplay very seriously, even taking archery lessons to appear more authentic. Unfortunately, Becky has some body image issues, which I find sad because she's a lovely girl. She makes a few visits to the gym anyway. She's also not afraid of marker fumes as she hand colors a wig to make Merida's bright orange hair.

With the contest fast approaching everyone is feeling the pressure. So it’s no surprise that when Victoria and Becky get to the con early they decide to enjoy themselves a little first. They run into Yaya in the convention hall and stop to admire her costume. She's cosplaying Carmilla from Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. I have one word for you folks: cleavage.

After being warned by Yaya about her standards for the judging, the ladies head off to do a little partying. Apparently Victoria enjoys herself a little too much with the drinking and the dancing. She oversleeps and ultimately fails to get her costume finished before the contest. Becky has her own concerns with her costume, but feels better after an adorable little girl dressed up as Belle (Beauty and the Beast) recognizes her as Merida.

Jesse, the only male cosplayer in our merry band, lives in Portland. He's a newbie to the competition aspects of cosplay, though he has been fabricating props for a quite a while. In fact, he would like to quit his day job and do this full time, but he needs to get some cosplay cred by winning a Best In Show at a con. With that in mind, he’s spent the better part of a year building a Vault Dweller from Fallout 3. This big costume includes a massive set of power armor and a Gatling gun with rotating chambers. It's so massive in fact, that he can't get in the car to get to the convention. They never do explain how he finally manages to get there though.

With all of our players at Wizard World Portland, it’s time to get this contest started. Yaya premiers her new Fiora costume, which also contains an ample bosom, nice chunky boots, and a very large sword. As the contestants queue up for their turn on the stage, she reminds them of her main judging criteria: showmanship, craftsmanship, and difficulty. She is joined by fellow judges: Jason David Frank, the Green Power Ranger and Jesse Snider, the writer of the rebooted comic Evil Ernie.

So how did it go for our hard working cosplayers? Well, Becky does a decent Merida voice and despite making a big deal about her insecurities manages to win the Honorable Mention. Holly manages to drop the microphone when she and Jessica take the stage. They ladies laugh it off and proceed to hero pose. Of course, Yaya knocks points off for the store bought horns, but I thought they looked awesome. The ladies win Best Team, which is as it should be. Jesse disappointingly got left out of the prizes, but he's looking forward to the Emerald City con coming up.

Despite being a huge nerd, I’m not terribly familiar with the ever-growing cosplay culture. So, I was worried it would have a bunch of costumes I wouldn’t recognize, but I’m proud to say I knew all of the ones in this episode. I will admit to having a few misgivings going into this show, but I was pleasantly surprised. I found it enjoyable, most particularly Jessica and Holly. And the biggest take home message here is most assuredly “don’t go it alone.” This level of cosplay is absolutely not a one person job.

The next episode of Heroes of Cosplay, “Emerald City” airs Tuesday Aug. 20 at 10 PM ET on Syfy.

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