Salt Lake Comic Con FanX: In 'cosplay,' everybody can be anybody
By day, John Robinson is an IT guy from West Valley City.
But at FanX, the offshoot event of Salt Lake Comic Con happening through Saturday at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Robinson becomes a hulking, hammer-swinging Space Marine.
The costume, a maroon-and-white get-up depicting a character from the video game "Warhammer 40,000," took Robinson 300 hours of work, gluing and shaping EVA foam playmats into the shape of the marine's armor.
Standing in one of the main concourses at the Salt Palace, a circle of people forms around Robinson and his 7-year-old son, William, who's dressed as a Space Marine scout. Everyone wants to have a picture taken with the guy in the giant costume.
Robinson made the costume for fun last year and wore it to the inaugural Salt Lake Comic Con.
"What got me hooked was the reaction from the kids, and adults acting like kids," Robinson said. "Everybody wants to be a kid."
Everyone, indeed. Many of the thousands of FanX attendees on Friday came to the Salt Palace dressed as their favorite superhero, cartoon character, video game avatar or pop culture icon.
Some call it cosplay short for "costume play" though Jen McGrew, who runs the Salt Lake City custom costume shop McGrew Studios, notes that "cosplay is different than costume."
The difference, McGrew said, is that cosplayers make most of their costumes from scratch. One of the requirements of FanX's cosplay contest, which McGrew produces, is that the costumes be at least 80 percent original.
Vard McGuire, a social worker in Salt Lake City, said he likes making costumes for the problem-solving skills required.
Dressed as Doctor Octopus, one of Spider-Man's classic enemies, McGuire said he had to figure out how to turn tubing and plastic cups into Doc Ock's famous robotic arms.
"I'm using power tools and a sewing machine, so that's fun. â¦ It's also fun to walk around in character and interact with people," McGuire added, just before someone in a Spider-Man costume stopped nearby, allowing for the perfect photo opportunity.
Moonthara Lertsongkham and Hailey Kennedy, both 16 and classmates at Bingham High School in South Jordan, found themselves posing for a lot of photos in their characters: Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, the sisters from Disney's "Frozen."
"I really love making people smile," Lertsongkham said between photo requests. "You're creating a fantasy for yourself and others."
The Bingham High duo spent 40 to 50 hours creating the costumes. The hardest part, they said, was painting the embroidery patterns on the Anna dress and the snowflakes on Elsa's skirt.
Sometimes the simplest costume can still be cool. An easy costume to make is that of the Eleventh Doctor, the recent incarnation of the main character in the British series "Doctor Who."
For the Eleventh Doctor, all one needs is a dress shirt, a bow tie and a tweed jacket. (A fez is optional.) The Doctor's companion, the resilient Amy Pond, requires jeans, a plaid blouse and a Sharpie to write tally marks on her arms (for reasons too complicated to explain in brief).
That's what sisters Hannah and Rachel Jones, 15 and 14, of Sandy, did. Hannah, a big "Doctor Who" fan, dressed as The Doctor, while Rachel dressed as Amy. Hannah borrowed their older brother's tweed suit jacket to complete the look.
"He's on his mission right now," Hannah said, "so I just stole it from his room."
For those dealing with costume emergencies, FanX has a "cosplay hospital" in a back room. Volunteers from McGrew Studios and Hale Centre Theatre's costume rental shop are equipped with sewing machines and glue guns to fix broken costumes.
"So many of the costumes they've made themselves," said Hale's Lib Marsh. "They're jury-rigged, and when they come undone, we have to jury-rig them back."
Cosplay is so prevalent at conventions that professionals now do it. Some models who go by the common name Cosplay Corps have a booth at FanX, selling photos of themselves in costume.
"I nerd out, and I like to dress up," said Joanie Brosas, a professional model from Murray. Brosas, who describes herself as half-Filipino and "flat as a board," stands out from the other Cosplay Corps models, who tend toward the buxom.
Brosas' get-up Friday was as the comic book character Aphrodite IX, who sports long green hair, short shorts and a skimpy tank top. She opted against wearing her most risque costume, Vampirella, which consists of a red thong, two thin strips of fabric, and strategically placed double-sided tape.
Brosas' advice for amateur cosplayers: "I just say go for it. â¦ Find what's in your closet and use it."
Salt Lake Comic Con Fan eXperience or FanX runs Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the Salt Palace, 100 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City. One-day tickets are $40 for adults, $20 for children ages 11 to 16, free for children 10 and under.