COSPLAY66 - Something Good, Something Bad...A Bit of Both

"There's one other name you might know me by... Star Lord."


 "Quillin' Ain't Easy" with Crasis. Halloween 2014. 

Guardians of the Galaxy is--unquestionably--Marvel's breakout hit this year, bravely taking a cast of relative nobodies from the more obscure corners of comics and transforming them into the new faces of pop culture. Audiences have responded overwhelmingly positively, praising the film and turning out in record numbers. I had followed the adventures of the modern Guardians on the page prior to the film, but what James Gunn and crew managed to capture on that screen through humor, heart and imagination truly felt transformative to me. In all honesty, this is the movie I've been waiting to experience since I first followed the adventures of Luke Skywalker as a young child in the 80s. A new generation of kids will grow up throwing around names like "Peter Quill" and "Groot" on the playground, much as I tossed about "Han Solo" and "Chewbacca." This goes beyond the category of "Super Hero Movie" to me. This is a new phenomenon.

I've been obsessed with this film since the initial trailers. I've preordered every Hot Toys figure so far. I've grabbed all the Hasbro Marvel Legends (how can you NOT build Groot?). In a moment of weakness, I even bought freaking bobbleheads (I hate bobbleheads). I listen to "Awesome Mix Vol 1" daily. I ordered the deluxe Mondo vinyl version of the soundtrack just for the art. I'm obsessing over how I can get my hands on a super limited edition cassette tape version of the soundtrack, only available on Record Store Day. I can't get enough of these characters and this world. So, when thinking about what to do for a Halloween costume this year, my choice seemed pretty obvious --

Rocket Raccoon.

Only, I don't have quite the body type for it, so I went with my second option: Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord. Okay, so he was my first option. Also, I don't have abs. Ah well.

For those who don't know, I tend to go a little crazy with Halloween -- something I haven't been able to enjoy in the past two years due to all that mess with losing my home to Hurricane Sandy and such. Yuck. I always go all out when building a costume of a character I enjoy. I obsess over every detail, trying to make something that could have walked right off the screen. I spend weeks staring at screen captures, hi-res photos and galleries of screen props. I hit hardware stores, thrift stores, eBay, etc. trying to find every little piece to work from. I've even had custom belts and lightsabers and such made over the years, to get those little touches right on my Jedi costume. I really wanted to do something special this year, to get back in the "Cosplay" Game. Though I'm not a cosplayer. I think.

I actually never made the connection between what I do for Halloween vs. what most Cosplay artists do for a hobby, as all my effort amounts to just one night of use at a friends' Halloween party. These outfits get little play beyond that. I don't dress up at conventions (okay, there was that one time where I rocked my Snake-Eyes Halloween costume at an early NJCC, but that was short-lived). And yet, when I put together a costume, I hear folks say, "you must be popular at those conventions."

I have a lot of respect for cosplay artists (well, the ones that don't go out of their way to stab me with a 12 foot wingspan while walking down a crowded dealer room they obviously can't fit through). It takes serious talent to put together these things. But what really strikes me about these people is their endurance levels. Wearing heavy gear, makeup and materials all day in uncomfortable conditions is a difficult task. That takes stamina, and I applaud them for that.

And I guess I consider what I do to be Cosplay-Lite, since I don't build every single piece from scratch. I've had talks with 501st Stormtrooper folks who would never, ever buy any piece of their costume pre-made. I, on the other hand, generally like to start from existing pieces and customize them to fit my view of the character. I started from actual Hasbro NERF Quad Blaster toys for my guns, for instance. The factory ones are the most gaudy, ridiculous looking toys due to child safety laws, but after some spray paint, acrylics and this magical substance known as Rub 'n Buff, I soon had damn-near-screen-accurate replicas of Peter's blasters. This was mostly due to my wife's incredible artistic talent. The finishing touches she added to create the heat burns/scorch marks on the barrel tips took this from good to great. Tina was an enormous help in the paint department, and her unbelievable patience throughout this process is really why it all came together (and how I'm somehow not divorced).

Every little detail on the costume drove me nuts. You wouldn't believe how much an actual Sony Walkman TPS-L2 goes for these days, thanks to the movie driving up aftermarket prices. Don't believe me? Check eBay!  I knew I wouldn't be able to get the real thing for the costume, so I improvised. In true '66 style, I managed to find the greatest alternative - a booze flask shaped like the real thing, called "Drinkman" from a company named Mustard. I may not be able to play tapes with it, but I can bourbon it up at parties. And, after some metallic spray paint, plus pairing it with $0.99 orange foam headphones (rush-shipped from the UK), it looked close enough to the real thing. Win-win. I then took a JBL Micro speaker and had it wirelessly play the "Awesome Mix" soundtrack directly from my phone via Bluetooth. I hid the Micro away in the costume so it would sound like the music was coming from the headphones.

I convinced myself it was okay to buy a Star-Lord jacket on eBay ONLY if I'd wear it beyond Halloween. So, expect to see me sporting a loud, red leather jacket most of this Fall. Just a warning - the one you commonly see from "FJackets" or some-such is a lot less accurate to the film than this one I wear, from a company called trading.plus. There's one that puts these all to shame, from a dude on Etsy...but that one was in the $300+ range. I'm nuts, but not there yet.

The helmet was a rough journey. I'm still on the lookout for an alternative. I took a leap of blind faith with a seller on Amazon taking preorders for "hard PVC custom Star-Lord helmets." With only a few gray prototype photos to go by, and no good helmets available on the market, I took the chance. Well, the helmet came folded in half, flattened like paper in a thin box. It certainly wasn't what I expected when I read "hard helmet." The eyes were separate, shoddy pieces of red glass with rough LEDs wired loosely together. They came with a reel of scotch tape to hold them in place. What a joke. The paint looked like something a 3 year old would produce on a bad day. I wasn't going to even use the thing and demanded a refund. The company surprised me by refunding me in full (including shipping) and did not request I mail it back to them. Either they were ashamed of it or they just didn't want to go through the trouble of trying to resell such garbage. I will say, though  -- after extensive repainting, gluing the eyes in place, and stuffing it with clothes for a few weeks to take on a human head shape, it was serviceable for Halloween. Ish. The eyes are completely useless when the LEDs are on. I can't see anything in it. And the overall shape is slightly off. I could only see out of one eye hole at a time due to weird spacing. And the overall shape of the sculpt reminds me of a chicken. But the photographer managed to capture this in a way where it looks decent. Ha! I rarely wore it.

The rockets on my boots were rendered and actually 3D printed by a super talented artist on Etsy. The world we live in is amazing. They came in neon green resin, which Tina helped me paint to look close to the real deal. Peter's screen-worn boots are actually the soles of a Skechers sneaker with a boot and gaiters built on top. Due to time and lacking leather-smithing skills, I bought a pair of brown horse-riding half chaps and wore them over my black shoes. Close enough. I'm not going for RPF-levels of accuracy for a Halloween costume. I attached the rockets with industrial-strength velcro. The effect was really cool and helped get me into the character.

The part I hate the most of my costume is the belt/holsters. The one Pratt wore is very intricate and unique. If I ever get really crazy, I'll hire someone to make a "real" one. But this was fine for my needs and time crunch. But it's bad.

Speaking of time, I didn't finish this in order to make it to my friend's party. The company I freelance for was having their annual Halloween bash a few days after that, so I rushed to get it done in time for the company party. The response was fantastic...from the 5 people in the agency who knew who I was supposed to be. I actually lived out Peter Quill's dilemma all day.

This exact conversation literally happened multiple times throughout the day:

"Nice costume, Dan. Umm, forgive me, but WHO are you supposed to be?"
"Star-Lord, man. Legendary outlaw...?"
"Ahhh, forget it."

The biggest perk was having the very talented Eric Gilbert of http://www.ericgilbertphoto.com/ on hand to capture professional shots of all employees who dressed up that day. He was impressed with the Star-Lord costume and was eager to do a photo shoot. The results blew me away. Once I received the photos, I couldn't help myself - I had to throw a little digital magic on top to make those blasters fire.

This was the most fun I've had putting a costume together in a long time. I love it so much that I have a feeling this one may see the light of day beyond Halloween. Who knows? Maybe you'll see me bumbling around the next convention blaring "Hooked on a Feeling"? Perhaps I'm actually a Cosplayer after all... 

Ahh, forget it.



  1. Naw dude, scratch built or not, you are a tried and true cosplayer. Those 501st guys are just fucking nuts. Kickass outfit.

  2. So much win. For a minute I thought I was looking at the review for the Hot Toys figure.

  3. Awesome work, but I wouldn't shine a black light on it...-YT

  4. Holy Fucking Shit.
    (That's all that needs to be said)

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