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The appreciation of cosplay is very near and dear to the heart of Nerd Bastards. Whether it be expertly crafted, drop dead gorgeous, simple yet witty, or all of the above–we love it.

Now, in a new and ongoing feature we’re looking to celebrate all those unknowns who slave away creating amazing costumes. Those who put their sweat and tears into an outfit they’ll only wear on the convention floor for a few hours. Those who don’t have a gig on a major television network’s reality show. These are the Real Heroes of Cosplay.

I’m still a veritable Dragon Con n00b, but in the few years I’ve been attending the con I’ve made friends with all sorts; many of them cosplayers. (Go figure!) One of those friends is Bryan Vu. A relatively new cosplayer, Bryan’s that guy who on his first couple of tries just nails it. Yep, the man’s a natural, and while it’d be easy to get jealous of such talent, it’s far easier to simply admire his kick-ass creations. This year Bryan wowed the convention floor with a fantastic steampunk stormtrooper. After following along with Bryan’s progress reports on the costume’s construction I couldn’t wait to see the final product, and it does not disappoint.

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(Artist Bjorn Hurri‘s original concept that inspired Bryan’s costume.)

You’re steampunk stormtrooper looks awesome! All the time and effort that went into making it really shows. What have you learned from constructing this costume that you’ll apply to future cosplays?

I would say my weathering technique. This costume was heavily weathered to make it look very worn and torn, so if I ever needed to do that for another costume I will definitely go back to the way I did it this time around.

I’m hoping to add different techniques as well, just so I can experiment and learn new techniques and share them with people.

About how long did it take to make?

I think the entire process took about three months total if I calculate all the hours into one big clump, but I did actually start the process back in January and was only working on it during the weekends up until a couple of months before Dragon Con. That’s when I was working on it everyday.

(Here’s a sampling of Bryan’s progress shots, for more check out the complete gallery.)

What did you find was the toughest part?

This would definitely have to be having no dress form to make the shapes of the armor. I shaped all the parts of the armor with household products or I just used my own body. I would heat up the Worbla and then wrap it around whatever body part I was making it for.

In the end, how much did everything cost?

I think all the materials cost around $500.00. Though I do have quite a bit of leather scraps left over.

What was the most expensive bit?

This would be the thermoplastic material, Worbla. It was $80.00 for a jumbo sheet from cosplaysupplies.com. I bought two jumbo sheets and used all of it. Size 100cm x 150cm (39.25″ wide x 59″ long).

trooper8Once in the suit, did you realize anything you should have done differently?

Oh, definitely. I probably wouldn’t  have used foam as the raised details on the armor. It got chipped away very easily when it was rubbing against parts of the armor. Also, there were some parts of my costume, like the arm guards, I had made too tight and that could have been done differently. But the biggest thing I would have changed were the gloves. All the armor pieces were falling off so I basically had to super glue the little pieces directly on to the glove while I was wearing them, and it stuck to my skin underneath. So, a lot of the pieces on the gloves were stuck onto me until I got back to the hotel room and carefully ripped them off of my skin. It was a quick con fix but definitely something I wouldn’t want to do again.

Ouch! That’s dedication! In order to figure out to do the molding, weathering, etc., what resources did you use?

Google. Just doing a lot of research about the materials you plan to use. For instance, I knew I wanted to use the Thermoplastic Worbla and who knows Worbla better than most people? Kamui Cosplay. Her site has a lot of tutorials and not just written ones but videos as well!

Also, Facebook and Instagram. Facebook has so many cosplayers/costumers that have fan pages and they update daily, even hourly sometimes. You get to see a lot of the behind the scenes work that goes into all their costumes, so it’s a great way to look at what they do, and a lot of times they interact with all the people on their pages. Instagram is also a favorite. If you look up the hashtag “#worbla” there are over 1,000 posts people have uploaded and a lot of them share work in progress pictures. I’ve used it many times to ask how that person made this or what materials they used. I feel as if it’s more intimate than Facebook since only a few people would use Instagram to show their work.

trooper11What’s the greatest thrill you get out of of cosplaying?

Greatest thrill for me, personally, would be at the very end when you finish the last piece of the costume and you set it aside with all the other pieces. And you just stare at them for any amount of time and finally realize at that point all your hard work and efforts have paid off and you’re finally done with it.

Also, trying on the completed costume is a pretty amazing feeling. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment. It was the second to last day before I had to pack for Dragon Con and I was working frantically to get the tubes that are connected from my helmet to the oxygen tank shaped correctly. Once that was finally done I felt so relieved because I didn’t want to work into the night on it.

What have you found to be your biggest hurdle when cosplaying?

I don’t think there was one for me to be honest. I haven’t been cosplaying for a long time or anything so there hasn’t been any challenges, really. Maybe trying to figure out how I’m going to pack this entire suit of armor into my luggage? [laughs]

Is cosplaying something you see yourself doing forever?

Hmm… I don’t think I will cosplay forever. There will always be a time when you need to call it quits, but that is NOT happening anytime soon.

After the success of Dragon Con 2013, what’s next? Next convention? Next cosplay?

I really have no plans to attend any other conventions this year. I was planning on going to Dallas Comic Con or Austin Comic Con, but I will be in the middle of moving to another country (Canada!) so that is going to take up most if not all of my time.

I’m hoping my next convention will be a local one in Calgary, but if not Dragon Con 2014!!

There are so many costumes I want to do, but I do think I have settled on one. It’s another Star Wars mash-up concept by CG Felker, Samurai Boba Fett.

That looks seriously awesome. Good luck! Lastly, any advice for those who’ve never cosplayed but wants to give it a go?

I know there are a lot of people who say try something simple for the first time and work your way up, but you know what? I totally did not go that route. I went full steam ahead and dove right into the water. So my advice is go right into the thick of it. Just do it, you won’t know how you’ll do until you try. But also remember to do your research and measure twice, cut once.

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Thanks Bryan! This costume is one hell of an accomplishment! For more photos from Bryan’s shoot with Avidchick Productions check out their full gallery. And if you’d like to be featured in the Real Heroes of Cosplay, hit us up at heroesofcosplay@nerdbastards.com.

Category: Cosplay, Featured, Interviews, Nerd Culture

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