Cosplay Competitions are always one of the highlights of any convention. If you’ve ever been sat in the audience, or watching a stream at home, and have been confused by the winners that are announced, there’s a good chance you’ve been watching a craftsmanship competition!
Craftsmanship competitions, like ReedPop’s Cosplay Central Crown Championships, don’t focus on the biggest, flashiest and most popular costumes, but instead focus on the fine skills, quality of finish, variety of techniques and ingenuity of the costume maker. The judges have always inspected these costumes closely before the cosplayers walk the stage in pre-judging interviews where they get to question the cosplayer and learn all their secret techniques, flip seams and inspect the inside of those outwardly impressive foam builds and glorious ballgowns. They get to see all those details it’s impossible to see from way back in the audience! Everyone always has their personal favourite, but it’s important to understand the kind of competition you are watching, especially to appreciate why a more outwardly ‘simple’ costume beat something with a bigger wow factor on stage.
In the USA regional rounds, the Crown Championships selects a winner specialised in each major costume category - Needlework, Armor and FX - and an overall top 3. The top 3 costumes in master level competitions like this will regularly cross over the categories, having a combination of several sewing, armor and FX techniques and all done to an exceptionally high standard. To give more insight into the details that the judges get to see we’re sharing a series of interviews with the six winners from New York Comic Con’s Crown Championships Qualifier.
Second Place winner: Vee Cosplay
Vee impressed the judges with flawless finish and impressive transformation of materials in their costume of The Mighty Thor from Thor: Love and Thunder to claim second place overall.
Popverse: Congratulations on your win! How did you get started with cosplay?
Vee: I have been making my own costumes and doing general sewing projects for over 20 years. I was taught how to sew by my mom and grandmother, as a kid I always looked forward to planning and making my Halloween costumes at home. I have worked professionally making and repairing costumes, but I have no proper or professional schooling.
I attended my first convention in 2011 and I was hooked instantly. Convention going opened the world of costume making even wider. I love seeing the way people put together their costumes and approach challenges, it’s always a great time finding other fans who have brought my favorite characters to life.
What inspired you enter the competition this year?
I competed in 2016 on a whim. I had been making Samus Aran’s Varia suit and thought, “I’m going to NYCC why not enter and see what happens”. I met so many amazing people who had worked so hard on their cosplays. It was wicked cool to be in an environment where I was surrounded by others who also hyper fixated on the details of a costume, spent hours tirelessly working away to make sure their art was what they envisioned, and were excited to talk about how they did it. Being accepted into the competition was and still is a high honor.
I am a fan of The Mighty Thor comic series and when I heard Natalie Portman was picking up Mjolnir for the MCU, I was excited. They released the on set images of Natalie as Thor in spring 2022 and the next day I started my costume. I knew this was a cosplay I wanted to do right and make as close to screen accurate as I could. Originally, I had thought I would have Thor finished for the movie release in July 2022… which did not happen. I revel in the creativity of my peers and the driving force behind my choice to apply for Crown was just that. I have several friends that I’ve met through competitions and I am happy to say that continued with this years show.
What was your process for creating your Thor costume?
When I began this cosplay there was only one image of Natalie Portman in costume and the movie had not been released. Eventually a handful of still images came from the trailers but not much. About two and a half months into this project, my friend Sam messaged me as an incredibly thoughtful Cosplayer (@officialjoygoblin on Instagram) was kind enough to take many close up reference pictures at a promotion event for the movie in LA, where the costumes were displayed, and post them to a community cosplay group. The down side of this was realizing how many things that weren’t screen accurate in my design. I was able to change some parts, but I had to concede some weren’t going to be exactly screen accurate. While it’s not necessary to be screen accurate, it was a challenge I had set for myself in this project.
Thor is primarily comprised of Worbla and Leather. I chose these materials simply because it is what I had on hand, and most of the materials were leftovers and scraps from other projects. The chest plate and arm bracers are Worbla with leather inlays, the challenge here was to finish and refine the Worbla to a smooth surface with out damaging the leather as I had no way to replace the leather once I moved on to the smoothing steps. The boot armor, knee caps and various “metal” accents were made of worbla filled and sanded to a smooth finish. Each boot consists of six separate armor bits that attach together to give the look of the on screen costume with no visible seam or attachment apparatus.
I am very proud of the rivets throughout my armor set, they are made of poured resin. The armored skirt panels were all cut with exacto blades and a rotary tool, then diligently assembled by hand using tweezers.
What’s the most common question you get about this costume?
Many people have asked how I got worbla this smooth, and the answer is very simple- many, many rounds of filler and sanding. I started by lightly sanding the bare worbla, painting on five-ish layers of gesso as a base and building up several layers of wood filler sanding down the high points in-between each layer. Eventually moving on to a rattle can of automotive filler primer and again using several rounds of sanding and filling.
Did you learn anything while making this costume?
I am a collector of hobbies and like to learn new crafts as often as I am able. In this project I dipped my toes into 3D printing, primarily the finishing and refining of a print.
While I had worked with resin and worbla before, I spent a lot of time on this project finessing the materials and learning how to use them more in-depth. One of my favorite new methods for working with worbla is to pair it with leather. Leather crafting produces a lot of scrap material and I find it difficult to throw away, so I used some of my “trash” to fill in and pad out the layers of my armor. The leather doesn’t off-gas the way that EVA foam does which means you don’t get little bubbles under your worbla if you overheat the piece. Which is great if you’re shooting for a super smooth finish like I was.
I’ve been dabbling in airbrushing for a handful of years now with water based make up and acrylic paints. Thor introduced me to using lacquer paints. Alclad has a series of paints specifically for making chrome effects. I learned that chrome shows ALL of your sins, so getting all of my worbla as smooth as possible to give a metallic look was very important to me.
What is your favorite part of the costume? And Why?
Hands down my favorite part of this project was creating Mjolnir. The head of the hammer is constructed of worbla with sheets of clear polyethylene plastic, scavenged from the sides of a clear tote bin, fitted to the interior of the box. An LED strip was wrapped around a foam core inside of the hollow hammer head and the USB end fed through the PVC pipe handle to plug into a small external battery hidden in the end. I used many different Dremel bits to carve into the worbla layers allowing the light to diffuse through the clear plastic. The handle was wrapped in leather and adorned with worbla accents. The embossed edges were created by carving the desired design into monster clay and making very thin copies of the design out of wood glue. This wasn’t my original plan, but it worked out very well as the wood glue was flexible and easy to cut and shape. The hammer was finished in a similar paint process as the armor but finished with a satin clear coat to avoid the shine of the chrome paint underneath.
Are there any other details or features you would like to highlight?
My cape is a very cozy vintage wool. It wasn’t in the best condition when I purchased it, there was an interfacing layer fused to the wool that had had disintegrated into a fine dust over its years on the shelf. A lot of work went into cleaning it and making it usable. Once cut into a half circle, I draped my wool on my dress form and ladder stitched the pleats in place. The front edges of the cape were handstitched using a felting stitch and the hem had a very fine blanket stitch. The cape is hung from a Chicago screw hidden in the shoulder armor disk. Many parts of this costume utilized chicago screws and industrial strength velcro for its closures. I very proudly can get into this costume on my own, but due to the high strength velcro, getting out is a different story.
Any advice for anyone thinking about entering a competition like this?
Your peers are there for the same reason you are, to have fun and show off the cool things you made. Give it a shot, and make some new friends.
Missed the competition on stage? You can check out all the entries right here on Popverse in our VOD of the NYCC livestream