I knew my lovely and dynamic friend for awhile before I discovered that she was involved in the Comic Con hobby, passion and adventures. I was so intrigued by this since I only knew her in the capacity of church volunteering and leadership. She defines effervescence and has the most contagious laugh. I really admire so many things about her and especially, most recently, her journey down the path of comic conventions and her perseverance to make her own elaborate costumes. To me, Rachel’s superpowers are her friendliness, convictions and loyalty. She’s perfect for Gypsy Family Travel journeys!
What inspired you to get involved with Comic Con?
My husband and I went to two Comic Cons here in town when we first started dating. The next few years we didn’t go because of life and other things that happen. In 2013, my best friend in Wichita sent me a text saying, ” Wil Wheaton is going to be in Kansas City in April at Planet Comic Con!” I told her we needed a road trip and that if we were going to go, we are going to dress up one day. She helped me make a costume and one for herself.
You can attend without wearing a costume?
Absolutely! I would say it’s about 10-20% who wear costumes and everyone else is in jeans and t-shirts. More and more people are starting to dress up.
I thought that’s how you enter—by wearing a costume…?
A lot of it is celebrity guests that people want to meet. They are on their favorite shows or movies. That’s a big draw. There are panels on different topics ranging from how to get started in cosplay and prosthetics to crowd funding to giving back to the community. You get to hear them talk and ask them questions and hear them talk about their backgrounds. There’s also vendors –all kinds of geeky things—glasses etched with your favorite characters, t-shirts, posters, 3-D printing of yourself, and artists’ alley: independent artists, writers, comic book writers who are self-promoting in an industry that used to be hard to get into. Comic Cons have gotten larger in the last 10-15 years. Artists find independent markets to promote themselves and feature their work.
Is it in every major city?
It depends. There’s a big circuit called Wizard World. It tours the country and people travel from city to city but some artists stay local. There’s Tulsa Comic Expo in May and SoCon which is a one day event in September and Wizard World will be here in October . There are a couple in OKC which are 1-2 day events. There’s Tokyo of Tulsa in July which is focused on anime.
Anime is a stylistic animation that comes out of Japan. It’s Japanese-inspired but not done by only Japanese artists, now. It’s a different type of comic than Superman or Batman.
Would you say the inspiration for getting involved is a variety of self-expressions, fantasy of comic books and super powers?
It’s the uniqueness of it and the super powers.
Why are you into it? What are your observations? Is it your talent in making the costumes? What does it feel like to walk in when you’re the participant? I was in dance for 10 years so I imagine it’s similar to a stage experience.
When I’m in plain clothes, it is to watch artists and vendors. 1 of the 3 days of the convention, I check out all the vendors to soak it in. When I’m in character, I’m on display. It’s really interesting with the costuming because some people do it to challenge themselves artistically with building a costume….to see what they can build. This was the first year I made my costumes myself. I was Joy from Inside Out. I have a really strong connection to that character. When you have someone come up to you and say, “IT”S JOY!! or “Oh my GOD, I LOVE YOUR OUTFIT”; they want that experience. That’s what it’s like when they meet your character. (like people feel at Disneyworld). They want to talk to you and know how you make your props.
They want to absorb your passion?
They do! They want that experience. It’s a very different creative process than what you think it is.
So does Rachel fade away and become invisible when you become Joy? Is that what you try to do through dress up?
That’s what I try to do….not 100% of the time. When you call my name when I’m in costume, I probably won’t turn around. But I can hear someone across an entire convention floor yell “It’s Joy!” and I’ll turn around and see them waving to me. It’s an amazing experience. You’re ON. You’re turning yourself on to be this character and portray it.
What’s been your favorite costume to wear or make?
Joy. Last year my friend Teresa Marler of CosplayOK made my costumes. Shera was a costume everyone loved and it was my favorite costume then. She made me Shera, Jessica Rabbit and Abby from NCIS. For Shera, her husband Jeremy made me a fantastic sword and headdress. People pulled me aside in Portland to take pictures of that outfit. I took Joy for the first time to Portland. I started Feb 1 and finished Feb. 16. It was the first time I ever sewed for myself, made resin, electrical wiring…. I wanted the dress to glow so I sewed rice lights into the crinoline of my dress. I thought, “how can I make these orbs glow?” My friend’s husband sent me information on LED lights and another friend told me about an electronic store on Admiral. So we tested one to see how long they’ll run on battery. I wanted a fractured look. (Rachel showed me the resin mixture and orbs) I had to carry these around for 8 hours.
How did you know to put resin in it?
I didn’t. My friend sent me a link about making jewels and using epoxy. I had never worked with epoxy before. Every red flag was going off in my head. We poured it to see how it was going to happen. I was a little prepared because the reference material had said you could use vaseline as a release. By putting in vaseline coated boxes, I created recesses for the battery packs. Epoxy is a two part solution and is very sticky as it hardens.
Who was the originator for the Comic Con idea?
In the 1930’s or ’40’s, a prolific science fiction writer and her significant other (or husband, can’t remember) started dressing in costumes and went out together in cos-play. Cos-play is a snigglet for ” costume play.”
What was your most favorite costume to see on someone else?
A beach-Ariel (Little Mermaid) in burlap. Neelix from Start Trek Voyager in a face mask and suit was cool.
What’s the furthest you’ve traveled for comic conventions?
Portland and Philadelphia.
What’s the youngest your son was when he traveled with you? How has this experience influenced him?
He was six years old. He loves super heroes and was able to meet his idol, Stan Lee (the creator of Marvel Comics). I always look up the FAQ’s and dress codes of the conventions and choose the family friendly ones since my son attends with me.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at the conventions ? Controversial? crazy? hilarious? coolest?
Michael J. Fox did a panel in Philadelphia. He has a wicked sense of humor. It takes him longer to get out the words now but that was the coolest thing I’ve seen. Kevin Smith was in KC. You expect funny stories but there’s really pearls of wisdom and life experiences that’s applicable to everything else in life. Sometimes you meet random people and talk for hours after having a connection from a show. You talk about something and it leads to other conversations…
If you’re that creative and expressive then I think that aura happens when you get together….that wisdom is going to be there because you’re among non-conformists and free spirits.
I don’t want to say they’re outspoken but they’re not afraid of voicing their opinions.
Like you! 🙂
Oh! hahaha…. I have opinions, I don’t always voice them. (long laughter here between us).
I saw a Steampunk Convention once in Denver when we were there for an oratorical regional competition. We didn’t know what was going on at first! We saw panels, vendors, etc. Steampunk fascinates me because it’s so historically time-specific. Have you been? Is it literature based?
No, I haven’t…but it’s mixed into Comic Con. I saw Steampunk Belle and Beast costumes that were really cute. Imagine a world running off steam and coal power instead of gas and fuel.
To watch uninhibited free spirits, you could sense their real personas fading away as they express themselves more boldly through their characters. I bet their after-parties are crazy fun.
I’ve only been to one. I stayed in my Joy costume so that made it fun. No one is closed off or super rude. Everyone is open to you and kind. They ask questions and share ideas and collaborate.
As a mom of a little boy, you got into this early whereas some moms wait until later to express their passions and hobbies. Is it therapeutic to put the other Rachel roles aside and be Rachel the Artist?
It’s not stress free—-the costuming. When I started making my own costumes, I realized that I didn’t pay Teresa enough!
I’ve experienced that feeling on a Greek costume I designed with someone a long time ago.
I love the results I get out of it but it’s not stress free!
The admission prices, travel expenses and registration must get expensive….but it’s your vacation, though, right?
It adds up but you can buy a 3 day pass. At Wizard World, it’s $80 for a 3-day event in St. Louis…so that’s less than an amusement park and I get to meet incredible people and hear them speak.
It’s community building, too, and you are seeing people do something positive! They are carving out a niche!
Yes. And some of the autograph fees and photobooth fees get donated to charity. An artist in Kansas City donated all of his fees to community gardening.
Where is the convention center in KC?
Bartle Hall is the convention center in the Power and Light district of KC.
What do you want to share with us about this experience?
Cosplay and Comic Con really promote and talk about body positivity and acceptance no matter who you are, what you look like or what’s going on in your life. The message is ” You are accepted here and don’t need to fear when you walk through the doors.”
Rachel, You are the embodiment of Joy!