Cosplay Friday: Keith ZenDragon's Sartorial Swagger [Full]
A man, a plan, a costume - Indiana.
Did you feel the excitement in the air this morning? No, it's not just Friday; it's Cosplay Friday! Although we've featured a fair number of talented ladies, today we're featuring a male cosplayer. Male cosplayers have a unique challenge in that they are almost always out numbered by their female counterparts, but there's one male cosplayer in particular whose magnetic personality gets him noticed everywhere he goes. His name is Keith ZenDragon and he's our featured costumer in this month's Cosplay Friday.
TOKYOPOP: So, tell us - how did you get started cosplaying?
Keith ZenDragon: I have always loved costuming, comics and special effects. Halloween was my favorite time of year. One year I decided to go to a big Halloween event and my dream costume was Indiana Jones. While the costume was far from perfect, it went over really well and people loved it. I got my first taste of a real costume at that point and wanted more. That same year I decided to go to San Diego Comic-Con. I spent months putting together a very accurate Indiana Jones for that con.
TP: What’s your favorite costume to wear and why?
KZ: Favorite costume, I think it would be a toss up between Indiana Jones and Tony Stark/Iron Man. As mentioned before, Indiana Jones is my first love. I love the character, the practicality of the costume and it's iconic nature. Tony Stark/Iron Man however has become a very close contender. It has versatility. That character is just plain fun to portray. You can wear great suits or jeans and a t-shirt and have all of the great prop tech (e.g. Arc Reactor) that makes up that character.
TP: Tell us more about these costumes. How did you create the more complex set pieces?
KZ: The Indiana Jones costume is mostly made from found items. Almost all of the items can be sourced (via sites like Indygear.com) so it's more about assembling than making. The most that you might do with a costume like that is distressing. Tony Stark/Iron Man is very similar when it comes to Tony's clothing. It's a lot of screen captures and hunting for suits. The trick with suits is to find a good tailor. As for the armor, that was an effort by a friend of mine. It's good to have talented friends who don't mind helping. It's made from fiberglass and vacu-formed ABS plastic.
TP: What was the biggest challenge?
KZ: For me with those two characters, the challenge is about the little things. I mentioned a good tailor. But finding the right items and then putting those items together is a bigger challenge then one might think. I have seen a ton of people wearing sunglasses, an un-tailored suit and bad shoes and thinking that they are now Tony Stark. Little details can include your hair, wrist watch or swagger. When it comes to armor, the challenge with that is getting it to look similar to what you see on film. Considering that most of the armor that was worn was CGI, it's hard to get the proper proportions when wearing armor.
TP: How much did you know about sewing/crafting before you got involved in cosplay?
KZ: I knew very little. My fascination really comes from special effects and fabrication, and I experimented with that stuff quite a bit. I worked for a body shop for a bit, which helped me with painting and sanding. One of the first things I started working with was leather. Since then it has expanded to sculpting, casting and mold making. I haven't tinkered much with sewing beyond the one class that I took a while back.
TP: What do you look for in a potential costume?
KZ: For me, I have to love the character. With the exception of Halo Spartan Armor, which I got into thanks to my partner-in-cosplay-crime Abby Dark-Star, the rest of the characters I have chosen are because of my love of the character. Over the years I have done everything from Preacher to Ash from Evil Dead. I tend to also chose characters that I can have fun with portraying. I tend to get into the characters that I cosplay.
TP: If you had unlimited time and money, what would be your dream costume to make?
KZ: Hmmm, there are more than a couple I think. I would like to do the Darkness from Top Cow. I would also like to do Kirk Lazarus as Sgt. Osiris from Tropic Thunder. But I think ultimately, if money was no option? Full-blown Iron Man suit with lights, sounds, animatronics...you name it.
TP: What words of advice would you give to those who are interested in becoming a cosplayer?
KZ: Do what you enjoy. If you aren't having fun, you are probably doing it wrong. But the best advice I can give? Focus on the little details. You could put together and amazing costume and then fall short at something as simple as shoes or hair. Don't think that you can skip over those things because people DO notice.
TP: What’s one mistake you think beginning cosplayers make and how can they avoid it?
KZ: Diving in head first. So many people don't do their homework on their costume. They don't research enough, they don't get an idea of price, they don't work out the details on what is all involved in the costume, including cost. They just dive in. Then they realize that they don't have everything they need to get the costume done, yet they have already invested time and money. It just becomes a big fail for them at that point. I always try to remember the 7 P's "Prior Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance"
TP: What's your favorite experience you've had in costume?
KZ: Wow, there have been many. One of my favorite was being flown to London as Iron Man to help promote the release of the Iron Man 2 DVD. But in reality, the best experience is all of the people I have met over the years and am proud to call friends. That is one experience that costuming has created that I couldn't imagine being without.
TP: Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
KZ: Yes, I am working on a Judge costume from Dredd 3D. If everything goes well expect to see several of us at 2013 cons around the nation. While the movie itself did poorly in the theaters, the costume is really pretty amazing!
Keep up with Keith's work at his website, then be sure to check out our cosplay gallery featuring Keith's costumes at Nerdist.com!