Heroes Behind the Mask: We Are Cosplay

I love the pictures in this weeks interview! So much fun must have been had at this party! One thing I love about this blog is all the fun pictures I get to see while looking for groups and people to feature! Not to mention the ones that are submitted to me.   This groups is so fun they also have a members appreciation night.  Personally, I love this idea!  Having been part of a busy group sometimes it is just fun to have a fun night with your CAUSEplay family!   Drum roll please for We Are Cosplay! –Mala

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Over 13 hours For The Kids – photo by Ron Ladao

Group Name: We Are Cosplay

Mission Statement:We Are Cosplay is about the culture of costuming and appreciation for the characters and craft used to bring them to life. A collective of artists collaborating toward one goal- to produce creative media via costuming, cosplaying, video production, live appearances, and more. We Are cosplay is where creative pop-culturists come to live, grow, and teach.

Location(s): Based in Chicago, our events primarily radiate out to the surrounding suburbs. That doesn’t mean we don’t have members in other states or countries for that matter. Community means more than location. Connectivity to other creatives means opportunity, not just to learn and grow, but to travel and make personal connections. This also means that events the We Are Cosplay brand is engaged with, are not limited to the Midwest. If an opportunity presents itself, it is up for consideration.

When was the group started? And by who (do not have to answer this last part if you do not want to)?
Angelique Rickhoff (Social Media Director), Nyq Bonaventura (Media Director), and I (Creative Director) collaborated previously in another related group. After leaving that group to pursue our own projects, many of the creatives we had encountered and befriended during our stay kept inquiring when we would be launching a new group. I guess they liked what we were doing previously.

We Are Cosplay launched in January 2014.

If you are the creator of this group what inspired you to create We Are Cosplay CAUSEplay in general? If you are a member of the We Are Cosplay what made you want to join this particular group or CAUSEplay?
The catalyst for We Are Cosplay of course has to be those friends/members who encouraged it… almost to the point of pestering, if we’re honest. But we wanted to build on the model we had set previously. We’re not ones to rest on laurels.

Simply put, the inspiration for any of it is that creative spark, the “Muse”. The three of us come from artistic backgrounds- music, graphic arts, film, you name it. So it was a skin we were used to wearing. Being involved artistically in so many mediums for so long, it only creates the urge to grow and connect with other artists.

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Real Heroes Dancing for Real Heroes – photo by Ron Ladao

Of course there are individual reasons why each of us specifically took on the challenge of building a “pop-culture collective” if you will, but that’s what We Are Cosplay is to us ultimately. Today’s vision of an artist colony.

Do you have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status or other designation? If not, do you consider yourself a charity group or just a group of friend who do good? And are you looking into getting a 501(c)3 status?
We’re considering legal nonprofit status, as it does open up some other opportunities. But there hasn’t really been any event opportunities we’ve had to pass on because of it. It’s about the enrichment of community and support or existing charitable events, more than taking in funds directly. So we’re stilling weighing the reasons against the process.

How can someone join We Are Cosplay?
Pretty simple. Request membership via the the Facebook Group. Once we receive the request, prospective members will receive a facebook message asking for a short introduction. We do this for a couple of reasons- 1. dodging SPAM, and 2. we’re looking for creative thinkers and doers. We want We Are Cosplay to serve as a hub where artists of all types in the pop-culture sphere can share their projects and experience with peers. It’s not a place for bystanders to just view costumes. Google’s got that covered, or other cosplay groups and personal pages. We want to play down “Ego”. It’s not about becoming “known”. It’s about cultivating a creative community.

We make sure to visit every potential members Facebook page to gauge as best we can, along with the our correspondence, people who are interested in being part of a true community.

Is there a website people can go to search for a local chapter?
We do not currently offer localized “chapters”, as we like to think of We Are Cosplay in the scope of a community and culture. We do maintain multiple social portals online via the Facebook Group (our member space), the Facebook Community Page, Google+, the official website, Youtube, Flickr, Twitter, and Instagram. Great options to start making connections, regardless of where you live!

What type of costumes do you accept? Do you have a costume approval process, if so what is it? What do you look for in a costume?
It’s not so much about costume, or type, or experience level. We embrace the vast scope of pop-culture creatives. Sure it’s called “We Are Cosplay” but the culture of cosplay is bigger than just the costumes. It’s photographers, artists, prop makers, set builders, writers, etc. Each concentration symbiotic, sustaining the culture. Bottom line- if you’re a creative pop-culturist, here’s a community for you to thrive.

Do you accept crossplay costumes? Gender bent costumes? Customized characters?
The creative muse comes in many forms. Why shouldn’t the work?

Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
It’s a “maker” community. Your resources/guides are interactive! Just reach out to your peers. Instructional media is great, but there are plenty avenues to pursue them. It doesn’t mean that we haven’t had conversations about offering our own brand of instructional web-series, but we also like the genuine interaction. Creativity is organic. You can’t get that with an instructable. It’s missing that energy… that human component that can feed your excitement for a project, or share your frustration with one.

How many people are currently in your group?
Numbers aren’t something we necessarily like to be concerned with, but Facebook shows us at 550+ members. Active engagement can vary… we’ve supported events with our core admin team and one cosplayer, up to 80+ marching in the Downtown Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Leadership structure:
We Are Cosplay is guided by three Directors, Angelique Rickhoff – Social Media Director, Nyq Bonaventura – Media Director, and Myself (Paul Heid) as Creative Director. We meet monthly to discuss opportunities and projects, and are responsible for maintaining the image and building relationships with other groups and organizations, as well as moderate the member space.

How is the leadership determined?
From the three of us, we all have our specific areas of expertise- Angelique ran Social Media for a major Chicago museum for many years and enjoys creating costumes; Nyq is a video editor by profession and performer; I’m good at the PR side of things and enjoy cosplaying. But we all still interweave our talent, deferring and working collaboratively to get the job done. The We Are Cosplay framework mirrors how we work creatively with each other.

The Directorship gives us equal input, and is structured for tie-breaks, should they occur. That doesn’t mean we’re not always watchful and open to those wanting to take on a more administrative role. We’re just conscious of the amount of sacrifice involved when it comes to personal time. It’s a labor of love after all.

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Friends will always help against stage fright – photo by Ron Ladao

What have you done for charities (types of events)?
We’ve been fortunate enough to have opportunities to develop a relationship with the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. For the past few years, we’ve supported their annual fundraising event- the Chicago Dance Marathon where we suited up and spent the 13+ hour event dancing and entertaining the children, their families and Lurie staff. We’ve also partnered up with Chicago’s Dark Tower Comics & Collectibles recently to bring Free Comic Book Day to the Family Life Center at Lurie Children’s.

Make-A-Wish Illinois has also come to us recently through our ties with ReedPOP. We teamed up recently to deliver a wish and are collaborating on a big event planned for later this year. We’re very excited about it.
video link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CtMqKZSMZ4

These are just a few examples of the organizations we’ve been honored to support. Charities are fantastic to work with, as much as they are plentiful. Unfortunately we can’t do it all. But we try. We hope to associate with some local animal charities next!

Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
To be honest, we don’t have much time outside of the requests that come to us. But we’ve had a few social gatherings. Most importantly for us was last year’s First Annual Member Appreciation Night- We called it “The Cospys” for short. It was a gala evening where our members had the opportunity to celebrate each other, much like the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards. It was great to see everyone get in the spirit and dress for the occasion.

How did you build your “clientele”?
We like to think of the venues and organizations we work with as, “partners”. At first we were fortunate to come into our launch with an already established relationship with ReedPOP, the awesome folks responsible for the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo – C2E2; New York Comic Con; Star Wars Celebration; etc. As well as being connected with Solstice Mobile, which lead us to our involvement with the Ann and Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. From there it’s really been a lot of “word of mouth” on the heels of successful events, or leads from members.

Do you have particular organization(s) or cause(s) you work with regularity?
Some of the ones we’ve already mentioned like Lurie Children’s, ReedPOP, include us on such fantastic events and are such joys to associate with that we find ourselves compelled to work with them again and again. We’ve also repeated events with the Schaumburg Boomers Baseball Organization, and Hollywood Palms. These are great because participating members get a chance after the appearances to be out of costume and enjoy each others company at the ballpark, or seeing a movie. But we really do try to bring variety to our event engagements. It helps keep our media content fresh, as well appeal to different members.

What is the most amazing thing We Are Cosplay has accomplished so far?
There are so many in our eyes… it’s probably a safer question to put to our members. But overall it’s probably just being what we are- a place where you can find creative camaraderie. A place where the creative spirit is so big, that there’s no room for ego. And that we really do feel like a community, not within ourselves, but with other Midwest groups and together, across the scope of the culture.

Where do you see We Are Cosplay going in the future?
Wherever the muse takes us.

Do you use any fun terminology specifically for We Are Cosplay?
Do you mean with regard to “code names”, or “nicknames”? Some people acronym We Are Cosplay for convenience. We don’t on any official level as branding is important to us. Other than that, not really- except for “Cospys” – our Member Achievement Award. We’ll go on record for credit of that one- specifically Angelique.

We do rely heavily on terminology. Or maybe it’s just me. In an age where a lot of your social interaction happens electronically, it’s important to convey what you REALLY mean. So we have to be as clear and concise as we can. Especially when corresponding with partners outside of the culture.

Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
Know why you’re starting your group. It’s becoming a very saturated culture, and that means a lot of opinion. Understand your mission, and don’t be afraid to stand by it. If someone doesn’t like the way you’re running your brand, that’s okay. There’s a better fit for them somewhere. And everyone’s happy.

Anything else you want to add about your group or CAUSEplay:
Paul Heid (Creative Director): A “community” in the truest sense of the word… that is, the sense of common ground; de-emphasizing “ego”, is what sustains a healthy culture. Competition can make things uncomfortable, but not if you stay true to inspiration of it all. Creativity isn’t reserved for anyone. It’s to be celebrated by everyone. Regardless of how it takes form.
Angelique Rickhoff (Social Media Director): The most powerful part of our community is the life-long friendships that are made in-between conventions and the great opportunities we have to wear and share our art.
Nyq Bonaventura (Media Director): Individuals coming together to celebrate shared passions and creativity is a powerful thing; be who you want to be and remember you are not alone!

What future events do you have?
July:
Superhero Night at Schaumburg Boomers Stadium – July 10
Comic Book Mania – July 18

August:
Orland Park Library Comic Con – August 08
Count-i-Con – August 29

October-December:
Make-A-Wish: Chapter 2

Second Annual Member Appreciation Night

Facebook:
Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/whoiscosplay/
Page – https://www.facebook.com/WeAreCosplay

Website: http://wearecosplay.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/wearecosplay

Email: info@wearecosplay.com

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/1/+WeAreCosplay/posts

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/119974953@N04/

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCLt3_4TXr7meiOxIL5-mAw

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Hero Behind the Mask: Expo Wolverine

If you want to follow someone who posts progress pictures than follow this talented cosplayer!  He has different and amazing armor costumes like Iron Man and Thing from Fantastic 4.  BTW the mouth on Thing moves!  It is pretty amazing and you can see video of it on his Facebook page linked below. But he can also pull of something simple like Wolverine! Please enjoy this weeks interview! –Mala

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Name: Michael Surber aka Expo Wolverine

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

What got you into CAUSEplaying and what keeps you going?
I enjoy bringing joy to others and helping people. What keeps me CAUSEplaying is that joy others get when they see their favorite Super Hero. I’d like to think I’m doing something meaningful and positive.

What was your first CAUSEplay event?
My first CAUSEplay event was a birthday party for a 7 year old boy who was also celebrating that his cancer was in remission. It was amazing!

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why?
Probably my favorite costume would be my Iron Man Mk6 suit. It was my most involved build so far and most time consuming. It was my first full suit and took about six months to build. It usually draws the biggest crowd of all my cosplays and the one I have the most request for.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment: I think the most memorable moment was stand in my Iron Man suit and these kids are excited cause one it’s Iron Man, but two it was kind of intimidating cause you see I’m kind of a tall guy (6’3″) so the suit just adds to my size. None of the kids were sure if they should approach me. This one little girl slowly walked up to me. I waved at her and said, “Hello”, and I’ll never forget this, she smiled at me and just hugged me. I just melted and after that all the other kids started coming up to me after that.

What is your favorite cause to support?
My favorite cause is anything involving kids, but the one dearest to me is the Orbit Village Project (orbitvillage.org). It’s an orphanage in Nairobi Kenya where I did some mission work and have sponsored a child there.

The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause?
I’ve never done anything really strange or silly for a cause that I can think of, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be game for it.

Who inspires you?
Who inspires me as far as cosplay are other cosplayers. They inspire me to try new things, see things a little differently than I did before. They really stretch my creativity and I love them for it. It pushes me it a good way.
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Advice for CAUSEplaying: The best advice I could give for CAUSEplaying is be passionate. Get behind something that is near and dear to your heart and pour yourself into it and be ready to pour yourself out for it.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up? I currently don’t have any CAUSEplay events on the calendar as of right now, but their are a few things on the horizon.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer?
I prefer cosplayer. I have been cosplaying for years, I just didn’t know it had a name. The first con I ever went to, I looked around and said out loud, “I am among my people!”. lol

What was your first costume/cosplay?
My first cosplay was Wolverine. I’ve always loved the character. The very first comic I ever bought myself was Wolverine issue 42, which I still have. He’s my favorite, always will be.

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)?
My day job is working in a small village in the Service Department. I’m one of those guys you see with those neon shirts! lol

If you could have any job what would it be and why?
If I could have any job, it would be a comic book artist. That has always been my dream. I’ve been drawing and writing my whole life, I just never was able to get into that field. I even published a book on iTunes called Battles of Mullera, but to be a comic book artist would be a dream come true to me.
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Tell us something random about yourself: Something random about me would be 13 really is my lucky number. When I was 8 my left arm went through a glass window and it cut me up really bad. I got rushed to the hospital by my parents and I remember waiting in the waiting room with my parents and a towel wrapped around my arm. I had to hold it over my head to slow the bleeding and I was out there for a very long time. When I finally was taken back, the cuts on my arm had already started to heal. The doctors had to reopen each cut to make sure there was no glass in them. They said I had lost so much blood that I should have died, but 13 stitches saved my life.

Star Wars or Star Trek: Star Wars. I was raised on Star Wars, but I am a fan of Next Generation Star Trek.

Marvel or DC: Marvel. I’m a die hard Marvel guy. All my cosplays are Marvel except Goku from DBZ.

Favorite Comic Series: Uncanny X-Men

Favorite Comic Character: Wolverine

Favorite Book: Battles of Mullera: Legacy of the Ginza Stone

Favorite Video Game: Spiderman: Web of Shadows

Favorite Con: Cincinnati Expo, C2E2

Groups: Cincinnati Cosplay Combo

FB: facebook.com/expowolverine

Twitter: twitter.com/ExpoWolverine

Instagram: instagram.com/expowolverine
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Hero Behind the Mask: Eric Hall

This weeks feature is truly an inspiring individual. I have been lucky to know Eric for a few years now and will never forget meeting him dressed as Borg when we filmed a short video for a friend. Click here to see the video.  Eric is one of the most caring and humble people I have ever met and he has ever reason not to be!  This man is well known throughout various costume communities in the western United States. He is very involved in Salt Lake City Comic Con appearing on stage with celebrities.  And he is even in two different Star Trek documentaries!  Some people would let this get to their heads but Eric remains down to Earth and is a perfect example of how people should be!  – Mala

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Name: Eric Allan Hall

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah, though I grew up in Bellevue, Washington.

What got you into CAUSEplaying? This will sound made up, but this is absolutely true– about 13 or 14 years ago, I was at a smaller, local convention called CONduit, dressed like Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. I was in the main hallway, just looking around at some of the booths, and an older lady I had never seen before, maybe in her late 50’s, dressed like a gypsy, came up to me. She looked up at me (I’m six feet tall, and she was about five feet, and somewhat stooped), looked me in the eyes and pointed at me, and in a slightly accented voice, she said, “You must ONLY use your powers to do GOOD!” She was very earnest, and I didn’t feel threatened or alarmed– I had the feeling that what she said was true. I took a moment as she looked at me, and I responded, “I will.” She smiled and nodded and walked away. I stood there for a moment, pondering what had just happened, and when I started to look around again, she was lost in the hallway crowd. I never saw her again.

Flash forward to a couple of years later, and I had found a Jedi robe at a thrift store and I bought a lightsaber. I started to attend events the local Star Wars clubs appeared at for charitable causes. I soon bought my first real superhero costume, Spider-Man, and I appeared at a couple of events I saw publicized on Facebook. Through those events, I met others like me with superhero costumes, and I became one of the founding members of Heroic, a superhero, fairy tale, and video game character charity costuming group based in Salt Lake City.

Looking back, I still don’t know who the gypsy woman was– a Cosplayer just staying in character? A real gypsy? An angel? Something else? Regardless, I have kept my promise to her and used my costuming abilities only for good.

What keeps you CAUSEplaying? The look on kids’ faces, and that of their parents’, when they get to meet their favorite hero in person. For that time we’re together, I can be a Superman for someone who needs a Superman.
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What was your first CAUSEplay event? November 3rd, 2008. A friend of a friend had a 3-year old with pediatric cancer, and the family held a 5K race as a fundraiser to help with medical costs. The little boy’s favorite hero was Spider-Man, so I dressed up as Spider-Man, posed for photos, and ran the race AS Spider-Man. After the race, his parents videoed me leaving a message for their son, who was too ill to attend in person.
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What is your costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why? Superman. He is easily recognizable, his bright, primary colors don’t scare kids, and it’s fun to flex my muscles with the kids for photos.

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment: Here’s two: A couple of years ago, I was at an event at a library for developmentally disabled kids, dressed as Spider-Man. A little boy, maybe about four or five, saw me from across the room, ran up to me, jumped into my arms, and hugged me for about 30 seconds. That moment cemented the reasons that I CAUSEplay.
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A few months ago, I was at an MDA event for kids and their families. A family who had lost one of their sons to Muscular Dystrophy the week before was attending, and their other son, who was maybe 10 or 11 was there. I was dressed as Superman, and the boy hung out with me most of the evening, asking me questions about my powers, the Fortress of Solitude, other heroes and villains I knew, etc. The day after, my contact at the MDA told me the boy’s mom had emailed her, telling her how excited her son was to meet Superman, and how much it had lifted his spirits after the death of his little brother the week before.

What is your favorite cause to support? Anything helping kids, like the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Toys For Tots, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, etc. I was at a Big Brothers/Big Sisters event a couple of weeks ago, dressed as Green Lantern, and it kind of dawned on me– in the world of comics, how would it have been if the Joker hadn’t turned to a life of crime, because someone cared about him when he was a kid? What if Lex Luthor had had friends, instead of being bullied as he was growing up? What if Norman Osborn had more self-worth, and didn’t feel the need to unhealthily compete against others? In the real world, how could creating a positive, memorable experience for a child help him or her grow up happier? How many lives can we change for the better in small, simple ways? How many “supervillains” involved in crime, addictions, and hopelessness do we AVOID creating later on in life, because we helped a child who needed help today?
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The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause? Public appearances for causes, like collecting toys at the side of the road as Superman, the Green Goblin, and Two-Face for Toys For Tots, bell ringing as Spider-Man and Ghost Rider, or swimming as Aquaman with other cosplayers as Mermaids at an aquatic rec center during a rubber Ducky derby for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Who inspires you? A couple I became friends with through MySpace, and later Facebook, who I have never met in person- Ned and Margie Cox. Back in the MySpace days, I went looking for other cosplayers from around the world that I could follow to trade tips and tricks. Ned and Margie are both excellent Costumers, but beyond that, they put their costumes to work in an organization called Heroes Alliance, that exists to provide characters for kids’ hospital visits, appearances at libraries, etc. Seeing their examples from the the photos they posted of events they attended in Georgia made me want to do something similar in Utah. Their inspiration was a major contributing factor to my wanting to become part of Heroic during it’s formative stages.
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Advice for CAUSEplaying: Stay in character. Learn as much as you can about your character, because kids will quiz you and want to talk about the character’s friends, foes, and backstory.

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up? Especially in the summer, we can have 2 or 3 events each WEEK. Coming up we have several Super Summer reading kickoffs, a fundraiser for anti-child sex trafficking efforts, a fundraiser for a boy who needs a stomach and intestinal transplant, a bike rodeo, and a Relay for Life event, among others.

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer? I used to be weirded out by the term “Cosplayer”, thinking it only applied to fans of anime, but as the term has been used more commonly, I don’t mind it. Nowadays, “Costumer” seems more like someone who makes and wears a costume, and “Cosplayer” seems to more accurately describe what I do– playing a role in costume.
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What was your first costume/cosplay? When I was 10, I made a robot costume out of some cardboard boxes for the torso and head, dryer hose for the arms, and plastic bleach bottles I sewed together with fishing line for legs. I couldn’t bend in it, so my dad literally picked me up and put me into the back of his pickup truck, lying me on my back, and drove me to school for the Halloween party. I got first place for the best costume. When I was 11, I LOVED an anime called “Star Blazers”, AKA “Space Battleship Yamato”. The villain was an alien with blue skin named Desslock/Dessler. For Halloween that next year, I used blue food coloring to color my face, neck, and hands blue. The color didn’t come off for FOUR days, so I don’t recommend that technique 😉

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)? I’m a Corporate Trainer for a large telecommunications company. I train new employees on our computer systems, troubleshooting techniques, customer service soft skills, and sales techniques. I also get to dress up in my day job– I dress like Sherlock Holmes when I train troubleshooting and deductive reasoning. I dress like a doctor, with scrubs and a lab coat, for a module called “Healing the customer relationship”. Plus, we frequently have other theme days like “Superhero day”, “80’s day”, etc.
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If you could have any job what would it be and why? I would love to be one of the characters at Disneyland that interact with the guests and poses for pictures- preferably NOT with a mask, like Prince Eric, Peter Pan, etc.

Tell us something random about yourself: I enjoy making hand built pottery in the shape of monster faces, and firing them in the Japanese Raku style.

Star Wars or Star Trek: STAR TREK! I like both, but I go to the Las Vegas Star Trek convention every year. I Cosplay as several different versions of Data and his evil brother Lore, a Borg, Captain Kirk, an Andorian, and a Klingon. I’ve been interviewed by William Shatner, and I’m featured in his documentary on Star Trek fans, “William Shatner’s Get A Life”. I am also featured in “Trek Nation”, a documentary by Rod Roddenberry, son of the creator of Star Trek, the late Eugene Roddenberry.
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Marvel or DC: I like both, but I’m more of a DC guy. I have cosplays of Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, Superman, Green Arrow, Batman, Aquaman, Captain Atom, Two Face, the Riddler, the Scarecrow, and the Joker.

Favorite Comic Series: Kingdom Come. BEAUTIFUL artwork, cool Easter eggs, and awesome storyline.

Favorite Comic Character: Green Lantern. When I was a kid, I watched the Superfriends on Saturday mornings. I think I identified with Green Lantern because we both had brown hair, and I liked that he could make ANYTHING he imagined by using his ring,

Least favorite comic character and why? I’m old-fashioned. I don’t have a least favorite character per se, but I don’t like heroes who don’t act like heroes. There’s been a trend to make comic book heroes “grittier” and dark. I prefer the noble heroes that kids can look up to and emulate.

Favorite Book: Where The Wild Things Are.

Favorite Video Game: Twisted Metal 2 on the original Playstation.

Favorite Convention: Ooh, this is hard. I’ve been to the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, the Salt Lake Comic Con, Salt Lake FanX, CONduit in Salt Lake, MountainCon in Salt Lake, LTUE in Provo, Utah, numerous Star Trek conventions in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver BC, and Las Vegas, and a couple of smaller comic conventions in Los Angeles and New York City. My tie for different reasons are the Las Vegas Star Trek convention, because I get to spend time with my friends from around the world, dressing up and enjoying the Trek life, and Salt Lake Comic Con/FanX, because it’s close to home, I get to work with my friends at our Cosplay charity’s booth, and For the past two conventions, I’ve been the MC of the Cosplay contest.

Affiliations (clubs or groups): Heroic Facebook Web

Facebook: Eric Allan Hall (eric3060)

Instagram: @heroicutah
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Heroes Behind the Masks: East Coast Avengers

Previously I introduced you to Captain! This week I want to introduce you to the group he CAUSEplays with! I learned so much in this interview about other groups and how much the CAUSEplay community is connected!  And our interviewee has some great advice and quotes.  I hope you find yourself as inspired as much as I have been!  –Mala

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Group Name: East Coast Avengers

Interviewee: Deadpool Aza Eca https://www.facebook.com/deadpoolavenger.azaeca

Mission Statement:  The East Coast Avengers promotes creating, owning, and wearing the costumes from the Marvel Universe featured in films, comics, and television. To capture the magic of these characters, the goal is to portray an accurate presentation of the character through your individual costume. However, we recognize that this hobby centers around fun and creativity. Therefore, the East Coast Avengers make allowances for the creative modification of these costumes within the confines of decency (defined as being without profane or vulgar features or statements and must be viewable by young children).

Our organization was founded to basically provide a collective identity for costuming fans on the east coast with similar interests, the EAST COAST AVENGERS is proud to put its resources to good use through fund raising, charity work, and volunteerism.

Location(s): We have members all along the East Coast, with the majority located in the major cities, such as Washington DC area, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and many others.

Since we only require there to be three members attending any Event to make it an Official ECA appearance, even smaller groups in less populated areas can get in on the fun, and help where they can.

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When was the group started? And by who?
The East Coast Avengers (ECA) are a chapter of the Avengers Initiative Costuming Group (AI). It was founded by me, Liam Stillman (Deadpool, AzA/ECA), in 2009 whilst I was the CO of the Arizona Avengers (AzA), and activated when he moved to Virginia in 2010.

I am one of the Founding Four of the Arizona Avengers, (the original Avengers group that started it All),along with Aaron Forrester, Dan Burgos, and Ben Dickinson.

If you are the creator of this group what inspired you to create East Coast Avengers CAUSEplay in general? If you are a member of the East Coast Avengers what made you want to join this particular group or CAUSEplay?
I have been a ‘Costumer/Cosplayer for over 40 years now, and have been involved in appearances supporting charity causes and children’s events for over 30 of that. I found early on that appearing in costume can help draw attention to a cause, and that one can be an inspiration and example others, especially children. I have experienced so many times where a cosplayer and a child connect, profoundly, on a Hero level, and both are changed for the better, forever.

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Do you have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status or other designation? If not, do you consider yourself a charity group or just a group of friend who do good? And are you looking into getting a 501(c)3 status?
No, and we never will. We do not collect or handle money, in fact we avoid it at all costs. We never charge to appear, and never will. It is against our Charter.

We support events and causes by simply appearing at their Events and giving our time to promote them. Since we do not own the rights to any of the characters that we portray, we cannot make money from them, and cannot even be considered for a 501 status anyway.

How can someone join East Coast Avengers?
Marvel/Disney has their own in house costumes that make appearances, and they do not license or endorse any costume groups. They have been aware of us since the beginning, and we have a quiet approval of what we do. They know who we are, that we are not making any money doing this, like what we do, and sit back and watch the good that we do.
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Is there a website people can go to search for a local chapter?  We have several Chapters. The Arizona Avengers (AzA), the West Coast Avengers (WCA), the Mid Atlantic Avengers (MAA), and the East Coast Avengers (ECA). Each Chapter is part of the Avengers Initiative (AI), which oversees the Chapters. We all have Facebook pages, and can be found there.

To join the East Coast Avengers, we have an Application found in our Facebook Page in the Notes section. Fill that out and email it to ECAvengers@gmail.com
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What type of costumes do you accept? Do you have a costume approval process, if so what is it? What do you look for in a costume?
We are a Marvel Comics themed group, and do have an approval process. We want to embrace creativity in costuming, but the characters must be Marvel, and be presentable to children.

It is actually more important to us what the Person inside the costume is like, and look for enthusiasm, compassion, and dedication from them.

Do you accept crossplay costumes? Gender bent costumes? Customized characters?
Yes, to all of those, within the parameters of our costuming standards.

Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
Many of our members are quite skilled in costuming, and do give advice, instruction, and mentorship where they can.

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How many people are currently in your group?
At cast count, the ECA had around 200 members, spread from Massachusetts to Florida.

Leadership structure:
Currently:
Commanding Officer ( CO ) Liam (Deadpool-avenger Aza-Eca)
Executive Officer ( XO ) RP Captain America, ECA (Cap America)
Membership Officer ( MO ) Nocturne Eca. (Nocturne Wolfsbane Eca)
Captain of the Guard ( COG ) JS Wolverine, ECA (Logan X-ECA)

How is the leadership determined?
There is an Election for Commanding Officer (CO) every year, and the elected CO chooses his subordinates.

What have you done for charities (types of events)?
We generally appear at things like Cancer Walks, Hospital Visits, children’s charity events, military events, and the like. We have appeared at so many that it would be a Book to try to recount them here, but each one is special to us. The Main thing is that we connect, on a Hero level, with the kids, and show them that there is much more in the world than the bullies, the gangs, and the negativity that they endure each day. That they have a choice, and can choose to be a hero too. The world slams them with horrors, and we try to bring some light to that darkness, and show them that there is more out there.

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Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
We only support events, as we do not have the resources to host our own.

How did you build you “clientele”?
When we appear, and are seen doing what we do, others make note, and seek us out for other events. It Snowballs.

Do you have particular organization(s) or cause(s) you work with regularity?
We are open to all charitable organization that we would be appropriate assisting.

What is the most amazing thing East Coast Avengers has accomplished so far?
Each and Every child that has been ‘Reached’ is our most important accomplishment. The small thing that we do, appear as a superhero, makes such an enduring, permanent impact upon them, that it literally changes how they see their world. Some of our biggest accomplishments may seem quite small to some people, but they are huge to us. For just one example, We have been the catalyst for autistic children opening up and beginning to communicate with their families and the public at large. Even just distracting a child enduring endless hospitalization for one hour is a fantastic accomplishment. Standing against bullying, and then showing the bullies that they can become heroes themselves, and that it is far more rewarding to be a hero than a bully, is a huge accomplishment. There are so many accomplishments.
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Where do you see East Coast Avengers going in the future?
The ECA will eventually grow in geographic areas to the point where there are so many members there that they will become their own Chapters, and have their own identity. Eventually, possible we shall have the New York Avengers, The Boston Avengers, The Atlanta Avengers, The Orlando Avengers. The possibilities are endless, if the members wish them.

Becoming a group that is sought after and invited to attend events is our main joy.

Do you use any fun terminology specifically for East Coast Avengers?
We do use abbreviations, such as ECA, and CO, etc., and do like to play in character with each other, always in a good mood and never hurtfully. Our villains, and yes we do have villains, all ‘Growl with a Smile’. Villains being good is a great way to combat bullies.
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Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
First, look around. There are so many groups already out there that you may wish to join. You do not need to reinvent the wheel. I do not recommend trying to start your own group until after you have run a successful group already. There are social and professional pitfalls to be avoided. When you have a group of passionate and creative people, there can be drama.
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Anything else you want to add about your group or CAUSEplay: Check out our pages, and see what we are up to !!

What future events do you have?
We always have something coming up, so stay tuned !!!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EastCoastAvengers
Email: ECAvengers@gmail.com

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Heroes Behind The Masks: Heroes Alliance

It has been exciting to learn about groups throughout the United States and this weeks feature is from the east coast to the Rocky Mountains.  I am sure they soon reach to the Pacific Coast!  Before the take over the US with the awesome check out this interview!  –Mala

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Group Name: Heroes Alliance

Mission Statement: The Heroes Alliance is a non-profit group dedicated to serving our communities through our costuming, commitment, and dedication to service by providing a “real life” superhero experience to children in need.

Location(s): We currently have branches in a dozen other regions, including:
Central Ohio, Northern Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, North Florida, Central Florida-East, Central Florida-West, Colorado, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Missouri

When was the group started? And by who?
The group was founded in Tampa, Florida in 2005 as a small costume club. Many of the original founders have come and gone but the group has had a formally elected council structure since 2010.
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Brief history/overview: There are many great organizations out there that use their costume skills for charity serving their community. We wanted to build a national team with regional branches all over the US that provided quality superheroes to support children’s charities, serve children in need, and promote awareness of great causes. Additionally, we wanted our theme to be one specifically of Marvel and DC Comics superheroes—as there are already great groups that cover other genres and themes like Star Wars and Disney Princesses.

Do you have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization status or other designation? If not, do you consider yourself a charity group or just a group of friend who do good? And are you looking into getting a 501(c)3 status?
We do not have a 501c status and are not seeking one at this time. As we are not a group that handles money in any way, we do not have a need to go through such formal and complex procedures. Our leadership simply evaluates each request for its charitable value, partners with a group or community representative, then sends out a team of superheroes to attend and support the event.

How can someone join Heroes Alliance? Or is there a website people can go to search for a local chapter?
Go to http://www.heroesalliance.org. You’ll find the membership application, charter, and Standard Operating Procedure links under the ‘Join Us’ section.
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What type of costumes do you accept? Do you have a costume approval process, if so what is it? What do you look for in a costume?
Our guidelines and standards are detailed in the Standard Operating Procedures. Only Marvel and DC Comics superheroes are acceptable at our events. Costumes are approved and evaluated for quality and accuracy by the individual branch leader.

Do you accept crossplay costumes? Gender bent costumes? Customized characters?
Those alternate interpretations are strictly prohibited. Our theme and mission is to bring a “real life” superhero experience to children. It’s our hope that a young child in a hospital will truly believe that Spider-Man visited his room or that the disabled child at the charity walk will feel like he met the real Wonder Woman. While our members can and do wear genderbent or customized versions of canon characters at conventions or on their own time, we ask that they consider our mission and theme when choosing characters for work with the Heroes Alliance.
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Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
Our branch leaders will be more than happy to provide links to tutorial forums, video guides, or other online resources for anyone who might be interested. However, it’s typically up to the individual volunteer to make, purchase, or commission a quality superhero costume to wear upon joining the group.

How many people are currently in your group?
While the webmaster might have a better handle on the national membership, we have 14 branches that each have different amounts of volunteers and different status of membership. It’s probably safe to say that, on average, a branch will probably have 10 to 15 members but long-established branches will typically have more.
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How is the leadership determined?
Branch leaders are appointed by the council after a lengthy process of chartering new branches. Elections are held annually at the end of every year to determine the national council.

Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
Our mission format is almost always one of partnership with other charities. Thus, we will either reach out or accept invitations from children’s charities or community service organizations for formal events.

How did you build you “clientele”?
Often times, branch leaders will reach out via email or phone to prospective charities that fit with our mission. Beyond that, our group might do recruiting at local comic conventions or other such events to find superhero costume volunteers who might be interested.
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Do you have particular organization(s) or cause(s) you work with regularity?
Each branch is different. In addition to hospitals, many branches tend to work with Autism Speaks, Make-a-Wish, and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for their 5k Superhero Runs.

What is the most amazing thing Heroes Alliance has accomplished so far?
The success of the 2010 reorganizing of the group’s leadership structure has meant that our group is more stable, official, and provides a framework that allows for impressive (yet responsible) expansion. We believe that this is the paramount reason as to why we currently have 14 different branches across the Continental United States.
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Where do you see Heroes Alliance going in the future?
We’d love to someday see the Heroes Alliance mirror the 501st in size and location. The men and women of that organization really set the bar for what a costumed charity can do with dedication, hard work, and a solid structure. If there were HA branches in all 50 states and every major metropolitan area serving their community, we’d be very pleased.

Do you use any fun terminology specifically for Heroes Alliance?
Well, we are a team of superheroes! So, much like the Avengers and Justice League, we have “active” and “reserve” rosters of heroes, every event is a “mission,” and we always use code names in the field. No one should be calling Captain America “Bob,” or Batgirl “Sally,” right?
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Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
We applaud anyone willing to build a costume, reach out to those in need, and go out to spend their own precious time and resources to help others. While we’d love to see our own group expand, we understand that the Heroes Alliance may not be the best fit. We hope anyone inspired by our group does the research and finds an organization that’s best for them. If not, go out and start one!

What future events do you have?
Our events are typically self-contained or private. Though the charities we partner with will often hold events open to the public, we normally don’t advertise where our heroes will appear. But, rest assured, you’ll see our branches doing work in communities all over the country! You can follow us on the website or on social media—we have a Facebook page and a Tumblr where events are posted and uploaded.

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Facebook: Yes
Website: www.heroesalliance.org
Tumblr: Yes
Email: Submitted via HA website

Hero Behind the Mask: Erin Fritz AKA DC DOLL

I have known DC Doll for a few years now and it has been fun to see her grow as a costumer and as person. She values fitness and has inspired others to think about their fitness! DC Doll is also quickly developing some mad cosplay photography skills!  I see her going far as a cosplayer and CAUSEplayer and look forward to seeing her continued growth.    –Mala

 photo 11066791_957954084222861_8863814851761186537_o_zpszin7djwi.jpg Name: Erin Fritz AKA DC DOLL

Location: SLC, UT

What got you into CAUSEplaying? I met the group HEROIC at a small local convention and I had no idea such a thing existed, they welcomed me with open arms and love doing it ever since

What keeps you CAUSEplaying? the kids excitement, especially when they recognize my character

What was your first CAUSEplay event? It was an event at the Hoogle Zoo, can’t remember the exact charity but it was a blast

What is your favorite costume to wear while CAUSEplaying, and Why? right now it is Meg from Hercules, because kids actually recognize the character. Many times they don’t know who I am

Most memorable CAUSEplay moment : I was walking around as Meg and this little girls eyes lit up from across the room and she booked it for me to give me a hug

What is your favorite cause to support? Children fitness events
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The silliest/strangest thing you have done for a cause? Pushups in my Black Cat costume

Who inspires you? everyone, the community is so open that just talking about it gets you pumped

Advice for CAUSEplaying: Be humble

What CAUSEplay events do you have coming up? I shall be going to Las Vegas Car Stars for the Las Vegas Children’s Miracle Network the weekend after mothers day

Do you prefer to be called a cosplayer or costumer? Cosplayer

What was your first costume/cosplay? Mai from Avatar the Last Airbender

What is your day job (a.k.a. how I pay for my expensive hobby)? Customer Service at Thumbtack.com

If you could have any job what would it be and why? A personal trainer, I love to help people accomplish their goals in a healthy way

Tell us something random about yourself: I love the smell of frozen cardboard

Star Wars or Star Trek: Star Wars

Marvel or DC: DC…

Favorite Comic Series: I’m all about the new 52 batman series, they are much more darker and twisted, but I am expanding into the Marvel world of comics

Favorite Comic Character: This question… so hard… I’m going to say Batman

Least favorite comic character and why? I don’t really have one, every character has something I like and dislike about them. But for the sake of this I shall say Jubilee, growing up I’d play X Men with my cousin and brother and they would make me her and “kill me off” cause her powers weren’t as cool

Favorite Book: Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

Favorite Video Game: The Arkham Batman games ❤

Favorite Convention: So far it has to be Comikaze

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedcdoll?ref=hl

Instagram: THEDCDOLL
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Custom Twi’lek Mandalorian Bounty Hunter

I wish I could say I made this amazing costume! All I did was pick out the colors and make the headband. This was made by my husband The Foxx. Lekku made by Pam’s Creation.

The coolest part of this costume is that the bucket/helmet is removable so I can wear the lekku under the bucket.

Thanks to him this another dream come true!

Here is a fun video made with Snap It Photography, Pixie Dash, Firewing Creations, and and some of Oregon’s 501st!!

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Photo by Snap It! Photography

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Photo by Snap It Photography

Check out my other cosplays and costumes on my resume by clicking here. If you have already checked out my resume you may notice no new listings for 2017. This is because I have been joyfully creating art for my new business! Check it out on my Facebook, Intsagram, Redbubble, and StorEnvy sites!