This weeks interview is unique because both the creator and officer took the time to answer the questions. This group loves DC characters so they decided to focus on these characters. To learn more about why this group was created and what they are doing in their community please continue reading this weeks Heroes Behind the Masks. –Mala
Interviewees: Dustin Dial, founder, and Jessica, an officer in JLAz.
Mission Statement: The Justice League Arizona is an all-volunteer organization formed to bring Arizona costume enthusiasts together under a collective identity with which to operate. The JLAz seeks to promote interest in DC COMICS through the building and wearing of high-quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Comic-related events. We contribute to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work.
Location(s): Phoenix, Tucson, and a few members elsewhere
When was the group started? And by who?
2011 by Dustin Dial
If you are the creator of this group what inspired you to create Justice League Arizona CAUSEplay in general? If you are a member of the Justice League Arizona what made you want to join this particular group or CAUSEplay?
Dustin: My name is Dustin Dial and I founded the Justice league Arizona. I started the League when I discovered how much of an impact costumed characters, and iconic personas can influence charity. At the time the League was formed there was a void in Arizona in superhero costuming. The Arizona Avengers had formed and just began to get involved with charities, but there was no Dc comics representation. I was first exposed to the impact costuming can have through the 501st Legion, Dune Sea Garrison. I was bored one day and looking for social groups in town, and discovered a small star Wars fan club call the Tucson Fan Force. My initial impression at one of their meetings was that they were a bunch of nerds I’m not going to hang out with them!!! But i gave it a chance, and went to another couple of meetings which really didn’t amount to much more than sitting around and talking about Star Wars, so I was about to give up when Hurricane Katrina hit the east coast. Charities exploded nationwide for the most devastating hurricane in history, and Tucson was coming together to help, so we decided to team with Bookman’s and create a clothing and food drive. One of the members contacted the Dune Sea Garrison in Phoenix, and they came down with several stormtroopers, sandtroopers, and one extra set of sandtrooper armor. This armor was initially intended for a good friend of mine Frankie, but he was sick and couldn’t make it, so I was thrown into it. The rest is history, I was hooked! People were almost getting into wrecks on the street to get picture of us, and I felt like a star! The most impressive thing I noticed though was the costumes brought in the people, and the people donated! We ended up making a thousand dollars and a near ton of donated clothing and food! I knew I had a mission now, so I set about getting into the DSG, which later lead to co-founding the DSG squad in Tucson, and doing events, and hospital visits etc.
So I then noticed the Arizona Avengers started to group together, and do events. I thought, if it works for Star Wars, why can’t it work for the most iconic superheroes in comics?! In my humble opinion, Superman, Batman, and the heroes of DC still are more recognized that Marvel. So several of my friends and I got together and we felt it would be fun to make DC costumes. Our initial group started in Tucson with Nicky Dibbs, Tammie Miles, Frankie Perez, Chris Sebiston, and Catherine Draper, who luckily, all understood that high quality costumes can make an impact. So we teamed with the comic shop Heroes and Villains, and had our first meeting which was a huge success, and we met some long time friends and new members. From there I contacted the founder of the 501st Legion, Albin Johnson, and asked permission to emulate the 501st charter (since the 501st had been around for over ten years at that point they had experienced all the drama involved with an organized costuming group), and luckily he gave his blessing, so our charter was written, and I launched our facebook page, and website. Initially I intended on following the 501st model and creating chapters nationwide. It started as a success but fizzled out, so I am happy just focusing on the local Arizona league, but helping inspire leagues across the country. I served as squad leader for the DSG Tucson chapter so I had established contacts for th elocal charities and hospitals, and so we easily transitioned into pediatric hospital visits. The Rest is history, we have grown into a statewide club with memebers all over, who are dedicated to influencing chairities through costuming!
Jessica: I’m an Officer of JLAz. I joined as a way to give back to the community using a tool already at my disposal, costumes! It evolved into a family affair, and it’s been a fun and unique way to introduce my son to community involvement.
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?
Dustin: I fully believe we are a full-fledged charity group. We balance fun with causes, and we easily get a request every two weeks for another appearance. We donate our time, and our reward is seeing those charities thrive, and succeed. Our appearance draws in donors, and every time we make an apearance with a charity their fundraising, donations, etc double.
We are looking into full-fledged non-profit status. Once again the 501st proved it can be done, and after 12 years got their non-profit status. We hope to put in our first application this year.
Jessica: We do not have 501c3 designation, though we have considered applying. We help charity organizations promote their fundraising causes and/or charity events through our participation.
How can someone join Justice League Arizona?
Jessica: We have an online application form or they can send an email to email@example.com – we ask that applicants submit clear pictures of themselves alone, in costume, to include views from the front, side, and back as well as one without mask/cowl.
Is there a website people can go to search for a local chapter?
Jessica: Our website is here.
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?
Dustin: store bought costumes are not allowed unless heavily modified. We want our characters to look as realistic as possible. Otherwise it is detrimental to the cause and charity. Our quality has become out hallmark.
Jessica: Costumes must be high-quality DC Comics universe costumes that closely match the source material.
Do you accept crossplay costumes? Gender bent costumes? Customized characers? Jessica: We do accept customized, non-canon variations so long as they are high-quality and easily recognizable as the character being portrayed.
Do you have people willing to help with the costume making process or a resource guide to help with the process?
Dustin: We have the benefit of alot of amazing craftsmen/women who can sew make armor and much much more.
Jessica: We have members with skills in various costume construction techniques; they are always willing to offer guidance.
How many people are currently in your group?
Dustin: We are always fluctuating, and always looking for new members!!
How is the leadership determined?
Dustin: the local chapter head (Commanding Officer) is elected and then selects his staff from there. They include the second in command, costuming approval person, merchandising officer etc. More detailed description of the positions can be found in the charter.
Jessica: We have a Command Staff consisting of several officers, including HCO, CO, XO, as well as other support positions.
What have you done for charities (types of events)?
Jessica: Our members each have stories of their work with us. For me, the events that stand out most are those where we’ve made a tremendous impact and can see it in the expressions of the children. A recent example was the Foster Carnival in Phoenix which is a celebration for foster children and their foster families, with about 10,000 attendees. Another event that was very impactful was Dreamnight at the Zoo in Tucson for children who have special needs or who are chronically ill.
Do you create your own event or make appearance when requested?
Dustin: There are several events throughout the year that we initiate, but most of them come from outside sources.
Jessica: We make events when requested by an event organizer.
How did you build you “clientele”?
Dustin: Our Facebook page and high profile exposure events such as the Fiesta Bowl Parade, Phoenix Comic Con etc have really helped recruit. We also try and do events where we met fans directly, such as video game premiers, cons, etc.
Jessica: Mainly word of mouth and participation at cons.
Do you have particular organization(s) or cause(s) you work with regularity?
Dustin: being statewide we also work with several other hospital such as the Diamond Children’s Center and Tucson Medical center in Tucson
Jessica: Southwest Human Development, Kids Need to Read, the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and many others!
What is the most amazing thing Justice League Arizona has accomplished so far?
Dustin: Beyond bringing together some of the most amazing people and forging new friendships. I would have to say bringing superheroes to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and the other children’s hospitals, as well as being the go-to club for superhero wishes through Make-A-Wish!
Jessica: That’s a tough question! It’s difficult to quantify individual accomplishments when we work with so many wonderful organizations.
Where do you see Justice League Arizona going in the future?
Dustin: I hope the league continues to inspire and grow beyond us. I see us one day getting official non-profit status, and therefore being able to really help bring a superhero experience to kids in need.
Jessica: We’d like to continue growing our active volunteers so that we can accommodate even more events.
Do you use any fun terminology specifically for Justice League Arizona?
Jessica: No, but we are known to use a lot of DC character quotes. Isn’t that purr-fect?
Do you have advice for someone interested in creating a CAUSEplay group or getting into CAUSEplay?
Dustin: Pick the genre you want to cosplay in. If you like superheroes, do superheroes, there are two large superhero costume groups in Arizona that do charity work, or Star Wars, etc, then organize or simply attend a charity function, but be sure you have fun, this is a hobby, and for some, a calling, but if you get burnt out early it won’t seem worth it no matter how worthy the cause.
Jessica: It is much harder work than it seems. Focus on the causes that are closest to your heart so that you can always find the energy to participate in them. Make sure that you’re as professional as possible with organizers and the public.
Anything else you want to add about your group or CAUSEplay:
Dustin: Join us we are always looking for new members!!
Jessica: We love what we do and who we do it for (the children)!
What future events do you have?
Dustin: Some annual events we always attend are the Tucson Reid Park Zoo safe trick or treating event, Fiesta Bowl Parade etc!
Jessica: We will be at Prowl & Play at the Phoenix Zoo on 8/8 and Thanks Fest for Foster Families 11/7
Character Portfolio on FLICKR: https://www.flickr.com/photos/127995464@N02/sets/72157647575942270