Nerds of 'Play | Buzz Blog

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Nerds of 'Play

Professional cosplayers who dress for fun, events and charity

Posted By on June 25, 2015, 8:38 AM

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In case you haven't caught on to massive explosion that is cosplay, it's kind of a big deal right now. From simple vests and capes to form generic superheroes, to PVC piping and latex to build intricate designs of the most obscure characters, the creativity found in Utah is second to none. At this point, we could categorize it as its own artistic medium, with just as many people making new suits as we have people painting landscapes.

Leading up to convention season, we'll take a look at many of these groups, but today we profile Nerds of 'Play, one of the most prominent groups currently using their talents for both fun and business. We chat with several members of the group about cosplay and the formation of their talents. (All pictures courtesy of NoP.)

Noah Biorge, Ashley Lundberg, Scott Potter, Blake L. Martin & Whitney Warnick
click to enlarge DENVER COMIC CON
  • Denver Comic Con
Nerds of Play on Facebook

Gavin: Hey everyone, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

We’re a group of six misfits who decided to band together for cosplay. We are A.Leon (Ian Payne), Booker Noir (Noah Biorge), Ameranth (Ashley Lundberg), Ekalb (Blake L. Martin), ERAR (Scott Potter), and Zabracus (Whitney Warnick).

Blake: I first came out to Salt Lake City for the first Comic Con, and that planted the seeds in my mind that I should live in SLC. Coming to FanX (in spring 2014), it was decided. I moved to Salt Lake City in August of 2014, and I have not looked back. I have made the best circle of friends I have had in my life, and I have gotten heavily involved in the community for various causes. I can unleash my inner geek and not feel awkward about it.

  • Rodsprinkles Photography

Gavin: What first got all of you interested in cosplay, and what was the major influence on you?

I’ve always enjoyed dressing up, and [participated in] drama in high school. I had always wanted to go to a comic convention growing up, but never had an opportunity. As soon as Salt Lake announced theirs in 2013, I immediately knew I was going, and that I was going in costume. It was instinctual, almost. I dressed up all three days and enjoyed it so much, that I haven’t been able to stop making more and more costumes.

Blake: My first [convention] was in Denver of 2013. I dressed up in a somewhat terrible Link costume for two days, and one day I dressed as a normal person. I had so much more fun in costume, and decided I needed to do better costumes. It’s a nice way to escape reality and have fun with like-minded people. There is a lot of science involved with costume making, and it has also opened up a lot of doors.

Ashley: I’ve loved costuming since I was a little girl. Dressing up is one of my favorite things, and escaping into the world of books, video games, and comics is right up there with it. Becoming a character I love by reading or playing them is amazing! And we get to take it to the next level by showing our love for them by playing them in real life.

Scott: I have known about cosplay for a while before I considered getting involved. I was hanging out with some friends, before I met this collection of awesome people at the 2014 Salt Lake Comic Con, where they were in costume and I was not. There costumes were well done and they got their recognition for it. I was hooked, and I didn’t even participate in it. I met these guys at the following Anima Con, where I saw how much it fun it was to cosplay as a group, and that just solidified my decision.

  • Rodsprinkles Photography

Gavin: What characters did you grow up idolizing and later dressing up as?

Those would be my first two characters that I ever cosplayed: Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and Tifa Lockhart from Final Fantasy VII. They are both very strong characters that are still very human. I connected with them growing up playing their games, and connect to them still today—hence why I enjoy dressing up as them.

Blake: Growing up, I really loved Wolverine from Marvel Comics, but I have never dressed up as him (I like to look similar to the character I portray). I also like Drizzt Do’Urden from the Forgotten Realms series of novels by R.A. Salvatore, I grew up liking the fantasy genre a lot, especially the elven races (I was born with pointed ears, so I was always drawn to that). Star-Lord is basically a “spirit animal” of mine, so naturally I choose him as my first good cosplay.

Ashley: Rogue from the X-Men is my all time favorite fictional character. She was my idol growing up, my inspiration for wanting to be stronger and more confident. But she was flawed as well. I could relate to that side of her and it gave me the strength to know that even superheroes are vulnerable sometimes. I’m not quite as sassy, and not nearly as confident, but she is by far one of my favorite cosplays I have.

Scott: Blanka and Vega from Street Fighters, Mario and Luigi as everybody knows the [Mario] Bros., Hulk and Iron Man, ... Sephiroth from Final Fantasy, Sauron from Lord of the Rings, Yoshimitsu, Siegfried & Nightmare from Soul Calibur series, Darth Vader, Darth Sidious, Yoda, Obi-Wan and Luke in Star Wars, Magneto from X-Men. There is probably a bunch more I am missing. I noticed the majority of them are the villains. I don’t aspire to be a villain. (Shifty eye) Haha! I like their background, their stories and they usually, for some reason, look more badass than the good guys.

  • Rodsprinkles Photography

Gavin: How did you break into doing cosplay as a pastime rather than just an occasional thing?

When I first wore my Star-Lord costume to Salt Lake Comic Con in 2014, the response was unreal. The crowds/fans loved it, and I found I enjoyed being in a costume people loved. I could not make it more than 10 feet without being stopped for a picture. Through this, I met other like-minded people who have grown into some of my best friends. I would not trade these experiences for anything.

Noah: It becomes an addiction, really: You start and do it once, then you just continue until you're an addict covered in hot glue burns and sewing needle puncture wounds.

Whitney: Like any other hobby, or addiction, once you start, you just can’t stop.

Ashley: Crafting is already a hobby of mine that I actively do. Cosplaying is just an extension of that crafting.

Scott: I saw my friends do it and how much fun it was. So I just flat-out said I am going to make a costume for an upcoming con. Went out bought a ton of materials and started building it. Boom! Cosplay.

  • Light Photography

Gavin: What was it like for all of you going around to conventions and events, taking part in competitions and just hanging out?

It's almost like a high, you feel so good and so free. You get to be a hero of yours for a little while, and it's incredible ... It brings you together with people who share the same interest as you, and you instantly form a bond.

Ashley: It’s a blast. To get to connect with people who have the same passions as you, and just spend time nerding out and sharing even more nerdy fun. It’s just something you don’t come across all the time.

Scott: There is nothing quite like it; it is freaking amazing. I enjoy building the costumes and I enjoy showing off my hard work even more. It is a total blast going to these conventions and events. I find it equally fun when we leave the event and head out into the general population for something like food or a break to hang out. The people outside the event don’t expect us to show up at something like a bar or restaurant in full costume and the reactions are priceless. But! At the same time, friends will be friends, just like family, and sometimes you just want to make them disappear.

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Gavin: When did all of you eventually meet each other and become friends?

It started back in 2013 I gathered a group of people at Comic Con who shared costumes from the same genre. We all decided to go bigger and better the next time with these same costumes. Well, in the course of meeting these people and working with them, we gained Noah, and through Noah gained Whitney. At this point, a lot of difference in opinion happened where we decided to cut the group down the middle. Differences tend to happen when you have 12-14 people in the group. But after that we picked up Scott; shortly after that we gained Ashley, and our sixth and final member was Blake, and we’ve all been frenemies ever since!

Blake: I met Whitney shortly after Salt Lake Comic Con 2014. Due to the success of my Star-Lord costume I decided for my own Guardians of the Galaxy costume group. Whitney was one of the people who responded, and through her I met Noah, Ian, and Scott. We all pretty much hung out every weekend and it was just a natural evolution. Of things. And stuff.

Ashley: I’m pretty new, like Blake. I met Whitney through a Geek Girl bookclub we’re in. And then, in January, I saw her together with the Nerds of ‘Play at FanX. We just started talking and hit it off.

Scott: I knew Noah from middle school; we were friends, but not really close friends. I didn’t talk to him much until after Anime Banzai 2014 where they were doing a group Dragonball Z. From there, I was similar to gum on the bottom of a shoe—and here I am!

  • The Westword

Gavin: How did the idea originate to start the group, and where did the name Nerds of 'Play come from?

After we disbanded our first group, we were trying to think of a new name for our new group. I’m a fan of double entendres and clever sayings, and Nerds of ‘Play just sort of came to me. It’s derived from Birds of Prey, but instead, it’s Nerds of Cosplay, or ‘Play for short because we are Nerds that cosplay, and well, I think you get it. I presented the idea to the others, they liked it, we went with it. We’re also going to eventually cosplay as actual legendary birds of prey, so that’ll be fun, too.

Gavin: Being a cosplay group, what are the core fundamentals of how you work as a group and where you go?

This honestly is one we’re still working on. We work together as a group pretty well, when we can all actually get together. Where we go and what we do is a lot harder; we all have different opinions for different reasons, so we tend to clash a lot.

Blake: Being patient with one another is a key (sometimes forgotten). Honesty and supporting each other's various projects. The growth of this group has been rapid, and it's growing exponentially. With rapid growth comes growing pains, so patience is definitely a key. Beer helps, too.

Whitney: And wine. We try to voice all opinions and compromise the end result, but we often have miscommunications. We’re working on it. But, in general, we delegate, help each other out and get things done.

Scott: It is really haphazard. We like a challenge, it seems, so what ends up happening is we wait until there is less than a month to do pretty much everything. Oh wait, that there is a word for that: procrastination. It is a pillar of our group, and somehow we still pull off costumes that turn out pretty awesome.

  • Tofu Snow Photography

Gavin: How do you go about deciding the costumes you're going to choose for each event?

I like choosing characters I can relate with on some level. I also like costumes that I can visually resemble, too. Sometimes the group wants to do things that are different from what I personally want to do, but being a part of a team means supporting your team, and I am behind the rest of us 100 percent.

Whitney: We have hundreds of ideas for costumes and themes, but never enough time to make them all. We usually just get together and decide what costume theme or group we want to do next, and just go from there.

Ashley: Honestly I just go with what I’m most passionate about at the moment. This is my first time being part of a group, so normally I just go with the characters I love, or designs I think are awesome. As far as the group goes, it can be like a light bulb. A new trailer will come out, or something will come up in conversation and one (or many) of us will be like “Man, I want to cosplay (this) so bad!” From there, people either pitch in with who they’ve wanted to cosplay from that game/movie/comic, or sometimes it sparks our imagination into, well which one would I want to do, and how would I do it?

Scott: I pick the character I like. Simple is that. If the majority of our characters are from the same content, then we plan them to be together for the event. I consider it a bonus if the character is a challenge. I like to push my limits.

  • Lauri V. Moncur

Gavin: What's been your favorite character to cosplay as and why?

That’s a hard one! I love all of my characters for different reasons! I’d probably have to say Wonder Woman and/or Snow White, simply because of the public reactions to those costumes. I LOVE seeing the faces of little girls when they see a princess or superhero that they love. It’s incredibly heart-warming.

Noah: Mine is totally Scarecrow from Batman Arkham Asylum and Booker DeWitt from Bioshock Infinite. The reason I chose Scarecrow is because I have this thing for creepy/weird/scary things, and he totally fits all those categories! Booker, on the other hand, is just a totally awesome character, and the backstory behind him in the game is a masterpiece of gaming, and truly one of the best examples of why video games are an art form!

Ian: Piccolo, hands down. With my Cell and Misty costumes I get a lot of attention, like I do Piccolo, but with him, he is actually comfortable, and I'm not dressed like a 10-year-old girl.

Blake: Star-Lord is definitely a favorite of mine, as I can relate to the character on several different levels (I will let you guys interpret that as you will). I am known for that particular costume in the the Utah area, and it is just a fun costume as well as fairly comfortable to wear (I just need to figure out a system so that I can see with my lights on). Mr. Freeze from Arkham City is another costume I have that I really enjoy. That costume is the definition of a “show-stopper” and I love the attention it brings. My third costume I enjoy is my Green (Corellian) Jedi. I like the overall morals of the Green Jedi and Jedi robes are fairly comfortable.

Ashley: Aside from respect for a character, my favorite cosplays are actually the crazy characters. Harley Quinn for example. I’m also going to be doing Nux from Mad Max [Fury Road], who is super insane. I’m totally off the wall myself, so being able to act like myself and have it not be that weird is the best! I mean, minus the murdering and violence and all that.

Scott: I would say Two-Face because of the reaction I get from it. People are impressed by the makeup and suit. They always wonder how I keep half my mouth open.

  • JW Photography

Gavin: What's the process that goes into each costume? How you gather materials and decide on the look?

Well to start, thrift stores are your best friend for materials; if you can buy, buy cheap. How i chose my look is by the exact specs of the character. I try to make is as accurate as possible. How do i go about this? Well, once you start crafting this type of art, you tend to pick up little things: what material to use where, how can I get away with that? It’s really a trial and error type thing; the phrase "sounded like a good idea at the time" comes up a lot.

There’s a fine line you walk when you decide whether you want to be screen-accurate, or aesthetically pleasing. What I mean by this is that art aspects do not always translate into real life. Many things that look awesome on screen make you look like a potato if you try it yourself. So finding your own interpretation is important.

Scott: I would like to add to Ashley’s response: "screen accurate" for Two-Face means I would have to burn half my face off. So yeah, not gonna do that. As far as process, there is kind of a process, but then there is not. I usually try to plan things out with pencil and paper first before I get anywhere near cutting material. A crumpled up piece of paper is less of a mistake than cutting through some really nice fabric and finding out it wasn’t right.

  • Awqua Events

Gavin: Aside from parties and cons and other hired events, I read that you work with charities. Who have you worked with in the past and how was it for you to take part in that?

 I work with Kids Heroes Foundation, HEROIC, The Giving Grinch and several others.

Whitney: What Blake said. I also am a member of Rotary International, so I do humanitarian work with my Rotary club in addition to working with the Kids Heroes Foundation.

Ashley: Other than randomly helping out people who ask in the community, I just work with Kids Heroes Foundation. They are the most amazing group of people, and I can say I’ve seen the joy that they bring to those they help.

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Gavin: In several ways, the geek culture in Utah has boomed; even Nerdist voted us geekiest state in the nation. How has it been for you being a part of that culture and watching it rise?

It’s been amazing to watch what we all consider our lifestyle become more accepted in the mainstream culture. Now don’t get me wrong, even if I was still considered strange for all my obsessions, I’d still obsess about them.

Blake: It’s the reason I moved here, and I feel like I (and we) have contributed to its growth.

Whitney: I love it.

Ashley: I feel a bit like a hipster at times. I was a nerd when you got harassed for liking nerdy things! But seeing what I love and enjoy spread so far is incredible! It’s liberating, and it has helped my self confidence grow exponentially. I feel validated. See, all you haters? I may be weird, but I was right. These things are awesome, and you just didn’t give them a chance.

Scott: I say it is far better than some of the other things [where Utah ranks at the top].

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Gavin: We've got Salt Lake Gaming Con, Salt Lake Comic Con and Anime Banzai all on the way. What are you looking forward to the most in the next few months and why?

SLGC is the one im looking forward to, because were actually running the cosplay contest. It's going to make for a very different kind of experience, but it should be fun.

Blake: All of them. I know some the cons have this “rivalry” or whatever you would like to call it, but in the end, we are all the same type of fandoms and the same fans go to all of the events. As long as the geek culture is being represented on a positive level, I will keep enjoying the productions.

Scott: Just having a good time with my peeps. Haaaa, play on the group name.

click to enlarge TREVOR NEILSEN
  • Trevor Neilsen

Gavin: If people want to hire you out, how can they do so?

 Messaging us through Facebook is really all I know right now. I guess we should probably set something up like this.

Whitney: Facebook is definitely the easiest, but we do have an email:

Blake: The power of the Internet.

Scott: Falconry. It is the best method for sending messages.

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Gavin: What can we expect from all of you over the rest of 2015?

We have some projects coming forth, so keep an eye out for them. Can’t go into too many details yet.

Whitney: Bigger and better costumes all around, as well as some new business ventures and pursuits. We do articles and video podcasts every week for Blake and I have also started a business venture, Super Sonic Speed Dating, so you’ll be seeing us around town at local bars and restaurants.

Scott: Always working on something interesting. Got into a very competitive game of one-upmanship game with myself. Next costume has to outdo the last.

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