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Cosplay Spotlight: Will J.!

First name and last initial: Will J.

Where are you from originally, or where do you currently reside? I’m originally from Southern California but I’ve been in Seattle for the past five years.

How long have you been cosplaying? Technically my first cosplay was 26 years ago, but I started seriously cosplaying four years ago when my son was born, and started my full-time cosplay and prop making business in October of 2016.

Which characters have you cosplayed? Currently working on Loki from Thor: Ragnarok and then a few secret ones — someone from Harry Potter — and my very first fully custom designed armor cosplay. Also Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop), Endor Luke Skyalker (Star Wars: Return of the Jedi), Keith (Voltron: Legendary Defender), Ashitaka (Princess Mononoke), Pirate Kanan (an Alternate Universe Original design based on Star Wars: Rebels), and Hipster Navi (original design based on The Legend of Zelda).

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What inspired you to start cosplaying? I have three parts to this answer. First, as I mentioned, I first put on a costume for a con 26 years ago. I became a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan shortly after my dad passed away when I was 13. My mom had a red command jumpsuit made for me and I made a cardboard phaser (my first prop!). I loved that jumpsuit so much that I wore it to school where, needless to say, I was laughed at and ridiculed by most people except for a couple of my closest friends. Then my mom took me to my first convention and I saw all of these people wearing costumes and having a good time. We ended up going to several more conventions with my “cosplaying.” But then I “grew out of it” (there’s no such thing by the way!), and though I went to dozens and dozens of conventions over the years, I never put on a costume. Then, two things happened relatively close together — my son was born and Heroes of Cosplay aired. I know Heroes of Cosplay gets a lot of (well deserved) hate for a lot of reasons, BUT despite those failings, the show inspired me to get back in to making costumes and props AND to do them with my son. My son has cosplayed with me every year at Emerald City Comicon since he was born, and we are constantly discussing what cosplay pair ups we can do next (right now he wants to take over as Keith from Voltron and make me Shiro instead).

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What do you do when you’re not cosplaying? I’m a father to two little kid (four and one), and I’m a stay at home dad in my “off” hours. I am also a writer for GeekDad.com where I write about everything from video games to toys to books to gadgets and, yes, cosplay too. I do enjoy video games but with my current schedule, I’m still only about 15% of the way through Fallout 4. One of my favorite hobbies I haven’t done in a really long time but am hoping to get back into in the near future is scale-model building. I used to do a lot of Gundam kits, kitbashing them, building dioramas for them, etc. I recently got one of the nice new Star Wars X-Wing kits and hopefully that will get me back in. I find that there are a lot of similarities between scale-model building and prop building! Lastly, my son and I have a podcast together (Sunday Evening with Captain Owen) where we talk about a lot of different things but cosplay and costumes come up almost every episode.

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Which costumes have provided the biggest challenge and rewards so far, and why? Ashitaka was absolutely the most challenging and rewarding. Princess Mononoke is my favorite anime film and, maybe stupidly, I decided it would be my first 100% made by me cosplay. I had never sewn before but had to make the sleeves, the kimono, the belt, the pants, the hood, the mask, the leggings, and, yes, even the shoes. And of course, none of them are standard pieces of clothing, so I also had to custom pattern every piece! But because that wasn’t enough, it was also the first time I made a prop out of wood (the sword), it was the first time I used Sintra (the sword sheath), the first time I sculpted, molded, and cast something (the arrowheads), and the first time I designed and 3D printed a prop part (the sword hilt). I spent as much time if not more learning all of these new skills as I did actually building the cosplay itself. But every second was absolutely worth it. I won my first cosplay contest with it — RenCon 2016 1st Place Beginner Category. But even better was that at SakuraCon just a few weeks ago, I ran in to three other Ashitakas who all told me that they used my write-up to help them build their own. I love being able to help other people with their cosplay and seeing individual interpretations of the same character.

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What is the best advice you would give someone new to cosplaying? It’s okay to fail. Everyone fails from time to time no matter how experienced they are. And as terrible as it is, sometimes, you have to admit defeat and walk away, but make sure you come back. I was trying to get a new cosplay — Kanan — done for ECCC this year and it was 10 am on the day I was wearing him to the con and I still wasn’t done and kept having issue after issue (both because I was rushing and trying new things), and I finally had to admit defeat, throw on some plain clothes, and just go to the con. If I hadn’t done that, I’d have spent the whole day trying to finish that cosplay and missed out on the con.

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What is one thing the cosplaying community can do better when it comes to dealing with each other? It’s really hard for me to pick just one thing, but I guess I would say to let people cosplay whoever they want. My daughter is black, Puerto Rican, and white, and my son likes to chose her costumes because she’s just turning one. Her first and only cosplay so far has been Han Solo, but he’s chosen so many others for her — Hunk from Voltron, Lance from Voltron, Allura from Voltron, R2-D2, Sabine, Jango Fett, and the list goes on. And you can probably guess from the list where I’m going — the gender, skin color, or body type of the characters never cross his mind as something that would stop her (or even himself) from dressing up as a particular character. I would love if I never had to see another person say, “Why don’t you be XYZ because he is also <insert skin color here>,” or “You can’t be XYZ; he’s male and you’re not,” or “You need to lose a few pounds before playing XYZ.” As a side note, because I don’t want anybody misconstruing what I am saying, I want to make one thing very clear — I am absolutely 100% against blackface in cosplay. If you want to paint your skin to match some imaginary race, go for it, but there is no reason to put on another person’s skin color to  cosplay. My daughter’s skin is not a costume.

About Natalie (38 Articles)
Writer. Editor. Blogger. Rejector of stereotypes. MFA candidate. Currently writing a novel about gender issues and dirt bikes. Home base: www.natalieschriefer.com.
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