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Tales of a Dragon Con Cosplayer

Shawn Schuster Posted:
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Another Dragon Con is behind us, and after a brief recovery period, I'm taking the time to reflect on the experience. This was my sixth Dragon Con and each trip somehow gets better every time. Despite the larger crowds, heavier traffic, and inconvenience of a convention that increasingly spreads across a larger and larger section of Atlanta, I already look forward to next year's event.

New York and San Diego Comic Con may garner most of the geek-dom attention from the mainstream press, but Dragon Con is a tradition that enjoys an identity all its own. The con offers informational panels, celebrity autograph sessions, extensive workshops, an enormous vendor hall, art galleries, table-top gaming tournaments, and, of course, the world's best cosplay.

Not only do you see people in costume walking all around a ten-block radius of downtown Atlanta day or night during the con, but there are reserved photo shoot spaces, an official costume contest, and for those who like to get more into character, the grand Masquarade Ball.

Last year, I wrote a bit of a primer for those looking to get into the Dragon Con cosplay scene. You can certainly throw yourself out there and bring whatever costume you can put together, but there are also highly professional artists and models who show off the best of the best. What I find most interesting about costuming trends is that so many genres of popular culture are represented, but you also have the crossovers and obscure references.

Some of this year's largest groups of coordinated cosplayers included superheroes/villains, GI Joe/Cobra, Jurassic World, and Mad Max: Fury Road. With a relatively straight-forward look, it was no surprise to find dozens and dozens of Fury Road's War Boys, Furiosas, and Immortan Joe's wives everywhere you looked.

I joined this Fury Road costume group as a Rock Rider: one of the motorcycle-wielding desert villains in the film. I've always liked a good challenge, and the Rock Rider chief looked like something right up my alley.

I decided back when I first saw the movie in May that this is the perfect costume for me because it's creepy, raggedy, and not a main character. As I worked on my costume for several months, I was invited to a Facebook group coordinated by a friend of mine for the official photoshoot. Of course, this meant that I had to get this costume as screen-accurate as possible with no shortcuts, but I was up for the challenge.

Research began with a scrounge for shots from the still-in-theaters film, and I quickly discovered just how difficult it would be to find reference material. I even went as far as contacting the stunt men who played the Rock Riders in the film to find out exactly what brand and model they used for the character's goggles and what materials they wore on the costumes. I also bugged them for any candid behind-the-scenes shots I could use for reference. Low and behold, these guys delivered and I was on my way to putting together an epic build.

Hundreds of hours and dollars later, the costume turned out better than I first imagined. At the photoshoot, I was complimented several times on the accuracy, so I would call it a roaring success.

But as you might imagine, wearing several layers of leather and fur in Atlanta's September heat was not sustainable, so I headed back to my hotel room right after the photoshoot to change and recover.

Was it worth it?

Yes. A thousand times yes. Not only was the appreciation of the costume fulfilling, but being a part of that entire event was just plain fun. Dozens and dozens of people got together to express their love of an amazing movie, and for many of them, this was their first time trying something like this. Maybe it will spark a further interest in cosplay, who knows. Either way, it was an impressive show of dedication.

Standing there in a sea of War Boys chanting and spraying chrome paint (food-grade) on their mouths was something I can't explain with words, but it was remarkable. And I can't wait to do it all again next year.


Shawn Schuster

Shawn Schuster is the former Editor-in-Chief at Massively.com and founder of the indie gaming review site Shoost.co. Shawn has been writing professionally about video games since 2008 and podcasting about games since 2005. When he's not leveling yet another alt, he's running his organic farm with his wife and four kids.