Amid the thousands of convention goers at this year’s Supernova Sydney, I spotted some amazing examples of cosplay that showed off the hard work and dedication that goes into this craft. From TV and film characters to anime and games (and even some bizarre genre mashups – Bob Ross Deadpool anyone?), the variety and quality of costumes was impressive. However, one cosplayer in particular seemed to demand a premium in attention from the fans. Decked out in a pitch perfect Captain Nomad costume, I had a chance to speak with Chris Stanley (known to his fans as Cosplay Chris) about fitness, Mickey Rourke and making the jump to becoming an international convention guest.
Chris’ popularity with his fans was plain to see as we stopped to chat in a quiet corner of the convention. A father approached with his young son also dressed as Cap as we were starting to chat and asked, “Can little Captain America have a photo with big Captain America?” Chris’ enthusiasm to drop what he was doing and accommodate the wishes of fans was indicative of his respect for his position as an ambassador within the Australian cosplay community. I asked him how he felt about this impromptu role.
“You definitely have to have a sense of integrity with what you do, but it’s not something I try to think about too much. It more comes down to respecting people in general and treating others as you would like to be treated. And there are always people who disregard that and want to do things a different way, but you try not to associate too much with those kinds of people.”
One demographic that Chris does associate with extensively is his Youtube subscribers, of which there are almost 300k. He appeared at the Influencers Initiative panel at this year’s convention, discussing social media presence and the balance of quality versus quantity with his content. “One thing I’ve found is that you have to learn to listen as a Youtube content creator. Even though the comment section can get a bit nasty at times, there are alot of people making great suggestions for projects or also just small technical details that make you say, wow I wouldn’t have thought of it that way, so it’s definitely somewhat of a collaborative process,” he said.
“I usually try to put out one video per week, but especially with the custom collectible videos there is a lot of work and planning to be put into them and you definitely put yourself at risk of burnout. I don’t have a camera crew or really much of a production budget either so I need to think hard about how to space out the ideas I have for videos so that is a steady stream of content for fans to enjoy.”
One of his most ambitious new ideas is a project to recreate Mickey Rourke’s villain Whiplash from Iron Man 2. Fans of Chris’ channel have gotten an inside look into the complicated process that is accurately recreating the unique armour associated with the character. “Initially I assumed I’d be doing the whole thing myself, so it has been really good to get Myles (also known as Flux Electronics) to come in with his electrical engineering experience and basically make a render of my chest and 3D print the reactor. We’re also doing all the of the tubing and wiring as accurately as possible so it’s a pretty involved process,” he said.
“I’m shooting to be finished by September, and obviously I’ll have a lot of other work to do at the same time to get in the right shape by then as well, in addition to the hair, which is growing out slowly, and the eye colour, scars and tattoos. I’d put us at about 20% completion at the moment. I know of two other guys working on the same costume at the moment and they are nowhere near that so that’s encouraging.”
Film goers these days have become used to the impressive physiques of their onscreen heroes, and Chris’ personal fitness journey has become an important aspect of his cosplaying. He recently showcased the fruits of his work in an article with Men’s Health magazine, and I asked him if there was any awkwardness bringing his creative work to an audience outside the regular convention fanbase. “Not so much. I guess the whole superhero genre is so popular now, people are used to seeing Chris Hemsworth and the like and their crazy physiques that they achieve for the movies so it’s pretty expected. The difference is that we don’t have any of the resources that they have, we dont have the chefs or personal trainers. And I’m not in the gym everyday. This week I’ve been on what we call the con diet, so its been mostly pizza and beers.”
“I think they were excited to see someone who was sort of working to inhabit those sorts of characters on a more amateur level, and seeing what results they can get through more unconventional means and whilst trying to juggle the commitments of a normal life. Also some of this gear we wear is really heavy and uncomfortable at times, and you have to wear it all day so you definitely need to be in shape. There’s no one behind the camera yelling cut, and then you get to take a break. But I’ve got until September to reach the place where I’d like to be so that should be enough time hopefully.”
Speaking of superstars, it’s clear that Chris’ dedication to his craft and popularity with his fans is paying off, with a trip to San Diego, Louisiana and New York Comic Cons on the horizon. We chatted about reaching this next tier of professional cosplaying overseas, and if that meant he needed to step back and reevaluate his goals and expectations. “It’s more of a taking out and dusting off of some old goals. I’d been interested for a long time in moving to L.A and doing some work there in special effects. The Youtube channel can be an inconsistent source of income sometimes.”
“I love the fans and really cherish their support, so the ideal would be for me to be able to keep the Youtube channel no matter what happens. The majority of my fanbase is actually from the US and the UK, based on the Youtube demographics that I can see. So realistically I’m really excited to get over there again and spend some time with my fans over there and see what might come out of it.”
You can check out Chris’ Twitter, Facebook and Youtube channels here.
Interview by Dylan Cook
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