Pros & Cons:June 2012

Published on June 11th, 2012

As a boy I was only allowed to watch two television channels.  The local Christian Station who’s most entertaining shows were The Flying House (imagine Pokemon set in the Old Testament and you’ve got it) and Bible Quiz.  Other than that the station typically aired hell-fire and brimstone preachers mixed in with daily doses of The 700 Club and PTL before Jim Baker was spirited away to prison.  The other television channel I was allowed to watch was PBS, home to Big Bird and Cookie Monster as well as shows like The Electric Company (featuring Spider-Man), Reading Rainbow, and Picture Pages. PBS also offered up a grab bag of art instruction programming such as William Alexander, Bob Ross, and some show where a guy created a sci-fi city mural with markers.  After school one day I discovered PBS aired cool British television programming including something called Doctor Who.  This show captured my imagination like none other.  I would faithfully watch the Doctor fight the alien of the week and use all manner of science and trickery to save the Earth from destruction.  Then he and his companion would step into that blue police box called the Tardis and be whisked away to the next adventure.  Over the course of a few years I was able to watch the adventures of the fourth Doctor who’s scarf was so comically long as to make it more of a prop than a costume piece and when the fourth Doctor was “killed” I watched him regenerate as the fifth Doctor who was altogether different and sported a bit of celery on his lapel.  I would draw the Doctor, the Tardis, Daleks and anything else related to Doctor Who. Then, as quickly as I had discovered the Doctor, the local PBS station quit airing episodes and that was that.  No more Doctor Who for me… or so I thought.  Over the past few years Doctor Who has had a resurgence and is now more popular than ever.  Fans have seen three new iterations of Doctor Who via Sci-Fi and BBC America with Matt Smith currently playing the time-traveling hero. Doctor Who had managed a huge comeback in the United States!

When Phoenix Comicon announced their badge contest this year I knew what I wanted to submit, an illustration of the Tardis from Doctor Who.  Imagine my shock and surprise when the image was voted into the top 10 entries and eventually chosen as the official badge of STAFF members for Phoenix Comicon 2012. Around the same time the convention announced they were having a Doctor Who themed event titled, Party Like a Time Lord.  I’ve always loved my hometown con and was now more excited than ever for Phoenix Comicon 2012 to arrive.

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Kristy and I always admire the amazing costumes we see at comic cons but I guess since we always attend as guests we did not consider dressing up ourselves.  A movie like Sweeney Todd or Harry Potter would open and I would make some noise about making Halloween costumes but with the crazy deadlines I was all talk and no action.  So when I turned to Kristy and said, “I want to dress as the Doctor for this Time Lord Ball.” I expected an eye roll and a smile but what I got instead shocked me.  Kristy said that was a great idea and that one of the members of her tennis team was a seamstress and would help me.  Then I got the biggest shock of all when Kristy said she would dress as the Doctor’s companion!  Over the course of a few months we assembled our costumes and what we couldn’t find and modify ourselves we took to Kristy’s seamstress friend who did an amazing job transforming ordinary items into custom costume pieces. I was working on the red trim and question marks for the shirt collars up until the day before the con and finally the costume was complete.

BEEP-BEEP, BEEP-BEEP! the morning alarm shrieks sounding not unlike a Sonic Screwdriver.  It is Doctor Who Friday at Phoenix Comicon and time to wake up.  We missed breakfast with other con guests Friday morning as it took longer than we expected to deal with the various pieces of the costumes, hair, and accessories.  Finally, dressed we made our way to the convention stopping for photos many times between the hotel and convention center.  It was a surreal experience and one that was repeated anytime we left the Hi-Fi booth that day. Friday, at the convention many people stopped to look at comics colored by Hi-Fi, check out our art instruction books, and purchase some of the pin-ups I have painted.  Many people wanted their picture taken with “the Doctor” which was fun and we made sure everyone who stopped by the Hi-Fi booth left with a cool Hi-Fi Design wristband.

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Girls cosplaying as Daleks visit the Hi-Fi booth.

I was touched by the number of staff members who stopped by and asked me to sign their badge.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find a single staff member willing to give one up. I may resort to blackmail or thievery to get my hands on one.

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Phoenix Comicon staff member proudly shows off her badge featuring artwork by Hi-Fi’s Brian Miller

What do you do when it is Doctor Who Friday at Phoenix Comicon and you’re on the Digital Art Techniques panel?  Show up in full costume of course!  I’m not sure Freddie Williams II recognized me at first but after a minute or two he recognized me and the panel went well. So many fans already say that Freddie’s book, The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, and Hi-Fi’s book, Hi-Fi Color for Comics go hand in hand.  Many of the fans in the panel already had both books and had great questions.  Freddie is really well spoken about how he crafts his digital artwork and has a great time answering questions from the audience.  I joked he and I should do a roadshow tour like Hope and Crosby only teaching people how to make great comics from coast to coast.

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Digital Art Techniques panel at Phoenix Comicon with Freddie Williams II and Brian Miller

After the panel Kristy and I were able to sneak away from the Hi-Fi booth (thanks to Intern Justin) just long enough to get our photo with the Tardis and a Dalek.  Unfortunately, we had missed the official Doctor Who group photo due to another panel I was on.  Being our first time at cosplay though we didn’t mind, we were having fun seeing everyone else’s costumes.  It may have only been 30 seconds or so but it felt like we stood in front of the Tardis for 5-10 minutes while people pulled out the phones to snap pictures.

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The 5th Doctor and his companion Nyssa fend off a Dalek and make for an escape in the Tardis

Back at the Hi-Fi booth fans came by to see the pin-ups I had painted featuring models Brieanna Brock and Victoria Paege.  Typically fans take photos with the models and ignore the artist. Because I was in costume there are a lot of photos with these models and the Doctor.

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Model Victoria Paege and Brian Miller show some artwork to a fan.

Friday night we made our way to the main event, Party Like a Time Lord.  We had been warned to be there early and even an hour beforehand the line was reaching down the block and around the corner.  There was a Tardis parked outside the entrance and once we were allowed in we spotted a Dalek, a variety of aliens and more Time Lords than you could shake a Sonic Screwdriver at.  Many 10th and 11th Doctors and quite a few 4th doctors with a smattering of others.  I was one of two people dressed as the 5th Doctor at the party and apparently the other had failed to add celery to his costume as I heard him being teased throughout the night for not having his decorative vegetable.  Poor fellow.  There were ladies wearing cute Tardis dresses, quite a few as companions, also some women in smart Dalek ball gowns, and even a few female Doctors.  Once inside the party our group of six time traveling revelers hit the bar and as the DJ was setting up, a very convincing 4th Doctor (the one with the long scarf), announced a Doctor Who costume contest. Before I knew it I had a number 22 on my shoulder so the judges could keep track of me.

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The master of ceremonies for Party Like a Time Lord was a dead ringer for the fourth Doctor.

The first portion of the costume contest included a dance off and while fun, it went on a bit too long.  When you have 36 men and 4 women all wearing a minimum of 5 layers including scarves, long coats, and hats a 30 minute plus dance off isn’t going to do much to dispel the standing joke of sweaty fans at comic conventions.  With costumes duly soaked we were narrowed down to the top 10 finalists and entered the Q&A portion of the contest.  This is where I blew it.  My question was, “As the Doctor describe in one word the Daleks… how do they make your feel?”  The doctor isn’t afraid of the Dalek’s and he doesn’t hate them.  If anything he feels sorry for them, a great sadness.  So I said “Blue”.  The Daleks make me feel blue.  To which I received boos from the audience.  Later I discovered all the audience heard was, “Describe on one word the Daleks…” so my answer made no sense to them.  I gave a perfectly terrible answer to the question as the fans could hear it.  In the end a person dressed as the “Lego Doctor” won the contest, a really well done David Tennant 10th Doctor won the people’s choice award, and I had managed 4th place.

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Finalist at the Doctor Who costume contest.

Not bad at all for my very first cosplay experience.  Especially considering I was dressed as the 5th Doctor, one most of the newer fans have never seen.  After I had left the stage many people came up to tell me they liked my costume best and that I had been “robbed” of the win.  I didn’t feel robbed at all.  I had a great time dressing up as the Doctor and hanging out with thousands of Doctor Who fans. Where else can you dance with a Delek?  On our way out of the party Kristy and I are stopped again for Photos with the 4th doctor who had been master of ceremonies for the event and the 10th doctor who won the people’s choice award.  Doctor Who Friday at Phoenix Comicon had come to an end but the memories are timeless.

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How would I sum up my first cosplay experience?  A lot of preparation and hard work went into the costume in the months leading up to Phoenix Comicon and it was well worth it.  I had a ton of fun, everyone was very responsive to the costume and other Doctor Who fans liked it a lot as well.  Kristy and I were very lucky that an entire day of the convention tied into our cosplay theme.  Having a Tardis, a Dalek, and even K-9 at the convention along with the Time Lord Ball made our first every cosplay even more special.  As far as being a professional in costume? It certainly helped at the Hi-Fi booth.  People stopped to chat and take photos who may not normally have been interested in comic book colorists and we made sure no one left empty-handed.  I’m not sure what fans or Freddie thought of me showing up for my panel in costume but it didn’t seem to hurt the proceedings in any way and the panel stayed on track and went very well.  Plus several of the official convention photographers covered the panel.  All in all I would say it was a success.

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Brian & Kristy Miller in costume along with Intern Justin at the Hi-Fi booth.

What would we do differently?  First, there is never enough time.  We started a few months in advance and still found ourselves working on our costumes up until the day before the show.  Also, we learned to get up an hour earlier than normal when cosplaying to allow enough time to get ready.   I also think Kristy would choose a different costume if she had it to do over again.  She did receive a lot of compliments but I do not think she had quite as good a time as I did.  Only the hard core Doctor Who fans recognized her costume and unless she was with me dressed as the Doctor most people were not sure who she was supposed to be.  The lesson is to pick a costume that at least some people will recognize or your end up explaining your costume all day, and that’s about as fun as explaining a joke.  If we had known about the cute Tardis and Dalek dresses she may have gone that direction instead and I think she would have enjoyed the experience more.

If you have ever considered trying cosplay at a comic book convention don’t hesitate, just do it.  I prescribe a big dose of your favorite comic book, TV, film, or video game character.  You can trust me, I’m the Doctor.

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Daleks attack the fifth Doctor.

Thank you for reading this installment of Pros & Cons.  Be sure to listen to Comic Impact’s Color Commentary podcast where we’ll go behind the scenes at Phoenix Comicon including interviews with some amazing creators.  Plus find out what Intern Justin did at Phoenix Comicon.

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Photos courtesy Phoenix Comicon

Brian Miller
Brian@ComicImpact.com