Chandra by Brad Rigney
Recognizability is a big factor in choosing a “successful” cosplay since it’s a lot more fun when fans immediately grok what you’ve worked so hard to put together. That’s a big part of the reason you see cosplayers doing the same Planeswalkers over and over. Not only are they cool characters, but there’s more reach. A con-goer with only a passing knowledge of MTG will recognize Jace—but probably not Nin, the Pain Artist, Urza, or Imperious Perfect, no matter how awesome the costume. Of course, if you don’t mind only the diehard Vorthoses and entrenched Commander players appreciating what you do, by all means pick whatever you want. The most important thing is personal satisfaction, after all. And certainly some of the most interesting costumes in MTG are definitely non-‘Walker.
Liliana Magic Origins Promotional Art
However, sharing with the community is undeniably a major aspect of cosplay, so if you’re trying to build a portfolio, it makes sense to choose at least a couple recognizable characters, especially those who have the most reach outside the MTG fandom. For the most part, this means Planeswalkers, and this means, at some point, plan to do a Chandra, Elspeth, Liliana, Sorin, or Jace.
Liliana Vess by Air Bubbles Cosplay
Arielle of Air Bubbles Cosplay has done both Chandra and Liliana, and I had a chance to pick her brain about some of the experience she’s gained as an MTG cosplayer who has been at this for several years now. If you’re headed to Emerald City Comic Con, this year, you might see Arielle in the flesh, so say hello! Arielle offers some great insight into getting serious with cosplay and good tips and tricks for builds, and she has some exciting MTG costumes in the works . . .
Chandra Nalaar by Air Bubbles Cosplay
1. Are you a Magic player as well as a cosplayer? If so, what formats do you enjoy, and what decks do you like to pilot?
I am totally a Magic player as well! If it weren't for having started playing Magic (thanks, boyfriend!), I wouldn't have cosplayed as Chandra or Liliana in the first place. I'd also have more money! I prefer to play EDH or Commander—whichever title you prefer—and I am totally a black mage. My Skullbriar, the Walking Grave deck and I can really piss some people off. I also recently made a Sidisi, Brood Tyrant mill deck, which has proved very annoying (for others) and fun (for me)! Oh, and I also love my Vampires. I have a few Commander decks. I can't help it!
2. What made you take the jump into getting into Magic cosplay?
The big jump came from starting to play. I started playing when I met my boyfriend, so . . . late 2012 or early 2013. After playing a bit, my boyfriend bought me Chandra, Pyromaster because he believed that I would like her a lot. And he was right! Well, it was more about her and not the card as much (never could stand playing red). So I decided to tackle my first ever armor build with Chandra. She's very near and dear to my heart now.
3. Today, we're featuring your Chandra and Liliana cosplays. What are your favorite Chandra and Liliana card-art representations? What is it about these artworks that inspire you?
Oh, wow—my favorite artwork? When I pick a costume, I like to take elements from many different photos because then it makes it artistically creative and really make is unique to me, but I always pick one photo to base the cosplay on. I based my Chandra cosplay on the promotional art for Magic 2014, in which her skirt and armor are a little different. I felt the design was a little more pleasing to the eye and more fun to build. I highly enjoy the artwork on the Liliana Vess card. There're so many shapes and different tones of purple—it was hard to not fall in love with.
Liliana by Aleksi Briclot
4. You're planning to attend Emerald City Comic Con. What do you love about live events? Conversely, is there anything you really don't enjoy about taking a cosplay to an event?
I absolutely love conventions because it's a time to really just be you. I can totally nerd out at work, but I can't exactly dress up as a Planeswalker every day as I ride the bus to work. I get so giddy, and it gives me an opportunity to not only share my fandoms and cosplay with others, but to see others do the same! I love to talk to other cosplayers to see what they did to make their costumes and what inspired them. It's really neat to see how different everyone is, and yet, we come together for the same thing! I also like to spend all my money on art and Magic cards and just take a break from work and life. It's definitely a de-stress time for me.
What I don't enjoy . . . is the crowd. I am a fast walker, so I absolutely hate people who walk slowly or just stop in the middle of a walkway, and in a costume, it sucks even more! I can't tell you how many times my right arm thing on Chandra—the thing with the tube—hit people. It's a miracle it didn't break off (yay, superglue!). My shoulder armor also just kept bumping people. I do some serious stress tests before I paint my armor, but it's always so scary to actually have other people hit it!
Chandra by Air Bubbles Cosplay
5. Related to question four, how do Magic fans respond to your cosplays at events? Have you ever experienced any negativity at live events?
I think Magic fans respond to me pretty well. More people recognized my Liliana cosplay than my Chandra one, and people always seem to just have positive things to say. There’s no, "Oh my god, you look nothing like her on the card!" or, "That color is totally wrong." Everyone is very excited to see their cards brought to life! I even was able to attend the Wizards of the Coast party last year at PAX because of my Chandra costume. That was pretty sweet.
I've never personally had any harassment or negativity to my face, so it's possible there's someone out there saying crap about me, but it was never to my face. I was honestly pretty afraid people were going to call me fat as Liliana since her stomach is exposed, but nope! No one did. I guess I've been really lucky, but I usually make sure to have someone with me (my super-awesome nerdy mom or boyfriend or sisters) around me when I'm in costume because I know that there are not-nice people out there.
Flames of the Firebrand by Steve Argyle
6. For people who want to cosplay Chandra, give us a peek into your build process, especially on the chainmail and armor. What materials did you use, and how did you source them? What kind of difficulty level would you rate this cosplay?
Oh lordy. Well the great news is that I actually plan to remake all my armor (because I'm crazy)—and because I totally realized they are actually silver and not bronze! But that might not be until next year. I actually purchased my chainmail from Celestial Chainmail because she makes Chandra's chainmail with the little turtleneck and everything. It's super-fairly-priced, and it's really well made. If you have the patience and time to make chainmail, I'd say do it and use aluminum rings, but . . . I totally do not have patience to do something like that, so I'd rather just pay to have someone who knows what he or she is doing make it.
My armor is made of Worbla and painted with acrylic paint and based with Gesso. My future build will be made with Worbla again, but this time with the sandwich method of Worbla and foam and primed with wood glue (much smoother finish!). I followed Kamui Cosplay’s tutorial for the breast plate and just kind of patterned everything else out by myself and used a growler and Styrofoam balls to mold the shapes. Oh, and the tube on my shoulder is actually a tube. I just covered it with Worbla and foam.
I would rate this cosplay beginner-to-medium—if you don't make the chainmail. The armor is pretty easy and a great first build, and there isn't much sewing, which is great for those who don't like to sew. I usually try to not remake costumes because I find it a waste of time, but Chandra was my first big build, and this is the character I feel closest to, so I want her to be good. I want to wear her forever!
Liliana Vess by Air Bubbles Cosplay
7. For people who want to cosplay Liliana, give us a peek into this build. How did you handle her tiara and the armored crop top? What did you feel was very successful about this cosplay, and what was challenging?
So, Liliana was a little easier since I knew what I was doing a little more. I made her top the same way I made the breastplate on Chandra. I used Worbla and foam and shaped the boobies with Styrofoam balls. I also made sure to line the inside with some soft black fabric since Worbla is not soft at all and can really scratch your skin. The rest of her armor was also Worbla and foam, and I had a lot of fun building it. There are so many different references for her that I felt I had a little bit of room to put in my own creative spin, which I love to see others do as well.
The tiara . . . I wish I would've done a more elaborate one, but I hate headpieces—they never stay put! I also made that out of Worbla and foam and shaped it on a growler to create the nice curve effect. I put a magnet behind the purple gem and sewed one on top of my wig to help keep it in place. Magnets are amazing . . . I'd say making those shin pieces not look stupid was the hardest part. They are so big and bulky, but Liliana is so elegant that I had to make sure they didn't take away from that. I think they came out pretty okay!
Akroma, Angel of Fury by Daren Bader
8. What MTG cosplays do you have planned for this year that we can look forward to? What inspired these choices?
Well . . . as I stated earlier, I plan on remaking my armor for Chandra, and then I will be making the pre-spark Chandra. I’m inspired by Chandra and her super-tough story, and when I heard about the pre-spark Planeswalkers, I knew I had to make hers.
And you are the very first person to know my cosplay plan for PAX 2015. I will be making Akroma, Angel of Fury with those big-ass wings. I seriously cannot wait. I picked Akroma because I've always wanted to do wings, and I also wanted to test out some LEDs in cosplay; the base build of the costume should be pretty easy, but the wings and gems will be a challenge, which I'm excited for. She's also a redhead. I like picking redheads because then I don't need a wig!
Chandra Magic Origins Promotional Art
9. You do other cosplays besides MTG. How do you think the Magic cosplay scene compares to that of other franchises? Are there things you think the Magic community can do to better support its cosplayers? And what do you think MTG cosplayers can do better to keep the art thriving and growing?
I've done a few other cosplays, but for some reason, everyone keeps coming back to my Magic cosplays. That’s fine by me, but Magic fans seem to sort of stay within their branch, for lack of a better explanation. I truly enjoy making Magic cosplays so very much, but I wish people would be as excited about my Chandra or Liliana as my Silk Spectre or Queen of the Reef.
That said, the Magic cosplay scene is awesome. Everyone is nice and helpful, and every costume is different, which is super-cool. It shows that there is so much art to go on and so many creative minds at work that we can create a hundred Chandras, and yet, all of them will be unique! I feel that the Magic community is doing a pretty good job of supporting its cosplayers since the cosplayers usually also play Magic. Someone who only plays will totally share a sweet cosplay with the rest of the community.
To keep everything thriving and growing . . . I'd say just support one another. The worst thing you could do is put someone down. And putting someone down doesn't have to be to the person’s face—it can be behind the person’s back with a comment to your friend or by choosing not to help someone with a question he or she has because you think what the person is doing already sucks. Those are just some examples . . . Whenever I see another Magic cosplayer, especially Chandra, I pretty much run to that person. I am always amazed at the people who make their own chainmail (no thank you!), so I like to chat with them about it or ask about their armor and whatnot. To me, that is the best thing someone can do.
Chandra by Brad Rigney
10. Where can people follow you to keep up with your latest MTG work?
You can follow my work on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook. Instagram will happen one day, but that day is not today . . .
A big thanks to Arielle for taking the time out to share her work and insights. I hope y’all enjoyed her pictures and the interview—remember to drop by her page to show your support!
Till next time, may Magic be your own personal army of Chandras.