MCM London October 2015

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We’re collapsed on the sofa right now, aching and tired from a long day at MCM London ComicCon. Like any convention, there have been frustrations and unexpected joys, but over all it has been a joy. We went in costume again, just like last year, but we didn’t have a unified theme this time. Highlights included some time playing Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Lady M getting extremely fangirly over Jack from Rooster Teeth, and Charleesi finding the only other Mortal Instruments cosplayers at the Convention.

We used the day as a dry run for the costumes in which we’ll be celebrating Lady M’s birthday. My Clark Kent costume proved comfortable and practical, while Lady M’s Ursula costume struck a great balance between style and whimsy that hardly ever got in the way despite the tentacles. I have no idea what Lady P is planning, but given her ever-expanding stable of alter-egos I’m sure it will be spectacular.

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The Charleesi’s costume was elegantly simple, inspired by the Mortal Instruments books. She grabbed a Sharpie and began drawing Shadow hunter runes on her arm. The pictures of these on social media last night led to bemused queries from her mother, hoping they weren’t permanent. I forsee interesting conversations should Charleesi decide she wants tattoos any time in the near future.

So, to bed, back to the relatively real world, and some planning possibly required for the next one to try and not go round in quite so many circles. A six mile walk round one Convention Centre shouldn’t be leaving me quite so sore, so I’d better get back in practice.

Costume Bemusement

There are three things upcoming that demand costumes, so I’m in the process of looking around at the Halloween costumes and props to see what I can use.

The first event will be the MCM London Convention, for which we’ve decided at almost the last minute to get tickets. That decision has been equal parts a desire to support Lady P as she gets her confidence back, and fond memories of last year’s convention.

Our Death Eater costumes last year seemed to intimidate an awful lot of people, so our original plan was just to go in casual attire. Then temptation struck to do something simple, just because.

The second event will be a combination of Halloween and a family-friendly birthday gathering for Lady M. I’m inviting people to dress with a literary, or at least popular culture, theme.

The third event will be the more raucous main celebration for Lady M’s birthday (well, why not make a week of it?). The same rules of engagement apply for that, so my costume needs to be simple and reasonably hard wearing.

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So, to that end I’m creating a Clark Kent costume. I’ve found a good T-shirt with a design based on the recent film, and will be wearing that beneath a wrenched aside shirt, tie and glasses. I was thinking of going with just my usual black jeans, but I suspect I’ll end up wearing a suit with them. As the current comic book depiction of Clark Kent is crop headed, my currently freshly clipped hair should be a good match, and I’ve already shaved the goatee back off to get my skin used to seeing daylight again.

That said, I did see a very nice mask in Tesco that, with only a little modifying, will make a very nice Death Eater mask…

MCM London

We had a great time at Comic Con at the Excel Centre last weekend. It was the first one I’ve been to in many years, and the first ever for C and Lady M, so there was a lot to take in.

By far and away the biggest difference I noticed was the surge in cosplay and the sheer range of genres and fandoms represented. Homestuck fans rubbed shoulders with Assassins Creed variants, and the world of Harry Potter trolled the Warhammer 40k players mercilessly.

The sheer visual input was overwhelming, and fortunately we were able to wander in and out of the building pretty freely with our passes to get fresh air when needed.

Lady P divided her time between us, friends and photographers. Her Merida costume seemed to be a beacon to everyone, while we Death Eaters lurked in the shadows.

We caught the panel for Lego Batman 3, which looks awesome and admired many stores and games at length while keeping our hands firmly in pocket.

Will we be back in May? Almost certainly, though C will have exams looming so I suspect she’ll focus on her photography rather than a costume.

Costume Developments

We spent a good portion of last weekend making papier mache and experimenting with acrylic paints and ink and I have to say the results are starting to look quite good. With the rest of the costume elements largely being made from existing kit and clothing, the masks are turning into the most intensive pieces of work. Hopefully though they’ll survive the next few weeks and end up being turned into something I can hang on the walls as a souvenir.

The initial sketch pad may have got a bit... embellished... since we started
The initial sketch pad may have got a bit… embellished… since we started

The basic cotton-based masks proved a good base for the glue and water mix I used, drying fairly quickly with some judicious use of airing cupboard space and strategic re-application of layers to reinforce tricky corners and junctions. Most of the issues came around trying to decide how to implement the various design ideas that we all had.

Most of the images found online for references use silver and gold, so those were the main colours that ended up being used as the base, but other hues and decorative patterns can also be seen on both official and fan-made designs, so I was pleased to find a good range of acrylic paints in a paint box that I had completely forgotten I had.

In the end I used a plain black acrylic paint base layer to seal the external surface so that further design work wouldn’t get lost in the text and pictures in the original newspaper coverings. After that we each took time to design shapes that we could cut into card and use as templates.

One of the masks with early silver drybrushing
One of the masks with early silver drybrushing

Some judicious use of water softened the card so that we could mould it to fit the mask contours and backed it with more glue for a secure fit, followed by more paint to help seal the whole surface. Then I dry-brushed silver over the whole assembly to pick out detail and give us a real idea of how each mask design was going to work out.

Death Eater masks are designed to inspire fear, so a bright colour scheme was never going to be on the cards, but I’ve also seen plenty of masks that use a brighter silver background to highlight dark hand-painted designs. I’ve not painted for quite some time, so I was reluctant to dive straight into that route. That’s why we went the card and template route.

I may adapt a cut out template at some point for another design if I do more in the future, as that seems a good compromise between the flow of paint and the structure of inlays. Each of us had ideas of how we wanted the masks to look. My daughter’s incorporates elements that look like a mask on the mask – or possibly a flayed mask, depending on how the colour scheme develops as she would like a little red in the mix somewhere.

Lady M models this year's Slytherin-inspired couture...
Lady M models this year’s Slytherin-inspired couture…

Lady M’s mask is all swirls and contours with splashes of green that suggest the Slytherin House background of many Death Eaters. My own takes cues from predatory animals, with dart-like daggers and stripes and stays with the golds and silvers.

By comparison, Lady P’s ensemble promises to mix bold colours with the dark cloak as a memorable comparison. The contrast should be rather striking, so I’m rather looking forward to seeing what she comes up with with limited preparation time.

For now, I think I won’t be doing much else to the masks, at least until this weekend when I reclaim the table that I usually keep my writing setup on as an art surface again. The final touches may not even go up until the morning before we head out to the event. Alternatively I might leave them, use the Thorpe Park event as a dry run and then tweak them for the MCM Expo in London at the end of October.

My Death Eater mask
My Death Eater mask

Each mask, to date, has about three or four layers of paint and ink washes on them with strategic dry brushing to highlight detail. Right now I’m struggling to find a point where I don’t either darken them too much, or give a cartoonish colour boost.

I tell you, designing these evil masks is a lot harder than it seems. I’m tending to go for more muted schemes given that we’ll be out in public as the evening draws in. Combined with hoods and capes and dark clothing beneath them, the effect should look quite intimidating.