BlizzCon presents an incentive for real-life tailors and engineers to take up their needle and thread and their cardboard and spray paint, in order to fashion amazingly realistic recreations of their favorite Blizzard characters and creatures. Once again, we've invited the winners to write an article on the art of costume-craft for us to share with the community. Here’s the first article in the series, written by Chris, who won second place for his stunning reproductions of paladin tier 2 armor and the sword Ashbringer:
My name is Chris White, and this is the story of how my BlizzCon costume came to be! So rise up, Blizzard gamers and Argent Crusaders! The hour of justice has come!
Paladin tier 2 armor, the Judgement set, has always been a favorite of mine since I first began playing World of Warcraft. The story of Ashbringer has always caught my interest as well. With the release of Wrath of the Lich King, and the further expansion of the Ashbringer’s story, it became a foregone conclusion which costume I had to make, and so the year and a half journey began.
My goal for this costume was to create a suit of armor that would accurately portray both the Tier 2 Judgement set and the Ashbringer. Additionally, I wanted to be able to walk across stage without the need of an escort or handlers. I also wanted the costume to allow me to move so naturally that I would look like I walked straight out of the game.
The most notable parts of my costume were made out of leather, styrene, sheet metal, and high density compressed foam. This was the most complicated and intricate costume that I have ever built, and the materials I chose were definitely not the easiest to work with, but I was determined to see the project through.
I designed the lower part of the costume in a way that would allow me to walk unrestricted. This part of the costume involved the use of many layers of both cloth and leather which would move with me when I walked, but when I stopped, all the layers would return to their natural positions.
My weapon, along with other parts of my armor, were constructed using high density compressed foam. This gave my Ashbringer strength, yet provided me with a material that was light and easy to wield. The sword and runes were carved in relief, and sanded and painted in a way that created a mirror finish, which gave it the shine and reflection of a real sword. According to lore, the original Ashbringer was made from an artifact that, with the power of Light, was transformed into a source of purity. So, to add personal significance to this weapon, I embedded within its center a possession that I feel represents the very essence of Light itself, and which would truly make this blade worthy of the name Ashbringer.
One of the most enjoyable parts of constructing this armor was the detailing. The symbols and markings on the ribbons and parchment on my armor were not random. They are actually paladin abilities taken straight from the spell book. Auras, blessings, seals, judgments, and much more, most of which have been transcribed to Latin.
My gauntlets were definitely one of the most time consuming parts of this costume, especially the fingers. I decide to go with sheet metal for these gloves so they would be more authentic. I quickly found out that each finger, and each segment of each finger, required individually crafted and tooled pieces of sheet metal. Each gauntlet consists of at least 50 unique pieces. Without this customization the illusion of armored plate gauntlets would have been diminished. Overall, I was very satisfied with the end result, for not only did these gauntlets move and look accurate at any angle, but they also sounded like real chain mail and plate armor when I moved. Additionally, hand sewing each piece through heavy leather gloves definitely helped this paladin to master the virtue of patience!
My shoulders consisted mainly of styrene. To get styrene to hold its shape was very difficult, for it naturally resists any attempt to bend it, and depending on the thickness of styrene, torching it or heating it will only cause it to melt. Only with the iron fist of justice could I make these shoulders come out the way they did… that and a lot of cement glue.
The helm was also made of styrene and took on at least five different incarnations before I got it right. The first prototype was made of paper in order to get an idea of the shape and color that would be needed. After that it was a process of trial and error in determining what shape, material, and detailing was needed to portray the helm as accurately as possible. I also tried to capture the classic look of the Judgment helm in the way that the hood laid around it.
The tomes on the shoulders contain actual handwritten pages, with the most visible pages having quotes from the original Ashbringer, Alexandros Mograine, as well as quotes from the current Ashbringer, Tirion Fordring.
I started work on the costume in mid-2010 with the intention of wearing it at BlizzCon 2011, before I knew that I would even be able to acquire tickets to BlizzCon or get into the costume contest. Nonetheless I was determined! Overall the timing couldn't have been more perfect, because I was just finishing the final details on the last night before BlizzCon.
This was my first Warcraft costume and my first BlizzCon, and I have to say it was definitely an amazing experience. Blizzard did a great job with the costume contest both onstage and especially backstage, which made it a very enjoyable experience. The BlizzCon personnel backstage were like a well-oiled machine. One of the most notable things that happened backstage was that I was one of five people chosen for a special photo shoot with none other than Mike Morhaime. Getting to shake hands and talk with the person who is the president and CEO of Blizzard was definitely an honor, because although I built this costume, it couldn't have been done without the original in-game design that inspired it.
Words alone cannot describe the epic experience of the costume contest. Just before you're about to go on stage, you can feel the energy building, and as soon as you step out from backstage the adrenaline kicks in. Looking out over thousands of Blizzard gamers who simultaneously shout and cheer at your costume is absolutely amazing. The sheer epic-ness of the enthusiasm, energy, and noise from these thousands of individuals, all directed towards the stage, was enough to blow me away. It was truly an honor to just to participate in the costume contest and be seen on stage, let alone place second.
Cosplaying has always been an enjoyable experience for me, but cosplaying at BlizzCon was definitely the best experience I’ve had so far. The community of individuals who make Blizzard-related costumes for BlizzCon has to be one of the most talented groups of individuals I've ever met. The amazing costumes they create never cease to surprise me, and it has been a pleasure to have made friends with so many of them. I look forward to seeing them and everyone else again next year. I know I will be returning to BlizzCon, for it calls out my name and beckons me to return to carry out the Light’s justice!
Thanks to everyone at BlizzCon, friends, and family for all your support, especially my father; without his support, inspiration, and motivation I could not have done this, and for that this paladin honors him.
“Im Meleth Le Ada”