As a member of the elite cosplay group the 501st, ChicagoVader has made a name for himself in the cosplay world. A self-taught sculptor and costumer, he has recreated some of the horror and sci-fi world’s most iconic characters: Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Freddy Krueger, and the Punisher to name a few. Here he tells about his cosplay life and how he evolved as a cosplayer.
How did you get your start in cosplay?
“Wanting to put together a Darth Vader costume back in 1999. I had seen a fan in a movie quality suit on Entertainment Tonight when they were covering the lines for Episode I. After that I started researching on the internet and tracking down parts. I finished my costume in late ’99, and was contacted by the garrison commander of the 501st through the Replica Prop Forum. And that’s how I joined and learned of the 501st.”
What are some of the events you get to do as a member of the 501st?
“Visiting sick kids in the hospital, movie premieres, escorting actors from the films at conventions…”
Sounds like it’s a lot of fun!
“Parades too, I was Vader for the McDonald’s thanksgiving day parade last year and the year before.”
Awesome! I saw on your Facebook page, Chicago Vader, that you shared the stage with Weird Al. What was that like?
“That was pretty cool! Al is a really nice guy. Puts on a great high energy show. It was a bit surreal looking out at the sold out crowd tho at the Al show.”
I bet! What are some other characters you’ve cosplayed as?
“I also costume as The Punisher and Freddy Krueger, as well as a Tusken raider and Kylo Ren from the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII.”
So you do your own costuming/fabrication?
“My first Vader was mainly bought, though I painted and modified parts to get them more accurate. I make some parts of my costumes and buy others; depends if it’s cheaper to buy it or make it.”
How do you do the Krueger makeup?
“It’s foam latex prosthetics that get glued to my face and painted. I’m thinking of switching up to a silicone mask for Freddy.”
Where do you get your prosthetics?
“I made them. The prosthetics I’ve made in the past I’ve made myself. If I go the silicone mask route in the future I’ll make that myself as well.”
That’s really cool! How did you learn to make them?
“Read some books and a few special effects makeup forums. Some instructional videos as well. I taught myself to sculpt, but it wasn’t a big leap since I’ve been drawing since I was a child.”
Any tips for beginning cosplayers?
“Research and plan what you want to do, look at all the different methods and materials to achieve your project and decide how you want to do it. And never regret starting over if you aren’t happy with your first results. Practice makes perfect as they say.”
And last but not least, what do you consider to be the three most essential items for any cosplayer’s closet or workspace?
“I would have to say a Dremel tool with a good set of attachments, measuring tape, and hot glue–that stuff comes in handy for all kinds of things!”