Cosplay Spotlight: Pharaohmone

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Welcome back to Cosplay Spotlight! For the seventh edition we present to you Pharaohmone! As usual, our promise is to bring  you some of the amazing work these cosplayers do, but also we will be focusing on the why’s and the how’s!

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Pharaohmone is an all-genre digital recording artist and multi-talented costumer, pushing boundaries that both electrify and educate audiences.

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Comic Book Therapy – Thank you for taking the time out to speak to us. How have you been doing lately?

Pharaohmone – Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me! As for how I’m doing… If “busy” is any indication of doing well, then I’m fantastic! With a mix of back-to-back projects and events this year, it’s really nice to take a breather and do a little introspection with you guys.

CBT – What got you into doing cosplay?

PH – We’re all excited by having our favorite characters fleshed out to the fullest. I think the success of recent comic book movies, like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, comes from the fan response due to seeing our collective imagination brought to life.  For me personally, I really love the creative problem solving aspect of the art.  Whether you’re working on a big-budget film or just trying to make a splash at your local convention, trying to figure out the ins-and-outs of a costume can be a very rewarding process (despite the occasional uphill climb bringing designs to life).  And while flashy pictures are a great keepsake, I’ve grown to love the performance art aspect of it — when fans of a series run up overjoyed because they recognized someone put so much effort into something they love
CBT – What is your process in choosing the characters you want to portray?
PH – Usually it’ll start when I’ve picked up a new series — I’ll become enraptured by a character and just won’t be able to stop.  Sometimes that leads to characters everyone has seen before, because we all fell in love with the iconic hero for the same reason.  However, that also can lead to me pouring time into a costume for a character that has a comparatively small fan-base.  This is how I ended up doing obscure Street Fighter and Final Fantasy characters, but more recently the latest entry in the Marvel Vs. Capcom series educated me about the wondrous Taskmaster.  I’ll admit, I hadn’t been following his epic adventures in the past, but I began picking up issue after issue of comics featuring him, including the UDON series and recent origin story where they explained the tragic beginnings of the character.  (No spoilers here!)  After that, I just absolutely had to put the outfit together.For that reason, I’m usually attracted to characters that have a lot of content that I can latch on to.  If they’re part of a long-running or on-going series of comics, episodes, or games, it’s easy to be exposed to the character until the point of cosplay combustion!
CBT – What was the first character you cosplayed as? Your favorite?
PH – I started almost a decade ago with the spikey haired leading man from the Japanese animated series “Yu-Gi-Oh!”  For the same reason I choose all characters, Yugi was the result of my new-found love of the Official Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game.  The other shining attribute about Yugi and other similar characters is that you can easily get shots of you performing the same actions of the character both at the convention and during private photo-shoots.  When I started, this was a real valuable trait as photo-manipulation software was still typically expensive and photo resolutions were lower than they are now.As for a favorite character, I’m always torn, but I think I can say I’ve had the most fun in Capcom’s Dante from the Devil May Cry series.  After hosting a few events in the costume, I’ve grown to love the carefree Rock-N’-Roll attitude of the half-demon.  That in mind, I’m currently working with a few friends on a fan-film project mixing the classic styling of Dante with his more recent attitude adjustment.  While we’re still putting it together, the initial shooting sessions have been a lot of fun.  Braving the local clubs in downtown has produced some killer shots, and everyone has been really receptive due to how popular cosplay and derivative works have become.
CBT – How long have you been making your costumes by hand?
PH – I will be approaching the ten-year mark come next year, and I look forward to doing this well into the future.  When I completed my first costume, I felt very “set for life” and didn’t expect to ever make another outfit — let alone dozens.
CBT – Creating costumes is very time consuming, especially when you want to make sure it’s authentic as possible. What keeps you motivated to continue and how do you handle the stress?
PH – Love of the source material is always really important.  It’s much easier to make a costume if you’re excited to wear the finished product.  As for scheduling, I think it’s always important for a cosplayer to remember there’s a “next time.”  If you don’t finish that outfit for your next event, your world is far from over.  In the past, I’ve seen fellow cosplayers spend much of their convention in the hotel room working on that last stitch hoping to make that group photo-shoot in time.  If you go to enough conventions, you might forget how amazing the experience can be whether you have made your deadline or not.  Pop culture conventions are typically held in major metropolitan areas at premium convention centers attached to luxury hotels with ridiculous group rates.  The convention is your vacation, and you should try to avoid spending that vacation miserable.That said, pre-planning is especially important if you want to get something done with limited hours in the day.  In the alternative (I can speak from experience on this one) it’s also very possible to marathon costumes in multiple day-long sittings.  Some of my more elaborate works were the product of
CBT – Have you participated in any contests?
PH – I’ve taken home several craftsmanship awards, but the last contest I participated in as a contestant was a few years ago.  I’ve since been involved in the administrative aspect, organizing and hosting costume contests in my region.  Because these artists are such an important part of generating buzz for this scene, many cosplay contestants want a cosplayer’s voice amidst the ranks of decision makers at their favorite convention.  Nothing feels worse than being the victim of rules that weren’t built with costumers in mind.  The conventions I’ve worked with have really taken this to heart, and they’ve adapted themselves to better meet the needs of first timers and master artisans alike.

It’s important to remember that many entries in a given contest are just people who wanted to celebrate their favorite characters in front of a large crowd, and not everyone is equipped to deal with draconian rules and procedures.  If I had to say anything to the convention scene at large, I’d tell them to remember that your contestants give up entire portions of their weekend to pay you to put on your programming.  Masquerades are often the highlight of many attendees’ visits, and its important to recognize the forces behind your show.

I have to say, hosting a costume contest may seem glamorous — but it also subjects you to being on stage with no break or margin of error for up to hours at a time!  That said, I hope to be able to do more shows in the future, and am very thankful to the conventions who gave me an opportunity this year to do so.

CBT – What is your best Con memory?
PH – I’ve had a lot of wonderful behind-the-scenes memories from being an exhibitor and a guest at different conventions.  I’ve met famous artists, composers, and fellow costumers whose work continues to amaze me.  But my favorite convention memory came from my chance this year to chat it up with Stan Lee in a wonderful, low-key environment.  Some of the lines we exchanged were priceless, and telling of our similar origin stories.  “Stan, I just have to say that between Spider-Man, Captain America, and you — I couldn’t hope to be from a better class of people.  You made being a scrawny kid from New York cool.”  Stan’s reply?  “I did it all for you!”
CBT – Cosplaying various characters must’ve given you a lot of geek credibility. How would you describe yourself as a geek?
PH – I have the most eraser marks on my character sheet!  I’m very much into gaming, whether it be the classic style that I just eluded to, collectible card games, or the latest console game or M.M.O.R.P.G.!  I’m very much into experiences that are on-going, but that might be because I’m just looking for something new to cosplay!
CBT – Recently, there’s been a lot of turmoil because of the “sexual” component that is being discussed amongst convention organizers that sees many cosplayers getting asked to put some more clothes or turned away because their costumes are to “risque”. How do you feel about the apparent censorship of these costumes?
PH – As an artist, this is always going to instinctively ruffle some feathers.  But I think it’s important to recognize why conventions might be having these discussions with their attendees: venue and audience.  An artist in this situation has to take into account that there’s a difference between expressing yourself and exposing yourself.  There are plenty of ways to subtly adapt a design for a family friendly audience, but think about the consequences of not doing so.  Think of Timmy, a young fan who has begged his parents to go to the local convention because his favorite voice actor is going to be there.  His report card reflects straight A’s and the cleanliness of his room is absolutely stunning.  If a series of femme fatales or macho men waltz by, what are Timmy’s parents going to think?  They may not want to take their child to “that sort of event” anymore.  The things that draw us together are aimed at all kinds of audiences, and as an artist it’s important to know that you have a mixed audience.
CBT – There were a lot of great comics and events that’s been coming out. Have you read any this past year?
PH – Marvel Cross-Over Events always get me to shell out, especially now that things have gone digital!  I think what happened in Avengers vs. X-Men was really daring, and I’m excited to see where the relaunches in Marvel NOW! take us.  There’s also a lot of great comic-themed content that caught my eye this year that isn’t in the form of prints.  Besides Joss Whedon’s ultimate crossover experience, I have a keen interest in Disney’s latest spin on everyone’s favorite wall-crawler: Ultimate Spider-Man!  It is amazing how this show was able to fuse the most obscure Marvel characters with modern storytelling.  If you haven’t taken the time to watch an episode, all I have to say is Disney has managed to bring both Stan Lee and Agent Coulson into the same universe with massive success.
CBT – Cosplayers are vital and very popular at conventions. Is there a network that cosplayers established to assist eachother?
PH – There are lots of great websites that cosplayers can find support on.  Social Media has let us find each other with amazing speed, and I think that’s really opened up the experience for each individual cosplayer.  In the “dark times”, your exposure (both to your target audience and other artists) was limited regionally.  Now, I can swap stories with an increasingly international audience.  That said, since the internet has grown from a small town to a bustling city, I think it’s easy to feel lost in the noise if you’re trying to get people to see what you have to offer.  For that reason, I think Tumblr and DeviantART is a great to share your work not only to those interested in cosplay, but fans of the series in general!  It’s important not to marginalize yourself as a “cosplayer”, because the time and effort put into this trade is just as valuable as two-dimensional and audio-based mediums.
CBT – You’ve hosted panels on costume construction at Conventions. How do you organize the lessons for those who are interested?
PH – I’ve been lucky enough to appear as a guest at different conventions over the years and spread the gospel.  That said, many events offer opportunities to host short seminars on topics they find relevant regardless of where you’re coming from.  Your local conventions rules may vary in how they accept panels, with some topics being reserved for guest speakers they’ve preselected.  But that said, if an artist feels like they have something to impart to the next generation, they should absolutely give it a go.  For my panels, I always try to keep things as organic as possible.  While I know I could ramble on end about vacuforming techniques or how to dye wigs, none of that is going to make an impact on my audience if it doesn’t address concerns they have about costumes they are working on or intend to try out in the near future.Taking questions is important, but asking questions of my listeners is just as vital.  Sometimes it takes a little coaxing to get people to speak up.  I also think it’s important to share secrets, mistakes, and horror stories — If someone leaves your panel thinking “Well, that’s great for him, but I can’t imagine trying that myself” then that’s just as much a pit-trap as avoiding the subjects their interested in.  I also like to do hands-on demonstrations to show people that the materials are accessible, transportable, and malleable without the need for specialized training.  I’ve gotten in the habit of bringing my vacuforming equipment to conventions to melt plastic into shapes before the eyes of hopeful armorers-in-waiting.  I think that sort of “Aha!” moment really imbues them with the positive attitude they’ll need to get their costume done.
CBT – Any advice you would like to offer up and coming cosplayers?
PH – Remember why you are putting your outfit together.  Cosplay has the word “play” in it, but I feel that many people get caught up in the stress and tumult of fabricating costumes for competitions and group projects.  This is a serious art-form, whether you consider it leaning more towards construction or performance, but you’ll produce better work if you’re enjoying yourself.  Stress even has a way of creeping into your pictures, so if you aren’t enjoying yourself in the costume then you’ve given yourself another thing to worry about.  I also think it’s important not to be intimidated by others in your community.  As an artist, I’m not better than one of my fellow cosplayers.  Maybe I’ve spent a little more time on the hobby, or maybe I’ve had better access to certain materials, but everyone has limitless potential and it’s just a matter of time before someone really feels like they’ve lived up to their personal expectations.
CBT – Thank you so much for your time. Anything else you’d like for us to be on the look out for?
PH – As for the future, besides cosplay images, I’m starting to roll out a lot more cosplay-themed content for my YouTube channel.  This includes snippets from the aforementioned Devil May Cry endeavor, remixes I’ve arranged and performed from my favorite source material, and some neat programming with kids in mind as well.  I also have a big announcement coming soon that I am VERY excited about, but can’t talk about until everything has been finalized.  I think that’ll roll out sometime next month, and when it does I’ll make sure to mark the video “BIG ANNOUNCEMENT” so people know exactly what I was holding back on.  And once again, thank you for having me!
>Click Images for Bigger Versions<
Make sure you check out Pharaohmone’s pages below to see more of his cosplays and updates!

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