Friday, November 4, 2011

Encounter at Dragon*Con

So we’re picking up the story on Day 1 of Dragon*Con. If you don’t know how we got here, and care about the space-time continuum, go back and read Part 1. In the words of River Song: Spoilers!

For those who are just joining us now, and did not heed my words of warning, I am running on empty after an all-nighter and several preceding days of four hours of sleep a night, but the Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher Cosplay is done, and it’s accurate, down to the details.

The first day of the con, I’m exhausted, but also excited. I’ve never been to Dragon*Con, and I’ve never really met a celebrity, or even been in the same room with one.1 For the last few weeks, I’ve been getting really nervous about the concept of meeting Wil. I’m not used to caring what other people think, much less a famous person. But this is different. I’m about to meet Wil Wheaton, King of the Nerds. The lack of sleep is messing with my head, and I start to worry.

So to ease into this whole new celebrity experience, I decide to go to the Guild panel, but not in costume. Wil is actually more awesome in person, if that’s even possible.2 So I’m feeling better, but still nervous. I find out that Wil’s done a blog post with his schedule. I’m excited to see that he’s got such a large chuck of time today in the Walk of Fame, where you can get autographs, and he’s even doing pictures. But then I read his comment about his Wesley Crusher panel, and my heart sinks. I was really looking forward to that panel. I start to over-think things, and worry that Wil might not be as excited about my costume as I am. Oh, did I mention that sleep deprivation makes me crazy?

So I’m even more terrified now, but I decide to go to Wil’s signings anyways. I finish hemming my cuffs and put on my layers of padding and shaping and attempted my cross-gender makeup.3 After finishing up my transformation, I zip up my spacesuit and walk to the convention with my friend. I’m not getting any recognition as I walk to the convention, and it isn’t making me feel any better about the situation. No one even comments on my costume when I finally make it to the Wil Wheaton autograph line. Which is really long. So long, that we have to go and wait outside as they take in smaller groups.

So after about 45 minutes, we finally move into the main line that is inside the Walk of Fame with Wil. Since I’m so short, Wil has no chance of seeing me early. I can barely see him myself. I don’t know how he’s going to react, and I don’t know what to say to him. Finally, the couple in front of me walks away, and I walk up to the table.

Wil: "hi"
Megan: "hi"

And then I see it hit him. His eyes go really big.

I’m barely able to contain my excitement.

Wil: "OMG YOU'RE WESLEY F###ING CRUSHER!!! OMG, OMG, dude, you’re amazing! this is amazing!!"

As I back up and show it off, Wil is just saying “OMG, OMG this is amazing” over and over again, and I can see him register each detail in turn. If anyone knows what this costume is supposed to look like, it’s him. I’ve done all the weird seaming and stitching. That stupid giant arrow pointing to my crotch, the weird waist flaps, the piping and sweater section on the shoulders, the silver communicator, it’s all there.

Wil: “Wow, this is amazing, this is so amazing!! I have to get a picture of this, my wife will never believe it! You've even got the Mother F###ing bouffant!!”

I didn’t know this was his pose until I saw this picture.

Wil walks around the table, and comes to stand next to me. I put down all my stuff and try and look as Wesley as possible. My friend is snapping photos as fast as he can, and fortunately, Wil's assistant person is having trouble with Wil’s smartphone, leading to us having more time for more pictures. I was just trying to focus on being as professional as possible and not touch Wil.4

Back to me freaking out.

He comes back around and sits down again.

Megan: “I've been staring at pictures of you for the last three months, trying to get all the details right. I even brought an iPad as a prop.”
Wil: “Of course you did!”

I think the whole iPad as a PADD is hilarious, and I’m glad that Wil agrees.

Wil: “Now is this the most uncomfortable thing you’ve ever worn?”

I dance around a bit verbally, cause as I explained in Part 1, it was, and I fixed it, and I know that “yes” is the right answer, and I don’t know how long I’ll have to explain what and why I did. Is there a timer somewhere? Is something going to buzz and I’m going to have overstayed my welcome? So I condense down my explanation to "kinda”.

Wil exclaims "Then it's accurate!"

I hand him my Wesley crusher action figured that I found at the Fanime swap meet for $1, I only bought this because I figured I had to bring something for him to sign. Again, I wasn’t sure how these celebrity things worked. I had to find something as I didn’t exactly have a lot of trek merchandise.5

Who’s the coolest nerd now, Sheldon.

Megan: “So I brought this for you to sign, but just for the lolz."
Wil: "Sure, what's your name?"
Megan: "Megan. And I was also wondering if I could get one of these," I say, pointing to the pictures of him as Wesley in the very uniform I'm wearing. This seemed to be a much more pertinent thing for him to sign.
Wil: "Of course!"

It's offical.
I'm Amazing!

Megan: “I’ve been really nervous about seeing you...”
Wil: "Why? You've done something amazing!"
Megan: “Well, I tend to psych myself out a lot...”
Wil: "Look, I've been doing this for 23 years and I've never seen anything like this. You're the first, and you're the best. You are amazing."6

I just keep saying thank you, cause I don't know what else to say. I settle on confirming the photo op later. I want a nice photo with Wil.

Megan: “Now you’re doing photos later today, correct?”
Wil: “Yeah, I am, are you coming?” He asks, genuinely excited by the thought.
Megan: “Yes”
Wil: “Awesome, I'm making Froggie give me one."7
Megan: “Ok, then I’ll see you later.”

That meeting couldn’t have gone any better. He went completely crazy over me. All the tired-crazy is gone, and replaced with what-in-the-world-just-happened-crazy.

I go over to the Star Trek panel, and my friend takes a few photos of me next to the TARDIS, claiming this would probably fulfill someone's fan fiction desires, and I think it’s kinda funny, so I go with it.

Maybe Wesley is a Time Lord. He did run off with the Traveler.

I’m not in the trek panel for very long, I had to leave early for photos, and I need to play the line game before I’ll actually get to the part where I get my picture with Wil.8 In some of these lines, I’m actually getting recognized. Maybe it’s cause I’m still riding high off my encounter of less than an hour ago, and my happy smugness is making me look more Wesley-ish. After finally ending up in the line for just Wil Wheaton pictures, they start sending us through like a conveyor belt. As I approach, Wil's face lights up again, and pointing excitedly at me, he exclaims to the photographer, "See! I told you!!" I’m so glad he’s so happy to see me again. We both stand and look stoic for the camera.

I love this picture of him. He looks so smug and regal and happy all at the same time. I couldn’t ask for a better picture.

Then the photographer said "Now Wil step out". I was confused, but just stood there, looking as Wesley as I could. The camera man then took a picture of JUST me. As it was happening, my brain was trying to piece together what had just happened. Wil had talked to the photographer before, and told him that when I arrived, he wanted a picture of just me. Wil Wheaton, WIL WHEATON, asked a professional photographer for a picture of me….. of ME!!!!!! Now if that doesn’t make you feel special, I don’t know what wil, I mean will.

I walked around the rest of the day with a few looks of recognition, only one or two picture requests, and few to no comments. One person remarked “Oh, you’re Wesley, well, at least I liked you when you were on TV.” Honestly, I think the assumed hatred of Wesley is so pervasive that it even dampened the reception of my costume. I think I’ve started to really understand why Wil doesn’t like talking about Wesley. It was so long ago, and there’s so much negative energy around the character that it’s just really not fun to deal with. So I may not have had the kind of reactions from fellow con goers that I've grown used to,9 but Wil Wheaton went completely crazy over me, and honestly, that's the best thing that could have ever happened.


It's even better signed.

As you can see, Wil was nice enough to put up with me a second time, and sign my picture of us for me. I tried to take the opportunity to try explain away some of my crazy, saying I’d been nervous because I was unsure of how he would receive me focusing on Wesley, especially since he had that negative encounter when he arrived. To which Wil said, “You know, there’s a difference between people being a d*ck about it, and celebrating Wesley.”, and I agreed. I gave him my costuming business card. He apparently checked out my Deviant Art page that night, and told me so when I asked a question the next day in his Wesley Crusher panel. I know he was even more exhausted than I was, so it really means a lot to me that he took the time to check it out while still at the con.

So Wil, if you are reading this, you totally made my convention. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me. Your panels were awesome and hilarious, and I loved hearing about your process as an actor. Your reaction on Friday was truly more than I could have ever hoped. I won the Wil Wheaton Award of Amazing, and that’s the best award I've ever received.

1 Ok, that’s not quite true. I met Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, the voice of Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell, and Richard Epcar, the voice of Batou, but they were at this tiny con of like 300 people, and it was just a much more intimate and less intimidating setting. Also, I met Bob Ballard when I was about 14 when we took him to the airport after he’d given at talk at the university my parents work at, but I was too young to really know what to say. What do you mean you don’t know who Bob Ballard is? He discovered the mid-Atlantic vents and dozens of new species of plants and animals that use a method other than photosynthesis to survive. Also, he found the Titanic.
2 Also, Amy is super nice and a bit shy, which is hilarious to me, considering she plays Tink. Robin is like a more reasonable version of Clara, which is also awesome. Amy, Robin, if you are reading this, this is what I wanted to say to you guys in the Guild Autograph Line, but it was the end of the con, and I was exhausted, and I just forgot everything I was going to say once I got to the front of the line. Sorry.
3 I rarely wear makeup, so doing makeup for my costumes is not something I’m very good at yet.
4 Wil doesn’t touch people at cons because he doesn’t want to get sick, which I totally respect, despite my overwhelming desire to hug the living daylights out of him.
5 After the recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, having this action figure seems much more pertinent as a fan of Wil Wheaton.
6 This was the most important thing he said to me. For him to say he’d never seen anything like this before, and that he was totally blown away was more than I could have ever hoped for. I still remember the genuine tone of his voice when he said this.
7 Froggie is the name of the photographer, apparently.
8 If you’ve never been to a con, there are a lot of lines.
9 I've made some pretty impressive costumes, and yes, it can go to your head.

All Good Things... Must Come From Somewhere

You do care about me! I knew you were cool.

So, the first step once you’ve picked a costume is research. Massive amounts of research.1 If you don’t, you might miss a vital detail. For instance, if you decided to cosplay the 10th Doctor from Doctor Who, you’d need to make sure you are aware of the color of his pocket welts, which for the record, are orange. And if you don’t have orange pocket welts, WELL, you might as well leave that sonic screwdriver at home, because you, my friend, are not the Doctor! In this instance, I am meeting Wil Wheaton. Even though Star Trek was twenty years ago, I’m sure it has been so completely burned into his brain,2 he might actually remember this costume enough to know if I did it right. And the only person I really care about liking this is Wil. Oh, and me, I care if I like it. Oh and everyone else, they should like it too.

So even though this is a pretty simple jumpsuit, I want to make sure I do it right. So I ask The Google for some pictures. After combing through the stack of headshots and an assortment of mildly-related images, I finally find a useful reference for Wesley:

Official picture of listing at Christie’s Auction House.
I should have just spend the two grand and saved myself the headache.
(Yes, I know, it wouldn’t fit me. Shut up.)

So you probably see a grey jumpsuit.

Let me show you what I saw:

Through the Eyes of a Costumer the name of my David Bowie coverband.

Wesley, what is up with your pants?! Why is there a giant arrow pointing to your crotch? That’s not a fly, I know what a fly looks like, and that is not a fly. That is the most unimportant and incredibly awkward stitching that I have ever seen. Seriously, what is the point of that stitching!?!

Unfortunately, there’s not an accompanying back shot. And I need to see the back now. If this is what the front is like, what in the world does the back have in store for me?! We’re going to need to crack open the DVDs for this. Season two is where he gets the jumpsuit, so if we just skip through a few episodes we might find something useful. Ok Wes, stop driving the ship and turn around so I can see your butt.... I mean waistband.

And I though the front was confusing...

…This is worse that I imagined. What are those flaps?? Your Mother lets you out of your room in that thing? Oh wait, she wasn’t around? Did someone tell you this spacesuit was cool? It’s not cool. Bow-ties are cool. This is the weirdest space suit ever. Seriously, this was supposed to be easy! What happened to "just a grey jumpsuit"? I’ve now got a suit with a not-a-fly and the most confusing looking waistband of all time. Not to mention all the inexplicable sweater knit, that is apparently in the cuffs as well as the collar and shoulders.

Don’t Panic. This probably isn’t as hard as it looks. Surely, I’m not the first one to make a highly accurate Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher costume. Someone has always done the hard work for you when you are doing a costume this old. Or not. Internet, you fail me.....

Maybe the Star Trek uniform forums have something that might help me. Nope. Apparently, since Wes doesn’t stick out enough as the only child allowed to run around on the bridge, they’ve got to stuff him in the only monochromatic jumpsuit ever designed for Star Fleet. It’s not even close to the other uniforms. No color blocking, none of the same seam lines. I mean, he doesn’t even get a standard com badge!

Even his communicator is monochromatic.
WHY is EVERYTHING different!?!?

I continue to scour the Internet for any information about the suit. Wil Wheaton blogs a lot and has talked about his time on Star Trek, so maybe he talks about his costumes some. The only story I can find that included mention of his space suit is the story of when he met William Shatner. All I really glean from this is that it’s a very uncomfortable jumpsuit, and he and all the main TNG cast members had to wear muscle suits. Well, that explains Wil’s perfectly smoothed torso, and it gives me yet another thing that I probably have to do to make the costume look right.

I’m at the end of my rope here, so in an effort to gain as much information as I can, I even contact the original costume designer for the second season of TNG.3 She actually responds, but refers me to the person who was actually responsible for creating the costume. He never gets back to me. Not that I blame him. I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone much about a project I did twenty-three years ago.4

So I’m back to gathering stills from the DVDs. The additional images aren’t really helping me. If anything, they are adding to my confusion. I have no idea how the top of the waistband is connected, or not connected, to the rest of the suit. I mean, the side seam doesn’t line up. And it moves...

That side seam so doesn’t line up, which means it’s not connected.
Which means the top is held on by magic.

I’m starting to think that a spacial anomaly has taken up residence around Wes’s waist. It’s as reasonable an explanation as any. So I just have the waistband connect to the suit on the bottom, leaving the top open like a flap, or pocket. I still have no idea if this is even close to right.

Nepoleon or gangster. You decide.

Meanwhile, I’m also trying to figure out Wesley’s hair. I'm all about accuracy, but I’m not cutting my hair. Especially into whatever that style is. So I’m stuck with a wig. For a short style, this is a terrible option, but it’s the only one I have. So I get a men side part styled wig. Now, your average person would just take this, mousse it into position, and call it good. But I’m a crazy person, so I spend twenty hours ripping out and replacing the hairline with a lacefront, and adding in some more wefts to give it more body. This is to make it look more realistic, or at least more like what Wil’s got glued to his head. Once I make it to Atlanta, I douse it in wig mousse, to give it that shiny, helmet-y look and feel. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the awkwardness of a short styled wig gives the wig away within the first two seconds of looking at me, but you can’t say I didn’t try.

Why am I spending so much time trying to make this look more realistic?
I’m pretty sure this hairstyle defies the laws of physics.

To finish off my accessories, I grab some grey ugg-like boots from Ebay. There are really aren’t any good shots of the shoes on Star Trek,5 so I just get something that looks close. The communicator prop from is great, but I have to repaint the gold circle with Testor’s silver model paint. Because as I've mentioned before, Everything about this costume is apparenlty unique...6 To finish off my look, I ask my friend to loan me his iPad as a PADD. It’s not the same shape, but that’s about the only difference. That and you can’t use an iPad to drive a space ship. Actually, there’s probably an app for that.

Now that I’ve got the wig, boots and badge, it’s time to finish the suit. This is actually a fairly tight fitting jumpsuit, but I am not boy-shaped. So I need to make a padded under-suit to fool people into thinking I am.7 Also, Wil did wear a muscle suit, so I should probably try and emulate that somewhat. I’ve already got a pretty good chest binder that turns my chest from female to buff-looking male, but I also really need to fill in my waist to try and get rid of my girly hips. After a couple hours with my body suit patterns, some quilting batting and stretch polyester lining, and I’ve got a more boy-shape. Or a boy-that-was-forced-to-wear-a-muscle-suit-shape.

Now that all my base layers are in place, I’m ready for my first mock up. I draft it off of numerous old patterns, and then cut and sew it up quickly and try it on. Even without a zipper, this is very uncomfortable. I can’t believe it, Wil was totally right. This is the most uncomforatble thing I've ever worn. Well, I’m my own costumer, so I’m fixing this. Accuracy, smaccuracy, I don’t need to give Wil sympathy pain for a role he played 20 years ago.8

So work, work, work. Pattern, pattern, pattern. Sew, Sew, Sew. Only 36 hours to go, and I’ve still got to go to work the next day. After a bleary day of coding, I come home on Wednesday and pull an all-nighter. And by the end, Wes is nearly done, and he looks pretty awesome. I even take a break to throw a zipper in my companion cube so I can finally take him to a con.9 Come Thursday morning, I stagger out the door with my four bags full of costumes that probably weigh more than I do. After I finally get some sleep on the plane and make it safely to the hotel, I spend a few more hours sewing up the neckline, leaving just the sleeves and the pants for the next day. Fact: 98% of costumes are completed in hotel rooms. The other 2% are completed by costume gnomes while you sleep.

Continued in Part 2 - Encounter at Dragon*Con

1 Note: This only actually applies if you are a crazy-insane costumer, or if you want the company and respect of crazy-insane costumers.
2 Both from the awesomeness and having to answer questions about it for those twenty years.
3 You might wonder why I didn’t contact Wil about this. Well, I wanted it to be a surprise, and I couldn’t come up with a way to ask about the suit in detail without tipping him off.
4 Twenty three years is over half a career ago for most, and nearly a whole lifetime ago for me.
5 Probably cause they couldn’t figure out something futuristic to do to them.
6 Maybe they were trying to remind Wesley that he's not a real officer.
7 Not that kind of padding...
8 I added a dance sleeve that had a build in gusset, and lengthened the torso. A gusset is an extra piece of fabric added to areas, usually under sleeves to allow for more movement, especially in... oh who am I kidding, no one is reading this footnote.
9 I made a custom inflatable balloon to put inside the companion cube. I just needed put a zipper in so that I could easily open and close him up in order to inflate and deflate the balloon. Unfortunately, the balloon still has some holes in it, but it held air long enough for me to hang out for a while at Dragon*Con in Chell & Cube cosplay for the first time.

Meeting Wil Wheaton

This is the story about how Wil Wheaton completely flipped out. And it was amazing.

How did this happen? Well, in a freak time-fiction accident, Wesley Crusher was ripped from his post on the Starship Enterprise and showed up at Dragon*Con 2011. And by that I mean I spent three months carefully constructing the best Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher cosplay ever made, and then went to Dragon*Con to meet Wil Wheaton.

Why in the world did I choose to cosplay a character from twenty years ago that half the Trekkies hate, and that Wil Wheaton himself has confessed he doesn't always care for?1 Well, I love Wesley, I love Wil Wheaton, I love costuming, and my friend was throwing a Star Trek:TNG viewing and costume party2, and I didn’t think that I fit any of the other Star Trek characters very well. Did I mention I love Wil Wheaton?3

So why Acting Ensign and not the Rainbow Sweater?

I hate the rainbow sweater.

Not even Nyan Cat can make this sweater tolerable.

Besides, the Acting Ensign uniform is very iconicly Wesley. He’s the only one that "gets" to wear such a unique uniform. And since I don’t have the body of a sixteen year old boy, if I did Ensign Wesley Crusher in his Starfleet uniform, I’d just end up looking like a gender-confused ensign with really bad hair. And, It’s just a grey jumpsuit, that’s not going to be hard, right?4

So this is a two part story. If you want to find out about all the work I had to go through to make an acurate Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher uniform, and how difficult that actually was, you should start with Part 1. If you don’t care about me, or my hard work, and you just want to hear about Wil Wheaton, just skip to the end, and go to Part 2.

Part 1 - All Good Things... Must Come from Somewhere

Part 2 - Encounter at Dragon*Con

1 Some would say he hates Wesley. I think "It’s Complicated" might be more accurate.
2 Fun fact: This party still hasn’t happened yet. So far, it’s been all talk, and no dice.
3 And by love I mean revere and respect from an appropriate fan distance.
4 Spoilers: I was wrong...