The weekend of April 9-10th was Optimus Con, held at the UWE Exhibition and Conference centre in Bristol. B and I went along for the day on the Saturday and had a great time. Our original cos-plans for this event had been to give a second airing to our Borderlands Tannis and Salvador costumes, but that was before I got utterly obsessed with working on our Transformers MTMTE-inspired human(ish) Rodimus and Brainstorm cosplay. These only really needed to be finished in time for TFNation, which isn’t until August, but once I started building and sewing these I got so into the project that I just wanted to work until they were done. So I figured I’d set myself an earlier deadline and get a few wears out of them before the Summer’s big robot party. And hey, what’s an event called Optimus without some good old Transformers representation anyway?
I’m going to do a separate “making of” post for each costume over the coming weeks but here’s just a little bit more background before I get going with the convention pics and ponderings. These particular costumes came about as a result two things. 1). Wanting to express my enormous love for the More Than Meets the Eye comics which provide all the character-driven Transformers love a girl could ask for and 2). Wanting a TF costume I could wear all day long and that I wouldn’t need an army of helpers to put on or transport. More humanised costumes don’t have quite the wow factor of the bigger rigs but they do tick the important portability and wearability boxes and as I cosplay mostly for fun, to express my fandom(s) and because I like how much more confident and sociable costumes allow me to feel at events, this seemed like a good trade-off. Having costumes that we could get into ourselves without help also allowed B to cosplay alongside me rather than needing to be my helper which was another mighty plus point.
The costumes themselves are a bit of a hybrid, we’ve got wigs and recognisably human clothing elements: Rodimus is very much built around the red biker jacket, while Brainstorm is all about the lab coat. But at the same time they’re not straight up holomatter avatar designs and the foam/Worbla elements probably make them a little bulkier and more bot-like than many so called “humanised” designs. Basically, I took what I think of as some of the core shapes and features of the character’s robot-mode designs in the comic but incorporated more human elements alongside. I hope they feel true to the characters’ tone and spirit, if not to every detail of their designs. What do you think?
Addaltmode R as Rodimus
Addaltmode B as Brainstorm
We had a blast wearing them anyway. There are, of course, a few tweaks and improvements I want to make before the next outing of this hot-headed (co)captain and the self-proclaimed “ship’s genius” but for a first run I have to say I was pretty pleased, both with the reception we had from fellow con-goers and with the fact that we wore the costumes for about 8 hours straight without too much discomfort (by the end of the day I had a tiny blister on my nose where the shades had been rubbing, that was all) and without repairs being needed!
This was my first experience of Optimus (the con, not the Robot Jesus type figure, I know a little more about him) and it was a very positive one. A few of my friends had attended last year’s Optimus in Torquay so I’d heard good feedback on how well run that event had been and was pleased to find that Bristol maintained the track record. Aside from a few minor quibbles I found this was a very well-organised, warm and friendly-feeling event and the big props are due to the Optimus team for putting together a very fun, safe and inclusive feeling convention with a good mixture of attractions despite some pretty hefty last minute problems with guest signers dropping out.
All guests appear subject to other commitments and and though star line-ups will naturally influence your choice of which events to attend or pass on in any given year, planning a trip solely around the presence of one particular celebrity guest can frequently be a recipe for disappointment. In this case, Optimus had been plugged heavily around the attendance of 3 voice actors from The Last of Us: Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson and Hanna Hayes, but with less than a week to go both Hanna and Ashley had to cancel. I had been looking forward to meeting Ashley myself – not because of her Last of Us connections so much as because I like meeting actors who voice robots and Ashley voices one of my absolute favourite robot characters, not to mention one of the most adorable: Gortys from Tales from the Borderlands. However, stuff happens, life and work commitments can always get in the way especially when guests are travelling from overseas to attend, so although I hope I’ll get the chance to get my Gortys autograph (Gortygraph?) another time, I wasn’t going to let one guest’s non-attendance ruin my day.
The organisers did a great job of running a last minute poll to choose a replacement guest and then bringing in Victoria Atkin (of Assassin’s Creed fame) so I hope other people weren’t too disappointed. I think the cancellations did mean that the queues to meet Troy Baker were even longer than you would expect as he was very much the star attraction guest-wise. As I hadn’t booked a photo-shoot, in the end I didn’t get the chance to meet him, I would have liked to have done – mostly to talk about his work on Tales from the Borderlands (Rhys) and the latest Transformers cartoon (Steeljaw) but again that was OK. You can never do everything at these events. I think I’d probably have been a bit starstruck and incoherent anyway. You can watch his acoustic live set from the event online here and he seems like such a great guy!
Another big voice actor who was there was Sean Schemmel (Goku from Dragon Ball Z). Again it’s not a franchise that means that much to me but it was lovely to see the big smiles on the faces of all the Goku cosplayers and fans who were clearly thrilled to have met their hero. You can get a buzz from those kinds of feel good interactions even in a secondhand way (not to mention recalling how I felt after meeting Sumalee Montanto at Auto Assembly last year!) Awww!
There was quite a good selection of Q&A panels throughout the day; we attended the comic artists one soon after getting in the venue and it was quite funny seeing the look on John-Paul Bove’s face when he spotted two familiar characters in the crowd! We also enjoyed chatting to the artists afterwards picking up a few signed postcards and a comic (artists alley always seems to be where Addaltmode spend most time and money at events like this!)
Optimus also boasted a decent selection of stalls, a retro-gaming zone and some cool static prop displays including famous costumes and set-pieces from, among other franchises, Terminator, Alien and Doctor Who.
Some really talented cosplayers were in attendance. As always we didn’t get photographs of half as many costumes as we admired, but here are a few:
The Cosplay competition itself was fun and produced a very worthy winner. I’m afraid I don’t know who was the overall champion of the weekend but on the Saturday 1st place went to the best TF2 Engineer I’ve seen. Collingwood Contraptions was not only suitably garishly hatted (a must for TF2 costumes in my opinion), he even had a moving mini-sentry and a dispenser, now that’s impressive! Even though going up on stage terrifies me I was glad to be a part of the competition, my only criticism of this event was its timing: 17.00, right at the end of the day. By this time I’d been on my feet and in costume all day and was pretty tired, plus a few of the other costume folk who I’d been hoping to see at the competition seemed to have left by that point, so it might have been nice if we could have had the competition a little earlier in the day – though I guess from another perpective it was kind of a nice way to round things off.
There were also some car displays outside, including Lightning McQueen, KITT, our pal Barricade (Mustang Hire Southwest) and various shades of Batmobile. You know those car-park announcements you always get a shows, “would the owner of the blue Nissan please report to reception blah-de-blah” it would make my day at an event like this to hear “would the owner of the black Batmobile please report to reception” as the cue for a rush of Batmen (Batmans?) heading for the door!
All in all, then, this was a really fun day out that managed not to be marred by guest non-attendance. The UWE Exhibition and Conference centre was also a great convention venue: there were plenty of time-out spaces and despite what seemed like a good turn out there was nearly always somewhere to sit down. For an exhibition centre of this nature the food and drink wasn’t *too* criminally over-priced either.
Yup, this convention has earned itself a Rodimus star, and we’ll definitely look forward to attending future events from this team of organisers. I’d love it if they could succeed in securing Ashley Johnson’s attendance next time but I’m sure we’ll look forward to going along either way!
* Bots that really shouldn’t be allowed coffee, part 1: Rodimus