An Interview with 3 Mischievous Masqueraders from SDCC 2019!

The true magic of San Diego Comic Con lies not in the robust display of fabulous product, but rather in the intrepid hearts of the attendees. There is truly no better experience than the camaraderie that comes with fandoms, a feeling the mourners of the Court of the Dead are no stranger to! This year at SDCC 2019, four cosplayers worked together and graced us with their brilliant renditions of Drim Dram, Malavestros, and Kier, bringing the magic and ferocity of the Underworld to life. We were able to peek behind the mystical curtain with a plethora of pictures and interview the group to get a greater understanding of what goes in to cosplaying.

1. How did you learn about Court of the Dead?

Velma: I came across the booth at SDCC 2018 and immediately took interest & knew I needed to create from this world. I didn’t even really understand what The Court of the Dead was at the time that I decided I was going to cosplay Malavestros, other than cool statues! And now I’ve now got a long list of characters I want to do from CotD specifically

Christian: I learned about Court of the Dead through Velma! She went to San Diego Comic Con last year, and when she came back she basically said something along the lines of “I just saw the creepiest and most detailed statues I’ve ever seen, and we’re going to do cosplays for them!”

Ainsley: From quite a few cosplay friends

Elle: When Velma showed me her copy of the Chronicle of the Underworld at a picnic

2. What draws you into the Underworld?

Velma: The haunting beauty and grotesque gorgeousness of the intricate details/character design are absolutely stunning – but these were even more enhanced upon learning of the backstory. I like that it’s original, it’s a different perspective than one might expect, and the story is always twisting and turning and interwoven into about 50 other stories. There’s always more to explore and I love it. Rise, Conquer, RULE!

Christian: There are too many different worlds in existence. The Underworld is so refreshing because it’s not all about good and evil, and it’s not all about being pretty and fulfilling. It’s such a different world from anything else I’ve gotten into that I find myself more excited about it than pretty much anything else!

Ainsley: I absolutely love gothic-styled art and have a fascination with Mortitionary science

Elle: It’s a beautiful, mysterious place – a lot to explore and absorb!

3. Which Faction are you?

Velma: Flesh, hands down

Christian: This is a tough one. I think I have to say Flesh, because it focuses the most on what I would consider ‘expedient solutions’. They act and get things done, and if they discover something isn’t working, it doesn’t take much for them to change their tactics

Ainsley: Spirit

Elle: If I were to pick a personal faction, it would be Bone.

4. Who’s your favorite COTD character?

Velma: So far, Malavestros. Is he insane? Or is he a hidden puppeteer of the Underworld? What’s his real story? What’s his true purpose? You never know what’s going on for him and I think there’s a depth to this character that’s really intriguing

Christian: Kier…. Honestly aesthetics aside, she’s got the most powerful drive and will to such a point that no one else has. She was literally cast out to nothing, but her will is so strong that death himself reached out to her. She threw herself at his tasks with such vigor that she became the person she is now; one of the most powerful beings in the underworld.

Ainsley: Mortighull the Reaper Captain

Elle: Xiall

5. How long did it take to create your costumes?

Velma: We did head casts in Oct 2018, and then I began working on Malavestros starting in November. In the spring, I also added on & helped with the Kier & Drim Dram costumes, and we were working all the way up to the event in July! So.. all three costumes together, it was kind of a 9 month baby!

Christian: About 6 months or so. But in that time we had a LOT of 4:00 AM mornings…. But it was a lot of fun and I learned a TON of things doing it!

Ainsley: I came on at the end when Elle was no longer able to participate on-stage, but it was a whirlwind of a week, staying up until all hours of the night casting and fabricating final details all together

Elle: 3 weeks – I made the corset & belt for Drim Dram before I found out I would not be able to attend SDCC

6. How did you learn to create these costumes?

Velma: I’ve spent the last 5 years almost constantly learning new skills and techniques (some work, some don’t), developing the craft and gaining experience. So while I had a healthy base to get started from, the new skills acquired for this project came from research (especially through haunted house techniques with some of it), character studies, and reaching out to people who had attempted something similar. A couple methods were just jumping off a cliff hoping something would work! (Luckily, it did!)

Christian: Honestly I’m the least experienced one in the group. I have a bit of knowledge about a lot of general stuff, and I’m comfortable with many different materials and techniques, but I’ve never really applied any of it to Cosplay. If it hadn’t been for the other members helping me and giving me so much advice and guidance, there is no way I’d of finished it – definitely a crash course in cosplay!

Ainsley: I’ve been crafting/cosplaying for some time on my own, but the skills I put towards these costumes were particularly honed within the last 4-6 months working alongside industry professionals for a creative studio

Elle: By scouring the internet for reference images of Drim Dram, then finding patterns that would work best for the costume and applying any modifications needed.

7. What materials do you use?

Velma: A bit of everything really. For my costume: leather, pleathers, 5 different types of fabric, bells, apoxy sculpt, clay/silicone moulds/resin casts, potters clay/latex, sheet plastic, lighting effects, plastic mixed with flour, metal studs, rivets & bits, boatloads of paint, and dentistry teeth.

Christian: We used a LOT of different things – my costume alone uses leather, scale maille, thermoplastics, sheet plastics, pieces carved in clay/silicone molded/cast with resin, fabrics, and then a bunch of other little things! Almost every piece required different techniques and materials to get the desired effects

Ainsley: For the parts I made, semi-rigid resins, fabrics, metals, gem casting with pearlescent sheens, and thermoplastics

Elle: For the corset, I used a lightweight, soft linen fabric in an ivory shade, fusible interfacing, silver grommets, heavy duty plastic boning, embroidery floss, and the FireFly Path Moonpetal pattern (modified) for the corset. For the belt, I used a faux leather that was malleable, pipe cleaners, heavy-duty interfacing for the stiffness, a plastic Halloween skull – cut in half, silver grommets, leather antiquer in brown (for the weathering), and loads of super glue. The spine vertebrae for the back of the belt were 3d printed, sanded and then covered with fiberglass resin before attaching them to the belt & forming the leather around them

8. Do you document the process? If so, can we share pictures?

All: Yes, and yes! And if anyone is interested about any particular pieces or the build in general, please feel free to reach out to us! We love to talk shop with fellow makers

9. What is your favorite detail of your costume?

Velma: I really truly love the sculpted hip tassets (which is hilarious because the outer cloak covers them most of the time)

Christian: This is kind of a hard question; I take a lot of pride in the skull itself, because I have NEVER done any kind of carving or sculpting of any kind in my life. So It’s kind of special to me to know that I actually can do something like that! On the other hand I really like my leather chestplate because I think it’s a totally unique design and pattern that doesn’t exist anywhere else – If you look at it closely, ALL of the components on Kier’s metal chestplate are featured there! So many people think that it’s metal too instead of leather; It was really fun to design.

Ainsley: The eye gems I wear on my forehead – they were cast with an iridescent pigment that makes them look like they have cataracts

Elle: The front of the belt. I like how it came out even though I did have a coloring problem halfway through. I just like that you can see the details and that it looks fleshy; something I was striving for with the end result.

10. What was the most difficult part of your costume to create?

Velma: Well, so I figured out DURING this project that I knew how to sculpt, which changed how we approached a lot of the pieces. Due to con crunch however, I didn’t have enough time to properly teach myself how to cast and so that was the most difficult part for me. Thank the gods for Ainsley stepping in at the last minute – she’s done it professionally and was able to save our butts and teach us all at the same time!

Christian: EVERYTHING was hard, and nothing was as simple as I’d originally thought it would be! Honestly though, I think the fabric bits were the most intimidating for me. I have no idea how to sew, and if it wasn’t for Velma’s instruction, I probably would have spent more time on that alone!

Ainsley: I helped our Kier in our group with sculpting part of his armor and casting the shoulder pauldrons that Velma had difficulty with, and that was a bit of a challenge

Elle: Gluing the pieces for the belt. I had to go through three different types of super glue and spray adhesives for it to finally start working. The other difficult part was the back of the entire costume. There were no images for reference of Drim Dram’s back and so I had to “flesh” out the whole design of that myself!

11. When you cosplay, how do you get into the mindset of the character?

Velma: It’s different for every character, though it is difficult for me to become things that I am not, unless they are extremes – like really goofy or really insane/evil or beasties or cold, silent types. I think a lot of it comes down to studying their movements or intonations (depending on the medium available), and understanding what moves them, their back stories, etc. and practice, practice, practice! Feeding off of people’s reactions is incredibly helpful as well.

Christian: I find the more I feel like my costume looks good, fits the part, and impresses people, the easier it is to become them. If I don’t feel totally confident in my costume, it’s really hard to get into any type of character, because it just feels like I’m playing dress up rather than anything artistic or meaningful. After seeing people’s reactions walking around in this costume, it made me feel a lot more comfortable; I had a LOT of reservations at first, particularly with the fact that I was doing a genderbend of one of the most well-known characters in the Underworld!

Ainsley: I am a bit shy in public so I tend to do characters that are very stoic and quiet

Elle: I’ll be honest, I don’t. I don’t know how to act in the slightest, so for me to try to emulate any character would come off as trying too hard. Unless, I’ve created the character myself (I am a writer as well), it would be extremely difficult to try to get into a mindset of a character that I already know well. Such as their backstory, their personality, etc.

12. What do you hope comes next to the COTD?

Velma: The introduction to even more characters! The world is filled to the brim and everyone’s got a story. In particular, I’m looking forward to learning more about Wightshiv and what secrets he may hold – seeing more fleshed out concepts of him bit by bit is exciting!

Christian: I’m actually really curious to see more happen with Heaven. It kind of fascinates me to think of ‘Heaven’ to where it’s not actually perfect; even if it thinks it is. I think it could lead to some really interesting characters; including characters that we’d see as being extremely moral and good that heaven may think are borderline heretics because of the things they do for people. It’s just a super fascinating concept and really awesome!

Ainsley: An animated series would be amazing. I’d love to see all these characters move and come to life in all their detailed glory

Elle: A sculpture of Drim Dram and overall more of an inside look into who she is.

13. What’s your next cosplay?

Velma: The next Court of the Dead costume I want to tackle is Poxxil, but before that I want to do either a suit of armor (want to get more proficient with metal work), a personal take on the duo from Labyrinth, or a Star Wars Mandalorian – still on the fence about which to dive into next! I’ll move into at least one of those projects this fall 🙂

Christian: Honestly I’m not sure. I’m leaning towards doing another character from COTD, but I’m not sure who that would be just yet. I really like the more eerie characters because I feel like they have a greater presence in crowds. Whatever I do though, I want to take a lot more time than we did this time, and I want to do everything to a point where I can feel like it’s absolute perfection. But of course, all that depends on time and money so we’ll have to see!

Ainsley: Jackie from CyberPunk 2077

Elle: I have several on the table right now. The two biggest ones I’m hoping to be ready by next year are Sailor Moon (in a complete traditional samurai style) and a Monster Hunter cosplay that is still in the first stages of fleshing the concept out.

The Court extends its most sincere thank you to this impeccable team of future etheriasti! We could not be more honored to have been selected for such a tremendous display of artistry. Be sure to look at their social media, and stay up to date on our Instagram for more COTD cosplay and all of your favorite characters!

Costuming pages:

Velma Rippstein
Instagram: @velmaripp
Facebook: VelmaRipp Costuming

Christian Little
Instagram: @christianlittlecosplay

Ainsley Bircher
Instagram: @pigtailspower
Facebook: Pigtails and Power Tools Cosplay Creations

Elle Larson
Instagram: @elle.genesis