Star Wars

With the upcoming release of the latest Star Wars movie, yes, I confess that I am a Star Wars fan and have been for as long as I can remember.

I grew up on the bickering of C3-PO and R2-D2 and the clashes of sparkling lightsabers and I never knew a world without them. But behind all that, is the ages old battle of good versus evil, but also with redemption of evil and rogues with hearts of gold. But it’s that triumph of heroes over villains that makes me watch it over and over. Not to mention the original story, new experiences, imaginative creatures, and exotic vistas. I even accepted the underperforming prequels considering they did still have characters to look up to, like courageous Padme who was more than just her office of Queen.

Admittedly though, I didn’t care much for Force Awakens. I keep trying to put a finger on why, since it wasn’t the performance by Daisy Ridley who has now become a hero for a new generation of girls. And it wasn’t the exotic locales with the desert planet very reminiscent of Tatooine, or the impressive ship interiors, as well as the return of the iconic Millennium Falcon and Han and Leia, and the remote end location.

Yes, the villain who threw temper tantrums like a 5-year-old was extremely hard to take seriously and not itch to make him do a time out in a corner, but I think the largest issue I had with it was originality in the plotline. So much of it felt like a retread of the very first Star Wars movie, so much that I started to wonder if they were aiming for a remake rather than a new story. Which brings me around to the upcoming new movie.

If Force Awakens was a retread of New Hope, I worry the new movie will be a retread of Empire Strikes Back. From the previews I know there will be an extended Jedi powers training session with Rey standing in for Luke and Luke standing in for Yoda. Makes me wonder just how much else will be copied. Will there be a scene on the run with Rey hiding out in a field of asteroids?

And will there be a showdown at Cloud City with Rey and Kylo where one loses a hand and a reveal of the relationship between them will be made? (I really doubt he’ll say that he’s her father, though brother is likely. It’s amazing all the bets that are being made over Rey’s parentage. I’m still hoping for her being a Kenobi rather than trying to turn them into Jacen and Jaina from the books instead of the writers coming up with their own original ideas).

Still, all of my quibbles won’t stop me from running to the theaters to see blinding lightsaber duels on a gigantic screen, and visiting new worlds, while the iconic theme of Star Wars blasts, heralding another out of this world experience.

Gypsy Madden is an author and costume designer, living and writing in the Rainbow State, Hawaii. She is the author of Hired by a Demon.

Being Jack Sparrow, by Gypsy Madden

picture credit to Zarli Winn
picture credit to Zarli Winn
Sometime after the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, one of my fellow cosplay friends was coming to Hawaii for a vacation and she wanted to get pics with her Elizabeth Swan outfit since they filmed part of the movie out here. I was struggling with finding a character, so she suggested I cosplay Will Turner to accompany her. What you have to understand is that I am secure in my sexuality and look at being characters as a tribute to how much I am a fan of the character, so I am secure in cosplaying either female of male without it threatening my own sexuality (so many people will only cosplay their own sex. And if they do the other sex, it’s strictly as a genderbent or rather the character done to obviously look like the other sex). My only worry is if I can pull off the look okay for being a suitable tribute to the character. Suffice to say, I pulled off a passable Will Turner and had fun getting some really awesome pics.

picture credit to Gypsy Madden
picture credit to Gypsy Madden
When commercials for Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides started playing on TV, it made me wonder if I could pull off the Jack Sparrow look. So, there was me, late on a Saturday night, playing with a tin of black eye shadow, brushing it on in all the places where Jack would have eye shadow, mascara, or facial hair. It looked awesome enough to spur on the idea of creating a full Jack Sparrow costume. Luckily since the movie was coming soon, there were plenty of costume items in the stores like straight off I was able to find all four of his replica rings and Elizabeth’s pirate medallion at Claire’s. I picked up one generic plastic pirate pistol from the local Party City. Admittedly, I had a long search online for the perfect Jack Sparrow wig, but I managed to find a perfect one at along with the Jack Sparrow bandana, wooden pistol, plastic sword, a mustache kit (which I had to majorly trim down since it was adult size and I’m rather small), and an accessory kit which included a plastic version of the compass.

picture credit to Tom Quach
picture credit to Tom Quach
I added some basic black boots and the pants are just pants I picked up from Rosses Dress for Less which I actually bought for, and hemmed Capri-style, for a Hobbit costume I had put together several years earlier. I had to make the shirt from scratch via a Simplicity pattern as well as the vest. I hunted through all of the local stores and online with no luck on finding the right print fabric for the vest, so I ended up having to paint it with copper brown fabric paint to achieve the proper scorpion pattern (which was a headache and a half). And I also couldn’t find the proper fabric for the sash either so I had to make it myself using ribbon to create the lined pattern. The belts are just strips of leather. And I swear by Sculpy/Fimo clay which you just toss into the oven when you want it hardened, which I used for the belt buckles, the intricate twist buckle on the sword belt, the tiny bones on the bandana, and for a large majority of the trade beads.

In all, Jack Sparrow has to be to date my most intricately detailed costume. Maybe not the most expensive though. That would probably go to the 9 yards of silk-velvet for my Lord of the Rings Arwen dress or the 7 yards of velvet plus 5 yards of satin for my Star Wars Handmaiden dress. In total, it took me about 3 months to fully assemble Jack since I had to budget in my usual full-time job, waiting for things to ship, and using my weekends to chase down odd bits (like I visited at least two bead fairs searching for specific beads, which I finally ended up crafting out of Sculpy instead. Of the odder items going into this, there are several different Chinese and Japanese coins, a feather, and a chopstick. It really made me wonder on the logic/sanity of the costume designers who put together his look.)
gypsy undergoing makeupThe entire outfit takes an hour to put on, I kid you not. The base layer (the shirt, pants, vest, and boots) takes barely a couple of minutes. It’s the making certain all the accessories and belts are in proper placement and then all of the makeup (I use a base layer of bronzer, then add on the beard, goatee, and mustache prosthetics with spirit gum, and then black cream eye liner with a brush from Maybeline to create the portion of the beard that goes all the way up to my cheekbones, and the black eye shadow). Amazing about this outfit is that I’m a rather large-chested female (so large that my size doesn’t exist at Victoria Secrets, which is a wild story for another time. #Imnoangel), but you can’t tell any of that under this outfit. Even good friends can’t tell who I am underneath.

Gypsy as Jack and friend JenI’ve been dressing as Jack Sparrow for about a year and a half where this outfit has been to several charity events, the symphony, a party on a pirate ship, a university basketball game, a tea party (which I modified the outfit to accommodate a Christmas theme), one random stop for gas at a 7-Eleven (where I got a grin from the clerk who waited on me), and even a hiking trail for a photoshoot. The surprising place I haven’t worn this outfit to yet is a convention. I’m used to quick changes at a convention and just don’t have time in my usually hectic schedule to budget in a 1-hour change time. Cosplaying Jack Sparrow has been a wonderful experience. So many children want pics with Jack at the events, to the tourists we delightfully surprised on the hiking trail, to the people at the basketball game who said I looked just like Johnny Depp. I love trying to match Jack’s facial expressions and walk. Personally, I’m way too shy to be as outgoing as Jack Sparrow, but it’s so much fun to try.
Gypsy Madden is the author of the YA paranormal fantasy, Hired by a Demon

Wednesday Blog: Gypsy Madden talks cosplay and cons

Gypsy Madden Con Foto 1My parents think I’m weird. And they are right in the fact that I spend hundreds of dollars to make a yearly excursion to the continental US (normally I’m stranded on a small rock in the middle of the Pacific) to escape reality and journey into experiencing my favorite fandoms while surrounded by hundreds of other fans. And by this, I mean fandom conventions, specifically Dragon Con annually held over Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. Mind you, there are differing sorts of fans at the conventions, not just the typical crazy obsessed geeky fan that normally pops to mind. There are venders, and stars, and the speakers presenting various topics (yes, including bloggers and podcasters), as well as the fans experiencing the con, the photographers trying to catch all of the fascinating moments, and the cosplayers. I, admittedly, fall into the last category.

Gypsy Madden Con Foto 3Being a writer, I should tell you that conventions are a wonderful way to promote yourself by getting a table or passing out business cards. Dragon con even has a table where there is a group of writers all trying to help market each other. But, I keep forgetting my cards, and a table has to be reserved several years inadvance, so I have only experienced the conventions as an attendee and a cosplayer.

I could give you an entire journal entry on cosplay, but suffice to say, I do it because I love creating costuming, learning new techniques and showing them off (this year I tackled embroidery without a hoop, worked with plenty of leather, and learned how to link chainmail). But first and foremost, I love being a part of a group, being with others who feel the same way I do about shows and movies, and seeing my favorite movies and characters spring to life in front of my eyes, and to feel like I belong within those imaginary worlds. This year’s Dragon con had me running around dressed as Alan Grant from Jurassic Park, to Carol from The Walking Dead, to Susan from the Narnia books, to Harry Potter to name a few.

Gypsy Madden Con Foto 2Every con has its ups and downs. For me there was getting extremely little sleep because we had someone snoring in our room which no amount of ear plugs was able to drown out and the five hour delay on one of my flights where I started to feel like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, though in this version my prison airport was LAX rather than JFK. But the ups are the unforgettable moments where I managed to suspend reality for a few moments, like the moment where I was standing by the elevators listening to a group who were dressed as characters from the latest Mad Max movie singing “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes led by the wife with the goggles and a war boy with a guitar. There was also the moment when I was getting a slushie at Dairy Queen when the Halloween movie theme suddenly surrounded me. That’s never a good sign. I looked around in time to see Michael Meyers shuffling slowly toward me. The coward that I am decided to put enough other people between him and me. Imagine my surprise when he followed me around another two times that evening. And there was another moment where, as Susan, I took my little sister Lucy and her friend Mr. Tumnus in search of a lamppost. But then, anyone can have experiences like that at the larger conventions where robots and dinosaurs roam the hallways and there are superheroes around every corner.
Gypsy Madden is the author of “Hired By A Demon”