Thanks for visiting my blog again. I think it’s a good idea to interview more cosplayers this year. Today, I’m having a discussion with Bill Romanelli. He’s the CO of the West Coast Avengers. They’re a very active cosplay group and charity organization who specializes with characters from the Avengers franchise. Where else can you see Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man, and the rest of the Avengers team in real life? I don’t get to have conversations with superheroes very often, so this is pretty exciting for me. Thanks for visiting us, Bill.
Q: Why did you become interested with the idea of cosplay?
A: First of all it merits saying, emphatically, that while I’ve always been a comic book fan, there was a time when I swore I would never be one of “those people” who dressed up in costumes. I could leave that for the “fanatics,” as for me, it was the line I thought I would never cross.
That changed at a Free Comic Book day event, where I met some members of a group called The Avengers Initiative. I learned that they don’t just dress up for the fun of it, they also go in costume to children’s hospitals and charity events, to help people smile, and share a common loves of heroes, real and imagined. I decided on the spot I had to be a part of that. Now, four years later, I’m the CO of the West Coast chapter.
Q: For those of us who are unfamiliar with the West Coast Avengers, would you mind explaining some details about the group?
A: We’re an all-volunteer costuming group that 1) shares a love of cosplay and superheroes and 2) believes in the connection between “cosplay” and “Cause Play.” Our purpose is to truly represent the heroes we portray, in both how we look and how we act. Most people join because they want to be part of the work we do visiting kids—and adults—in hospitals, cancer wards and so on, posing for pictures at baseball games and fun runs, and giving back to the community. That said, there’s also added social enjoyment that comes with being part of a group like this – many of us have become good friends.
(Anyone wanting to learn more about the group is welcome to visit our Facebook page or the Avengers Initiative website.)
Q: Does the West Coast Avengers have affiliated branches in other parts of the nation?
A: Yes, we have chapters on the East Coast, Central US, and Hawaii, and we’re looking to grow. I know there are huge numbers of cosplayers in places like Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington DC, Chicago, and Kansas City – we’d love to hear from folks in those areas (and others) who might be interested in starting a chapter.
Q: Will you please explain your cosplay persona?
A: I cosplay as Hawkeye (aka Clint Barton) from the Avengers
Q: I’m not going to lie. It seems like Hawkeye is a little bit less popular than some of the other Avengers. Granted, I still think he’s cool. Is there a special reason why Hawkeye is your character?
A: It was a good fit for me – my real life has a lot in common with the character. I have a family, and I’m about the same age as Jeremy Renner (although he has better hair). I’m also a pretty good archer in my own right, and I’ve always been a fan of superheroes who don’t actually have superpowers, but are willing to step up and use the skills and talents they have to fight the good fight.
Q: How long have you been with the group?
A: Four years now.
Q: Does the West Coast Avengers have any upcoming charity events?
A: We’re just coming off a pretty busy couple of months, but we are working on an event with the Sacramento Children’s home in the coming months. We do a couple of summer events in Southern California as well, but we’re currently doing a lot of work to get more active in that part of the state.
Q: Comic books and superheroes are really popular for kids. What are some of the positive messages kids can take away from superheroes like the Avengers?
A: One of the best things about comics and superheroes is that they teach about things like honor, courage, sacrifice, and fighting for what’s right instead of what’s popular. They help us continue to believe in a world where, no matter how hopeless the odds, the good guys can still win in the end, and that there really are things worth fighting for.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about cosplay?
A: There’s nothing like seeing a little kid’s face light up when their favorite hero walks into the room. And if that room happens to be in a hospital, the joy that kid shows is only matched by the gratitude of the moms and dads in the room with them, who are so grateful that they and their son or daughter can forget, even for just a few minutes, about their situation and just be a regular happy kid again.
I have to admit I also enjoy the cons – I used to tell myself that I’d go to the cons in costume only because it helped with recruiting new members. That’s still true, but the number of Hawkeye fans out there is growing, and they are committed! I get stopped a lot for pictures, and that part really is a lot of fun.
Q: One of the things I find challenging about cosplay is the price for making costumes. It’s definitely not free. Do you have any cost efficient tips?
A: The most costly part of the process is the mistakes. Yes, you learn from them, but the cost of the materials you have to throw out and then replace adds up quick. My advice is to learn from others who’ve been doing it for a while and are willing to share their skills and knowledge. That will ultimately save you a lot of time and money.
Q: I’m thinking about commissioning someone to make a steampunk Daredevil costume. What are your thoughts about crossover characters?
A: I say it’s just like any other form of artistic expression –if YOU like it, go for it. I’ve seen some amazing crossover costumes – in fact sometimes I had no idea who the characters were, but it didn’t matter because the costumes were so incredible and well-made. Same goes for gender bending – there’s a guy in the Bay Area who does a male Harley Quinn that is just perfect, for example, and lately I’m seeing a lot of first class female Starlord costumes. Comics and superheroes are a creative medium—and while I do think some degree of respect is due to the mythos and canon of the characters and their stories, there’s no there’s reason costuming shouldn’t be just as creative and boundary-less.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: Like you I am also an author. I’ve published three traditional books and last year I published an e-book called “Unleashing My Inner Geek” on www.thesnippetapp.com, which tells the story of how my love of comics has truly enriched my life.
Q: I’m thrilled you took the time to answer my questions. Hopefully, I can get to know you and other members of the West Coast Avengers a little better down the road.
That concludes another fun interview! I learned a lot of information from Bill's answers. Many people envision superheroes on the big screen, comic book pages, and video game sequences. But there are plenty of people who are heroes in real life. I believe the West Coast Avengers have a really good cause and it feels comforting to know individuals are trying to make a difference. You don't have to fight supervillains to serve a greater purpose. Bill's interview also shows that cosplay can be very meaningful in its own right. I left some live links within Bill's interview. If you want to learn more about the West Coast Avengers, visit their official website or Facebook page. Is any0ne thinking about joining their group? Contact them and let's see what happens. Please support Bill's written work on Amazon or wherever it's available. I'm definitely going to search for his work on Amazon in the near future. Leave a comment if you want to say anything about this interview.
I have some upcoming appearances this month. Next week, I'm serving on a self-publishing panel at the Redondo Beach Public Library. It should be a fun and interesting experience. Christopher J. Lynch is hosting a full self-publishing seminar from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the library on June 10th. Then we're going to have a great panel afterward with plenty of Q&A opportunities. Maybe I'll see some of you guys at the event. For those of you who live in Northern California, I'm giving a steampunk workshop and presentation at the Vacaville Town Square Library on June 15th from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. It's part of Vacaville's Summer Reading program. We're going to see a lot of terrific steampunk themes at the event. Be adventurous and give us a visit on June 15th. I hope you enjoyed Bill's interview and have a good week.
Good evening! I hope you guys are enjoying the Memorial Day weekend. This is my first time reviewing two films in one blog post. 2017 is having a huge movie overload in the realm of science fiction and action, so I'm taking advantage of these resources. Keep in mind, sci-fi is a highly visual type of writing. It's quite useful for authors like me to stay up to date with modern cinema. I saw Alien: Covenant and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Both of them had various strengths and weaknesses. They're also very different from one another. I'll start the review with Alien: Covenant. If you're only interested in the pirate movie, scroll down to the second half of this post. Let's check it out!
I was really excited when this film premiered for some reason. We haven't seen a legitimate Alien film for a while and I wanted to see if Covenant was more faithful to the franchise than Prometheus. I know there are plenty of Prometheus fans, but that film didn't fit in the Alien mold very well if you ask me. Basically, Covenant made me feel conflicted. It definitely had some good qualities, but I also had several issues with the film. Let's start with its stronger elements.
Surprisingly, this is a very interesting movie. The story builds off the events from Prometheus. A colony wants to build a brand new civilization on a particular planet, but a disaster in space causes them to detour elsewhere. They land on the home world of the Engineers from Prometheus. It doesn't take long for everything to become a bloody catastrophe. Many viewers, including me, had a lot of questions after we watched Prometheus. Where did the Aliens and Face Huggers come from? What happened to the Engineers? How is Prometheus connected to the first Alien film? What happened to David and Elizabeth Shaw? You'll get pretty satisfying answers to these questions from Alien: Covenant. It clarifies many elements that were ambiguous in Prometheus.
Michael Fassbender plays two characters in this film. He plays as David from Prometheus and a different android named Walter. His performance is both fascinating and incredible. David's character undergoes a large amount of development in Covenant. He's a very intelligent and creative being who developed a significant God complex throughout the years. Overall, he feels superior to both humans and the Engineers. I believe David feels like he was destined for better things than serving mankind. David's complex has a direct and clear link to the Aliens that we know as the Xenomorphs from the original films. I don't want to give major spoilers, so my description is going to be a little bit vague. David's creator made the mistake of making him a nearly perfect synthetic human. That's the root of David's homicidal and narcissistic tendencies. Fassbender plays the role with a lot of depth and he's also a little bit creepy. His performance as Walter was quite strong too. How many of you guys remember Bishop from Aliens? Walter is very similar to Bishop in many ways. In fact, Walter even talks a lot like Bishop. People found David disturbing, so the Weyland Company made a newer android who didn't have individuality, egoism, or creativity. Walter was simply built to serve mankind. I would say Walter is capable of patience, compassion, and bonding to a certain extent, but his primary motivation is duty. Fassbender differentiated the roles very well, so it legitimately seemed like I watched two separate characters.
Covenant isn't slow at all. It has plenty of action and violence. The more subdued scenes are still interesting and contribute to the storyline. It was nice to see the Xenopmorphs again. They definitely made Covenant seem like an Alien movie. The Engineer's home world is also the mysterious planet in the first Alien installment. I thought it was a nifty throwback to the earlier films. If you want to see lots of blood and gore, this movie should make you feel happy. We had a chance to see a prototype alien that preceded the Xenomorphs. The method of infection is somewhat different for the prototype aliens. They also look a lot different than the Xenomorphs. I was glad because Covenant doesn't take a comical approach to science fiction or horror. It's a serious film and that was smart move from Ridley Scott.
I think it's also worth mentioning that Covenant leaves some questions unanswered. That's not a bad thing because Ridley Scott is working on two more Alien prequels. I imagine he'll stretch out the explanations and resolution until we catch up with the original Alien film. Just be patient. We'll see plenty of Xenomorph action in future installments.
Despite everything I said thus far, Covenant has some notable problems. It's supposed to be a combination of sci-fi and horror. Unfortunately, the Aliens are totally CGI and fake looking. That part ruins the horror element. It's hard to be scared of cartoonish aliens. However, I'm going to give credit to the Face Huggers. They were looked pretty solid.
The other characters seemed bland and uninspiring. Aside from the two androids, nobody else stood out very much in my opinion. The crew was entirely comprised of married couples, but they didn't seem special enough to engage the viewers. Covenant is a prequel to Alien and that probably means most of the characters are going to die. Sadly, I didn't care if anyone survived. Call me cold blooded.
Somehow, David has a bond with some of the aliens. I'm not sure how that's possible. In the earlier Alien movies, the Xenomorphs were violent to humans and androids alike. I would think it's awfully difficult or impossible to domesticate a Xenomorph. You might wonder if David is genetically linked to the Xenomorphs, but that part doesn't make any sense either. After all, David is a robot. David has the ability to look and think like a human being, but he shouldn't have any genetic material.
They're shifting the Alien franchise in a different direction now. It's a big contradiction to our knowledge from the earlier Alien films. I know it's typical for long running franchises to change over time, but the prequel films might not align well with the original installments. Hopefully, the changes in Covenant won't cause problems for the series down the road.
Let's move forward and analyze Dead Men Tell No Tales.
I have a feeling this critique will be shorter. Regarding the positive elements, this movie has incredible entertainment value. It has plenty of action, fantasy elements, humor, journeys on the high seas, and pirate hijinks. This film has old favorites like Jack Sparrow, Hector Barbossa, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swann. It also introduces some new characters who fit well into the franchise.
Johnny Depp is awesome in these pirate movies. Jack Sparrow is hilarious, quirky, and he's a fun swashbuckler. It's hard to explain, but Sparrow always brings something unique to the movies. Barbossa is also effective in this film. He always makes a good foil and counterpart to Sparrow. The new supporting characters served their purpose well and didn't seem inferior to the others. Javier Bardem was quite solid as the ghost pirate and antagonist named Captain Salazar. He's somewhat intimidating, but not overly scary.
I can honestly say this was a really fun movie. Dead Men Tell No Tales kept me entertained and intrigued throughout the entire run. That might not sound like a big deal, but how often can we say a movie was just a lot of fun? You can walk out of the theater and feel like the day went really well. This felt refreshing because many action movies are taking a really serious turn. The DC films are dark and depressing. Some of the Captain America films have a really serious tone. The newer X-Men films are becoming increasingly dark. Alien: Covenant was definitely not lighthearted. So, I think we should appreciate the fun action movies.
Even though this film doesn't bring anything new to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, it fits really well in the canon. The characters seem appropriate. It has a familiar type of plot that works with the series. This movie builds off some themes from earlier installments. A lot of sequels are venturing away from their roots, but this one is staying faithful to the franchise.
The plot is simple, but it actually makes sense. Henry Turner, the son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, wants to break his father's curse. Those of you who saw the other pirate films know Will Turner became the captain of the Flying Dutchman. He must venture across the sea on a ghost ship and can only return on land briefly every ten years. This means Henry never had a close relationship with his father. Allegedly, an artifact known as the Trident of Poseiden can break every curse on the sea. Therefore, Henry and many characters want to obtain the trident. This trident could also break Salazar's curse and return his entire crew back to their original human selves. What about our hero, Jack Sparrow? Let's just say Salazar has a huge vendetta against him. Good old Jack is so good at making people angry. The film is basically a nautical adventure that stays on course and doesn't become confusing. I thought the story contributed to the entertainment value.
Here's my primary complaint. It seems like Pirates of the Caribbean ran its course. I had a good time watching this movie and the plot isn't bad, but Disney probably made too many sequels. It's hard to find new ideas for a series of pirate films. Think of it this way. Jack Sparrow and his sidekicks are battling ghost pirates again. They're searching for another mystical item. Sparrow and his crew is having more conflicts with the British Armada. Everything is starting to look the same at this point. There's an implication for more sequels, but we'll see. I'm pretty sure they're going rehash old ideas again.
Does this film have a target audience? I would say it's family friendly and totally appropriate for action movie fans. Dead Men Tell No Tales is fine for children and equally good for adults. It reaches out to a broad audience.
That concludes my double feature review. I had to address more elements for Alien: Covenant because it was more complex. Pirates of the Caribbean was a lot more straight forward and primarily a fun action flick. Did any of you guys see these movies yet? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience. I promise to write another cool post next week. Be safe and enjoy the rest of your weekend.