Welcome friends, to our second installment of Cospalyer of the Month. Your host today is your resident Geeks With Wives and Capes cosplayer, Darth Sparrow. When I was first asked to be a contributor for this section of our site, I was pretty excited! I have been doing this whole cosplay thing for awhile now and knew that I would have a wealth of amazing and talented friends I could showcase…But who do I choose for my first interview?! Then I remembered something that has always been on my mind: when I first started hitting the convention scene, it was very much dominated by the guys. The girls were still very much the minority. There were a few, but not like it is today. Before geek became chic. Our hobby is now owned by the ladies. Ladies who have thousands of followers on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Ladies who have basically become celebrities in their own right and have made a living selling everything from prints of themselves to costumes and props to their followers. And hey, don’t get me wrong, I love those ladies. In no way is this meant as a negative thing. These ladies work very hard at what they do and most of them have more talent in their pinkie then I do all together! Some of them are my best friends, but one thing remains… The guys, nowadays, are very much over-shadowed (in my opinion). So, naturally, I decided I wanted my first featured cosplayer to be one of my cosplay brethren. One of the guys that is extremely talented. To whom I aspire to have a fraction of his talent when it comes to costume and prop making. He is The Flash, The Monarch, Power Guy, Dr. Manhattan, and the owner of SoloRoboto Industries. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you, the one , the only, Steven Meissner!
So Steve , tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you and how long have you been cosplaying? Name some of the characters you cosplay as.
I recently turned 30, and I’ve been going to conventions in costume since 2007, which was when I first moved to San Diego and realized I could finally attend San Diego Comic Con. I’d wanted to go for years, but living there made it a LOT easier.
I still don’t have nearly as many costumes as a lot of people do, but that’s my fault. I didn’t get into the super hero thing until recently. The first 3 years I was going to SDCC I made 1 new costume each year: Spartan from 300, BLU Medic from TF2, The Monarch from The Venture Brothers. Even after that I was mostly doing stuff from movies and TV. Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, a quick Sam Flynn outfit for TRON Legacy. Stuff like that.
The first “hero” costume I had (and the one the internet probably knows best) was Power Guy, when we threw together the Genderbent Justice League for WonderCon in San Francisco 2011. This year my awesome girlfriend Kit made me Superman and Flash costumes, so I finally have some “standard” heroes in my closet. lol
What was your first cosplay costume that you remember wearing to a convention and what made you choose that?
My Spartan (from 300) was the first costume I made that got worn to a convention, so it was technically my first “cosplay.” I made it as a Halloween costume in 2006, and updated it slightly to wear to SDCC 2007, since I figured 300 was technically a comic before it was a movie which made it fair game for a “comic con.”
But I’ve been wearing homemade Halloween costumes every single year since I could walk (yes, even through college). So conventions were really just an extension of that.
What was the first convention you ever went to and what was your first experience like?
SDCC was my first con, and I spent half of it literally in my underwear. Heck, the 3rd day of the con Triumph (the insult comic dog) interviewed my junk. I think that makes for a slightly different start than most of us get! But I DID spend the first 2 days in civvies, so I had a chance to acclimate to just how BIG and DIVERSE SDCC is. Though I felt like 30% of the people I saw that first year were in costume, so I really wasn’t uncomfortable.
Obviously I enjoyed it since I’ve been going to more and more Cons every year, and now I actually earn a living making things for the other people that attend them as well!
There is always that one costume that becomes synonymous with certain cosplayers. I know when ever your name pops up, I always think of your AMAZING Monarch costume. In my mind, no one plays him better. Out of the many costumes that you have donned, what is your favorite to wear and why?
The Monarch will always be one of my favorites. It’s the first costume I made specifically as cosplay, the one that I’m most known for, and he’s just an incredibly fun character to BE all day – I get to make ridiculous faces, sneer at people, and yell a lot. Plus, as long as I’m doing the voice, I can be tired and grumpy and rude, and people ENJOY it! Can’t beat that.
It will also always have a soft spot in my heart because it’s the costume I met my girlfriend, Kit Quinn, in. She was dressed as Dr. Mrs. The Monarch and wanted to get a photo with me. Her mom took the photo, so we still have it.
But wearing the costume itself is less than fun. I have permanent nerve damage in both thumbs from the first version of my bracers, can’t properly sit or rest my arms or they go to sleep from blood loss, and the entire cowl and eyebrow setup is glued to my face. But it’s all worth it in the end.
Flash is my new favorite, though. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s COMFORTABLE. I can literally run around in it. I do Barry Allen, so I can flip from serious to smiling to action poses and still be in character, which is a welcome change.
Tell us about the craziest or weirdest experience that you have had at a con?
That very first SDCC, just minutes before the hall closed for the final time on Sunday, my friend and I heard this voice yell “Dude! That’s amazing! Can I get your guys’ picture?” and we look down and it’s Seth Green. We kind of freaked out. I’ve met him several times since, but it was a BIG deal to us then.
And of course there’s the time a bunch of my friends persuaded me to dress up as a male Power Girl (we call him Power Guy) in their Genderbent Justice League, and the internet exploded. When we repeated it at SDCC 2011 I was asked “what it felt like to be a gay icon.” I said that, as a straight man, it was a huge honor.
It still amuses me to no end that people online know Power Guy, but have no idea he’s me. There’s a total disconnect there most of the time.
Steve, you are one of the few people that have been able to take their passion of cosplay, and prop making to be specific, and have turned it into a business. Tell us about SoloRoboto Industries and what made you want to get in to the prop business?
Basically, I LOVE making stuff. I’ve always loved it. I’ve always wanted to do something creative for a living, but it wasn’t until I stumbled into prop making that I knew I’d found it.
When I started dressing up, I assumed everyone was like me – making their costumes from scratch. I figured the people in the truly impressive stuff (fiberglass Iron Mans, fully sculpted Bat suits, etc) were professionals in some way, or had access to pro-grade resources.
In 2009, when I first met Clyde Max, he has this Punisher vest, and I asked him how he’d made it. He said he’d mailed some money to a guy, and it showed up a few months later. That totally blew my mind – I had no idea people would pay for costumes and props!
I figured I could do that, but I didn’t really know how to go about BEING a business. Then I saw another friend do something amazing. One day, she just declared online that she was now a photographer, and if you wanted photos you could pay her. Within mere WEEKS she had tons of work.
So I took her lead and made a Facebook page, set myself up as a business to help lend some credibility, and 3-ish years later here I am! I worried initially that people wouldn’t take me seriously since I had no real history or catalog to speak of, even though I was confidant I could put out quality work. So I played up being a “business” of several people. And it worked! Of course I never lied about it, and the truth was right there in the name from the get go: SOLO Roboto Industries. As in ONE. Because it’s always been just me.
But I’m incredibly lucky: I’ve been doing nothing but make props full time for over a year now, and I’m still getting by. I’m constantly amazed and grateful that I have a career doing this thing that I love.
Who do you look up to in the industry or who inspires you?
Harrison Krix, aka Volpin Props, is kind of my idol. He was the first person I found who was doing what I was doing – making cool props out of his house – but doing it AMAZINGLY WELL. His stuff looked beyond professional, and he was doing it with few if any more resources than I had. That was a huge inspiration.
That was back in 2009 ish? These days he’s moving into a full-fledged shop, and has been doing prop work full time for several years. He’s been my model for how to do this successfully for a long time, and I’ve had the chance to meet and talk to him several times at Dragon*Con in Atlanta the past few years. Even though we’ve been doing this for the EXACT same amount of time (turns out we both started around Halloween 2007) his trajectory has been several steps ahead of where I’d like to be since I first found him. So I’ve modeled a lot of what I do, business wise, on him.
Since moving to LA I’ve had the chance to meet a LOT of people who do what I do, and that’s been amazing. Turns out there is a thriving community of prop builders out there, which has just been awesome to discover!
If your goal is to continue in the prop making biz, where would your dream job be?
I had a chance recently to visit Legacy Effects – the people behind basically every Marvel film, Pacific Rim, Total Recall, and just tons of other amazing stuff. I suppose that’s really the dream – to make things at THAT level, where everything is perfect, and practically real.
But I DO love working for myself. I love the flexibility, the independence, and I love that I get to handle projects from start to finish, working on every step along the way. There’s nothing quite like it.
What are you working on right now for yourself? Any future costume Plans?
Currently? Nothing. Lol. The downside to making things for other people for a living is it doesn’t leave a lot of time to make stuff for myself. Plus I haven’t been particularly inspired to make anything for a while. Flash was the last project I really wanted to do, and I started working on that over 2 years ago.
A couple of recent commissions have gotten me thinking about doing some things for myself, though. Namely Blue Beetle, the Young Justice Jaime Reyes version. I’m working on a set of light up wings for a customer, and now I REALLY want a giant pair for myself. That happens sometimes – I make something for someone, and I just really want one of my own. lol
If money and resources were no object, what would be your dream cosplay?
Batman Beyond. I’ve actually planned that out in my head any number of times, but it would be a massive project. Fully sculpted. Lights. Vacuformed pieces. Wings. But oh man, it’d be awesome. Terrible to wear (so hot)! But awesome.
If someone would like to follow your cosplay exploits on the web or purchase some of
your amazing props, where can they find you?
http://www.facebook.com/SoloRoboto is my website. I do just about everything through
facebook. It’s where I post progress photos of the commissions I’m working on, photos of finished work, as well as take commissions and answer questions. I also have an FAQ there
I also have a store where I sell resin casts and kits of some of my props:that covers everything about the commission process for those interested.
It was a pleasure talking to Steve and we truly thank him for taking time out of his schedule to let us inside his work and costumes. We hope to see him on our show in the near future! Thanks for reading and Ill see you next time. For the Geeks with Wives and Capes, this is Darth Sparrow and I will catch you on the geek side.