One of the most amazing things about DragonCon in Atlanta was the cosplay. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s costuming to portray a character or figure from one’s preferred fandom. DragonCon is known as one of the greatest showcases for cosplay in the Southeast -arguably the nation- and for good cause. With over 80,000 people in attendance this year alone, there were thousands of costumed characters from every conceivable fictional universe you could imagine. I was fortunate enough to have a chance to sit down with two of the coolest cosplayers there this year and talk to them about their work.
Eliot Thomas and Bella Mello operate online as Out of Space Cosplay, a series of photos and videos of their ongoing work to big builder, better cosplay of some of their favorite characters. I started following them on Instagram (@outofspacegvl) a few months back after catching a glimpse of the coolest cartoon costume I’ve ever seen brought to life in foam and flesh. The Spooky Space Kook from the original run of Scooby-Doo was, by far, one of the coolest monsters Scoob and the gang ever faced. Being a scifi-horror nerd I loved seeing a skeleton in the spacesuit chasing the kids from Mystery Inc. around for half an hour.
Seeing it brought to life had me completely hooked. I immediately started sifting through the pictures on their Instagram and I loved what I saw. From their Mad Max/Mario mashups of the famous plumber and his dinosaur companion Yoshi to a fantasy inspired Hunter S. Thompson prepared to battle Batman -think about it for a minute- I just couldn’t stop. But there was more Scooby goodness on their page that just the Space Kook. After all, what would one crazed crook in a monster mask be without a second crazed crook in a monster mask? The tiki mask of the Witch Doctor looked like it had been pulled straight from the television and into our reality by some strange, Saturday morning cartoon shenanigans.
Eliot and Bella were kind enough to sit down and chat with me after the parade Saturday morning during DragonCon and were eager to talk about the construction of their costumes. The duo has been doing cosplay at conventions and events for four years now, hoping to make their passion for bringing these characters to life a more full time affair. The Witch Doctor worn by Bella was arguably the easier of the two builds and by far the more comfortable. The mask and staff were beautifully constructed by Bella using foam and the attention to detail in the design was absolutely amazing. The headpiece was set up like almost any mask you’ll find now that Halloween is fast approaching but it was the ingenuity she talked about that was most impressive.
Mentioning the Mad Mario cosplay earlier, she portrayed Yoshi with a large, mechanical arm. While many would have made some foam or other construction that their hand and arm would have to slide inside and be trapped in, she build the impressive piece around a Walmart wrist brace to allow her more comfort and flexibility while simultaneously giving the option to simply unsnap and free her hand. Keep than ingenuity in mind as we move on to the Space Kook.
Eliot was sweating and happy to have his hands and head free of the costume for a bit when I sat down and spent some time with him after the parade. Despite a series of fans rigged up inside the mostly foam construction of the suit, they were doing little in the Atlanta heat to keep him from baking alive. The costume itself had taken four months to build and make ready for DragonCon and had to have been one of the more impressive smaller scale constructions I’d seen. A bluetooth speaker placed i the chest maintained an ambient warbling noise, the same ghostly sound produced by the Kook when he appeared in the cartoons to menace Scooby and Shaggy and it had the added feature of being a voice modulator allowing Eliot to speak and interact more fully with those around him. The only piece he had to have specially made outside of his own workshop was the plastic dome covering the skull head on the space suit. There were some huge -and I mean massive- costumes that appeared at the convention but as far as something so accurate to the source material, few could compare to the Space Kook and Witch Doctor.
Both Eliot and Bella have a passion for practical effects and costuming, something they agreed has been lost a lot in current television and film thanks in no small part to the obsession of budget minded studios who would rather pay millions for a celebrity appearance than a realistic monster in a movie. “There’s just no soul anymore.” Bella said, talking about the trend moving away from practical effects in favor of digital.
Here’s what I found the most incredible about meeting this pair of costumed con attendees, however. They are two of the most genuinely nice and approachable people I met during my time in Atlanta covering the convention. As we were wrapping up and getting ready to snap some pictures, people were approaching and asking for pictures. Keep in mind, this is ten in the morning and they’ve already been up for several hours preparing for and participating in the parade that encircled the massive area of Peachtree Center around the convention. Hot, exhausted, and carrying an extra fifty pounds, it would be easy for anyone to be snippy and uncooperative. But with giant smiles on their faces, they asked if I’d mind waiting a moment while they posed with some of their newfound fans. Along with their friend Ben who came as a picture perfect Shaggy, this group of cosplayers were everything you hoped to find at DragonCon as they took time to cheerfully play and participate in the fun and adventure that comes from seeing your favorite fandoms brought to life.
Since the convention they’ve returned to their home in South Carolina and begun work improving their costumes and working on new ideas for other cosplays they’d like to do in the future. The next scheduled appearance on their Instagram is the SC Comic Con in 2018. You can follow them online at @outofspacegvl on Instagram. Links to their other public accounts (@eliotthomas & @mellosubmarine) found on their joint page will open up an entirely new world of incredible cosplay. I can’t wait to see what incredible characters they bring to life next.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.