Friday, September 16, 2011

Lessons Learned from Dragon*Con 2011

As usual, I had a blast! I want to first address 2 big changes that were definitely for the better.

1. Barcode Registration - Major win for the attendees. I heard reports from friends that it took a total of 10 minutes to get their badge. Most of that time was spent just walking through the snaking line that was basically empty. Granted, the system isn't perfect yet. There were a few times when the computer crashed. I was a victim to one crash and still waited 2.5 hours, but I could tell the line was always moving once they got things booted up again.

2. Increased Security - Starting at 7pm, hotel staff and private security started checking for badges and hotel keys at all entrance points. I thought this really helped with the atmosphere and keeping the crowds from getting out of control. There were far fewer reports of negative incidents from the D*C community. Going forward, anyone thinking of attending should expect to buy a badge if they want to be around at night.

Moving on, there are always new things I learn and here are some tidbits that could help others:

- Aleve: why didn't I use it sooner?! Take one in the morning, one in the middle of your day. It'll really cut down on aches and pains.

- Muscle Rub/Icy Hot/Bengay: rub some on your sore parts before bed and you'll feel better the next morning. As a bonus, you can soak in a hot bath tub too.

- Gold Bond powder: as someone who endures Georgia summers, this stuff always helps you be less sticky and damp in certain regions. But it is especially helpful with costumes involving layers or spandex.

- Showers: my new rule is going to be 2 a day. Everyone should get 1, but if you're in costumes and sweating for a few hours, it's a nice refresher to get clean again.

- Sleep: I swear by sufficient rest as the best means to keep away the con crud. That's 4 years in a row that I haven't come back with any sickness. Granted, I was still physically exhausted from the weekend.

- Badge Security: I did hear a slight increase in the number of stolen badges. An inexpensive way to keep it attached to you is to use a safety pin in addition to the clip.

- Hotel Booking: Hilton, Sheraton, and Westin already opened blocks for next year with Hyatt and Marriott coming in October. Keep in mind these are blocks, and more will be released as the year goes on, but it never hurts to secure something early.

- Next Year's Badge: I once again skipped the long lines Monday morning to buy 2012's badge, but I was surprised to find it offered online a few days later for $60. That's half price of the at the door full badge! It'll go up in $10 increments starting tonight, but know you can always transfer it to someone else and still get your money back.

- Packing Lighter: it's not easy to drag 2 rolling suitcases, a duffle bag, armor, a sword, and a staff for a 30 minute commute on MARTA. Likewise, trying to unload luggage from your car in front of the hotel can mean very long wait times with already congested city traffic. Getting back is a chore too. I just shelled out money for a taxi on the return trip (it's roughly $40 for 2 people to go from host hotels to Dunwoody MARTA station). Next year, I'm hoping to keep the packing logistics in mind when I'm planning my costumes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How I Prep at 3 Weeks Out

When it's less than a month away, I think it's best to countdown to the con every Wednesday. After all, come Thursday morning, I'm not going to be able to focus on doing anything else. So, from today, it's exactly 3 weeks away and I've started some prep work to ensure I can have yet another wonderful experience at D*C '11. I think everyone should do the first three. The others are for my own personal vanity :D

1. Sleep on a schedule that will be similar to what you'll do over the D*C weekend. For me, that means sleeping around 1am and waking up by 8am at the latest. I want to maximize my time at con, not losing any of it to oversleeping, being drowsy during the day, or partying too hard.

2. Start a walking routine. Go at a pretty fast pace, but something you can maintain for about 20-30 mins. You're going to walk at least a few miles at con, so start getting your joints and muscles ready for it. And for my fellow back pain sufferers, incorporate a few minutes of planks and superman stretches. Hold each for about 30-60 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.

3. Start your supplies shopping. This can range from anything you may need to mend costumes, to basic OTC meds, to snacks you'll be bringing. Be sure to think about how you'll pack and transport your belongings too. Those flying in should consider mailing a package to your hotel. They'll usually hold items until your arrival for a small fee, and some of them mail it back out for you too (since delivery services are closed on Labor Day).

4. I normally wear glasses, but I'll use contacts for that weekend. It's best to gradually increase how many hours you wear them. I'll wear mine every other day, and keep a bottle of eye drops on hand regardless. Even the most comfortable pair will get dry after half a day of costume watching, so the paranoid parrot in me brings an extra pair to start a fresh rotation when this happens.

5. Whitening teeth. I've used the basic strips from Crest and they've had great results. Then again, I don't smoke or drink lots of coffee. Now I'll warn you that your teeth will get sensitive after a few days, so you may have to cut it down to one treatment a day instead of the recommended two a day. Of course, extra dental care is good too. At least brush twice a day, floss, and use mouthwash. You'll be able to smile pretty for a photo op with your favorite guest! Lookin' at you, Autumn Reeser <3 !

6. Haircut and highlights. I think my hair looks best about 2-3 weeks after being cut, so I'm planning a trip to my stylist accordingly. Having brown highlights also works for one of my planned costumes, not to mention I loved the results last year.

Monday, July 25, 2011

40 Days Update!

Well, we're under the 40 days mark now, and news keeps coming out each week. Here are some important updates:

1. The official Progress Report is out. If you pre-registered you'll receive it in the mail soon if you haven't already. However there is a PDF version available online.

2. There is a wonderful countdown series from The Unique Geek, updating with photos, articles, or podcasts all relating to Dragon*Con. I highly recommend some of the podcasts with track directors to get some valuable info. In fact, listening to the first one with the Senior Director of Programming definitely shed some light on things like how they bring in guests and some special events planned for this year in celebration of the 25th anniversary.

3. The Daily Dragon, a website dedicated to posting updates and schedule changes, is naturally more active these days. There are also more frequent installments of the Dragon*Con Newsletter. Check on them every now and then.

4. Both professional photographers have started posting pre-sales: Froggy's and Craig Damon.

5. I've said this before, but they're really pushing the fact that you need your barcode/ID to make the badge pick up process quick as possible. Even if you want to buy on site, you still need a code, and the main page has everything you'll need to know for it. As for transfers, August 3 is the last day to do it! I've also heard rumors that the parade may be capped, so no on site sign up. And security will be more vigilant about checking for badges to keep things from getting too crowded at night. Finally, I updated my previous post with a link to an updated list of this year's tentative track schedules as they're released.

Bonus tip, start prepping your body so you can minimize the chances of getting the "con crud." Start by sleeping regularly and making sure you get whatever hours you need to feel rested. Next, adopt a walking routine so your feet can be ready for the pounding and miles they'll look over the weekend. Also throw in some core work like planks and good mornings to strengthen your lower back and abdominals.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What is a Fan Track?

UPDATED: June 2012

Dragon*Con is considered the largest multi-genre media/pop culture convention in the world because it caters to so many different crowds. It's not just for anime, costuming, or sci-fi; it's all those things wrapped up into one big party that runs continuously for 5 days. Most conventions, especially the smaller ones, have a few key events like a costume contest, movie screening, or banquet. Dragon*Con has over 30 official programming events running simultaneously at any given time! And this doesn't even include the ongoing events like dealer rooms, autograph signings, or merely people watching in public areas.

The best analogy I can think of to describe fan tracks is college majors. Each track is like a major, with its own subset of events that are based around a central theme. Let's pretend you're attending Dragon*Con University, the best institution for anyone who geeks out over something they love. And let's say you're mostly there because you're a Star Wars fan. You check out the Star Wars fan track website and see that there's a ton of events running from 10:00am Friday until 5:00pm Monday, JOY!! No doubt you'll start your weekend off with a Q&A panel with Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher. But then you're not too thrilled about what's next, a fan discussion about how Star Wars Legos toys have affected the fandom. So you look at the Pocket Program and see that the Costuming Track is having a panel on basic costume making. You've always wanted to wear a costume but never knew where to start, and here is the perfect opportunity to learn the first steps! Over the next few days, you still get a heavy dose of Star Wars: Lightsaber demonstrations from professional performers, trivia contests, discussions about the extended universe from books and games. But somewhere in there, you've also checked out anime screenings, science lectures, book readings, and *GASP* a panel with William Shatner because you don't actually hate Star Trek. You still get to "graduate" with your Star Wars major, but you've also learned a lot about the other fandoms. Likewise, there's about 40,000 other graduates, each with their own unique area of study. Some focused on Young Adult Literature, others on Tolkien's Middle Earth, and some who took an equal amount of everything! The only drawback to Dragon*Con's diverse "curriculum" is that you'll sometimes have to choose between two things you love. I've had to forgo seeing a Farscape panel so I could catch geek goddess Felicia Day.

If you want to learn more about what tracks are available, check out this page:

http://www.dragoncon.org/fan_tracks.php

Some of them update more frequently than others. Plus, a few tracks have already posted their tentative schedules for this year. It sure beats waiting until the week before D*C to make a rough schedule for yourself. Just keep in mind that times, rooms, and even participants are subject to change up to the day of that event.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Celebs, Autographs, and Photo Ops

UPDATED: June 2012

I always see a lot of questions related to media guests/celebrities. Having an opportunity to meet some of my TV icons was what originally brought me to con in the first place, so let me clear up some FAQs.

Autographs:

Practically all media guests charge a fee to sign something. It usually starts from $15 for lesser known people, and can get quite pricey for the big names. Most of them have tables in the Walk of Fame, a giant ballroom in the Hilton. The mega names have their own individual room to avoid huge lines that interfere with other guests’ lines. Each table will have its own line for fans to wait in. There’s typically a handler/agent beside the guest that handles the money and plays bad guy to deny certain inappropriate fan requests. The table will have some 8x10 pictures available to be signed in case you don’t bring something from home. These are typically free if you pay to have it signed. The Walk of Fame hours are basically 10am-7pm (except it starts at 1pm on Friday). Most media guests will in there to sign unless they have a panel or are going to eat.

Ray Park signing autographs.

Autograph prices are not posted on the main website. Your best bet is to research forums pertaining to that guest, or seeing if other conventions list prices (I know MegaCon and the Wizard World ones do).

The things I’ve said do not apply to authors and literary guests. They have specific signing times that are posted in the program, and I believe they do it for free (as long as you’ve bought their book).

SIDE NOTE: While you can technically go up to a guest's table and talk to them for free, their handler may give you the evil eye or rush you along. A few guests are also said to be jerks about it if you don't buy an autograph. As a precaution and just as a token of my appreciation for that person's work, I'll generally fork out money for an auto so that I can have a nice conversation with them in peace.

Photo-ops

Photos are a little bit more complicated, and it depends entirely on the guest.

1. Some will not allow any photography at all in the Walk of Fame at their table. Can’t snap a candid of them signing, not one of them smiling for your camera, and certainly not a posed pic with you and the guest.

2. Some will allow you to take a picture OF them, but not WITH them. This typically applies to bigger names who have a contract with one of the two professional photographers who work the convention (Froggy and Craig Damon). In this case, you need to either buy the pre-sale pictures from the photographer’s website, or buy a photo-op ticket on site. I’d suggest on site because the refund process for last minute cancellations can get tricky. However, a very popular guest may sell out, so keep that in mind as a good reason to buy pre-sale.

A professional photo op with Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk.

3. Some will allow you to take a picture WITH them at the table, but will charge a fee. It’s often cheaper than the professional photographer’s fee because it’s not being split between parties. Some guests will do both—pics with your camera, as well as pics with the photographers.

A photo with Edward James Olmos using my camera.

A little more info about the two photographer services. People have a lot of hate mail for Froggy, but they’ve always been nice to me. Valid complaints against them can include customer service or slow e-mail response. But things out of their control are equipment failure or late guest arrivals. You also can’t help the rapid rate at which they move people along, because there’s no other way to fit in 100 people wanting a picture with Joe Celebrity within a 15 minute span. There are guests lined up from 10am-7pm and they have to stay on schedule. If you want to talk to the celebrity or give them a gift, do that at their table. The photo area is just for a quick hello and a photograph.

Craig Damon handles a smaller pool of guests, so the lines are often shorter, and you are not as rushed. However I feel his prices are a little bit higher on average. Both services provide extra copies or original JPEG files for a fee.

Overall, getting photos and autos can add up quickly in expenses. I've spent over $500 before in a given convention weekend, but thankfully that amount is decreasing each year since I've met many of the guests already. I've also cut down on autographs in general and just focus on photo ops.

Last note: PLEASE be aware any of the guests can cancel their appearance at the last minute due to work or scheduling conflicts.

New for 2012!
- A website called Celebrity Authentics is sponsoring certain guests. They're doing an internet pre-sale for autograph and photo-op tickets. I assume some tickets will be left over to be sold on site.
- Froggy and Craig Damon have also posted pre-sales on their sites. More names will be added as the weeks pass.

Monday Morning Special!
- By Monday morning, most guests have 1) already left or 2) are still hungover in their room. However, a select few will show up in the Walk of Fame and this is your best chance to get an auto or photo with your camera for a discounted fee. Not a guarantee but it never hurts to ask politely and try to haggle a bit. You may also get a longer than usual conversation with them.

Will xxx be coming this year? / How can I get xxx to come to Dragon*Con?
- First, check the guest list page. Other than that, no one knows in advance except for the directors and staff that are in charge of booking guests. If you want a particular individual to come, try to get a hold of them via snail mailing their agents or social networking pages and get them to fill out a guest application.

What if you run into a celebrity in the hallway?
- Depends on the guest. If they’re drinking at the bar and having a good time, they’ll probably be in a good mood and oblige a photo request or talk to you for a bit. If they’re eating with their friends, it’s probably rude to interrupt them. I just say hello or wave if I walk by someone I recognize. They’re just trying to enjoy the con like everyone else and I don’t want to get in their way.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wrestlemania Fan Axxess Advice

I had a WONDERFUL time at Wrestlemania XXVII weekend in Atlanta earlier this month. I tried to go into it prepared, but outside of one guy's YouTube video's, there wasn't much in terms of tips or advice for Fan Axxess. So, this is a good opportunity to share any words of wisdom I had after experiencing it for myself. Please note these things happen maybe twice a year, and are in a different city every time, so I can only give generalized suggestions.

1. Tickets
- They seem to go on sale around 3-4 months prior to the event. Check WWE.com for official updates.
- VIP tickets give you a few perks: meeting high tier superstars (regular ticket holders CANNOT meet these guys), early entrance into the event, ring side standing room for live matches, and being able to cut in line for certain other attractions (excluding autograph sessions). They also run you at least twice as much money, but it's the only way I would have met people like Cena, HBK, HHH, and Undertaker. Plus, VIP tickets sell out... FAST!
- So if you want VIP, you should Google pre-sale codes and such so you can get your hands on tickets a week before they're released to the public. In fact, this is a good strategy to use for any concert or sporting event because of all the scalpers out there.
- Regular Axxess tickets do not sell out. They'll have tickets for sale the day of the event if you just want to walk up there and buy one.

2. Lines
- I'd suggest at least getting there an hour before doors open for each Axxess session. Even then, there will already be a line of 100-200 people ahead of you. As mentioned before, VIP people will have a separate line and will be allowed to go in first.
- Once you're in, use those precious first few minutes to get in line for autographs. They may or may not list who will appear at what station, so it's a crapshoot of who you're in line for. If you go to multiple Axxess sessions, you may figure out a pattern to who sits at which autograph station (i.e., bigger names came to Station 1 and Station 2 during my weekend). Other attractions like memorabilia displays or games typically don't have as many people in line.
- Because WWE doesn't cap regular tickets, there are a lot of other people in line with you. You can expect to meet 1 superstar per hour, maybe 2 if one of them isn't a big name. The Diva photoshoot lines also go a little quicker. Just don't expect to meet everyone on your checklist.

3. Finer Points to Avoid Confusion
- There are multiple Axxess sessions during the weekend. You need 1 ticket for each one. Example, buying a ticket for Thursday night gets you into Thursday night only! You need another ticket for Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon.
- WWE announces who will be the VIP only Superstar for each session, and the VIP ticket is the ONLY way to meet them. Again, you need a separate ticket for each session. Yes, you can mix and match like I did. I only wanted to see 4 big name guys, so I bought 4 VIP tickets, and 3 regular tickets for the remaining sessions.
- The VIP ticket GUARANTEES you see the VIP only Superstar you came for (assuming you're in time for that session and are in the right line). I've been to many signing sessions before, and the folks who run these are efficient but friendly. You can typically have a few seconds to say something, and you are allowed one autograph and one posed photo with them.
- The regular ticket holders do not get a guarantee they'll meet the person they're in line for. If time expires and the Superstar has to leave, they're gone, and you're left with nothing. Even if you get to meet them, you may not be allowed a pose photo because the line has so many people behind you and they want to move it along as quickly as possible. This is not the case for VIP because they cap it at a certain number of tickets sold.
- Diva photo ops only allow photos with WWE's professional cameras. Not with your own, and you're not allowed to get anything signed either. Just a quick hello, pose for the camera, and that's it. They use a service where you get a card with a specific number on it for you to later look up your picture online. DO NOT LOSE THIS CARD! In fact, write it down or take a picture of the card so you have a backup copy.

If anyone has questions, please ask. I will eventually do a YouTube video of this to reach more people, and I'd like to hit as many points as I can.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dragon*Con Documentary & Wrestling

About one week from now, local public broadcasting stations will start airing a documentary called Four Days at Dragon*Con, which was filmed on location in 2009. I've already seen it once and it is a great representation of the good folk that makeup the attendees. See this link for info on showing times, as well as where you can catch it in your area. I'd highly recommend it for anyone who's thinking about going in the future, as well as to con veterans.

Also one week from now, I will reach another life goal by attending Wrestlemania XXVII in person in Atlanta, GA. at the Georgia Dome. The event has stretched into a long weekend deal now, not unlike Dragon*Con. In fact, when you consider autograph sessions, Q&As, and live entertainment, WWE Fan Axxess is sort of like a convention too. I will probably write a short entry about my experiences there, especially if I can provide insight into how to plan for it for other wrestling fans who want to attend future Wrestlemanias.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Halfway Home

It's the first week of March, and that means we're halfway home to Dragon*Con!

The guest list is picking up some steam. Recent additions include first timer Christopher "Doc Brown" Llyod and Felicia Day (a personal favorite thanks to a wonderful encounter in '09). Mr. Lloyd is an indication to me that the con is getting a bigger appeal to the celebrity guest community. We have folks like James Marsters and Richard Hatch who are annual regulars; Aaron Douglas also repeatedly attends, including one year as a fan and not on any official guest panels; and Garrett Wang, who went from a guest to a track director. Now THAT is going boldly where no one has gone before. I believe that the powers that be still have some surprises stored for us in celebration of the 25th anniversary this year. Two thirds of the usual 400 guest list remains to be filled!

Now for 2 pieces of advice regarding hotels for the con.

1. If you missed first opportunity to book from official means with the "con rate," I recommend using discount travel sites, especially Last Minute Travel. These shave over a hundred dollars off your stay, and it's getting easier to figure who where you're staying before they tell you. FYI, I'm referring to sites that don't tell you the hotel's name until after booking. LMT even has pictures now for some of those hotels, and based on those images as well as information on the number of floors and rooms, you can easily figure out which ones are the Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton. Oh, click on "downtown" hotels to narrow your search.

2. Regardless of how you book or where you stay, an important thing to do a week away from your reservation is to call and ask for some requests. For instance, getting extra towels or asking for a mini fridge. A big thing to consider is the level of your floor, and I'll give you some reasons why. If you're too low and near the main lobbies, that crowd noise could interrupt your peaceful slumber. However, if you're too high, then you are completely at the mercy of the elevator gods to reach your room. And the those gods are very fickle during D*C week. Some specific floors like the 10th at the Marriott are known to hold several photo shoots, further complicating the crowding issue. What do I do? I book the Hilton for its quiet reputation and ask for a low floor so I can take the stairs to my room.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Updates

When I first started this blog, I figured I would only make a few entries per year because of the lack of ideas for posts. However, I'm going to try to stick a new one entry per month format. Some of the future topics I have in mind are fitness and nutrition advice, a few more costume tutorials, Dragon*Con news updates, and my own stories from the con (inspired by the book Here Be Dragons: Tales of Dragon Con).

For this month, I'll talk about some con-related updates.

1. Barcode System - Looks like this is finally a reality. I received my blue confirmation post card at the beginning of the month, and there was a strip of barcode on there. In addition, there was a statement saying that it is now essential to bring that card with you to registration if you want a speedy process.

2. Site Updates - I linked each of my entries in the 3 part guide to one another for easier navigation. Also added a map of downtown Atlanta to the first entry so you can better decide on a hotel location.

3. Eternal Member - I haven't mentioned this option previously, but if you have the funds, you can buy an Eternal Membership. The major perks of getting it are: short registration line, access to the Guest hospitality suite on Thursday night, and of course a lifetime membership to the con. But the price you pay is very steep. As of today, it's $1500. When I first attended in 2008, the price was only half of that.

4. DCTV - Dragon*Con TV provides a fun way to pass the time as you're waiting for a panel to start at the con. Most of these shorts are spoofs on various sci-fi fandoms, whether it's a skit or in text format similar to that of Adult Swim. Plus most of the text ones have great music in the background! The DCTV website offers the videos for your viewing pleasure year round, so enjoy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Gambit Costume Tutorial v1.0

A while back, my girlfriend wanted to dress up as Rogue for her first Dragon*Con and I figure I might as well be Gambit to accompany her. While her costume was a wonderfully commissioned piece, I wanted to gather my own pieces and put it together. It all starts with a reference picture, and this guy's version was my inspiration:


I liked the color scheme and it seemed easier to do compared to a full blown comic/cartoon version.  In case anyone else likes his rendition or mine, I wanted to give some pointers on making one for yourself.

Trench Coat
- Probably THE most key piece. You have a good coat, a stick, and some playing cards and people will know you're Gambit. I think this is one of the few areas where a good used real coat trumps anything a costume maker can whip up. You need some of that beat up character and genuine material instead of the typical ones cosplayers use to make tops and jackets. Whether you look at a the local Goodwill store or scour eBay, keep these tips in mind:
  • Go for real leather: gives it a cool feel nothing else can match. A tough twill cotton would be a good alternative though. 
  • Color: you have some freedom here, but I'd try to stick to a medium chocolate brown as closely as possible. A tan color or more reddish brown is fine too though. I just don't think a dark olive or black one works. 
  • Pre-owned/used is fine, even preferable. Just be sure to air it out and clean anything gross out of it
  • Right length and fit: too short a coat won't look right, and too long of one will just swallow you. I'd say one that hits a little below your knee is good. Get a tape measure and find your measurements so you have a good reference when buying online. 
I was lucky enough to find an excellent trench coat on eBay for around $20 and shipping:


Tights
- A pair of black compression pants is what I originally used. I think I'll eventually get a solid black tights since mine had some designs along the side. A good website to get tights, shirts, the mask, and pretty much any spandex is SpandexMan.

Compression Shirt
- Ideally, you should get a long sleeve compression shirt that matches your tights. Solid black is good again, and even a bit of a collar. Bonus is you can re-use the same one for Naked Snake and probably a host of other costumes. However, if you're going to wear the ensemble in the middle of summer, a short sleeve version will be just fine. This is what my pieces looked like:


Chest Armor
- Another key piece here. I looked through various tactical vests, armor suits, and sporting equipment. I finally came across something that gave you an excellent illusion of a muscle suit: paintball armor. The best one in my opinion is a "Proto Chest Protector," in black with red trim:


I didn't do much modification to it during my first run. Just cut out the plastic logo in the upper mid chest. However, I will eventually get to painting the foamy muscle pieces: a magenta color in the body and blue around the collar.

Belt Buckle
- Since Gambit is part of the X-Men, gotta have that X symbol somewhere on my costume and why not a belt buckle. You can find these on Amazon or eBay for around $20. Just search for terms like X, circle X, or X-Men buckle. I would like to eventually repaint the silver and make it black to more closely resemble the X-Men logo. Oh, additional note, you should buy one or two compass pouches (in black) to also go on your belt. They add a utility belt look to it, plus gives you room to store your wallet and phone.


Knee Pads
- Purely based on taste, but it went with the red color scheme of the chest piece, so I picked this pair called the EVS Knee Glider. I believe they're for motor cross racers.


Boots
- Again, can vary greatly depending on what kind of look you want. I think black leather boots are cool in general and can come in handy for multiple costumes. These are a biking pair I got for pretty cheap on eBay. If you want to look for the same pair, the brand is Teknik.


Gloves
- Gambit has a pretty distinct glove which you can imitate with pretty much any black pair that's thin. I used the satin long kind (yes, the kind you'd see women wear with a dress!) so it gave the illusion of extending up my arm and being continuous with the compression shirt. Leave the middle and ring fingers alone, but cut the pinky, index finger, and thumb at the part where they meet your palm (the MCP joint).


Mask Headpiece 
- Probably the second most important piece of the costume... otherwise you're just some guy in a trench coat. Get a balaclava/ski mask/open face hood, preferably in a tight spandex-like material. This is so you don't get a sagging turkey neck look like I did on my first one. In fact, you may want to get 2 so you can practice on one.


Next, turn the mask inside out, wear it on your head, and find a buddy with white chalk or some kind of marker. The easiest way to cut out the face is to draw on one side of the face only, then take the mask off, and cut in a sagittal plane. Remember, you can always cut more but can't put fabric back in. Once you have the face taken care of, just make a vertical incision where each ear attaches to your head. You don't need a hole, just a slit for the ear to stick out. Again, start small and cut more only as needed. The following is a good reference picture:


Finally, the third cut depends on whether or not you want to wear a wig. After all the trouble I went through, I almost want to suggest that you do wear one. You see, the balaclava fits just fine as long as there's a top to it. But if you cut out a ring at the top for your hair to come through, then you'll have to deal with the whole issue of the mask constantly wanting to sag down your face. So if you do want to use your real hair, just cut a small snippet off the dome of the hood and take off more as needed. Be sure to leave about an inch or so in the front otherwise that horizontal section above your forehead won't look right. You may have to use some double sided tape on the front to keep that section glued to your forehead. On the back side, hair clips are the way to go. Find two small black extension clips, and sew them into the hood. The idea is to have one end of the clip sewn to the hood and the other end clipped into your hair. Yes, this does get painful after a while, and it'll STILL want to sag down after a few hours.

Minor note, if your hood leaves your neck exposed, you may want to go with a bandana to cover it up.

I think I will re-make my mask one day. The plan is to buy two of the same hood, sew them together so it becomes a thicker double layer, and just go with a wig.

Staff
- Ah, now for the few props to finish things off. The staff is pretty simple. Find the thinnest PVC pipe you can at a home improvement store (a real metal rod will get heavy if you're going to carry it around all day). I didn't even have to cut mine because the length was already appropriate for my height. Next, tape the hole on each end with some masking tape. Next, spray a coat or two of primer and let dry. Then spray a coat or two of silver or metallic paint, and you're done. Note, I used spray paint that was specifically designed for use on plastic.


Cards
- There are some good tutorials on how to make those light up, like this one. A slightly easier route is to look for neon/clear playing cards. You can carry just a few or the entire deck if you want to show off some fancy shuffling.


And that's pretty much it. I know it's not the best or most authentic looking one, but I hope my info has helped. Here's my favorite picture of how the final product turned out, taken by our friend Nash.


Plus, we took part in a huge group photo shoot that ended up on Marvel.com. How awesome is that?! I'm near the top right hand corner. 


A tremendous resource for any superhero or spandex related costume is the Super Hero Costuming Forum. You have to join to see the posts, but there are pages of tutorials and links for pretty much any comic character. Plus, the people are friendly and willing to help.