Thursday, August 4, 2016

Fandom Fest 2016


I decided to do things a little differently this time around. I started planning for Fandom Fest right after my last con, Wizard World St. Louis, which took place in April. That's how it goes. The minute one is done, it's time to start thinking about what's next. Since I had already debuted the majority of my standard River Song cosplays already (there are still a few waiting for their coming out parties!), I thought I'd try something I've always admired with other cosplayers: the mash-up. This would be my first attempt at this type of cosplay, where you take 2 different characters and use bits from both to create somewhat of a new character. My final decision was to do 3 cosplays for the weekend: Agent Song (Agent Carter/River Song), Captain Song (Captain America/River Song), and River the Riveter (Rosie the Riveter/River Song). And yes, I will always have at least a dash of River in my cosplays, even if it's just the hair. I have to live up to my name, after all.

Fandom Fest 2016 Cosplay Plans
After months of research and combing the internets, I had pieced together my cosplays. I always do a trial run, or at least a fitting, to make sure everything is good to go a week or so before the con so that I can make any last-minute adjustments or purchases to get them ready to hit the con streets.

Fandom Fest 2016 Cosplay Trial Runs

I planned Agent Song for Friday mainly because I would be wearing new shoes and didn't trust that my feet would hold up all day. My second consideration for doing this one on a short day was because I'd be in a full-on suit and it was July and about 12,000 degrees with 1,000% humidity. My hope was that the hat would hide the falling hair.

These were the two inspiration shots I went with in piecing together Agent Song. For the Agent Carter portion, I found a vintage blue pinstripe suit on eBay for about $15. It was in great condition and fit almost perfectly. I couldn't have asked for a better score on that one. I also found a red hat on eBay that worked perfectly well. The white shirt I used is a sleeveless button-down white shirt (because who needs more sleeves in this weather?!) that I also use for my Impossible Astronaut cosplay. I found some navy blue retro-style shoes on Groupon for a steal. They were actually quite comfortable. If I do this cosplay again for a photo shoot with no walking, I'll likely go with River's high heels.

The night before, I did a test run of some new red lip stain. As it turns out, Sephora's Always Red creme lip stain was an ideal choice. It's a little matte for my tastes, but stayed on for hours and didn't rub off. Mission accomplished. As you know, I'm very into the details of my cosplays, and so commissioned the badge you see here from Snow Bunny Studios on Etsy. She did a great job, using my chosen image of River and River Song's signature in my handwriting. It's these little touches that really bring things together, I think.

Agent Song badge & Sephora Always Red lips
With Fandom Fest being a local con, I went about my "normal" life until it was time for the con to open (i.e., I worked). I attempted to do some retro curls but once again fell prey to the ravenous humidity. But loads of hairspray later, and you have my best efforts:

Agent Song hair comparison
I was ready to roll! With the air conditioning set to "arctic" in the car, I headed to the fairgrounds.

On my way to Fandom Fest 2016
With it being the first day of the con, and many people still at work, set to arrive later, parking at the fairgrounds wasn't as harrowing as it normally can be. I got a relatively close spot and got my gear together, avoiding the death rays of the sun at all costs. I was actually thankful for the shade of my hat! The lines were minimal, and everything seemed so far well-organized and ready for the crowds. I had nothing specific on my agenda for the night other than walking around, chatting, and checking the layout of the con, so this was a pretty relaxed entry.

Agent Song arrives at Fandom Fest 2016
By comparison, Fandom Fest appeared to be a fairly small con. Everything was centrally located, which is always nice. The vendor hall, artist alley, cosplayers, celebrity tables, and photo ops were all in the same room. Panel rooms were right outside, down either hallway. I'm quite fond of this kind of layout in general. It alleviates the stress of finding your way to a panel or photo op that's far away or in some remote area. This is a vast improvement over previous Fandom Fests, where things were in different rooms, floors, and even buildings.

I ran into some friends straightaway that were kind enough to get this full-length shot of my cosplay. I think my TARDIS purse lent to the mash-up effect, since the hair was not holding up its side of the bargain at this point in the day.

Agent Song
What's a con without a Stormtrooper selfie? So...

Stormtrooper Selfie
I'm always on the lookout for the TARDIS. There was only one at Fandom Fest, left unattended in the middle of it all.
Agent Song investigates the TARDIS
I've always considered River Song to be a superhero, and I think we can agree that adding a rank of Agent just enforces this. The gun is the one I use for my Time of the Angels cosplay. It's actually a vintage Avon cologne bottle that I found on Etsy for less than $10!

Agent Song is a Superhero
The staff photographers from Fandom Fest caught me lingering around the TARDIS a little later on.

Agent Song photo by Fandom Fest
I managed to make a complete round of the con in just over an hour. Several vendors were still to arrive and/or set-up. I received a great response to my cosplay, even if some people didn't recognize the River Song side of it. But that's OK! It was so fun to wear and I will definitely have to bring her out again sometime.


OK, OK, I'll admit...once Stan Lee was announced as a guest for Fandom Fest, that kind of sealed the deal on the Marvel aspects of my cosplays. I've always been Team Cap, so this one was truly a no-brainer. I think I've actually seen someone do this mash-up before, but I coudn't find any evidence of it online. But just to be clear, I'm not claiming this as an original idea. Kudos to whoever first picked up the shield while in full-on River garb, wherever you are.

I've had the full screen-accurate Flesh & Stone cosplay for some time, which is British Army desert camoflauge. I found the top and pants on eBay (separately) and had them tailored to fit me. The belt and holster are standard military-issue. I selected one of my Captain America shirts and got to piecing this one together. I'll be debuting the complete River Song look at Dragon Con!

Captain Song Cosplay Inspiration
It's a sweet relief when I can do a River Song cosplay with my hair up. It means half the curling and a much cooler (less prone to humidity) do. Husband helped me adjust my holster (which he pointed out that I should have done much earlier) and I was on my way.

Captain Song en route to Fandom Fest
First thing of the day, I ran into a fellow River Song cosplayer! I've said it before, and I'll say it again - we River sisters stick together! If you see me at a con, PLEASE come talk to me! Let's mess with our timelines and see what happens! And let's most definitely take a selfie. You look great, @kelmoo322!

River Song and Captain Song
Saturday is typically the day with the biggest panels, as it's the day most celeb guests are likely there for the entire day (as opposed to the first and last days). I headed to Jim Parrack's panel first. I'm a big True Blood fan, and also excited for Suicide Squad, so I wanted to check out what he had to say. Another thing I like about small cons is that it's really easy to get the best seats in a panel. I sat front row, right in front of Jim! I didn't take any pictures since I was pretty much right across the table from him and I didn't want to have my phone in his face. In hindsight, I should have asked him what music he's listening to nowadays, as he had his headphones with him pretty much any time I saw him the rest of the weekend. Jim had some pretty awesome stories to tell about his work on Suicide Squad. He's really invested in being the best actor he can be. He curses a lot and is definitely nothing like his characters, although he said that in order to play a character, the actor has to have at least a little part of themselves that are like that character. So I guess that makes him a little bit Hoyt and a little bit Frost.

As part of my VIP admission, I got to choose a celeb (other than Stan Lee) to get a photo with. I'll admit with no shame that I LOVE Beverly Hills, 90210, and have been binging it since it hit Hulu. So here we have it, kids, my inner 90's girrrl in full force with none other than Jason Priestley, aka Brandon Walsh. He was very nice and totally into doing my standard hug shot. I got a little fan-girly and don't even care that I'm smiling like a fool. This shit right here is gold and makes me giddy as hell. I'll tell you the truth, though: if Luke Perry had been a guest, I would have had to snub Jason. Do you hear that, Dylan McKay? Don't make me wait any longer. Neither one of us is getting any younger.

Jason Priestley and ME!
Since my VIP also allows me to go to the front of lines, I was 2nd in the que for Jason and had plenty of time to pop down the hall to catch Anthony Michael Hall's panel. I slipped in the back since I was arriving a few minutes late, but he stood the entire time, so I had no trouble seeing him, even from the back portion of the room.  I'm equally as much an 80s girl as I am a 90s girrrl, and probably watch Sixteen Candles about 16 times a year. AMH is such a nice, nice guy. He doesn't blow off his childhood fame by any means and is honestly gracious and thankful for the life he's had in the business. I do hope he received a warm welcome and that he'll return again in the future. And while I'm asking for other guests, if we could go ahead and get Jake Ryan, that'd be great.

With about 10 minutes until the biggest panel of the con, Stan Lee, AMH was still answering a few questions, but I decided to slip out and see if I could even get into SL's room. Fandom Fest offered a Stan Lee-specific VIP, so I figured the room would be busting at the seams. I went right in, found a staff member and asked where the non-SL VIPs started, and he replied that we were in the first 10 rows. I clarified that I didn't have a SL VIP and he said it was for all VIPs. That was a surprise! Usually panel seating is sectioned off according to your level of VIP. So I figured it would be SL VIP, then mine (Platinum VIP), then standard VIP, then regular admission. For bigger names like this, it's not uncommon to only allow VIPs into the panels. So I sauntered right up into the 2nd row, just to what would be Stan's left, and found my seat about 5 or 6 seats away from the center. Um, what? I'm telling you - I have the best luck sometimes. I couldn't believe, at one of Stan's last-ever appearances, that I was THIS close! I also must tell you that Stan is one of the best humans around. In all his 90+ years, he is snarky, hilarious, sweet, and just generally on top of his game. I feel so fortunate to have spent this hour in his presence. My favorite question was from a little girl who wanted to know if he had or would he please create a gorilla superhero. He answered by saying he loved gorillas and grew up reading Tarzan, to which I emitted an uncontrollable, "YES!" followed by some blank stares from those around me. C'mon, people. Tarzan. If you don't already know, I'm absolutely obsessed with the Tarzan books. So to find out that one of my favourite people in the world is too? That is everything. I think they allowed Stan's panel to go over a bit, and they'd have been crazy not to. I'm not alone in that my face ached from laughing so much after leaving his panel. What a joyful, lovely man. Love.

Stan Lee looking at ME!
So after 3 hours of panels, I headed back to the show floor and ran into some dear friends who I went to London with a few years back. I love these kids. Hi Doug and Jen! #jensboobs

Doug, me, and Jen
Trolling around some more, I ran into a fellow ORC (Ohio River Valley Cosplayers and Prop Builders), Stephen, seen here as a Vashta Nerada from the Doctor Who episode, Silence in the Library. I guess this is what happens when an archaeologist turns captain! Note my custom one-of-a-kind Captain America shield purse from Divastitch12. It has wrist straps and zips open for all my captain-y needs while saving the universe and whatnot.

Vashta Nerada meets Captain Song
As per usual, I made another stop at the TARDIS. What joy it is to be able to wear sneakers with a cosplay! These in particular are outfitted with wings on the sides with embroidered Captain America shields. The little things again, you know.

Captain Song at the TARDIS
I had one last thing to accomplish before day's end, which was to cash in on my autograph. There wasn't anyone I was dying to have, so I used it to get Haruo Nakajima's signature on this Seven Samurai print that I picked up for the husband in a tattoo shop in Seaside, Oregon. Haruo was one of the bandits in the film. He is very elderly and speaks little to no English. But his eyes lit up when he saw the print. He smiled really big and touched the faces on the print, I imagine remembering each of the actors. He signed in gold on the right side. He then did some sword movements with his hands, shook my hand, and did the moves again. It was a truly amazing moment and I wish Husband had been there to experience it himself, as this is his fandom much more than mine.

I called it a day quite early after walking around a bit more and headed for home to get some rest and prepare for my panel first thing of the day on Sunday.


How do you get on as a panelist for a con, you might ask? Well, all you have to do is come up with an idea for a panel you'd like to do, then apply. Most deadlines are months in advance of the con, so you should apply early. Think about attending cons and panels you'd like to go to. Is there one for your interest? No? Then do it yourself. For me, I lean more toward the presentation than panel side of things. It's usually just me going solo, providing an audience with information and then talking about what it is I do as a cosplayer and con-goer. 

In preparing for my panels, I first come up with a rough idea of what I want to talk about, create a catchy title, write a little blurb (for con programs & websites), craft the presentation, and then do a run-through to check my time, always leaving time at the end for questions and comments. I also make small flyers to hand out at the con to promote my panel. My bottom line regarding getting people to attend? Prepare for many, expect none. This way, I'm not disappointed with a mostly empty room, but am also ready to deliver to a packed house. Everybody wins.

In addition to preparing for my panel, I had a 3rd cosplay to pull off! Again, I can't claim this is a completely original idea, as I found this image a while back:

River the Riveter Cosplay Inspiration
I felt like this fell right in line with the previous 2, although not Marvel or even comicbook based. I kept to the 1940s for the entire con, though, so I'll claim continuation of a theme. For this mash-up cosplay, all I had to purchase was a pair of coveralls (men's Dickies from Amazon, around $20) and a red and white polka dot hair tie (eBay, cheap). I already had red tights and black boots, which is always nice when creating new cosplays. My main focus was doing the full-on River treatment with my hair and working to create a vintage look with my make-up. What do you think?

River the Riveter
Call me silly, but I get a little thrill out of seeing my panel listed in con programs. There's no turning back once you've agreed to deliver. Canceling or failing to follow-through can cause you to get a bad name in the con world. So, if you want to do a panel. Do a panel. Don't flake.

The Cosplays of River Song
First thing Sunday morning is not prime-time, that's for sure. But I knew this going in. Lots of con-goers stay up pretty late on Saturday night doing whatever it is kids these days do. And several others purchase Saturday-only admissions. So, by Sunday, you can't expect much. Again - that's totally fine. I keep a good attitude and prepare just as if I'm going to present to a room the size of Stan Lee's. Some friends of mine volunteered to come early and help me set-up, which involves getting my computer hooked up and going, adhering my table banner, and making sure everything tech-wise is working. A good rule of thumb is to get in the room as early as you can (with consideration to what's in there before you) and to do some last minute advertising on the show floor. Here I am in the midst of presenting, cheesy grin and all, because there are few things I enjoy more than talking about River Song and cosplay! Attendance was low, but those who attended had some excellent questions!

Always River as River the Riveter
So, those ORCs I mentioned earlier? They're great. Here's one of them who came to support me! All and all, the panel went well. Everyone seemed interested and engaged. It also made me realize that I know more about River Song than any sane person really should.

Jonathan Jones & Always River
After loading up my panel (with time to spare for the next presenter to come in and set up), I decided on one more lap or so through the show floor. I of course had to give the TARDIS one last look-see to see if her rivets needed any repairs. If you zoom in, you can see my custom patch, also by Divastitch12, which says River. I have one on the back pocket with my signature lip print and initials. Nope - I don't do anything unless it's all the way!

River the Riveter stops by to check out the TARDIS
Yet another ORC snapped this, which is my favorite shot of the day. Note the subtle photobomb by none other than the TARDIS herself.

River the Riveter photo by @prettypoison_cosplay
As I said before, con Sundays are the scraggly bits. Most people are either on their way home or working toward that. However, the last day is always the day to get some deals on any of that artwork or merchandise you've been eye-balling all weekend. Beware, though, the celebs that have to cut out early to make flights, etc. You don't want to miss talking to someone, so always do that as the opportunity presents itself or you'll have to wait until they pass through again.

I was home by about 1:00 or so, a mere hour after my panel had ended and just moments before a summer storm swept through. Rain, as we know, is the enemy of the River hair.

I took a few more shots at home, further showcasing my River the Riveter, which was not only well-recognized and received, but pretty comfortable, too, as River Song cosplays go. I'm thanking myself for the absence of the 2 belts she sports on the regular. You've probably seen it before, but pictured here is my customized gun. It's a nerf base which Husband modified to be a closer match to River's. He spray painted it grey and I aged it with some sponged-on black paint. I was having trouble getting the serial numbers to look right, so I decided to make it even more personal by using stickers to spell out Always River. There's no questions as to who this blaster belongs to, huh?

River the Riveter
So here we are again at the close of another con adventure, my 14th so far. Here's a composite of all 3 of my cosplays. I hope you've enjoyed your time here and I thank you for reading!

Agent Song, Captain Song, River the Riveter
Next up for me is Dragon Con, where I'll be doing another new mash-up cosplay, Velma Song (Velma from Scooby Doo/River Song), debuting my full Flesh & Stone and a new Pandorica Opens, as well as revisiting my two Let's Kill Hitlers for my photo ops with Alex Kingston (#AlwaysRiver meets #RiverSong, Part Deux)! Until then, Sweeties...


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