Welcome to the TROPICON Project

Originally, Tropicon was not going to be a big deal for me. I was just going to head along, hang out for a while, enjoy my first pop culture con in over a decade and a half, meet some new people and catch up with some friends, then head home. I got in on the Indiegogo funding project because I wanted to make sure Tropicon got the support it needed in order to happen and, well, early access / parking seems a pretty good idea.

Then I started making contact with organiser Charlie Kennell after trading him some comics for an Xbox 360 S. I put him onto a couple of folks who I thought could help connect him with more potential guests for the con and was happy with that.

Next thing I know, he’s asking me to MC the damned thing.

Oh, yeah, I’m still doing it. No doubts or back-outs there. Thing is, I’m starting to feel a little… under-dressed, especially in light of some of the guests coming along. The plan was to dress casual and comfortable. Still is, but… for my first pop culture con in ever, that I’m MCing, I want to do a little bit more.

That’s right, folks. I’m starting to think about… cosplaying.

When I thought about writing this, I was thinking that I’ve never actually cosplayed before. I know there was Gav and Tracey’s Wedding, which was semi-public (especially when walking through the lobby of a Sydney garden centre in full Viking outfit and sword) but I was definitely there in best man mode, not Viking mode.

And yes, there was that Martin Short as Jack Frost costume my wife and I put together for that work social club Christmas party a few years ago (even though I hadn’t seen The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause yet. I wish I could find the photos for that…). I’d class that more as “dressing up” than actual cosplay.

A squad of three female troopers and one male trooper from the game, XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Screenshot from Steam.
A squad of three female troopers and one male trooper from the game, XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Screenshot from Steam.

Regardless of whether it’s my first actual cosplay (I’m still going with “yes”), the point is that I felt as though I needed to do a little bit more as the MC for Tropicon. But what? I’ve never put a costume together, and certainly nothing as complex as some of the stuff you see when you Google the term. When I’d thought about what I’d like to do before, I’d fancied the idea of a soldier from the game, XCOM: Enemy Unknown. They’re big, they’re bulky and they can look like pretty much anyone, so it wasn’t like I was trying to be a particular character.

The main problem is, the outfit is pretty complex; that’d mean a lot of time, effort and money, and my perfectionist streak wouldn’t let me off with something merely passable.

Then I considered something more simple, yet still unusual enough to be notable and recognisable, like, say, Spike Spiegel from the anime Cowboy Bebop. He’s tall, he’s lanky, he’s dark haired and he dresses in what looks like a casual yet snappy suit.

The downsides there are:

  1. Spike’s future duds are still a little unusual, and would need more skill to make / modify than I can pick up in three months.
  2. The only Cowboy Bebop I’ve seen was the movie, and that was before Vickie and I left Sydney for Cairns. I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a con with a bunch of anime fans cosplaying a character whom I don’t know much about.

I went back to thinking about XCOM again – and suddenly it hit me.

Officer Bradford, a.k.a. Central. The guy with the obligatory wireless headset who runs the base while you issue the orders and send the squads out to fight aliens. Simple, modern costume (with the minor exception of the XCOM badge); we’re both dark haired, we’re of similar build (though I could use a little more muscle); he’s a character from a game I’ve played and finished; his role pretty much fits what I expect my role to be at the con. Perfect!

So let’s do a quick inventory of his outfit:

  • Commando sweater (according to he XCOM Wikia, similar to those worn by members of the British army and US Marine Corps) with XCOM badge. I have neither yet.
  • White shirt. Not sure whether I still have one, but I imagine they’re not hard to come by.
  • Black tie. Ditto.
  • Dark pants. I have a few of these.
  • Dark / black shoes. I have a pretty solid pair that should look the part.
  • Silver headset. I’m expecting Charlie will issue me with one of these for my role at the con, but if not, one shouldn’t be hard to come by.

And I have until July to put it all together.

The good bit is, I’ve already got some help. Vickie’s been doing some online shopping for a jumper, which Scott Collingwood identified as a “standard Army Issue “Howard Green” jumper”. We’ll also have to see if any local army disposal stores carry small ones (yes, that’s my size). There are also a few places online that make the XCOM badge that Bradford sports on his jumper.

The bad bit is, I’m going to have to get a crew cut before the event – and I don’t think Vickie’s gonna be too impressed…

Featured image sourced from the XCOM Wikia