It wasn’t limited to just those examples, as we encountered characters from all manner of movies, television shows, cartoons, and comic books.
Then there were the cosplayers who stood out from the rest of the crowd and grabbed attention. Some were finely crafted costumes involving countless hours of detailed work. Others were clever, colorful, or just flat-out unique.
These are the efforts that caught our eye and made our list of the best costumes and cosplayers we saw at this year’s Phoenix Fan Fusion.
When Valley resident Danielle Nunez was figuring out a costume for Phoenix Fan Fusion, her decision was born purely out of necessity. She’d recently had surgery and wanted something loose-fitting to wear, so she went with something from one of her favorite episodes of The Simpsons. She mimicked the look of Homer Simpson from the 1995 episode “King-Size Homer,” in which the character gains excessive amounts of weight in order to qualify for disability and work from home. Nunez says Homer’s flowered muumuu from the episode was ideal for her needs. “I thought this would be comfortable,” Nunez says. “And then one thing led to another and I made the whole costume.”
Children of the ‘80s at Phoenix Fan Fusion likely got an instant dose of nostalgia when they encountered this group cosplay featuring the characters of popular cartoon ThunderCats. According to some of the people involved, their crew involved up to six people playing such characters as Lion-O, Cheetara, Mumm-Ra, WilyKat, and Panthro. Here’s hoping they return next year with even more heroes and villains from the show.
It was impossible to miss this roving trio of party-hard cosplayers. Clad in neon beach wear and armed with props built from beer cans, they resembled a pack of Vikings who had been transported through time to spring break in Cancun. Known as Pebbles the Orange, Orchard the Red, and Yang the Alcoholic, they attracted plenty of attention while strolling through the Phoenix Fan Fusion exhibitor hall and blasting “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” They even had a catchphrase: “We’re the Wisest Wizards … and don’t you forget it.”
Beanie Boo Dress
Collectors of Beanie Babies might recoil at the sight of Amanda Swainson’s dress. The colorful get-up was adorned with a multicolored array of more than 130 individual Beanie Boos. She’s the first to admit it might hurt the resale value of the popular collectibles. “Probably,” she says. “But they’re so cuddly, I thought I might wear them on [a dress]. Everyone knows that stuffed animals are a girl’s best friend.”
Vampires From What We Do in the Shadows
Phoenix couple Pam and Ken Crandall were inspired by the vampire protagonists from the television version of What We Do in the Shadows. Pam went as Nadja and Ken dressed up as Nandor while their kids Ellie and Alan respectively cosplayed the Floating Woman and “time vampire” Colin Robinson. “We’re huge Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement fans,” Pam says. “The show is so creative and outlandishly funny.” The Crandalls got plenty of positive reactions to their costumes from Fan Fusion attendees, including WWDITS actor Harvey Guillén. “We got a photo [op] with him,” Pam says. “He was awesome.”
Alex Canto is a local cosplay legend. Over the past several years, the former Valley resident has created a series of creative and clever mashup costumes blending characters or elements from different geek franchises. (Earlier this year, for instance, he mixed The Mandalorian’s Din Djarin with the DeLorean from Back to the Future for a costume he debuted at Pittsburgh’s Steel City Con.) At Fan Fusion 2022, Canto debuted his latest costume: The Ducktor, a mashup of the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who with the anthropomorphic duck characters often seen in Disney cartoons.
The 1999 religious comedy Dogma is not only one of the favorite films of Tempe residents El Lorello, Ben Brown, and Brendan Ponder, it was also the inspiration for their group cosplay at Fan Fusion. “We were watching [the movie] and said, ‘We really need to do that,’” Brown says. “It was a spur-of-the-moment decision.” For those who haven’t seen it hundreds of times like Brown and his buds, the flick involves a pair of fallen angels named Bartleby and Loki trying to re-enter heaven after being banished to Wisconsin banished for eternity by God. Brown played Bartleby while Ponder was the demon Azrael, and Lorello was God (who is female in the film). The trio didn’t have a Loki, but in a pinch, they could’ve easily tapped one of the many variants of the famed Marvel character at Fan Fusion.
Valley residents David Kish and Rachel Ramsay showed off their love of the indie hack-and-slash video game Castle Crashers with their costumes. “I got him turned onto the game and then we both literally beat it together,” Ramsay says. “And we just got addicted to it and were like, “Hell yes, we’re going to do this [for a costume].” Thankfully, the pair didn’t act like the characters they were portraying and refrained from bashing walls and enemies at Fan Fusion.
Tucson cosplayer Jesse Young used wire, foam, and quilting material to recreate the titular creature from Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved animated film My Neighbor Totoro. Essentially a gigantic, enchanted chinchilla, the character whisks a pair of siblings away on a fantastical journey. The flick was one of Young’s favorites growing up. “I always loved Studio Ghibli films and it always put a smile on my face,” he says.
It helps to have a certain amount of patience when you’re a cosplayer, considering that it can take months or even years to put together a fantastic costume. Just ask Vincent Gonzalez of Chandler, who spent two years crafting this amazing Buzz Lightyear spacesuit using EVA foam, fabric, hot glue, and spray paint. Like the old saying goes, all good things to those who wait.
Geekdom runs deep in the Sanchez clan of Tucson. When 12-year-old Hannah Sanchez wanted to attend Fan Fusion as Ayesha from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the entire family got involved. Her dad, Donald, designed and created the character’s armor and dress. Her mom, Melissa, spent three hours using sponges and brushes to cover Hannah’s arms, shoulders, and face with gold paint. “We’re all huge fans of Guardians of the Galaxy, so we all helped out with her costume,” Donald Sanchez says. “I taught myself how to sew and how to build armor just to make it happen.”
California-based cosplayer Niji told Phoenix New Times she spent anywhere from two to three months building this costume, which depicts Scorpia from the Netflix animated series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (a reboot of the ‘80s cartoon of roughly the same name). The character is one of the “elemental princesses” and is essentially half-woman, half-scorpion. “I just love her,” Niji says. “She’s actually pretty friendly and so huggable.” If you say so.
Sailor Moon Knight
As we mentioned, Moon Knight costumes were abundant at Fan Fusion, but not all of them were notable. Local cosplayer Naomi Moon’s mashup of the character with anime favorite Sailor Moon, however, was one of the best we saw. And it only took her two or three days to make. “I used a lot of spandex, gold [lame], craft foam, and other stuff and put it together fairly quickly,” she says. Her husband, Jai Son, joined in the fun by portraying Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon and the night sky.
One of the most unique entries during Phoenix Fan Fusion’s annual cosplay masquerade was this mashup of furry culture with comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld. (Yes, you read that right.) Wearing a T-shirt and jeans over their fursuit, they mimicked one of Jerry’s stand-up routines from his sitcom as clips of the comedian were played. It was one of the most original costumes we’d seen at Fan Fusion in years and made us wonder what a furry version of Seinfeld would be like. Just imagine the sort of idiosyncratic situations and conversations that would unfold if Elaine, George, Kramer, and Jerry all became yiffers. (Someone sort of did, and the results were, um, interesting.)
Elton John at Dodger Stadium
Tucson cosplayer Hermione Hatch never fails to impress with her cosplay. In years past, she’s attended Fan Fusion and other local geek events while wearing such impressive-looking costumes as Wonder Woman and Darla from Finding Nemo. This year, she came to Fan Fusion dressed as the legendary Elton John during a pair of sold-out concerts at Dodgers Stadium in 1975. Hatch sported a pretty accurate recreation of the spangly Dodgers uniform worn by the pop-rock icon while he performed.
Saturn V Rocket
Local geek MeliFromTheMoon has a thing for cosplaying as rockets. Back in 2018 (when Fan Fusion was known as Phoenix Comic Fest), she built a 7-foot-long version of a Space-Falcon Heavy Rocket and wore it to the event. This year, she did the same with a towering Saturn V rocket from NASA’s Apollo glory days. It made her easy to spot in the crowd, but proved to be a little challenging when trying to enter and exit the Phoenix Convention Center.
Mexican Iron Man
Local geek Mario Romero didn’t see himself represented in superhero or comic book culture, so he came up with a character of his own. “I wanted to do something different,” he says. “I wanted to have a superhero for Hispanic culture.” Romero had an Iron Man-style suit 3-D printed and wore it to Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022 as Mexican Iron Man, which he says got a lot of positive reactions at the event. “People really loved it,” Romero says.
Variants of Loki were everywhere to be seen at Phoenix Fan Fusion 2022, including multiple versions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe character from his recent Disney+ series. And thanks to the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary, it included Alligator Loki. The local nonprofit organization and reptile sanctuary brought Baby, a 30-year-old female alligator, to the event to cosplay as Loki’s reptilian variant. PHS spokesperson Katelyn Garcia told New Times that Baby has been an education animal for years and is used to being around people. In other words, she wasn’t going to start chomping on people’s hands like Alligator Loki did on the show.
Claire Corcoran, a talented cosplayer and art teacher from Tucson, crafted this stunning costume depicting an Eliksni mother from the first-person shooter Destiny 2. According to her Tumblr, Corcoran has been building it since last year. It was time well spent, as the costume earned her plenty of positive reactions at Fan Fusion, as well as a first-place award in the journeyman division at the annual cosplay masquerade.
Belle, Beast, and Chapeau
Nat Lawson and Ken Hazlett came all the way from Orange, California, to attend Phoenix Fan Fusion, and brought a Beauty and the Beast-inspired group costume with them, which was one of the biggest cosplay highlights of the event. Nat cosplayed Belle while Hazlett was the Beast and their daughter Bryn was the character of Chapeau. Nat says the group costume was years in the making. “We’re a family that cosplays and I worked on it on and off over the quarantine.” That included embroidering Belle’s elegant gown and building a towering version of the Beast made from EVA foam, upholstery material, and a large harness. “Everyone needed a project during [the pandemic] and this was ours,” Nat says.