Arizona cosplayer Johnny Carwell Jr. has the distinct honor of being our first featured cosplayer. He is a member of Heroes United and Arizona Avengers and has been wearing costumes for nine years.
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Although we had seen him several times across the crowded convention hall floor, his Blade cosplay caught the eye of our children at Phoenix ComiCon 2014 and were absolutely amazed when we discovered he was Hawkeye also. These two costumes are among his favorites to wear too. He was the very first one we met to wear Hawkeye and ever since then we make it a point to see him wherever we go.
No con is ever complete without seeing Johnny.
Johnny was first introduced to cosplaying in 2006 when he attended his first anime convention and he says “it looked fun to do, so I decided to get in on it.” His first costume was Evil Ryu from Street Fighter and since that time he has been to many cons including San Diego Comic-Con, Phoenix ComiCon, Salt Lake City Fan Xperience, and Tuscon Comic Con.
Adding to his collection of 15 costumes, this year at Phoenix ComiCon 2015 he debuted four new costumes: Wasabi from Big Hero 6, Static Shock, Karnak from the Inhumans, and Hawkeye’s Age of Ultron suit.
Watching his construction of Wasabi was definitely fun to see and seeing the final creation at Phoenix ComiCon was definitely a highlight since he nailed it.
The costumes he is currently working on will definitely have the high quality he is known for with his other costumes. He is currently working on Spawn, Mako from Legend of Korra, Kurogane from Tsubasa Chronicles, and Falcon from Captain America.
Over time his collection of costumes has expanded so much that he finally gave them all the room in his closet and put his clothes in a dresser with a footlocker holding his retired costumes.
“Cosplaying is about having fun.”
“No matter how different you look from the character you want to do, do it anyway. Cosplaying is about having fun, and if there are characters that are a different body type, or race from you, do them anyway. I’m a biracial man, and most of the characters I costume as are white guys! lol But my love for those characters drive me to costume as them. Also, know how to budget yourself when making a new costume. Thrift stores such as Goodwill and Savers are great sources for costuming supplies. Also, if you hit an obstacle during the making of a costume, don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, or other people in the costuming community.”
If you think cosplaying has limitations, look no further than Johnny’s explanation because “no matter how different you look from the character you want to do, do it anyway. Cosplaying is about having fun, and if there are characters that are a different body type, or race from you, do them anyway. I’m a biracial man, and most of the characters I costume as are white guys! My love for those characters drives me to costume as them.”
[pullquote_right]It’s much more than just putting on a costume. – Johnny Carwell Jr.[/pullquote_right]
His favorite genre of costumes are martial artists/warrior type characters since another passion of his is martial arts. Combining costuming with martial arts allows him to do “the dynamic and athletic poses” and “it really helps me get into character and also impresses the crowd at the cons.”
When asked what Johnny’s dream costume to make was, he said “It would definitely be Jetstream Sam from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. He’s become one of my favorite characters from his coolness and awesome design; however, his costume, like many Metal Gear characters, are extremely complex in design. I would definitely need some Scrooge McDuck level wealth to complete that costume. Another one would be Karas, an anime superhero that also has a complex costume.”
Favorite Costumes: Blade and Hawkeye
An episode of the Spider-Man cartoon from the 90’s was where Johnny first heard about Blade. “Here he is, a vampire hunter with a sweet motorcycle, awesome high tech weapons including a laser sword, and brimming with ruthless cool factor but most of all, he was a superhero of color, which at the time, black superheroes didn’t get much mainstream attention. Also, being a biracial kid, I kinda sorta related to his half vampire/half human struggle. So when costuming as Blade, I get the rush of replicating his martial arts style, the way he handles a sword and gun, and his stoic yet cool personality.”
The 90’s Iron Man cartoon was where Johnny first heard of Hawkeye but it wasn’t until many years later when Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 came out that he became interested in Hawkeye. The playable character, especially in the high level matches was where the love for Hawkeye grew, along with his role in the Avengers movie. “I started to costume as him back in the Arizona Avenger days, and at the time the members who costumed as the heavy hitter characters such as Captain America left and it was my friend Gus Matos who recommended I go as Hawkeye and him as Cap so we would have more recognizable characters for the kids and parents. As I costumed as Hawkeye, over time I began to read up on him and he grew to be one of my new favorite characters. His everyman position in the Avengers was relateable, and his smart-aleck personality and cockiness with the bow and arrow was very entertaining.”
Johnny’s tips for making your first costume
If you are wanting to make your first cosplay costume, Johnny has some great tips which includes reaching out to friends or the costuming community when you hit an obstacle. Although your first costume may not turn out exactly as planned, “with each new costume you learn from what went right and what went wrong.”
“Collecting as many reference pics as possible” is where Johnny begins each costume and even points to an unusual reference of video games because “games like Tekken and the Batman Arkham series have character model modes where you can rotate the camera around the characters.” When looking at pictures “the best ones are action figures of the costume you want to do especially if you want to capture every detail.”
After the planning comes shopping and thrift stores are where “you can find a lot of cheap items there that can be remade into costumes or props, which is the best part cause you want to try to avoid spending too much money on a costume. It’s wise to have a budget plan for your project so you can avoid overspending and have an idea of how much to spend on the costume.”
The final advice Johnny offers is planning ahead. “If there’s a project you want to make and it’s a highly complicated costume, try to start as soon as possible and most of all do not rush. In my opinion, it’s not a good feeling to be wearing an incomplete costume. I know from experience.”
[quote]20 years ago we were all kids seeing our favorite superheroes and being in awe. 20 years later and we’re the ones dressed as the heroes. I hope we can inspire the kids we visit to take our place as the charity costumers. – Johnny Carwell Jr.[/quote]
Johnny’s parents are his first and most important role models and “their love, sacrifices, and hard work are the reasons I’m here today.” He goes on to say “all the martial arts instructors I’ve had the honor of training with over the years; Shihan Rudy Crosswell, Sensei David Whilett, Instructora Borboleta, Brendan Turner may he rest in peace, Sensei Miko Peled, and Sensei Jamie Hohnstein.” When he talks about celebrity role models, he includes Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins, Matt Mullins, Lateef Crowder, Mike Chat, and Tim Man.
Choosing a favorite ComiCon for Johnny resulted in a tie between San Diego Comic-Con and Phoenix ComiCon. Growing up in San Diego, in 6th grade his father took him to his first comic-con which was SDCC when tickets could be purchased at the walk up window when “they were more focused on comics. Now, its become so Hollywood its feels more like a film festival in the vein of Cannes or Sundance. Getting tickets is like going through the American Ninja obstacle course; however, regardless of the crowding issues, Hollywood vibe, etc. I still enjoy going to SDCC. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, and every time I go I have a good time, and meet the coolest people plus seeing downtown San Diego and visiting my family always brings a smile to my face. Its more than a con to me, it’s homecoming.”
He has been attending Phoenix Comic Con for about 8 years and has watched it “evolve from a small convention to the biggest geek, pop culture event of Arizona. I always have a good time when I go to PCC and make new friends in the process. It’s great to see how much PCC has grown over time, and it’s due to the great staff running it and the loyal fans that have attended.”
Marcus leaves a lasting impression.
When asked about Johnny’s favorite moment in costume, one little boy named Marcus, who has Leukemia, touched his heart. When Marcus’ father asked to have Captain America at his birthday party, Gus Matos who plays Captain America made sure to invite extra superheroes to make it even more special.
Johnny hope to keep cosplaying for many years both because of the amazing friends he has met but also hopes to inspire more cosplayers to look into charity costuming. No matter how he started costuming, his inspiration is giving back to the community through school events, fundraisers, and special appearances. It is the excitement from the children and parents that fuels his desire to make more costumes.
Look for Johnny next at Saboten Con, Ventura Comic Con, Tuscon Comic Con, and Phoenix ComiCon Fan Fest.
Johnny Carwell Jr. is an amazing Arizona cosplayer with a tremendous heart who has even more awesome costumes in store for the future, both for ComiCons and charity cosplaying.