Family of superheroes headed to NH Comicon

By EMILY REILY
Special to the Union Leader
September 06. 2018 10:39AM
Cosplay is a family endeavor for the Powers clan. Shown at a previous comiccon, from left, are Emmy as Big Daddy and Hannah as Little Sister, both from the video game series “BioShock,” mother Carrie as a gender-bending retake on the “Hellboy” comics and movies, and father Michael as the Hulkbuster from Marvel's “The Avengers Age of Ultron” movie. The Vermont family is headed to downtown Manchester for the Granite State Comicon on Saturday and Sunday. (Soubanh Phanthay/MemoryMakers Photo)
If you go...
WHAT: Granite State Comicon

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; VIP entry is 9:30 a.m. each day

WHERE: Downtown Manchester Hotel, 700 Elm St.

ADMISSION: $20 to $65. Children 10 and younger get in for free with paid adult admission.

INFO: granitecon.com

To list every cosplay character Michael Powers and his family — wife Carrie and daughters Emma, 15, and Hannah, 11, — have recreated would be a herculean task.

In short, it’s a lot. Groot, Hulkbuster and Hella from “Avengers” fame, Big Daddy from the “Bioshock”video game and The Thing and Terra from “Teen Titans” are just a few characters the St. Johnsbury, Vt., clan have crafted out of foam, Rust-Oleum and creativity.

“I introduced (the Thing, a superhero with literally rock-hard muscles) a few years back, and it was a huge hit because it looked so close to the comics. He was actually built with all the scrap from the previous Hulkbuster and was one of my cheapest builds because of it ... LOL,” said Powers in an email to NHWeekend.

He’s also proud of his version of Groot, the tree-like alien from “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“This was the first full body-foam costume that both Emma and I built. This won her several awards and was a kid favorite. Unfortunately she hit a growth spurt and grew out of it,” he said.

The aforementioned Hulkbuster, Domino from “Deadpool,” Captain Marvel, The Joker, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman — nothing seems off the table for the Powers family, which brings its costumes to comic book conventions, gaining accolades along the way. Next up is the Granite State Comicon Saturday and Sunday at the Manchester Downtown Hotel, 700 Elm St.

Powers prefers to keep his latest monster under wraps until its unveiling at Comicon, but his Facebook page hints at the work that has gone into sculpting the character’s cyber arm.

This is not their first science-fiction rodeo. The family has been doing cosplay for about seven or eight years, but Michael has been collecting comics since he was a kid. He credits Carrie with starting him on this path.

“My wife was shocked that I’d never gone to a comic con. She knew some friends at work who knew about Granite Con and made the suggestion (that we go),” he said. “The kids wanted to dress up. They were dressed up as a corpse bride and a little Poison Ivy (a plant-loving nemesis of Batman.) They got to do the costume contests, and they’ve been hooked ever since.”

Powers might spend several months working on custom costumes, crafting at night and on weekends. Powers mines materials from local stores, through conversations with other cosplay enthusiasts, or through online searches.

The family spends a lot of the cold season together in their basement workshop, shaping foam for fantastical characters.

“I basically built costumes with the kids during the winter months. I don’t really have any formal training in it, but the girls seem to like it,” Powers says.

Carrie and Michael both have full-time jobs, so mid-week costume adjustments aren’t usually in the cards. But it’s usually a team effort.

“They buy me a power tool during Father’s Day or Christmas or whatever, like a belt sander, and we just go downstairs and throw a movie on and start building,” said Powers, who wants to make sure the family’s cosplay hobby stays just that.

“We don’t want to try to max out credit cards or anything for stuff like this. I mean, this is supposed to still be a hobby,” he said. “To wear it is one thing, but trying to figure out how to make it and to build it, that’s what I kind of enjoy.”

Emma and Hannah seem like superheroes themselves, donning daring outfits that appear to weigh a ton but are often less than 20 pounds.

For example, Powers’ said his costume of Big Daddy, the spliced human grafted into a metal diving-like suit in the “Bioshock” video game was, of course, pretty large. But since his version is mostly made of foam, it’s fairly lightweight —light enough for Emma to debut it at Free Comicbook Day at Double Midnight Comics in 2017.

“(Big Daddy) almost looks like a Merchant Marine. The globe itself is all in foam, and then it’s spray-painted with Rust-Oleum spray paint and different coloring techniques,” Michael said. “Emma, at the time, was only 14 when she actually first put that on. Everyone was really kind of confused that there was just a little 14-year-old girl that’s actually in that big monster costume,” he added. “She had all those slots that she could look through. And then there’s a 6-inch fan inside that was keeping her cool. That one weighed about 15 pounds. She later wore it at Massive Comic Con (Worcester, Mass.) and Granite State and Vermont comic cons.

Powers, too, likes to play it big.

“I know I make these big monstrous costumes at times, but it’s kind of more for the wow factor,” he said.

Granite State Comicon has grown exponentially as well. Organizer Chris Proulx launched the convention, now in its 16th year, with his business partners, who own Double Midnight Comics in Manchester and Concord. The comicon launched five years ago, building from a one-day event to what is now two days of activities with more than 200 vendors and about 8,000 people expected.

According to Proulx, comic con panels keep superhero buffs in mind.

“We have fan-run panels, so people can submit ideas for panels that they want,” he said. “That runs the gamut from steampunk ... to ‘Star Trek Discovery.’ There’s a panel on cosplay, how to make your own stuff.”

There will also be a sketch duel in which the audience suggests something for competing artists to draw.

Among the celebrity Q & A panels this year will be Caroll Spinney, who has played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on the TV children’s show “Sesame Street” since 1969.

“That was pretty neat. His agent had emailed us to see if we were interested, and I was like, ‘Uh, yes,’ for two reasons — it’s the 50th anniversary of ‘Sesame Street,’ and also he’s retiring this year from doing appearances. I was like, ‘If I don’t get him this year then I’ll be kicking myself.’ We’re very excited about that.”

Movie sets from recent TV shows can make you feel right at home at Comicon, thanks to Brandon Berry of Feature Presentations.

“One of our convention regulars builds full movie and TV sets. He built a ‘Stranger Things’ living-room set (based on the series’ “upside-down” focus). And he’s a huge Muppet guy, so he built a mini Oscar the Grouch set with his own Oscar the Grouch Muppet,” Proulx said.

He emphasized the convention’s family-friendly style.

“That’s kind of always been our thing. On Sunday it’s got more of a family-friendly focus. We have a kids sketch-off … with artists that are more cartoony animation style,” Proulx said.

The Powers family will run a panel at Comicon about the ins and outs of cosplay.

“This year was really kind of cool that they actually invited us as a guest, and actually asked us to do a panel,” Michael Powers said.

This year, Comicon has teamed up with Granite Game Summit, a New Hampshire-centric board-gaming group that encourages friendly play. Convention-goers can play board games from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday only.

Mike Taylor of Manchester, organizer and founder of Granite Game Summit, hopes to attract those “interested in playing an old favorite with friends and family, or learning something new while meeting new people with similar gaming interests in our community.”

That includes both strategic and party games, as well as newer games, and classics like Ticket To Ride, Pandemic and Codenames, he said..


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