Costoberfest Spotlight - Box Heroes
I’m Stephen Larkworthy, and I live with my lovely wife Anke in Atlanta, Georgia. We have a four year old daughter, a six month old son, and a furry red dog named Humphrey, who is a good boy. I work on the production side of the packaging industry, in an advertising prototyping unit.
How long have you been cosplaying? And how did you get fall into it?
From a very early age I had the costuming bug. I was that kid who wore a yellow cape to school. I ran around hurling trash can lids and bought one of those “Hulk Up” inflatable vest things in the seventies that made you look like a chunky kid with really skinny arms. I also dressed up in homemade super hero costumes every Halloween from about age five (thanks mom!) until well into my twenties. However it wasn’t until 2007 that I saw what real cosplay was. That was my first year watching the Dragon*Con parade, and the level of skill and commitment of the costumers there blew me away. Oddly though, it was a scraggly group of guys in slapdash duct taped cardboard box suits with Sharpie-pen expressions that actually inspired me to make my first costumes. They were bringing up the rear of the gigantic group of picture-perfect Star Wars storm troopers in jester-like fashion. They were hilarious. I thought, I could do that, but because of my background in high-end advertising props and prototypes, my take on it would be somewhat different.
You make all of the box costumes, right? Include us in the process!
I design the Box Heroes in AutoCAD, which is a program I learned when I worked as a draftsman for an architect. I take detailed measurements of my “heroes” and use them to draw flat shapes that can be scored, cut out, folded up, and hot glued into 3-D parts. I use big sheets of e-flute (very thin) cardboard for this and then, depending on access, either cut them out on an automatic two-axis table, or by hand. Then I sketch out the rough character design on the fully mocked-up parts and paint them using interior latex paint in an eggshell finish (to reduce glare). After all of the color is blocked in with two or three coats, I take a finer brush and add black lines to all of it. That final black lining really is the most thrilling part of all, because that’s when the character really comes to life. A lot of people think we base our art on Legos or Minimates, but we don’t and never did. Sometimes we refer to comics, but often I paint them freehand from my own memory of the characters. I should add that probably two thirds of the suits are painted by the people who wear them, so I don’t have complete control over the results.
How did the Marvel universe suck you in? Who are your favorite Marvel characters?
My first comic books came as a 9 cent three-pack (Thor #279, Iron Man #118, Marvel Two in One #47) in January 1979. I was eight years old. I took them home, read them ten times, and commanded (pleaded with) my mother to take me back to the store for the other three-pack I had seen there (Marvel Team-Up #77, Captain America #229, Defenders #67). I was a hundred percent hooked from that moment forward.
I was crazy about Iron Man, but read a lot of Thor and Captain America too. Certainly I had tons of Avengers, and loved the “b list” characters like Falcon, Yellow Jacket , Black Panther., and Beast. The first Daredevil issue I ever bought happened to be Frank Miller’s retelling of his origin story (#164) which made me a huge Daredevil fan ever since. I liked villains too, though, like Taskmaster. I would read about him in the Avengers, go outside, climb a tree and dream of having “photokinetic memory.” Awesome stuff for a kid’s imagination.
What would be your dream Marvel costume (box or non-box)?
A year or two ago I would have said Ultron, Taskmaster, Tiger Shark, Kang, guys like that. Villains. They’re really cool looking characters who were from a class that up until very recently was not well represented in costume. This year I saw all of those guys and they looked amazing. That said, if I were just making one costume I would have to do a gritty Daredevil with really muted hues and no leather. And I would want to jump across rooftops in it.
As for cardboard costumes, I’ve always thought a Box Hero Wrecking Crew would be hilarious (a pry bar made of cardboard?!) I want to make a Box Storm for someone, because the character is just so beautiful. Maybe the Inhumans because of their wonderful variety. We recently did a Kitty Pryde for a ten-year-old and she’s super-cute (despite her fierce expression), so I would like to do more lil’ boxies. In all we’ve already done thirty-three Marvel Box Heroes, which means there are about a million characters left to choose from.
What would you say is your favorite part about box-cosplaying?
"Boxplay". A new word is born. Boxplay is gratifying in so many ways to me. Here are some:
The fans: children run up and hug our legs, 40 year old men gasp in delight, and women buy us drinks. Its uncanny and wonderful. Boxplay makes me want to dance. I don’t know why that is, but it seems to be common among almost all of us Box Heroes. We dance a lot. It also means I’m among friends: old ones who joined the group for a laugh and came away with something more as well as new ones who joined up because they had a passion for comics or art. My Box Heroes are an amazing group of people, very dynamic, smart and funny. Finally, I’m Captain (insert expletive here) America, running around with the Avengers and X-Men, battling it out with very bad box guys. And now everybody calls me “Cap”. Pow!
Besides box-cosplaying, what do you do for fun?
During downtime, my favorite things are spending time with my wife (who is also a Box Hero!) and playing with my kids (future lil’ boxies). I’m fortunate to have a rich, wide circle of friends and great neighbors as well. I enjoy cooking, drawing, jogging with friends, reading books and comics, going to see art and rock shows, singing karaoke, lots of things. I only wish there were more time.
Thanks Stephen You can follow all the box heroes on Facebook at TheBoxHeroCorps.
Photos provided by the Box Hero Corps.