My Chat With the Multi-talented Cosplayer Model Actress.
Next month during Memorial Day weekend, Comicpalooza will once again open their doors at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX. In attendance will be Professional Cosplayer and actress Lana Marie. Lana was Comicpalooza’s first official cosplay guest back in the days the event was still being held in a shopping mall. Originally from Houston, Lana now resides in Austin, TX after falling in love with the capital city while working on the film Dream Time.
Named after Lana Lang (Clark Kent’s teenage love interest), perhaps it was inevitable that she would follow the path she did. With a strong resume that includes modeling, acting, voice acting, graphic design, and cosplay, Lana has developed a following of fan boys and geek girls alike that truly admire her craftsmanship. Lana doesn’t just put the costumes on; she becomes the character. It’s no wonder she has earned the name “The Humanoid Chameleon” and the respect of the cosplay community. She’s been Catwoman, Zatanna, and almost everyone in between and also teaches the art of constructing costumes and the props that go along with it at workshops.
Lana was kind enough to take some time during a busy weekend to talk to me about cosplay, the evolution of Comicpalooza, acting, and her obsession with Mortal Kombat.
Peter: I’m curious as to what exactly led you into cosplaying? What were your earliest influences as child/teenager you can recall that took you down the comic and geek culture path?
Lana: I was a little shy as a kid and I spent a lot of alone time creating things at home. Later on I got involved with theater and film which ended up leading to cosplay. A friend asked why I wasn’t doing cosplay since I was always doing something involved with costumes. She told me about local conventions going on, which I had no idea all this existed. It allowed me the opportunity to create things with my hands and do some of my acting. It was a big creative outlet. I just fell in love with it.
Peter: You have mentioned in past interviews that you were into gaming and comic books at a young age. What are your favorite comic book and video game of all time? Also what are you currently reading and playing today?
Lana: Batman and Catwoman (the purple Catwoman/Jim Balent), I still read those sometimes. Video games would have to be Mortal Kombat and the Streets of Rage series. I’m currently reading the Mortal Kombat X comic book that’s based on the new game and of course I’ve been playing Mortal Kombat X.
Peter: What about your favorite comic book movie?
Lana: My current favorite movie has to be “Guardians of the Galaxy”, I absolutely love how they made that film and I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. I’ve always followed DC, but Marvel has been winning my love lately: Guardians, X-men Origins series (First Class/ Days of Future Past), Avengers, as well as “The Amazing Spider-Man” (with Garfield), ASM 2 left me sad though.
Peter: Okay so now the question that everyone has been talking about, what’s your take on Leto’s Joker?
Lana: Oh was that Leto? (Ha-ha) I was wondering why I’ve been seeing that picture all over the place. Not sure about the tattoos, I didn’t think he (The Joker) was capable of getting tattoos because of his skin being burned by acid (ha-ha) or it’s just not his style.
Peter: So you’ve been attending Comicpalooza since it early days. Talk about how the convention has evolved since its days in a shopping mall.
Lana: I think the first Comicpalooza was in a movie theater but I wasn’t at that one. The year after, I was their first ever cosplay guest at the first “official” Comicpalooza which was held at a shopping mall. It was very interesting, I was there as Lady Deathstrike and mall goers where just staring and wondering what was going on, but were really cool about it. Comicpalooza has just grown so much and evolved so fast. The Comicpalooza Staff have been absolutely fantastic!
Peter: You’ve been involved in a number of independent films and television (including commercials). What among all of these was your most memorable or favorite experience?
Lana: Dream Time was the last film I did where I had a major lead role and every day I was on set, practically lived there. They would change lines on the spot so I was learning day by day. I also remember that we filmed during a really hot summer. I had to actually take a little break after it was finished to recuperate. There was also a commercial I did with Yao Ming and my goodness he is a wall when he walks by, but very nice guy. This was my first experience ever with a green screen, they filmed it here in Texas but it was a commercial for China. Each scene featured a different place in the world and these basketball players would bounce balls to all these different places around the world. I loved watching the transition on how they made those scenes come to life, and being behind the scenes and what this commercial became later, just amazing technology.
Peter: Everyone is familiar with your wide range of cosplay outfits that you have showcased before, you are known as the humanoid chameleon. Are you at the point where you just recycle these at conventions now or will you be debuting anything new for Comicpalooza next month?
Lana: I try to do at least one new costume every convention and for Comicpalooza I’m trying to do three new ones. I’m working on my T-1000 from the original James Cameron Terminator movie. I’m reworking my Iron Woman (aka Rescue) costume since I didn’t get to do it last year. It’s big and bulky and it takes a lot of work. Also Mileena from the new Mortal Kombat X which I’m actually debuting at a video game tournament (Texas Showdown) which is also in Houston.
Peter: Talk about your obsession with Mortal Kombat and your role as a Kosplay Ambassador for Kamidogu?
Lana: For Kamidogu I will be making tutorials and posting them on their site (www.kamidogu.com). It will show fans how I make my swords, costumes, and Frost’s ice ball, etc. It enables me to reach out to the community and show them how I do what I do. I also do this for children; I just like reaching out to people who are curious. As far as my obsession with MK, I played the game at a young age, my first game was Mortal Kombat 3 and I thought it was hilarious. I’m not really into violence or gore, but there was just something about MK, I just loved the character design, humor, and it kind of made me want to be a gaming designer. I’ve followed the game franchise since.
Peter: What’s the one thing you hope fans get out of convention? What do you hope they get out of it after leaving a convention after interacting with them?
Lana: Many of the fans have questions like “how did you make this” or “how do you do that”. I just hope that I provided enough information and hope they enjoyed themselves. In cosplay, if you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re doing it wrong. Why do this if you don’t enjoy it? I’ve seen some girls that cosplay and it’s like they don’t like it at all and I find that sad. I love talking to people and I love the creative outlet and the fact that it allows me to become my favorite characters. I hope that I can have a positive impact on fans and show them what cosplay really is.
Peter: Outside of conventions, what other venues or events do you participate in that involve your cosplay?
Lana: I do workshops, video game tournaments, and comic book events when they want cosplayers to attend. I started off with Anime conventions, where they would be really strict about your cosplays. You had to make your own costume and it had to look exactly like the character down to every small detail. It was kind of crazy because people would give me a hard time, tell me how I wasn’t doing my cosplay right. I was like give me a break; I’ve just started doing this. I think they’ve calmed down a little.
Peter: The cosplay community from what I’ve seen at conventions over the last few years is huge and still growing. Who are your personal favorite cosplayers?
Lana: When I began, there was only one cosplayer that I ever had heard of and became friends with. I haven’t seen her in years. Her name is Yaya Han. Now she is the queen of cosplay, and her work is still amazing. Since then I’ve met so many talented cosplayers here in Texas, as well as out of state. I’m currently cosplay crushing on my buddy Vampy (Linda Le), Kelton Ching who does amazing genderbent cosplay (you should look up his gender bend Mileena), and AniMia!
Peter: Where do you see this industry (conventions, cosplay), this entire pop culture phenomenon that we are currently experiencing right now in ten years?
Lana: Hard to say, it’s either going to blow up or disappear. There so many conventions now and it just continues to grow. In Japan it’s a normal thing, you see it on the streets. When I started (cosplay) people thought it was weird and it was something that you just didn’t tell people you did, it was frowned upon. I would hear comments when I would walk by in costume, where people would actually say I was the devil (laughs). Years later an adorable little girl came up to me and asked to take a picture with me. It seems to be a lot more accepted now and a big part of our culture, and that’s where I think it will be in ten years.
Peter: I know you are a graphic artist and have done work in graphic design. Do you still have a day job?
Lana: I don’t have daytime job, right now I’ve been helping out family. I just work on my costumes and occasionally work on graphic design here and there as well as I’m trying to get back to my acting. Costuming has been my everyday thing right now.
Peter: What would you tell others who are trying to break into the cosplay scene? What words of encouragement would you give them?
Lana: Patience! Lots and lots of patience. Don’t feel bad if a costume doesn’t work out, cosplay is a lot of trial and error. I’ve had to rework costumes like three or four times before getting it right (like my Iron Woman). Don’t feel discouraged, be patient and keep working on it.
Peter: What’s your con schedule like for the rest of the year?
Lana: I’m still working out other events; I don’t want to say until everything is final. I have a few video game tournaments, and local conventions. I will for sure be at Texas Showdown in Houston in May.
Peter: Which guests are you looking forward to seeing at Comicpalooza next month?
Lana: George Takei, Stan Lee, some of them are local Texas film directors (I worked in their films) like Mel House & Joe Grisaffi, and of course the other awesome Cosplay guests!
Peter: Okay lightning round…ready?
Lana: Okay ready.
Peter: DC or Marvel?
Lana: That’s not fair! Can I say both?
Peter: Star Trek or Star Wars?
Lana: Star Trek
Peter: Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo?
Lana: All of the above.
Peter: Betty or Veronica?
Lana: Veronica. I did read those when I was younger, they were some of my first comics.
Peter: Hamburgers, Tacos, or Pizza?
Lana: Tacos. I’m raised in Texas (ha ha)
Peter: If one song could play every time you walked in a room, what would it be? Your personal theme music if you will.
Lana: The music from Mortal Kombat and Streets of Rage, or the Matrix soundtrack.
Peter: Lana thank you so much for your time.
Lana: Thank you!
Photos courtesy of Lana Marie