Meet Utah’s Top Cosplayers-Part 2

It can look like Cosplay came out of nowhere. But science-fiction and fantasy have been popular genres for generations now—one could argue that they’ve been around as long as literature itself. Costuming has been around since the first scifi conventions in the 1930s and 40s, when people would dress up to fit into the genre they liked to consume, not necessarily to reflect certain characters. By the 1970s there were formalized costume contests and standards for costuming. The term “cosplay” itself was invented by a Japanese news reporter who visited an American convention in 1970 as a shortened form of the terms “costume play”.

Only in the last few years, with the reboots of Star Wars and Star Trek and the wild success of the Avengers, to name a few influences, has cosplay proliferated from a subculture to a popular hobby. The term “cosplay” has been used as a label for costuming and dressing-up in general, but there is also the connotation that a cosplayer is someone who puts a lot of time, money, and effort into their costumes and portraying their characters. Some people who costume professionally or just like to wear clothes different from the ordinary identify themselves as cosplayers, but some don’t. But the label sticks to people who see creating and displaying their outfits as an art form. It is the art of bringing a fictional character to life—in large numbers and in the right settings, bringing the world they are from to life. It is “playing dress-up” technically, but in a way that makes an impact: to reach out to people in need, as for a charity; to participate in the larger geek community; to bring the fandom to life; to fulfill that human drive to create.

Again, this is not a definitive list of “the best” cosplayers around Utah, as I am far from qualified to write such a list. These are just examples of the types of cosplayers you just might bump into.


I express thanks to those who participated in the survey and gave me a chance to get to know them better and to give them a chance to promote their work. Some people have suggested that this should be a continuing series. I am unsure whether or not I would have the time or energy to do write articles like this on a regular basis. However, local photography legend Mark Loertscher has expressed interest in doing video documentaries of local cosplayers, so if that pans out I will be sure to share that with you. This segment spotlights Glen Phipps, Aaron Borg, Ashley McKnight, Gary Liazo, Derek Jolley, Tracy Scrhoeder and Marial Clark.

Profile: Ashley McKnight


I met Ashley at my first ever Kids Heroes event: she was Rey and I was Princess Leia. Ashley is super sweet, but also has a feisty side, and she has a tendency to do characters who are both. On a scale from one to ten, she is an Eleven (not a terribly original joke, I know).

How Did You Get Into Cosplay?

Ashley: I got interested in about 2011, 2012 and started really getting into it at the first Salt Lake Comic Con in 2013. It just seemed like everyone else going to conventions cosplayed, and it seemed fun enough so I started as well!

Tracy: My husband had always been into all that geeky stuff and I did not get it for the longest time – lIke 16 years of marriage long. I joined him at SLCC and FanX a couple of times where he was always dressed up and my kids were all dressed up and here I was, just shoving on something I would find from our halloween costume box. That was it. I decided I wanted to have fun and really make a cosplay for the 2014 SLCC. I was 39 and did not know what kind of cosplay I could put together, but I was going to give it my best shot! I saw Maleficent in the theater and said, “That’s what I want to do!” After many revisions I came up with my Steampunk Maleficent. And I have never looked back.


Tracy Schroeder as Steampunk Maleficent

Marial: I was in theater and dance from a very young age, and Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, so I started making my own costumes when I was a teenager. I joined Heroic Inc last year to be able to put my cosplaying to good use at charitable events like Make-A-Wish, Relay For Life, fundraisers, and other events that give back to the community.

Derek: My sister got into cosplay from her friend, who in turn, got my other sister and I into cosplay. Now all my siblings are into cosplay and we love it! I started cosplaying 3 years ago with some costumes we bought online, but last year was our first year my sisters and I made cosplays from scratch. We went to Salt Lake Comic Con 2015 as Link, Zelda, and Impa from Hyrule Warriors.

Aaron: I love acting and dressing up. I had a friend who wanted to make good costumes for movie premieres, and we started doing that.  

Profile: Gary Liazo


Profile: Marial Clark


Mirror Mirror on the Wall, she’s the fairest one of all! Marial was also recently inducted into the Utah Cosplay Hall of Fame.

Profile: Aaron Borg


What Gives You the most satisfaction

Ashley: Meeting new friends, mainly. I love these guys! I also love making kids happy and being a Hero for them. The people I’ve met through Cosplay are amazing. So kind, talented, and generous!

Tracy: I love kids. When I have a child squeal with delight at seeing their favorite character, it just makes my whole day brighter. That’s why I work with Legacy Initiative Causeplay Team. I love being a part of a charity group that works with so many children.

Glen as Black Panther, Cosplaycomet

Glen: Going to children’s charity events and having kids just super excited to see you in costume.

Gary: I love the challenge.  I see each costume as a project that I have to solve one little problem at a time – small wins that eventually build up into success.  There is also a rush associated with building something and looking back to admire your creation.  It’s quite euphoric. There is also a taste of celebrity whenever someone wants to have their picture taken with you in costume.  And the smiles that people get when they recognize and appreciate your character is priceless.


Derek Jolley as Link

Derek: I love the way kids faces light up when you cosplay one of the characters they love! And the feeling that you get when you put on your cosplay for the first time and you can look at yourself and say I made this. And you realize that all the sweat, blood, tears, and sleepless nights were all worth it.

Aaron: Knowing that i’ve done a good job representing the character i’m dressed as.

Profie: Tracy Schroder


Profile: Derek Jolley


Profile: Glen Phipps


Glen was actually one of the people who invited me to join the Kids Heroes Foundation. We have since become very good friends. Glen does cosplay with his brothers Sean and Rick and his sister Ruthanne. They even pulled off a Fantastic Four group cosplay for Comic Con and I would highly suggest they be cast for the next reboot. Glen also recently built a Black Panther costume, and has fun chasing around Benji Seekins who was featured in the last post.

Advice for other cosplayers

Ashley: Don’t be afraid to just try. Even if you don’t think you can just try. You may not live up to your expectations, but you did it! And you had a great time doing it! We all start somewhere. There’s nowhere to go but up.

Aaron Borg as Hawkeye, Awqua Events

Tracy: Have fun! Don’t worry about what others might think about your cosplay. Just find one that interests you and go for it. It does not matter if you buy it or build it from scratch (I’ve done both). It only matters if you love it and have fun with it.

Marial: Don’t be afraid to cosplay. Even if you’re throwing a costume together with pins and hot glue five minutes before an event, you’re going to make someone’s day when they see you being their favorite character and get to interact with you.

Marial on stage with Eric Hall at Comic Con. Photo Cred. Derrick Hampson

Glen: Have fun! Dont let negative people hold you back from doing what you love.

Gary: Don’t be afraid to fail.  I have some costumes that I’ve completed, but when I finally put them together, they just didn’t look good to me.  I’ve kept one, but I’ve never worn them it public. Also, check the dollar stores and second-hand stores for potential sources of material.

Ashley McKnight as Rey, Mark Loertscher


Derek: Cosplay any character you love and want to be regardless of your height, size, skin tone, gender, or personality. Cosplay characters that make you happy, you don’t need to worry about what others think.

Aaron: Never give up. Never Surrender.  Just keep doing what you love no matter what others may say. “Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes!” – Abraham Lincoln.

Read More:

Meet Utah’s Top Cosplayers Part 1

A History of Cosplay by Strangeland Costumes

Artifice.com: An Overview of Cosplay


Living with Super Powers: A Survey

The cool thing about science fiction and fantasy is that it allows us to examine what makes us human. Because more often than not, the genre features a protagonist or group of protagonists with capabilities beyond those of ordinary humans. And sometimes we watch how extraordinary humans cope with still living an ordinary life, or learning to adjust to a different one.

This article is a survey of Supergirl, Star Wars, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But there is one quote from Harry Potter that I want to emphasize: It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities. I know I covered the issue of choices earlier in the year, but it’s worth discussing in the context of superpowers—of any powers. Other people will label you because of what you can do. They may or may not trust you because of how you’re different. People sometimes think that those labels define who they are and what they’re supposed to do. But how you choose to use and develop your gifts has nothing to do with how you’re branded or what they do to you. If you’re not going to use your super strength and laser vision to kill people, then you’re not a murderer even if people think you could be. If you’re going to use those powers to save people in danger and fight crime, all the better. You can be a hero whether or not people like you. The essential question to ask is, do those gifts help you to become the person you want to be, or do they make you less sensitive to the important things in life?

Supergirl: Being Different Can be Good

Let’s look at the Kryptonians in the DC universe, for example. Earth is a smaller planet than Krypton and it has a different sun–that is why when Kryptonians come to earth, they are physically stronger than humans and have laser vision, ice breath, etc.  Whichever storyline you are looking at, it probably never took Clark Kent very long to figure out he had special abilities. It was probably not long after that when he realized that his abilities made him different from other people around him. I’m interested to see if or how Supergirl will depict his story or what he decides to share about his life with Kara.


Image result for supergirl cw gif


Sometimes it’s not so much being born different as finding out later in life that you are different, or something happens that makes you different. Taking a look at the Supergirl storyline, Clark’s cousin Kara had to deal with a different set of issues with her superpowers. She came to earth as a preteen. She remembered Krypton, and she was probably told how life on Earth would be different before she came. If you recall in flashbacks during the episode ‘Manhunter,’ Kara had problems at first adjusting to the different conditions on earth, and her abilities were more like dis-abilities, with the x-ray vision giving her sensory overload, for example. She realized that her powers could be used to help people, but her adoptive family asked her to hide her abilities for her own protection–because they feared people would be afraid she could hurt them. As an adult, Kara Danvers found embracing her superpowers and being a hero to be liberating. While her friends and family supported her, she had numerous critics of what she should be doing and how. She doesn’t let that stop her from saving the day.


In ‘Human for a Day,’ Kara faces a temporary loss of her powers just when an earthquake hits National City and everything else goes wrong. It is frustrating to her to not be able to use her abilities to help people the way she’s used to. But then she stops a looter from breaking into a store by sheer persuasion—he had her at gunpoint on the one day she wasn’t bulletproof, and she got him to put the gun down. Kara is still Supergirl because of who she is as a person, not because of her abilities. It is because of her own goodness and her belief in the inherent goodness of other people that she uses her power for good.



Livewire, in contrast, receives her powers from a bolt of lightning that struck her through Supergirl while she was being rescued. Leslie Willis was already a bit of a drama queen when that incident occurred, and Cat Grant had just fired her from being a radio show host. When Leslie wakes up, she finds out that she could conjure lightning to attack people who hurt her, and she decides that she didn’t need to do things the conventional way anymore. “Leslie Willis is dead,” she gloatingly tells Cat Grant when she comes to kill her. “You killed her.” Livewire is getting revenge for the loss of her normal life, and at the same time creating a new identity for herself as a supervillain. When Siobhan Smyth comes to Leslie’s aid with her banshee scream and her own vendetta for revenge, Leslie encourages her to do the same.

Star Wars: The Dark is NOT Your Destiny

In our favorite galaxy far far away, prior to the Jedi purge the standard routine for anyone sensitive to the Force was to be taken to the Jedi temple and trained to be a Jedi. Anakin Skywalker followed this route. The view of the Jedi Order was that human attachments and material possessions were unimportant because they kept one from being able to use the Force. Partly because this view of the Force, but partly because of his own selfishness, Anakin thought he could–or should–be able to use the Force to do everything he wanted. His desires to achieve rank within the Jedi Order took a toll on his relationship with Padme because he didn’t really see issues the way she did: Anakin saw power as the way to achieve peace in the galaxy, but Padme valued human agency and freedom. The result? Anakin was deceived into thinking the Dark Side could give him power over death, and traded his humanity for a lifetime at Palpatine’s side, a shell of his former self.

Image result for return of the jedi luke gif


Luke Skywalker was older and wiser when Obi-wan initiated him and Yoda later trained him. His abilities grew as he continued his training, no doubt about it, but unlike Anakin he had a different (and I want to say better) moral upbringing, and he saw the Force as secondary to having faith in human goodness and the more important ability to love. Vader and Palpatine both thought they could exploit Luke’s feelings for his friends and family to get him to turn to the Dark Side, and they nearly succeeded. Of more interest, they told Luke that the Dark Side was his destiny, as if being good or evil was who he was as a person and not by his actions. But Luke knew that the choice was ultimately his, to be light or dark. And he knew that even though his father was trapped under Vader’s mask, he still had the potential to do the right thing.

Kylo Ren | Drumond Art:


A generation later, in The Force Awakens, we have Kylo Ren, formerly known as Ben Solo. So far we only have sketchy clues about how he turned to the Dark Side. My guess is that at a young age, Ben showed unnatural displays of power and a tendency to favor the powers of the Dark Side–Leia mentions that she saw “too much Vader in him”. Ben must have felt the pressure of too many people telling him what to do and chose the Dark Side because it came easier to him, and he believed (falsely) that it made him stronger. I think maybe resentment for his family fueled it, too–they kept telling him to choose the light even though he believed he was Dark no matter what. Even though after he had long been in Snoke’s service, he could still feel the call to the Light. But he still rejected it. He saw the Dark Side as who he was and something he had to prove he could use. He killed his own father because he didn’t want to have that association with the Light Side anymore.

Captain America: It’s Whats Inside That Counts

One of the reasons Captain America: The First Avenger had such a profound affect on me when I first saw it was because of the contrast between Steve Rogers and Johann Schmidt. The scene where Erskine tells Schmidt’s backstory sets the stage for not only the conflict between the hero and the villain but brought out the themes that are explored in the film. The serum that Erskine created had some kind of effect on parts of the brain that deal with personality and morals. Combined with the physical affects,  the serum somehow reveals a person’s inner beauty or ugliness. Steve Rogers, of course, was already a good man, and he stayed good–he put his power to use to protect the world. Schmidt was steeped in ideology that confirmed his own self-importance and lust for superiority and conquest. He became a monster.

Johan Schmidt/Red Skull. Captain America: The First Avenger. Hail Hydra!:


Schmidt boasts to Steve that he doesn’t need to be a normal person anymore and that Steve doesn’t need to, either. “We have already left humanity behind us.” Schmidt is an interesting foil to Steve because he wants to destroy the world and rebuild it under Hydra’s order. Steve as Captain America represents everything that Hydra seeks to obliterate—God, Mom, and Apple Pie, etc., but more importantly friendship, love, honor, faith in human decency, and agency. He puts the thing in words, even, in his letter at the end of Civil War: “My faith’s in…people, I guess. Individuals. And I’m happy to say that for the most part, they haven’t let me down.”

Image result for captain america the first avenger you don't have one of those gif

Rebloggy–one of Bucky’s best quips in TFA but also a very interesting line

The reason behind that first confrontation between Cap and Red Skull, oddly enough, was that Steve was rescuing Bucky, who had been selected by Schmidt and Dr. Zola for experimentation. He was probably selected by chance, and by chance he survived the first round. Yes, I know I’ve gone over Bucky’s story ten times already for you guys, but there are a lot of things we can learn from it. Schmidt was all right with the serum not working so good for him, but he and Zola were looking into creating their own super-soldiers—without the personality effects. Did Zola’s later experiments on the Winter Soldier find a way to negate them? When the mask falls off, the man behind the Winter Soldier’s mask is devoid of personality and memory. He doesn’t respond to the sight of an old friend. He is a puppet with which Hydra does its dirty work. Brainwashing works because if you don’t know who you are, and you don’t remember right from wrong, then people can tell you to do whatever they want and you won’t complain about it. There is no agency without knowledge.

After leaving Hydra, Bucky goes into hiding because he knows that as the Winter Soldier he was labeled a terrorist and a murderer, and people wouldn’t have cared if he was brainwashed. In Captain America: Civil War, we see firsthand that even after all he’s been through Bucky is a good person and he wants to do the right thing. The fighting and killing when he’s not triggered is self-defense. The Winter Soldier programming did not come from him: that is not who he is. I cannot emphasize this enough because I’m just so amazed and relieved that that’s how he turned out. And it makes that mid-credit scene all the more poignant—and painful.

Getting superpowers is a life change, even if it’s not a dramatic one. It can affect your personality, it can affect how you’re able to live. Depending on what you can do with your powers, other people may or may not let you live a normal life anymore. So what do you do? Do you decide to make them even more afraid of you and turn your back on everything? Do you give up trying? Or do you adjust your course and still do what’s right? Do you let go of everything that makes you YOU—your hobbies, your career, your loved ones—or do you keep holding on and do your best to stay human while being super?

Read More:

Fitting in your Hogwarts House

Villains versus Victims

The Other Kid from Brooklyn

Bucky versus Arnim Zola (Warning: language)


My 10 Favorite Movies

Recently, Tim Champlin tweeted me and asked if I could do a list of my ten favorite movies. I thought it sounded like a great idea, so I jumped at the opportunity to do it. Before I get into this list, I want to set a few ground rules. First, these are my favorite movies. I don’t know how to quantify “favorite,” but I do know that it is not the same as a list of the ten best movies. Some of these movies may not be great, but they are movies I could sit and watch again and again, for the most part. Also, you can’t argue someone’s favorite movies. You just can’t. Another rule I set for myself was limiting myself to one movie per series. Otherwise, this list would be nothing but Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings. That would be boring. So, in no particular order, here is my list.

Continue reading


10 Things that Happened in One Year Plus with the Geeky Mormon

Summer of 2015, Jake asked for people to come co-write for The Geeky Mormon. I posted my first article in July. So it’s been more than a year—more like a year and two months. But better late to get around to an anniversary-type post than never. This isn’t really to brag on my achievements but to look back on what else I’ve been doing with my life in addition to The Geeky Mormon as well as some of the changes that have happened, some I may have mentioned in writing, others not so much.

Continue reading


‘Star Wars: Bloodline’ is Amazing. That is All.

Dear Mom: If you are reading this, I want this book for Christmas, and I also think you should read this book because I think you would love it. I think the boys and Mary Lynne would love it, too.

To my general readers: I haven’t read that many Star Wars books. I never touched the former EU/Legends material. So I couldn’t tell you fairly how it compares. But this is one of the best books I have ever read, period. And I think it needs to be read. And my fellow Star Wars geeks on Far Far Away Radio agree. Bloodline by Claudia Gray is that good. My review here contains a lot of what you would consider spoilers but Bloodline is not that fun to talk about without them. I have a lot of feelings for this book.

Continue reading


Meet Utah’s Top Cosplayers (Part 1)


Utah has gained a reputation in recent years as a haven for geeks of all fandoms and degrees of interest. The rising popularity of Salt Lake Comic Con and the golden age of Geek on the internet has fueled the creativity and talents of many locals into pursuing cosplay. As a member of this vibrant cosplay community, I would like to give my readers a glimpse into what we do and introduce them to some of my fellow cosplayers. Some of us are part of major costuming organizations like the 501st Legion, others are part of smaller local charity groups. Some of us invest considerable time and money into making elaborate, screen-accurate costumes. Others can’t bring as many physical resources, but we make up for it with lots of heart and dedication. Some of us live outside of the Salt Lake-Ogden-Provo area, but thankfully the internet makes it easy to keep in touch on a daily basis and we can share ideas and post photos of our work.

Continue reading


Villain for a Day at Salt Lake Comic Con

You should never underestimate the power of cosplay in groups.  I’ve been a part of a charity group for a while, but for this Comic Con I planned to do something a little different. Livewire was my favorite villain in Season 1 of Supergirl. Since her outfit didn’t look too hard to imitate, I decided to cosplay her. Then a few months ago, one of my Facebook friends decided to put together a DC Villains/Arkham group for comic con. I decided to volunteer Livewire.

Continue reading

Salt Lake Comic Con in Review

Salt Lake Comic Con in Review

Who else is exhausted after three days of comic con goodness? Maybe you’re not exhausted now because hopefully you have had some time to recover. I’ll bet you were exhausted on Saturday night when you got home. Maybe I’m just saying that because I was so tired. I always am after Salt Lake Comic Con, but it’s always worth it.

Continue reading


My 11 Favorite Stranger Things

While my wife and I were waiting in the delivery room for our sixth child (yes, sixth) to be born, I was looking for some kind of distraction to pass the time until the little guy arrived. We had brought along our laptops and iPads just for this sort of situation. It seemed like this delivery was taking longer than we thought it would, and I was beginning to get anxious, so I turned to Netflix.  I had finished most of the shows I had been watching, so I was looking for something new and good to watch. That’s when I turned to Stranger Things. I had heard people talk about it or read about it online, so I thought I would give it a try. After about five minutes I was hooked.

Continue reading


The Geeky Mormon’s Guide to Salt Lake Comic Con

Salt Lake Comic Con is less than two weeks away, and it is the biggest geeky event here locally each year. I am excited to be going again this year and joining in the fun with the local geek community. I thought this would be a good time to take a look at the convention and what to expect. Maybe you’ve been before, or maybe this is your first time. Maybe you are going alone or in a group or with kids. However you will be attending the convention, I hope this post will be helpful.

Continue reading