BlizzCon Costumes - Illidan Stormrage

December 22nd by Blizzard Entertainment

BlizzCon presents an opportunity for real-life tailors and engineers to take up their needle and thread, their cardboard and spray paint, to create amazingly realistic recreations of their favorite Blizzard Entertainment characters. We invited the winners of this year’s costume contest to write guest articles on the art of costume-craft for us to share with the community. Here’s the last of three, written by Armando, who won second place for his towering and fearsome reproduction off Illidan Stormrage.

Howdy! My name is Armando and this is the story of the Illidan costume's journey from initial idea to BlizzCon.The idea to transform myself into Illidan Stormrage stemmed from our guild spending so much time in Black Temple (and him kicking our ass). Being an artist, I was the one who would wipe the raid because I was too busy looking at the design work to notice nearby mobs. Perhaps it was the kinship I felt for his tortured soul, drawn into darkness due to unrequited love. Whatever the reason, I fell in love with the Illidan character and swore to my guild that I would portray him at BlizzCon.

Within days of obtaining BlizzCon tickets I set into motion the plan for my diabolical transformation. I had never sculpted horns (or anything out of clay for that matter), I had never made pants, I had never made demon wings, and I had never made demon hooves. Clearly, I needed help. I I recruited Richard, another obsessive artist friend of mine, and with his assistance I was confident that "I WAS PREPARED."

The actual construction took months and money was tight -- I'd often buy paint or sculpting clay instead of food, I was so committed to Illidan. I started a new job three months before BlizzCon, and savored every moment that I could work on the costume, dreading every moment that I had to be away at the new job. Whether my fingers were bleeding or my back was aching, I loved every minute I worked on the costume.

After months of work and a small fortune invested in materials, I realized that I had spent weeks on getting the horns and Warglaives just right and completely lost track of time. BlizzCon was in one week and I still hadn't started on the wings, hooves, pants, belt, or on the Skull of Gul’dan. In a mad panic I ended up welding the wings in the middle of a thunderstorm (thank you for risking your life with me, Paul) two days before BlizzCon.

Sculpting Illidan's horns

It was at this point that I had given up on even trying to get the hooves done. I was going as fast as I could on everything and knew I still wouldn’t be done in time, so I took an extra day off of work by calling in sick. I was putting my new job at risk, but I was determined to make the transformation happen. On the day we were to leave for Anaheim I realized that I was slightly ahead of the game and got a crazy idea for hooves. Believe it or not, I put three hours of work into them and there they were, looking amazing if I do say so myself! Illidan was almost complete!

Initial Illidan hoof sketch

Ready to make the trip to Anaheim, I realized that I may not have enough room for everything in my truck. I have a dual cab truck with an extended bed, but we were still filled to the brim. I packed the hooves, horns, skull, Warglaives, leather for the pants, leather dye, paint, and clothes all into the backseat. I spent the whole drive from Las Vegas to Anaheim cutting out the leather pants and sewing them together. I hand sewed about 18 feet of stitching through four layers of leather while a friend drove. Suffer for your art, I always say.

Hand sewing pants on the dark drive from Las Vegas to Anaheim

Here we were, at BlizzCon on the day of the costume contest and I still wasn't done! I remember walking up to the podium to register for the contest, seeing the other cosplayers, and standing there transfixed. I couldn’t believe how many amazing costumes there were, and with so much detail! It was incredible to be surrounded by people who were just like me. I couldn’t believe how much love these people put into their art. It was overwhelming and I almost started to cry!

Horn base paint

With a few hours to go before the contest, I ran back to the room to work on the costume some more, inspired by what I saw in line. With my friends' help, I then put the costume on.

"Now I am complete!"

Ugh, maybe I should have actually tried the leather pants on earlier!

I was then backstage, in full costume, about three minutes before being called before the audience. For the first time, I saw (sort of, since I couldn’t actually see through Illidan’s blindfold) the so-called "ramp" that I had to climb to reach the stage. It was more like a series of ramps -- scaling a mountain would have been easier! Well, I came this far already and I wasn't about to let a little mountain climbing in 13" hooves stop me! After traversing the obstacle course, I made it to what I thought was the edge of the stage… except I couldn’t see it. Nearly blind, I had to climb down another set of ramps, conveniently made out of a slick, glasslike surface -- in hooves! I could barely hear the roar of the crowd, as Illidan’s ears blocked mine! I would love to say that I saw the audience, but I couldn’t see a damned thing behind that blindfold, including the edge of the stage.

Painting Illidan's wings

After my appearance center stage I was nearly exploding with joy... until I realized that I had to climb back up and down more ramps! I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED! I carefully made it back to the holding area with the aid of my friends to only be told by the stage manager to turn around and get back out on stage because I was a finalist!

As I turned to make it to the stage I fell victim to the deadly ramp boss and landed flat on my ass with my wings all over the place. Good thing the horns were glued to my head! The bad news was that I was stabbed in the back by the wings and had broken one hoof. It was a good thing that I passed the Warglaives off to my friend before I fell, otherwise they wouldn’t have survived my fall.

Warglaive frame from stainless spring steel rod

So here I was, flat on my butt, unable to see a thing, with one hoof broken when I heard one of the BlizzCon employees yelling into his walkie-talkie, "Illidan's down! Illidan's down!"

I yelled back, "This isn't a raid &$@#, get me up!"

At this point I heard Jay Mohr calling me a diva for wanting a grand entrance or something and all I could think was that there were over 20,000 people out there waiting for me and probably a million watching live on pay-per-view and I couldn’t get up. Yes… Illidan fell and couldn’t get up. I was only down for about 30 seconds before my trusted minions stomped on my foot to break off the other hoof (I couldn’t walk in just one good one) and got me out there.

So there I was, back on stage, sans hooves, with Jay Mohr sticking a microphone in my face asking me questions that I couldn’t hear. I answered his question by swinging my head towards were I thought the audience was. What was that “thump”? I just clobbered Jay Mohr in the face, didn’t I?

Skull of Gul’Dan wearing Illidan's horns, final paint

The whole ordeal ended and I walked off stage, completely frazzled. All I could think was that I needed a pizza and a drink. Where were my minions? A Blizzard employee tapped me on the arm and congratulated me for all my amazing work. I felt truly proud for the first time right then and there… until he told me that he wished that I had Illidan’s tattoos to make the costume complete. I completely forgot to apply $278 in luminescent green silicon tattoos I made to go along with my forearm wraps. After all those months of hard work, it turned out I actually WASN’T prepared.