Cosplayer Spotlight: Peter Kokis
Hey Comic Attackers, welcome to a new feature here on the site, the Cosplayer Spotlight! Every so often we’ll be honoring Cosplayers from all around the world with an interview, and plenty of pictures showcasing their best costume work.
Our debut Cosplayer is Peter Kokis from Brooklyn, NY. Ever since he was six and his parents took him to see 2001: A Space Odyssey in theaters, Peter has been hooked on sci-fi! His favorite comics include Watchmen, Sandman, The Crow, and the various Terminator books. What he does in real life, Peter likes to keep confidential, but what he does in his free time is become some of the coolest looking robots in disguise ever created. Check out all of Peter’s amazing Transformers costumes along with a commentary he provided us via e-mail!
“I had been a bit of an artist as a kid, sketching & sculpting. I ultimately decided it was either art school or the military, and the desire to be a military pilot won over being a ‘starving artist’. The military – and flying in particular – removes your creativity, so that was it for the art-stuff.
Years later, back in Brooklyn, it started with The Mermaid Parade - THE “Art Parade” in the U.S. – which is held every June in Coney Island, Brooklyn. The parade is sea-themed and celebrates the start of summer, and is Mardi Gras-like…actually, it’s mostly nearly-naked hot tattooed women… Once, a girlfriend told me that I should be in the parade, and I just blurted out, “Yeah, I’ll go as Squid Boy”. The ‘Squid Boy’ became a running joke in our relationship. A couple of relationships later, in 2007, I was trying a bunch of things that I had never done before (a mid-life crisis, I think…) and so I created the character of “Squid Boy“, an obnoxious jerk. I took a few days and made a costume using pool ‘noodles’ for tentacles, red sweatpants, and not much else. Not much of a costume, so in the parade he was all-personality, a bit too obnoxious. I had a blast performing, though, and knew that I wanted to be in the parade again the next year, with something better. A month later, [Michael] Bay’s ‘Transformers’ came out and I enjoyed it.
“That winter, when I saw an Optimus Prime helmet, I knew that I should ‘transform‘ the jerk Squid Boy into something more kid-friendly, moral, and honorable, so I created an amalgm, “Optimus Squid.” I took a few months, re-did the tentacles, found a pair of pink pants, and figured out an upper-body infrastructure. I used laundry detergent containers for his lower arm boxes, then found myself attaching toilet paper holders, soap dishes, coat hooks – anything I could find conveniently at the local housewares and hardware stores. It was then that I was starting to manipulate plastic. “Optimus Squid” was a big hit at the 2008 Mermaid Parade, a strange, funny thing to see. Seeing photos of myself afterward, on Flickr and such, I was unhappy with his lack of detail. I needed a challenge…
“A month later, I started buying parts for a Bumblebee exoskeleton. I didn’t particularly care for the character (should I say that?) or the color yellow, but I found his head and face quite creepy, and thought it would be a real challenge to build my own helmet. So, that’s the first part I built, then moved to everything else. I found myself roaming hardware, houseware, & discount stores, obsessed with the shapes of plastic containers and plumbing & bath supplies. I bought lots of things just for their shape or curve: their potential. I opened my mind and realized that I could alter just about anything as I saw fit…their was almost always a way. Ten months later, Bumblebee was built.
“I came to really like the character, and actually had the color yellow grow on me… A few weeks before the 2009 Mermaid Parade, Hasbro released a Bumblebee helmet, so I jumped on that and detailed one to look much better. I opted out of using the helmet I had built, as it was just too complex and fragile. The 2009 Parade was a disaster due to rainstorms. The costume was soaked for hours, wrecked. The Bumblebee costume was received weirdly. The second Transformers film was about to be released, so Bumblebee’s image was everywhere – people recognized the character – but that costume had also been built just for Coney Island and my upper body was on display. I had not thought to go full-robot. The upper piece was back-heavy, so it pulled up and back, and my pecs were what was most on display. Throughout the parade route – under that helmet – I heard hundreds of pec & ab-comments. I was irked at myself! That was it: no more skin! The only comments that related to the costume were about the ‘Brooklyn’ license plate on my waist. What I thought was a funny goof on the character turned into something, and so was born “Brooklyn RobotWorks.” Imagined in Brooklyn, built in Brooklyn, …the Brooklyn robots!
“Within a week I had decided on a full-blown Optimus [Prime], my hero. I found just the right paint colors, and bought piles of hardware and household supplies. His first part was that same ‘Brooklyn’ license plate; everything else was built around it. I just spent time discovering for myself what could be done. Many things didn’t work out, but that time wasn’t wasted because it was part of my learning curve. I had no idea what COSPLAY was – or that I was involved in it – until I saw the word next to my name on somebody’s website. A quick Google [search] and I said, “Yeah, I’m part of that!” Hmmm. After seven months and 200 hours, I had “Brooklyn Optimus Prime” version 1. I did what I considered a ‘test run’ at the April 2010 NYC Easter Parade. Though he was very well-received, I looked at the pics and saw many deficiencies. So another 75 hours’ work and 40+ changes, and I was ready for the June 19th Mermaid Parade!
“I was now very aware of balancing things out, and that increased his weight a lot. I wanted him visually complex, very layered, very busy. I wanted there to be so much on him that you wouldn’t be able to take it all in. Not one inch of me was exposed, I was totally covered. To me, there are really three aspects to this: your vision of what the completed artwork should look like, overcoming the many engineering challenges (strength, redundancy, balance, etc.), and bringing the character to life. He was designed for movement, for lots of walking and fighting poses. I find my own physicality perfectly suited for animating these fighting robots. I now love performing. I’m not a showbiz-type. Putting that helmet on helps me to become the character.
“Anyway, he was very well-received at the parade. Four or five hundred thousand people were there – the most ever – and there were probably 150K photos taken of me that day, so I know that those images are spreading around the world… and that’s really what I want, for my art to get ‘out there.’ The story is far from over. B-Prime is in the middle of another major upgrade - to look even more real - and when he’s done, he will be back around Brooklyn, NYC, and the northeastern U.S., so keep an eye out! …I hope The Capitol Police & US Secret Service have a sense of humor…ahem… “Brooklyn RobotWorks” is now quite busy, with an all-new & very complex Brooklyn Bumblebee (est. 375 hours’ work) and a very” disturbing” Brooklyn Terminator endoskeleton also in production. Many other characters – all exoskeleton-based – are planned.
For me, this has been an exploration…and a life lesson. You just never know where things will end up. Aside from my very busy corporate career, I now have a creative outlet which is going in many directions. I’ve discovered performing. I will be expanding into metal sculptures: I’m learning welding. In 2009, while building Bumblebee, I decided to try building a website, so I bought a domain name and just started playing around. I’m not a computer guy, not at all, but I just figured things out for myself, building basic websites as a way to get photos of my stuff out [on] the Web. And it worked. My images are around the world now. I figured out my own marketing – to get people to visit my sites and see my stuff – and that’s how ComicAttack.net and I met. I now – a year and a half later – have about twenty websites that I’ve built, and deal in dozens of domain names. I have no idea where any of this is going, but one thing for sure: I am not going away!
There you have it! The story of Peter Kokis and his awesome Brooklyn Robot Works!
To see more Cosplay, click here. Stay tuned to ComicAttack.net for more awesome Cosplayer Spotlight segments!