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November 11, 2010

Cosplayer Spotlight: Damaris Degen

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Written by: Andy
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Welcome back to another Cosplayer Spotlight! Today we talk with Damaris Degen, a 39 year old from Puerto Rico who now lives in Florida!

COMIC ATTACK: Hey Damaris! Tell us some preliminary info about yourself.

DAMARIS DEGEN: I was born in Puerto Rico, but have moved around every five years of my life up to the age of 20. At age five my parents got divorced and my mom, two sisters and I moved to New York. We lived there for five years and during that time my Father moved to Dallas, Texas and wanted us to live closer…so we packed up our bags and drove from NY to TX when I was age 10. My mother got remarried and at age 15 we ultimately moved back to Puerto Rico. We lived there for another five years before moving yet again, this time to Florida. When I turned 25 and was on my own and attending college, I really wanted to move to California to pursue a career in cinematography, but was dating my ex-husband at the time so I deiced to stay and raise a family with him.

I’m now 39, divorced and the proud mother of two four-year-old twins, Ethan and Justin Degen.

CA: How did you get into comics? What was the first comic book you ever read? How about owned?

DD: I was always into comics. Can’t recall how I started reading them, but basic textbooks never appealed to me. I loved the formatting of a comic over a regular book any day. I find the way the story is told with strong colorful imagery from page to page divided up into cells was far more interesting and engaging to me. Plus, you can’t really take silly-putty and press it against a photo on a book and have the image transfer over, now can you?

The first comic I’ve ever read was The Amazing Spider Man in the mid-to-late 70’s and I still continue to be a loyal fan of the web crawler. I was also the only girl in my class to have a Super Friends lunch pail, while the other young ladies had Barbie or Strawberry Shortcake.

As with some of the other comic book geeks my age, my Mother sold my collection in garage sales. However, I do have a collection of Battlestar Galactica comics, Star Wars: The Dark Night, The Planetary by Wildstorm Comics and a few other Marvel and DC comics. I just finished reading Marvel’s paperback Scorpion: Poison Tomorrow and loved it!

CA: How did you discover cosplay, and what made you want to get into it on a serious level?

DD: First of all, I’m a huge Battlestar Galactic fan and when I discovered that Mary Mcdonnell and Jamie Bamber were the bonus guests attending a local convention here in Orlando called MegaCon in 2007, I knew I had to be one of the attendees.

So, I wore a t-shirt that said “Don’t Blame Me: I Voted for Rolsin” and got Mary Mcdonnell to autograph it. Then the next thing I know, people would stop me in the halls, in the dealer rooms and before and after panels asking if they could take a photo of my shirt and me. Needless to say, I loved the attention and thought that it would be fun to dress up in costume for the next convention.



CA: Who was the first character you cosplayed as? Whom have you portrayed since?

DD: The first character I cosplayed as was none other than Star Trek: Voyager’s Seven of Nine played by Jeri Ryan. I knew that she would be a challenge as my first costume; plus, she was blond and I brunette and at the time I was not very fond of wigs. I had to dye my hair several times in order to get the correct shading needed in order to portray her accurately and in time for my first attendance to Dragon Con in 2007. Then, after many screen shots from DVD’s and online research, I learned that I would have to make my own Borg appliances in order to make this costume in time for the convention. I could not find a seller that had these accessories anywhere.

I sculpted; molded and cast the Borg implants myself. Having a fine arts background did help me achieve my goals. I must admit that I’ve never sculpted anything in my life, but I’m very proud of the work I put into making this costume happen. I also had to download several online tutorials about Smooth-On products in order to experiment with different casting techniques while…I eventually found one suitable for my particular situation. I would like to thank Kevin at Reynolds Advanced Materials for pointing me in the right direction.

CA: Which characters do you plan to represent in the future?

DD: I’m currently working on a few characters, but the one that’s taking up most of my time -and it’s only because I’m trying to gain an additional five to ten pounds of muscle- is She Hulk and on time for MegaCon 2011! Now, I’ve seen several girls attempt this costume and let’s face it, if you don’t have the body for it, it’s just not going to work. I want to give the comic book fan as much of an accurate representation of that character as I can. I can honestly say that I’m on the right track to accomplishing my goal.

I’m also currently working on Marvel’s Scorpion costume, which should be ready in time for Dragon Con 2011. I plan on making this out of green leather if at all possible. I fell in love with the character after reading the comic. Besides, I try to aim for more obscure characters.

CA: Which costume(s) are you most proud of?

DD: I’m most proud of my Bat Girl costume. I commissioned a friend of mine to make the cape for me and she did an amazing job. It really does set it apart from any other Bat Girls out there. The body suit was a gift from my boyfriend and it’s made out of a wet look type of spandex material. I guess that’s the best way I can describe it since the suit has no tag label. The gloves were purchased from a bridal store and the boots were purchased online. I did however, cut out the bat symbol on the boots and my girl friend Tiffany helped me reinforce them so they can stay at an upright position. The cowl was also purchased online, but I had to cut it in order to make it fit properly. All other accessories such as the belt, chest emblem and fins were also purchased online.

CA: Can you tell us the Comic Con’s you’ve attended in costume? Plan on doing any more this year?

DD: Locally I’ve attended MegaCon, FX, Vulkon, EyeCon, Celebration V and Spooky Empire. Out of state I’ve attended Dragon Con, San Diego Comic Con, Adepticon (Which is a Warhammer 40k convention and had nothing to do with cosplay), Star Trek Vegas convention and Chicago Comic Con. It’s safe to say that attending a convention in costume is as natural as breathing for me. Let me put it to you this way; if there’s a comic or sci-fi convention in Orlando, I will be there. Plain and simple!

CA: Do you make all of your costumes? If so, how long do they take to complete? If not, where do you obtain them?

DD: I’ve made some and had a lot of help with other costumes. For example, I made my Marauder costume out of things I purchased from eBay such as a used beat up football shoulder pads, used catchers shin guards and used items from a local Army-Navy store. Took an old pair of pants and converted them into shorts, and then I took a dremel to then to weather the clothes down. I also purchased an airsoft gun from eBay in which I painted black with krylon paint from Walmart and added brown and silver paint to weather it as well. Putting this particular costume together didn’t take long at all once all the ordered items came in. It took me less than one month to complete.

My BSG Duty Blues and BDU costume are screen used. I obtain those through Alec Peters, CEO of Propworx during the BSG auctions. The Star Trek Terran Empire costume I love to wear is also a screen used item owed by Alec Peters. Since he owns both the male and female version of that costume, we like to dress up together for both the Star Trek Vegas convention and Dragon Con.

My Bat Girl costume also took less than one month to complete. The first time I wore that was in San Diego Comic Con and it was a hit. I remember not being able to walk 15 steps without getting mobbed by photographers. It even made the press.

My Black Spider-Woman costume was a gift from my boyfriend. It was a little big on me because it used to belong to his ex. I told him that I wasn’t jealous and that I would be glad to take it off his hands. I had my girl friend Christine alter it. I wore it to DragonCon of 2009 for the first time and since it’s made out of PVC vinyl, I didn’t last long in it. I couldn’t wear it for more than two hours before it got the best of me.

We took this photo of Damaris back in July at San Diego Comic Con! Needless to say, we didn't even know each other then. Small world!

CA: What’s the average cost to make a desirable costume?

DD: The cost is based on the complexity of the costume itself. It can average anywhere between $100 up to the thousands of dollars. Again, depends on the complexity. If you need a costume that you have to do a life cast of yourself, sculpt, make molds and/or pour silicone or other type of materials, well…the price can add up.

I personally have not spent that much to make a costume, however. The most expensive costume I’ve made has to be my Star Wars clone trooper Commander Cody from ROTS. I wore that costume for Celebration V here in Orlando. The average cost to make a trooper armor is anywhere between $800.00 to $1,800 dollars. I didn’t spent quite that much since my very dear friend JP is an expert at prop making and sculpting, and he helped me with my Cody helmet and trimming down the armor. I’m only 5’2” tall at 108 lbs and the average kit is meant to fit a man between 5’7” to 6’ tall. A lot of modifications went into that costume.

The cheapest one I’ve made is the Marauder. I spent less than $250 to make that costume since, as I mentioned above, bought all used items from eBay and an Army-Navy store.

Commander Cody with Stormtrooper Davin Felth.

CA: Have you ever met any of the creators whose character’s you were cosplaying as in person? What was their reaction(s)?

DD: Yes, I have. I’ve met Ron Moore, creator of the re-mastered Battlestar Galactica during the first BSG auctions. I’m a proud member of The Colonial Fleet, an online fan community dedicated to all things BSG. There were 30 of us volunteering in costume to help provide assistance and security for all the props, costumes and set pieces during the auction. Ron was one of the attendees as well as Michael Hogan, Luciana Carro and other crew members. Ron was very impressed on how accurate all our costumes looked. He once told us that we look like we all walked off of the set and into this event. Best compliment ever!

As far as the comic book characters I have cosplayed as, I have not had the honor of meeting any of their creators. But I have met several licensed sketch artists for my Bat Girl and Spiderwoman. They all compliment me on the quality of my costumes and asked for a photo op.

CA: What comics do you currently read? What are some of your all time favorites?

DD: I’m currently following the Star Wars Dark Times comics, which take place after episode III. The storyline is fascinating and introduces a lot of new characters within the Star Wars universe and the struggle they all face dealing with the new empire hunting and killing all remaining Jedi in the galaxy.

I’ve also completed the entire Planetary series by Wild Storm Comics. Warren Ellis is an amazing writer. I can say that Planetary is one of the best comic storylines I’ve ever read. Not because Laura Martin, my old college friend, was the colorist, but because of its originality and character developments set it apart from all the other comics I’ve read. And yes, I have a Jakita Wagner costume that I’m planning on showing off at MegaCon 2011, while Alec will be my Elijah Snow.

Before…

…and after. The Emperor always gets what he wants (unless you're named "Luke").

CA: Who are your top characters?

DD: As of now my top characters are Bat Girl and Black Spider-Woman. I use those two continuously at conventions and now for charity events. I’ve joined forces with Costumers With a Cause and have volunteered for Toys for Tots, Freedom Riders, and Free Comic Book Day benefiting BASE Camp, just to name a few.

CA: In your experience, how do you feel cosplay is accepted by comic book fans?

DD: I believe that comic book fans love when their favorite characters come to life. It makes the convention experience more meaningful and fun; especially if the costumes are well made and accurate. I’ve had one gentleman come up to me with his daughter while wearing my Bat Girl costume at San Diego Comic Con. They had just purchased a Bat Girl action figure and asked if they could take a photo with the figure, her and me. It was so sweet to see that little girl’s eyes light up. She made my day.

CA: Have you ever had any awkward encounters while in costume with any fanboys or girls?

DD: No, I can’t say I have. Then again, you never know who’s out there roaming around the convention halls.

CA: On the contrary, tell us some of your most memorable cosplay moments.

DD: While volunteering for Toys for Tots with Costumers with a Cause, the most memorable moment for me was when this little girl ran up to me and hugged my leg yelling, “Spider-Woman, Spider-Woman!” It melted my heart! She was so adorable and her parents kept apologizing to me as I told them, “Are you kidding? She just so sweet.”

Another time was when I volunteered for the children’s cancer center at Arnold Palmer Hospital. That was very emotional for me since my son, Ethan, is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for his Optic Glioma due to his genetic illness of NF-1. It reminded me how fortunate I am and to value and appreciate the time I have with my son because no matter what, things could have been far worse. I count my blessings every day when he wakes up in the morning signing and laughing as he tells me that he loves and misses me.

CA: What do you do in “real life”?

DD: I’m a graphic designer for Propworx, an auction house company that sells the assets to TV shows and movies. I designed their auction catalogs. The first one I created was Iron Man from the 2008 movie. Since then, I’ve also designed the Star Trek, Stargate and now Kevin Smith catalogs. I also assist Propworx’s Webmaster, Joe Beaudoin on maintaining the graphic elements for the company’s website and eBay auctions as well as other collateral materials like banners, signs, flyers, email blasts, labels and staff badges.

I’m also an adjunct instructor at Valencia Community College. I teach Illustration and Design to 20 eager students every Wednesday night. Plus, I’m also a freelance designer under the name of DC Media. DC stands for Degen Courson, my legal name. My client list consists of, but is not limited to, Cutting Edge Network Technologies, The Experience Florida, Reach Local, Computing Systems Innovations and Barbery & Associates, CPA.

CA: How is your passion for cosplay received by your family, friends, and co-workers?

DD: I’m lucky to have a great support system; my family thinks I go off on vacation and play super heroes…which is true and I love every moment I spend at the convention floors. My co-workers are also geeks and fans of cosplay so I don’t get any grief from them since we all share the same passion for comics and everything sci-fi.

CA: According to your Facebook page, you’re into Warhammer 40 K. I used to run a Space Wolves army at one time, how about you? What army is your allegiance to?

DD: My heart belongs to the Sons of Sanguinius, the mighty Blood Angels! Why play Blood Angels and not Chaos or Tyranids? The Blood Angels have, without a doubt, the best Chapter fluff in the Imperium! Plus, they are cursed with the red thirst, giving in to the desire for blood, making them extremely powerful for close combat assaults. I own over 5,000-points army and love to play the 40K Apocalypse game better than your regular 40k rule game.

CA: What are some of your other interests and hobbies?

DD: I love to draw and paint whatever inspires me the most. My recent work was a portrait of my son Ethan I made for Alec’s 50th birthday. I have not drawn in over 15 years, since I then traded my pad and pencil for a keyboard and mouse. I also enjoy painting my Blood Angels miniature figs. I assembled and painted about 95% of my army.

I love to play video games when I get a free moment to myself. My old time favorites are Return to Castle Wolfenstein, all of the Age of Empires, Quake III, Command and Conquer, and Battlefield II and 2142, just to name a few.

CA: Do you have a fanpage or website?

DD: I only have my facebook page and that’s all I really need at the moment. My personal website is to promote my freelance design only.

CA: Any parting words about cosplay or comics in general?

DD: Yes, you know that little voice inside you? It’s your inner child that wants to come out and show the world that you’re passionate about your fandom. Let them out and stop being such a typical closet geek.

For previous Cosplayer Spotlight features, click here!

Andy Liegl
andy@comicattack.net

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5 Comments



  1. She’s standin’ next to a frakkin’ COLONIAL VIPER!!



  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Propworx Inc, Jerry Mcdowelles. Jerry Mcdowelles said: Cosplayer Spotlight: Damaris Degen http://bit.ly/91VUpi […]


  3. Kristin

    Her Starbuck and Batgirl costumes are my favorites. Fantastic.
    She’s got an amazing body for her age, as well. Don’t be afraid of that She-Hulk costume, Damaris!


  4. Billy

    Wow, very cool.


  5. Damaris

    Kristin, I can not wait for MegaCon 2011.. that She Hulk costume will be one of my greatest accomplishments!!



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