For most cosplayers finding a way to get new content during lockdown has been incredibly challenging. For myself, it’s always challenging, given my limitations on material that is canon.
One way to rehash older content is to just revamp it or spice it up a bit. Doing some fun edits to photos can achieve just that.
I am certainly not very savvy in the edit department. But even just adding a different background to a simple photo can be entertaining and inspiring!
Just make sure the background you use is actually free. I made the mistake of searching for free backgrounds, and sadly one popped up that was NOT in fact free. I have since credited the artist, but double checking can never hurt.
I hope this inspires you to add some fun graphics or edits to your photos!
A good friend recently asked me if I would write a guest feature for 25YL on how Nightmare in Silver changed my life. Of course, I said Yes.
When I sat down to write it, there was a slight hesitation this time around. I have told this story so any times, but always to friends or people who followed me already and knew a little of the back story. I have also never written for a blog that wasn’t my own. So the insecurities came pouring in, like a dam of doubt just exploded.
It took awhile longer to write this one, but I had a wonderful support group and amazingly patient editors. To my surprise, I was told to add more, make it longer. Not usually something I ever hear. #LongWinded
Adding more meant adding details about coming out, and my transition. Something that is sometimes met with hate and violence. Which fueled my gay flames even more. Trans stories are valid. And this one is mine to tell.
Thank you to everyone at 25YL for supporting this trans cosplayer.
This week is usually jam packed with preparation, as many of us get ready to attend Arisia, my 7thtime at that con. One of main reasons I look forward to this con, aside from having fun with friends, the running of the Doctors, and various other silly yearly traditions, it also marks the anniversary of when I started conlife as Mr. Clever.
Around this time, I also usually start to reflect back on the previous year and make notes of all the good things that happened. But as we all know, 2020 did not have many redeeming qualities to write home about.
My struggles weren’t unlike many cosplayers and other creatives. How do you stay motivated and inspired in the midst of a global crisis? How do we stay relevant, without being able to make new content as readily as before?
One thing that became abundantly clear was that everything was going virtual. Virtual events, virtual cons, virtual panels, you name it. At first I hopped right on that bandwagon, eager to support local events. I tuned in to panels and Tweet Alongs, but as much as I tried, I learned that virtual events don’t hold much appeal to me. For me the fun of conlife is putting the costume on and running around the venue all day.
But then I discovered TikTok. I had set up an account (AdventuresOfClever on TikTok) a while ago but never used it. As you may remember I have a real hard time with video. What in the world would someone like me be doing there? But during lockdown, the masses swarmed there, and one thing that I found out right from the start was that this Whovian community was incredibly supportive, and gasp even knew who I was supposed to be!
In April, at the beginning of lockdown, the Pass the Brush challenges were trending everywhere I looked. So I decided that Whovians needed a Pass the Sonic version. That was the first time I had put together anything like that, and I am incredibly proud with how it turned out. I worked with 13 other cosplayers (around the world) to pass the sonic to all 14 doctors. It was a big deal for me.
The Pass the Sonic lead to another variation – Pass the Mask, but this time with local performers and personalities from Salem. Borah, The Addams Family and even our own Mayor, Kim Driscoll took part to help spread awareness about mask safety.
After doing those two videos, I decided to keep trying new things with video. It was a big step for someone that could count on one hand the number of videos they had been in before this. So I invested in some more video equipment like a ring light and tripod with a remote control. After some testing I even found a spot in my house that had a fun geeky background. That was also hard because our house doesn’t get a lot of natural light.
Then I did my very first live stream, as well as a few tutorials on how I made my NIS-Borderlands mash up. I even became involved in a fun fan-made Doctor Who project with a new friend entitled, “Versions Who.” This involved an almost RPG format that was both running lines in character and acting out new scenes via Facetime.
These were all big milestones for me. They kept me going even while the world around us was falling apart. I could do them even if though I couldn’t wear the costume outside. I was being creative in a way that I had never been able to do before.
Creatives in 2020 had to, for lack of a better phrase, get creative. Not just to make ends meet and stay relevant but to stay interested and stimulated against the constant tide of doomscrolling.
While perusing Instagram, I found a page that was encouraging Whovians to make lockdown cosplay videos. I attempted to do a little scene from Nightmare in Silver but they didn’t want voice-overs, and that might have been too much for me. I tried doing it, but I’m still very self-conscious of sounding too feminine and being misgendered. I panicked, whispered, tried auto tuning it, and failed miserably. I honestly thought that would be the end of all of this for me. If I can’t even speak, what in the world am I even doing?
So I tried posting the failed video I had, but with Matt’s voice over mine. Add some flashy fonts. Some Doctor Who music, and I was good to go. I was met with a surprising amount of support, and even got invited to join some wonderful Discord chats filled with other Whovians and cosplayers that were just there to be positive and get through this the best they could.
Have I mentioned I have 7 cats?
For the most part, they leave me alone, but my newest one, Dandelion, insists on having her entire face or her butt in the frame. And while this makes for some great AWWWW moments, she has a tendency to knock stuff down. And by stuff, I mean my chess set. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve rescued a pawn from the dark corners of my room, only to have it swatted again a few seconds later. And needless to say, locking up them all up isn’t easy either.
A few months ago we even got a new door installed to separate the first and second floors so they can have the run of the top floor and leave me alone down below. Literally bought a new door to help mitigate the problem doing videos with 7 cats.
Aside from my feline overlords, the other hurdle that I have is the amount of time spent putting on and taking off the costume itself. I would love to be able to do duets on a whim with people, but I don’t always have the 4-5 hours a day. Its 90min – 2 hours just to get it on. Another 30 min to 60min of set up and car wrangling. And then take the video. And then another hour of taking it off again.
I did make a Cyberplanner on a stick for those nights that I read through lines with my new friend. But I’m not comfortable with it and haven’t even used it yet. Both logistically (I have to hold it so I only have one hand, plus it actually blocks my sight) and emotionally (because I’m just not comfortable with not actually having a cyberplanner on my face while being filmed).
The biggest obstacle however, is that I am visually impaired to the point of not being able to see my phone screen while in costume. I can’t see the buttons. I can’t see if people are commenting on live streams. I can’t see other videos well enough to duet or comment easily. I can’t see well enough to set up my little area without some help. Doing my make-up takes a little longer and longer each time as it gets harder and harder to see my face.
It is a STRUGGLE.
And, as I reread this, I keep thinking to myself, “Good Lord, is any of this even worth it?”
Yes. To me, that’s a resounding yes. Yes, because of the friends I’ve made and keep making. Yes, because a year ago this would have defeated me. Yes, because Clever has made me a better person, a stronger person.
I could touch on so much more from the past year. The other challenges all of us experienced. The politics and fear, but as I reflect on 2020 I am focusing on the one thing that helped me get through it.
A year ago I would have found a reason to quit doing video, a reason why it didn’t matter. But in 2020 I really didn’t have a choice. Call it stubbornness or my resolve to continue being Clever. Call it that I wouldn’t accept defeat, or that I just needed something positive to do with my time. But as I approach my seven-year anniversary in conlife, I can honestly say that I have overcome more than a pre-Clever me would have ever thought possible, and I know I am not done yet.
This lockdown has been challenging for many creatives. The lack of social interaction, structure, financial stability and the challenges of staying inspired and motivated have caused many of us to feel like we are drowning in open waters with land just out of our grasps.
Not having cons, or any costumed events, has forced me and other cosplayers to get well, clever, in our approach to creating new content. Cosplayers and other like minded people have flocked to TikTok to make cosplay videos, allowing them the ability to interact while in character, have some fun, make new friends and get so much needed laughter.
The concept of surviving these times via video scares the hell out of me. I have struggled with heart stopping panic attacks if I knew I was being recorded. Cosplay has helped minimize my panic attacks over still photography, but hasn’t quite reached that point with video. So when I saw this trend, and realized how helpful it could be, I resolved myself to at least trying.
There are other factors for me personally that make doing these videos difficult. Not least of which is trying to get my cats to not take center stage, or knock over my equipment. Add to the ongoing feline world domination, the 2 hours it takes to get into costume and the other 1.5 hours to take it off, and you have a rather long day.
But here I am, with a TikTok account, and a small handful of videos.
And go give me and other creatives a follow and some love.
So happy to be featured with so many great cosplayers for this spot by Pluto TV!
Also love to be there alongside Sigourney Weaver. 😉
Watch the video from the link:
A cosplay must never go to waste. Please give a round of applause to our incredible cosplaying citizens! 👏Because of them, Con season was a success. Their cosplays will be featured on #plutotv all week long! pic.twitter.com/CiABkrqwn0
I really didn’t think I would get addicted to this game. Yet here we are. Lockdown in effect, unbearable summer heat. And an adorable game that allows me to not only create some great fandom areas, but interact with friends that I can’t see in real life at the moment.
Win – Win
Mr. Clever at Hedgewick’s World
Did you think this WOULDN’T be thing?
Amy’s wedding, with Dinosaurs on a Spaceship in the background.
Cyber conversion room. Come over and be upgraded.
Well, that’s just mean.
In case there is any doubt who lives here.
Sometimes you just want to sit on the moon and watch fireworks with your friends.
Clever, Clara and Porridge. And of course Cybermen.
Tortuga. Or Curse of the Black Spot.
Well, it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a Supernatural section.
And of course, a Hogwarts classroom.
My Switch code is SW-0411-2288-3623 if you want to add a fellow geek!
November 2019 saw the return of Long Island Who, now named An Unearthly Convention. LI Who was my first Doctor Who con and is by far one of the best fandom con I’ve ever been to. (As opposed to say, NYCC, which is my favorite general con)
The people who run this con have always been fun, professional, and manage to put on such a great event.
LI Who 2, in 2014, was also the con where I was on my first panel.
Which was, um, entertaining at the very least!
Did I ever tell you about how I got stuck in a tent?
AnyWHO, I had a bad experience at a different Who con a few years ago, so I took a small break from going to DW specific events. I am very glad that I decided to return for this con. What a fabulous weekend.
I will break this up into two parts as so much happened!
After an eight hour car ride we arrived at the host hotel, which was under construction. I have really bad dust allergies so I couldn’t do my usual “lobby con on Friday night” tradition. The hotel staff was super duper helpful though and it was much better on Saturday morning.
For Saturday, I decided to cosplay as my Borderlands mash up, CleverMax the Invincible 😉 I thoroughly enjoy this variation.
My first of five panels was Madman in a Box on Saturday. I was just a guest panelist, as opposed to being a moderator on some others.
It was so much fun to sit there and talk about Matt and his run as the Doctor. Matt was my absolute favorite.
I just started a rewatch of his run yesterday..
The next panel was my baby, as it were.
Evolution of the Cybermen
At my last LI Who, I presented a panel on Cybermen for their 50 year anniversary. It was a huge success and this year was just as awesome
I had myself and four other people as panelists. I didn’t realize that they had never done this type of panel before. They all did such a great job!
We all had our areas of expertise. From concept art to places of origin. And of course, I covered Cyber Planners.
TMW a T-Rex photobombs your Cyberman panel
The third and final panel of Saturday was Finding Family in Fandom.
This panel was incredibly moving and I felt honored to be a panelist. Everyone had such brilliant stories to share about how they found their place in life through fandom. 💖
I have posted my story here before, so I won’t go too much into it. If you want to browse that, here is the link:
Before Clever and conlife, I didn’t really go out. I didn’t have a lot of friends.
I have a huge house and never had a single party, sleepover, family gathering in it. Now? I feel like I need a bigger house. 🤣
Even though my first fandom was Harry potter, I didn’t find myself or my true family of friends until Clever.
I wasn’t welcomed with open arms in this fandom, but regardless, I stuck it out cause I loved Matt so much.
After all of my panels were over, myself and some friends went to grab dinner. I’m always famished after these cons cause I can’t eat solid food with the cybernetics on my face. We all went in costume and our waiter was so happy to see us all.
Saturday night included a DW themed dance party, and lots of casual board and card games in the lobby that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
DJ Gallifrey spinning some tunes!
As per usual this was an exhausting day, but totally worth it!
I managed to get my hands on the Time of The Doctor set for a pretty good price. So of course I had to give the Doctor a little make over. Cybernetics aside, he needed some repainting anyway. The colors are very bland, and he had no facial expression.
I redid the coat, his bow tie and of course his face.
“Science is a way of talking about the universe in words that bind it to a common reality.
Magic is a method of talking to the universe in words that it cannot ignore.
The two are rarely compatible.”
―Neil Gaiman, The Books of Magic
May 11th is the anniversary of an episode of Doctor Who that among many fans of the show lives in infamy, but for me is a work of art that has changed my life. It has inspired me, caused me pain, physical and emotional, remade me, then broke me again. Nightmare in Silver has become such a integral part of who I am that some people equate me with the titular villain of the story – Mr. Clever. If that sounds arrogant or over the top its because my spouse typed it.
All I can say is that it has been a bumpy 6 years since I started cosplaying as this character. I have learned a lot, made friends and lost them again.
I wanted this to be a review of the episode. A critique from the perspective of Mr. Clever. But how do I separate the joy of the episode from how I used that joy to craft this whole new persona and just run with it? I guess I can’t. So instead I came at this in a rambling, disjointed diatribe that became a novella on how this episode changed my life. The moment my Doctor, Matt Smith, stepped off the TARDIS onto Hedgwick’s World.
Six years ago, my spouse and I were sitting in bed and continuing our watch of Matt’s run on Doctor Who. CJ had been a fan of David, and I had already fallen in love with 11. His goofiness combined with his dark side had already won me over.
I remember CJ leaning towards the screen saying “Wait. This one was ALSO written by Neil? There were TWO? How come no one told us?”
We’ve always been huge fans of Neil Gaiman. I remember when CJ and I first started dating, we would have nightly conversations about American Gods. Now, of course, I know why no one told us. As much as I love NiS, I am in the minority. Watching it, I thought that somehow people just must have missed this one. Because how could you not love it?
Dead amusement park. Written by Neil. Warwick Davis. Little silver bugs. Cybermen. Cool chess game. And the single greatest villain ever. I mean, come on.
Looking back, I recalled a friend telling me that I would love Neil’s episode, and of course I know NOW that she meant The Doctor’s Wife, but every time I see her in person I smirk as she shakes her head.
Someone asked me once if I knew how long Clever was on screen, like in total. I sat down and clocked it once. It comes in at roughly 9 minutes. As I sit here and listen to the tippety tap of my keyboard, I look around at all the Clever swag that I have gotten over the years, the gifts that people have given me, the fan art, all the little silver creatures scattered around my house. Its incredible to me to think back and try to remember what my life was like before this. BC? Before Clever? Before con life? Before cosplay? Nine minutes changed my life.
A path is built by placing one stone at a time. How does one single character manage to be that stone, to set in motion a series of little events that lead to life altering decisions for so many people. And it all had to line up so perfectly. If I had already known what cosplay WAS, I don’t think I would have tried this. If I had already known what photoshoots were, and meet ups and cons, and had fb pages, and had friends that were Whovians – I think I would have been too freaked out to try to cosplay. I know for sure that if had known that people would have taken my photo and put it on the internet, I would have never even tried this. If I wasn’t allergic to so many things, would I have even found the mixture of ingredients to make the perfect working Cyberplanner piece? Who knows. One stone at a time, and the path was laid.
And what a path it has been.
I have learned a lot, made friends and lost them again.
I used to watch Doctor Who when I was very young, though I don’t remember much. My grandmother loved Tom Baker. Used to say “Oh, that man looks great in a scarf”.
Fast forward to 2009, CJ and I were living in California, and we started watching the 9th Doctor on reruns. But Matt’s run had already started. At the time I only knew one other person who watched Doctor Who and she was telling me that she “hated the new Doctor. Bring back David”. That was all I remember except for a few whispers here and there about Matt until MISTI-Con in 2013.
MISTI was where I met most of the costumed people that I admired and aspired to become. They were so perfect. Especially a pair of cosplayers I am still friends with today – The Malfoys. I still didn’t know what cosplay meant. I heard it once or twice, but only in reference to Anime. My friends called themselves costumers, performers, actors. Not cosplayers. So that is what I thought was the norm.
We finally finished David’s run and CJ was pretty upset. And TBH, David’s last episode is still one of my favorite endings. I loved it then and still find it moving now. We didn’t start Matt right away, but I was already searching Pinterest and Tumblr for memes and gifs of the 11th Doctor and already fell in love with him without even seeing an episode.
I thought I would make CJ feel better about losing David by buying him a fez. Except I didn’t want to take it off. And it became mine. Which kind of started a whole wardrobe filled with 11’s items. And I mean a wardrobe. I have an antique wardrobe that was my grandmothers filled with items that 11 wore. Mind you I never wear them, unless it’s for Clever. But I have them.
I tried cosplaying as ‘Town Called Mercy‘ 11. I tried the ‘Let’s Kill Hitler‘ green coat. I tried the standard purple coat sans Cybernetics. Eh. Wasn’t for me. I didn’t like it. Like all the other costumes before, I just didn’t get the appeal. I couldn’t understand why “those people dressed up”. Try as I might, I couldn’t be a Malfoy.
Until I saw 11 get converted into Mr. Clever. I lost my damn mind. I really couldn’t tell you why. Still. SIX years later. I don’t know what clicked. I have tried to analyze it, I have tried to figure it out. I don’t know. But I HAD to be him. Watching his smirks, his flirty outbursts, how manipulative he was. Or maybe it was the line about being effected by gold and cleaning fluids (two things that I’m allergic to). I knew instantly that he was my cosplay, my character. Maybe its because I knew I couldn’t act, and to me, cosplay is about the performance, so I knew I had to pick someone close to my own personality, or at the very least something that I could pull off. Or maybe its cause I always loved cybernetically enhanced things. Who knows? But at that moment the first stone of my path was put into place.
But HOW to become him? HOW was I going to pull this off? Looking at myself – long blonde hair, not exactly young and thin like Matt was, and well, not cybernetically enhanced. I refused to wear a wig. So dying my hair was the first permanent thing I did. But for two years, I refused to cut it. I thought I was too fat for short hair, and I didn’t want to be that person that cut their hair to look like a celebrity. Which was dumb. I could have saved myself and my friend Kat MANY hours of braiding my damn hair if I had just chopped it all off to begin with. Eventually I did chop it off to look like Matt’s. Thank god for Ashley and later Sarai, for being the amazing stylists that they are. Instead of taking two and half hours to get into costume, it now only takes about hour and half.
Next I started the acquisition of all the screen accurate pieces I would need. I managed to find all the pieces except for a coat. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to wool – lucky me. Include that in with the hundreds of things that I’m allergic to, so my search was a difficult one. I got very lucky and found a purple coat at a thrift store that I used for about the first two years. Very far from screen accurate but no one seemed to notice. I was all over BBC sites and in DW magazine with this coat. Eventually I got a custom made one and then this past Christmas I took a HUGE chance and got the Abbyshot replica which has become my favorite coat, not only because it doesn’t make me itch, but because it looks and feels fabulous.
So: Hair. Check. Costume. Check. Accessories including cybermites and hand pulse. Check. Now what to do about my face? Again, at this time I didn’t know any other Whovian cosplayers when I put this costume together. I didn’t know there were resources: forums, pages, groups, etc. I knew what I wanted, and I was going to become that. I did know one person who worked with prosthetics, so I asked him if he had ideas.
“Yes, use latex”.
“Um, I’m deathly allergic to that.”
“Well, you’re shit outta luck.”
I did some research on what people used for movies. Mostly latex, silicones, rubbers and urethanes. All things that I can not touch. Someone told me to search youtube. But I have never learned anything that I know how to do except by trial and error. So I sat down, and I experimented. I tried various clays. Nope. That burned a cyberplanner shaped rash onto my face. I tried Eva foam. Ugly as hell, made me itch and didn’t stick anyway. I gave up on the “suggested materials” and made my own. Fragile. Lightweight. Breaks by looking at it, I swear. But it works. 22 days later and I had a working, blinking, wireless cyberplanner piece. It is the most incredible thing I have ever made and the one piece of art that I am the most proud of, and the only thing I have *ever* made for myself.
As an artist, over the years, I’ve made many pieces; from remade Breyer model horses, to wands and jewelry but only if it was a commission. Only if people paid me. That was my job. I never made art for fun. For myself.
Until I sat down to make the cyberplanner piece. No clue what I was doing, but I knew it had to be done. I had never done anything like this before – or since. It was an act of magick, filled with passion and planning and pain.
Every time I hold it in my hands, it fills me with such a sense of pride, wonder, and excitement. Well, until I have to put it on. Or until I have to take it off. Or until it gives me migraines. Or until it pushes into my head all day and causes me actual pain. I guess it’s more accurate to say I have a love/hate relationship with this…I don’t know…horcrux?
It’s more than a costume piece. More than a cosplay. Its pure magick. Something that resonates on its own, but incomplete without its owner. I feel incomplete sometimes when I’m not wearing it or maybe just feel more complete when its on. And sometimes I feel like I’m not worthy. Like Mjolnir and Thor.
Now I was ready…
Arisia 2014. This was the catalyst. The start of con life and all things Cyberiad and Clever and friends. Rewind to my life before – BC. Going out, socializing. It was hard, it was almost non existent, and it was harrowing. Especially getting dressed. Ugh, even now I just hate dressing up. Clothes are the enemy. I’ve always had issues with my appearance. Hated myself, my looks. Always been the ugly one, the fat one. Going out in public was never easy for me. Deciding to throw on a costume and go to a convention was an odd, out of character choice for me. Certainly for CJ. But we grabbed a friend, and off we went.
Boston Whovians were having a photoshoot but I didn’t want to be a part of it. Photos? Oh hell no! We stood at the bottom of the escalator and watched the procession of Whovians go by. ‘I’m going to just stand in the shadows and hope no one sees me’
Our friend said, “You know your face blinks, right?” and suddenly I heard what I think was “Mr. Clever you better get your ass to this photoshoot” from the best looking River Song cosplayer I’ve ever seen. (Cat Smith, and who turned out to be a good friend shortly after.) I remember looking around for advice and him saying “Someone who very well could BE River Song just screamed the word shoot. I would follow her if I were you.”
SIDE NOTE: River Song is my second favorite DW character, so it didn’t take much convincing.
I was very blown away with the amount of people at this meet up, and was not expecting so many people to come running up to me, posing me, asking for photos and calling me “delicious”. (Yes that happened) I posed for one particular photo for my friend Lynn Wine, and that is the pic that ended up going viral. Not long after Arisia, it ended up on Geek Universe, The Nerdist, a few other geek sites, and got retweeted by BBCA. That was shocking for me, and I was not 100% sure how I felt about seeing myself all over the place. But that is how it began.
It’s more than a costume piece. More than a cosplay. Its pure magick.
Of course, with all the good things, there is usually bad. This is also the time period where I first started getting hate for my choice of characters, how I presented the character, etc. I talk all about that in another post here – Haters Gonna Hate. Even with all the hate and negativity, I would not trade this, nor do I have a single regret.
I can’t emphasize enough how much my whole life changed at that very moment; Arisia 2014 was truly the point of no return.
And as with all my more personal posts I need to include something Taylor Swift:
It doesn’t take much for myself and my friends to get silly, and this night wasn’t much different.
Luckily, this photographer, Katie, is used to us. She’s done many of the Collective’s events, so I think she is always prepared for our craziness.
One of my favorite things about the PEM ‘s parties, is the interactive workshop. A few years ago we made pinwheels out of the material they use for sails, and they were displayed all around town. That was incredible. This time around people got to make prints and learn about silk screening techniques.
While my friends tried that ( let’s be honest here – I am a mess when I paint, and I knew it would get all over my cosplay) I saw paper and markers, so my brain went ” What the Hell!”
While I was sitting down, these three women came running up to me, fascinated by my lights. Like moths to a flame, I swear. One of them thought it was make up, and asked how I did it, how I made it. They had no idea who Mr. Clever was, so of course I had to show them a picture of Matt as Clever. One of them actually said ” Oh he’s cute.” Yes, yes he is.
After we finished making art, we meandered around some more, looking at the other exhibits. I did manage to find a very cute squirrel puppet. Of course now I want one.
“Hey, Sarah, don’t touch those…nuts.” Yeah, I need puppet.
Anyway, we are all looking forward to the next party!
Another year, another wonderful masquerade at the Hawthorne hosted by Creative Collective. This year’s theme was Game of Thrones, which proved a little more challenging for me than previous years did. How am I going to work Mr. Clever into this theme? Especially given that I am very unfamiliar with the world. I came up with the idea of Clever of Dragons, and had a few ideas on how to make it work. Unfortunately most of my ideas looked great on paper, but just didn’t seem to pan out the way I wanted.
I had started to make a dragon shaped cyberplanner, and as amazing as it came out, it just did not fit well on my face, nor did it want to actually stay on. So I scrapped that, and just wore my alt cyberplanner piece. My good friend Mandi, who also happened to win Best Mask, made a caplet for me, which did not end up draping over me as well as I had hoped. So I scrapped that as well. All that I really ended up with was my cyber dragon – Fernando. Which came out very well.
The Iron Throne was a fun and interesting photo opportunity. Witch Pix, the folks who ran the photo booth this year were really on point and went out of their way to help attendees pose to get the perfect photo. There were acrobats and themed foods. The best decoration though, in my opinion, was the giant dragon that they had in the ballroom. It was not only gorgeous, but was brought in from a private home in Marblehead. Someone just made as a decoration for themselves, it was so nice to see because it just felt like such a great sense of community to have it there.
I did have a hard time interacting with the performers because I just did not know who they were supposed to be so I did my best and told all of them that I thought they were beautiful and I hoped they won the Throne. That seemed to please them.
It was a very fun night out with friends and as always a great party. Already looking forward to next year.
Most of you may know that I tend to send a mini version of myself along to some cons when I can’t be there. This mostly happens at Gally, which usually means that whatever I send has to not only endure the general craziness of my friends, but also being packed up and shipped. So far, every Clever I have sent has technically survived, but he usually comes back in pretty rough shape. Now is this because of the USPS or my friends, well, I guess a little of both. ( I will be posting the #CleverdoesGally2019 album soon, and you can decide!)
My friend Holly of Hollys Making Stuff crafts the cutest creatures of all sorts so I asked her to make me a wee Mr. Clever. I was not disappointed when she sent me some WIP photos. Not expecting to see a teeny tiny cybermite on his lapel, but that got me thinking, and I asked if she would also make me a cybermite too.
I am really happy with how these came out. I can’t wait to take pictures of them all around the town and at every con we go to.
My first time saying YES to being a guest speaker on a Doctor Who podcast. I met some of the wonderful people from Man Bites Media and Diversely Geek while at SqueeCon, so I could not say no. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part this three-part series that talks about “The Influence of the Doctor. ”
I hope you will tune in and enjoy listening to us discuss how Doctor Who changed and influenced our lives and the lives of our friends and the community that we move around in.
For those that may need a TW, I do, however briefly, towards the end, discuss my experiences with sexual assault, and the many types of threats that I have had throughout the years. Brief mentions of r*pe and transphobia.
When I first decided to do my Clever of Dragons Doctor Who/Game of Thrones mash-up for the Winds of Winter masquerade ball I figured since it was going to be pretty obscure I needed some sort of prop to make it fun and to have something to tie in to the theme. The concept of a Cyber-Dragon staff seemed interesting and fun! And totally something Mr. Clever would carry.
Obviously, it was going to be silver, and I knew I wanted its eyes to be blue to match the blue lights on my cyberplanner. I had never worked with props of this nature before and the process proved to be a little bit more challenging than I thought especially since my craft area is not very conducive to making anything larger than a cyberplanner.
I also don’t have space away from my cats. Which is a whole other challenge!
I started with a roll of wrapping paper and I decided to make the basic head shape of the dragon itself out of paper mache. Mind you, I have never worked with paper mache before, not even as a child. The reason for this is that newspaper is part of the long list of things I am allergic to. So I wasn’t able to do work with the paper mache as well and as long as I had first planned. I did the best I could with it, and ended up filling in the gaps with aluminum foil and tape.
At first, the shape looked way off.
Each individual dragon scale was made out of thin craft foam. Initially, I wasn’t going to cover the cardboard tube completely but that just got a little bit away from me. I started cutting out a few scales here and there, sometimes in bed, sometimes at the hair salon, sometime while I was waiting for laundry to dry – wherever I could. So I figured, well, I have all these scales, might as well glue them on.
The plastic that I ended up using for the eyes and the chestplate actually came from a Quidditch set that CJ got me for Christmas. The set came in a box, with all the Quidditch balls, protected in this one piece of plastic. I got so excited because I realized that the plastic was the perfect shape and size for the eyes and chest. It was also the moment where I realized that I went full on cat, as I was more excited about the packaging that I was about the product.
I carved out a hole in the wrapping paper tube for the chest plate, then cut out the eye holes in the head, put the plastic in. Found blue LED lights and strung them through. I then cut out a hole in the back of the tube for the lights’ battery pack. After that I just used a glue gun to glue the rest of the scales around the remaining openings.
To finish the head, I covered it the best I could with the rest of the scales, aluminum foil spikes, and window insulation around the eyes. I covered the entire thing in silver spray paint…
… and off I went to the ball. Except I forgot to cover it in sealant and my hands were covered in silver paint the entire night of the ball. I fixed it later, sealed it, just in case I ever use Fernando again. Yes, we have decided that his name shall be Fernando.
I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a tutorial! Stay tuned for more on future projects!
One thing that I really enjoy and admire is cosplayers that recreate fan art in their photoshoots. So down the rabbit hole I went into searching for Mr. Clever fan art! There still isn’t a lot out there, but recently I stumbled across a few lovely pieces that I was able to incorporate into a recent shoot. Most of the ones I found had various companions in the piece- mostly Clara, obviously. My wonderful friend Kelly agreed to fill in for Clara in those instances, and those pictures will be posted soon!
For now, here is one example of a solo shot that I was able to do.
This was based off of this fantastic drawing that I found here on Deviant Art.
This was something new for me and I really enjoyed doing it and look forward to doing more!
One of the many things that I enjoy about doing photoshoots is getting to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating a fabulous photo. It certainly takes lots of patience, a certain charm and a great sense of humor to work with someone like myself. I am notoriously uneasy when I am getting my photo taken, yet always a bit rambunctious at the same time.
It was a great pleasure to work with Sauvage Photo and Edit again. She always puts me at ease and makes it a very fun and productive day! This time around I had my good friend Kelly as my NiS Clara along with my wonderful spouse taking some photos of us while we worked.
As per usual, I brought all my props – chess board, chess set, trigger, Clara’s gun. And perhaps a few more things.
I thought it might be fun to recreate some fan art that I had seen. This proved to be a little tricky, as you don’t realize that illustrations and photo manips, no matter how good, are still not real people. Getting some of the angles correct was bit challenging.
We managed to get some great shots, and I am really looking forward to seeing the finished product!
Good evening everyone, I’m your host, Mr. Clever and welcome to another Weekend Update.
The weeks before Thanksgiving is what Salem residents refer to as “Recovering from October” while I refer to it as “Post October Depression.” It can be tough running on all cylinders for 31 days, then abruptly halting come November 1st.
But have no fear, that’s why we have #conlife.
Despite the cancelation of Jenna Coleman, a few of us wondered if it would still be worth it to attend that most stressful of local cons – RICC. Anyone that has attended RICC knows the many potential challenges. The amount of people and the issues just getting inside. People (and children) getting locked out of the con. Being unable to get back to one side of the con or the other. The list goes on (and on and on and on). But, the tickets were bought, the bags were packed, so off we went.
It was so much better than expected. They made a lot of changes to the layout and we went on Sunday. I don’t know if it was one or the other or both but this was the first time it didn’t feel like I spent the entire time elbowing through crowds as thick as Halloween in Salem. It was wonderful and felt like maybe I wouldn’t need a special reason to go next year. (Ask me about my RICC must see list…)
As I bid goodbye to another October and RICC, some of my friends and I decided to treat ourselves with a little day trip to Maine. Now mind you, to me, Maine means one thing – Stonewall Kitchen. And lots and lots of pumpkin butter. And possibly one or two things for CJ (but not likely).
If you have never been to the flagship Stonewall Kitchen location, go now. I foresee many more trips in my immediate future!
For the weeks ahead I don’t mind saying I don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving but I am excited about the grand opening of a new chocolate shop in Salem: Kakawa Chocolate House. I got to meet the owner / proprietor and you can bet I want to be one of the first in line to taste whatever goodies they have in stock.
This has been your weekend update for the week ending November 18, 2018.
I am so humbled by the amount of people sending me messages and checking in on me after finding out that Jenna cancelled RICC. She must have gotten word that Mr. Clever was coming to see her. I love that so many of my friends knew how much it meant to me to meet her.
I’m sad, but that is the risk you take when going to a con for a guest. I’ve never done that in the four years of Conlife. It’s a gamble. But the way I see it, it’s like anything else. When you buy a con ticket you don’t know if you will get sick, have to work, get a flat, have a miserable time, etc.
Eventually I will get my Clever/Clara pic. For now, I am happy with the array of lovely Clara’s that I have met over the years!
So, it looks like RICC 2018 will be happening after all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I somehow manage to have a great time every year at this con, despite the long lines that can rival Disneyland’s, the massive crowds and the infamous unorganized spaces. Because for whatever reason, RICC manages to get great guests year after year.
My spouse and I have what we call our “Short list.” The people that we would brave the craziness for. At the very top is Sean and Gus from Psych. Followed by a Burn Notice cast reunion for him and Jenna Coleman for me. Well, damn.
My wonderful friends Jenne and Cass brought my chessboard for her to sign at Boston Comic Con one year. She was super funny and sweet about it. She even loved my cosplay and showed her mom. So you would think that I would NOT be a nervous wreck to meet her, but NOPE.
Luckily, I will have a bunch of great friends with me to support me. As always.
Wish me luck – getting through this con, AND meeting Jenna.
Upgrade in Progress. Or should I say UNDEAD in Progress? Cyberplanner part all ready for Zombie Clever!
I wanted to make it look broken, beat up, falling apart, wires falling out, only one light working – and with minimal blood and more motor oil looking colors. I am very happy with how it turned out, especially given my allergies to latex and silicones.
This weekend at Super Megafest marks FIVE years that I have been cosplaying as Mr. Clever. I have been cosplaying as Clever longer than Matt Smith had been the Doctor.
It also marks five years of meeting some of my best friends. Not just con friends. But, friends that are a huge part of my life – beyond fandom, beyond conlife. I wouldn’t have met them if not for my cosplay, if not for Clever, if not for Matt, or not for Doctor Who.
And as Doctor Who enters a brand new chapter in its long run, I hope many fans, young, old, newcomers, and returning ones, like myself, find their own piece of magic in the TARDIS. It is a wonderful thing, and I truly believe the Doctor herself, would enjoy every second of it.
Who will I see for this anniversary at SMF? I have so many crazy, fun memories. Who wants to make more?
The photo that started it all. The “legend of Ron Jeremy.”
Anyone who has met me knows that “Nightmare in Silver” is my favorite Doctor Who episode. But NiS is so much more than just an episode to me.
We all have those things that have changed our lives, or mattered to us, or maybe even helped us through difficult times. Some have a series of books, and yes, for sure I do have Harry Potter, some people have music, others might have sports figures. For me, I have one episode of one tv show.
Over the years, people have asked me *how* this is possible, how can one thing, one character, change so much of a person’s life?
My best analogy is the “stone in the water causes ripples” cliché. One thing led to another, which led to another.
Before we moved back to Salem (we of course being myself, CJ, and 3 cats) we never really left the house. We didn’t socialize, we each had one or two friends that we saw on occasion and that was it. (and they are great friends, don’t get me wrong!) But it was always just us, sitting around the house, bored. And for me, getting dressed to go outside was hell. That was always a horrible point of contention for us. Going out meant having to get dressed. Having to put on some semblance of “normalcy”. We even had the chance to go to San Diego Comic Con for free one year and we said no. Crowds? People? Nope.
Fast forward to cosplay life. Getting dressed up? Yes please. I think I spend more time in my cosplay than any other outfit that I own. And aside from the issues with the cyberplanner itself, it is so comfortable to wear. I feel like myself in it. This was the first time in 35+ years that I wanted to go out, to talk, to socialize, to interact. Suddenly we have all these friends, and cons, and laughter and events and game nights and people over filling our lives with fun and life and love and everything that matters in this world.
That first stone to get cast into the water, the first ripple, was watching NiS that one night. That “A-ha” moment of “I wanna become this character” that brought cosplay into our lives, which brought conlife, and in turn forever changed our lives and the lives of our friends.
In short, none of this would have been possible before.
I haven’t written a blog post in a while. Recently I uploaded some new photos from a photo shoot and there were a few comments that could only be described as trolling so I thought it was time to get something off my chest.
It wasn’t just the trolls that made me decide to write this. After a few “Facebook friends” made their comments, I doubted myself, so in a moment of weakness, I deleted the whole album.
Doing that shoot was incredibly hard for me. You may not realize it when you see me running around a con with grapes and rope but I am very self-conscious. And I delete far more than I post. And in that brief period of self-doubt after the trash people thought they had a right to tell me what I could or couldn’t wear, I thought it was just easier to delete it, delete myself, off the screen, and deal with all later. Or not, depending on how I felt.
After some soul-searching, and some convincing by my close friends, my partner, and the wonderful photographer, the album is now back up.
The reason I reposted it isn’t just because I didn’t want the trash people of the internet to win, but the larger reason is that when I see these photos I am reminded that even though these pics are “of me” they aren’t just about me.
I think a lot of people in the cosplay community will agree with me – when I see a professional cosplay photo I see a team effort that goes into making those beautiful photos. And when I share mine I am not only sharing my own art (like the cyberplanner) that I have painstakingly created (with the emphasis on pain) but the art and skill of my friends and colleagues.
There are so many people that have helped me over the years, that have also invested time and talent into helping me make Mr. Clever come to life in these photos and in person.
The insane number of amazing photographers alone. It is not easy to capture (and edit) a wonderful photograph. It is even harder to work with someone like me, who has severe anxiety in front of the camera. Cosplay photographers often go unnoticed and are truly the unsung heroes of our community. The photographers that I have met and worked with over the years deserve a medal for putting up with me. Many times, they have worked with me for free, so yes of course, I am going to share their photos everywhere (and give them credit as often as possible).
Or the hair stylists that have helped me over the years. Running into the salon with pictures of Matt. “This is the color I need”. And the random make-up artist we met while in NYC for NYCC that color matched me and taught me how to put make up on for photos. Never would have known any of that if not for her.
And the friend who felt bad that I couldn’t wear the Abbyshot coat who went and got fabric for me. And the other friend who made me the coat that I wear now. This coat is amazing. The curator from the DW experience loved it. The person who made it should be proud of herself.
Even down to the tattoo artist who worked with me to make my cybermite tattoo come to life.
And that doesn’t even cover the emotional challenges that people help me work through: how hard it is for me to overcome the fear of cameras, the challenge of my body image issues, getting into character, overcoming the severe pain that I am in all the time now, and with this shoot in particular there was the added fear of because of my injury I was terrified that I was going to be unable to move.
Everyone knows how much this character and cosplay means to me. I have lost much in 2017. For a fleeting second, there was the thought that I could lose that too, and that was devastating. And I know there are people that don’t get that Mr. Clever is both my first and last cosplay. It is who I am and I cannot imagine cosplaying as anyone else.
But trolls will be trolls and after battling my own demons and winning, at least this time, I have taken the trash out, and that album is back up. Not just because I need it, or because Mr. Clever is who I am, or because I don’t want to let the haters win, but because all those other people deserve to have their work talked about too.
So the last thing I want to do with this blog is thank (some) of those many people and give everyone who reads this a way to connect with them and make some of that cosplay magic for yourself.
Above photos were taken by the amazing Vignette of
Lee Roberts aka Mr Clever is a cosplayer and artist from Salem. They are actively involved in the Cosplay is not Consent: Anti-bullying movement as well as being an admin for Boston Whovians.
Their Mr. Clever cosplay has been featured in The Nerdist, The Mary Sue, Nerd Caliber, on BBC America, the BBC affiliate Anglophenia, and was featured in Doctor Who magazine.
Their motto is “Upgrade everyone. Save all the kittens.”
Tell us a little bit about Mr. Clever:
Mr Clever is from the Doctor Who episode “Nightmare in Silver” written by my favorite author, Neil Gaiman. He is what happened when the Cyberman tried to take over the Doctor. For those non- Whovians out there, imagine an evil robotic entity that takes over 50% of an alien time traveler’s mind. The beauty and challenge of cosplaying him is that its essentially two characters in one. He was sassy, snarky, manic, manipulative and I adored every second he was on screen.
You’ve become known for cosplaying this character. Why him?
You know this is the one question people ask me the most and I am never 100% sure what to say. There are so many reasons why Mr. Clever clicked with me. I do remember when I first saw Nightmare in Silver, I lost my mind when he first appeared on screen and knew I had to cosplay that character. I loved his personality: snarky, flirty and suave. Maybe its because I have always loved all things robotic. Maybe its because it gave me a chance to make something unique, since I can’t sew which usually is a primary skill as a cosplayer. Maybe its just because he lets me get out of my own way and have fun. I don’t have a solid answer. I had tried other cosplays before and after him, but none of them fit me like he does. When I put on the cyberplanner piece it all just comes together. We just clicked – it was love at first sight.
What does cosplay mean?
Cosplay is hard to define, as it means different things to different people. For myself, I’m not cosplaying unless I am in character, not just in costume. Unless I am Mr. Clever.
But the beauty of cosplay is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. For some people putting on a costume and going out for Halloween is cosplaying, and that is totally ok. It’s the fun, the PLAY part of it that is key for most cosplayers.
Imagine your 10-year-old self all over again. What costume did you want to wear? What character did you want to embody so badly? Wonder women? Gandalf? A ninja Turtle? Its that same passion that makes cosplay fun and rewarding for all ages. Doesn’t matter if you made your costume, bought it at a thrift store or just make props, like me. It’s all about self-expression and fun.
Cosplay is for everyone. And everyone can cosplay.
11th Doctor Funko customized into Mr. Clever (I’m not obsessed or anything) added length to tweed coat/removed front buttons, pockets and elbow patches from tweed/added waistcoat and… Read more “Customized Mr. Clever funko pop”