Cosplay Shenanigans: When Cosplay Invades Gunpla: Mortal Kombat Gundam

There was a time when I did not think of cosplay as a hobby per se; it was just something I did a week or so before Anime Expo, and I didn’t even cosplay during my first San Diego Comic Con.  Many of my costumes were primarily alterations of clothes, skill screen printing stuff on shirts, and making less complex props.


Takuya Kanbara from Digimon Frontier was one of my first cosplays.

I was, however, very much into customizing miniatures because I played Heroclix. I was also doing a lot of “Kitbashing,” which is making custom toys using model kits as ready made parts to add onto existing toys because I was a Transformers fan.  At some point, when I was making effect parts for a Green Lantern or Phoenix Heroclix miniatures or when I was making accessories for a Kitbashed Transformer or a customized Gundam, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool just to make these things human-sized?”


Back during the days when all the available Phoenix Heroclix Figures were either too small or too large…. So I made this.


One of my first Heroclix Mods: Parallax, made from a few different pieces, including Ice Man’s ice constructs washed with translucent green paint.

One of my first forays into this transition was making my Mortal Kombat cosplay for myself as Raiden, and Kitana for a friend.  Raiden was an interesting transition because a small LED worked for a tiny action figure, but for a human, it would be a LOT of LEDs.  I have not discovered Electroluminescent (EL) strips or wire yet, so I used Glow Sticks.  Yup, lots of thin, blue glowsticks.  I sewed the glowstick connectors onto my suit, and it somehow looked good.  As for the glowing eyes, I got one of those LED-lit Batman masks.  The LEDs were not as strong in the original toy, so I got some crude electronics from Radio Shack and much stronger Blue LEDs.





As for Kitana, I was going to make a prop fan more akin to her more impressive and awesome movie war fans.  I had been using model-grade wood  There was the basswood, which are stronger but not as easy to cut into fine shapes.  there as also balsa wood, which is a bit delicate, but very ideal for intricate cuts.  With a bit of cloth, paint, and a bit of metal, Kitana’s war fans were created.






I was very fond of these costumes, and was one of my first cosplay with a friend.    Looking back now, I though, since I learned a lot more on cosplay prop making, I can then do the inverse and apply it to my old hobby.


One of my first Gunpla, a Zeta Gundam with custom wings.


The wings can open up…


… and open up even further.

Gunpla, or short for the hobby of building  “GUNdam PLAstic model kits,” is a related hobby I found via my love for Tranformers and other giant robots.  A lot of times, Gunpla also involves customizing the kits.  This is my tribute to how Kitbashing has affected my cosplay, and now cosplay is affecting  Gunpla: Gundam Mortal Kombat (MK).  As a tribute to our original MK  costumes, I thought I would make a Raiden and Kitana-inspired Gundams.


A Nu Gundam Heavy Weapons System… If I used all the accessories.

Up first is the Raiden Gundam.  I used a 1/144 High Grade (HG) Nu Gundam Heavy Weapons Sytem a few reasons  First, the Nu Gundam, unlike the typical main Gundam of a series, is mostly White and Black with a little red and yellow.  It is easier to use those colors for Raiden’s mostly white costume, with black and yellow accents, and his large blue tunic/loincloth piece, which I was going to paint.  Another reason is the Nu Gundam’s size, which is slightly larger than other mobile suits even if they are the same scale.  The most important reason, however, is this particular model’s Heavy Weapons System, which is a set of armor that snaps on top of the model.  I used the chest for his tunic, and the front and back skirts for his loincloth pieces, which I painted blue.  There was also a happy coincidence of the yellow and black vents on its upper arms that look like Raiden’s Thunder Symbol on his costume.  The final touch is a Lego disc I painted tan to be its inexplicable giant mobile suit hat.




The next part, Raiden’s energy effect part, is very much where I apply what I learned this past year.  In a prevous article, I showed my method for using plastic and a heat gun to create interesting shapes that would mimic energy.  I used it in a smaller scale for Raiden’s blue lightning-like energy parts.  There was also a less successful attempt to use the reflective vinyl I have been using in my other costumes under the clear blue plastic effect parts.  While it still glows under the clear blue plastic under camera flashes, the small amount of vinyl, combined with the abundance of white downplays the “Glowing” effect of reflective vinyl.



For the Kitana Gundam, because kitana has a different silouette than a much bulkier Raiden, I used the Gundam Age: Sparrow Gundam 1/144 HG scale model.  It was also primarily blue and black, which are Kitana’s colors.


A Gundam Age-1 Sparrow… If I built it according to instructions.

This model has two sets of effect parts.  The first one is the blue energy coming from its back thrusters, which harken back to Kitana’s (or some versions of her) having a ponytail.  I also used a similar method for this effect as Raiden’s energy effect parts.



The last part is the “Beam War Fans.”  Anything Kitana would not be complete without awesome war fans.  Being a Gundam, I thought an energy weapon would be more appropriate than physical weapons.  Instead of the typical beam sabre, or energy shield, the Beam War fans seem to act as both.  Instead of using a heat gun on plastic, though, I just had some clear hard plastic lying around.  I used a clear blue paint to give it color, and there we go.  I attached one fan on a spare splayed open hand, so it appears to be held like a traditional fan while the other one I attached to a handle of the Sparrow Gundam’s dagger, so it can be held in a different style.




Finally, there is the issue of storage or display.  While I like putting these on my desk and fiddling with them, I thought it would also be nice to have a display case for these.  I got some 5-6 inch tall or long display cases very cheap at the local Daiso.  I could barely fit the Raiden Gundam, but when it is in the display case, but the result of fitting the energy effect in that pose was interesting, and the Raiden Gundam looks like it is charging up and walking nonchalantly at the opponent.



For the Kitana Gundam, I wanted the energy exhaust to look like an awesome trail behind it, so posed it sideways and in a finishing move pose after it had just left a trail of destruction.  It is very much like my favorite pose from Goddannar, as it poses in a genuflect, its energy trail / ponytail behind it, and the bad guy explodes.


Giant robots with energy ponytails are awesome!


It was a nice way to look back onto some of my prop-making roots, so to speak.  Now, some Mobile Suit MORTAL KOMBAT!


So what’s happening here. Is Kitana landing a flying kick, or is Raiden lifting up and electrocuting Kitana?


The energy effect parts also act as stands or tripod-like third legs.



John Garcia
John Garcia is a Professor of English, specializing in popular culture, comparative literature, and postcolonial studies. He is also an artist and character designer for Smorgasbord Productions. He has been cosplaying since 2002, and attending geeky conventions since 1998.

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