As all of you here would have heard and seen by now, the best cosplayer by far for this year’s Cosfest 08 is the Gundam Exia man, with Iron Man coming a close 2nd and cute Haruhi a distant 3rd by virtue of her looks. I must say that Ironman was on par with Exia, and it was a shame I did not see him in the flesh.
Thanks to the connections of Zer0, I managed to secure a short interview with the man behind the Gundam Exia, Mr Clive Lee! Here goes… (bolded statements are those of the esteemed TJ Han himself.) Photos courtesy of Windbell.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What are your hobbies? How did you get into them?
I am currently 29 years old, I develop games for a living for my own company. My hobbies are gaming, watching anime, reading manga, drawing, cosplaying.
For gaming, watching anime and reading manga, I did not purposely get into them. They are activities most kids would engage in and somehow I am still attracted to these activities until now; I guess I am still a kid. Haha! The only exception is cosplaying. I was in NUS anime club and my senior sort of introduced cosplay to me after he attended an event. I got interested after looking the photos and went for the 2001 cosplay event in costume and I became a cosplayer until now.
NUS Anime Club, that’s a coincidence. One of the Riuva underlings, Kokanaden, is currently the Emperor Muad’dib of the anime club. Clive "accidentally" got into gaming, anime and manga, sort of how one would trip and fall into a bottomless manhole of unlimited abyssal doom.
2. You were the Gundam Dynames from EOY. What are some of the other mecha suits you have made and worn?
In order of appearance, I made and worn
1)Gundam RX-178 MKII,
2)Gundam Wing Zero Custom,
6)Knight of Gold,
Two other costumes, Transformable Optimus Prime and Optimus Prime kid version, I made and sold it to Movie Mania, making it a total of 10 mecha suits.
3. Could you share the process of creating such a suit?
Yes, you guys should really check out those detailed tutorials. But it’s not like we’re going to make a giant robo-sauna for ourselves anytime soon, most likely.
4. What are the skills and materials required?
One must have basic knowledge of Art & Craft, Physics, costume making and some home DIY skills. It will be more advantageous if one knows material engineering and mechanical engineering.
Material will range from:
1) Polypropylene(PP) Plastic,
2) Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic,
3) EVA (Ethylene vinyl acetate) foam,
4) Poly Ethylene IV form,
5) to the basic cardboard
Which material to use depends on the user’s preference and ease of usage.
These will sound extremely daunting to the "I am Artist" types, but rest assured that majority of these materials are easily found. Ironically, in an arts supplies store.
5. How have you been upgrading each different suit?
I identify the weak points of previous suits and try to come out with a solution for the next project i.e. The basis of upgrading is aimed at correcting the mistakes of the previous suit. For example, the Exia has the glowing eyes, the glowing GN drive backpack.
6. What are the costs (time and money) of making each suit?
Time taken varies ranging from 3 weeks to 7 months depending on the complexity of the design and the amount of details to be included. Cost of production (excluding labour cost) range from S$150 to S$700.
That’s a lot of money for a cosplay. The typical average good cosplay costs about 200-400, which is quite expensive as well. Time is money too.
7. Do you plan to continue building more suits every half a year?
Building one mecha every half a year would kill me. Haha! I will not be making them that frequently anymore due to commitment to my business. Perhaps one every 1.5 years.
8. If so, how do you think you can improve them further? What mecha will you pick?
I believe I would be able to improve them further in terms of proportion, mobility, and electronics. Currently, I have yet to pick a mecha but I have some in mind – Unicorn Gundam, Black Wing Gundam, Master Gundam, Nu Gundam, VF-25G Valkyrie.
I strongly recommend those from outside the Gundam universe. Perhaps Gurren Lagann, Full Metal Panic or Eureka seveN? I think a Valkyrie would be quite difficult though.
9. What drives you to continue making these mecha suits?
Pride & Passion. The desire to show the world that Singapore have high standard mecha cosplays as well. The desire to create something revolutionary. But the truth is, the process of making mecha costume is something I fear, no matter how many suits I have made. It is like a challenge of mental and physical strength.
Wow, back in the old days when I interviewed soldiers all the time, asking them why they found training "fun", they would always give a similar response. Might building cosplays of military mecha lead one to think like a soldier? Or is it because all Singaporean males are true soldiers at heart?
11.How hot is the suit actually? We saw you sweating like mad after just a few minutes.
It is not that hot actually compared to people dressing up as furry mascots (Barney, Chicken Little…e.t.c.) I sweat alot because I have very high metabolism.
Not as high as the guy from Wanted, whose heart beats 400 times a minute, that’s for sure. Clive here practically looks like he’s in a sauna when clad in Exia suit.
12.Do you consider your suit a form of cosplay? What do you feel about the local cosplay scene? If you have knowledge of overseas ones, do feel free to compare.
It is a cosplay, yet not a cosplay. The making process is like scratch building a life size model kit or creating a mini float, an art piece. Wearing it, I feel more like a mascot entertainer and a SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) soldier road marching in Full Battle Order. The local cosplay scene is getting more and more recognised and there are a lot of really good cosplayers emerging as well as skillful costume makers and propmasters. Local cosplayers’ standard are comparable to other countries’ cosplayers but a lot of locals develop a misconception when they compare professional cosplay models and top notch cosplayers in Japan to the average cosplayers in Singapore and to the worst in US. Wrong basis of comparison. Singapore cosplay scene has huge potential, but limited by the small size of population sadly.
That is true. All parameters in life are unable to break free from the gaussian distribution. There will always be the excellent (few), average (plentiful) and terrible (few). People just love to do tiny sample sizes that are heavily biased and produce rubbish conclusions. But I think the cosplay scene has stopped growing, at least not as exponentially as in the previous few years. It might have reached a bottleneck.
13.What do you do with all the suits that you’ve made, after their appearance in the events?
I threw away all my suits except Gundam Freedom, Gundam Dynames & Gundam Exia which I consider to be my better suits.
Maybe somewhere, you find garbagemen dancing around in Gundam suits. Thanks Clive for the interview and all the best to your future endeavours, be it in cosplay or making real money!