Creator Focus—Marlene

Someday this whole Creator Focus thing will catch on and people will reminisce with pride about being some of the first readers. Or more likely, when these fabulous creators blow up and become even MORE popular, I can brag about knowing them and be able to show proof. This week’s proof? Marlene, aka ILikeComicsToo! Long before being the best thing about Tumblr, Marlene was fighting off stereotypes as a “comic book nerd” on MTV.

You’ve been a convention goer for as long as I’ve known you, even before you started to cosplay, I believe. What was your first convention like?

I’m pretty sure my first convention was New York Anime Fest, back before it was absorbed into New York Comic Con. It was so small at the time even though it was at the same venue it’s at now. I remember seeing a handful of volunteers in green shirts and being able to speak to just about everyone on the floor. The aisles were wide and you could– get this– walk through them without bumping into folks! The number of artists and vendors was also just tiny in comparison. It’s bonkers to think how much the convention scene in NYC has grown since then!

What made you decide to cosplay for the first time?

I really admired people in the community and I think I just wanted to be part of that. My first costumes were awful, hah. I borrowed a friend’s Prince of Tennis getup for New York Anime Fest, knowing nothing about the series but wanting to make an impression on the show floor. I then asked my mom to buy me a really cheap Iruka cosplay from Naruto that I never wore in public, because I chickened out. But my first cosplay, my very first one, was “Lady Sesshoumaru” for an anime club in high school. It was essentially a white robe with a pink feathered boa. I’ve since scrubbed any and all photographical evidence from the world, but it’s nostalgic to think back on. Cosplay (even back in high school) definitely did help me meet some amazing people and become part of a vibrant, creative community, so in that I accomplished my goal!

Lately it feels like a lot of your cosplay has shifted to “everyday cosplay” with a larger focus on makeup and fashion, was that a conscious decision?

It was! Good eye. I actually swore off serious cosplay something like a year or two ago, because I was becoming really disheartened by the direction the community was taking in terms of inclusivity and what was celebrated. I sort of reversed that decision after a few months because, truthfully, I had too many ideas that I really wanted to bring to fruition. Cosplay is what I make it. If I disagree with the community at large sometimes, I’ve realized that’s all right.

My serious costumes are still few and far between, though. They take a lot of time, energy and money to assemble, and I often find it much more satisfying to just incorporate aspects of a character into my everyday wardrobe or makeup choices and share those results instead, especially since I’ve been looking to expand my personal style regardless. I’m fortunate that I work for a place where I can express myself that way!

You also create a lot of custom Funko POP!s—which are amazing—was it just a desire to create, or the fact that characters you wanted to see weren’t available?

Both! It first started as a way to make gifts for friends while simultaneously exploring something I’d never really tried before, i.e. sculpting and painting on 3D surfaces. People really seemed to enjoy ‘em so I kept making ‘em. Nowadays I mostly create custom POP!s as auction pieces for charity, which is really fun.

What’s that process like?

I actually have a YouTube tutorial series on how to make them, if anyone is interested! Once I decide what I want to make and gather references, it’s just a matter of picking a base figure, sculpting and painting. I am really slow with the process because I take frequent breaks and I’m frustratingly meticulous. At the same time, sitting down and painting for hours is strangely zen. When I do finally finish a figure (days or months later), it’s incredibly satisfying to list it and know it’s getting a good home.

The online community can be quite toxic at times, how do you combat that? What can others do?

It’s always really tempting to combat toxicity with snark and anger. I’ve fallen into that trap many times. I try, however, to be the kind of person who answers toxicity with… not necessarily kindness, but rational discussion. Offering what they refuse to, in other words. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve been surprised how well people generally respond to that tone, either by meeting me in the middle or becoming frustrated that they can’t elicit the reaction they want. I wish others encouraged more of that behavior, because I think it can be helpful. Ignoring toxicity is also an option, although I don’t agree that it’s the best option in every case. Despite popular belief, bullies don’t always just disappear when they’re ignored.

Contrastingly, what’s the best part about the online community?

The ability to bond with folks over shared interests. There will always be bad apples, but I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve encountered them infrequently. Connecting with total strangers over a common passion is a fantastic good feeling. I’ve met so many kind, talented people online, and those relationships have translated into real-life friendships that I treasure.

What kinds of projects are you working on now?

My 9-5 keeps me pretty busy these days, but on the side I’m chucking along with a few things. I attend comic conventions pretty regularly on behalf of Tumblr, which is fun, and I’ve been invited to speak on a few other panels recently as well. I’ve been keeping my Instagram stocked with my attempts to find style, and my YouTube gets updated once in a blue moon with a new tutorial or review. Right now, I’m collaborating with my friends at ReelSchool on a video about Wonder Woman in honor of her new movie, and I’m also in the first stages of outlining a video on the history of America Chavez. Hopefully you’ll all get to see that soon!

 

And now the fun stuff.

Top three Rick and Morty characters that AREN’T Rick or Morty.

Birdperson, Krombopulos Michael, Mr. Needful. Ta-da!

Who is your favorite Transformer?

Tie between Sunstreaker and Sideswipe.

Explain Tumblr in five words.

“I need an adult, please.”

America Chavez, Nightcrawler, Stevonnie, Jaime Reyes, Poe Dameron, someone from Overwatch that I don’t know…I was going to ask you to pick, but the list goes on and on. Cage match: All your faves. Who wins?

THIS IS SO HARD. I’m nixing Poe (I’m sorry!) because he’s only human and, without his X-wing, he just has a blaster (which isn’t going to be of much help). I’m nixing Stevonnie because while their sword and shield are amazing, I think they still have a lot of training to do before they’re truly combat ready. Between America and Jaime, I would probably give it to Jaime since he’s got alien-tech-super-strength on his side. Between Nightcrawler and Jaime… I don’t know! I do think that folks vastly underestimate Nightcrawler and his ability to just teleport someone’s head off, but that might be difficult to accomplish with Jaime’s shielding, so… I’ll give it to Jaime. And I’m pretty sure Jaime could end anyone on Overwatch, so– ding ding, win to the Mexican-American!


Boom. Mic drop. Seven weeks of Creator Focus, just for your eyeholes. My thanks to Marlene for all her great answers, and for being another one of my amazing friends who supports me in everything I do. So go support her!!

For more about Marlene, find her online