Cosplay has become a staple of almost every con, and the big show in San Diego is certainly no different. Fans dress up as their favorite characters, and celebrities sometimes don masks and costumes to go “incognito” on the exhibit hall floor to secretly mix and mingle with everyone else.
Adam Savage — a model maker on the Star Wars prequels and star of Mythbusters — takes it to another level. Every year at San Diego Comic-Con, he goes all out with his costumes, which are incredibly detailed and invariably some of the most impressive costumes of the show. They’re also top secret, and his “incognito walks” around the floor are unannounced.
At this year’s show, he had two different costumes: Kylo Ren and the bear from last year’s The Revenant. His Kylo Ren costume was — as expected — amazingly accurate. In a year when many, many fans came as their favorite bad guy from The Force Awakens, Adam’s version (designed by the folks at ANOVOS) stole the show. StarWars.com had a chance to chat with Adam about his Kylo Ren costume, his process for designing Comic-Con cosplays, and the joy of mingling with fans…and of discovery!
StarWars.com: How far in advance of Comic-Con do you start planning your costumes? What factors into your decision-making process when you’re thinking about potential characters?
Adam Savage: For some of my costumes it has been as long as five to eight years of work to finish a project. For others, it’s just a matter of weeks or days. It’s all over the place. But I don’t think of Comic-Con as the reason to make the costume: wearing the costume at a con is fulfilling the costume’s purpose. It’s the final act of the costume’s construction: to be inhabited.
StarWars.com: How long did this year’s outfits take to make, and what can you tell us about them?
Adam Savage: The Bear only took a few days of concentrated work. He’s quite simple. The arms and legs and torso are comprised of 10 pieces of fur and about six yards total. The torso is framed in steel corset boning. The head is more complex of course. But in addition to the actual physical labor, there were dozens of drawings, and weeks of thinking about various approaches before advancing to each successive stage. I wanted it to work so much I really considered the character of the bear.
The Kylo costume from ANOVOS was fitted for me by the excellent craftspeople at ANOVOS. They fitted me for the outfit in June, and finished it just in time for SDCC. It’s really beautiful. Stiff, regal, Sith-like.
StarWars.com: You’ve said that accuracy is incredibly important when you design and build a new costume. With that in mind, how accurate was your Kylo Ren?
Adam Savage: From what I’ve been told, ANOVOS had access to a production-made Kylo Ren costume. [Editor’s note: They did! See how they made their amazing Kylo costume here at StarWars.com!] They used that to match both the patterns and the unique textures of the costume. The heavy basket weave of the outer tunic is quite hard to source. And then once they have it they wax it. The most surprising thing about Kylo’s outfit is how shiny it is. They waxed the pleated sleeve AND the basket weave outer tunic. This gives it a shine that allows it to pick up light in dark places. It’s a brilliant bit of costume magic. We used to do a similar thing to spaceships at Industrial Light & Magic — the final painting pass of a space ship was often a patchwork of gloss and matte panels. We called it specular highlighting and it picked up light and added a deeper layer of detail.
StarWars.com: Even though your costumes are top secret and your walks around the exhibit hall are unannounced, they’ve become a Comic-Con tradition, so there’s always a chance that people will discover you. Is that part of the thrill for you?
Adam Savage: Absolutely. I love the community at SDCC. I can’t even put on a casual helmet these days without being found. On the Thursday of the con, I slapped on my Kylo helmet and walked the floor and five people recognized me by my red hair, just visible under the back of the helmet.
StarWars.com: Did you see any other Star Wars-related cosplay this year that caught your eye? What strikes you most about fans’ devotion to these characters and this universe?
Adam Savage: Rey was the costume of the con this year. I saw Reys of every age, size, race, and even gender. I love it. It’s a really great costume in that it has a ton of personality. There are a lot of parts and they really speak to a character. She’s a character that clearly resonates.
Be sure to check out Tested’s video about the costume and Savage’s incognito walk on Friday afternoon of the con.
Photos of Adam Savage as Kylo Ren by Norman Chan/Tested.com.
Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He’s also a contributor to GeekDad and runs The Roarbots, where he focuses on awesome geeky stuff that happens to be kid-friendly. On top of that, he cohosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates geek culture by talking to people who create it. With two little ones and a vast Star Wars collection at home, he’s done the unthinkable: allowed them full access to most of his treasure from the past 30 years, opening and playing with whatever they want (pre-1983 items excluded).