22 of the best costumes we saw at C2E2 in Chicago

A look at the people behind some of the best costumes on the second day of the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo at McCormick Place.

SHARE 22 of the best costumes we saw at C2E2 in Chicago
(From left) Riane Taday, 28, of Logan Square; and Romelle O’Shea, 30, of Lockport, dress as Rufio and Captain Hook, respectively, from the movie “Hook” at C2E2 at McCormick Place on Saturday.

(From left) Riane Taday, 28, of Logan Square; and Romelle O’Shea, 30, of Lockport, dress as Rufio and Captain Hook, respectively, from the movie “Hook” at C2E2 at McCormick Place on Saturday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A stormtrooper casually drops his blaster on the security table and walks through the gate while Captain America hands over his shield. In the next line over, a security guard waves another man through. “C’mon, Gandalf!”

This was the scene at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, or C2E2, at McCormick Place on Saturday.

Heroes, anti-heroes and villains — from comics, graphic novels and manga, video games, toys, movies, television, anime and other forms of pop culture — gathered at the annual fan convention this weekend. We spoke to the people behind some of the best costumes we saw while we were there.

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Daniel Reynoso, 47, Chicago, as Pennywise from the movie “It”

Reynoso said he picked Pennywise because he’s a misunderstood, complex villain.

“From my standpoint, when I think about ecology, a lot of people would say a great white shark is evil but actually it is just trying to survive,” he said. “Pennywise is like that — and unfortunately, his main sustenance is fear from children. It’s an outsider trying to survive.”

As an immigrant from Mexico City, he can relate to feeling vilified, Reynoso said, and always picks certain types of villains for his cosplay. “They are villainous from a certain point of view,” he said, “but they are trying to be a survivor or a freedom fighter from another point of view. It’s what’s going on in the world today. Certain groups are vilified and people don’t always take the time to see things from their point of view.”

Reynoso pointed to recent anti-drag laws enacted by Republican lawmakers that target the LGBTQ community.

“Everyone here is playing dress up, pretend, but based on draconian laws being proposed in some places, would this even be allowed — or, if I was a female character, would I be considered to be in drag?

“At the end of the day, people want to be able to really express themselves as they are. For a lot of my friends who are introverted, this is the one week a year when they can come out of their shell with a community they trust and feel completely comfortable. People can let their freak flag fly.”

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Fred Zhu, 29, Logan Square, as Smoker from the manga series “One Piece”

“I love Smoker as a character. He is the kindest character, who also looks kind of scary.”

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Alex Reynolds, 36, Chicago, as Paine from the video game “Final Fantasy X-2”

Reynolds was previously involved in live theater, both onstage and backstage, and loved the different arts and crafts that go into fabricating for theater. Reynolds’ schedule no longer permits them to spend the time needed to work on a full theater production, but cosplay is something they can still do on a smaller scale.

Reynolds was attracted to the idea of doing a more challenging build when looking for a character to dress up as for C2E2. They made the sword from scratch from foam and a wooden dowel. The clothes, belts and boots (“They’re from Forever 21 and came in my size!”) were all store-bought and altered.

“When I first saw Paine, I thought, ‘This is who I am inside.’ I love her character and the look. … A lot of it came down to the costume and the attitude — there’s punk rock and a little goth about her. And all her dialogue is a quip or a snarky comment, and I appreciate that.”

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Glenn Reyes, Mount Prospect, as Beetlejuice

“I built this myself, sewed the stripes and everything. It took me about 200 hours.”

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Derek Ferguson, 30, Rogers Park, as Predator

“It gets really hot in here, but it’s worth it to scare everyone at the con.”

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Ralph Ramirez, Chicago, as Jason Voorhees from the movie “Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood”

Part VII was the first “Friday the 13th” movie Ramirez saw in the theater and he loved it right away. “The movies are fun to watch. It’s escapism — they are over the top with good effects — and a lot of work goes into them. That’s what I love about them.”

He especially loved the character Jason Voorhees’ look in the film. “He looked cool with the hockey mask, and I like Kane Hodder, the actor — I’m a huge fan of his work.”

Ramirez’ costume is based on a zombie costume, and he assembled the other items, including the gloves, masks, chain and machete, to create the full effect. “It’s fun; I love doing it.”

“He’s quiet,” Ramirez said of Vorhees. “He’s all about action, not words.”

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Rose Amiastra, Cat Manning and Orvix Cosplay as Harley Quinn, Two-Face and the Riddler

Rose Amiastra, 23, of the Southwest Side, left, appeared as Harley Quinn from the comic book “Batman” at C2E2. She posed with Cait Manning, 34, of Milwaukee, as Two-Face and a friend identifying as Orvix Cosplay, 28, of the Chicago area, as Riddler.

“Villains have more fun,” Amiastra said.

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Jamauria Flores, 45, and David Flores, 40, both of Berwyn, as Wonder Woman and Superman

Wonder Woman has been Jamauria Flores’ favorite character since she was a little girl.

“She’s powerful, smart and courageous,” she said. “She’s been a symbol for young girls throughout the years because she’s such an empowering figure.”

She attended C2E2 with her husband and their two daughters, and loves that when she reads comics today, they still give her the same feeling she had reading them as a child — and an opportunity to escape a little.

“It’s nostalgic,” she added, “and something that all generations can appreciate.”

For David Flores, what he loves about comics is the reminder that “anyone can be a hero at a moment in time.”

“You don’t need a superpower — it doesn’t take much. It can be a small gesture or a big act but could change someone’s life,” David Flores said. “Everyone needs to realize that.”

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Megan Kohere, 29, Logan Square, as Olivia Voldaren from the game “Magic: The Gathering”

“My husband plays ‘Magic’ and as soon as I saw her, I knew I had to make her. But he hasn’t gotten me to play the game yet.”

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Lore Faits, 37, Chicago, as Haru Okkumura from the video game “Persona 5”

Faits spent 150 hours playing the anime-inspired “Persona 5” game last year. “I ate it up,” she said.

She also worked on her costume, on and off, for about two months. The character she picked, Haru, has an abusive fiance and a mean father. She gets revenge with a big axe.

“Haru is a wealthy young woman, the daughter of the CEO. I have a white-collar job in real life. I love that you can be that stuffy and grown up and still be a hero.”

She’s been into cosplay for decades, she said, adding, “There are not many opportunities to do that as adults, the opportunity to bring that part of you to life.”

“No matter where I’m at in life, no matter what I’m going through with relationships or jobs, I can come to a community like this and wear something as outrageous and unique as I want and know I will be accepted.”

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Helen Xia, 21, Hyde Park, as Xiao from the video game “Genshin Impact”

“I like this character because he’s handsome, but he’s also got a lot of responsibility for his country.”

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Riane Taday, 28, Logan Square, as Rufio and Romelle O’Shea, Lockport, as Captain Hook.

Riane Taday, 28, dressed as the character Rufio in the movie “Hook” for C2E2 — where actor Dante Basco, who played Rufio in the movie, was appearing. Romelle O’Shea, 30, came as Captain Hook.

“Dante Basco is here today and he was our Filipino representation growing up — and my first teen crush,” Taday said.

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Shannon Obendorf, 52, Libertyville, as Jillian Holtzmann from the 2016 movie ‘Ghostbusters’

Obendorf has put 300 hours into creating her costume over the last two months, including seriously modifying her base Hasbro proton pack. She has loved “Ghostbusters” since she was a child, and her Holtzmann character was inspired by the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot with an all-women cast including Kate McKinnon.

“I love Kate McKinnon — I think she is a national treasure! I’m a queer woman and loved her representation in the movie.”

But Obendorf wanted to stick with the gear from the 1984 film. “The gear from [2016] is harder to find or make — it’s much more complicated,” she said. “What I like about [the original 1984 version] is it was approachable garage tech, something that any genius with a garage could make. It was reckless, off the cuff.”

Obendorf is also part of Windy City Ghostbusters, a nonprofit group of Chicago area “Ghostbusters” fans who make and wear movie-accurate costumes and raise money for charities.

“I love how [cosplay] touches other people. We have a common experience and love for it and that’s why we’re doing it.”

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Jerry Brown, 34, Englewood, as Heimdall from the ‘Thor’ movies

“There are not that many Black characters in the Marvel Universe and Heimdall is my favorite.”

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Amber Cerpa, 30, Chicago, as a member of The Court of Owls from the ‘Batman’ comic books

Cerpa first got into comic books in 2013, and fell in love with the characters, the stories and the artwork. “I’m inspired by all the characters,” she said.

She wanted to be something different this year — not a character that many other people would choose — and described the Court of Owls as “unique” and “mysterious.” She loves anti-heroes, especially female anti-heroes such as Harley Quinn, Spider-Gwen and Batgirl (specifically Cassandra Cain) because she feels they’re a reflection of what it’s like to be part of society today.

Cerpa likes that these anti-heroes may want to be good but also don’t care how people see them.

“It’s how society is now,” Cerpa said. “Especially with what’s going on in the city of Chicago: There are a lot of shootings and you want to help but a lot of people also don’t want your help. Sometimes that hurts. So I like that [anti-hero attitude] of ‘I’ll help you, but whatever. … I want to help but I’m not stupid.’”

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Jacob Southworth, 24, left, and Jennifer Toth, 22, both of Indiana, as Nook and Isabelle from ‘Animal Crossing’

During the pandemic, Toth really got into “Animal Crossing,” the Nintendo video game. She loved the nostalgia from having played as a child on her GameCube, and — over the last few years — when times got stressful for her as an adult, she would relax and play.

Isabelle, the morning announcer in the new version of the game, is Toth’s favorite character. Isabelle is a non-playable character with more costumes than the other villagers, and Toth loves her ability to showcase different personas. Many other people got into the cosplay scene during the pandemic, she added. “It’s really the ability to be whoever you want.”

Meanwhile, Southworth picked Nook, the island’s head honcho — and “bells” (money) lender — in “Animal Crossing.” He doesn’t play the game but frequently watches Toth play, and — as a reserved person himself — finds Nook’s quiet, soft-spoken personality relatable.

Toth spent 50-60 hours hand-making her costume and 15-16 hours adding the custom knitting to Southworth’s. Toth, who has been coming to C2E2 for 10 years, says every year she arrives nervous. The community is what makes it worth it for her.

“I have something in common with every person here, which is crazy to think about,” Toth said.

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Judy Demers, 44, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, as Ursula from the movie ‘The Little Mermaid’

“I love Disney!”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Shannon Obendorf’s name.

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