This week’s spotlight features one of Kansas City’s most impressive cosplayers, Neal Haze. He’s been dedicated to the cosplay cause for years, cosplaying the largest range of characters of any of our members yet. Neal has also been an integral member of the IBOTs, winning multiple awards for their outstanding Iron Man suits. He works with various charity organizations as well as costuming societies in order to bring his cosplay to the next level.
How did you get into cosplay?
I have been dressing up for Halloween for as long as I can remember. When my brothers and I were young, my dad would always help us make costumes that were over the top. I used to do Society for Creative Anachronism, which was a Medieval re-enactors group. My brothers were doing the 501st at the time and were going to cons. I traded my armor for superhero tights and began tagging along. It was not long before I was hooked. My brothers and I later formed IBOT-Iron Brothers of Topeka, in which we do very large Iron Man suits.
How many characters are you currently cosplaying and what are they?
I have currently done somewhere between 20 to 30 different characters. My first con costume ever was Bat Manuel from the Tick. Some of my favorites are Iron America (a cross between Iron Man and Captain America), The Comedian, Disco Deadpool, Kraven the Hunter, Captain America, and Captain Britain. I have many more planned for the upcoming con season.
What’s your favorite cosplay you’ve done so far and why?
My favorite cosplay so far is Iron America. This suit stands over 7 feet tall, clanks when you walk, blasts music, and shines halogen lights through the eyes and star reactor on the chest. It is such a rush to step into a room and have all heads whip around and look in amazement. It is like being a rock star while I have the suit on. Then when I step out of it, I am back to me. I also like the look of wonder that adults and children get on there faces when they look at us and the excitement they show when they take pictures with us.
What’s your favorite way to craft?
Our larger suits are made from vac forming plastic, but I really enjoy sculpting out of fabric and foam.
What’s your favorite crafting item to work with and why?
I am excited right now to be working with foam. It is fairly inexpensive, easy to form and manipulate, and I can knock out a suit in a short amount of time. Many suits that I make are not just one process. They usually include multiple materials and processes.
What are your cosplay goals (e.g. professional, hobbyist, charity, gateway to another career, etc)?
Currently, my goal is to have a fantastic time and meet wonderful people. Over the course of my time cosplaying, I have met so many great individuals. My girlfriend and I also do a lot of charity work. We belong to Costumers with a Cause, which does many charitable events. I would also like to try my hand at making films at some point.
What’s your dream cosplay and why?
My dream cosplay is always the next one on my list. I like to do characters that are meaningful to me and hope that others can share in my vision.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into cosplay?
You will never get rich cosplaying (in fact the opposite is more nearly the case). You will burn and cut yourself more times then you can count. You will frequent hardware stores, thrift shops, and fabric stores more then you have ever before. You will bore your friends with endless diatribes of costume making processes. You will put in many long nights and long days. If you are not afraid of these things then you are in for the most rewarding experience of your life.
What other interests do you have outside of cosplay?
I am currently working on a novel of historical fiction. I draw and paint and am beginning my own comic book. I am attempting to visit every president’s home across America. I am an avid collector of many things.
If you could have dinner with one fictional character, who would it be and why?
I think I would like to have dinner with Captain Nemo. He was a man who was light years beyond his time. The creativity and knowledge he would exude would be intoxicating.
You can check out Neal and the IBOTS on their Facebook page Iron Brothers Of Topeka.