Atlanta welcomed the First Annual Wizard World Atlanta Comic Convention this December, and there were plenty of celebrities in the house, including Adam West and Burt Ward, Billie Dee Williams, Richard Roundtree, and Henry Winkler. But this article isn’t about the celebrities, it’s about the surprising upset at the Atlanta Comic Convention Costume Contest, where the Best in Show prize went to Doctor Q’s Steampunk Captain Marvel.
Popular Disk Jockey, Doctor Q (short for Dr. Doctor Quincy Erasmus Quartermain) is a mainstay in the Atlanta Steampunk community. In the past year he has spun at Dragon*Con’s Time Traveler’s Ball and has managed music and performances at AnachroCon. An expert on all things comic book, he has contributed to panels on Steampunk’s influence on comics and the concept of the superhero in light of Steampunk’s sensibility.
I had a chance to sit down with him recently and ask him about his Award Winning Costume
Q: What was the inspiration for your costume?
A: The costume is based on the DC comics character Captain Marvel. The character’s roots go back to 1939 and in his hey day before it was acquired by DC outsold even Superman and was the most popular superhero in American culture. The hero is Billy Batson, a kid who says a magic word – SHAZAM – and is turned into Cpt. Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Mortal. Shazam is not only the wizard who gave Billy his powers, but it is also serves as an acronym representing the characters’ powers. To do a Steampunk interpretation of my favorite superhero, I reinterpreted the acronym as 6 different gadgets, rather than the gifts of magical beings, to be perfect for the steampunk genre. It also helped that Cpt. Marvel isn’t a major icon these days, giving me some flexibility.
Q: Describe how you put it together/what are the elements?
A: It started as a sketch in my notebook. Then I had the jacket made while I scavenged and searched for the underlying costume pieces. I began work on the 6 gadgets, many of which were done with a lot of help, both in the creative pre-production process and in the actual nuts and bolts of the work.
Q: How long have you been involved in Steampunk?
A: While I have loved the genre for a very long time, since before I knew a word for it, I have really only been part of the active scene for a year. Also, I had a bit of a unique vantage point as I draw from rockabilly, burlesque, cabaret, bellydance, and neo-victorian scenes when I came into steampunk. I identify most with the term “retro-futurism” for the subculture, as it summarizes not only steampunk, but any way to look into the past with a firm hold in the here and now.
Q: Do you see Steampunk as a movement that will last?
A: Yes! I am fairly certain that within the geek subculture I don’t see it going away any time soon. I think with its emphasis on creative individual interpretation, no actual source media as its root, and its ability to reinterpret and redefine most any cultural icon through the lens of steampunk, I think the movement is really just getting started.
Q: Were you surprised about winning?
A: Very much so! Some costumes looked like they came right out of a comic book! Winning best in show, especially since it was my first time even entering a contest, was surprising to say the very least.
Q: Any interesting reactions concerning your costume?
A: Well, when I debuted the costume at Dragon*Con, I found that there was a lot of confusion as to what I was doing. I heard cries of “look, steampunk Flash.” So when I brought it out to Comic Con I was not expecting much, so I was just delighted to see the majority of people there instantly got it, and as I showed the small details of the costume they easily knew what I was going for and enjoyed it. It was the best reception I could hope for. Right place, right time, right audience I suppose.
Q: Did you have help on making the costume?
A: Oh yes. Lots. I know my skill set and what I can and cannot do, and I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of very talented friends. The jacket I commissioned from Cat Harrison, costumer extraordinaire. Bart Webb – of Bart Webb Studios – helped me cut and rivet the solid brass lightning bolt to the chest, not to mention allowed me to spread all my tools and props out in a section of his shop for the 3 weeks leading up to Dragon*Con (something both my wife and I thank him for). And Brian Lowe, an amazing craftsman, musician, and general jack-of-all-trades, was invaluable in the crafting process.
Space Gypsies is grateful to “Q” for his time. Doctor Q is not really a doctor, but he does run the Steampunk-related Artifice Club, is the Media Editor of the Steampunk Chronicle, and is a director at AnachroCon. Find out more about Steampunk and Doctor Q:
Pictures Courtesy of Dr. Q