Blog Soldiers – Elizabeth Amber
Elizabeth Amber is a comics fan and cosplayer who has become well known on the US convention circuit, where she has cosplayed as various comic book characters including Wonder Woman, Rogue and Sue Storm. Her site not only features her blog but also reviews of comics, interviews and tutorials on how to make costumes. Check out her website and blog amberunmasked.com. You can follow her on Twitter as @elizabethamber.
What made you want to start writing a blog?
In 2006 I discovered comics and costuming. I didn't think I'd really ever be good enough to make my own costumes but I spent a tremendous amount of time on the internet searching for parts, accessories, and clothing to modify into costumes. I decided to share any links and resources I found like How To videos and tutorials. Eventually I did learn to sew, created a character and the rest just took off from there.
Had you read many blogs prior to writing you own?
There really weren't that many. I followed one of my favorite mystery authors who had different blogs for different subjects. I would check out Wil Wheaton's blog for inspiration but it seems that I spent most of my time at Legion of Heroes boards (and now The Superhero Costuming Forum). I'm not sure when I discovered Jill Pantozzi's "Has Boobs, Reads Comics" but it's a daily visit there now. Facebook and Twitter have made it so much easier because you can quickly see the writer's headline. I don't bother with google reader much anymore unless I'm in a place that has everything else blocked. It seems almost all websites are blogs now due to the ease of content management systems.
What do you think makes a good blog?
Original content is the key. I don't need regurgitated information from all the entertainment news sites although there are a few that I purposely visit and take part in because I think their sites have better visual presence (no pop ups, ease of navigation, etc.) If you don't have anything original, then what's the purpose of your blog? Have a neat area for the RSS headlines from the major sites, then write your own columns. I prefer short 300-500 word columns and shorter videos; once you get over six minutes you need to really be telling me something I want to know about or I've lost interest.
You have become well known for your cosplaying at conventions. How did you get started?
The whole thing started back in 2006 when I first started seeing ads for Stan Lee's Who Wants to be a Superhero? I was playing City of Heroes at the time and decided that I'd be a good candidate to audition. But when it came down to it, I chickened out. I started making costumes of existing characters then.
What did it feel like the first time you were at a convention in costume?
I didn't know what to expect; it was not only my first con in costume - it was my first con ever. My first time was dressed as my original character, basically the superpowered version of myself. Only my friends would have a clue who I was so there wasn't a tremendous amount of chaos. It was a small show in Pittsburgh and about 25 of us who were fans of WWTBASH got together with Feedback, the Season 1 winner. I'm still friends with all those people today and it was one of the best decisions I ever made to go there.
What is your starting point when you devise a new costume?
Usually places like Comic Vine which make finding images on a character so much easier than sifting through my white boxes. I'll make a folder on my pc and start saving images. Depending on the character, I may even find the artist whose work I want to use as a basis and ask questions. I usually modify every single design to have it reflect more of what I would do but I use existing work as a basis. Then it's always over to the SCF boards for work-in-progress threads.
You were recently involved in the fund raising event Wonder Woman Day. What did that involve?
Wonder Woman Day is a year long process which most people don't realize. At Comic Fusion, Stacy and I spend the entire year talking about the next Superhero Weekend. We figure out which conventions to go to and which artists might not be sick of us yet (we know they get asked for a lot of donations) so we know who to approach; plus we're always looking to add fresh talent to our auction so there's an endless amount of networking. And we do this on our own dime. The money we bring in from the auction does not fund our traveling and networking. Then there's the physical part of it: Stacy receives all the art and has to scan each piece, post to all our websites/blogs and she handles all the relations with our domestic violence shelter. I do the PR for our store. I did a series of interviews this year with artists who participated in our event. Then comes the weekend of the fundraiser and I get to be Wonder Woman and usually one other hero. That day my job is brainless. I just talk to everyone and take a lot of pictures while all our volunteers, Stacy, and Bill are inside the shop with the madness of auction bidding.
You are a big comics fan. What are you currently reading?
Tiny Titans, Love and Capes, sadly my Lone Ranger is ending, the Green Hornet Year One books, Fantastic Four, Sweets, S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island (whenever the hell it comes out), other indies like The Guild or Five Days to Die which just finished up. I'm a big fan of miniseries and trades. I'm also reading a giant Joe Simon and Jack Kirby collection of 1940s comics and I'm in the middle of a prose book about female comic book characters.
What is your favourite comic?
Tiny Titans! Aw yeah Pet Club!
You have modelled for artists like Jay Fife and the Kubert School. What has been your favourite pieces of artwork based on your modelling?
Jay gave me the most incredible piece for my birthday. I was having a terrible summer and I generally hate getting older now since I'm in the same social networks as girls in their 20s. Jay and all the artists and photographers I have worked for have a certain way of making me feel special and beautiful. We did a reference shoot at Jay's place one weekend where I tried doing vintage pin-up for the first time. He's a huge Bettie Page fan and his Bettie art has been featured on the sketch card collections for her so I had faith in what he would do.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a blog?
It takes more money and time than you would think. Seriously. I don't know how other podcasters and bloggers get such great sponsorship.
If you're going to be running a very specific blog then you may have a smaller audience. My site is only specific in that it's comic-related but I cover different genres and different outlets within comics like convention coverage, interviewing creators, interviewing models, plus having my own costuming and modelling work posted. Like any other kind of writing, you'll get better the more you put into it.
What blogs do you read yourself?
As I said, TheNerdyBird.com is Jill's blog but then I tend to visit the sites of creators and webcomics like ComicTwart, Katie Cook katiecandraw.com, Thom Zahler thomz.com, SubcultureComic.com, Mumblepuss, and Dave Wachter's DaveDrawsComics.com. As for non-creator sites The Vault of Buncheness, Lord Shaper's The Furnace and ComicHeroNews.com; their owners have very insightful columns about the current events of pop culture.