Four years ago Brandon Isaacson (mcthor_cosplay) was coming home from a convention when he had an idea that would change the world of cosplay, superheroes and fast food forever. At the time Isaacson was still new to cosplay, having started the year before and he was brainstorming his next costume.
“I thought, ‘What cosplay could I do that would be unique and allow me to keep my beard?'” His brain immediately went to Thor but he realized many other cosplayers would choose the God of Thunder and he worried that he didn't have the necessary skills to do the character justice.
This brainstorming session process was interrupted by a debate about where to eat. Isaacson happened to see the McDonald's iconic golden arches and decided he and the friend he was traveling with should just eat there. The streams somehow crossed in Isaacson's mind and—despite Egon Spengler's warnings about the dangers of crossing streams—a mashup was born.
“An idea popped in my head and I blurted it out. ‘What if Ronald McDonald was Thor?'” Isaacson remembered. “My friend and I started to bust out laughing and at that moment ‘McThor' was born. It checks all the boxes for cosplays I like to do. It's different and unique. I won't see a bajillion people wearing it and it's just fun which is what cosplay should be.”
But bringing McThor to life proved a challenge. At that point, the extent of Isaacson's costume-building experience consisted of ironing a patch onto his shirt to play Zombie Billie Mays of OxiClean fame. To make the McThor costume, he would have to learn how to cut foam and glue, shape and paint fabric and foam into something wearable. No Thor costume would be complete without Stormbreaker, which Isaacson fashioned from Chicken McNuggets containers and a hammer he found at a party store.
Isaacson turned to YouTube and cosplay forums such as therpf.com to get answers to his questions. But even with the benefit of the wisdom of experienced cosplayers, the first few makeup applications to achieve Ronald McDonald's well-known clown face resulted in what Isaacson fondly called “a mess.” In total, the process of putting the costume together took about two months.
McThor made his debut at Hartford Comic Con in 2014. But from the very beginning, Isaacson envisioned his fast food-Avengers crossover as a group effort. Two years later, Isaacson's sister assumed the mantle of Lady McSif—a McDonald's and Lady Sif mashup—and she was quickly followed by Hawkburgler (Hamburglar + Hawkeye), Wendy's Widow (Wendy's + Black Widow) and Colonel America (KFC + Captain America). But Isaacson considers San Diego Comic-Con 2017 to be the McVengers' official debut as a 12-piece cosplay meal. To date, the McVengers boasts 13 active members with an additional half-dozen cosplayers working on various costumes, characters and projects.
And much like the fast food meals that inspire their costumes, the public can't seem to get enough. Following their appearance at San Diego Comic-Con 2018, the McVengers were featured on Gizmodo, Kotaku and GameSpot with photos of the group making the social media rounds across Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Isaacson called the degree of attention the group has received "surreal." While the McVengers, as a collective, march steadily toward cosplay mashup glory, the individual cosplayers who participate in the group continue to work on their own projects—some of which they wear and some of which they sell—while attending conventions both large and small.
For his part, Isaacson, who's based in Northern California, continues his love affair with mashups. Besides McThor, who is not surprisingly Isaacson's favorite cosplay to date, he's melded Skeletor and Darth Vader into Skelevader, Billy Mays and Negan from The Walking Dead into Billy Negan and Jason Vorhees and Deadpool into Jasonpool.
“I love mashups because of the fun you have mashing up these two characters that have nothing to do with each other,” he explained. “It gives you a ton of liberties to do what you want with these characters. Like how does a silent lumbering killer of camp kids go to with the Merc with a Mouth? I don't know but somehow they do!”
He has been known to occasionally stray from the path of the mashup, usually drawing inspiration from his favorite fandoms which include Transformers, Robotech, Batman, DC Comics, Marvel, Archer, South Park, X-Men, Thor and Battlestar Galactica. In fact, his dream project is to make a 9'-10' Devastator from Transformers. Isaacson theorizes that such a project would require about two years to complete, but his current car and workspace are insufficient to meet the project's needs so for now the Decepticon remains a dream. While space might be a limiting factor, Isaacson refuses to be limited by social expectations or criticism. The world of pop culture is filled with creatures and characters that don't look like him but that isn't going to stop him from cosplaying his favorite characters—including sentient robotic Decepticons.
“The biggest misconception is that you can't cosplay a character if you don't look like them,” Isaacson explained. “You can cosplay whatever and whoever you want. It doesn't matter what your race, size, gender or overall appearance is. Embrace the character you want to be and that's what matters.”
Isaacscon estimates that he attends between 8 and 10 conventions each year, his favorites being WonderCon in Los Angeles, New York Comic Con, Dragon Con in Atlanta and San Diego Comic-Con. Like most cosplayers, Isaacson cites time and money as the primary factors that limit his ability to attend more conventions. The size of his costumes is often a challenge as well, forcing him to drive to conventions if he wants to wear his larger costumes.
Today, McThor's biggest enemy—besides Granos and Burger LoKing, of course—is time. While simpler projects can take less than one week to complete, most costumes require months to complete and Isaacson is a self-described procrastinator who often finds himself rushing to finish projects before the next convention. Fortunately, his skills continue to grow ensuring that he can make use of what limited time he does have.
While sewing, fabric and zippers remain on Isaacson's cosplay dislike list, he's become a champion EVA foamsmith. With a heat gun, Isaacson reshapes foam and seals open pores. A dremel tool can carve, smooth or sand foam while a wood burner can be used to draw details. A lot of Isaacson's knowledge came from simply asking questions. The benefit of being part of a passionate cosplay community—besides having tons of fun—is that many cosplayers are happy to share their hard-earned knowledge. “Instead of me looking at something and saying, ‘This could be better,' I now say, ‘This looks pretty good and I'm happy with this,'” Isaacson said.
But for some cosplayers, the physical costume is just the beginning. Isaacson spends time researching his characters, adopting their attitude and learning their catchphrases before unleashing a new character on the world. With one exception.
“For McThor, I just ate a lot of McNuggets.”
Brandon's Cosplay Dictionary
Cosplosing: The way your home looks when working on a cosplay, it looks like an explosion of cosplay material.
Con Crunch: Working on your costume last minute even in the hotel the night before you go to the convention to wear it.
Five-Foot Rule: When you ask yourself does my costume at least meet the 5-foot rule it means does it look good from five feet away. This is typically all you need.
Cospositivity: Being positive and promoting body positivity in the cosplay community where anyone can cosplay whatever and however they want.
Cosfam: When you and you group are so tight you're basically family at this point.
Brandon's Advice to First-Time Cosplayers
Don't be afraid to ask questions. The internet is a great resource (especially YouTube) to help you get started.
Always remember we all start somewhere so don't worry if something isn't perfect. Your passion always shows more than your work.
Do cosplay for you. If you are trying to do it for others or some other motive you won't have as much fun. Remember this is about having fun!