Community Corner: WexyLex
Welcome back to our third Community Corner instalment!
In the Community Corner, we spotlight and interview individual members of the Halo community—we chat with them about the cool stuff they do, their personal history with the Halo franchise and universe, and so on.
Last time, we spoke with Rythaze about his journey with Halo as a fan and as an artist, and for this month's edition we are joined by somebody whose incredible cosplay work you may have seen recently: WexyLex!
Hey Alexis, thank you for joining us for this issue of the Community Corner! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do—and where can we find you online?
Thanks for having me! I’m Alexis, but Lex works fine too! I’m a Software Test Engineer by day, and a Professional Costume and Prop builder by night!
What’s your great journey with the Halo franchise been over the years? How did this all begin for you?
I’ve been a fan of Halo since the beginning, back in 2001! My dad and I always enjoyed playing video games together when I was a kid. When he brought home the original Xbox, we didn’t originally have Halo: Combat Evolved, but we did have one of those demo discs from a magazine that contained dozens of game demos, including CE’s The Silent Cartographer level. We played that level so many times, we knew it inside out and backwards and had memorized the entire Sergeant Johnson monologue at the end of the demo.
My dad eventually paid for the full game and we would play it co-op almost every night until we completed the game on every difficulty on my dad’s “Bubba” save file.
What particular areas of Halo do you really gravitate towards?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Halo’s story and campaign. I’ve enjoyed every Halo game’s campaign for what it is, but my favorite story is the campaign in Halo 2, with Halo: Reach being a close second. I love the design of characters of all factions, especially the Covenant, and I can spend hours just looking at characters in-game.
Why do you cosplay—what does it (and this particular aspect of the community) mean to you?
I started cosplay back in 2009 as a way to come out of my shell as a creative person. I was always the quiet, smart kid that hid in the back of the class scribbling in the margins of my notes. I didn’t become part of a larger cosplay community until 2011 and it opened my world to a whole new family of like-minded creative people who shared a common interest in Halo.
As a shy kid, it meant a lot to me in my maturity to meet more people outside my small circle of friends in high school and to increase my confidence as an individual and artist. I feel the cosplay community helped mold my personality as I “grew up,” as I took on responsibilities in organizing cosplay events for 50+ people at conventions, while also becoming a mentor to others who were new to making costumes as well.
How has your cosplaying evolved over time as you’ve become more experienced with it?
My cosplay journey started as sets of Spartan armor that were made for me, but after making the to-scale Halo 4 Hunter, my interest in making transformed into focusing on monster suit work. A couple of my costumes I made in collaboration with other artists like LostVikingProps and Gliderx64 and were even worn by Jeremie (Glider) because I’m short and can’t pull off the height in a 9’ tall Brute costume.
As I’ve progressed in my costume work, I’ve dabbled more and more in special effects work like sculpting, molding, casting, and LED wiring, and I have plans to start poking at puppetry, robotics, and animatronics for costume use, as well.
What is your favorite cosplay to wear?
My most recent costume, the Halo: Reach Murmillo Skirmisher, is my favorite costume to wear right now.
Over the last 8 years of monster suit making, I’ve learned a lot of lessons about longevity and comfort in these kinds of costumes and I think I nailed it down pretty well in this Skirmisher costume. If it wasn’t so dang hot inside, I could probably wear that suit for hours.
What was the most challenging cosplay you’ve ever made?
I try to make a point to make my most recent projects the most challenging, adding new concepts and ideas I’ve never attempted before.
The Skirmisher has been the most challenging suit thus far because the Skirmisher is a very non-human shape and I had to figure out how to pull off its digitigrade legs without complex stilts or compromising the character’s original design.
On the subject of that incredible Skirmisher cosplay (which we’ve all been in slack-jawed awe of!), walk us through your process of how that came together.
I started that costume with the head sculpt. I had done some sculpt work in the past for the Engineer and Brute, but I really wanted to level up my skills in that area and sculpt areas most people wouldn’t think to address, like the inside of the Skirmisher’s mouth. I took some artistic liberties in the sculpt—like adding salivary gland ducts inside the throat—to make the creature feel more realistic, but I tried keeping it as close to the source material as possible.
The armor started as basic forms pulled from Halo: Reach’s source files. The shapes were super basic and had no high poly details, so I had to pattern all of the raised details on the armor myself, sketching the details by eye, using the game and google images for reference, and then applying those details to the armor in EVA foam.
The underbody parts followed a similar process as the armor, but instead of using EVA foam, I used upholstery foam, which is lighter and more flexible.
The hexagon pattern across the armor’s paint job ended up being the most time-consuming portion of the whole process because I was laying down sheets of individual hexagons stickers to the costume, painting over top of the stickers that were being used as a mask, then spending hours removing the individual stickers. I figured while I was picking the stickers off, I may as well count them.
It took 6,808 hexagon stickers.
I have a more in-depth explanation of my build process in my online build book, which you can read on my website here.
How do you pick the subjects for your cosplay? Are you choosing characters you like? Challenges you're trying to tackle? What makes one project more appealing than another?
The first question I ask myself when I look at potential subjects for costume building, I ask myself, “Would I stop whatever I’m doing to go look at this thing if I were walking around at a con?” I also tend to gravitate towards characters that haven’t been made before or there aren’t very many examples of out in the wild. It’s my eventual goal to make one of every Covenant species, outside of the fringe species that are mentioned in lore.
When I made the Hunter, I wanted to challenge myself in using stilts for the first time.
When I made the Engineer, I wanted to challenge myself in applying puppetry for the first time. This was also my first costume where I sculpted clay for various parts.
When I made the Brute with LostVikingProps, we wanted to challenge ourselves in making better functioning arms.
When I made the Skirmisher, I wanted to apply all the skills I learned from the previous costume, but I also wanted to make the costume look as realistic as possible, but also be wearable for more than 15 minutes at a time.
There is no one particular project that feels more appealing than the other, I just choose a character that I feel most drawn to at the time. However, space is a limiting factor, and most people don’t realize that making these characters to-scale takes up a LOT of space.
The Hunter torso had to be hung from the ceiling in order to get under it and work on it. It felt like being a mechanic for a very large alien car.
What are some of the events that you’ve been to in cosplay—do you have any favorites?
I haven’t been to any Halo-centric events with these costumes, but I've been to a number of PNW conventions. My top three that I’ve been to are Emerald City Comic Con, Rose City Comic Con, and PAX West.
I’d like to go to more events in other areas, but transportation costs of these big costumes are the hurdle and on a hobbyist’s budget like mine, I can never pinch enough pennies to make it farther than Seattle.
I’d love to do this at a professional capacity some day without being forced to move to LA or Georgia (which are huge centers for the movie effects industry). Maybe I’ll open my own studio here in Oregon.
Is there a way to “get into” cosplay? What are some good tips and resources for beginners?
There are tons of communities across different platforms for cosplay in all fandoms! I would start with watching videos on YouTube! Even if you don’t follow all the same steps as someone else, cosplay is about experimenting and adapting the process! There are no “right ways” of making costumes and props. You may find that one material works a lot better for you than the material someone online suggests!
My tips for beginners is to be patient with yourself. No one is step-off-the-screen perfect the first time. The only person you should be comparing against is yourself and your previous work.
It’s okay to start with cheaper alternatives. You don’t have to have fancy tools like 3D printers and CNC machines in order to get started. I started with cardstock and hot glue!
Also, always, ALWAYS, follow safety instructions if you are using potentially caustic materials like resin and paints. Wear goggles, gloves, respirators, and keep your blades sharp. If your 7th grade science teacher wouldn’t let you smell it, you definitely should not be breathing it in for hours on end. If it smells, put on a respirator in a well-ventilated area.
What do you feel is the most important thing for someone unfamiliar with cosplay to understand about it?
Cosplay is a conjunction of two words. Costumes and play.
It’s not about the followers, it’s not about the attention, it’s not about winning contests.
All those things are nice, but the core of what cosplay is is to have fun wearing a costume from a fandom you enjoy. Find reasons to be expressive in your art and make friends. We’re all weird in this big, weird world and it’s better sharing that with others than using it to pit yourself against others to show you are “the best.”
Cosplayers are also people. At the end of the day, the costume comes off, the makeup removed, and put away in a box. Treat all people with respect. They are not the characters, they are not the actors, they are a reflection. Don’t come after cosplayers because you don’t like the character or don’t like the actors that portrayed them. They are not the same. Be excellent to each other.
Cosplay is for you, it’s for me, it’s for everyone. And anyone can cosplay.
What kind of resources are useful for a cosplayer to have when getting started on a new project? Do you have any particular creative influences—even among other cosplayers?
Getting in touch with communities across different platforms can be really valuable. You don’t have to dedicate your time to one space, site, forum, etc. Find communities that accept you and don’t feel obligated to stick around with others that don’t. You don’t belong to any one group once you’ve joined.
While I don’t always interact within them, I’ve gotten incredible resources from communities on Youtube, Discord, Facebook, and forum sites.
Even if you feel “out of their league” when you have questions, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to people and ask (this isn’t limited to just the people I listed above). Most people will have FAQs, videos, or posts that answer a lot of your questions (so be sure to do some research, first!) about their processes.
On a core level, I credit a lot of my creative influence to my dad and my uncle. My dad facilitated my first costume build (Halo 3 Master Chief) when I was 16 because I wasn’t old enough to earn my own money for the materials. If my dad hadn’t introduced me to Halo in the first place, I don’t think I would be a part of the cosplay community.
My uncle was the creative person in my family. He taught me how to draw and trace on a drafting table. He made his own websites and business logo designs and was very self-driven in his own businesses. He passed away at the end of 2021 and it was really hard for me to want to build anything for a number of months. Thinking about him and how he would react to my costumes and show it off to everyone he knew pulled me out of my rut, because I know while he can’t see the Skirmisher now or future costumes that I make, I know he’s still proud of me. The Skirmisher is dedicated entirely to him.
Do you have any projects or props you’d love to build in the future?
Once I get through my line-up of Covenant species, my “crown jewel” or magnum opus that I want to build is the Elite. More specifically, the Arbiter. Making that costume is my ultimate end-goal. I want to build up my skills with every new costume so once I get to that character, I can do it the justice I feel it deserves.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
Making to-scale Covenant costumes isn’t enough???
Damn, you’ve got me there... Okay, tell us another interesting fact about yourself!
There’s a reference to my (non-cosplay) work group within Halo 2: Anniversary’s Metropolis level.
Also, my German Shepherd, Sarge, is a more famous cosplayer than me, no matter what costumes I build in the future. Google “Dogmeat cosplay” and he is the first image that appears!
Thank you very much for giving us some of your time today, Lex! Any parting words?
Thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity! I really do appreciate it!
My parting words are Expand your creative outlets! It can be cosplay, it can be comics, it can be acting, it can be literature, it can be sports, it can be crafting themed soaps! Find the things that make you happy and pursue them with reckless abandon, regardless of what other people think is best for your own interests.
In the words of Robin Williams: “You’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.”