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It’s an impressive visage, a masked and armored female figure with massive glowing, moving wings — a well greaved angel ready for aerial combat.

“It’s Pride, one of the seven deadly sins, which is a bad-guy character from the video game ‘Darksiders III,’ ” said the woman behind the garb, Westminster-based cosplayer Candace Birger. “I chose her because there is a lot to it, there are many pieces to it that require several different techniques to create.”

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Birger is an avid cosplayer — a portmanteau of “costume” and “role play” — and has taught herself everything from sewing to the molding of thermoplastics in a quest to bring characters from movies, comics and video games to life in the real world.

She’s created a gender-bent (female, in this case) version of actor Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Dr. Eggman (aka Dr. Robotnik), the villain from the upcoming “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie, and her foam-armored Lady Thor won her first place in the Baltimore Comic-Con amateur contest in 2018.

But on Oct. 5, Birger — as Pride — stepped up on the biggest stage yet for her cosplay: the regional cosplay championship at New York Comic Con.

“This one was national. It was live streamed, it was on SyFy,” she said. “It’s kind of a big deal for me; living childhood dreams.”

Every year there is a world championship for cosplay, according to Birger. But to get there you have to win a regional championship.

"New York Comic Con hosts the eastern regional championship,” Birger said. “To even enter this competition I had to apply months in advance and get accepted by a panel.”

Candace gets a bit out of character.
Candace gets a bit out of character. (Phil Grout//Carroll County Times)

Which was just as well, as Birger estimates it took her and her husband Sean hundreds of hours to create the costume from when they started in April. The intricate armor is crafted from EVA foam, the face mask is 3-D printed and the 15-foot-wide wings extend from a metal back plate that weighs 21 pounds.

“There’s 18 yards of goose feathers that I sewed onto the top wing covers," Birger said. “Each primary feather has an LED strip light through it, so they are all, the lights and the mechanical up-down motion, everything is powered by a 12-volt motor and battery.”

Birger’s husband did much of the engineering and welding necessary for the wing structure.

“He did a lot of the welding and creating the back plate and the wing structure that I would then use to attach all the feathers,” she said. “He will say he did about 10% and I did the rest, but I could not have done it without him, so it’s a very pivotal 10%.”

There are three categories through which cosplayers could enter the contest, according to Birger: armor, special effects and needle work.

“Armor is a very specialized category and tends to have very large builds, very complex ones,” she said. “The largest category is needlework because most people can pick up sewing, but it is then also heavily competed, because there are only a few people who can win.”

Birger walked away with first place in the armor category — no easy feat, she said — but wasn’t able to snag the overall win to advance to the world championship.

“The person who placed overall this year was an armored Mario, and he was pretty cool; I’m not mad about it at all,” she said. “He did a heavy paint job with a smoking Yoshi, a whole getup. It definitely deserved to win.”

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Birger first attended the New York Comic Con in 2012 as a fan. Just to have been involved in this contest, she said, was an incredible experience.

The occasional COSplay character is the wife of Sean and the mother of Niko, 4 (left), and Margot, 6.
The occasional COSplay character is the wife of Sean and the mother of Niko, 4 (left), and Margot, 6. (Phil Grout//Carroll County Times)

“To go back up there and win an arm or category at a championship level is just complete bananas level for me,” she said.

So what’s next for Birger and Pride? Maybe just Birger.

“I don’t plan to wear it again,” she said of her intricate, though heavy, costume. “It takes a lot to put it on and it’s a very big space eater, so I can’t walk around conventions in it. Even with the wings folded up it’s too big.”

In any case, Birger loves the crafting process, and usually puts a costume away once she’s worn it in a competition, already thinking about the next one. That next one just might be New York Comic Con in 2020.

“I kept saying I was never going to do it again, never again. I just said it to the people all day. But I am already making plans to go next year,” she said. “Because the people that I met, the other qualifiers that were there, the guy that won overall — they were so great to be around. I want to go back and visit them and talk cosplay.”

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