Local family makes comic expo costumes for years

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Terry Drewniak, from Slave Lake, started making group costumes for the whole family after they went to Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo in 2013. He’s been making them ever since.

“You almost stick out more if you weren’t dressed up,” says Nicole, Terry’s wife.

The first group costume, made in 2014, was called the ‘Hatters’. Terry, Nicole and their two kids Dominique and Gabriel were each a different Steam Punk versions of the Mad Hatter, from Alice in Wonderland.

In 2015, they stepped up the game with two new sets of costumes one for the Calgary expo and the other for Edmonton. These were Harry Potter and company and The Incredibles.

Harry Potter fell on Dominique’s birthday.

“It was the best birthday,” she says.

Nicole was Bellatrix Lestrange.

Nicole was very convincing in the part, Terry says.

“You were terrifying,” Dominique says.

Terry drew the patterns on the Lestrange costume by hand. For another Harry Potter character, Lucius Malfoy, he sewed on the designs.

“If it isn’t labour intensive, Terry doesn’t want to do it,” Nicole says.

While 2014, was the start of the costumes for the whole family. Terry’s been making the kids duo costumes for years.

One of his first forays was making Mario-themed costumes for Gabriel’s birthday party when he was very young.

Most of the costumes were for Halloween. The year Terry made the kids Minion costumes, he dressed up as the villain, Vector, and modified a Nerf gun to shoot rocket candies.

“We were a really popular house that year,” Nicole says.

Terry also works on the Ford float and has made many dance sets over the years.

Dominique has started making some costumes with Terry’s help. For Animethon, an anime festival in Edmonton, she made a ‘Lan Zhan’ costume. ‘Lan Zhan’ is a character from a Chinese anime. Gabriel’s costume was from ‘Astolfo’, a Japanese anime.

“The rest (Nicole and the kids) come up with the ideas,” Terry says. “If I have a picture, I can usually replicate it.”

Familiarity with the character doesn’t make it easier, Terry says. For example, he’d like to do The Nightmare Before Christmas. This is challenging, because his familiarity with the characters means he wants very specific, hard-to-manufacture elements within the costume. He hasn’t figured out how to make all of the parts yet.

“I like to make things larger than life,” Terry says. “You have to find ways to make things work. You learn angles and how things work. I like to experiment with those types of things.”

Another of Terry’s goals is to make the costumes relatively cheaply, so he buys most things on eBay or at Fabric Land.

He recycles and re-purposes many things, Nicole says.

The family really enjoys going to expos.

“You end up meeting a lot of people (at comic expos),” Nicole says. “Everyone is super friendly. You have at least one thing in common, and have at least that to talk about.”

At the expos, the Drewniaks often don’t get very far, as people keep asking to pictures with them.

There’s something to be said for the “anonymity of being in costume,” Terry says.

While Terry likes to make at least one new set a year, over the four days of the expos the family wears four different costumes. In 2018, this was Alice, The Incredibles, Pac Man Ghosts, and individual costumes. Gabrielle was ‘The Projectionist’ from a video game he likes, and Dominique was ‘Taako’ from a podcast.

The Drewniaks have a compact car, so the costumes can be taken apart to fit in a small space.

“It looks like we’re dragging bodies,” Dominique says, about moving the disassembled Pac Man costumes.

In 2016, the family went as something less well know, Funko Pops. These small toys have very large bobble-heads. The theme within the theme was batman villains.

“The vision was very limited,” Nicole says.

Terry as the Joker had to use an IPad to navigate, as the only space that he could look out of was one of the eyes, which are quite far to the side. Terry has a photo of a bystander taking his photo.

The bystander is a fellow fan, who the family has gotten to know during their forays into comic expos and costumes.

The heads are made of spray foam. Terry’s creative lair is in the basement. With the temperature fluctuation, the spray foam kept cracking. It was very labour-intensive, he says.

The Funko Pops landed the Drewniaks onto CTV News.

In 2017, Terry took the family back into Steam Punk with Peter Pan. Nicole’s Tinkerbell wings expanded and lit up.

Terry has the skeleton of another set of wings that he’s been working on for over five years, trying to get them to fold and flap smoothly, without spending too much on materials.

In Calgary this spring, Terry made costumes from ‘Overwatch’ a video game. Terry carried an ATV tire, with spikes on his back all day.

Before the expo, Terry told everyone that he’d be fine.

“He was not fine,” Gabriel says.

Taking a break from creating, the Calgary 2018 costume was ready made ‘Where’s Waldo’.

For Edmonton, Terry made an Alice in Wonderland set. He recycled his Mad Hatter and made the rest. That year in Edmonton was also the Pac Man ghosts debut. Pac Man joined the family in 2019 in Edmonton for the costume contest.

While this Halloween, Pac Man got almost two million views on YouTube, it didn’t do very well at the competition.

Everything went wrong. Only two of the four ghosts lit up. The walkie-talkies didn’t work, so the two that could change colour had trouble coordinating when to do it. The costumes are much heavier than they look, and they had to be in costume for several hours waiting for the competition. The costumes also took longer to assemble than anticipated.

People judging the competition know all of the characters and the details that should be there, says Terry.

Terry believes the reason that his costumes do well on YouTube, but not in competition is the detail.

“The detail isn’t there,” he says. “They’re recognizable and they’re popular characters.”

After hours and hours of working on the costumes, Terry sees all of the flaws in his handiwork.

“They’re (the fans of Terry’s costume) just happy you’re representing their fandom,” Nicole says.

The Drewniaks with some of their costumes. Left to right Nicole, Dominique, Gabriel, and Terry.
The Drewniaks as in the Steam Punk ‘Peter Pan’ fandom. Nicole ‘Tinkerbell’, Gabriel ‘Peter Pan’, Dominique ‘Wendy’, and Terry ‘Hook’. Photo courtesy of Billy Wong (www.semigravity.com).
Top: the Drewniaks as Funko Pops ‘Batman’ villains. Bottom: Funko Pops toys. Photo Terry found on Instagram a few years ago.

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