Cosplayer of the Week: Johnny Carwell JR
On one of the flat out worst days of my life where everything I attempted lead to complete disappointment, I ended the night via dinner with a friend and her friends. I was bitter, frustrated and just done with the world and everyone in it. Then, among the folks who sat down to join us for dinner, was Johnny Carwell Jr who greeted me with kind words and engaged in conversations about various geeky subjects. We talked cosplay, video games, movies, and then he explained to me how he forged a cosplay charity group with the help of a couple buddies and now helps out at events while also welcoming anyone and everyone to his charity group.
From the moment I met him, I knew he was a solid guy and just had to interview him so more folks could get to now him and what he does.
Without further ado, here is my interview with Johnny Carwell Jr:
The Geek Lyfe: Although I have been a fan of yours for quite some time, there may be a few Geek Lyfers who have not seen your work before, would you be alright introducing yourself?
Johnny Carwell Jr: How’s it going everyone, my name is Johnny Carwell JR, and I’m a costumer based in Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve been cosplaying for about 10 years.
TGL: How long have you been into cosplay and what led you down this path?
JCJ: I’ve started cosplaying back in 2006. A friend of mine invited me to go with him to a local anime con called Anizona. It was the big AZ anime con before it was shut down a couple years later. My first costume was Evil Ryu from Street Fighter. After that, my interests in costuming and the con scene grew as my skills in costuming as well as prop making began to develop as well as made dear friends in the process. I then became interested in charity cosplay. I first joined the group the Arizona Avengers, and with my good friends Gus Matos and AJ Rodriguez, co-founded Heroes United. Through charity costuming, I’ve been able to give back to the community and make both kids and adults happy.
TGL: What has been your favorite moment?
JCJ: Two moments come to mind. One was a couple years ago; a father contacted Gus Matos to make an appearance at his son, Marcus’ birthday. Marcus suffers from a form of leukemia that took his arm. However, regardless of his illness, Marcus is a happy and excitable boy full of energy! Gus, I, and a couple members showed up to Marcus’s birthday and he was literally speechless. He was so happy to see his favorite superheroes at his birthday party and it warmed my heart to see joy in this young man.
The other moment was a couple years ago, I went to the Matsuri Japanese festival dressed as Samurai Gambit. A young, black gentleman approached me and was actually excited to see me. He told me that he’s seen me around the cons and said that it was awesome to see a man of color cosplay as characters from different races. He ended the conversation saying something that I will remember forever: “thank you and keep on negrofying the superheroes!” It was a funny quote, but was deep and important to me that I inspired someone to cosplay as whoever they wanted to and not let race stop him.
TGL: Most frustrating?
JCJ: When the construction of a costume or prop doesn’t work as well as planned. There have been times when in making a costume or prop, it either falls apart, or doesn’t match what I’ve envisioned and would have to start over again. Or even when a costume is finished, but I’m not satisfied with the final look. One of the big things about costuming is going back to that drawing board in order to figure out how to get around the obstacles and complete the costume or prop.
TGL: When you aren’t doing this, what do you two do in your spare time?
JCJ: Well, I like to draw, write, watch movies and tv, as well as listen to music. But my biggest pastime is martial arts. My interests in martial arts began when I was 10, and throughout my life trained in different displinces such as Taekwondo, Goju-Ryu Karate, and Shaolin Kempo. I currently train in Shito-Ryu Karate, Kobudo, Shinkendo, and Capoeira. My martial arts training have blended well in my costuming, as it helps me portray the character’s fighting styles and signature techniques. I’ve developed a bit of a reputation in the cosplay community with for my poses and received many compliments on how I get into character.
TGL: What geek medium (Video Games, Comic Books, Novels, Movies etc.) made the biggest impact on your life and why?
JCJ: Wow, I would have to say all of the above! Lol Each of those mediums have impacted my life in different ways. Video games began my interest in art and character design, comic books and novels began my interest in creating my own stories, and movies, specifically Asian martial arts films began my interests in martial arts. Pretty much my life revolves around geekdom! I can’t find myself not reading comics, playing video games, reading or watching movies.
TGL: Zombie apocalypse has begun and the world needs to be saved from walking corpses. Which character that you have cosplayed in the past do you become and take their powers to help you in your mission?
JCJ: I would have to say Dante from Devil May Cry. The dude is a one half-man/half-demon army! I mean, come on, he has a plethora of weapons and powers that can handle all sorts of worst case zombie scenarios. He has swordmaster to handle close quarters combat, gunslinger for long range combat, trickster to maneuver around the undead, and royal guard to counter the zombie biting. And let’s not forget, good ol’ devil trigger in case things get really real! lol
TGL: Do you have any projects in the near future we should be excited to see?
JCJ: Well, I’ll be debuting Black Panther’s Civil War look, Sunny from Into the Badlands, Arkham Knight style Robin, Kurogane from Tusbasa Chronicles, Jacque Blanc from Onimusha 3, Winter Soldier, and Snowman from Blade 2. And those are only the tip of the iceberg! lol
TGL: What advice do you have for any aspiring cosplayers out there?
JCJ: Whew, good question, and to be honest I thought long and hard about it and there were several pieces of advice I would like to give but simply: just have fun. Cosplay as any character you want and don’t let size, race, or even age get in the way. If you love that character, let it be motivation to dress as the character and have fun with it. Also, cons do have their share of drama. It sucks that drama and conflict happen, but that’s reality. But, no matter how tough it gets, don’t let the internal strife get in the way of your passion of cosplaying. Always try to have fun when you’re costuming and at a con. Hell, it’s in the name: Cos and play!
I can not tell you guys enough about how awesome Johnny Carwell Jr is both as a person and as a charity organizer. I have interviewed many incredible cosplayers who are beautiful, talented, buff, but my personal favorite kind of cosplayer is the one who looks out for others as much as he/she can. When I asked if he had a cosplay page I could link to so he could get more followers he humbly declined and wanted all attention to go towards his charity group. If that isn’t the stuff of heroes, I don’t know what is!
Be sure to follow Heroes United on Facebook!
Cover Photo by Surrealsister Photography
1st Photo by Matthew Hunt
2nd Photo by AJ Rodriguez
3rd Photo by Alex Davis