The annual celebration of all things pop culture kicks off this week in San Diego.
Comic-Con International 2017 is expected to draw up to half a million people – many of whom, will be wearing costumes.
But one special costume, that’s bound to create a lot of buzz, is being made right here in the Central Valley. This one looks like a showcase of the sea– complete with sea horses, a shell, and an octopus.
“We’re gonna put some starfish on it,” says Tim Baker, a Special Effects veteran. This costume is a celebration of imagination and inspiration. It will transform nine year old Emma Mondragon into “Aquagirl” – a twist on the DC Comics character “Aquaman”.
Emma was born with Spina Bifida and uses a wheelchair.
“She’s an absolute spitfire. She plays hockey, she surfs, she goes to the skate park,” says Jeff Watamura, an art teacher at El Diamante High School in Visalia. Emma and five other children are getting custom costumes. Together, they will be the Justice League.
The effort is being organized by the group known as Magic Wheelchair. Its volunteers create the custom costumes to children in wheelchairs at no expense to their families.
It has made more than 70 since the organization was founded. “Her mom has seen pictures. I stopped sending her pictures last week. So now it’s a surprise,” Watamura says.
This is Watamura’s third time making a costume for a child. The first time, he built the Avengers’ Quinjet. Last year, it was Captain America’s tank. This year, he enlisted Baker’s help. “It’s kind of refreshing doing something that’s not for a tv show or commercial,” Baker said. “This, we’re doing for fun.” They began the project in May. The key, was to make it look amazing, but make sure it’s not too heavy. “She’s got to be able to motor this around for Comic-Con all day long,” Baker said. “It really weighs almost nothing. It’s just Styrofoam coated with a plastic hard coat. These are fiberglass shells. Everything is lightweight.” Others in the community have also pitched in. “We have a company in Visalia that does refrigeration, Viscotec. They did the welding for the little parts,” Watamura says.
Monster City Studios of Fresno volunteered to do the hard coating on the pieces.
“This is some of the most fun stuff. That’s because this really matters,” says James A. Powell, Vice President of Design at Monster City Studios. “This is helping a little girl that doesn’t have opportunities that everyone else does.”
“It’s humbling. It’s emotional. It’s a little bit of everything. It makes it all worthwhile,” Watamura says.