Cosplayer finds a niche portraying superheroes | Sarasota

Kristopher Paul does stuff.

He made his bones designing flyers and posters with a background of graphic design. When he’s not working on wheelchair transport, Paul also helps make furniture as a handyman.

But it also does other things. Paul, 36, is a dedicated cosplayer, someone who dresses up as pop culture characters, and has attended many nerd conventions and meetups to show off his costumes and designs that he makes himself.

Those have included multiple Power Ranger suits, a superhero from the CW DC Show “Legends of Tomorrow” and the futuristic Batman suit from “Batman Beyond.”

Lately, he’s had a new role: playing Captain America in the Downtown Sarasota Christmas Parade. Paul recently donned his costume to walk in the holiday tradition to cheers from families and fans on both sides of Main Street.

“The kids were yelling ‘It’s Captain America!’” Paul said. “They loved it.”

Kristopher Paul wears his suit to conventions whenever he can.

Paul’s time in Florida began in 2005 when he moved to the Tampa area from Brooklyn to attend graphic design school. He befriended fellow students who liked anime, who shared his love for Dragon Ball, Gundam, and other stylish productions, and that’s where his interest in nerd culture really peaked.

“I’ve always taken Halloween very seriously,” Paul said. “My friends suggested ‘Why don’t you buy yourself a Green Lantern suit?’ and started going to conventions. It felt weird at first as you’re wearing full-fledged spandex and then you get used to it, you learn the ins and outs.”

It didn’t hurt that Paul was also a lover of acting and the theater, and took to wearing costumes easily. It took time for him to learn how to build the costumes he loved, not to mention finding fabric designers and artisans who could help him, but he enlisted the help of fellow cosplayers who had been in the same boat.

“Cosplayers help each other,” said Paul. “They helped the new guy and eventually I became that kind of person to others.”

While living in Port Charlotte, Paul needed a place to pick up his comics every Wednesday and found The Dark Side Comic Store in Sarasota. That led him to dress up as a superhero during the store’s free comic book day in the summer, and ultimately led him to walk with the store’s cosplay troupe in the downtown Christmas parade each year.

“It just adds another level of fun,” says Brian Polizzi, owner of The Dark Side. “Kids are surprised to see these real-life versions of these characters.”

These days, Paul suits up as Sam Wilson, the Marvel comics superhero known as The Falcon, who served as Captain America’s partner for decades of comic book publishing.

Most notably, Sam Wilson took on the mantle of Captain America in the 2014 comic series written by Rick Remender and drawn by Stuart Immonen. Paul read those comics as they came out and felt the version of Wilson was a perfect character to play.

“The day Sam Wilson became Captain America was the day I drew the suit exactly how it would look (on me),” Paul said.

He made a few iterations of the cloth printer-designed body suit and added a backpack for wings, goggles, and other accessories. Very few knew about the look from the start and even fewer dressed up as Sam, which Paul says helped turn heads when he debuted the suit.

“Eventually more and more people started making the costume, so I had to do something major to stand out,” Paul said. “I designed cardboard wings (for conventions). Those first wings hurt me, they were very heavy on my back.”

He switched to the foam flooring used in playgrounds for his wings, chose a Captain America shield to pose on, and didn’t look back.

Pop culture finally caught up with Paul’s love for the character. A scene in the 2019 Avengers movie “Endgame” had Captain America, now aged and unable to fight reminiscent of the 2014 comic series, passing the shield from him to Sam.

Paul, who attended the premiere in full Captain America costume, couldn’t contain his excitement.

“I yelled ‘Get the shield!’” Paul said. “My wife is holding my arm in the theater… it was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”

The subsequent television show “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney Plus cemented Wilson’s status as Captain America and ended with the character wearing the stars and stripes.

The look had reached the general public and Paul knew it was time to show it off. He donned his costume and, along with other Dark Side cosplayers and comic book fans, recently marched down Main Street to cheering families during the holiday parade.

Paul brought his latest wing and costume design to the parade and, although he had trouble seeing in the dark with his red goggles, he enjoyed seeing all the kids take note of the light-up sneakers he wore for added effect. Seeing how the crowd reacted to the costumes and mannerisms of him playing the character he loved is what made him great.

Paul just has more plans for his cosplay ahead. He recently attended a convention in St. Pete and plans to visit more as they happen in Florida. He will bring his wings and his shield with him.

“My cosplay (work) has continued to grow and grow,” said Paul.

Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by providing news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer’s new membership program, The Newsies, a group of like-minded community citizens just like you. .