It all started six years ago, on the eve of the Dragon Con parade. Stephen Larkworthy and some friends decided to costume themselves for the festivities. They created the prototypes of what became the Box Hero attire: superheroes and villains recreated completely from cardboard.
I am certain I have seen some version of the Box Heroes before, but my first close up opportunity to see them in public was at the pre-screening for Ant-Man. I later learned from Stephen that the Box Heroes try to tone it down at movie theaters, as tragic events of the past few years may cause quite a bit of alarm at anyone disguising their faces in that forum. When I first met Stephen, along with co-hero Arthur Johnson, they were outside the actual theater, and in costume from the neck up.
Fun fact: when I later met Stephen and Arthur without their costumes, I had a difficult time remembering that I'd met them before. I had never seen their faces, so when they said, "It's nice to see you again," I was confused. It was kind of awkward for me, but they are really nice people, so I got over it.
The process of creating and maintaining a Box Hero costume is truly an art form. The finished products are quite striking.
Additionally, storing the suits while off-duty takes up a bit of space.
But for Stephan, his wife Anke, and the other Box Heroes, it has become more than a Dragon Con Parade Eve whim. They have altered their homes and lives to accommodate and promote Box Heroes as a type of mini-society, and they have a lot of fun doing it.
Fun fact: Hannah Rose Waters Nichols, pictured above on Stephen and Anke's back deck, is the first, and so far only, Box Hero to successfully sit down in full costume. This event occurred on a Marta train, and was precipitated by exhaustion.
The primary materials used to create the costumes are card board, hot glue, x-acto knives, and paint. Wearing the costumes involves suspenders, foam cushioning, velcro, and duct tape.
In order to make the costumes appear as clean and crisp as possible, the duct tape is used as sparingly as possible, and on the interior of the boxes. Colored duct tape is utilized for visible construction usually only in emergency situations.
The mechanics of moving about in the costumes can get tricky. Public appearances require a group of assistants to accompany the heroes and help with maneuvering, dislodged costume pieces, and general navigation. Things like elevators, curbs, and stairs prove especially trying for successful travel. Although there have yet to be any serious injuries among the Box Heroes, there have been some minor snafus when it comes to getting around objects like strollers and other humans.
In addition to the Dragon Con Parade and movie premieres, Box Heroes can be seen at various events in Atlanta. They have made appearances in the Inman Park Parade, Little Five Points Halloween Parade, and the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Christmas Parade. If you are in Atlanta for Dragon Con 2015, which unofficially started yesterday (September 2), and officially starts tomorrow (September 4), you may get lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one or more of the magnificent Box Heroes.