Written : Zippy / Photo : Felix Wong
Ariel Krupnik, aka Rethink Cosplay, creates elaborate and unique cosplays that not only make you do a double take in person but also often go viral. Most recently Krupnik’s floating Dr. Strange cosplay, complete with extra-arms and an inter-dimensional portal, made several “Best of New York Comic Con 2022” lists including Kotaku’s , Insider.com , and Marvel.com just to name a few.
When asked what Krupnik thought of his viral fame, he was level headed about it all.
“I don’t know how to measure ‘viral’,” Krupnik remarked. “I don’t know if it’s something that is [popular] just that day, that week. The [cosplay I did of the] Javits Center (New York Comic Con’s Convention Center) did follow me for a while. But it is a little bit weird in the sense that I don’t know how to handle the outpour of comments and it’s just a lot of pressure measuring up to expectations [and] subverting expectations. I’m very grateful for a lot of it, [but when I cosplay] I never know what’s going to happen. I try to create things that I personally want to see. And [I think] what would be fun to do? What would other people want to see? You know, what is enjoyable? What has that mark of quality?”
Before Krupnik began to cosplay, he was already a regular creative presence in New York City, where he modeled in shows, created music, created art projects, and acted.
Krupnik stated “All that is infused into what I do today. Cosplay is part-theater, part-myself, part-costume. It’s an amalgam of all the things that we are – influences both external and internal.”
Krupnik’s a lifelong New Yorker, and he has cosplayed many characters centered in New York, including Batman of New York, Spider-Man, and the Javits Center. So when asked about the influence the city had on Krupnik, he said “New York City has a certain flavor. It has maybe some kind of subconscious influence on everybody.”
Krupnik’s home convention has been and continues to be New York Comic Con where he’s become a staple. Even with his increasing number of well regarded cosplays, he has never had a chip on his shoulder about his work. Instead he keeps looking for inspiration from the scene, his past successes, and his peers, and he works to level up his cosplay skills each year to show the world what ingenious new cosplay he can create.”
“I think of other Comic Cons in the world, and I don’t like the word competing, but I think of San Diego Comic Con and I think what does San Diego have that we don’t? What does New York City have that San Diego doesn’t have? And there’s that expression in the Avengers movie that we have a Hulk. And so I think well New York City is the only city that comes with me as a cosplayer. And so I feel like a soldier going to war a little bit. I feel like ‘Come on, everyone. Let’s show New York City what for? Let’s show San Diego that we have the spirit’.”
Before Krupnik began cosplaying on the level he does now, he began like many cosplayers, with simpler characters he loved and could throw together with ease.
Krupnik recalled, “10 years ago I did Yorick Brown from Y the Last Man. I was relieved because I didn’t have to do much. I could just put on a poncho. I could get a monkey doll and find a way to attach it to myself. The fashion was right here and the bridge to cosplay was not much of a stretch. I just saw it like a fashion project more than cosplay at the time.”
Even with Yorrick though, Krupnik started to approach this simpler cosplay design more intensely than he expected. Krupnik said, “It’s funny I remember I started taking it too seriously and overthinking. I started wanting to get it as comic book accurate as I could. I got window cling for the inside of the gas masks so that I could see out but nobody could see in. Then I was thinking this window cling is pretty cool. That’ll come in handy in the future.”
Krupnik remarked in a previous interview that overthinking had become his super power, and I asked how that shaped his approach to cosplay.
Krupnik replied, “I feel like I’ve trained my mind to think this way with overthinking and worrying. But I became more thoughtful I guess as a result. I try to use my mind the best I can to create. I should also mention that it’s never just one idea. I never like to go into NYCC with just one idea. I start building way early on, to allow room for things to kind of latch on to the idea. So if you start with one idea, say in June,when tickets go on sale, if I’m lucky enough to get tickets, you know? And [if I get one] I’m like, “Okay, now I have no choice, I have to start making something.” And so I’ll start formulating ideas. That movie ‘Nope’, was tricky. Because that had come out in the summer. And so I remember thinking ‘Oh, if I can just make something up in time, but I don’t know it would have to be easy.’”
Photo: Felix Wong
When asked what his kryptonite would be if overthinking was his super power, Krupnik had two answers.
First Krupnik remarked, “Time and anything that could knock me off the path to ComiCon. Every time you I’m doing something that isn’t making [my cosplay] in the window that I need, from June till October, I just feel a little regret and a little guilt.”
Perhaps more importantly for Krupnik though is to always strive for originality.
“I think the chief kryptonite would probably be the idea having been done already,” Krupnik said. “ManDeLorean was one of those ideas. I wanted to go this year as a combination of the Mandalorian and the DeLorean from Back to the Future. I was going to do like a Transformers take or something and would have the jetpack be the wings of the car lifting up. But somebody did it and they didn’t do it like that, but they did it [close] enough that it made me not want to. Avengers was another idea I wanted to do. I wanted to do some kind of mutant version of all the Avengers, like three heads with Captain America, Iron Man. It’d be this gigantic, hulking thing, you know, misshapen. Like Twilight Zone or Outer Limits Avengers. But somebody already [did something similar.] I don’t think they had that kind of weird execution [I’d have]. But they had done it [similarly] enough that it deterred me from the idea.”
Krupnik’s way of thinking has allowed him to get incredibly creative with his cosplays. From a cryogenically ‘Frozen’ Walt Disney, to Mortal Kombat Baby, to his floating Dr. Strange, he’s made a name for himself as a really outside the box cosplayer.
“I know it’s strange. I know it’s weird. Weird is like my signature,” Krupnik stated.
Though Krupnik’s cosplays have become memorable in their own right, he’s certainly suffered for his art at times too, as was the case with his Dr. Strange cosplay.
Krupnik said, “No one can see in the picture how heavy that was. It fits fine, but I didn’t realize [it’d hurt]. I didn’t test it. So hours in this thing I didn’t foresee padding or anything like that. I don’t think I’ve ever used pads or anything like that or taped blunt sharp edges. I just put it on and it was so heavy. Those arms were just so heavy that it dug into my shoulders, and I just had them carried by shoelaces because they were just so thin.”
In the moment, Krupnik was enjoying cosplaying too much to feel the physical weight of it all.
Krupnik remarked, “When I’m there at the con, I’m running on adrenaline. But when I get home, I feel the soreness in my legs. I’m in the shower and then I feel the sensitivity of the water hitting and I’m like, “Oh my god what is that?” and then I looked down and I see in the mirror I have the marks on my shoulders. I see the bruises. [At least] now I know where to place them if I ever had to put it back on. You know?”
Krupnik still feels that for him it’s worth enduring the pain.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love it,” Krupnik emphasized. “That [experience as Dr. Strange] was amazing. And I loved being up there and not having to move or walk around. I just had to float. I’ve crawled as a cosplayer, but I’d never floated before.”
Even after literally attaining new heights with his Dr. Strange cosplay, Krupnik says he’ll always be striving for that next big thing he can do creatively with his cosplays.
Krupnik said, “I’ve never felt like I’ve crossed over into any plane or domain where I feel everything is different. Some people might say otherwise, but I personally don’t feel like that. I feel like having that keeps me striving, and gives me that impetus to keep trying for more and more spectacular cosplays. I’ve never been satisfied that I’ve reached the pinnacle where I say “That’s it. I’m only going to do this cosplay. I’m just going to do what I’m doing now. Even if that were to happen I feel it’s like sticking a flag on the moon. As soon as that’s done I want to go to a planet and stick a flag on the moon. I don’t want to be that guy that does that one thing. I want to be an explorer.”
One journey Krupnik has yet to take is to travel to a far away convention with his cosplays.
“I would love to do San Diego Comic Con, C2E2, and Emerald City Comic Con,” Krupnik stated. “I’ve gone to those conventions, but I’ve never cosplayed at them. Travel is just so costly. And I wouldn’t take the risk of bringing cosplays in my luggage. It could be damaged. I don’t want to risk something and then hear ‘Oh, we lost it. Oh, we didn’t get it to the hotel.’ It would have to be something I could probably carry in my hand.”
When asked what guidance Krupnik would give to new cosplayers starting out on the scene, he emphasized the bigger picture and not to stress the finite details.
“When we’re creating, we’re creating up close,” Krupnik emphasized. But a lot of these pictures people will take capture you and your entirety from far away. So a lot of times, I would say not to worry about those little details and those imperfections. It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you feel unsatisfied and if you want to take it further that’s up to you; but, you don’t have to burden yourself to do something crazy. You can do something completely not wacky and stand out or not have to stand out [if you prefer.]”
Krupnik is already in the planning phases of his next cosplay for New York Comic Con. When asked if he can give any indication of what he’s planning, Krupnik said “I don’t want to say something and then it goes awry, and I’m like ‘I teased it all for nothing and then it all fell apart. I didn’t realize that the shrinkage on the cardboard would be this bad with the acrylic.’”
Krupnik eventually teased that he’s considering something British inspired, whether that be the approach, or the colors, he’s unsure of, but he emphasized it all could change.
Kurpnik stated, “I want people to never see it coming. But you know [when you see my cosplay], you’ll know that it’s me.”
If you do go to New York Comic Con and see Krupnik, he hopes his cosplay will help bring some joy to the con experience of all in attendance.
Krupnik remarks, “I love making people happy. I love when people laugh. I think laughter is probably my favorite thing. I’m trying to make the world a funnier place. Whether it be with fashion or cosplay, there’s nothing that gives me more joy than laughter. So it’s just so nice that people smile, and the reception is pretty nice. I just think if you didn’t know what Comic Con was, and you were coming from somewhere [across the globe] and you came to Comic Con and saw [one of my cosplays], when you got back home and someone asks “How was Comicon?” They might even say, “You know it sucked. But there was this one guy.” I think about those things, I think about the conversation that happens after we all leave the convention center. Some of that informs what I make I guess. I just want everyone to have a good time.”