“I really just wish people would call me Johnny,” says cosplayer Johnny Zabate, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Junkers Cosplay or Johnny ‘N Junkers. “My name is Johnny, the DOG is named Junkers,” he corrects.
“he’s my right hand pup and prop work wouldn’t be the same without him!”
Johnny’s been cosplaying for years, and he has crafted some amazing costumes, complete with incredible props and weapons. Junkers is his corgi of over three years, and Johnny says, “he’s my right hand pup and prop work wouldn’t be the same without him!”
Prop work is something Johnny and Junkers spend a lot of time on, but the effort is well worth it. Johnny has produced some impressive weapons and armor over the last few years. “If a cosplayer wants to get traffic-stopping amounts of attention in a solo setting they will need either props & armor or something very sexy,” he says.
Johnny’s been stopping traffic at conventions since Anime Expo 2004, where he made a Trigun Nicholas D. Wolfwood costume, complete with the trademark cross punisher. He continues to refine his skills and challenges himself with even more complicated prop work. “I have been blessed to have been picked up by a very tight knit propling community in San Diego,” he says. “They have shown me all of the plastic forming and woodworking skills I have now. So that is why I strive to pass on as much knowledge as I can through my blog and other media outlets.” Johnny’s blog contains step-by-step coverage for many of his costumes, to include his Raven the Reckless Fist from Elsword Online.
In addition to Elsword Online, Johnny also plays Hitman: Absolution these days. “I’m also trying to up my game in League of Legends since my next costume is coming out of that game,” he says as he looks to cosplay as the big sword-wielding Tryndamere.
While swords and cool armor might make for great cosplaying, Johnny looks beneath any hard metal exterior when asked which one video game character he loves best. “Ulala from Space Channel 5,” he says. “I just LOVE that game to bits, with the funky fresh pseudo 60’s vibe and it doesn’t hurt the music isn’t bad either. Ulala is just the star of this entire thing and her one track mind with just the right amount of camp makes me fall in love with her every single time I pop that game into the drive.”
Watching anime is another hobby for Johnny, and he has wide range of interests here. “I guess it’s a bit ridiculous but my favorite anime of last season was My Little Monster which is a really by the numbers sort of shoujo romance anime. I’ve never really watched shoujo anime before and the entire affair was a really well written and believable tale about that awkward first love.”
“Super robots make everything awesome…”
Johnny loves stories with strong characters he can become attached to, and he chooses Sket Dance as his favorite anime ever. He says, “the cast of characters, including small side characters, starts to get very large towards the end of the anime and to be honest I could not find any one character that I was not fully invested in their story. In the end it’s not about the overarching ‘lesson’ or plot for me that matters, but how much the writers can make you believe and love the characters that inhabit the world. That and super robots. Super robots make everything awesome regardless of all the previous rules.”
Johnny’s love of anime and cosplay has led him to some exciting opportunities, and one of those is his current role as a Crunchyroll Ambassador. “It has definitely turned me to push my costuming ability a bit more, and I won’t lie it definitely motivated me to produce even more props and armor since I had been validated by, not only my peers, but a major player in the anime convention scene,” he says. That increased presence at conventions has led Johnny to more exciting activities, such as hosting “The Live Show” at Anime Expo.
Johnny has also become a Crunchyroll contributor for a weekly feature, “Manly Mondays,” and other specials. “When I was a kid that was the thing I wanted to do, writing,” he says. “However I was pushed into the Navy and into an engineering field, so I decided to play on my strengths and prior experience to go to school for engineering rather than writing. It is nice though to engage my writing muscles every now and again, and it seems that the folks over at Crunchyroll News enjoy my work!”
Having finished his service of six years in the United States Navy as a Nuclear Machinists Mate, Johnny is now a structural engineering student at University of California San Diego. While he’s technically a junior, the rigors of the engineering program mean Johnny still has another three years in school.
“yes we do indeed make things and then wear them in public.”
When Johnny isn’t busy with school or making props with Junkers, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend Jen, aka SpacePizza cosplay. Having the mutual hobby of cosplay is not only convenient, but it is also what brought these two together. “We met at Anime Expo 2006,” Johnny explains. “We were both cosplaying and were introduced by a mutual friend, so fortunately we didn’t have to explain what in the world this hobby was to each other. I know of a lot of friends that have a hard time having their boyfriends and girlfriends grasping that yes we do indeed make things and then wear them in public.”
Looking forward to the future, Johnny has a lot to be excited about. He’ll be working on his Trydamere costume, but he is also going to try to make Evangelion Unit 2, his first mecha attempt using foam.
Keep an eye out for Johnny Zabate at conventions this year. He’s hard to miss; just look for the guy with the amazing armor and big swords. He has no plans of leaving the cosplay scene any time soon, and he’s excited to be pushing himself to new levels of craftsmanship. In closing, Johnny leaves us with the following advice: “Eat big, lift hard, get huge.”
Jecht photo by Ken Eden
Junkers photo by Johnny Zabate
Raven the Reckless Fist photo by Martin Wong
Monster Hunter Tigrex Diablos photo by Okageo Photography
Xiba photo by Okageo Photography
Raven with Rena (SpacePizza cosplay) photo by Martin Wong
Zhou Tai photo by Okageo Photography