Four years ago, Speers created his own Iron Man outfit for Halloween. That led to Pingree Grove resident Nicklas getting involved in what now is a budding business. Two months ago, Nicklas left a custodial job to work full-time for Speers in an entrepreneurial endeavor called Laughing Dragon Foundries, which custom-makes gear and costumes for the superhero and video game sets.
According to Speers, the origin story for the fledgling company starts when he and a buddy went to see the Marvel Comics blockbuster “The Avengers” in 2012.
“I was already an Iron Man fan, and after seeing ‘The Avengers’ my friend suggested he be Thor and I could be Iron Man for Halloween,” Speers said.
To do so, Speers, of Vernon Hills, made like Iron Man creator Tony Stark and started inventing. He found a YouTube video of a kid making an Iron Man suit. And he would sit in bed on his iPad researching for his own project, many nights while his wife tried to sleep.
Using foam material as the base, Speers said it took about three months to create his first Iron Man suit, and he and his friend were ready to unveil their costumes at a Halloween party at Austin’s Saloon & Eatery in Libertyville.
“We weren’t ready for the response we got,” Speers said.
That meant impressed people coming up to the pretend Avengers in the parking lot and the two becoming a center of attention at the gathering, Speers recalled.
That reaction inspired Speers to continue working on Iron Man garb and eventually to offer his free services to charities and community events dressed as what he first called the Iron Hero. That was until the Marvel folks said that as long as Speers didn’t tie his appearances to his or any other businesses and kept the appearances free, they would prefer he go by Iron Man, to avoid brand confusion, even at such a local level, according to Speers.
Speers runs his own marketing and creative firm, Base Zero, which is in the process of moving from the Woodfield area in Schaumburg to merge with another business that will be located in Libertyville.
Nicklas was working as a third shift watchman in the building that holds Base Zero and he noticed an Iron Man outfit on display in a window in Speers’ office.
“I would stare at that outfit,” Nicklas said.
Intrigued, Nicklas learned what Speers was up to and decided to try to make a costume of his own — one based on a character in the video game franchise Halo — learning by doing and using paper as the base material in his process.
Nicklas worked up the courage to ask Speers if they could combine forces and work together on future projects. Those have included one suit made to look like Noble team leader Carter-A259 from Halo, with another Halo character on the way, 17 versions of Iron Man, along with props and other items.
“Dave is a great guy,” Speers said. “He’s unique, dedicated, takes instruction well and comes up with some good ideas.”
Those include re-engineering boots so that creations move more smoothly, Speers noted. At the same time, Speers has come up with items such as “morphsuits” (the body stockings worn under robot-like outfits) designed to look like inner circuitry. And their company now has a way to mold helmets/masks, speeding up the costume-making process.
The Laughing Dragon Foundries Facebook page states, “What started as a mild obsession has now turned into… something else.”
Both men said this has been their first foray into the still-growing world of cosplay and attending related events and conventions.
“The face of cosplay has changed and has become more mainstream,” Speers said. “And from what we’ve seen, the level of dedication of those involved in it is amazing and awesome.”
Knowing their customers are sticklers for detail, Speers and Nicklas feel the foundries’ output will appeal to them as well as to people who might want to dress to impress come the end of October.
“We can make any character out there out of foam and fiberglass,” Speers said.
Eventually, that work could include using a 3D printer as part of the process for the start-up.
“This hobby took on a life of its own,” Speers said.
Nicklas said he’s not necessarily doing his new job for money, while Speers said he wouldn’t mind if it did bring in revenue.
“A good part of why we do this is the look on adults’ and kids’ faces when they see (one of their Iron Man or Halo creations),” Speers said. “They lose their minds and are thrilled.””
Here’s a few more pix:
Source: Chicago Tribune