10 Best Houston Cosplayers

Photo by Long Thai (Mineralblu Photography)
Titan as Colossus
The rise of the Houston cosplay scene has been fantastic to watch. Every year at the increasing number of geek conventions you find more and more people pulling out all the stops to bring characters to wonderful life. Today we look at the ten most amazing examples of cosplay brilliance H-Town produces.

As his name suggests Titan is a mountain of a man. He got into cosplay in 2012 after he left the army. His first costume was bane from The Dark Knight Rises. He made a splash at the Halloween party he was attending, but putting together so elaborate a set-up for just one night didn't feel worth it. In 2013 he started taking his creations to Comicpalooza and has been an avid cosplayer ever since. His other works include Colossus and the armored version of Hulk seen in Planet Hulk. The latter involved an 800-piece handmade chainmail armor and leather war kilt requiring hours of work.

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The Changing Face of Houston: The City That Welcomes and Transforms

The sun hovering over Houston was quickly giving way to twilight when Laura Levine approached the building off Main Street, nestled near the center of Midtown. Laura hurriedly opened the door as a METRORail train whizzed by on the street behind. As she walked up the stairs to the shop sitting above the Continental Club, Levine talked about the circumstances that led to her co-ownership of a shop of oddities open only at night in the middle of Houston.

"I grew up in Waco but always knew I'd end up in Houston. It's such a crazy, mysterious city. No zoning makes everything so much more interesting. A church next to a dive bar is quirky, yet appealing in a strange way; it keeps you on your toes. With such a colorful landscape, living in Houston is an adventure, and if you pay attention, you can discover some really cool parts of town. That's what I love most about Houston: The cool spots to go to are not obvious."

Levine, who moved here in 1995, and her partner, Mike Hildebrand, opened a vintage resale shop in the Heights named Replay on 19th Street, but it wasn't her first time to visit the city.

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The Changing Face of Houston - East Downtown

Photo by Agsftw
East Downtown is a neighborhood that has seen enormous changes occur over its many year history, and it is quickly emerging as a hip and vibrant community in Houston's central core, attracting new residents from many walks of life.

East Downtown, or "EaDo" as it has recently been named, started out its existence as part of the Third Ward, one of the four original wards established shortly after the founding of Houston in 1836. Throughout the 1800s, what is now present day East Downtown was a posh area of Victorian homes and well heeled residents, but eventually it saw changes that negatively affected it as a residential area. When nearby train lines were installed through downtown, the neighborhood began to transition from its former status into something else - More of a lower income area with commercial properties, warehouses, and other industrial developments.

The area changed again in the early half of the 20th century, when Chinese immigrants began to settle into the neighborhood, lured in by the inexpensive real estate prices, and Houston's first "Chinatown" began to develop. The Cantonese immigrants continued to open a variety of businesses there, and the community was a thriving ethnic neighborhood for years, eventually attracting Asians from many other countries who also set roots in the area.

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10 Best Places to Take a Date for Free in Houston

Photo by Daniel Kramer
Dr. John at Miller Outdoor Theatre. 2013
The Great Recession may be over, but there's a lot of people for whom times are still pretty rough. However, just because you're broke doesn't mean that you don't have the need to take your significant other out on the town for some fun now and then. Luckily, if you're willing to dig around a little, there are actually plenty of great things to do in the city that don't cost anything other than the cost of getting there.

Miller Outdoor Theatre
Shows are expensive...unless you go see them at Miller Outdoor Theatre. With only the rare exceptions (So always check the calendar carefully), Miller offers completely free performances and films. Just this year they had a song-and-dance tribute to Michael Jackson, the SEOP dance company from Korea, a musical about kung fu, an innovative mash-up of radio theater and pulp comic books called The Intergalactic Nemesis, symphonic performances, and more. Parking can be a headache sometimes, but for onstage spectacles on a budget, Miller is unbeatable.

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The Changing Face of Houston - Timbergrove Manor & Lazybrook

Photo by Chris Lane
Just west of The Heights are Timbergrove Manor and Lazybrook, two interesting neighborhoods consisting mostly of postwar, ranch style homes. I spent more than 15 years living on the western edge of The Heights, just a few blocks from Timbergrove Manor, and that neighborhood held a certain fascination for me. It still does, actually.

The area of The Heights that borders Timbergrove Manor seemed so very different in character. It was understandable, and, once again, the odd way Houston neighborhoods developed was to blame. The original homes in that part of the Heights seemed to have been built in the 1920s through the late '30s, while the homes in Timbergrove Manor and Lazybrook share a much more uniform look since those areas were developed in the postwar 1950s. While parts of the nearby Heights still look like a jumble of architectural styles from different time periods, with the occasional strangely placed commercial property thrown in for good measure, Timbergrove Manor and Lazybrook both have a much more planned appearance, and it gives them a certain charm that is different in feel than the more patchwork look of The Heights that is so close by.

The area that both Timberbrook Manor and Lazybrook occupy was originally settled in the early 1800s by farmers of German descent, and was characterized by scattered farms throughout an otherwise heavily wooded region. Nearby Spring Branch was also an area originally settled early on by German immigrants, and it is hard for most modern Houstonians to realize that areas so close to the city's center were developed into neighborhoods so recently.

While the Heights was established much earlier, and had entered into a lengthy period of decline by the time that the first houses in Timberbrook Manor and Lazybrook were being constructed in the early 1950s. Both of the newer neighborhoods featured postwar ranch style houses, most of which are located on very large lots. by inner loop standards.

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10 Best Houston Commercials

Some people watch the Super Bowl for the advertisments, but me? I always liked to lurk on basic cable near the end of the night when local businesses could afford commercial spots. Sure, they usually lack the polish of the big firms and their lights, cameras and action, but they often made up for it in sheer gusto and/or craziness. Today we salute the best commercials Houston has produced.

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The Changing Face of Houston - Texas Medical Center

Photo by Steven Saing

All of the previous entries in this series have covered residential neighborhoods. This one is slightly different. While the Texas Medical Center is a distinct part of the Houston landscape, it is important not as a community of homes and the people who live there, but for the contribution that it brings to Houston and the rest of the world.

Today the Texas Medical Center is a large complex of modern research facilities and hospitals, located about as centrally in the city as possible, and is a vital hub of Houston life. However, the area was very different during the early part of the twentieth century. In the 1920s, the current site of the Medical Center was a large forested area owned by Will Hogg, the son of former Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg. William Hogg dreamed of relocating the UT Medical Branch from Galveston to the Houston area, and he thought it would be ideal to build it across from the newly established Rice University (then known as the Rice Institute), but his plans didn't gain traction, and he eventually sold the land back to the City of Houston.

Another wealthy Houstonian named George Hermann, who had made a fortune with lumber, cattle, and oil ventures, had donated hundreds of acres to Houston to create a city park in 1914. Envisioning that the city should also have a public hospital, Hermann made provisions in his will to provide land and funding to construct one. Hermann died of stomach cancer during the same year Hermann Park opened, and a little over a decade later, the hospital he'd imagined opened nearby.

Behind Hermann Hospital lay the 134 acres that the City of Houston had re-acquired from William Hogg. The land was considered mosquito infested forest land located on the outskirts of town during the 1920s, but it would soon undergo big changes.

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10 Best Houston Video Game Developers

Pterodactyl Attack
You may not be entirely aware of this, but Houston has a pretty huge scene involving local video game developers. The technology and availability of mobile and PC gaming has allowed small start ups to dive into the world of game design in a big way, and the local industry is as diverse as you would expect Houston to be. We've got everything from cutting edge adventures to the restoration of ancient gaming classics. Come meet the folks behind them.

10. Hygoon
So far Hygoon has just one game to its name, Pterodactyl Attack for iOS. It's a difficult, but beautiful shooter where you, of course, fend off waves of flying dinosaurs. It also has a mode specifically for the color blind, so extra blessings be upon them for their consideration.

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The Changing Face of Houston - Alief

Photo by Texinnphilly
A duck pond at Arthur Storey Park offers a glimpse to what much of Alief looked like many years ago.
Researching various Houston neighborhoods has been an interesting endeavor for me, because while I have watched many of those communities experience huge changes over the last few decades, a few of them are old enough to have undergone really enormous transformations, and a lot of that older history gets buried by the passage of time.

As a teen in the '80s, I had a lot of friends who lived in Alief, and never really thought much about the area other than as another mostly middle and working class neighborhood in southwest Houston. But Alief goes much further back than my teenage years in the 1980s. It began its existence in 1861, when an area 15 miles to the southwest of Houston was developed by a succession of people, including the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway who built a rail line through the area.

In 1893, a man named Francis Meston bought 1,250 acres of land with the intent to develop a community within it. The following year, Harris County recognized the area and it was surveyed, and the new town was named "Dairy." A doctor named John Magee and his wife Alief Ozelda Magee were the town's first residents, with Alief. Magee acting as the settlement's first postmistress. When she successfully founded Dairy's first post office out of her own home in 1895, the postal service referred to her office as "Alief", a pragmatic honor using her first name to avoid confusion with "Dairy" being mistaken for Daisy, another Texas town.

The town remained small, and got even smaller after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 destroyed its corn and cotton crops, which forced 24 of the 30 families living in the area to relocate elsewhere. Alief's tendency to serious flooding led to a couple of important developments. Rice replaced other crops in the area, and became a quick success, luring people back to the town, including early German immigrants. Members of the community also responded to the area's flooding issues by founding the Harris County Flood Control District in 1909. In 1917, the name of Alief had edged out the original name of Dairy, and the town was officially renamed. Alief continued to prosper, inspiring the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway to establish a depot there, with commercial development growing around it.

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10 Best Action Figures Based on Houstonians

Ardfern via Wikipedia
I'm an action figure collector from way back in the day. One wall of my room was totally dedicated to various mint-in-box plastic heroes and villains hung from pushpins. It's not the sort of thing I have the cash for these days, but I recently found out that if you wanted to celebrate Houston purely based on the action figures of some of our residents you can totally do so!

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