The UKCM: Who are they and why don’t they take this seriously?
You may have seen them around the convention hall, full of guns, armour and a sense of bad-assery. The UKCM are a different sort of costuming group and I’m a proud member.
Formed back in 2006 the UKCM (or United Kingdom Colonial Marines if you prefer) is a costuming group focusing on the Aliens universe with members creating props and costumes from all the Alien movies and beyond.
My first encounter with the UKCM was at the 2009 May MCM expo. I had brought tickets for my other half’s birthday and as we were walking around the crowds (which were much smaller back then) a troop of heavily armored marines appeared, M41As slung over their arms as they followed a towering Xenomorph around, posing for photos as they went. Now at this point I had never thought about costuming on this level, hell I had never even heard the word cosplay! But this group interested me. Very quickly I got their forum details and was signed up. Originally I was only using the forum as a place to get inspiration for a paintball project I was creating, trying to build Sci-fi inspired paintball markers like the M41A Pulse rifle or the Lance from Gears of War. After a short while I realized what an easy going and fun group they were and made the decision to start costuming. At first I was worried, thinking I wouldn’t be able to join in due to lack of funds and ability. Once I realized that all that mattered was having fun things got a lot easier! My first costume was taken straight out of the Colonial Marines Tech Manual, an extended universe book describing all the other tech and weapons the Colonial Marine Corps would have available to it.
I set my eyes on becoming a P.I.G gunner (Phased Infantry Gun) and created a costume from scratch using cardboard, a metal computer table frame, a poster tube, a metric ton of fiberglass and some army surplus knock offs. for a first attempt I don’t think it looked to bad. When I arrived at my first drop and saw the marines (in the bar…) you know what they did? Welcomed me in, offered me a drink and congratulated me on my costume. There was no awkwardness of “Oh he’s the new guy” or expectancy of me to have to win their trust, as easy as that I was in.
The UKCM has always been based on two simple ideas, No Elitism and No Clearance. Everyone is equal in whatever form of costume they have, be it a full set of armor made by Terry English himself (who made the original armor for Aliens) or a simple jump suit with a Weyland Yutani patch on it the UKCM don’t mind. As long as you get involved you’re welcome at any event. Now When the group plans an event (or a drop as they are known) there is no automatic list of marines who will get free tickets. Every one who wants to come puts their name down; if we are lucky enough to get free tickets they are on a first come first serve basis. Some may say that’s unorganised but it works. There’s no arguing or thoughts of “they only got in because hes so-and-so’s friend*, we are all equal.
A few years ago we did have one event that blew most of my costuming experiences out of the water. I’m sure you’re all aware of the Aliens: Colonial Marines video game that was released a few years ago. Well the UKCM were invited to the previous years MCM by Gearbox and Sega to help advertise the game. We were on site all weekend and go to play with the Gearbox developers on the multiplayer demo of Colonial Marine. The biggest thanks came when a few months later we were told as a thank you a number of those who helped on the day would get put into the game as named characters! Personally I appear at the beginning of Level 9 “Hope in Hadley’s”; just keep an eye out once you’re back inside the building for a marine named Hohenkerk. Not only that but our logo, the UKCM delta, would be used as one of the armor unlocks in the multiplayer!
Now being a “Military” themed group the idea of rank does come into play. People can costume as whatever rank they like although good taste is advised. Personally I turned up to my first event with a Gunnery Sargent patch on my flak vest and I got a few giggles. On the forum and throughout the squads there are mock ranks given to people based on achievement and time of service. When I say achievement I don’t mean number of events attended, I’m talking stupid things completed whilst drunk! Personally I’m a Corporal, technically I’m a Corporal-Chaplain as so far I’ve married people at two separate events. Not in any serious tones I will have you know I just enjoy joining two drunk people into Colonial matrimony when armed with a beer. At LFCC I was asked to give a sermon on the Sunday morning. I believe I could manage “Drink more beer”, it got a rousing cheer.
In my opinion one of the main things that enticed me to costume with the UKCM is the fact there are no “clearance” procedures to go though. With a lot of groups you would only be aloud to join them at a convention once your costume has passed a certain level of professionalism and realism to the screen used item. I respect this as a line of costuming but for a hobby that I do in my free time I would rather spend that time enjoying myself, not wondering if the blue paint I’ve used to detail my armor is the right shade. All the Marines in Aliens personalized their own armor and the UKCM take that thought process to their costumes. There is noting stopping you creating a screen accurate set of Hick’s armor and most of the forum will point you in the right direction but I enjoy creating my own graffiti. Personally I don’t look like any of the characters from Aliens so I chose to create my own Marine. My chest armor has a pin up girl on it designed by my wife, my shoulder bells have my wedding date and a “drop count” on them, I even have a quote from Red Dwarf on my back and you know what? That’s fine! If anything it makes people more interested in what we do!
At conventions the UKCM will often hold a prop table where members will display and give a “hands on” approach to items inspired from the film, letting people handle props and items as to better understand how they would theoretically work and how they were actually put together. That, and who doesn’t want to pose with a big Xenomorph whilst holding a motion tracker?
In essence the UKCM aren’t just a costuming group. Its a huge multinational group of friends who are there for each other no matter what happens and also like to dress up in their free time. Like all groups we have had down times and problems but these are far outdone by the good times. We had one of our original members emigrate to the USA recently to marry his now wife and become an American citizen. His wedding was attended by members of the UKCM both in person and via the internet and although he has just become an American citizen we still class him as one of our own. He leads our Foreign Legion, The Deviant Dragoons….
They may not be the most professional bunch of costumers out there and may seem like a disorganised ramble to every one else but that’s only because they are. At events I’ve never seen a group have as much fun in a relaxed atmosphere whilst still presenting themselves as an open and inviting group to the public and I’m proud to be a member!
Corporal Christoper Hohenkerk, Chaplain, 69th Reg. 1st Batt. Homers Heros.
All Costume images are copyright of Christoper Hohenkerk.
All videogame images are copyright of Gearbox.