New Year – New Cosplay – Why I made an Ace Frehley Costume

Why did Bronx author James Hannon make a cosplay of KISS member and famous Ducky Boy Ace Frehley, when he wasn’t a fan of KISS? Read on…

In case you didn’t know, I premiered a new cosplay on New Years Day 2019. This new one was Ace Frehley the Spaceman from the original lineup of KISS – or at least it was supposed to be. After all was said and done, I looked more like Tommy Thayer who is the current KISS guitarist who is wearing the Spaceman makeup. But more on that later.

So, this was a big surprise to my friends who know me and know that I was never really a big KISS fan. Sure I knew their music and gimmick and it wasn’t bad. My sister owned the KISS Alive II LP until I stole it from her. And I also bought the KISS Platinum 8-track tape (still have both of them).

But the real reason I did not want to be a fan is that when I was a kid, the biggest KISS fan in my circle of acquaintances was a pariah in the neighborhood because he was the “smelly kid”. Its not that he was unclean, but whatever detergent his mom used had a horrible stench that was just unbearable to be around. I realize that isn’t PC in today’s world, but this was the 1970s and most in my group hadn’t even turned 13 yet. The bottom line is that we didn’t want to be associated with him – and liking KISS was a sure fire way to do that. So KISS fandom was always downplayed.

When I got to senior year of college in 1989, I got into Ace Frehley a little bit. He was out of KISS for a while by this time and performing solo. Gordon G. G. Gebert was a friend of a friend of mine, and Gordon was good friends with Ace at the time. I was part of a software sharing group and Ace was looking for a particular piece of software which I had. So I shared it with Gordon to give to Ace, hoping to meet the big man eventually. But it never happened as Ace and Gordon had a big falling out shortly after. But I did learn more about Ace’s music during the time. And realized it was ok to like Ace’s music again since the smelly kid was long out of the picture.

Flash-forward to 2005, and I was starting to do research into a documentary I was planning on the real life gangs of the Wanderers movie. This video project would eventually become my book Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang. In my initial round of research, I found out that Ace Frehley grew up a couple of blocks away from me (Marion Avenue and 201st Street in the Bronx), and was a member of the infamous Ducky Boys. After all this, I figured Ace Frehley was destined to be a factor in my life “somehow”.

I reached out to his manager, and I had about an hour-long phone conversation with Ace one day. I told him about my project, and what I found in my research about where his old friends in the Ducky Boys ended up. At the end of the call, I asked him if I could film a short interview with him for the documentary, but he shut me down hard asking for a $10,000 appearance fee – which was way more than I could afford, so we parted ways.

When my documentary eventually turned into the book, some doors were opened for me. I received permission from Gordon Gebert to use a section of his KISS AND TELL book where Ace’s buddy Bobby McAdams talked about Ace’s involvement in the Ducky Boys. It wasn’t the optimal choice, but I had no choice but to cover Ace’s involvement. For months after going public with my project, I was getting dozens of emails a week from people telling me that Ace Frehley was a Ducky Boy. I still get occasional emails from people telling me this – LIKE I DON’T buy xanax uk ALREADY KNOW BY NOW! LOL

James and Jeff Hornlien meeting a un-enthusiastic Ace Frehley in 2008

In late 2008, shortly before the Lost Boys of the Bronx was released, I finally got to meet Ace at a local Chiller convention. I was even wearing a Ducky Boys shirt which one of his friends/handlers LOVED, but Ace didn’t even seem to recognize it or remember the conversation we had. Supposedly this was during his sober days, but he really seemed out of it. Not just to me, but everyone in the line. All he did was grunt and put his thumb up when taking the picture with me and my friend Jeff Hornlien. I was bummed for me, but even more so for Jeff (and all the other people there) who grew up idolizing this guy. Jeff is an extremely talented guitarist who learned to play because he was inspired by Ace and KISS. It was sad.

Figuring the Ace connection was completely dead at this point, I moved on and did other stuff – like write the book Anatomy of a Cosplayer: Tales from Behind the Mask. I met a lot of other cosplayers in my travels, and this one particular Batman costumer named Ed Universo lived in my town, and we became good friends. At one convention, he showed up in a full Gene Simmons Demon costume – and it was amazing. He asked if Jeff and I were willing to do a Halloween appearance with him in his personal KISS costumes. We couldn’t make Halloween but the thought was planted in my head.

And not just my head…. Jeff Hornlien completely wanted to costume as Paul Stanley at a convention… And he wouldn’t let it go. He kept bugging me so I had to do “something” to shut him up.

The big objection for me was “Dude, theres no way I’ll be able to walk in those heels!” Well Ed, brought over his personal Ace boots for me to walk around in, and you know what? They weren’t that hard to walk in! And I kinda liked being 6-7 inches taller…. So I started thinking about it more and more…

And then Ed sent me a link to someone selling an Ace Frehley Destroyer era costume. And well that was all I needed to know. The die was cast and my fate as the Spaceman was sealed!

While waiting for the costume to arrive, I attempted the Ace Frehley makeup. I got the specifics from a YouTube video, and gave it a shot.

First attempt at Ace Frehley makeup

And it didn’t come out too bad. Sure, there were some issues, but I spoke to Ed and he suggested different makeup to try for next time.

Which leads us to New Years Day 2019. With the new costume in hand, and the right makeup, I decided that I couldn’t wait for the next convention to premiere this costume and posted on social media….

So far the response has been great. I realized that I don’t look that much like Ace Frehley with my facial structure, but I can definitely see a strong resemblance to Tommy Thayer – so making lemonade out of lemons, we’re going with that!

Now for the second part of my plan…. Not going to give it away here, but there will be others involved…. And all I can say is you shouldn’t have let me start this mission…. There is only one way to finish it…

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James Hannon, Jeff Hornlien, Jackie Hannon and Ed Universo
James Hannon, Jeff Hornlien, Jackie Hannon and Ed Universo
James Hannon as Kiss Spaceman and Bronx Ducky Boys member Ace Frehley on New Years Day 2019
Cosplay Culture Magazine Dec/Jan 2019

Published Article on Charity Cosplay in Cosplay Culture magazine Dec/Jan 2019 issue

Cosplay Culture Magazine Dec/Jan 2019

James Hannon’s article Cosplay with a Heart for Cosplay Culture magazine (Dec/Jan 2019 issue) has hit newstands!

The articles focuses on charity cosplay and how cosplayers can give something back to their communities while having fun in costume – and how to get started in it.

Cosplay Culture magazine can be found at Barnes and Noble, ShopRite, CVS, Walmart, and crafting stores like Joanne’s Fabrics, Michael’s and AC Moore.


Published Article on Charity Cosplay in Cosplay Culture magazine Dec/Jan 2019 issue

Cosplay Culture Magazine Dec/Jan 2019

James Hannon’s article Cosplay with a Heart for Cosplay Culture magazine (Dec/Jan 2019 issue) has hit newstands!

The articles focuses on charity cosplay and how cosplayers can give something back to their communities while having fun in costume – and how to get started in it.

Cosplay Culture magazine can be found at Barnes and Noble, ShopRite, CVS, Walmart, and crafting stores like Joanne’s Fabrics, Michael’s and AC Moore.

Anatomy of a Cosplayer reviewed by Kirkus Reviews!


Tales from Behind the Mask
by James Hannon


A cosplayer explores the phenomenon that has him portraying a galactic Stormtrooper and other characters.

Comic book conventions these days feature parades of grown men and women dressed up as action heroes and other characters, proudly posing for photographs and reveling in the rising popularity of costume play, or cosplay. The global market for cosplay costumes, which reached $11.7 billion in 2014, is forecast to grow to $23.6 billion by next year. In this book, Hannon (Lost Boys of the Bronx, 2010), an avid cosplayer, shares his experiences and examines this intriguing trend. The author’s own fascination with cosplay began with attending a Star Wars exhibition, which resulted in him putting together a Stormtrooper costume and joining the 501st Legion, a pioneering “costuming community,” whose membership has roughly tripled since 2008 to more than 12,000. He “struggled with shyness” but after his first event, or “troop,” with the Legion—a Halloween parade—he came out of his shell. He added other characters to his repertoire, co-founded the Legion of SuperVillains, and enjoyed the camaraderie of other cosplayers. “Forget about the TV show Cheers, conventions are truly the place where everyone knows your name,” he writes. The book also deftly spotlights some of Hannon’s costume-loving friends, many of whom found in cosplaying a way to express their inner geeks or “live out a childhood fantasy.” “You can relive your childhood, but also bring joy to the next generation, as little kids love this kind of thing,” says one, while another asserts, “Let’s be honest, it’s so we can play pretend.” But the author’s use of an oral history format often produces dreary reading and his account fails to offer the depth that would make it compelling to non-cosplayers. He mentions, for example, that he has seen the breakups of costumed couples firsthand, but rather than examine how cosplaying might contribute to marital tensions, he refrains from getting into specifics. Ultimately, he fails to bring as much color to the participants as they do to the characters they inhabit. Still, Hannon provides a lively insider’s view of cosplaying, delivering some vivid details. For example, the crowds at conventions have become “absolutely horrible,” but—very much on the plus side—the 501st Legion raised $889,000 for charity in 2017.

An account provides rich insights into the psychology of cosplayers but lacks the depth that would attract a wide audience.

Pub Date: June 30th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5462-4712-8
Page count: 412pp
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: Aug. 31st, 2018

Anatomy of a Cosplayer makes front page of the Courier News/Home News Tribune!

Woke up to find out that the Courier News newspaper put the official release party for Anatomy of a Cosplayer: Tales from Behind the Mask on the front page of its daily newspaper. I knew there would be an article, but I had no idea it would be on the front page, and very detailed with pictures!

It is a great article by a very talented journalist by the name of Alexander Lewis, who actually came out to the party and updated the online version with pictures from the event.

The entire article with photo updates can be accessed (for free) at:

Cosplay: James Hannon’s new book explores this worldwide phenomenon

Alexander Lewis, Editorial Intern Published 6:00 a.m. ET Aug. 1, 2018 | Updated 12:04 p.m. ET Aug. 6, 2018

Press Release: James Hannon releases book Anatomy of a Cosplayer: Tales from Behind the Mask with Charity Cosplay Event

James Hannon releases book Anatomy of a Cosplayer: Tales from Behind the Mask with Charity Cosplay Event

Cosplayers to come to Scotch Plains comic shop to celebrate release of cosplay book Anatomy of a Cosplayer and raise money for Make A Wish Foundation of New Jersey charity.

On August 4th, 2018 at 6pm, cosplayers from the NY/NJ/PA area will converge at Little Shop of Comics in Scotch Plains, NJ to celebrate the release of James Hannon’s new book, Anatomy of a Cosplayer: Tales from Behind the Mask. and to raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation of New Jersey. DJ Batman aka the DJL Show will be leaving the Bat-Cave and spinning Bat-Tunes all evening.

Hannon explains the book, “Regular people from all walks of life put on costumes and go out in public, and it’s not just for Halloween. Some do it for the love of a character, some do it for friendships and camaraderie, while others want to help charity events out or get their fifteen minutes of fame – or a combination of all these. Anatomy of a Cosplayer tells you everything you could possibly want to know about cosplaying but didn’t know to ask. A cross-section of 60 world-wide cosplayers with various experience levels will cover topics such as how they got into cosplaying, how they made their costumes, the pros and cons of costuming groups, how family, friends and co-workers react, their best (and worst) experiences, and the future of cosplay.”

Author James Hannon is particularly suited to be a behind-the-scenes guide as he has been a costumer for the last decade, and is friends with the original pioneers of costuming, up-and-coming stars, and everyone in-between. Hannon has spent the last 7 years interviewing them on all the various aspects of cosplay. He still bears scars from “Costuming” or “Cosplay” wars.

Entrance to the book release party is free, and signed and personalized copies of Anatomy of a Cosplayer will be available for sale. Mr. Hannon’s previous book and documentary will also be available as gifts for donating to the Make A Wish Foundation of New Jersey.

Costumes are encouraged, but not mandatory. Doors open at 6pm and will run until at least 8pm. Little Shop of Comics is located at 387 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076

Anatomy of a Cosplayer is available at Little Shop of Comics in Scotch Plains, NJ, and on most online booksellers such as AuthorHouse, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. It is also available in eBook, Kindle and Nook format.

For more information on James Hannon or Anatomy of a Cosplayer: Tales from Behind the Mask, please visit or For media inquiries, contact the author at

Anatomy of a Cosplayer: Tales From Behind the Mask
By James Hannon
Published by AuthorHouse, Jun, 2018
412 pages

6×9 Paperback (ISBN: 978-1-5462-4713-5)
6×9 Hardcover (ISBN: 978-1-5462-4712-8)
Kindle/eBook (ASIN: B07FDBSCYM)

About the Author
Growing up in the Bronx during the 70s, author James Hannon never imagined he’d be spending almost a decade of his “adult” life dressed up in costume, but sometimes life takes unexpected detours that somehow includes spandex and plastic armor. Mr. Hannon has portrayed Stormtroopers, TIE Pilots, Gorilla Soldiers, Cylons, SuperVillains, and a professional-wrestler-turned-governor, and has personally seen this hobby explode from a small group of friends to the current worldwide pop-culture phenomenon.

Mr. Hannon is also the author of 2010 book Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang, and is the filmmaker behind the 2004 documentary Out of Our Dens: The Richard and the Young Lions Story.

He currently resides in New Jersey with his wife Jackie who thankfully also costumes, and his cat Buster, who just isn’t surprised at anything that goes on at the Hannon house anymore.

#cosplay #costume #cosplayer #comics #popculture #scotchplains #bookrelease

James Hannon, Winner 2014 Cosplayer of the Year at


I sent out a single tweet declaring JAMES HANNON my favorite cosplayer of the year but that didn’t feel like enough. He’s too amazing for a single tweet! Here are some James facts that you should know:

He’s the PR liaison for the 501st NER which is the garrison that covers New Jersey. The 501st is the volunteer costume group of STAR WARS fans that have strict guidelines about the quality and accuracy of their costumes. They do a ton of charity work including helping me and the group out every year at Comic Fusion’s Superhero Weekend. Plus he formed a DC super villains group if you want to ask him about that!

James is also a published author, screenwriter and director. He took his premise for a documentary about the Ducky Boys gang of the Bronx and turned his work into a book. He does signings on a fairly regular basis and is always happy to talk about the Ducky Boys and other NY gangs.

There were a time I was able to get James on the air for Vodka O’Clock. He and several other volunteer cosplayers and artists were interviewed at this year’s Superhero Weekend at Comic Fusion.

James also shares his writing and game designing talents right here at AmberUnmasked. He went to GenCon and blogged all about his experiences there. He’s taken his game design for Chopper to conventions like Dreamation.

Year after year, people who enjoy the hobby of dressing up in costume causes more drama. It’s that drama which has made plenty of us back out and all but give up because the fun got sucked out of something we loved. Cosplay is not about being a sexy girl on television despite what this year has turned it into. There are people of all ages, all genders, all classes that get into it for their own reasons. James is a stellar example of the patience and kindness that a great cosplayer should have. Don’t let the drama and cameras dictate your fandom or how you choose to participate in a subculture that is now mainstream.