Domo arigato, Peter Kokis — for showing us these costumes just when we needed you!
The life-long Midwood resident has become Brooklyn’s very own Mr. Roboto by crafting extraordinary Transformer costumes out of ordinary household objects and performing in character across the borough.
Kokis found his calling as a robot craftsman and launched Brooklyn Robotworks after serving as an Army pilot and wrapping up an 18-year corporate career as a security director at a Manhattan luxury hotel — and he says building armored exoskeletons is his true passion
“I’ve done all the macho, tough guy grown-up stuff and right now in this period of my life I’m having some fun as an artist,” said the buff 50-year-old, sci-fi fanatic, who has made his living for the past year and a half performing in the homemade getups.
He builds replicas of eminent robots including Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and the Terminator out of hundreds of everyday items, spending as long as 13 months gathering supplies such as toothbrush holders, shoehorns, toilet seats, soap dishes, juicers, egg slicers, contact lens cases, and even dog bowls — but you can only tell if you get up real close and personal.
“I look for the visual complexity in every day items. I’m able to see the potential for something to portray something else,” said Kokis,
He spends as long as 600 hours building a single suit, but his favorite part is putting on the mask.
“I have the real fun by bringing the characters to life,” said Kokis.
His artistic awakening began at Coney Island’s famed Mermaid Parade in 2007, when he strode down Surf Avenue dressed as a creature he dubbed “squid boy” — decked out in red sweatpants with foam pool noodles for tentacles. The next year, after “Transformers” hit the box office, Kokis returned to the People’s Playground dressed as a hybrid of “squid boy” and robot-in-disguise Optimus Prime robot.
In 2010, he made his first true Optimus Prime replica and in the years since, his costumes have only grown more intricate, more detailed, and more shocking to passersby.
“Where ever I go I become the focus or center of attention because I present such an unusual thing to people,” he said. “People’s reactions range from the funny to the startling to the scary to the down right bizarre at times.”
He dons his five suits — each adorned with a novelty “Brooklyn” license plate — for private parties and geeky galas, such as New York Comic Con, which draws top “cosplayers” from around the world.
Kokis takes his craft seriously: he trains for 15 hours every week so he can perform in his robot costumes, which weigh up to a staggering 164 pounds.
And once he dons the suit, he never breaks character.
“Every time I perform and am in costume it is the equivalent of running a marathon, while carrying someone on my back who has their hands over my mouth, nose and eyes,” said Kokis, who loses between two and four pounds in water weight from stomping around in his mechanical manner.
Kokis spends up to 90 minutes putting on his costumes, tightening more than 70 Velcro straps around his body to hold it all in place.
It’s such a pain that he stops eating and drinking 15 to 18 hours before performances, lessening the risk of nature’s call.
Once he’s in costume, he can barely breathe, he can’t use the bathroom, he’s on the brink of dehydration, and he his looks alone make people scream.
But Kokis loves every minute of it.
“Underneath my helmet I have the biggest smile of all,” said Kokis. “I’m never stopping. I’m going to continue to build characters and entertain people. This adventure will not end.”