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Jay Maynard, better known as Tron Guy, is an American computer programmer who became internet famous for his homemade electroluminescent costume inspired by the 1982 sci-fi film Tron. Maynard first became a subject of online discussions in April 2004 after uploading pictures of his costume to his personal website, which quickly spread across tech news sites and humor forums like Slashdot and FARK. Since his rise to stardom as a nerd icon, Maynard has appeared on the late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live and remains a regular attendant in many tech-related conference circuits, particularly in advocacy of network neutrality.
The Tron suit was built by Jay Maynard from scratch for the annual Michigan sci-fi and fantasy convention Penguicon in 2004, where he won an award for best workmanship. The photographs of his DIY suit were originally posted on his now-defunct website, where he detailed his suit-making process. He submitted these photos to tech news site Slashdot on April 18th, 2004, apparently inspired by another “Make Your Own TRON Costume” thread posted on Slashdot two weeks prior:
“When this story on making your own TRON costume was posted two weeks ago, I was deep into making my own for the masquerade at Penguicon 2.0. Its debut at the Masquerade won the Workmanship award. I kept notes and took pictures as I was going along, and the page that resulted is now available for your viewing enjoyment. No, I didn’t spend any time with straws up my nose while making it, either. I think the results were quite good, and so has everyone who’s said anything to me about it here at the con.”
The Slashdot post accrued more than 300 archived comments, and the buzz quickly spread across other forums and internet culture blogs including FARK, BoingBoing CG Forums, Team Xbox, AnandTech and Forever Geek in April 2004. In early May of that year, Maynard made his first mainstream media debut on late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live.
In 2006, Maynard guest-starred in a music video entitled “We Are The Web,” along with several other internet celebrities like viral video star Leslie Hall and Peter Pan cosplayer Randy Constan to advocate the concept of network neutrality:
South Park Parody
On April 2nd, 2008, Maynard was parodied in South Park’s fourth episode of Season 12 titled “Canada on Strike,” along with other characters resembling internet celebrities including Gary Brolsma (Numa Numa Guy), Star Wars Kid, Chris Crocker and Tay Zonday:
Tosh.0 Web Redemption
On October 8th, 2009, Maynard was a special guest on comedian Daniel Tosh’s television show Tosh.0 in a Web Redemption segment where he spoke about his experience with internet fame.
In December 2010, Disney released the sequel film titled Tron: Legacy, revamped in 3D feature and soundtrack composed by Daft Punk. Maynard, who had played a significant role in revitalizing the public interest in the 1982 sci-fi film, published a review of the film in Wired magazine, mostly criticizing Disney’s lack of engagement with the original film’s fans like himself.
Disney’s marketing machine has pulled out all the stops for Tron: Legacy. I believe this one will escape being thought of as an expensive flop, the way the first one was. It deserves to. It’s enough to make me really, really disappointed Disney didn’t ask me to have anything to do with the sequel’s production or marketing.
There’s already talk of a third Tron movie. Disney, could you throw me a bone for being in some part responsible for awakening the franchise from the dead in the minds of the public? Please? Maybe an official Tron: Legacy costume of my very own so people who ask me to make appearances get the new film in their heads. That would give fans a much more direct connection to the movie.
In addition, TMZ reported that Maynard was barred from seeing the film at his local movie theater when he insisted on wearing his iconic suit during attendance.
Duct Tape Commercial
On August 3rd, 2011, the Duck Brand adhesive tape manufacturer released a commercial for their line of duct tape. The video shows multi-colored duct tape rolls mimicking Tron bikes before it is revealed that it is all taking place in Jay Maynard’s imagination. It was first blogged about by Topless Robot on August 22nd, and was subsequently reblogged by The Daily What.
America’s Got Talent
In June 2011, Maynard auditioned for the American reality competition series America’s Got Talent, where he spoke about being an internet meme. The judges criticized him harshly and he was subsquently booed off the stage.
FARK Forum – Tron Guy to make second Jimmy Kimmel Live appearance tonight / Posted on 5-14-2004
Wired – Tron Guy Reviews Tron: Legacy, Says Sequel Almost Drove Him to Tears / Posted on 12-16-2010