I Think It Is Coming Along Nicely

There is less than one week until Motor City Comic Con so it is time to get up off my butt and finish my costume for Saturday. Fortunately, I have been doing just this. It has been a while since I did an update on how that it going.

I think that we are close enough to MCCC that I can reveal that I am working on a costume for Saturday. I have mentioned the
Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers' usual modus operandi when it comes Comic Con. The costume I have chosen to take on is the incarnation of Death from the movie Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. If you are unfamiliar with the character, take a moment to look up some images on-line. Don't worry. I will wait right here for you to come back. Seriously, go ahead.

All better now that your curiosity has been sated? Good. Now you have a slight idea of what I am working towards. There will be a whole slew of pictures up on my page on the
Zuckerberg Experiment when everything is all done. If you want to flip back and forth between the pictures and the descriptions here, feel free.

I mentioned earlier my basic frame work, PVC pipe, elbow joints, and the tactical jacket from a previous costume. I recently realized that although that particular plan was nice and tall, it didn't really have the right proportions. I would either have to figure out a way to put the wings in place with very little support or have the head way above the shoulders. In fact, the head would have been ridiculously far from the shoulders, like giraffe high.

Out came the hack saw. I have lowered the front piece quite a bit. While playing around with this, I started adding bits, originally as a possible method for attaching the face. I'll come back to that in a moment. What I did do was inadvertently find a way to make the entire rig just a wee bit more stable. I tried to replicate the process in the back. I haven't quite gotten it down right, but I think that a little measuring and cutting (rather than just going with the small cast off pieces that I already had) and it will be perfect. I think I also figured out a way to attach the wings as well.

The face has been an ongoing concern since I started the project. Since I am creating a figure which will be quite a bit taller than I am, I had to figure out a way to create a head. Normally I would just use my own head. I've worn some rather odd mixtures of latex and make-up before. This time that simply was not an option. The other problem arises when one looks at the character itself. The head is, well, pretty different looking.

I had originally intended to fabricate something out of styrofoam. This went through a number of possible permutations. The first was a cube of styrofoam (or a number of sheets of styrofoam glued together to make a cube) which would then be carved down to the shape of the head. This was abandoned for just carving the face from one sheet of styrofoam and adhering it to a styrofoam head (wig stand). I had some doubts about how secure this would end up being. I would lose a lot of face of half way through the day I, well, lost face. This was also the point where I realized something interesting.

While some of the sketches and models I was looking at on-line went into the details of the head very closely, there is no real shot of anything but the face in the movie.
1 I could probably get away without fabricating the head at all.

Which is exactly what I decided to do.

I had already made a life sized drawing of the face by projecting a still onto a screen covered with paper.
2 I used this template to carve the shape of the face on to the lid of a styrofoam cooler.3 The lid wasn't quite perfect and I had to do a little whittling and then glue a little extra on (not because I had whittled too much off). Then I spent an afternoon carving out the various cracks, crevices, and depressions. Today I worked on getting the color correct. I first applied a thin layer of brownish spray paint, then covered it with a tan. I am very pleased with the results. It is almost the perfect weathered sandy color I was going for.4 All I have left to do with that is highlight some of the darker areas with a paint pen.

I also worked on the arms today. The arms will hang from the shoulder area via a C clamp device on the body which attaches to a pair of eye hooks I screwed into the arms. The arms themselves are PVC pipe covered with insulation. I wrapped tape around the insulation to keep it from slipping. A pair of rubber gloves, the kind you use when washing dishes, will be the hands. I inverted them, filled them with foaming insulation, and slipped the arms in. When I checked on them later some of the insulation had leaked out of one of the hands, leaving it pretty limp looking. I think I fixed that problem. Hopefully when I check tomorrow I will have two hands filled with concrete hard foam attached to the arms.

The next big things I have to work on are the body and the wings. The body will be, I hope, fairly easy. I have a lot of black fabric for Death's robes. I just need to measure out the correct height and drape these so the cover everything. Rather than make a chest piece,
5 I am going to cover the front with a tan fabric with a fairly loose weave. Over this I will place the ribs seen in the picture made of a second, darker sand colored fabric. If this goes as planned I will be able to see out of the fabric but the shadows of the suit itself will prevent others from seeing me.

I also have to fabricate a hood. I want this to be a separate piece. I plan to place sticky velcro on the back of the face and attach it to the front of the hood. A head like shape will be held by a few thin wires inside the hood. Instead of a large ball of something over my head, there will just be empty air which I hope will keep the whole rig from being too warm. The back of the hood needs to drape down long enough that it will cover where the wings attach to the body.

The wings themselves will be another removable piece. I have some pool noodles that were part of a previous costume. I am going to use these to make the shape of the wings which will be fabric covered by feathers. The eyes will be styrofoam balls cut in half.

I think the bulk of the fabrication is done. Now there is a lot of fabric work, which means sewing, not necessarily my strong suit. I have already enlisted my beautiful and talented wife to help me with this part.

See, I am clever.

1 To be fair, Death does not have a whole lot of screen time.

2 I knew there was a reason I had held on to that ancient fan-fold computer paper for so long.

3 I've been ordering from
Omaha Steaks lately. The cooler lid was almost the perfect size.

4 I tested the paints on a scrap piece of styrofoam first. I learned that the paint had to be applied quickly and lightly. Any area which received a good soaking started to deteriorate.

5 Currently a little out of my skill set.