Pumpkin carving is easily the most popular or most practiced tradition for Halloween in my opinion. At least it is for my family and throughout my lifetime. The aroma of the fresh pumpkin after cutting into one and pulling out the pulp and seeds always brings me back to exciting memories of Fall and Halloween growing up. My mother would wash and bake the seeds to be snacked on while we carved our classic jack-o-lantern designs, to then be placed outside on our front porch for the spooky season. I grew up in northern Ohio so the cool weather allowed for early October decoration with the pumpkin art to last all month. Now that I live in Florida, carving a pumpkin has to happen nearest to the October 31st date to ensure that the pumpkin will not rot in the heat. They also need to be kept inside the air conditioning until just before Trick or Treating happens and then the jack-0-lanterns can come out to greet the eager candy hunters.
The Progression of My Pumpkin Designs
I’ve only just recently documented the last several years of my pumpkin carving, but I felt there is just enough to fill a post here for the Halloween Traditions page.
As much fun as I have doing them and as important as I felt the design would be, I would begin researching ideas starting in August. Some of the designs ended up being what my daughter wanted it to be as a little girl.
So here is a gallery collection of past Jack-O-Lanterns for Halloween:
3D Pumpkin Carving
I was always impressed with the 3D pumpkin carvings/sculptures and since I’ve done many clay and foam sculptures in the past, it was only natural that I would attempt one of my own. So this year I was ambitious enough to try my first 3D pumpkin carving for Halloween. I chose the classic skull design and thought it would be neat to make a time lapse video of the progression. My daughter had fun editing the video with spooky music and the 70’s style film filter. (see video below)
First here is a picture gallery of the steps taken to achieve the skull coming out of the pumpkin:
Here’s a fun post I wanted to do on why I love cosplay which will be tough to limit to just ten points. Yeah, I’ll probably reveal much more, but I’m still calling it a “Top Ten” to go along with the other Top Ten posts in the group. Another challenge to this post will be ranking the reasons from 10 down to 1. I think from 10 to 3 can almost be in any order, but I know the last two ranks will reveal just how important cosplay is to me. So here we go…
If you have the desire, and are motivated to do a good high quality cosplay of a character you love, my advise is to go for it. You’ll be one of the many “Cool Cats” at a Con and be the life at any party that calls for it. You’ll also have some great conversation topics as you show off pics of your last adventure. You’re Facebook and Instagram profile will never be the same again.
#9 A Great Way To Stay In Shape
Damaris Degen from Mystiques World of Cosplay pumping iron
Nothing is more motivating to get in shape better than to be ready for cosplaying a particular character you’re about to portray at an upcoming convention or event. Forget beach season, Con season can be an all year anticipation. Dieting is a must, but toning the body through working out becomes paramount to give your character the look and confidence needed.
#8 As A Trained Makeup Artist And Prop Maker It’s Only Natural
Painting Viper Helmet for a Battlestar Galactica Cosplay
It was only a matter of time after I learned techniques in makeup and prop making that I would translate it all into tangible costuming for myself. It started as me just doing it for others as primarily a cosmaker for profit, but saw all the fun everyone else was having that it soon evolved into a hobby for myself.
#7 As An Introvert, I Can Break Out of My Lonely Shell
Lindy Rose (Ciri), Vincent Vix (Geralt) from the Witcher and Me (Viper Pilot) at MegaCon 2018
It’s a lot easier to approach someone at a Con when you’re in a good costume…at least that’s my confidence booster since anyone who knows me would tell you how quiet and reserved I usually am. It may have something to do with “hiding behind a mask” or that I’m already connecting to those with the same passion or interest in cosplay that breaks the ice. Either way, I’m busting out of my comfort zone and meeting some terrific people along the way.
#6 Good For Self Esteem
Viper Pilot photo shoot; photo by Brilan Imagery
This can go either way, and does in my case somewhat…I have to be comfortable with myself enough to reveal the side of me that isn’t afraid to put myself out there in costume and be takin’ seriously; or is it maybe I’m not happy with myself that I want to be somebody else and hide who I really am…? This is a riddle only I can solve, or if you get to know me you can help me figure it out…lol.
#5 Best way To Show Excitement For The Fandom Culture
Great Justice League photo from DragonCon 2017
I love it all! Comics, manga, anime, film, television and video games (of course, if you ask me which is my favorite game it will reveal my age…hehe). So by putting a lot of time, effort and funds behind a project will tell you just how much I truly love this stuff. Getting into character in a good cosplay takes it that much further than just having all of something in a collection. However, I do confess being a cosplayer does not monopolize me being a bigger fan at something than anybody else. Some people just aren’t cut out or willing to even think about cosplay even for Halloween, which is perfectly fine. If everyone was a cosplayer, it would take away the awe and mystique behind it.
#4 I Get to Feel or Get That Much Closer To The Industry
Leah Cairns and I after she signed my Cylon Bust from MegaCon 2008
It all started when I moved to Florida to attend makeup school and try to become the next Hollywood sensation in SPFX; not so easy as I dreamed it to be. It seamed everyone I met had the same idea and my plans shifted to set and prop making for the several theme parks in Orlando. I tap into that old dream each time I get all masqueraded up with the next character I want to portray at a Con and see several celebrities during autograph sessions for us fans. Depending on how good the cosplay is I get treated a lot kinder than I should by those same fans saying how close, good, or how I was mistaken for the real thing (okay, that last part only happened once…lol).
#3 So Many Choices, So Many Options
Just a few I’ve taken on so far, and in the works
It’s like being a kid in a candy store trying to choose what I want to be next. I do pretty much know what I’m going to do in the near future, it’s just choosing when and in what order I will do next. As I’m writing this now I’m thinking a lot about The Man of Steel, or maybe Batman, but Wolverine is trying to creep in first…lol. Either/or I need to diligently refer to #9 on the list which is getting in shape. I’m seriously going to need to bulk up to pull any of these off well, cause I can’t afford a muscle suit undercoat.
#2 Experiencing and Seeing the Response of Those Reacting to a Good Cosplay
Victoria Bradley from Vicarious Cosplay portraying Disney’s Ariel Princess for a Costumers With A Cause Fourth of July event for kids
It’s great to feel how all that hard work and money spent is justified with an “OH WOW”, or the question, “Can I get a picture with you?” from onlookers and other Con patrons responding to your costume. But nothing beats the look on a child’s face when they see their hero in the flesh. I can only imagine how the princesses at Disney feels every time a kid goes running up to give them a big hug. I can never get tired of it. I admit I do the same when I see a good cosplay, where I move in for the same hopeful picture together.
#1 The People I’ve Met and the Friends I’ve Made
Friends Made at DragonCon and The TCF (The Colonial Fleet)
This is definitely what it’s all about. The people you meet and the friends you make. I know the authenticity of the friends I’ve made because when I stepped out of it for awhile and came back it was like I never skipped a beat and they all welcomed me back as if I never left the scene. And the new people I’ve met are genuinely excited and interested in anything I have to say or do. I am the same at reciprocating the friendship. Somehow dressing up like someone else translates into pinpointing exactly who you are inside. It could even be just itching for fun and the next good time to be had, and doing it alone makes no sense.
Comment below with some of your reasons you love cosplay…I’d love to read them!
[tx_heading style="default" heading_text="#2 Pepe Bozzo is Khal of Atlantis" tag="h2" size="24" margin="16" align="left"]
Thanks for the overwhelming response you all gave me with my first featured cosplayer I did on Mystique’s World of Cosplay. I’m happy to introduce you to the next pick I made of a talented artist to be highlighted here on my website. Say hello to Pepe Bozzo who is Khal of Atlantis.
I had always intended on being able to interview almost anybody I chose, anywhere, but I was pleasantly surprised to find local talent here in central Florida and quite abundantly, too. This provided me with the unique opportunity to meet Pepe and insert myself into his life and get to know the real person. I’m not a stalker…I swear…no, really. HA! After the interesting write up I did on Damaris, by knowing her, I still want to provide my readers that kind of realism. The best part is I made a new friend that shares many of the same passions as I do, especially with cosplay. Do I see a future group cosplay in the making?
I got to tell you one thing which isn’t very friendly on my part is that I’m jealous of him and of that face! The camera loves this guy and he looks like almost anybody he portrays, as you can see with just the few images shown so far. I do, of course, give him credit as a terrific artist and as an actor and costumer, which helps him enormously with his accurate depictions of characters he chooses.
So it wasn’t hard to figure out why he chose the name Khal of Atlantis as his cosplay alias since Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones and Aquaman from Atlantis in The Justice League are his two most well known Cosplays.
I’d like to start by giving a shout out to all the Berserk manga fans out there who probably knew or hoped this was coming. Pepe and I, before we knew each other, did the same cosplay which both got a lot of attention from the Berserk community. That cosplay is of Skull Knight and was a difficult one indeed. I did it the most time consuming and most expensive way, where Mr. Atlantis here absolutely nailed it under a time crunch and with familiar cosmaker methods of EVA Foam, Latex, paint and everything in between with a much lower budget.
When I asked him to hook me up with some WIP (work-in-progress) pics for this writeup he regrettably told me “I don’t have many, I need to start taking more pics of the process.” But as I scaled through his Instagram profile I found several well represented photos of cosplay builds in development that worked perfectly here. I told him I had the same problem with lack of pre-shots of a costume fabrication and we both agreed to make an effort to take more.
EVA Foam is his main choice of media to work with as is many other cospayers, but Pepe seems to take it to a whole other level. There were several cosplays I had to ask him what he used, and when he said EVA Foam I was surprised because the end result looked too perfect and I thought I should be able to tell, like his Iron Man and Iron Patriot full armor. His (and now mine) favorite EVA foam supplier is TNT Cosplay Supply. This is where most of the materials comes from to perform his magic.
An important part of a true cosplayer is the makeup test and wig fitting test that need to be done before a full reveal. This is where I found several WIP pics I could use from Pepe’s collection of photos. He understands the importance of knowing ahead of time exactly how to make a character happen by the multiple tests and fittings to get it right. Nothing is worse than a wardrobe malfunction while trying to be in character at a Con.
This Cosplayer’s Inspiration is Everything
Judge Dredd comes to life straight out of the comics…
What inspires this Peruvian the most is…well…everything. A good sign of a true artist is to take anything and everything he/she encounters or pursues in stride and being able to translate it all into their work. I’m all about the visual aspect to my reference point, but as you’ll see a little later here, Pepe is also a musician as well as a visual artist. I asked him where he get’s his reference from while planning and working on a cosplay and he told me “all of it”, from comics, to video games, manga, anime and movies. I also asked him if what he does for a living translates at all into his artwork and he emphatically replied, “No…” Work is the last thing he wants to think about while performing his mad skills in a cosplay project. As a computer technician, I would say that it does help him some, however. One needs to be smart and tech savvy, as he is, to know how to attempt to put a hinge, servo motors and other electronics for his Iron Man helmet’s face plate to open and close and have lights.
So, let’s get started with my chosen pics that I’d like to present to you here:
The Best of Khal of Atlantis Gallery of Photos
Khal Drogo of Game of Thrones
Aquaman from The Justice League
John Wick Cosplay
Geralt From The Witcher
Jafar From Disney’s Aladdin
Cyborg Raiden From Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Video Game
Judge Dredd Cosplay
Iron Man and Iron Patriot Full Costume Armor
Out of Cosplay
Pepe and his Husky Kali
Dog lover, metal head, musician, video gamer, movie goer and fitness guru are just a few things that occupies Pepe’s time when not planning or creating his next transformation. I know, however, he must always seem to be thinking about cosplay as good as he is with the craft.
But for now let’s talk about these things listed above that are important parts of his life, and one of the most important is his dog.
Not just any dog, but a sweet girl husky named Kali that he had since a puppy. Huskies are his favorite breed of dog and when I asked him why, he confirmed that they’re silly, fun, pack minded, and how great of pets they make. Huskies are always trying to be included in everything which makes them terrific play mates and pets. They’re bred to be sled dogs and bark the loudest to be noticed and get picked to be part of the pack that gets to pull the sled. I love huskies, too, as they remind me of a friend’s husky when I was a kid as it gave me my first impression of how a good dog can be as a loving pet.
If you follow Pepe it’s no secret about Kali as he shares pics of her a lot on his social media platforms. Kali get’s her own gallery of photos here too:)
His love for heavy metal music and him being a self taught musician combines two more out of cosplay attributes to his life. You gotta hear him rip on the bass and also even hammer on the drums! Multi-talented musician, indeed. Him and I discussed some of our favorite heavy metal bands, and I connected the most to the classic heavy metal bands from my day like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Ozzie, just to name a few. I couldn’t pinpoint his favorite band as he chuckled when I asked for him to tell me and he said, “…too many to count…” I did find that Ne Obliviscaris, Amon Amarth, Napalm Death and Wintersun are bands important enough to see live and share on his Instagram account.
Being a gamer was no surprise as you can see through his cosplays, as he brought to life some of his favorite characters in Geralt from The Witcher and Raiden from the game Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Going online and playing games straight off his PC is a quick go to method to get his game on and he’s currently into MechWarrior and of course The Witcher for the 20th time.
Staying in shape by dieting and working out regularly at his gym is part of his weekly routine. Exercising is nothing different or new as he used to be a personal trainer before he got into cosplay. I’ll be picking his brain on how I can get into shape better, that’s for sure. Personal trainers don’t only give you a work-out plan, they also include what to take into your body for maximum health and performance. So our next meal outing together will need to be well thought out, especially if he’s getting in complete form and strength for an upcoming Con.
Near and Dear to His Heart
Pepe’s Sweetheart, photo from Mayhem Magazine
I could have mentioned her anytime during this article, but I feel she needed her own section because that is how important she is to Pepe. This is Victoria Bradley who happens to also be a wonderfully talented Cosplayer as well. Spoiler alert as to who my next Featured Cosplayer is going to be. Her alias is Vicarious Cosplay and her passion for the art is uncanny! These two make the perfect couple and have several couple’s cosplays to date and many more already in the works. I asked her to tell me something about Pepe that I can relay to you all here, and this is what she said…
“Pepe has sparked hope in me when we first met. He treasures our time together and makes me feel like a queen. When he loves he loves full heartedly. I always tell him he’s my weirdo, because we can laugh and do crazy things together. For example there is this moment when he was taking a picture (what I thought was a picture turned out to be a video) I had a dinosaur head on and went ‘AHHH’…so ever since then we ‘AHHH’ to each other. It’s these little moments that make me love him. On top of it I found a Cosplayer. His work is outstanding for being a procrastinator.” [I guess that means he loves the Con crunch being a procrastinator…Hee Hee]
Khal of Atlantis Popularity Rises
Mayhem Magazine cover September 2017
It was only a matter of time that a Cosplayer this good would get picked up and featured in several publications and media outlets.
Costumers With A Cause volunteer, where bringing hope to children in special circumstances is the primary focus
So Much More To Khal of Atlantis
Aquaman (Pepe) and Viper Pilot (me) at MegaCon Orlando 2018
I know I said earlier that I’m jealous of his face, but as you’ve seen with his Predator and Iron Man cosplays he has no problem covering his head up with a mask or helmet for an epic costume. Anything to get into character, because the best part of cosplay sometimes is playing a role that a terrific wardrobe helps facilitate. As fun and important as Cons are to attend, as an excuse to play, taking the time and expense for professional photo shoots are vital to a Cosplayers experience. I learned that from going through Pepe’s photos as many of them I chose were from planned pics with talented photographers. I’ll be taking lessons from Khal of Atlantis on how to get my name out there as a serious Cosplayer. He’s so good with every aspect of being a talented Cosplayer including the attitude of just having fun and relaxing with it. When you’ve done as many characters as he has, it should just come naturally like it does for him.
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite cosplay of his, but if I absolutely had to I would pick his John Wick portrayal. Something about the subtleness yet perfectly accurate job he did made it so effective. A totally cool character to pick as well. His poses and stern looks he gave for the camera were Keanu Reeves all the way!
One question I wanted to ask the most is what his dream cosplay would be and the answer was a good one and I think would be perfect for him…That cosplay is the dragon armor from Dracula Untold. He has to do this and I’ll be pestering him constantly ’till he at least starts building it…hehe.
Welcome to my second installment of “My Top Ten Favorites…” where I discuss my top ten favorite movie props. This was tough for me to compile as I love props and there were so many I left out to get to only ten. I had to come up with some guidelines to keep the list short like “no helmets” since I’ll probably do a list of favorite movie costumes and helmets are a main part of costuming. Also, as much as I love lightsabers from Star Wars, the actual prop is the handle and visual effects are what make the lightsaber work on screen, so no props that need extra help on film. I pretty much went with what I think looks really cool to me and works well for the purpose in the particular movie.
“That’s not a knife. This is a knife.” One of my favorite movie quotes where Dundee was talking about his famous knife that he always carries with him. He was being approached by a gang threatening him with a tiny switch blade knife when he spoke this line.
“The Dundee knife was created by an Australian gunsmith named John Bowring. He was approached by the studio that produced Crocodile Dundee film and asked to make an original knife for the Dundee character. Bowring agreed and produced the famous Dundee knife.” (Survival Knife Mary)
#9 Doc Brown’s DeLorean Time Machine
DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future Trilogy 1985-1990
Yes, a whole car made my favorite prop list. It probably helped that the DeLorean itself is one of my favorite cars anyway. But by adding all the “bells and whistles” as a time machine catapults this car as a prop icon I think everyone will love. The inside of the car with the “flux capacitor” and digital time display is an important memorable detail as well.
#8 LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box
LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box from Hellraiser films 1987-1996
The Hellraiser puzzle box is simple, but can also take on a complex shape when activated opening a gateway for Pinhead and the Cenobites to enter our world. I love the design and overall look to the cube and still aspire to having one of these in my prop collection one day.
#7 Wolverine’s Claws
Wolverine’s Claws from X-Men and Wolverine spin off movies 2000-2017
A spoiler about Wolverine, perhaps, if I do a list of favorite comic book characters is that he would be #1. Seeing his claws designed well as a workable esthetic prop on film is exciting for me. It’s a simple design that I’ve seen used in cosplay a lot but looks real and very cool as the Wolverine’s signature weapon.
#6 Hannibal Lecter’s Prison Mask
Hannibal Lecter’s prison transfer mask from Silence of the Lambs 1991
Another simple design of a prop, but makes a huge statement on film because of the character (and acting performance) that wields the power of it’s use. Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter can’t bite anything but his own tongue wearing this. What sells this mask the most is seeing the whole shot of him wearing the classic straight jacket for an insane person strapped to a dolly, as well, as he’s being transferred.
#5 Ghostbusters Proton Pack
Ghostbuster Proton Backpack from the Ghostbusters films 1984-1989
“Who you gonna call…?” Such a cool concept piece especially as a whole with the gun and trap that is the perfect design for what it’s supposed to do on film. And there’s four of them, too! I loved the Ghostbusters and my favorite parts of the films is when the Ghostbusters show up trying to look tough and important in their jumpsuits and technical gear. I’d feel important too if I were wearing it all.
#4 Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol
Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol opening scene from Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
We get an introduction to exactly how the character of Indiana Jones is going to be like through the entire franchise of Archeology films starring Harrison Ford with this opening scene–and the lengths he’ll go for a priceless artifact, particularly this first one, is incredibly exciting. I’ll never forget watching this film on the big screen as an eleven year old kid imagining being an archaeologist myself one day. Of course that didn’t happen, but my love for art, particularly 3D art, is portrayed with my love for prop making.
#3 Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle
Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle from Aliens 1986
I love this movie and I love this gun! Everything about this rifle is so cool…from the shape, the sound it makes on film, the badass marines who use it, it’s killing force against the aliens, and the digital countdown of ammunition. I especially love the scene when Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) cocks it with one arm and launches grenades into alien eggs when approaching the Queen alien’s lair. A close companion to the rifle is the scanner used alongside the rifle to detect movement when locating how close the aliens are. “Game over, man!”
#2 Ash’s Chainsaw Hand
Ash’s Chainsaw Hand from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness 1987-1992
“Groovy!” How ironic that the very chainsaw used to cut off his hand becomes the extension to where his hand used to be. I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler because the events of this movie and the way Bruce Campbell plays the role of Ash is something NOT to be missed! The chainsaw is an iconic symbol for the Evil Dead series and rightfully so. The scene in the shed where Ash constructs his defense with the chainsaw and sawed off shotgun is a filming and editing masterpiece.
#1 T-800 Endo Skull
T-800 Endo Skull from The Terminator 1984
This is definitely a must have in my collection! So brilliant of a design and concept, and so awesome and cool to look at! I can totally see and imagine flesh overtop of the chrome to get to the face of Arnold Schwarzenagger as the cybernetic assassin. I list reasons why this is one of my favorite movies in my blog post on My Top Ten Favorite Movies, but I left out this one reason that the film houses my favorite prop. “I’ll be back.”
And I’ll be back with more top ten favorites soon on makeup and costuming in film. Let me know what you think so far with my favorites and comment here what some of your favorite movie props are.
Thanks again for hanging out and keep a look out for more content here with cosplay, prop and costume making.
So I thought it would be cool to do a series of my top ten favorites like my top ten favorite movie props, or my top ten favorite comic book characters, etc… I’ll start with my top ten favorite movies, which most of these are directly responsible in influencing my passion for makeup, cosplay and prop making. I know many of you will agree that these films are quite good if you’ve seen them, but I’ll also be revealing my age since several of these films impacted me as a young lad finding my place in the world. The countdown will start at #10 and work it’s way down to my #1 favorite movie of all time. One criteria that I went by, when choosing these films, is that I could watch these movies over and over again and never get tired of seeing them repeatedly, which I’ve already done time and time again.
#10 The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal 1982; directed by Jim Henson
I could no longer watch the muppets the same after seeing what I believe to be Jim Henson’s greatest masterpiece. Not only was the puppetry and special effects incredible, but the story line was well written and went along smoothly with the film’s intent. The gelflings in the movie were almost human or lifelike enough for me, as a kid watching, creeped me out so much that it hypnotized me and I couldn’t look away. Today when I watch it again and again, the skeksis are clearly the best part of the movie for me. The sculpting and work that went behind them must have been intense for such an amazing design. I am still in awe every time I watch it.
#9 Evil Dead 2
Evil Dead 2 1987; directed by Sam Raimi
There are several reasons this movie easily made the cut into my top ten and I’ll get to them in a second, but perhaps what stands out the most as the best part of this movie is simple…Bruce Campbell! This was my introduction to the genius of Bruce’s acting and humor and even though he was in the first one, Sam must have held him back then, no holds bar on this performance of Ash for Evil Dead 2. What a terrific treat. Sam Raimi’s vision on technical film style and camera angles gets my next kudos for this film. Several new and innovative shots were introduced here and we still see them today thanks to Sam Raimi. In a time when I was obsessed with horror films I remember after watching this one that I had to get into the industry somehow and I left for Florida soon after to become a makeup artist.
#8 True Romance
True Romance 1993; directed by Tony Scott
Acting is king in this film and the cast is unmatched…just look at them all! But perhaps the greatest performance, in my opinion, was Gary Oldman’s as Alabama’s pimp. In fact I remember making the decision that Gary Oldman would be (and still is) my favorite actor after watching True Romance. This film has everything from humor, elite acting performances, action, and best of all an amazing script. Here is where I found out about the one and only screenwriter Quentin Tarantino. Most of you know him from his work on Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Kill Bill. The man is brilliant and interesting dialogue is his specialty.
#7 Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back 1980; directed by Irvin Kershner
There are several Star Wars films that could have easily made the cut since I am a big Star Wars fan, but this is clearly my favorite and can represent the Star Wars saga for me. I picked The Empire Strikes Back mainly because of my childhood attachment to it. One of the first biggest Star Wars toys I had, other than the figures, was the T-47 snowspeeder from Hoth. I had countless hours playing the Hoth battle scene out with my friend who happen to have the large AT-AT introduced in the film as well. I also started collecting trading cards and I remember trying to find all the cards and stickers in the set. I’ve watched this movie the most out of all of them and I can say that even today I get excited and find new gems within the movie to admire. The reveal of Darth Vader’s and Luke Skywalker’s true identities propelled the plot exponentially.
#6 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001; directed by Peter Jackson
Where do I begin with this one? So many reasons why I love it, I can’t just name a few, but I will try for this entry. Peter Jackson‘s commitment to keep the film as accurate as possible to J.R.R. Tolkien‘s masterful work from The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books helped him recreate the story with visual perfection. Since the FOTR (fellowship of the ring) was the first one to see in Peter Jackson’s trilogy it would have the most impact in introducing the enormous undertaking of the project. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King were just as beautiful as the first. In fact these three movies were filmed at the same time over a period of three years! I love watching the making of these films on the DVD’s extras menu almost as much as the films. Props and SPFX makeup get me giddy here thanks to WETA Workshop. New Zealand’s beautiful diverse landscape was the perfect choice to film the many different lands in Middle Earth, so set design propels the film even further. If you’re a fantasy nerd like me and love stories and tales of medieval times J.R.R. Tolkien’s books are brilliant. But even if you haven’t read the books these films are the ultimate eye candy and will give you the greatest emotional roller coaster ride a movie can offer.
#5 The Terminator
The Terminator 1984; directed by James Cameron
The script to this film is absolutely brilliant, which is why it was able to be so successful and launch several more well made films in the franchise. When I tell folks why I love this movie I tell them about the story of the first time I saw it. To keep it short, the highlight of the story is that I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be about because I never seen a trailer for it. This is why, even today, I try to avoid too much pre-hype of a film and also try to avoid long trailers that give the film away. Watching this film for the first time and seeing two (what appears to be) hostiles from the future, at the beginning, pursuing an unsuspecting damsel is captivating. I’m sure most of you have seen this, but if not, I’ll stop there so I don’t spoil it, since not knowing about it wooed me. I’ll be doing a list soon of my top ten favorite movie props and if you read this, you’ll get a hint of one of my favorite props which is the T-800 endoskull.
#4 The Matrix
The Matrix 1999; directed by Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
Kung Fu, computers, leather and shades…doesn’t get any better than that…OH, except when you add a mind blowing story to go along with them. The Matrix has an intense, brain-buster script similar to The Terminator, but, in my opinion, slightly better which is why it falls just one more closer to my favorite film of all time. Visual effects reins supreme as well for technological reasons. New techniques in cinematography were invented with multiple cameras and angles and editing that forever immortalized scenes in our heads…if you’ve scene it, you know what I’m talking about. Pure magic!
Manhunter 1986; directed by Michael Mann
Michael Mann is a master at creating the perfect mood and emotion using the soundtrack and composition of any scene. I loved this movie precisely because of it. I was a huge fan of Miami Vice TV show growing up and I was thrilled to see Michael Mann was involved with this film. Here is where we get our first glimpse of Dr. Hannibal Lecter portrayed by Brian Cox. Even though we remember Anthony Hopkins immediately for this role, Brian, who is just as much a high caliber actor as Anthony, played Hannibal first. This movie is based off the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. I don’t really know how convincing I can be and do the film justice, but it’s one you just have to trust me on and seeing is believing. A true Masterpiece!
Gladiator 2000; directed by Ridley Scott
Best “come back kid” revenge story ever! This movie is sensational! It has everything from being visually stunning, a captivating story, superior set and even beautiful costuming. The main character Maximus portrayed by Russell Crowe goes through an amazing journey at every stage of power to near death to being hated and then being loved, which keeps you emotionally attached throughout the entire film. Each action sequence is set up to be more anticipated and exponentially more exciting than the previous one. An absolute must see again and again!
…and the #1 favorite movie of mine is…
#1 Blade Runner
Blade Runner 1982; directed by Ridley Scott
So my top two favorite movies are directed by Ridley Scott. Coincidence?…I think not. The man is a genius. So, if I were to have a list of favorite directors, he’d be number one also. When I came up with the list and I was thinking of movies to consider in the top ten, Blade Runner and it’s position as number #1 was the only one I knew of right away. The movie is king of all of them and I have talked to a lot of people that agree with me that Blade Runner is their favorite movie also. (At least folks my age). Even though I’m a visual guy, my favorite part of this movie is the soundtrack by Vangelis. The soundtrack is a fluid merger of every stunning scene that solidifies the film emotionally. I still get chills and hold back awesomeness tears every time I watch it. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick is the novel that the film is based off of. This film has an elite cast including Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young, and Daryl Hannah. The story takes place in the future (well…the future from 1982) and what is so alluring about it is that it seems like a future I believe could really happen to some extent.
I hope I haven’t given away any spoilers if you haven’t seen any of these and I want to believe I hyped these movies up enough that you want to make an effort to view them for yourself or even see again if they’re already part of your library.
This was a fun list to make and there were several movies I considered to be in the top ten, but didn’t make the cut. A quick list of these, and not in any particular order are:
Aliens 1986; directed by James Cameron
Goonies 1985; directed by Richard Donner
Labyrinth 1986; directed by Jim Henson
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens 2015; directed by J.J. Abrams
Blade Runner 2049 2017; directed by Denis Villeneuve
…just to name a few…
Thanks for takin’ a gander at my opinion in films and please leave a comment on what may be some of your own favorites and/or if you agree with any of these films as a possible contender as your own favorites.
To keep the project on a strict budget, it helps to have found a pair of welding or thick barbeque gloves that are used already. If you don’t have a pair, try finding some at a thrift store and/or garage sale.
Depending on the color the glove is, you may have to dye it a color that will help blend in with a steampunk look. I used dark brown to mask the blue that I started with. Follow directions on the dye bottle. It took three coats for my glove.
Dyed leather glove with accessories to be added
I was ambitious and thought I would fit everything on the glove you see in the photo, but once I saw it come together, I was able to weed out what I really needed to make it look proper. Sometimes less is more. Plan out what you want to use ahead of time and it’s okay to have a lot in mind to start with, because you can always decide otherwise.
Sections fabricated separately
To make this glove look more the part as a mechanical gauntlet, you’ll need to cover it with as much of the copper sheeting and fake rivets (paper fasteners) as possible. What made this a simple and effective build was making each section separately and then adding them on after. The simplicity was with not having to go through the thick glove with stitching, cutting, poking, or threading to the inside.
Measure how big of an individual section you want to address first and either mark the faux leather or cut a pattern and then transfer onto the faux leather the shape to be cut out. Cut it out of the material.
Next you’ll want to take the same shape of the copper sheeting, but smaller so the faux leather material has a boarder of 1/8″-1/4″ appearing behind the copper sheeting. You should have a thin enough gauge copper to be able to use scissors for cutting.
Center cut shape of copper sheeting over top of the faux leather material and plan, mark and space out where you want the rivets to appear along the boarder of the metal. It’s not necessary to glue the metal to the material because the rivets (paper fasteners) will go through and fasten together the two shapes together, but you can if you want so the two don’t move before the process is finished.
With the exacto blade, poke through and cut a small slit through both materials where the center of the rivet will be located. Then take a closed paper fastener and poke the shafts through the slit and then spread the shaft apart tightly against the back of the faux leather side. Repeat for all planned rivet spots. Try to plan the direction of where the feet of the paper fasteners will end after opening so they don’t stick out past the boarder of the faux leather material. If that happens though the fastener’s feet are thin enough to cut out of the way.
Sections added on with hot glue
Hot glue assembled sections in place, concentrating on the edges.
Begin finger wrap sections and test fit
The fingers are a little more involved since you’ll be making many sections. Each finger has at least two “rings” or copper wraps between each knuckle.
The same principle applies where you have a faux leather backing under copper sheeting strip with only 1/8″ boarder. You’ll need to measure each section of each finger because the length around and distance between each knuckle changes frequently. I did find, however, I was able to use the same measurements for some of the finger sections. Most fingers have only two rivets except the thumb, forefinger and pinky because three sides of the finger are exposed, so I put another rivet on the side for visual stimulus.
There should be at least an 1/8″ overlap where the two ends of the “ring” come together where you’ll need to poke the paper fastener through both ends (two layers of faux leather and two layers of copper sheeting). Once you make the wrap held in place by the paper fasteners, you can slide the “ring” in place on the finger. It’s good to have it a little loose with a gap between the glove and the wrap because once the finger is in place in the glove the space becomes filled. I put a dab of hot glue on the underside inside any gap to hold the “ring” in place.
Near completion, stiff enough to stand on its own
Repeat step 5 until all the digits are filled.
Finished glove with rub-n-buff colored gears add ons
Add any gears, gauges, or cool steampunk related props to the glove for more esthetic purposes. I like putting gears next to each other to give the impression that they are actually turning something. I was able to choose gears that were compatible to my paper fasteners so they actually spin freely.
I used Rub-N-Buff on anything that wasn’t metallic looking already which matches the steampunk theme. Follow directions on the package.
Happy Crafting! Let me know if you choose this method and comment below how you did…
I absolutely love anything steampunk. I once saw the perfect, quick, definition for steampunk as …a time that never was, but one that we wish we had…
The actual definition from Wikipedia is [Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.]
What’s great about steampunk is that your imagination is the only thing limiting you on what you can do for any deco or cosplay accessories relating to this popular genre. This means endless combinations and countess leather, goggles, gears, brass, copper, fashion and made up time travel device add ons to any project. Fun stuff!
I remember my exact first encounter where I fell in love with the theme and that was at DragonCon 2011 after the realease of the movie Sucker Punch. I’m sure steampunk has been around since the real industrial revolution, but this movie seamed to unlock the fan base to explode in exposure. I was at DragonCon 2010 the year before and I can’t think of any instances of steampunk that I could remember. 2011, however, every time I turned around I could easily spot brass and leather immediately.
So in honor of my love for steampunk, I’m dedicating this post to the three costumes I’m designing and making for me, my wife and daughter for MegaCon Orlando 2018. Here I will be walking you through the design, fabrication and test fitting for our group Cosplay.
So, to start, I have to disclose the absolute driving force to this project besides my love for it, and that is the budget. I’m trying (for once…ha, ha) to make everything as frugal and cost efficient as possible. Which means I’ll be making almost everything from scratch and repurposing stuff that I may already have.
Our group cosplay is going to tell a story…I am a steampunk airship mechanic, my wife is just steampunk “bad to the bone,” and my daughter is a life sized windup doll we made because the narrative we’re pushing for is that we can’t have kids of our own.
I always like to start any cosplay with the props that will be used because I believe that is my specialty and is what I have the most control over. If the prop making goes well then my confidence gets boosted and the rest of the costume making should be successful. Earlier I wrote a post on prop weapons where I talk about how usually this is where I start a project, so naturally this is where we’ll begin.
As I mentioned earlier, budget comes into play as a dominate motivation and I just happen to have a prop gun that I can repurpose for me and a prop gun, perfect for my wife to use. The only cost is with little accessories, paint, rub-n-buff, and materials to make a holster for Debbie’s flintlock gun.
My Prop Steampunk Gun
Finished steampunk gun from repurposed prop weapon of two other themes I made from before.
I’ve seen many cool steampunk guns during my researching stages of this cosplay and a lot of them were nerf guns painted to look the part. I was impressed enough that I had planned on doing the same until I realized I could just take what I already have and modify it. This gun started as an anime prop I made and molded from the mini series Gungrave. Then I turned it into a Zombie Apocalypse prop gun, and then to what it is now. See the transformation below. The parts added to make it steampunk I found at a local surplus store called Skycraft where you can get just about anything dealing with electronics, motors, wiring, hardware, LED lighting, etc… I chose mostly small parts that made it cost efficient, especially when I started off with a free gun that I already had. I used a product called Rub-N-Buff to color the gun the proper metallic steampunk look. Rub-N-Buff is not a paint, but a metallic wax that you apply with your finger or brush and rub it in and buff to give it the metallic sheen. You can make just about anything look steampunk with Rub-N-Buff. The only new paint on the gun is the patina aging effect I gave it to simulate a realistic weathering effect to copper and/or brass. This is taking a chance because the countless pictures witnessed during referencing, I saw absolutely no aging. They were all brand new clean looking repainted nerf guns–which was actually still impressive, but I chose the aged look.
Prop gun transformation from Gungrave to Zombie Apocalypse to Steampunk
Turning an existing prop gun into a steampunk gun:
Debbie’s Flintlock Holster
I’ll begin here by emphasizing budget again. I already had a flintlock replica gun in my collection that could be used for Debbie’s accessories. All that was needed was a way for her to carry it without carrying it in her hand the whole time and that is making a holster. All I used was faux leather material from Joann’s, 5/8″ push snaps, grommets, and some real leather strapping. See pics below.
Back to my costume…one of my favorite steampunk accessory invention is the gauntlet. It’s a perfect add on to my cosplay because of my mechanic status. The gauntlet for my character gives him the ability to protect his hand from hot steam pipes, and offers the added strength as a gauntlet represents more power and strength for the hand that it houses. See pics and video below on how I made mine on a budget.
Props Cut from CNC Router
I have the great fortune of working at a sign shop, Vital Signs of Orlando Inc, that has a computerized cutting table (CNC router) that can cut almost any shape out of almost any material real fast once it’s programmed in the computer. I of course asked permission and used scrap material that was going to be thrown away. I also was making something for myself and not anything I could potentially make money off of.
The few props highlighted here that are cut from this tool are my pipe wrench and Cassidy’s windup key mechanism with gears on her back, for her doll cosplay. The material used was plastic board called sintra that keeps the props light weight for comfort and easy function.
Pipe Wrench-I knew as an airship mechanic I had to have some sort of tool on me and what better tool for steampunk is an oversized pipe wrench. Nothing beats the real thing except, if you don’t have one and the real thing would be WAY too heavy! So I made my own out of sintra and cut it at work using the CNC router table.
Windup Key Mechanism-Nothing says life sized doll better than a giant windup key protruding off the back of the subject. To make the key at least turn manually I used the inner bearings out of a fidget spinner.
Here’s a quick video of the CNC router table in action cutting out the windup key:
Debbie’s Steampunk Girl Costume
Debbie’s MegaCon Steampunk Girl costume
Here again, I’ll refer to the budget and tell you that what a nice surprise to find my wife happened to have some threads like the undershirt and brown jeans along with boots that could be used perfectly to go with her steampunk girl cosplay. Instant savings.
I freely confess that there are store bought items, but a major plus is that her goggles and corset were bought from a store closing sale at a Party City where 75%-90% off everything in the store.
Other new, but reasonable priced items for her were the spats, pocket watches, and skeleton keys (0.50 cents ea). I did buy some lace material at Joann’s and made her choker and bracelets.
The only store bought items for the steampunk girl costume
Finished Props and Accessories Ready For Test Fitting
My Steampunk Airship Mechanic Costume
Enough of the teaser photos, here’s the first test fitting of my cosplay. I started to cheat a little with the budget and had to get a couple of things of mine on Amazon. Time was running out and I couldn’t find my shirt, or suspenders at any local thrift store. I also bought my spats as well.
Airship mechanic first test fitting
Unforeseen Change of Plans
My original intent was to take these three cosplays to my local comic book convention, MegaCon Orlando, with my family and show them off there. I had successfully finished the costumes and had tickets for all of us to go on Saturday of the con’s long weekend schedule. But life sometimes throws you “curveballs” and forces a different direction with plans. We had a friend of the family pass away suddenly and we wanted to attend the memorial service that was happening the same day. Some things in life are more important and I didn’t hesitate to support our friends in mourning.
We’ll always have the costumes and I knew I was also going to take many good photos specifically for this blog.
Welcome to what is probably going to be the most popular page here on my website where I get to delve into the lives of some of the best Cosplayers I’ve come to know and respect for their craft.
I knew immediately who was going to be my first Cosplayer to be featured because she’s my favorite…and she also happens to be a friend…so yes, my choice is biased, but after you read my Bio here about her, and you see the artist’s work yourself, I think you’ll agree she is worthy of the praise!
I originally approached her with the idea as an interview, but then after seeing that she’s been interviewed before and I pretty much know the answers to all the basic questions, I decided to go for a more exciting angle to this article and introduce you to Damaris how I know and love her. I’ll of course be incorporating several of the questions one would typically like to know within the write up from time to time.
Fem-Wolverine Cosplay for DragonCon 2011, 2013 and 2017
Like, I know she’s been practicing her craft for ten years now, which happens to be as long as we’ve been friends. She’s not only an artist as you’ll see through her cosplays, but she also happens to be an artist professionally as a graphic designer and digital illustrator along with being an instructor in the design field.
Even though, I fully believe, she could easily make a living off of being a Cosplay sensation, it’s only a hobby for her. Her other interests include body building, sky diving, racquet ball, painting, and anything Sci-Fi.
What sets her apart as a great cosplayer is that she can do it all. She makes much of her own props and costumes and sculpts her body with body building to get into a particular character. True dedication!
If she has a deadline or a serious time crunch she has incorporated help before with getting her part ready like with sewing and electronics, but she is fully involved no-matter-what. I know this first hand because she approached me to help her with her Star Wars Commander Cody Clonetrooper armor she sported at Celebration V. I had a lot of fun with it and with her as we crunched away in my garage getting it ready for Orlando’s first hosting of Star Wars Celebration in 2010.
Yes, she can do it all, but there are some things that one has to have help with, and that’s with body painting. Here is a really cool shot of her getting body painted by the incredibly talented Nick Wolfe for her DC Killer Croc.
Quest of the Muscle Nerd Trailer, Killer Croc Cosplay body painting for DragonCon 2017 by Nick Wolfe
The Fun Loving, Lighter Side of Mystique the Comedian
Having fun is “A” #1 for her, which probably is what the secret of her success is as a premier Cosplayer. Truly, it is one of my favorite qualities that I love about her. I’ll let the gallery of pictures tell the story to how funny and witty she is:
This Great Cosplayer is a Great Cosmaker…Mystique Shares Her Knowledge
No secrets here. She enjoys sharing how she does her magic with anyone who wants to know. It’s a way of spreading the passion. Some of my favorite pictures when I’m browsing through any cosplayer’s gallery of pics are the WIP (work in progress) shots. Damaris has TONS of them. In fact, if you’ve read any of my blog posts, chances are you may have seen me use some of her WIP pics already. I need to convince her to maybe someday have a blog of her own…she has better and a lot more behind the scenes, WIP shots than I do.
True Dedication and Authenticity to the Character to be Cosplayed
Lady Bane Cosplay for DragonCon 2014
If you were to ask her which is her favorite Cosplay she’s done thus far she would tell you her Lady Bane that she successfully pulled off for DragonCon 2014 because of all the work she put into it and how well it paid off…like gaining 8lbs of lean muscle.
Because she’s a comic book junkie she’ll get most of her research just by what she’s read and knows exactly where to look for more information to study her desired character to portray. She’s also addicted to the SyFy Channel, the latest Marvel or DC film that’s released, Star Wars, Star Trek, and the re-imagined series of Battlestar Galactica just to name a few, so she can easily get plenty of character reference to copy in her chosen cosplays.
But it’s her strength and perseverance through uncomfortable situations that a costume may require; like crazy contact lenses, heavy wigs or tight fitting corsets that has a straining effect on the body, which defines her dedication the most.
She does enjoy the body building portion, though…but who wouldn’t with the results she gets and the beautiful physique she has.
So without any further delays, my chosen picks that I give to you:
The Best of Mystique’s World of Cosplay Gallery of Photos
DC Comics Cosplays
Marvel Comics Cosplays
Star Wars Cosplays
Collaborated Action Poses
Out of Cosplay
Sons are the anchor to a mothers life.
If you were to ask Damaris what her greatest achievement in life is, she would say being a mother to two beautiful twin boys which is a forever, ongoing happy endeavor. In her own words about Justin and Ethan, “The world did me a favor by giving me two of you. Although you are each unique, you share the same wonderful qualities that only twins share. Ethan Degen and Justin Degen. Born June 1st, 2006 at 7:24pm and 7:25pm. I got double the blessing and twice the love!”
Twice the hugs, twice the fun, twice the laughs and twice the proud moments. She needs twice the energy, too, to keep up with two boys…I can see where she gets her juices flowing to pull off three or four different cosplays for past DragonCons. Maybe, it’s the other way around…she got twin boys because forces knew she could handle the glorious task of raising them in a fast paced modern world we live in today.
Here are some of my favorite pictures and selfies of Damaris Out of Cosplay:
Earlier I told you one of her hobbies is painting…check out these samples of her work, including some sketches, I pulled from her collection:
So not only is she a terrific sculptor and 3D artist through her Cosplays…she’s a great 2D graphic artist and painter as well. Her background in fine arts she credits to her success with any artistic task she conquers.
There are times at a comic convention, believe it or not, that an Out of Cosplay experience happens more frequently then you’d think. It’s mostly about the people and friends you hang out with and Damaris feeds off these times the most.
I don’t go to conventions just to show off my craft or to express my fandom with others.. What drives me the most is to be with people that I consider to be family.. like all these faces right here! THAT’s what conventions has done for me.
Our History Together: A Shout Out to The TCF!
DragonCon Colonial Fleet photoshoot.
Damaris and I first met on a forum for Battlestar Galactica fans called the Colonial Fleet Quorum, where we hit it off right away talking about props and her first and still planned attempt at her Borg Queen from Star Trek First Contact motion picture Cosplay she aspires to do someday. It’s still my favorite makeup FX of all time and hers too. We saw that we were local and met face to face for the first time at a TCF (The Colonial Fleet) gathering of the first Iron Man movie release in the summer of 2008. Since then, a few Cons, gatherings and 10th floor Marriot parties later, along with a Clonetrooper armor build together has been a complete pleasure being around this fun-loving friend and Queen of Cosplay.
She’s not the only true friend I made at the TCF…a dozen more immediately comes to mind when I think back at all the past events involving these Frakkers. I miss you all and I am soon coming back out of the shadows of lost time.
Here is what Damaris feels about The Colonial Fleet:
Today [December 9, 2017] is the 14th year anniversary of one of the GREATEST shows of all times, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA!! This show changed my life as a geek, introduced me to the best group in the FRAKKIN world AKA: The Colonial Fleet, as well as giving me the best hobby: costuming! It also brought me closer to my fandom and I got to experience many wonderful once-in-a-life-time events such as the BSG auctions ran by Propworx. I raise my Top Gun mug to all you frakkers that share the same feelings as I.. So Say We All.. Thank You Ron D Moore for BSG!
…So Say We ALL!
Notoriety and Publication Appearances
DragonCon2017 Co-hosting a panel on body building for costuming
I knew I had to include this section to my write up on her because it tells you just how well received she is in the Cosplay community. I’m going to include only a few of these because there is so many and also when I asked her to list them to me, she couldn’t remember all the different publications that have featured her in the past.
First I need to give you the link to her Facebook Fan Page here because it is definitely an important achievement, it’s her publication.
Next is her Instagram account here. Go and follow her if you have Instagram. She’ll continue to update you on what she posts next.
Trailer for Quest of the Muscle Nerd where Mystique makes a cameo appearance with her Killer Croc Cosplay for DragonCon 2017. She was also invited to be a guest co-host for a panel on body building for costuming, and a judge for the competition: https://www.facebook.com/JayShettyIW/videos/1995740577407064/
Aside from a few calendars she’s appeared in, here is a few publications and links to past interviews:
Perhaps the best notoriety, ironically, is something she wouldn’t want or need the attention for, and that is when she joined forces with Costumers With a Cause and has volunteered for Toys for Tots, Freedom Riders, and Free Comic Book Day benefiting BASE Camp, just to name a few…where she gets to dress up and interact with children in special circumstances.
Thanks for the Fun Ride, Mystique, We’re So Looking Forward to More!
Isis (Damaris Degen of Mystique’s World of Cosplay) and Skull Knight (me) at DragonCon 2011
One question I did ask her recently, which I was reluctant to ask because I thought I should have known already was why she picked the alias Mystique for her Cosplay name. The answer was really simple…Mystique is just her favorite X-Man…
I don’t know if she realized this when picking the name, or you as the reader figured out while reading about her, that Mystique is the BEST most PERFECT name for a Cosplayer. Think about it…Mystique’s mutant power is shape shifting, and a really good cosplayer, as Damaris is, has the ability to change into any character she chooses…Bravo! I can’t wait for the next adventure with Damaris at Mystique’s world of Cosplay!
Skull Knight from Berserk Manga, Armor Build, Full Tutorial
I’ve seen some other cosplay attempts at Skull Knight and they were okay, but I’ll tell you right away here that the secret to the success of this armor build and what sells it is the form or tight fitting of the skull helmet on the head. The others were too large because their helmets were designed to put on over the head, so it had to be large, like a motorcycle helmet so it gave a bobble head effect. I made my helmet hinge at the top with the natural seam down the side where SK’s (Skull Knight’s) rivets show up giving a slim skull effect like the pages of the manga.
This post is a complete tutorial on building a full armor costume for the Berserk manga series by Kentarō Miura. It is different than my other tutorials where, here, I tell you how I did it instead of instructing you what you should do. I freely confess that this is the more difficult, time consuming, and more expensive way of going about it. So I know most of you wanting to build your own may not go about it this way. The way I chose to build it is how a production company would go about it, maybe, and gives it a higher quality with durability and control of detail.
The costume was conceived out of the Life sized bust I and @berserkstatues of skullknight.net collaborated on and produced as a collectible statue. One of the recipients of the bust commissioned me to make the full armor costume build for him to cosplay in. Fortunately for me I had the privilege to test fit it and cosplay myself at a few cons to get the kinks out. Fun Times!
Skull Knight Bust from Berserk Manga
Reference from the pages of Berserk manga of Skull Knight
So I’m going to start this tutorial from the skull down since that’s how it began. I’ll update my Instagram account with posts promoting each section as I complete it. If you clicked on a link that took you here and I’m not finished, follow me if you have an Instagram profile and you’ll get updates as I complete each section. I’ll also be sharing on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.
Skull Knight from Berserk manga WIP clay sculpture
As a trained special effects makeup artist and prop maker I immediately knew that I was going to sculpt the skull and most of the armor out of clay first and then make molds to give me maximum control of detail and function. Again, I know this is not the efficient and least expensive way that most cosplayers would taught about, but it is the way I know best as a professional.
I began by studying the manga and receiving a small scaled statue from Derek of @berserkstatues for reference material and made measurement conversions to life size.
To begin sculpting, I mounted a realistic looking skull prop, as an armature, on a board and began wrapping clay on it keeping some of the shape intact to help me keep defining the skull. However, it took a lot of clay to get the scaled measurement that the armature skull detailing only helped at the beginning. Plus, SK has defining character features, like his brow, that’s separate from a real skull.
Another recognizable aspect to SK is the spikes on his forehead, which I used a different type of clay, known as Roma #3, that is more rigid and holds detail better. I had to wrap the clay around stiff gauged aluminum wire to maintain the spike shape and stab it into place on the clay forehead.
Once I received approval from Derek I then proceeded to the molding stage of the helmet. I wanted to begin molding right away so I could then cast a rigid piece from the mold to use for fitting and sculpting the spiked collar, because I know I would have damaged a clay sculpture otherwise.
I carefully removed each of the nine spikes from his forehead and made a two part poor mold. (see pic below)
For the skull helmet, I decided to use my case molding skills as I believed it was the best method of molding this type of plug (original sculpture to be molded). If I haven’t done it yet, I fully intend to do another tutorial on case molding alone soon. See pictures below for the case molding method.
Once the mold was finished and I removed the sculpture from the new mold, I was able to cast a rigid (fiberglass) piece to have for the spiked collar build. A hard piece was important to keep from damaging a clay, delicate, sculpture had I used it.
I want to take a little time giving the formula I used for casting fiberglass pieces from molds.
First skim coat inside empty mold, 1 part polyester body filler (bondo) mixed with 1 part polyester high building sandable primer, catalyzed together with each respectable hardener. Allow to cure until gloss sheen is replaced with a dull matte surface.
A putty with a pudding like consistency made of polyester fiberglass resin mixed with cabosil/aerosol micro-balloons. WHERE A MASK WHEN MIXING! The putty after mixing and adding methyl ethyl ketone peroxide for hardening is brushed in to smooth out the hard lined detailing of the mold to inhibit air bubbles when laying down fiberglass matte.
Polyester fiberglass resin catalyzed with the same methyl ethyl ketone peroxide above wetting fiberglass matte sheets and forcing it to lay over top of the inside of the mold with no air between layers.
The reason I like to use my mix of bondo/polyester primer first instead of the popular gel coat method is because once I “pop” a fresh piece from the mold I can sand smooth any imperfections from the casting or even my sculpture if I didn’t get all my fingerprints out of the clay sculpt before molding.
I chose to sculpt the collar and spikes out of foam because most of the surface is symmetrical, smooth and the shapes could easily be captured more efficiently with foam. See my blog post on sculpting to see the benefits and tools used for working with foam.
Even though I was able to achieve quick results with the foam, I was immediately slowed down by having to fiberglass and bondo over the foam to get the smooth, hard shell needed for molding. Anyone who has bondoed before knows how much sanding has to be done…this took forever, it seems, bet well worth it to get the desired outcome. The spikes were to be silicone poor molded, where the collar, I chose to do a hard fiberglass mold. I only molded one of the spikes, since they are all the same.
Skull Knight life sized bust fiberglass sculpture, pre-mold, pre-paint
Introducing Trent the Mannequin
I’d like to introduce you to Trent, a main contributor to the project. He’s slim and strong and never complains about anything, even when he’s been “taken apart at the seams…”
Trent the mannequin from Barr Display supply for Skull Knight build
Having a mannequin to build off of is probably the first thing I thought of using to be able to create this costume fully. It was important because I could work on other parts of the costume independently from other sections while some armor parts were occupying areas of the mannequin that were being molded. It was also nice to have someway of assembling the costume onto a subject seeing how it would look and function all together.
3D reference for sculpting armor. Art of War’s 1/10 scale Skull Knight statue
Before I show my progress on the armor any further I thought I’d give you a shot of the new reference I used for scale, shape and style for the costume. I can’t believe the client trusted me with this VERY rare Japanese Toys R Us Exclusive. The statue was never sold directly through Art of War, which goes to show the dedication to the success of the project.
Breastplate Merger With Spiked Collar
Clay can get extremely heavy when building up it’s thickness for any sculpture, particularly whole body armor, so I began bulking up the mannequin armature with plastic wrap and duct tape to reduce the amount of clay I had to use. Clay can also be quite difficult to remove as it leaves behind a smooth layer as you would try to scrape it off, especially during a hot Florida summer as the clay becomes softer and more sticky. So a pleasant surprise I had by using plastic and duct tape first insured a clean mannequin when complete.
As you can see from the pictures above, I included the fiberglass collar as part of the breastplate and back shoulder armor to eventually be molded as one unit. The stomach and back scale armor is part of the solid unit, but after casting it all as one out of the mold, you’ll see how I separated it all as a movable unit.
Brush molding with silicone was my choice of capturing the sculpture. See pics below.
I casted the part out of fiberglass using my formula from above.
What’s nice about armor builds that may require aging and/or hammered metal look is that the surface doesn’t always need to be perfectly smooth. Sculpting out of clay can leave fingerprints and imperfect surfaces and tool marks during the sculpting process. This was my plight and I was able to sand a lot of it off after casting, but I purposefully left some visible for that weathered look which helped me with the paint job as well.
Arms and Legs Armor
Again, having a mannequin to work off of was a great advantage for me. I was able to disassemble him and work on different parts of the costume as other parts occupied his main body. The mannequin’s arms, for example, were small enough that I could work with the sculptures and molds on a table top for ease and comfort.
As I completed a clay sculpture section of the arms, like the forearm gauntlet, or the boot armor of the legs, I would immediately mold them and cast a solid fiberglass piece before going on to the next section of the appendage. This was to avoid taking the chance of damaging the finished clay sculpture, had I kept going with clay all the way up. Another words I took it one step at a time. See various stages of the sculpting and casting below in pics.
Even though most sections of the armor build started off in the clay stage, I sometimes went with a different material for the original sculpture like I did for the beginning of the spiked collar build. Another section I chose to use something other than clay first is the gauntlets for SK’s arms. White EPS foam gave me a quick shaping, but then I foiled and fiberglassed and then bondoed the surface hard and smooth for molding.
EPS foam beginning sculpture of Skull Knight gauntlet build
The knee guards were fabricated by using generic knee guards I found at a thrift shop in the tool section. Once I had a mold for the spike coming off the back of SK’s boot, I used multiple castings of that spike for the knee guards. A mold of the completed knee guard was then made for fiberglass reproduction.
Sword And Shield Fabrication
Once again I took the 1/10 scaled measurements of the statue and converted it to 1:1 scale for the sword and shield in this case. Zero clay work for these parts, but after fabricating each piece I made a mold, of course, for both of them. I had success with making only half or one side of Guts’ Dragon slayer sword and molding it so I was able to cast two parts and put them together, therefore, I repeated the same concept with Skull Knight’s sword. The hilt for the sword and the build up down the thickness of the shaft of the sword was a foam base fiberglassed and finished with bondo. The thorns on the hilt was added with Apoxy Sculpt. See pics below.
The shield started out as EPS foam. Once I had the right shape and size, I glued aluminum foil with spray adhesive over the foam to protect it from the resin melting it away during the fiberglass process. After the fiberglass fully cured and hardened, I bondoed and sprayed high building polyester primer over the finished sanded bondo and sanded, sanded and sanded even more to get it perfectly smooth. The thorny rose emblem on the center of the shield was added with Apoxy Sculpt. The shield mold was a fiberglass hard mold instead of silicone. I just had to wax the heck out of it and made sure there wasn’t any “locks” in the sculpture.
Fitting The Armor
I took my experience of making a complete Star Wars clonetrooper suit and applied it here with SK’s armor. Much of the same concepts, materials and applications were used to make Skull Knight a successful cosplay. Below is a simplified drawing of the strapping system used on both the clonetrooper and Skull Knight.
Strapping system for Skull Knight costume. Identical to Star Wars clonetrooper
The blue straps represent 1″ non-roll elastic (black). The black straps are 1″ black webbing. Red and yellow is for 1.5 ” heavy stretch elastic (black). The belt made of the black 1″ webbing material is fitted with a parachute buckle and the end straps have the female portion of 5/8″ metal snaps where the male snap sections are epoxied to the cooresponding inside surface of the armor where the strap connects. The stomach and back scale armor is worn being held up by suspenders made out of the 1″ non-roll elastic.
The spiked collar and the connected rib cage not represented her is just a slip-on over the head, resting on the shoulders with foam for comfort to inhibit the weight.
Other materials used to facilitate functional costume fabrication were as follows: super glue, Velcro, epoxie glue, cushion foam for padding, hot glue, rivets, grommets,string laces, and leather belts.
Another very important part of selling this costume is with the very first thing the cosplayer will put on before any of the armor and that is a full BLACK one piece lycra spandex bodysuit with hood and jaw cover so that any exposed body part not covered by armor appears black and unnoticed.
But first before the armor gets fitted on a real body, Trent the mannequin gets the honors of putting on the suit of armor for the first time.
Let The Painting Begin!
I’d like to share with you one of my favorite tricks when I go to surface armor builds before painting. It replaces the use of primer and leaves a good hammered/weathered effect to the costume. The product is called rubberized undercoating for automotive use.
My first step before painting any weathered armor effect.
It sprays on black with a bumpy texture and dries quickly so it doesn’t run or drip. The adhesion is incredible and paint sticks to it as well as a good primer. The texture is that of a hammered metal look and helps with the dry brushing step in the paint job.
A total of only four colors was used to achieve the finished costume (with the exception of a few more colors for the sword and shield).
Modern Masters Iridescent Silver (opaque formula) – First coat sprayed on over entire armor.
Acrylic latex Burnt Sienna and Black with a touch of the Iridescent Silver mixed with 65% water – A brushed on dark “wash” in sections immediately wiped off with cotton rag for dark recess accent appearance.
Acrylic latex White mixed with the Iridescent Silver – Dry brush technique accenting high points and hard line detail.
Skull Knight armor painted and test fitted
Cape And Kilt
I found a terrific drapery material at Joann Fabrics that was light and had a good texture that matched the SK model I used for reference. It was important that I ripped and fringed the bottom of each the cape and the kilt to give it a worn, aged look. I had to tear it and not cut, because cutting with the scissors is too obviously square cut and clean.
Both the kilt and cape were cut to size and female snaps were installed several inches apart at the top inside of the fabric and the male receiving snaps were superglued at the corresponding points inside the armor for installation. I used thin black liquid leather dye to darken the drape fabric.
Fitting The Costume On A Person
A VERY important step when getting ready to fit the armor on a person with this particular costume, made of fiberglass, is making sure it’s clean and devoid of any sharp burrs of glass and fiberglass dust. OUCH and ITCHY!
The Cosplayer sporting this armor has to have a handler with them. The legs and arms are easy enough by themselves, but the collar and rib cage with attatched shoulder spiked armor has to be carefully slipped over the head. The opening of the rib cage/spiked collar armor is large enough for the person to have put the helmet on first, but if he so chooses to wait until after slipping on the chest and shoulders, the helmet will need to be put on by the handler. Arm reach is limited with everything on.
Sculpting 101: Choosing What To Use For Your Masterpiece
This post is an introduction to different media you can choose from to make your project. I highlight mostly what I’ve used in the past and I’ll tell you now that there are many more different ways to “make an omelet” so I can’t say I’ve given you all the materials you can choose from. I believe these ways are still the most popular so you will probably already have an understanding about what I’m talking about in each section. The order of appearance down the list doesn’t reflect importance of use either. You may also have an idea already what you want to use.
Oil based modeling clay is my preference for projects with great detail and jobs that will require molding for producing a rugged final piece. Clay is easy to work with and you can quickly change shapes and texture with a push of your thumb. A stiffer clay is designed for holding refined detail, where a softer clay for ease of making big shapes. I usually go with the medium clay that has some properties of both.
If you are making a large sculpt, such as a helmet or a slender project with protrusions, an armature or structure is needed to wrap the clay around for stability. Stability is not really needed for the large i.e. helmet sculpt, but taking up a lot of space on the inside of the mass will save on using a lot of clay.
Taking up space inside mass of large sculpt to save on clay and keep sculpt lighter in weight.
Wire armature for structure and stability.
I mentioned oil based here in the beginning because you can walk away from the sculpture for days at a time without worrying about the clay drying out or cracking like in water based clay. My clay of choice that I use most often is Chavant NSP (non- sulfur-plasteline) medium.
Hands and fingers–80% of what you use on clay will be what you do with your bare hands.
Various stiff sponges and rubber coarse stamps for pressing in texture detail
90% isopropyl alcohol and stiff small brush for smoothing out finished sculpture
Various LOTR 1/8 scale trolls, last one on the right WIP Super Sculpey armor.
I’ve always known Super Sculpey to be a form of clay for statues and smaller scaled projects. It’s advantage is after you’re done with your sculpture you bake it and it becomes hard which can be considered a finished project after painting. It comes in several colors and if you get the beige and are sculpting a human form its color remains an almost near perfect shade of flesh after baking properly. It also has different densities for detail sculptures. Once baked hard you can also sand drill and tool it for further workability.
An armature applies here as well for a stable work piece. Keep in mind you’ll be baking it so what you use has to handle the heat. I’ve twisted aluminum foil together, with some wire, real tight as a type of armature and it works well to conduct the heat on the inside for real thick areas of Super Sculpey.
Much of the same tools will be used here as in the modeling clay section above
Clay softener for Super Sculpey and small, stiff brush to smooth final details.
Aves Apoxie Sculpt
Aves Apoxie Sculpt is almost like duct tape with it’s many uses. It is a two part equal mix that becomes harder to rock hard after 24 hours. I haven’t done an entire sculpture in it yet, but I know some artists who prefer it to be the soul material for their piece. I love it for it’s strength and workability after it hardens. Ways that it can be used for varies from sculpting, bonding pieces together, filling in voids or holes, and even stopping leaks as it was originally designed as a plumber’s paste for water pipes. It, like Super Sculpey above, can be sanded, carved, filed, and drilled after it becomes hard.
As you work with the material after mixing (follow directions how to mix on the containers) you’ll notice it will start to get warm from the chemical reaction, and it will feel more and more stiff at different stages of the reaction. You’ll find you’re own preference of workability as time goes by. It will hold detail a lot better as it gets closer and closer to becoming hard. Simple water is used to smooth the surface. I always have a cup of water with me while working with the stuff and continually wet my hands to prevent the material from sticking to my skin. The Aves company recommends wearing gloves, but I personally can’t work with it wearing them.
Much of the same tools will be used here as in the modeling clay section above
Water is used for smoothing substrate
Sand paper and files for after it becomes hard
EPS (expandable poly styrene) or Styrofoam is another favorite of mine–except for the huge mess it leaves after carving. If you have an extra large project to make, EPS foam is perfect because of how light and versatile it is to work with. It can also be quite challenging as well. You will be summoned to hone in a different set of sculpting skills than clay as with foam you’re taking material away or removing to get your shape. Clay mostly requires you to add on and shape multiple building-up layers. Imagine you’re Michelangelo chiseling away marble or stone from a huge slab to get a shape you see on the inside.
With foam you can cut, chop, saw, slice, chainsaw, file, sand, and even control melt/burn to achieve your desired output. If you burn or cut foam with a hotwire or hot iron WEAR A MASK OR VENTILATOR! The fumes are hazardous to breath in. The advantage of being able to burn your cuts is that there is no foam bead mess. It just melts to itself cleanly.
You’ll notice some of the pics for EPS foam above shows some examples with aluminum foil wrapping and sealing the finished foam form. This is to protect the foam from the fiberglass resin that I coated it with to make a hard shell for molding purposes. Foam has a few chemical enemies that immediately melt and pit the surface of the foam upon contact.
Hand saw and/or keyhole saw
Utility knife, old kitchen knife, exacto blade
Depending on size or scope of project an electric chainsaw
Hot iron for large burn cuts or “hogging” out large sections
Urethane foam has a remarkable property that allows you to capture incredible sharp detail into your sculpture. The cells are much closer together than in EPS foam and the beads and/or structure of the foam is finer. This makes for easier cutting and tooling the surface.
What I love most about this type of foam is that I can polyester resin coat my finished sculpture right on top of the foam without having a protective layer as you would for Styrofoam. Having a tough “candy coating” shell helps protect the foam sculpture for the next step in the process. For my cylon head, I then bondoed some of the line detail back in and then sprayed it with a high building polyester sandable primer to finish him off before molding. Here he is getting ready for the molding process after a high gloss paint job:
Smooth “candy coated” shell over urethane sculpture before molding.
Much of the same tools are needed as with EPS Foam
Dust mask required because of the tiny foam dust is hazardous to breath in
Eva Foam and Floor Mat Foam
Floor mat foam material for Tavion Cosplay by Damaris Degen of Mystiques World of Cosplay
If you’re a serious cosplayer, you should know all about EVA foam. It’s the most popular choice for comfort because it’s so light and soft to wear–not to mention it’s incredible properties with flexibility to take any shape over body parts and holding details cut into it. I’ve seen some wonderful armor builds that would fool almost anybody to believe it’s real armor.
One tip I learned that I found important is know your cut. Another words cut out templates out of card stock or cardboard first and test fit on a form or yourself somehow and then transfer the correct shape onto the foam before cutting. You’ll save time, money and head aches.
Hot glue is my choice of glue for connecting the foam to itself, plastic, and strapping. However, a real cool affect I’ve used for armor builds is hammering large snaps to connect layers of armor together where the exposed snap looks like armor rivets.
Floor mat foam is a similar form of EVA foam and can be treated the same way for your builds. The picture provided here for Eva and floor mat foam is from my friend Damaris Degen of Mystique’s World of Cosplay on her build for her Star Wars Tavion Cosplay. I suggest following her because she’s fantastic, and keeps no secrets how she does her magic.
All sharp cutting hand tools–scissors, utility knife, breakaway blade knives
Cutting board or hard smooth surface, straight edge guides
Dremmel tool for carving in details
Hot glue gun with hot glue sticks
Heat gun for shaping foam around contours (i.e. body parts…be careful, extremely HOT or do on a mannequin)
Rulers, tape measures, tailor tape measure
Plasti-Dip spray coating for giving the foam a hard candy coat finish when complete.
Body forms or mannequin
PVC Pipe, Shapes and Board (Sintra)
I have the greatest success with PVC shapes and boards for jobs that need a quick turnaround or projects that show me faster results and progress. There are so many pre-fabricated shapes available in PVC such as all the different diameter pipes, plastic planters and bowls (which I used on my Life Size Nutcracker), and various thickness of PVC boards or sintra that is easy to cut.
I must confess that after starting to work at Vital Signs of Orlando, Inc I now have the advantage of a CNC router table for exact cut shapes out of sintra board, such as the clock arms and gears above pic.
Computer controlled cutting table
Hand saw, hack saw
PVC Cement for gluing pipes and/or layers of board together
I’m assuming that the first material ever used for 3D art was probably wood. I’m also assuming most people, if you’re my age, had wood shop in middle/high school and got to make a bird house. Everyone, I’m sure, has had some kind of experience with wood in their lifetime. I like working with wood because there are so many tools made or invented just to deal with certain aspects of it by either cutting, filing, carving, drilling, gluing, screwing, and even staining and painting.
Looking at the gallery of photos above can give you an idea of how I have used wood before including using branches of a tree on my log reindeer.
I’ve learned a fascinating new technique since working at a sign shop which is sandblasting. Here, the face of a cedar board gets sandblasted to get a desired woodgrain and custom signage. Anything on the board that is to remain the surface of the original board gets a rubberized, tough, masking material that causes the sand to bounce off and not penetrate the surface of the board. Anything not masked off gets pushed back and the beautiful woodgrain is exposed. See sign pics above.
Compressor, sand, tanks, air hose, gloves, hood, and sand
Manual hand or power saws (circular saw, jig-saw, chop saw, reciprocating saw, etc..)
Drills and drill bits, hole saws for use with drills and paddle bits
Files, chisels and sandpaper
Bar clamps and large vice-clamps
Wood lathe for spinning wooden dowel rods and filing specific shapes (i.e. baseball bat)
See above picture for sandblasting
Metal can be cumbersome because of it’s weight and difficulty in cutting, shaping and bringing together by welding if you don’t have the experience or the right tools. But, nothing beats the real thing and I’m betting most replication in cosplaying armor and weapons or faux finishing is trying to copy metal’s appearance.
Some metals however can be easier to work with like aluminum and copper because they are lighter and softer. Aluminum is my choice of metal that I have most experience with, which happens to be the choice of metal I use most often in my job as a sign fabricator.
The choice of metal for the fandom culture probably isn’t wise as a cosplay piece for safety reasons. I can’t imagine wielding a real sword, at a Con, being Guts from Berserk manga as monstrous as his prop is. But a real metal sword hanging on a wall with all your other collectibles and props is paramount.
Metal cutting saw blades on power saws
Cutting torches (oxy-acetylene, plasma)
Welder-stick, mig, tig
Safety gear for heat and light (gloves, dark cutting shades and welding helmet)
Again, I haven’t shared everyway or everything you can use to build your projects from and if there is anything you believe important I left out with even talking about the materials highlighted here, please feel free to comment below and I will incorporate your ideas here. Thanks for hanging out here for a while and good luck on your next project! I’d love to see what some of you all are making and using to create your Masterpiece!