Guys, I've been working on a real doozy this time. I've been pretty tight-lipped about it since I wasn't sure if I could pull it off successfully.
Ever since my work with the satyr prosthetics two Halloweens ago, I had been brainstorming for new ideas. Drew up quite a few sketches for a centaur. Did the same for The Rocketeer. Couldn't find crucial Rocketeer props on eBay, though. Was really taken with the hilarious costume from The Office (BBC). Several other ideas didn't make it past spitballing stages. But then while I was playing a game of Star Wars Minis, I saw a sculpture that was almost identical to my discarded Rocketeer idea.
So for the last six months, I've been gradually watching for Boba Fett costume parts to come up for sale on eBay. And more importantly, I've been amassing possible components and working out the logistics on the parts I'd have to make for myself.
Mind you, this is not a traditional fan-made Boba Fett costume. There are always tons of Fetts at any given Sci Fi / Comic / Fantasy / etc. convention. I wanted to do something that I had never seen done before. I know that there are hundreds of master costumers whose skills and tools exceeded mine. But I have a tridiculous imagination. (Tridiculous is kind of like ridiculous, but it's three times as diculous. It's beyond redundantly incredulous. It puts not one, not two, but three dics in diculous. Hence tridiculous. You're welcome.)
I wanted to make something as cool as Fett but totally different from the usual gang at every'con. And I finally knew exactly how I was going to do it.
Hence this year's project: Boba Fett hovering on a column of flame.
The most recent pictures are near the bottom of this post, if you don't care about all the components and construction. Also, it might help for you to skim down and check out the pictures from time to time while reading the description. Both a picture and I tend to tell a thousand words, but a picture does it more succinctly.
The rest of the journal entry is still being edited. Will post updated photos periodically as I fiddle with the costume
Here's a picture of the jetpack/flame assembly hanging on a big Fett crucifix in my living room. This is the view of the back side.
MATERIALS / THE MAKING OF FETT ON FLAMES:
So that's the custom jetpack with column of flame that I will be standing inside of. It masks my lets and feet while I stand upright. I have fake legs that will hang out in front of me as if I am hovering in the air on a column of flame.
It is made of cardboard, aluminum tubing, duct tape, lots of paint, paper mache, more duct tape, black felt, two blinking LED lights, one small scrolling LED message board, chicken wire, white cotton cloth, more spray paint, more duct tape, and the shoulder straps from my old college backpack. This was the part that I had to make from scratch. The rest of the Fett jumpsuit is partially cut away at the waist and contains two hollow prosthetic legs suspended out in front of my torso. Oh, I also had to bang together a big wooden Fett crucifix to hang it on while I worked on the cloth "flames".
The Fett suit and helmet I bought on eBay. The cat with laser eyes is not an accessory. She is just proud of her new Boba Fett Kitty Teepee and she is posing while I take pictures of it.
I also took a few snapshots of the teeny tiny model fett that I got my final inspiration from. (Dropped that photo to keep my photobucket bandwidth down. But you can see it if you look for Fett miniature number 42 on eBay.) I would have liked to have had more taper in my flame column, but I needed to have a larger degree of freedom in order to maneuver with my rollerblades hidden.
Here is a breakdown to walk you through the evolution of this costume.
I went to Costco and "tried on" every single eligible cardboard box that they had in their great big bin o' boxes. Took three or four home. Found one that fit my back well and was wide enough to shield my hips from view as my body was going to be partially recessed into it.
Got some aluminum dryer duct tubes and joints from hardware store. They are super easy to work with, as duct tape adheres amazingly well to them. Reinforced [with assloads of duct tape] and drilled and bolted all that stuff together. Also had three cardboard tubes which were almost identical in length and diameter. The center tube is cardboard. The two tubes you see flanking it are aluminum, and the two outermost tubes are cardboard.
Blew up four balloons to nice 4-inch diameter spheres and wedged them halfway into the tops of the tubes. Then applied paper mache to them so that the jetpack's tubes would have symmetrical and relatively rounded tops. Applied liberal sanding and additional coats of paper mache. Repeated as needed. Considered self lucky to have received generic Dremel last Xmas.
Choreographed (on paper) the elaborate sequence of applications necessary to spray paint this bitch most effeciently. Developed an abiding respect, nay, love of masking tape.
Hand painted the "blaster scars" on it. Basically did a "scarred" circle with a shaggy black circle. Then I painted silver spheres or streaks in the center to make the illusion of bare metal showing through. In hindsight, some of them look a bit contrived due to placement and shape. But on the other hand, I had to place some of them in awkward locations and in implausible configurations because I felt they were needed to mask underlying physical blemishes on the tubes.
Scratched the rest of the battle scars with a knife onto the two tubes which were metal. If I had it to do all over again I would have probably made all five tubes out of aluminum. On the one hand, cardboard is much easier to work with considering the tools I used. But on the other hand, the aluminum is waaaay lighter and has the advantage that any painting mishap or scratches still ultimately add to the kickass weathered and battle-scarred metal appearance.
Okay. So far in the timeline, we've moved up to the Gulf Coast landfall of Hurricane Gustav. All work was put on temporary hold while my home accomodated nine Louisiana natives for a week or so. It was a stressful interruption of work that I had planned. But what the fuck. They are worried that they'll lose their houses and my selfish ass is worried about making my costume. So I had to check myself. And I took a break.
Okay, so the jetpack is done. Looks fairly good. My honest sense is that it still felt a bit amateurish. Halloween is coming up soon now. Frankly at this point I was scared to start on the flame column. Let's be honest. I had already procured a sweet ass fan-made Fett costume. Plus I had a top-of-the-line Lucasfilm-licensed Fett helmet. Even if I chickened out now, I would still have a sweet ass Fett costume with a jetpack I made myself.
I got off on a bit of a tangent and ordered a bunch of superfluous electronics for it. Got a couple of LED's that just randomly blink. Drilled more holes into the Jetpack chassis (can cardboard reinforced liberally with duct tape seriously be considered a "chassis" with a straight face?) and mounted one light into each shoulder of the jetpack. They don't blink in tandem but that's not important since they can't both be seen at the same time without a cunning arrangement of mirrors.
And I found an eBay dude who sold small programmable scrolling multiple-LED displays [mounted in some other crap which was what he was really selling but I promptly threw that worthless shit away and kept the LED component]. The instructions read like Japanese translated into Kiwi translated into Diskworlde Trob translated back into Japanese again and then translated into Engrish. But nonetheless, it is indeed a sweet programmable scrolling multiple-LED display which will say most any alpha-numeric thing I can think of.
Admission: I haven't yet thought of anything cool enough to program into it. So far I just have a cascade of greater-than, less-than, and equals symbols programmed to saunter vaguely downward. But Frankly Hope springs eternal and I'm sure I'll think of some hilarious inside joke to plug into the dang thang.
Here is a close up of the multiple LED scrolling display. It is much brighter and thus slightly less lame-looking when not viewed in the light of a flashbulb. It is mounted in the shadowed area right under the center tube.
Next you can see a close-up of a single blinking LED that I mounted in each shoulder of the jetpack. Nothing special there. Just a requisite random blinking light.
Okay, dammit. Buckle down, self. You have to make the flame column. This is the whole point of the costume. To be a dude in a Fett costume is not enough. This is the evolutionary leap in Fett Costumery that can make my concept slightly more noticeable than the umpty million other souls who have shuffled off this mortal coil without ever acheiving enduring Tron-Guy-esque notoriety [despite having likely contributed more to mankind than me].
The Column of Flame:
Drilled holes in the bottom of the four exterior tubes. Cut and sculpted about six square feet of chicken wire to billow out into four distinct rivulets of flame. Secured it up into the base of the jetpack with light gauge steel wire. The shape looked really really good. Chicken wire was probably the perfect choice in terms of easy moldability, light weight, and shape-holding.
Cut and draped about 15 square feet of light kona cotton cloth over it. Sewed it into the wire frame lattice by hand. Sewed velcro strips into the front of it for closure.
Began to paint it using fabric spraypaint obtained at Hobby Lobby.
OH BY THE WAY, DID I EVER MENTION MY UNPROFESSIONAL OPINION OF HOBBY LOBBY?
Dear. God. In. Heaven. Above. They. Sell. The. Most. Shoddy. Materials. Ever. Known. Unto. Man.
To be fair, the fabric spraypaints were good in that they were merely dyes which allowed the cloth to remain 100% pliable and very flowy. And most importantly they could be sprayed on in a light dusting manner. Except, of course, when the nozzle clogged and shot a stark swath of pigment onto the very item that you wished to be ever so daintily dusted with the merest hint of ethereal billowing badass jetpack exhaust
. So you end up having to go to a real hardware store and get real spraypaint to lightly (darkly) fix the fucked up wrong-ass colours on the cloth.
If I hadn't already spent hours painstakingly sewing it onto the chicken wire, I would have probably thrown it away due to the shitty Hobby Lobby paint misadventure.
Plus, real spray paints tend to make the cloth harden. I don't have any real complaint about that since I think it still looks okay. But I would have liked to have used dyes instead of paints for the feaux flames so as to have more mobility in the cloth.
Finally, I cut thin strips of chicken wire (maybe 8 inches in width) and bent them to approximate the look of the billowing bottom portion of the flame column (see also the miniature sculpture). In other words, I was creating the illusion of the bottom portion of white hot flames hitting the ground and spraying out slightly.
By sewing these all around the underside / base of the cloth, it held the fabric both out away from my rollerbladed feet and up off of the ground. Multiple success. This addition was both aesthetically and functionally necessary. It still drags the ground and can get caught up in grass or carpet. But I am never in danger of stepping on cloth because of the way it is held outwards.
Honestly, I just bought it on eBay. No need to read any further in this passage unless you would like to buy a Fett helmet someday.
Three licensed versions are mass marketed as far as I can tell. The rest appear to be fan-made. There's the cheapest one which is like the same as those kiddie masks for Halloween. Then there's a really good looking deluxe one that runs about 60 bucks. It is extremely large and you will have cut and paste a great deal of padding into it, and even then it still might look silly on you if you have a small body. Think Marvin The Martian from the old Looney Tunes cartoons. And then there's the Master Replicas version. They are limited so the price has slowly been creeping up on them. This is the one I got and I couldn't be more pleased. It's padded on the inside and required only one small piece of foam for me to make it secure on my head. Plus it contains blinking LED's in the antenna. Which brings my Useless Vaguely Science-Fictiony Blinking Light Quotient up to like 9.5 or possibly even a 10.
Honestly, I just bought it on eBay. A German fan made it himself as far as I can tell. We were both unwilling or unable to communicate in each others' native tongues past the babelfishing necessary to complete the eBay transaction. The suit is very very nice and I have absolutely no complaints about his work. The only things missing from a complete Fett outfit were some nondescript shoes which I just picked up at the great satan supercenter.
When I first inspected it, I was slightly disappointed because it appeared to have been damaged somewhat in shipping. The paint on the armour was peeling significantly, which I attributed to transatlantic cargo hold temperature and pressure changes. So I had to touch that up a bit. No real problem there. Didn't have to match the green paint; just had to paint silver in the problem areas. That's the nice thing about this kind of project. The more you fuck it up, the more it looks battle-scarred and weathered.
The suit had a sweet ass digital display on the left chest plate. But it wouldn't come on! Did it get damaged by x-rays in customs or something? It appeared to be stuck with some of the digits red and others faded to black. Is this LCD instead of LED? Am I on LSD? I was afraid to take off the backing materials since I didn't really know anything about electronics and I certainly didn't want to mess it up any more. I contacted the seller but we clearly don't speak each others' language. So I just left it alone for several months.
But then last week when I was making final preparations, I started monkeying around with it and figured out that one exposed piece of circuitry actually contained an unmarked on/off pushbutton. It was a minor miracle that I thought to push and prod at it. Then I realised that the display wasn't a digital display at all. It was just a translucent plate with static sci-fi-ish digits on it, with a blinking LED behind it. And the batteries still worked! Awesome!
By the time it was all over I had pieces of electronics doing stuff on every side of my body.
Useless Vaguely Science-Fictiony Blinking Light Quotient = 11.
MOST RECENT PICS OF THE [mostly] COMPLETED COSTUME:
Here are some poses that I did on Halloweeen night. I'm not wearing rollerblades yet. Here I'm standing on my wife's exercise steps.
These pictures are fairly late in the sequence and I had been dancing around and being silly for my wife by this point. So my shoes are showing and the right [prosthetic] leg has slipped down out of position somewhat. The right knee is meant to be cocked up and the left leg should be hanging but slightly bent as if I've just leapt up into the air.
Again, the photos make it look like I have a huge slovenly belly hanging out. I assure you that this is a function of the suit. The steel bars that support the prosthetic legs are L-shaped, and they are meant to be flush with my torso. However due to the weight of the legs, they pull forward and push the cloth out under my outfit. Hence, the ILLUSION of a big ol belly.
I was unable to cut the jumpsuit in such a way as to preserve extra cloth to mask the area where my thighs go down into the flame sheath. So I basically have to figure out which of my grey sweat shorts look best there. Also I forgot to put the holsters onto the utility belt. After reviewing the photos I added the holsters and that hip area is masked much better now.
I think I would like to reposition the codpeice/buttplate assembly. It was constructed very well, but it doesn't suit my particular take on a Fett costume. It is mounted on an elastic belt, but it kept slipping down my ass and of course I couldn't reach it to maintain the right look.
I don't think I want to wear rollerblades to the party I'm attending tomorrow night. My wife says it's rude to wear my street skates inside their house. But mainly, I think I'm actually going to need more
height. The cloth still brushes the ground slightly even when I was on that step in the photos. Plus any additional height will help to add to the illusion.
Okay I spent a couple of hours making some platform shoes out of the old Satyr skate assembly. I basically unbolted the steel rods and rearranged them to be flush with the soles. Then I bolted several together and wrapped the bottoms with real rubber bungee cords. The resulting boots are about an inch higher than they would have been on wheels and it grips every surface extremely well.
Here's a pic..
After having worn it at a November 1 Halloween party, I have a few more things that I'd like to improve on.
The "skirt" is still too long. I found that the chicken wire on the bottom of the flames is sufficiently sculpted to keep the cloth held up and out away from my feet. However it makes a disconcerting light scraping noise and I don't want my hosts to be wondering what the fuck I'm doing to their hardwood floors. And it also tends to move sluggishly on carpet. It doesn't catch and trip me but I don't want to take that chance. So I took the length up about two inches with my trusty Handi-Stitch handheld sewing machine right before the party.
Also I still have one pesky gap right at the bottom front where you can totally see my right foot no matter what I do. Now I understand why dress makers put the zippers on the side or rear. So I got a piece of white posterboard and wrapped it around my right boot. As far as I could tell, it worked to preserve the illusion of white flame.
Hard to tell tho, since most people were at least a teeny bit awed by the costume in its entirety. Nobody there wanted to be a helpful dick about it and point out specific flaws for me. - -Not even my wife, who can usually be counted on for constructive criticism of that variety.
And finally, here are some pictures that a helpful friend took November 1, 2008. These help add a bit of perspective since a fraction of the awesomeness of the costume can be attributed exclusively to the fact that I appear to be like six and a half feet tall.
And here is a pic of me shamelessly posing for the nice camera. (Self criticism duly applied: I must figure out how to mask that gap at the bottom front of the flame skirt!)
BUT REAPRE, WHAT ABOUT YOUR WIFE LADY?
Oh Shit! I forgot that my wife needs a costume.
Sidebar Alert: This passage is not germane to this post. In fact, it's so irrelevant that it's neither germane, tito, jackie, marlon, michael, nor LaToya to this post. Anyway last year I got a totally sweet V costume. I was going to be the hero character from the epic comic and movie entitled V For Vendetta. But my wife didn't have a costume to wear. So she wanted us to instead dress in 1990's metal/punk stuff since it would be totally easy for us to reconstitute the metal/punk look by cobbling together the vestiges of my old college wardrobe. Long story short, I now still have a brand new V For Vendetta costume hanging in my closet. The take-home point from that experience is that Thou Shalt Provide Halloween Costuming For Thine Own Wife Lady Or Things Will Not Go Well For Ye.
Anyway I finally figured out what I should get for her this year. It had to somewhat match my theme but also be vanilla enough that she would be comfortable wearing it while slightly pregnant.
Remember all those stereotypical touristy / Spring Break / universally-beachy oversized t-shirts with the voluptous bikini body airbrushed on? Remember? Remember how it totally looked like a real hot babe at first glance but then you realise that the wearer of the shirt doesn't have a hot babe's body. And then it's temporarily a hilarious gag shirt. Then you become immediately self-conscious and attempt to look away before your wife catches you looking at the hot fake bikini t-shirt.
Sidebar: Unless the shirt's on a girl. And then it's temporarily the hottest thing you've ever seen in your life. You will be required to avert your eyes posthaste in this situation as well, but you will not be successful.
So anyway I got a local airbrush dude to recreate that Princess-Leia-In-Totally-Awesome-Golden-Bikini outfit from Return of the Jedi. I asked him to do two versions so my wife could pick whichever one she liked best. I figure that would take the pressure off him if he messed up or if he needed to do one for practice or if he maybe had multiple appraches but wasn't sure exactly what look he wanted to go with.
I'm pretty sure I will never ever persuade her to wear it for a photo on the internet, so here is a photo of them laid on the couch.
Sidebar: "Laid on the couch." Hee hee.