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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Sideshow Skeletor Costume Build

 The other day I published a post about the construction of Skeletor's Havoc staff based on this statue:
Sideshow Skeletor

I started with the staff first, but the main goal all along was to build the entire outfit. It turns out I pulled it off:

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To see how the whole thing was made, read on...


For the longest time, this project was on my to-do list, but I never got it onto the "started" list for a variety of reasons.  The main reason being that I wasn't about to get into the kind of shape I'd need to be in to simply paint myself blue for the right look.  My plan was to build everything onto a musclesuit, but every time I found one it was either very clearly fake, or way too expensive.

That was until a friend sent me a link to one of these (LINK)

This is a lifeline silicone musclesuit top that can be had for less than $2,000.  In fact, the complete set of top and bottom could be had for around $800.  In the pictures she'd posted, she made it look pretty convincing.  So I figured I'd roll the dice, spend a few hundred dollars, and see how it actually looked in person.

When it showed up, I was definitely happy with it:

Look at me in my happy rubber meatball outfit

According to the manufacturer's specs, the top weighs around 18 pounds.  While I haven't weighed it myself, it feels at least twice that heavy.  It's cast with a sort of egg crate pattern inside to reduce the weight, but it only helps so much.  The rubber is supple and stretchable, but as soon as you move from the neutral pose the suit was originally cast in, it's pushing against you like a rubber resistance band at the gym.  There is also absolute no kind of ventilation at all, so the entire thing just holds all of the sweat inside and slowly boils you.  I'd have to come up with some lightweight solution to keep myself cool.

Still, I was pretty happy with the purchase.

So happy with it that I posted the above image to my Instagram with no real explanation of what I was up to.  I also decided that I might as well go ahead and order myself the lower half of the musclesuit which you can get here (LINK).

Not long after I placed that second order it was leg day.  The legs showed up while I was in the shop and it wasn't until much later, after my girlfriend had gone to work, that I finally had a chance to try them on.  Then, without any explanation, I texted her this image:
Leg Day THAT'S MY THUMB!

"What the hell are you thinking?" said she, "I'm at work!"

So I replied with this image:
Ken Doll Beefcake

I think this is absolutely hilarious.

The image I refrained from sending was this one:
GOOCH SHOT!  You're welome.

Some months later, I had my friend Jeff come over with his Revopoint Range handheld 3D scanner so we could scan me in the whole rubber suit.  This would allow us to properly scale the 3D printed armor parts to fit on the suit.  This was only the second time I wore the entire ensemble:
Looking Good

It was still pretty silly looking:
Musclesuit has no junk.

After the requisite amount of goofing off, we started scanning me:Musclesuit Scanning Day

I'd also donned a bald cap so we could get a scan of my head.  With no hair and no color, I ended up looking like some kind of pro wrestler reincarnation of Vladimir Putin:


So yeah.  I'm never allowed to shave my head.  Ever.

Once we were done scanning me, I ditched the baldcap, but decided to stay in the rest of the musclesuit ensemble for a while to see how long it took to feel unbearably hot while I went about my usual goings on.  I can't begin to guess what the neighbors thought:
Musclesuit Scanning Day

But the dogs didn't seem at all bothered by it:
Musclesuit Scanning Day

In any case, once I had the body scan, the next step was to scan individual parts of the statue with my Revopoint Mini 3D scanner, import them into Netfabb, and scale them to the appropriate size on my new rubber body.  I started with the chest cross:
Chest Detail

Being less than an inch tall and wide, even if the scan data was perfect, scaling it up to lifesize was going to mean the resolution wouldn't be particularly awesome.  Here's what it looked like:


With the Havoc staff project, I printed the low resolution scan at lifesize.  Then I would sand the parts down to get rid of the bumps from the noisy 3D scan, then go through the painstaking, time-consuming task of hand sculpting all of the missing details and sharpening up the edges with Bondo and epoxy putty.  

Since I intended to wear the completed costume at San Diego Comic Con, it was starting to look like there weren't enough hours in the month for me to do all of the work necessary to get this guy together in time.

Fortunately, my friend Jeff (who you can find on Instagram as @k.j_fabrications) had just finished a master's degree in digital sculpting.  I was able to hire him to take on the fine tuning of each of the rough 3D scans.  He made quick work of resculpting the rough scan data into something presentable:
Jeff's Model of Skeletor's Chest Cross

Seriously.  Look at it!  It's gorgeous.  

The next step was to import it into Netfabb and scale it to fit me in my musclesuit:

While I was there, I also digitally drilled a hole near each tip of the cross so we could attach things to its backside later.

To speed up the printing process, the cross was split into two halves and each half was printed on one of my fleet of Zortrax M200 3D printers.  Here's the top half in progress:
Skeletor Chest Cross Printing

Since this costume would be a rare one-off, the printed parts would be finished and worn instead of being molded and cast in something more durable.  With that in mind, the parts were printed with 20% infill for strength.

Printing the two halves simultaneously reduces the print time significantly.  Starting the prints at the end of the day in the shop means coming in the following morning to find them ready to pop off of the print bed and get glued together:
Skeletor Printed Chest Cross Assembled

To add a bit more strength, the backside was given a couple of coats of XTC-3D epoxy resin from Smooth-On.

These pieces have a lot of fine detail, so I printed them with a layer height of .09mm.  As a result, they only needed a tiny bit of light sanding with 150-grit sandpaper before they were ready for primer:
Skeletor Chest Cross Primed

After two coats of grey filler primer, and a bit of touch-up sanding, the whole thing was given a coat of black primer:
Skeletor Chest Cross Gloss Black

Once that had dried, I gave it two coats of Rustoleum Dark Steel:
Rustoleum Dark Steel

We ended up with a lot of this stuff left over after a big project a few years ago.  As a result, it's since found its way into lots of other projects in the shop.

Once the paint had plenty of time to dry, the whole thing was given a copious blackwash:
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The end result was a convincingly sinister chunk of metallic awesomeness:
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With that done, we had the workflow sorted out.  First, I would scan a part of the statue and scale it to fit on the body scan:

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Then I would clean it up as best I could, then send the "smoothed" scan as an STL file to Jeff.  Who would then remake it as a watertight, printable model with all of the practical considerations like wall thicknesses and whatnot.  Here's a side-by-side comparison of a scan next to his work:
Scanned statue shin (left) vs. Jeff's resculpted model (right)

Once he sent me the improved models, the larger parts were printed in sections:
Skeletor Shin Parts

The sections were then glued together:
Skeletor Shin Print Assembled

In the case of the lower leg armor, we worked out a separate panel in the backside that would make it possible to fit a foot through:
Skeletor Shins

Once the parts were assembled, I would distract myself for a bit with a test fitting:
Skeletor Shins Captain Morgan Pose

Then the parts would be sanded, primed, touched up with filler putty as needed, then sanded, primed, sanded, primed, painted, and weathered.  In no time at all, parts were starting to pile up:
Parts Pile Growing

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I was very proud of the level of detail we'd achieved:
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One of the very last pieces we made was the spiked collar arrangement.  Mostly because it was going to be hugely elaborate to do the 3D sculpt:
Skeletor Statue Collar

But we'd been progressing through the parts pretty quickly, graduating to more and more complicated pieces as we went, so by the time we got to this thing, it wasn't as much of a challenge.  Mostly it was just what was next.  The end result was also absolutely gorgeous:
Jeff's Model of Skeletor's Collar

Once I'd printed and assembled it, I had to try it on straight away:
Collar Test Fit

My crew in the shop suggested that we may eventually have to do a Skeletor/Elton John mashup costume at some point.  "Skelton John" would basically just be Skeletor with a lot more sequins and/or rhinestones.

Once it was painted, it was even prettier:
received_974054143745646

Pretty much all of the pieces were made in the same manner.  The main exception was the armor plates that sit on top of his feet.  In order to make it as easy as possible to bend them to fit into the bottom of the lower leg armor, we decided it would make sense to mold the foot and cast it in a semi-rigid urethane.  Since "semi-rigid" also means "kinda flexible" we were worried that the paint we used on all of the hard parts would potentially crack and flake off of the surface.  

So instead of paint, we opted to dust the inside of the molds with a silver powder.  When the parts were cast, the powder dust inside the mold would be bonded to the surface of the casting and flex and stretch as needed.  Sadly, the only photo I took of the entire process was this one where my assistant Rachel was starting to pull one of the castings out of the mold:
Skeletor Footplate Demolding

We ended up making three copies of the footplate.  You can see them all here: 
Weathered Footplate Castings

The final color wasn't a perfect match for the other parts, but it did the trick.

The other part that was done a tiny bit differently was the skull mask.  I started with a 3D model of a Ghost Rider mask I found on CGTrader.com .  The mask was really more of a one-piece helmet.  It was a bit too large and the lower jaw was fixed in place with all of the teeth fused together, so I had some modifications to do.  First, I scaled it down as much as I could while still fitting my face inside, then I sliced off the back half of the skull and separated the lower jaw.  At that point, it looked like so:
Skeletor Mask Model

Then, my 3D modelling skills exhausted, I went ahead and printed the parts.  Here's the mask after a light sanding:
received_1600917457083487
Pay no attention to the cartoon version on the right.

Now it was time for some plastic surgery.  I started by altering the brow, nasal ridge, cheekbones, and chin with some Free Form Air lightweight epoxy dough from Smooth-On:
Skeletor Mask Mods

This stuff is pretty great once you know what to expect.  It starts out as two separate materials that feel a bit like a lightweight version of dried Play-Doh.  When you knead together two lumps of equal volume, it starts to get a bit sticky and if feels like you're sculpting with marshmallow fluff or cake frosting. So instead of sculpting it like clay or epoxy putty, you adhere it to whatever surface you're working on in some very rough semblance of the shape you want.  Then allow it to cure and come back later to shape it with knives, files, and sandpaper.  Here it is again after a bit of reshaping the cured FreeForm Air:
Skeletor Face Progress

It requires a bit of patience, but the end result is a strong, lightweight piece.  Here's my final result in primer after a few rounds of building up and re-shaping:
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Since the face is largely immobile, it was important to me to make the jaw movable.  This way he can have at least a little bit of expression:
20230714_205126

With a couple coats of paint and some shading, I was pretty happy with it:
Skeletor Face PAINTED

Things were starting to look like they were coming together.  The main problem remaining at this point was that the muscle suit was still "natural" color and Skeletor is supposed to be a much less natural shade of blue.  Painting silicone parts is tricky because almost nothing will stick to silicone.  The main exception is that silicone will stick to silicone.  

So I invested in a couple of pints of Psycho Paint from Smooth-On as well as their Silc-Pig silicone pigments and Novocs silicone solvent.  Notionally you need to paint platinum cure silicone parts immediately upon removing them from the molds.  Since I had no idea how long the muscle suit had been out in the world, I did have some doubts that I'd be able to get the paint to bond to the surface.  So I decided to paint a test patch in a discreet area that wouldn't be noticed if it failed.  So this is me painting a butt cheek after wiping it down with acetone to clean the surface:
Painting Buttcheeks

The first test paint peeled right off after a couple of hours of curing time.

So I tried a couple of other options, scrubbing the surface with Naptha, Novocs, Isopropyl alcohol, and acetone in an order I can't remember.  I also gave the paint more time to cure on the surface.  This time I ended up with two successfully blue buttcheeks:
Blue Buttcheeks

I reserve the right to be proud of my blue buttcheeks.

Somewhere in there was a winning combination.  Not sure which of the solvents had done the trick (or if I actually needed all of them) I proceeded to build custom hangers for the musclesuit parts, then but them through the whole series of solvent scrubs:
Solvent Scrubbing

Then I cleared out my painting booth and hung them up where I'd have plenty of room to move around them:
Hanging in the Spray Booth

The first coat of blue went on okay, but while it photographs well, it looked a little too teal in person:
First Color Coat

Clearly the "natural" skin tone was giving the blue a bit of yellow undertone.  So I added another coat of blue:
Second Color Coat

To fix the teal tone, I shaded over the whole thing with a thin layer of black, then, to reduce the gloss, I dusted the whole thing with talcum powder and let it set up:
Shading and Powder

Happy that I'd captured the color I wanted, it was time to pack everything for the trip to San Diego Comic Con:
Skeletor Finishing004

And when I say "pack everything," I mean everything:
Fully Loaded 
The car itself was huge and should've had plenty of room, but we had two other big projects taking up most of the interior space.  But that's a story for another blog article.

Once we'd checked into the hotel, it was time to unpack a bit:
Skeletor Finishing005

After two days of convention shenanigans, it was finally time for Skeletor to arrive:
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And arrive he did:
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Not only was Skeletor there, but we'd put together a whole group of Masters of the Universe cosplayers:
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More on those builds in a separate article.

I had a lot of fun posing with other cosplayers too:
Skeletor Finishing009

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As Skeletor, I got to enjoy being a bit of a jackass, but it was especially fun when I ran into other villains:
Skeletor and Maleficent

IMG_2923

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And whatever this thing is:
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I ended up cruising around at the convention in the whole costume for a little under four hours.  The only thing that kept me from dying of heat stroke under the thick rubber suit was Jeff.  He was following me around with a bag of 50 instant cold packs and every twenty or thirty minutes we'd stop and swap out the melted packs in each of my armpits and the one at the small of my back.  

Jeff gets all of the glamorous jobs.

I also drank an entire gallon of water in that time and lost at least that much as sweat:
received_186300997767612

But I didn't die.

We did pose for quite a few photos and there was at least one solid photographer we know who we shot with outside before going into the convention center.  Whenever I get done rounding up all of our photos, I'll post another article with those shots.  In the meantime, you can see whatever I've got in this Flickr album (LINK).

So now that I've had my first outing as Skeletor, I'm pretty happy with the finished product.  I do think I'll go back and remake the face at some point so it'll be a bit smaller.  Maybe redo the hands and sculpt a pair of feet so he can go around barefoot too.  If I'm feeling really ambitious, I'll make a new musclesuit out of a lighter material for greater comfort and wearability.

The goal is to stop before I go too crazy making accessories for this character.  Though this thing I spotted at the Mondo booth has me a little inspired:
Skeletor Finishing006

Until next time...

NOTE: I've included links to the products used if you have a need for such things.  Full disclosure: they're Amazon Associates links and if you order anything after clicking on those links (even if it's not the same thing I linked you to, but some other thing you buy after clicking on the link) it'll send a small amount of money my way.  So if you've enjoyed reading this article and you need to order something on Amazon, consider following one of my links to get you there.

If you don't want to scroll back up and find one of those links, try this (LINK).  

Or if you want to learn more about how I do what I do, you can pick up my book of how-to here (LINK).  Thank you.

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