Must be a commission from Frontier Airsoft right?
Every year for one event Frontier do a post-apocalyptic game-day and encourage players to come in costume and generally enjoy the idea of gun-battles in a devastated future. This year they asked for a big super-mutant for part of the storyline.
We discussed the design a little and after some initial sketches and cut & paste photoshop jobs with internet images we settled on the general style. It was going to be big and imposing, a hulking beast. Hulk-like actually in terms of proportions.
The usual rules apply:
- Must be able to take hits without being damaged.
- Must be wearable enough so that the actor can run (stumble) around and actually take part in a live-action game and react to the environment.
How the hell do I build something this huge?
At first I wasn’t really thinking about the final look of it, I was mainly concerned with engineering the core to be able to support the final look, and to be functional. To start with then, this was an engineering job. The main body core is a couple of large sheets of foam, glued and shaped into a rough body core. From here I built downwards creating a basic pair of what amounts to padded trousers, then outwards creating sleeves for the actors arms.
Because of the budget for this piece, I was really lucky to have a lot of upholstery stuffing and foam left over from another project. Using that and some bargain thin fabric I set about padding out the torso, creating the basic muscle shapes. I wasn’t too bothered about anatomy here, it’s a mutant after all and I wanted it to look inhuman as much as possible whilst still actually fitting a man inside. I went for some basic muscle groups and generally built up the torso a great deal. I know from studies I’ve read that people don’t tend to look at the lower body much, so I spent about 70% of the build time on the upper torso. The legs are fairly basic – this is not only to save time and budget, but also because the less I mess with them the easier it is for the actor to wear them and move around. The planned clothing would cover up the simplicity of the legs nicely.
Feet are always an issue…
If this were a costume for the theatre, or a TV or film set, the feet could be beautifully crafted and sculpturally done. This costume was going to be abused – badly. the actor was going to have to stomp across forest ground, possibly run (or waddle), maybe dive and duck (or sort of bob) and realistically the feet needed to be engineered for survival rather than beauty. Also most people wouldn’t really be looking at them.
I settled for a ‘wrapped’ look over a very simple padded foam outer ‘boot’ shape. This would allow the maximum freedom for the actor in terms of not having to be shoved into restrictive foot wear, and it would also be in keeping with the world the mutant inhabits – where would a 7ft tall behemoth get size 25 boots from in a nuclear wasteland? So wrapped feet were the way forward. I planned to augment this look with ‘steel’ shin guards and knee pads made from foam.
..Hands are also always an issue.
This is another area where function comes over form. The actors using these suits have to perform tasks depending on the scenario. I wasn’t sure whthere this mutant needed to hold a gun, a club or nothing, so I had to plan for every eventuality. Just creating slightly padded gloves wasn’t going to cut it, given the scale of the mutant having relatively tiny human hands on the ends of the arms looked ridiculous (there’s an early test video from before the hands were done, and it looks crazy with little human hands sticking out of these giant arms).
After some experimenting I opted for a fairly simple approach, I made big foam hulk-hands and stuck them to the backs of gloves. Again, not a pretty solution, but it would allow the actor to hold anything (even conventional airsoft guns) and have some semblance of having gigantic muto-digits.
The head isn’t a head, it’s actually a hollow shell of foam. I simply glued foam around a polystyrene hat stand and slipped it off when it was done, leaving me with a very light, hollow, head-shaped thing. The face was very basic, but I’d already intended that the mutant be wearing post-apocalyptic standard goggles and breather mask to look more intimidating, then having no real face wasn’t a problem!
Skinning a mutant.
I’m fairly well known for injuring myself in some way during a build. I have a pretty impressive scar on the back of my right hand from an incident with a microwave and plastic. So as much as I love holt-melt glue-guns because they are awesome for all kinds of building things, I do also resign myself to the fact that I will inevitably burn myself while using them (and I did, though not too badly).
The skin of the mutant needs to be really tough, since he’ll be pushed through bushes, shot at with BB’s and inevitably (this is England after all) rained on. The costume is intended to last a long time, so again finely sculpted details have to be sacrificed for budget and functionality. I wanted the skin to be rough, raw looking like his skin had been thinned or even fallen off to make room for the expanding muscles. I figured that would make him pretty angry. To do this I simply used a quick and dirty technique of gluing fabric over the foam core then running hot melt glue in strips over the top of that. Repeat about a billion times all over.
Finishing it off.
Some basic mutant-type clothing was in order to bring it all together. I opted for a skirt type thing for modesty (and to hide the waist join and some of the legs). Again figuring that the mutant wouldn’t find trousers that fit, he’d just sling something round his waist. I also wanted something on the upper body. I needed something to cover the meshing under the neck which was the only way the actor could see out, and I needed something to cover the split running up the back of the body.
More foam rough-cut and shaped to look like hastily welded metal plating, some pleather for crude strapping and some post-apocalyptic stitching with wire and it’s done.
The gas-mask was made very in a very quick build from foam and some spare bits lying around. Just test-fitting things together and then some basic painting to bring things together.
His clothing and armour was something I thought about for a while before putting it together. I wanted something that looked like post-apocalypse bandits might construct. That meant basically nothing too refined, and nothing that was already a ‘thing’ (like the boots, there’s no super XXXXXL sized clothes for the giant mutant). I decided on something fairly simple, straps of fabric, leatherette and some sort of cord binding to tie everything together. I had a lot of EVA foam left over from making the shin guards so I decided to create a shoulder and back armour plate in much the same style, then strap that over his body. I also had some plastic chainmail left over from a project years and years ago. This is basically made the same way they did the chainmail for Lord of the Rings, plastic loops as opposed to metal ones. It’s very light and visually has the same effect.
I really wasn’t sure what to do for the Mutant’s lower half. My first plan was to put together a Hulk-style ripped trousers type thing, but due to time constraints I had to scrap that idea and keep it simple, I went for a wide belt (which hides the seam between top and bottom halves of the costume) and a simple skirt of fabric hanging from that. Suitably scarred up and burned in places, then a strategically placed strip of the chainmail over that.
The additional advantage of the chainmail around his neck is that it covers up the steel mesh panel in the creature’s upper chest where the actor sees from.
Follow us on Facebook to get the latest info on new builds and new products in the shop.
Thanks for reading!