Cosplay Project: Bone Head Helmet
“Black Death” and “56”
Cosplay Helmet Fabrication Project, 2018
Original character designs by Machine56, original story written and comic books published and released by Glitch, Top Cow & Image Comics
In my never ending quest to find new and satisfying comic books, I found a few series being produced by one of my more favorite comic book publishers, Image Comics.
The first to catch my eye was Bone Head, just because of the character displayed on the front cover. I have a penchant for skulls, as you may have noticed, and a real love affair with mech designs. The character, 56, displayed on the front of Bone Head married those two interests perfectly, inspiring me to be that character for cosplay.
I wanted to make 2018 the year I do cosplay. Last year my husband and I took our little sister and newphew to Florida Supercon, and while there we were overwhelmed by the number of people dressed up as their favorite characters from comic books, tv shows, movies, manga, video games – whatever form of entertainment exists and then some. My nephew really enjoyed the experience, even going so far as to want to dress up if we went again. I’ve been wanting to do cosplay for years, but lacked the motivation to get started. His interest settled my mind on the fact that I just needed to let myself do this and propelled me into starting this project.
Now that I had the motivation, I just needed to figure out who would I go as? What character echoed some version of myself that I could try to portray and feel satisfied, dare I even say – proud, to be? More over, what about my nephew? A character that he could also identify with, one we could work on together, and maybe play off of each other’s characters – these were the emotional elements that I was looking for in this project – connection.
There is a problem in comic books. Only a few major characters are black or hispanic. It’s been discussed plenty, even made into satire in films, but I haven’t seen much change. Not to say that changes haven’t happened to some of my favorite franchise characters – like Ghost Rider now being a car driving hispanic, or Spider-man now featured in the Spider-verse as a younger mixed race hero. While it has been nice to see the torches passed on to new character hosts, I’m dying for a new character that starts off different.
Until I can get my own ideas off the ground or someone beats me to it, I typically fall for characters that hide their faces and flesh tones behind a mask. Underneath that character could be handsome, gruesome, black, white, hispanic, asian, grey, red, a machine, whatever – at least I can identify with what the character embodies as an idea.
The idea, symbolized by the mask/costume/symbol, becomes immortal and thus the character does as well. That’s how the legacy of great characters like Ghost Rider and Spider-man can continue to be passed on and given new life by those that wear the mask, or bear the flaming skull…
Well anyway, on my search for that character I was drawn into the Bone Head universe instantly. I couldn’t wait to consume it. After reading through comic #1, I realized two things:
- Character 56 could be hispanic, or asian, and based on actions would appear to be more aligned to the character of my nephew.
- Though Black Death was mentioned, he did not officially make an appearance, however the cover of comic #2 was featured in the back, prominently displaying the character Black Death. Just from what was mentioned and displayed in the back, Black Death appears to be older and is already mysterious, more like me.
I handed the comic to my nephew to read and he was instantly hooked as well, especially since he’s all about parkour right now anyway. We agreed to make the costumes for and go as 56 and Black Death.
The Process of Developing the Bone Heads
This project started off as all projects should – with research. When I began, I only had Bone Head #1 for reference art, so as to not destroy my comic, I decided to redraw important angles of 56‘s helmet. Since this project included my nephew, I allowed him to help me draw the line art for the reference art we’d be referring to while sculpting and adding details. Once we completed a couple of drawings I had to figure out how I was actually going to make this thing. I knew it was going to be made of foam because of cosplay books I had looked through at bookstores on how to make armor, but I didn’t have a clue how. I turned to YouTube and found this video by Tested that was my guide:
Once I understood how to glue the foam and bend it, my nephew and I picked up foam workout mats at Wal-Mart, then made 3D templates including a mouth guard from manilla folders. It took a few trials to get it right, transferring our cut-outs to Adobe Illustrator, tracing it, reprinting it, building it and repeating that process until we had something that looked basically right enough to transfer to foam.
We transferred the templates to foam and followed Adam Savage’s instructions from the Tested video, having used a heat gun to pre-form the shapes, then applied the contact cement, and glued things into place. Our first results were so good that we both felt excited and confident it would work out perfectly and it accelerated our interests in completing the project and moving forward quickly.
We went back to the comic for reference and brainstormed how we’d make the details. A trip to our local Michael’s found us some foam to work with for additional detail add-ons, but it was so thin that we’d have to glue 3-4 sheets on top of each other to make it appear accurate. By chance, we came across thicker, but smaller sheets of foam. I bought most of what they had, we returned home, and we started sketching out the details on manilla folders beginning the whole trial and error phase again.
This part of the process took nearly a week. There were more pieces to get right, and frame-to-frame the details slightly changed. For example, in Bone Head #1, 56 has two vents on top of his bone head up until he meets another character named Pumpkin Juice. At that point the vents shrink and become more like small circular details. We had to make some choices about which angles and details were more important for a real-life adaptation. Once we did, and we got it right, we moved on to transferring the templates to foam. Initially I thought I was going to have to cut and glue the smaller, thicker sheets of foam together to achieve enough surface area for the templates, but thankfully when placed at just the right angle, the fit edge to edge. We were able to use the smaller sheets for all the details.
Over a weekend that my nephew was spent time with his dad, I took the opportunity to get ahead of him and fully flesh my bone head’s details out. This would allow me to give him more support and attention while he worked on his and it would let me see what needed to be changed and adjusted before he started. It took me about one full-day of work, and the result was very satisfying. I really had to hold myself back from painting and completing it that weekend.
The following week I aided my nephew with his details. Aided, but did not do – I wanted him to put in the time and effort, see the results, and be proud to say that he made this on his own. It took us nearly one-week to complete what I had done in one-day, but it was a good teaching moment for both of us. I learned what the skill levels of a not-so-typical 13-year-old were and he started to see the difference between being focused and unfocused. The hardest part of adding details was by far using the wood burning pen to burn in lines. It melted foam so fast that you really had to know what you wanted to do and be committed to the line stroke before getting near the material. Also, I’m quite sure the fumes were somewhat toxic, so we had to wear air respirators during that part of the detailing process.
By the weekend we were finally on the same page. Both helmets had some DAP® Kwik Seal applied to seams and spots that needed feeling. I had sanded them pretty well, and found that white puff paint made for a great filler too – it dried faster than Kwik Seal, but it was not able to be sanded, so its use was limited to building up depressed areas.
We began painting as soon as we could. 56 was more difficult for my nephew than I thought he’d be. The colors were simple: light grey, red, and black; the application of them, not so simple. A 13-year-old that never painted anything before, I didn’t realize the difficulty in this task for one. Over the course of two days, after a number of lessons on selection of brushes for tasks, where to start, how to load paint, pull the brush, reload and occasionally clean it off – we finally had painted the helmets. TBH, he’s not done yet. While I can acknowledge that difficulty he’s had and the progress he’s made – I’m pushing him go beyond himself and what he’d be willing to accept to create higher quality work and reap the benefits soon there after.
While he cleaned up his lines, I finished up Black Death. I used a Clear Crystal Glaze spray to apply a thick, shiny clear coat, and I tinted thick pieces of plastic from old sign-holders, applied contact cement to the lenses and placed them inside the helmet to complete the Black Death Bone Head.
I loved working on this project and I’m really looking forward to the next few pieces to come: shoes, a bat and then the clothing.
My nephew, Michael Martinez, finally completed his helmet. We repainted it several times and achieved the results we were aiming for. This project was all Michael, I just supervised and helped him with minor touches.
Bonehead Helmet Cosplay Template PDF – $6.00
Love the way my Bonehead Cosplay helmet came out? Make your own using the template I developed!