That time of year again. I must follow tradition and make a costume. But what costume could I make this year that would be more complex, more unique, and more impressive? In brainstorming, I was looking at classic designs, like the Alien, and I was reminded of influence that Giger cited, the literature of H.P. Lovecraft. Once the name "Lovecraft" came up, my mind went immediately to Cthulhu, of course.
I've made many costumes as replications of cinematic characters. But this was something different. Cthulhu is a strong part of the popular culture of recent generations, but is seldom seen in three dimensions. There have been a number of visual interpretations of the Great Old One, from video games to South Park. The public does have an image in their mind when they hear "Cthulhu". This character allowed for a costume that could be unique in several ways: it's a costume that no one else would have, or imagine me having, and people may not be able to tell I made myself, because of the complexity of the design and construction method. It would also allow me to be creative and make my own design. All of these unique prospects appealed to me. And I love the challenge of creating extravagant items on a low budget. Producing a full-body latex suit often costs into the thousands. My aim was for under $300.
Prior to my own costume, I had only seen one half-decently made serious costume of Cthulhu. Indeed, there have been many furry costumes and adorable plushies, as Cthulhu has been turned "cutsey". But it's time to get him back to his more monstrous form.
Here is a video you can watch that shows the overall process. It's easier to see some of the steps in motion, but the Instructable has much more information and is more detailed.
Step 1: Background and Research
I find it more engaging to make costumes of what I understand, so I sought knowledge of Cthulhu and Lovecraft; the history, the mythos, and his storytelling. Lovecraft often wrote about forces beyond our Earth, beyond our galaxy, even beyond our physical realm. As such, the entities within his stories are often impossible to describe, and do not look like any life form we know from our own planet. Cthulhu, at most, was described as vaguely anthropoid, with wings and scales, and writhing tentacles on his face. Creating a complete design out of such vague descriptions is a bit of a fool's errand. Lovecraft's work doesn't really lend itself to full visual depiction; it truly works best as a horror of the imagination. It's the impossibility of the entities and the vast cosmic horror of the mythos that causes terror within the reader.
So I had to admit right from the start that whatever design I came up with would probably not please any Lovecraft enthusiasts. And I don't mean to. This is just a costume for fun. An advantage of having such a vague description to work off of means I can do something uniquely my own. At the same time, though, I did want the average person to be able to immediately identify the design as "Cthulhu". So I stuck with the regular humanoid body and octopus-like head. Which was fine by me; designing is not my best strength, so it was good to have a base to work off of.
Once I decided that Cthulhu would be a good costume to make, I had to do some planning. How would I make this costume? I wanted it to be lightweight, easy to get in and out of, and highly detailed. Sculpting the body in clay, and making plaster molds for casting a latex suit would be a great challenge, but seemed like the best way to go. My first instinct was to make a body form with foam boards, covered with plaster strips for a body base to sculpt on top of. And then make plaster molds on top of that. But how to mold the body parts? Considering size and weight, I knew I would have to mold separate pieces (like the torso, arms, legs, and head) individually. But plaster can be very heavy, and expensive if you use a lot of it. Could I somehow make molds with a resin and fiberglass instead? I explored many potential methods. This researching, in addition to learning more about Cthulhu and Lovecraft, delayed my production of the costume. I started planning as early as late August, but didn't begin any actual construction until October.