Introduction: DOCTOR WHO CYBERMAN COSTUME
Finalist in the
Halloween Epic Costumes Challenge
This is the costume I made for Halloween of 2011. The design is based primarily on the design of the Cybermen from the 1967 serial entitled "The Moonbase". For a variety of reasons - some practical, some personal - I did not attempt to create an exact duplicate of the costume from that show, but it's one of my favorite incarnations of the Cybermen and served as the most direct inspiration. The costume consists of five main features: the mask, the suit, the chest console, the boots, and the gloves. The mask is easily the most complicated piece, but actually took the least amount of time.
One of the nice things about choosing a Cyberman for a costume is that they appear different each time the monsters are resurrected on Doctor Who, so you have a lot of leeway in terms of design choices, and a lot of incarnations from which to draw inspiration. For me, the most important features to signify a Cyberman are the "handles" on their heads and the distinctive "teardrop" design of the eye holes (not yet present on the actual Moonbase Cyberman designs, and my primary reason for not trying to copy them exactly).
Besides the mask, the main things you'll need to make this costume are:
Silver paint (traditional and spray)
Trading Card Collector's Box
A clever brother with knowledge of electronics
A handy boyfriend with a circular saw
I will show you what I used and how I used it, but you're certainly not bound to my choices. Many of my specific selections were made based on what I had sitting around, and there are a lot of other ways this costume could have gone.
Step 1: MASK
I knew from the beginning that I was going to have to make a significant change to the mask, because the originals were in two parts that would be fastened together around your head. But since I would be making my mask out of papier mache, I needed it to be a single piece that I could pull over my head... and that meant it was going to require a neck large enough to shove my whole noggin through! The goal was to retain the basic silhouette of the Cyberman without distorting things too much with my giant head.
The first thing I did, through sheer trial and error, was to construct a basic skeleton of the mask using poster board, and duct tape it together. It was essentially built right on my face. I would wrap it around, figure out what I needed to cut next, and duct tape it into place. I tied some lengths of yarn around it, to keep the face bent into the shape I wanted while I applied the papier mache. I also attached the flange around the bottom, which helps the neck appear thinner and sort of integrates the whole piece into the suit. You can use whatever process you find easiest when it comes to building the infrastructure of the mask, but keep in mind that you want the finished product to be as symmetrical as possible. Square off your board and draw a line bisecting it, and be careful to mirror all the changes you make. When it came to making the "chin", for example, I put my head through the neck area, with the faceplate only attached at the top. I then measured how far I would need the bottom of the faceplate to protrude in order to accommodate my rather long nose, and then cut a contoured strip of poster board to fill that gap. I taped it loosely into place, put the mask on again, and if it wasn't exactly right I made adjustments. There is no hard-and-fast pattern to something like this. All of the tape lines you can see in the early pictures are from inserting additional shunts of poster board for just this reason.
My profile contains a number of instructables where I go into much greater detail about the actual papier mache process, so I will kind of gloss over that here. Basically, once I had the mask in the shape I wanted it, using nothing but poster board, duct tape and string, I built up a skin of paper mache and let it cure until completely solid. A coat of primer was followed by a couple of coats of nice silver paint. The paint has to cure for several days to be touchable, but it looks amazing when finished.
The decorative touches on the mask include a strip of weird black foam that I bolted around the forehead (I purchased this at American Science and Surplus, from a shelf labeled "(Extremely) Miscellaneous Foam".) I also epoxied on a couple of lengths of wire on the skull area, and added black plastic tubing around the flange. This tubing is super cheap, the sort intended to be used to keep straggling wires bundled together.
I left the round opening above the forehead exactly the right size to accept the concave chrome-finished reflector from the inside of a cheap flashlight. Held in place with epoxy, the opening at the center allows for a bright white LED on the end of a long wire to be pushed through from the inside of the mask. The wire is taped down along the inside of the mask and runs down to a battery pack that I can carry in my left pocket.
Altogether, the mask does look a little outsized, but once it's worn in tandem with the rest of the costume you'll hardly notice.
Step 2: SUIT
Get some coveralls and paint them silver.
I tried to actually find some swanky silver coveralls, but they're not very easy to find. The ones I did find were either really poor quality (usually a cheap fabric that was intended for use as part of some other costume, like "Astronaut") or prohibitively expensive (like a chemical hazard suit). In the end, normal coveralls and two cans of Krylon metallic silver spraypaint worked just fine. And look more like something that the BBC Workshop might have constructed in the sixties.
A note: also acquire a can of clear acrylic spray-on topcoat. It will help keep the spraypaint from shedding off the fabric. If you don't, you'll leave little trails of aluminum dust where ever you go!
Initially, I used metal flashing tape to put some lines on the suit, but it proved to fragile to stand up to any movement. Instead, I traced the edges of the tape with Sharpie, removed the flashing tape and then painted in the areas with black oil paints.
Now, the most interesting feature of the Moonbase Cybermen is, without a doubt, the Wiffle Balls. They appear on the joints at ankle, knee, hip, wrist, elbow, and shoulder... and near as I can tell, the BBC used actual Wiffle Balls for their costumes. So I did too. I twisted a length of wire onto each of twelve balls, then dipped them in paint and hung them inside a cage to dry (it kept the animals away from them).
Once the balls were appropriately silvered, I put on the coveralls and marked the spots where I wanted to attach each ball. I experimented with sewing them onto the suit using button thread and the existing Wiffle-holes, but this proved to be cumbersome, potentially insufficient, and far more time-consuming than it should have been. A much faster and more secure solution was just to lash them on with wire. Now they aren't going anywhere.
With the balls attached, I now had to connect the tubes. Ideally, I probably should have drilled large openings into the Wiffle balls and run unbroken lengths of tubing all the way through them... this would have looked very cool and probably would have moved more naturally. My major concern here was that the balls are pretty cheap and fragile, and I only had exactly 12 of them. I figured that attempting to drill through them would likely result in a dozen shattered balls.
Instead, I cut the tubing to appropriate lengths and plugged the ends with (extremely} miscellaneous foam. I scraped away the paint from the necessary areas on the Wiffle Balls, and epoxied the tubes onto them. So far, I have had no problems with detachment. But if you're smarter than me, you will do all the scraping outside, thus saving your living room from having everything in it covered in a fine coating of silver dust.
Step 3: CHEST CONSOLE
I don't really know exactly what the originals were made from, so my main goal was to come up with something that LOOKED more or less like the real thing. Without costing a lot of money. So for the middle portion, I chose a foot-long trading card collector box, a simple cardboard affair that retails for less than a dollar (or less, if you're like me and you run a comic book store).
The middle console of a real Cyberman has a screen at the top, and a round thing at the bottom. The round bit looks sort of like the housing for a cooling fan, but since I had recently smashed open a portable CD player that didn't work anymore, I just pried out one of the speakers and used that. I traced a circle on the lower part of the box and cut out a space large enough to accommodate the speaker. Above that, I carved out a large rectangular area. Then I painted the whole thing silver.
For the grating, I found a discarded bit of modular shelving with the appropriate diamond-shaped pattern. I used metal cutters to hack out a portion slightly larger than the opening and epoxied it to the back. I also painted the whole inside of the box with black spraypaint.
The whatsits that flank the middle box are made from a circuit board. I don't know what its original purpose might have been. It was a large circuit board which I purchased from American Science and Surplus for two dollars... and this is where the handy boyfriend with a circular saw comes in. He's the one who cut the end off the circuit board and then sawed the whole thing clean in half for me. Then I masked off the parts I wanted to preserve, and sprayed the whole thing silver.
It was all assembled in a very hack-slash-DIY kind of fashion. I taped together a couple of magazine-sized backer boards into the proper size, and cut two pieces of (extremely) miscellaneous foam to the same size as the circuit boards. Once the circuit boards were arranged on the magazine boards with the foam sandwiched in between, I drilled through the whole stack in several places, running lengths of wire through the holes and twisting them until secure. The entire arrangement is bordered by the same black plastic tubing, held in place with the same wire method.
Meanwhile, I had asked my Clever Younger Brother DepotDevoid to craft me some lights. Although the lights inside the box are not canon (I think the screened central box is supposed to have something to do with respiration), I really wanted some stuff to light up. So he provided me with a light board sporting several LEDs on wires of various lengths, so I could experiment with various arrangements inside the box. Some were solid, and some blinked. The package also had two switches: one to turn the lights on and off, and a second switch that would change the behavior of the blinking LEDs. He'll explain it all for you here:
Knowing that I would need to be able to access this central chamber for the purpose of installing or moving lights, and changing the batteries, I opted to epoxy velcro strips to the back of the box and the middle of the chest console. This way I can easily remove and re-attach the trading card box. I also cut holes on the right side and glued the switches in place, making the electrical portion of the console completely self-contained.
I thought about a few different ways to actually wear this console, but the "overalls" method seemed to be the easiest. I actually had an old pair of overalls that I could sacrifice for this purpose, but if you don't, it's easy enough to find the hardware at any fabric store. What I did was to cut the straps off of the overalls, and glue (and then wire-mount) the ends to the back of the console.
I took the button-shaped part of the connectors and sewed them into the seams along the clavicle of my Cyberman suit, so I can hang the console from my shoulders just like fastening a pair of overalls. Some velcro strips on the back of the console, and stitched to the front of the suit, help to stabilize the chest piece while I am in motion.
Step 4: BOOTS AND GLOVES AND STUFF
Even mentioning the boots seems unnecessary, since there is no trick to this at all. You just take some boots, and you paint them. I used the same paint that employed on the mask, electrical box of the console, and Wiffle balls. I assume that they will take some knocks when I wear them, but they really only need to last for the duration of the costume. They're old boots that I replaced when the soles began to come off. They are now epoxied back into place, at least temporarily.
The gloves are another story. They ended up looking all right, but they're a huge pain in the ass to get on.
Basically, I spread my hand into a three-fingered configuration and traced a wide swath around it on an old piece of canvas. I cut it out and then traced it three more times, and sewed it together by hand to make a pair of gnarly gloves. I reinforced the stitching with superglue cause I didn't want to take any chances.
The little "cups" on the fingertips are made from strips of comic book backer boards, duct-taped together and then epoxied to the ends of the fingers. I stitched two seams into the back of each hand, just for decoration really, then painted it all silver.
I added some black lines to suggest jointed segments, and sprayed them with the same acrylic topcoat that I used on the suit, just to be on the safe side. The problem with the gloves is that the wrists are really tight so they are EXTREMELY difficult to get on. I suppose I could remake them, I've actually got time, but I probably won't do it. Honestly, you'd be fine with a pair of pre-made silver gloves, or any other gloves you like that could be painted silver. I just have to try to make things from scratch. I'm sure that if I knew how to cobble, I would have made my own silver boots too.
EDIT: I cut slits in the gloves from wrist to the base of the palm, and added elastic shunts so now they are much easier to pull on and off. Additionally, I put some decorations on the fingers, adding leather patches and gluing on some bits of tech from the smashed CD player mentioned earlier. Then I painted silver over each new section and re-painted the black segment lines. So now they look more "cyber".
My final order of business is another set of tubes. The Cybermen have tubes of some kind that run from the central console to the Wiffle balls mounted on their shoulders, so I needed something like that as well. I used the same tubing that I have on the mask, and to make things (relatively) easy, I decided to utilize RCA cable connectors. We have a ridiculous amount of RCA cables around our apartment, most of which no longer serve any purpose. So I used epoxy to mount the male connectors in each end of the two lengths of tubing. Then I pried the female connectors out of the back of an old VCR. I sank two of them into the top of the electrical box on my chest console, and mounted one in each of the Wiffle balls on my shoulders. Now, once I get into my costume, it's easy as pie to just plug in my tubes. Visually, they help tie all the disconnected parts of the costume together, and physically, they keep the should balls forward. My shoulders aren't big enough to fill out the coveralls, so the weight from the balls tends to make them slide around behind my arms. The tubes keep that from happening!
Step 5: DELETE THE COMPETITION
All together, it's a challenge to get into the costume, but it is fairly easy to wear once you have it on. There is no peripheral vision so you have to be careful, but walking in a slow and deliberate manner does not exactly destroy the illusion of being a Cyberman! I am very happy with overall look; it definitely recalls the "Moonbase" Cybermen, but this costume is also its own unique creation. Big thanks to Ian and Rob for their help! And to my mom, who totally bought me those coveralls even though I am a 37-year-old adult.
EDIT: Just added a whole bunch of pictures from Halloween!
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