Introduction: Techno Destructo From GWAR Costume
For this Halloween I decided to be my favorite villain from the band GWAR, Techno Destructo. For those who don't know, GWAR is a band that has been around since the 1980s accompanying their weird music with theatrical stage shows that feature cartoon violence, elaborate costumes, and very silly storylines.
I decided to model my costume off of how the character appeared in GWAR's Carnival of Chaos tour, circa1997.
The costume all came together in the last week even though I had been preparing for it for quite a while. I had some trouble finding good hosing for the backpack and also had no idea how to do the shoulder pad until about three days before I needed the costume for a party.
Generally when I walked into a room in this costume, no matter how full of people it was, I couldn't see the back of anyone's head. Everyone wanted to talk to me about the costume, friends, acquaintances and total strangers alike. There wasn't one person at any of the parties I went to that I didn't end up talking to by the end of the night. Sadly it was mostly unrecognized, although one person did say "this must be something from GWAR". In any case, the reaction to the costume was very positive from all people.
You too could be Techno Destructo for Halloween!
Well, here it is.
Step 1: Assemble Your Goods
Here is a list of what I used to build this costume, it isn't completely exhaustive but there are a million little things you never remember.
Food Carver (for cutting foam)
Razor Blades/Exacto knife
Styrofoam Cutter (optional)
Cheap Foam paintbrushes
Brush (for dusting with talc)
Soft open cell "foam rubber" I used recycled couch cushions.
Blue camping foam pad
Liquid Latex, not the makeup kind, I ended up using about half a gallon.
Old Styrofoam cooler
Pipe foam (sized for the PVC)
Sump Pump hose
Wires and other random bits
White Glue (I used several bottles)
Underwear or swim briefs
Glove (for mounting)
Leather or imitation leather (for straps)
Step 2: Building the Backpack
Step 3: The Claw Arm
The claw arm is made of more sofa foam and camping pad foam. This is the kind of uncomfortable camp pad you can buy for five or six dollars at many mega-stores.
To make the arm I rolled up a piece of camping foam until it was the size and length I wanted and gorilla glued the four or five inches of overlap heavily. I cut two small holes on opposide sides of the cylinder where I wanted a handle to be and inserted a piece of PVC pipe through them. I taped shut the ends of the PVC pipe and put small pieces of pipe foam on the ends to create the appearance of a large bolt.
To make the claw cut an old sofa cushion into a claw shape. I heavily glued the inside of the camping foam cylinder and crammed in the base of the claw. As this dried panels were cut out and applied to the edges of the claw with hot glue to give it a raised edge.
I used the other half of the foam ball from Part 2 to make another screw head and put that on one side. On the other side I placed a nut and the end of a bolt I made this by carving a hexagon out of a styrofoam cooler, and then carved a disc the same size as the screw head. I hot glued them together and then hot glued them to the other side.
Step 4: The Shoulder Pad
For some reason I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to make this thing. I went through all sorts of crazy ideas and eventually decided to use papier-mache. GWAR used papier-mache in many of their original costumes so I figured it must work. I couldn't find a beach ball anywhere so I took an old rubber "bouncy ball" from my roommate and used it as the base form for the object.
I used a mixture of 2 parts white glue to one part water. I started with super thin material (an outdated telephone book), did about five layers of this and newspaper. This thin paper helped to capture the smooth round shape of the ball. Then I did two layers of torn computer paper (I used old bills), and finished with a torn up brown paper bag. The layers become progressively stiffer as the shape forms. The last three layers were completely for strength. It is important to let each layer dry sufficiently before starting on the next.
After all the layers were mostly dry I punctured the ball and forced out the air. After discarding the sad glue-encrusted rubber husk I looked at the shape I had created. I shaped it by bending into what would be better for a shoulder pad. I then trimmed off the thin edges, and cut it into the form so it could fit on my shoulder and not get in the way of the other things I would be wearing.
The result was surprisingly durable. When it was coated with latex most people did not believe that such a solid object could be made out of paper and glue.
I glued some leftovers of soft couch foam onto the interior to make sure it fit well onto my shoulder. This also makes it very comfortable to wear. Then, I cut a tattered old belt in two and riveted the pieces to the front and back of the shoulder piece so that it could be strapped on.
After I was sure it had dried completely I applied the latex and painted it.
Step 5: The Codpiece
Yes, I did actually wear this thing.
It is made out of styrofoam, essentially the same way as the parts for the claw arm. And gave it a few latex coats. I hollowed out the nut part a bit because...well it needed to fit.
I cut a ring of faux leather and riveted some leather straps to it. I tried it on and connected the straps at the back by way of a metal ring that can open and close. Once I figured out the right size for the straps I sewed loops at the end of them. I originally attached the leather to the foam with hot glue, but I went to a party where women kept grabbing it. It was about to come off so the next day I secured it with gorilla glue and it has been fine since.
Step 6: Latex Application and Painting
Creating latex props is not very difficult, but there are a lot of mistakes that are easy to make. Here I will try to give a brief guide to applying latex to a prop.
Working with Latex: Latex is easy to spill, spatter, and smear onto things that are not your prop. It will stain and ruin clothes, rugs, and other porous surfaces. If you get it in your hair (yes, body hair too) it will be there for a permanent stay. If you try to pull of the latex it will tear out the hair with it. I lost a lot of arm hair making this prop. If you get it on a smooth surface (table, palms of your hands) it will peel right off when dry.
Speaking of which, you do not want latex to dry unless it is on your prop. Keep your container sealed, keep your brushes covered if you are not using them. Another hazard for latex is freezing. Allowing liquid latex to freeze will ruing it so the garage is not the best place to stash this.
Buying Latex: To start, make sure you get the right latex. What I have is the sort of latex usually used to make masks. I order from Triple X latex and I find that they have a very high quality product.
Mixing: When you are mixing your latex for application, choose an airtight vessel that you can close. I use washed out pickle jars. Add acrylic paints/pigments until you have the desired color. Keep in mind that when latex dries it is not white. So, the color latex looks when it is wet is going to be much lighter than when it dries. If you want to thin out your latex (and you probably will if it is high quality latex) use only ammonia. Thinning out should be the last step in mixing.
Applying: To apply latex to a prop, use a foam paintbrush and put a thin, even layer on the surface that you want to latex. Porous surfaces can take many coats if you want them to become smooth. I had to go pretty heavily on the first coat or two on the sofa foam because it sucked up the latex like a sponge.
Wait until each coat has dried so that it is completely solid and apply a second coat. The drying can be sped up with a hair dryer or fan. Try not to wait more than 24 hours before adding another coat, I find that it is better to put on another coat when the previous coat has not completely cured.
When your prop has reached the desired amount of latex, put on another coat for good measure and let it dry for 24-48 hours.
It can take many layers to finish a prop. I will admit, I was in a rush with this one and to give it sufficient time to dry out completely I did not put as many coats as I would usually put. It still came out just fine.
Painting: It is perfectly alright to paint on top of latex with acrylic paint. Another method that is especially good if your prop is going to take some abuse is to mix a small amount of latex with the paint and simply add another coat of latex.
Powdering: Dried latex can still be a bit sticky. It will especially stick to itself. This can be prevented with a light dusting of talcum powder applied with a brush.
There you have it! With latex you can create a flexible prop that has an interesting rubbery texture but can look interesting. My backpack remained squishy, but most people were quite surprised by its texture due to the appearance.
Step 7: Cyber Arm & Clothing
This cyber arm went under everything and was almost invisible except for the wiring and chain. If you watch enough GWAR videos you find out there is some weird arm under the armor and claw arm.
I had much grander visions of a weird latex attachment to my arm and a hand with wires hanging off of it so I could take of f the wrench and still look great. But my glove got lost, I ran out of time, and this actually looked pretty good.
I cut a thermal undershirt so there was only my right arm and shoulder left, with a strap going under my other arm.
I glued some scavenged electronics onto more camp foam and coated it in latex. I also made a large broken gear, also out of latex and foam, that went on my back. I attached some of it with a few stitches and then hot glued everything in place, putting a bit of cardboard on the other side of the material when I did so.
For normal clothing I bought a black swim brief and some kneepads. I also cut the fingers off of a work glove and planned to glue some wiring and tubes to it. I used a razor blade to remove the sewn on logo from the kneepads and glove.
Step 8: Get Ready
Okay, this is where things start to get a bit crazy.
After watching like a million GWAR videos trying to see details of this costume, I noted they don't have any body hair (well real body hair anyway). I'm a manly man, having impressive body hair.
So, I started on the task of removing it. This took very long and led me through a series of realizations about how hairy I was. I used an electric buzzer and removed all of the hair from my chest, stomach, shoulders, and upper legs. I also did some courtesy trimming in some other areas. I didn't bother shaving my calf/shin area because there wasn't too much hair there and come on I am going to be freezing to death I need at least some. I left my forearms hairy for the same reason. They had already weathered an intense battle with heavy losses to latex. No need to add insult to injury.
Strangely, my chest and stomach hair were too powerful to be tamed by an electric trimmer, so I had to bust out the razor for that. While I was at it I shaved my face as well, have to look good you know.
Also, don't forget the makeup. Techno Destructo does have some distinctive makeup around his eyes. I actually found that cheap halloween makeup actually looks more stage-accurate than fancy stuff.
As another decoration, I recommend watering down food coloring (green and blue are best) and using a tablespoon to pour it on your body. Allow this to dry and you will have that "middle of a GWAR show" look. I was in a rush and forgot to do this before the party.
Step 9: Put It On
Based on my behavior during the Halloween weekend, you might determine that this is best done in a parking lot on a cold New England night. Seriously, you do not realize how absurd a costume like this is until you are stripping down to your newly-bought (revealing) swimwear in 40 degree weather in a public place and strapping a fake nut and bolt to your crotch.
If you are going to wear a costume like this, get all you can out of it. I went to two parties and marched in one parade. I did throw on some pants for the parade, two pairs exactly since it was below freezing with windchill that day. You will know if your costume is correct if the people who drove you to the party have looks of slight discomfort as you put on your costume, sort of like they are thinking about a way if they can make it seem like they did not arrive with you.
So check to make sure everything is well adjusted, and prepare for a lot of attention. I surprised a friend so much when she walked in a party she spilled her drink on me. I just left it there, it sort of added to the look. I ended up posing for a lot of pictures, having a lot of people ask me to crush their heads etc.
Moving around can be a bit of a problem with the bulky backpack, but walk with confidence, I have found people will get out of the way.