Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cosplay: Zoidberg Mark 2 Mask Part 1

So most of the people who know all know that I go to various conventions. I started dressing up with Dragon*Con (as it was known as the time) in 2011. I bit off a bit more than I could chew and did General 21 from Venture Brothers. It was decent and got some love. That sparked my interest in doing other things. The following year, the idea crept in my head to do Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama. I found a decent tutorial on how to make one out of duct tape. It wasn't bad. I debuted it at ECCC 2013 and modified it a bit for DC 2013.



As you could imagine, the downside to using duct tape was the general look of it, the fact it got dented easily, and of course, the heat. It was blazingly hot inside, especially in Atlanta. I could only wear it for about 30-45 min without needing a breather, even with ventilation patches put in on the sides.

Some friends and I were talking this year about bringing Dr Z back for DC and one of them suggested I use paper mache as a medium. It seemed an interesting challenge. I'm not an extremely crafty person, but it seemed pretty straight forward.

After scouring the internet, I found a website that gave me a pretty good idea of where to start. This website is where I got the instructions on where to start. For this part of the new mask, I needed the following:

Thin cardboard, like beer boxes or cereal boxes.
Hot glue
Newspaper
Elmer's glue
Paper mache pulp
Sandpaper
Rotary tools
Drywall patching material
Racquetballs

To begin, I cut the cardboard I had into strips about an inch and a half wide and 18 inches long. I cut a few strips to be around 10 inches long as well, as these would be vertical connections.

I took 2 strips and glued them to make a ring around my forehead that would be roomy later. I made a second ring around my chin that was about the same size. You might be able to see my error already, but we will get to that later. On the top ring, I took one of the strips and connected the front to the back to make the dome. I added more make a sturdier top. Then I took some of my shorter strips and connected the top ring to the bottom ring to make up the bare skeleton of the mask.

I'll admit that I should have used shorter strips for the dome, especially when you see it later. From here I took more of the long strips and started gluing them around the mask to form what would be bottom of the mask.


I added more strips to the dome area to make it easier for to fill it in later.




The hardest part of this was bending the cardboard to fit in between the dome strips. As you can see, it pushed the entire thing up making it more conehead-esque. I also added a neck piece that will extend down into my scrubs to help hide my beard. I found this out last year that no one wants a Zoidberg with a scraggly neck beard.

Now from this point, there were quite a few gaps in the cardboard, and I was afraid the paper mache pulp would leak through. It was also a bit flimsy so I followed the next steps and added 3 layers of paper mache over the bottom layers and 2 layers to the dome.

Thank you Texas summers for cutting down on my drying times.

I neglected to cut out eye holes before doing the paper mache, a step that I would mildly regret later. After the 3rd coat was dry, I found 2 boxes of paper mache pulp and mixed 1 of them together. The consistency was a bit thicker than it should have been. I applied a liberal layer around the back of the mask and the dome area. I left the eyes and neck area unfinished, the eyes because I needed to cut out the holes and the neck because I ran out of material. The thicker pulp made it difficult to smooth out while wet. Once it was dry, I finally did a test fitting. When making the mask, I forgot to take into account that my nose sticks out. This caused it to be wedged inside. I decided it would be ok and not to cut out a notch for my nose.  I tried sanding all the rough patches. Over a few days, I didn't think I'd be able to make it smooth and considered giving up.

After a few days, I decided to carry on and work on the next part, the eyeballs. In my previous mask, I used table tennis balls, but I knew they would be too small for this larger mask. I considered tennis balls, but settled on racquetballs because I wouldn't have to skin them.
Such a rough looking mask...

The hard part would be cutting them in half. I tried using my rotary tool to do it, but it resulted in broken cutting wheels and an uneven cut. I then "borrowed" a scalpel from work and used it to cut one in half. It worked out really well. I used a drill to bore out the eye holes. Then I took my rotary tool and slowly widened the holes so I could see out of them.

FYI, racquetballs are thick and it stinks when you sand holes into them. I recommend doing this outside. You will get weird looks from neighbors.

Using the halves as a template, I traced a circle so I could fit the eyes appropriately. I used the rotary tool to cut into the mask, which was difficult as there were a few areas with a lot of cardboard and glue. Finally I made a large enough hole to fit a drum sander from my rotary tool inside and slowly widened the hole to fit the eyes.


I accidentally cut the eye holes at different heights, which resulted in a wonky looking mask. I widened the right hole to be higher and match the left, but it left a small gap under the eye. While testing my vision, I realized I wouldn't be able to use the eye holes accurately. That is when I noticed that the gap under the right eye let me see more of what was around me. I decided to do the same thing on the left side so I could see without tripping over other con goers.

I suddenly had renewed interest in finishing the mask. Apparently I had missed the part in the instructions about using drywall patching material. I started using the DAP to fill in the rough areas.

 
First coat before I went to work

I wasn't able to cover the entire mask as I had to leave to work, but I brought it with me to work on during my lunch break. When it was dry, I sanded it down and realized I had a lot of gaps still to fill in. I put a second coat and continued over to the untouched side.

It's really starting to take shape

I was a bit sad that it wasn't dry until it was time to go home. I sanded it quickly at work, and still noticed some rough areas. Once I got home I took my time and sanded some of these rough patches out. 

Then it was time to fill in the vacant areas with paper mache pulp. I mixed a small batch using the second box, this time making the mixture thinner by adding more water. This made the mix easier to smooth out.




I left the mask at home to dry while I went to work.

That's the stage we are at now. My plans are to sand it when I get home, use the rotary tool to sand out the eyeholes again and round out the edge of the mask. After sanding, I'll add more DAP patch to smooth out the face. Finally I'll add the eyes and secure them using hot glue. Stay tuned!