Aspen from Fathom Comics
Aspen is a character created by Michael Turner for the Fathom comic books, first published by Top Cow. I picked her costume because I enjoyed the story and really loved this armor and haven't seen it brought to life yet. I also wanted to choose a costume very different from Lara Croft that would challenge me to learn new skills.
Since this is a costume that requires the armor to be completely form fitting to the body, my first step was to make a lifecast of my body from neck to knees that would allow me to sculpt on. This means going through the discomfort of making a plaster bandage cast. This was very hard for me and my helper to do and it took us two tries to get it right. On the second try I nearly passed out from lack of oxygen and mobility in the neck.
I decided to do this in two halves to make this a little easier to do. After the plaster was removed from my body, they were then wrapped in plastic wrap to retain shape while they fully dry for about a week.
After the plaster was cured I prepped the mold for fiberglassing by filling in any holes or imperfections with wax, then covering the whole inside with vaseline to act as a mold release.
My first time fiberglassing was hell, I'm not going to lie. It was painful, messy, smelly, and time consuming. I would have much preferred to use plaster instead but that would have resulted in a dummy that weighs more than I do! Here is the result of the top half with two to three layers of fiberglass.
This is the finished fiberglass double. It has flaws everywhere and I had a hard time fitting the four pieces together but it actually worked ok for what I needed. I later spray painted the whole thing black to provide contrast for sculpting.
The old masking tape pattern trick. I cut this out and stuck it back on and spray painted it to provide a stencil guideline for getting the sculpt even and symmetrical on both sides.
This is the early stages of sculpting. I used a silicone caulk sealant with fabric as a base for the boobs and crotch areas. It wasn't until after I wore it that I realized that I should have used fabric as the base for all of it, as the parts without fabric backing were very prone to breakage. For anyone ever using caulk to sculpt armor, use fabric as a base first, then sculpt on top of it! The extra work is worth it.
Since Aspen's chest piece appears to have a glowing gem, I had someone with electronics knowledge help me with some blue LED lights and wiring. First I cast half of the gem with tinted epoxy resin. Then once that cured, I placed the bulbs on top and embedded them by pouring the rest of the gem, trapping the bulbs with the wires sticking out the back. It was then wired to a small battery with a switch.
I fashioned the sternum piece with a couple of layers of Wonderflex with a hole for the wires to go through. Then I sealed the edges with the caulk and attached it to the fabric base also with caulk. The wires and switch are conveniently hidden in the cleavage.
Once the sculpting was complete I needed to attach the chiffon skirt pieces which consisted of two side pieces and a front and a back. I twisted the corners and embedded it in the caulk.
Since many layers of silicone caulk sealant can need a few days to fully cure and harden, I decided to test out the way the material sticks to my skin by using Pros Aide medical grade adhesive to stick a small sample to my stomach, in an area that folds and bends a lot.
I wore this for 5 hours and forgot I even had it on. Worked perfectly.
Time to make her super awesome crazy gauntlets! I used the masking tape pattern method on my forearms to create a four piece step pattern, which I then transferred to Worbla.
This was my first time working with Worbla but I loved it. Since Aspen's gauntlets appear to have a kind of coral-ish texture with a crustacean-type design, I used the rough side of the Worbla to add to the realism. Since this pattern had four pieces that get layered on top of each other, and I used two layers of Worbla for each pattern piece, this resulted in a whopping 8 layers of Worbla at the bottom of the gauntlets, giving it that really thick look that I wanted.
This is what it looked like after I formed it to my arm and added the spike detailing. It has flaws and isn't completely clean but I didn't want that. I wanted something that looks organic, worn, and imperfect. These came out more durable than any other costume piece I have ever made. I'm pretty sure I could run these over with a car and not even leave a scratch.
For the paint job I started out with a coat of bluish black acrylic paint. Then I dry brushed layers of red, umber, brass, and gold.
For the body armor paint, I used the same methods as the gauntlets.
The finished painted body armor. After this was complete came the incredibly tedious task of removing the caulk from the dummy. Another reason why I should have used cloth as a base for the whole sculpt, as those parts lifted very easily and the non cloth parts were cemented onto the dummy and wouldn't come off without an Xacto blade. It took two days to get this off. Lesson learned.
For the pendant I decided to cast it in resin, as it would be the easiest way for me to get the colors I wanted as well as maintain durability. I made the master copy with craft foam, sealed it with nail polish, and then made a silicone mold. It wasn't until it was finished that I realized I did the design backwards but there was no turning back. It still came out pretty good.
This took two pours using two different resins. For the raised design, I poured some polyurethane resin with an eye dropper into just the design areas, making sure not to over fill. I used polyurethane because it cures to be a solid off white color that will match the beads I have. Once the poly layer was fully cured I mixed some clear epoxy resin and tinted it slightly with some blue pigment before filling the rest of the mold with it.
The finished necklace was fashioned with real native American bone beads that ended up matching the polyurethane resin perfectly. And now the Aspen trademark piece is complete.
Lastly, some details that I feel can be easily overlooked can really put the finishing touch on a costume. I scoured the shops to find the perfect false eyelashes to achieve that dramatic Michael Turner look. I ended up loving these.
The eyelashes worked out beautifully with the pacific blue colored contact lenses I picked out for this costume. Suddenly, Aspen in the flesh!
It took about 45 minutes to glue this whole thing to my body but it held up pretty well all things considered. And it ended up fitting almost perfectly, although a lot more skimpy than I had anticipated, due to the dummy having a slightly longer torso than me, causing the crotch to sit a lot lower on me than I had planned. Good thing for the skirt!
This concludes the Aspen build notes and work in progress photos. Keep an eye out for the photoset with Adam Jay of Superhero Photography!