Introduction: The (MUTANT) Bug Going Around This Year
2020 has been a year of fear, and what better way to personify this than by becoming The Bug Going Around This Year. Bugs are already creepy, but when you mix them up into one mutant super bug you take it to the next level!
This project was a lot of fun, and took over 100 hours to complete. I'm leaving out all of the failed attempts (wearing a contractor trash bag was a big part of it at one point!), so hopefully this will be quicker for any others who attempt it. If it's not-who cares?! It's not like we have anywhere to go anyways during this global pandemic.
When I started this project, I had 3 main sources of inspiration:
Xenomorph from Alien
Brundlefly from The Fly
Judas Breed from Mimic
I wrote down ideas for each body part and how I wanted to combine them. I didn't pursue every idea, but it was helpful to refer back to this during the construction process.
I also wanted to use as much upcycled material as possible. I am a big fan of melted styrofoam, so that played a big part in most aspects of the costume. I am also lucky enough to live right next to a building undergoing renovations, so their construction dumpster is always a treasure trove of craft materials. This is where I found the PVC pipes, chicken wire, and styrofoam. The best times to check out dumpsters/sidewalks are at the end of the month, when people are moving and throwing out perfectly good stuff you can use. The main costs for this project were paint, silicone, hot glue sticks, acetone, and velcro.
Clear Silicone Caulk
Hot Glue Gun
Insulation Spray Foam
Rubber fabric (I found a wet suit, but you can use whatever really)
2inX3ft PVC pipe x2
Thin metal wire
Metal spikes and talons
Square of wood
Plastic Christmas ornaments
See through black face mask
Red Plasti Dip spray
Chalky white spray paint
Gloss Black spray paint
Matte Black Spray Paint
Burgundy+Merlot+Red spray paint
Step 1: Mutant Insect Head
This is the most fun part of this project, and honestly you could probably just do this and still have a terrifying costume.
To start, I found a bunch of chicken wire and bent it into the approximate shape I was looking for. I then fashioned 2 large eyes that were bulgy looking and attached them. This gave me the frame to build off of.
From there, I used paper mache to fill in the gaps in the wire. Started with large strips for a base, then used smaller pieces to make it more textured and rounded. Once dry, it was on to the next step, my favorite step in the whole process!
In retrospect... this is when I would have added the helmet... I waited until the head was done when I did it and had to break and redo most of the mask, which I would highly recommend against. To accomplish this, I sprayed a bunch of insulation foam into the mask and then placed the helmet into the foam while it was still drying. I pushed it in so that it would expand around it for a tight seal. I then added several layers of insulation onto that, and a bunch in the back so the head would be as stable as possible. The final head was quite heavy, so stability is important!
For much of this project, I use the method described here How To "Make" Plastic with a few twists. Please read the health and safety warnings when using this method, as Acetone is a dangerous chemical and you should be as careful as possible.
For the head, I melted a large amount of Styrofoam, and first applied a thin layer to the paper mache that dried fairly quickly. Once that was dry, I took my jug of Styrofoam goo outside and used several different shades of red spray paint sprayed directly into the jug and mixed until I was happy with the "gross fleshy" color. I then poured a large amount onto the head and spread it around evenly. I cut a Christmas ornament in half for the forward facing eyes, and used aluminum foil for the small eyes on the side and the large eyes on top. I applied these directly to the goop I had already used to secure them, then applied some additional goop over the eyes themselves. This would take a few days to dry, so at that point I moved onto other parts of the project.
Once dry, I spray painted the head using a mixture of red paints. I was not worried about using too much, since this is a creepy gross bug who has slimy stuff dripping all over the place. Once I was satisfied with how the color and texture looked, I painted the eyes black. I wasn't too focused on details at this point, since I figured I would be doing detail work towards the end.
Once everything was dry, I made some more red goop and molded it into a rope-like shape. I used these around the eyes to give them definition. I hand painted these when they dried for additional detail. Once they were dry, I also added small pieces of wire into the fleshy parts surrounding the eyes using the heat from a glue gun to melt the plastic enough to insert the wires then using the glue to make sure it stayed there. Once complete, I painted all of the wires black to be the weird, creepy hairs that insects have all over the place.
For the mandibles, I took some aluminum foil and crunched it up into the approximate shape I was looking for, and duct taped some cardboard spikes onto the end. Then I covered it all in plastic goop and when it was dry added the wire hairs and painted it. I stuck them on some hinges and used hot glue + silicone caulk to attach it to the front of the helmet.
Once everything was complete, I added a bunch of clear silicone caulk to the mandibles and random places on the head to make it look weird and slimy.
I wore a black full face mask so that my head serves as the neck.
Step 2: Mantis Arm Claws
For the big claw arms, I started out with 2 sections of 2in wide PVC pipe I found at a construction site. They are roughly 3 feet long, though if I were doing this again I might make them smaller. (They are HEAVY and a pain to carry around!)
I started by making a diagonal cut at the end of each pipe, extending roughly 5 inches at a 45 degree angle. Next, I found 1 longer piece of soft package foam, 1 medium sized piece, and a small piece. I duct taped them to the pipe, with the largest piece near the top and the smallest at the bottom. At this point it doesn't have to be really neat- there's going to be several layers on top of it. Just make sure it is secure and that there is room for you to hold it at the top.
Next, I wrapped it all in bubble wrap. "Why bubble wrap" you ask? Well, I had a big roll of it that I found and hadn't found something to use it for, so... yeah, bubble wrap! You could probably also use any generic plastic wrap or even fabric. I duct taped this part as well when it was complete.
Next I used a roll of mesh fabric and wrapped this around the arm as well. I did use duct tape again to keep it in place, but then used a hot glue gun to secure it in place and removed the duct tape.
Now for the fun part- goop! I started with a thin layer of styrofoam goop, which I spray-painted black and let dry for a while. Then I whipped up another batch of my red fleshy goop, and applied it to the arm by wrapping it around over and over again. This achieves a look that looks somewhere between fibrous muscle and torn flesh- super gory and just generally gross.
Once the main fleshy goop was applied, I spent some time making sure I got the coloring right. I mixed some colors, again not exactly a light touch... really soaking it in spray paint achieved a slimy, goopy effect I was happy with.
Next were the spikes- these are the standard spikes and talons you might find on a punk leather jacket or on anything in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The ones I used were fairly small- I would recommend finding larger ones or possibly using wire or plastic. For this part, I screwed the spikes into pieces of cardboard and hot glued them on the back of the arm. Then I used some of my leftover fleshy goop on top of the cardboard, and painted the spikes white.
To finish this part, I painted the ends of the arms with a chalky white spray paint. I used the arm sections of a wet suit I found as the connecting sinews where it is held, but you could probably use most any red fabric.
Step 3: Spider Legs
Using what I learned in the previous step, I set out to make additional insect legs I could attach to my back. After playing around with a few ideas, I decided to the the legs in a similar way as the arm claws, but using PVC trim instead of PVC pipe so I could easily curve them.
I found several long pieces in a construction dumpster where siding was being installed (I asked nicely before taking it!). I left the long pieces in the trunk of my car for a while in a bent state, which made them curvy. I then set a hot bath and left them bent in the tub for a bit, just to make sure they stayed curvy.
Once the pieces of trim were ready, I repeated the same process I had used for the arms until I got to the top layer. I ran out of the mesh material I had, but found a couch by a dumpster that had that obnoxious, itchy upholstery on it. I cut off a bunch of it, painted it black, cut it into strips, wrapped each leg up, and secured it with hot glue.
I wanted to make these legs look a bit more defined, so I left the majority of them with plain black fabric. I used some of my patented (not really) fleshy goop to make the tendons on the top 2 legs, and to make the end of the leg on the lower ones. To make the top 2 legs appear stronger, I found a tube from a broken vacuum, cut it in half, and glued them to the legs. Add a bit of goop to each end and voila! Now it has those buff insect muscles.
Now we need to attach the legs to something you can wear on your back. For this, I used an old backpack and a square of wood. I drilled holes in the top of the square, then screwed the square into the pack of the bag. I then drilled the holes in each piece of trim and lined them up with the square of wood. Then each leg was secured using a drill and wood screws. I put a bunch of hot glue and duct tape on the back just to make sure it stayed secure for the next part.
Step 4: Backside
Once the legs are complete, it is time to attach the back.
I started with a large piece of cardboard that was cut into the shape I was looking for. I painted it black and tried to curve it a bit. I then covered the entire back side with insulation spray foam, going in lines from the center outward. Spray foam kinda has a mind of its own, but for our purposes that's fine- it ends up looking like organs and veins or intestines, which is fine by me.
Once the foam dried, I put on the first coat of paint. I started with a light coating of black spray paint, and added layers of various reds until I was satisfied with how it looked. Next, I used 3 zip ties to attach the back to the backpack from the previous step. Then I added more spray foam over the ties, around the edges, and in the spaces between the bag and the back. I painted the foam again, and the final product was a backpack overflowing with legs and organs/intestines looking ready to burst!
Step 5: Take a Break
At this point, I stopped to take a break and evaluate my life choices. I had already taken a week off of work and spent over $100 on paint, glue, acetone, and caulk. Who is even going to see this costume in the middle of a pandemic? Is this costume in poor taste? Will people "get" it?
I took a walk, fed some birds, talked to the local crows, and tried to relax for a bit. I took a break from my costume to paint a crow god skull I had molded using some of my styrofoam goo. Once I was done, I didn't feel the normal satisfaction I do when I finish a piece. There was an itch yet to be scratched, and just like you reading through this now, I fought through the desire to give up and decided to get back to work and finish this costume!
Step 6: Chest, Collar & Abdomen
For this step, I was lucky enough to find a wet suit in a dumpster (I washed it!). My initial plan was to wear the entire suit, but have you ever tried putting one on dry??? It's ridiculously difficult, though to be fair it may have also been too small for me... After many failed attempts and painful sprains, I decided to just cut up the suit and attach it to other things.
For the chest, I used a black long sleeve shirt. I used the chest section from the wet suit, which I painted red with some black down the middle. Then I used some spray foam to make some organs + bug boobies. I only attached the bottom half to the shirt, and put velcro at the top. This way, I was able to put on the book bag of spider arms, then easily attach the chest over the straps to hide the bag.
For the lower abdomen, I used the back section of the wet suit and a velcro girdle type thing I found that's used to hold tools. I took the suspenders part off the girdle, and glued velcro to the back of the wet suit. To make the abs, I found some packaging tubes, cut them in half, and glued them to the wet suit. However, this type of plastic doesn't take spray paint well, as it kind of chips off after it dries and gets everywhere in the most annoying ways possible. To avoid this baffling ordeal, I decided to use 2 solutions- Plasti Dip spray and hot glue. I sprayed this section with red Plasti Dip, and once dried I applied thin strings of hot glue in a vertical striped pattern. Then I went back to spray-painting it in a way similar to previous sections. Finally, I added spray foam and painted it around the edges, similar to how the back+legs section were completed.
It still looked a bit awkward at this point, so I decided to add a collar. This was simple for me- I just cut the collar off the wet suit, smeared on some fleshy goo, and covered the shoulders with painted spray foam. I'm sure you can use other fabrics for this, but I would recommend something strong.
Step 7: Legs
For my actual human legs, I wanted something simple that wouldn't draw attention away from other parts of the costume.
Well... that's not entirely true... What I really wanted were stilts but that was not a feasible option at this point in time! Next year tho....
For the legs, I used an old pair of black leggings. I sprayed them with my new favorite craft material, spray insulation foam. I only did a few small sections in the end because the foam broke off when I tried to have larger sections. Instead, I did add several layers of red plasti-dip and some red spray paint (these are never getting washed!)
Finally, I found 2 construction knee-pads which I smeared some fleshy goo onto and painted red. I wore these over the leggings, and covered the corners in clear silicone caulk to try and hide the straps a bit. This also gave them a slimy appearance.
Step 8: Put It All Together!
You're almost there! Finally, it's time to put it all on.
Start with the legs, being careful not to break any of the foam attached.
Lace up your knee pads, leaving a bit of wiggle room to allow you to move more easily.
Next comes the chest/long sleeve shirt, leaving the velcro undone.
You may need assistance with getting the backpack o' legs on- it's OK to ask for help! Then do the chest velcro to hide the straps.
Put the collar on over the backpack to hide anything else and give yourself some creepy shoulders.
Time to put on the helmet/mask! You want to do this yourself so you can make it as tight as possible without choking yourself. The helmet is heavy and oddly balanced, so please be careful! Start by putting on the black see through mask, making sure any hair is tucked away. Then put on the helmet and position it sloping down- you want people to be able to see it clearly and ideally hide your face.
Finally, it's time to grab your arms! For this, put the arm coverings you made over the handles, and make sure the spikes are facing you. Carefully bend down and put your hand in to grab the handles to pick them up. At this point, I would highly recommend assistance because you are carrying a lot of weight and can't see well. Pick them up in a way that you don't overextend or sprain anything. Just... be careful!
Aaaand you're done! Time to show off your mutant bug to your friends, neighbors, and anyone to whom you really want to drive home the idea of social distancing. For an added effect, have someone back their car up to you- the red brake lights make it even creepier. Enjoy your new terrifying life as a mutant bug!
Participated in the