I have gone to Comic Con for the last four years and I enjoy “cosplaying” to the convention. The last two years that I’ve gone to Comic Con I wore a costume from the video game Halo, which I put together mostly from raw casts purchased by different prop makers.
This year I wanted something different, simpler and more comfortable that I could easily walk around in for hours. I was inspired by the Iron Man 3 concept art poster by Ryan Meinerding that I received at Comic Con 2012 at the Marvel booth. If you’ve seen Iron Man 3, you know that Tony Stark wears the Mark 42 Iron Man armor, which is able to fly towards and attach to his body in separate pieces. I thought wearing the few armor pieces used in the concept art would make for a great costume, it also wouldn’t require too many parts to build.
I began looking at references images and doing a bit of research on the pieces that I would be making. I only had a few weeks to put the costume together on my spare time during the weekends, so I wanted to try commissioning someone to build the helmet to speed up the process. The helmet is one of the most important pieces of an Iron Man costume and I knew I wouldn’t have the time to pull it off accurately. I’m a regular member on the Replica Prop Forum and I was able to find someone selling a raw cast of a Mark 42 helmet, perfect! I placed the order and waited a few weeks for the helmet to arrive. In the meantime, I started building the arm and shin pieces. I used Pepakura models, which are printable and adjustable templates created from 3D models, that someone on the RPF (Replica Prop Forum) created. The most popular way to build a Pepakura piece is to print the templates in card stock, glue them together to create a 3D, wearable costume piece, strengthen with fiberglass resin, smooth with bondo body filler, and paint. I chose to go with EVA foam instead due to its flexibility and it wouldn’t require the fiberglass and bondo stage. I used 1/4 inch foam for the major parts and 2mm foam for the smaller details.
Step one was complete. The next step required using a Dremel Rotary Tool to sand and round off the edges so the pieces look smooth and less blocky; detail lines were also added using the Dremel. Afterwards, I used a heat gun to help seal the foam and shape the pieces into their proper form. The arm and shin pieces, for example, needed a more defined curve that the foam normally wouldn’t bend into without the use of a heat gun. I then proceeded to seal the foam pieces using Mod Podge, a glue/sealer for various crafts. This will prevent the paint from being completely absorbed by the foam as it helps to seal over the porous surface of eva foam.
After the Mod Podge, I sanded the pieces with 320 grit sandpaper to get rid of some of the bumps on the surface. I forgot to take a picture here, but the pieces were then sealed with two layers of Liquid Electrical Tape. This gives the pieces a flexible rubber coating which helps so the paint doesn’t chip off later. The parts were then sprayed with two layers of Flexible Primer Surfacer to seal any scratches and prepare the pieces for the final paint job. After drying, I sprayed a few layers of Red Metal Specks automotive paint made by Dupli-Color. The Mark 42 pieces have a RED/GOLD/SILVER color scheme for the most part, so I had to mask off the areas that needed to be gold with painters tape.
After a few layers of the Champagne Pearl spray paint, I removed the tape to complete the arm piece.
The shin piece, like the helmet, also has silver details so there was an additional step of masking off the correct areas.
While working on the arm and shin pieces, I also the helmet to deal with. When I first received the helmet, it would not fit because it was created for a smaller head size. The inside of the helmet was a little thick and I thought maybe I could sand some of it down, enough for me to squeeze my head in. Several hours of trimming, sanding, and the suffering of my muscles later, and I was able to get the three piece helmet to fit semi-comfortably. Let me just say, sanding SUCKS! After a few coats of primer, it was ready for finishing.
I installed an LED eye kit that I purchased from someone on the RPF that has a magnet read switch on it, when it’s turned on and has a magnetic field touching it, the eyes light up. I also installed magnets in several key places so that I could flip the faceplate on and off, as seen in the Iron Man movie. The LED eyes are turned on when the helmet is being worn correctly. When the faceplate is removed, the lights will turn off because of the magnet read switch. In case you are wondering, yes I can see out of the helmet. There are two very thin slits under the LED eyes that give me limited vision, enough for me to avoid bumping into things and see people’s reactions.
Through the RPF, I was able to find the same style shirt that Robert Downey Jr wore in Iron Man 3. I had a brand new shirt shipped from the UK from a company called Falke and it was not cheap, $90 for accuracy and authenticity was worth it though. The arc reactor is another amazing prop that I was able to get in time from another prop maker on the RPF. Featuring powerful LEDs, accurate and interchangeable bezels, this is probably one of my favorite props that I own. The arc reactor is worn through straps that go around my chest and back, while the battery pack can be held inside my jean’s pocket.
In the Iron Man 3 concept art, Tony Stark is also wearing a boot piece that I didn’t have time to finish for Comic Con and a glove piece. I had commissioned someone on the RPF to make me a Mark 42 glove, but unfortunately he was the flakiest and most unprofessional prop maker that I’ve ever dealt with. Long story short , he promised me multiple times that he would ship it to me on time, he failed and tried to ship it overnight to my hotel in San Diego for Comic Con. It didn’t arrive at the hotel in San Diego until the following Monday and I had to drive two hours to pick it up and then drive two hours back home, after driving back from San Diego the night before… so that’s why I didn’t have the glove piece for my costume. Anyway, I plan on finishing the costume and adding more pieces in the future, but please enjoy a few photos from Comic Con!
Thanks for reading!
If you have any questions, please feel free to message me or follow me on Instagram to see more of my cosplays!
EDIT: People have been asking me for templates, here’s some links that may help, but please note that they only work if you have an active account on the RPF:
Mark 42 files: