Cosplay Adventures with Cubone

Those who follow my Facebook page know I’ve spent the last few months working on a cosplay of the Pokémon Cubone, right around the time this blog was started actually. Most of my recent costumes had either been purchased or commissioned, so I decided I should create one from scratch, entirely assembled by my own two hands. I can’t remember exactly when the idea struck me to create a human version of Cubone (also known as a “gijinka“), but the idea consumed my imagination quickly. I have seen several Cubone costumes recently both at cons I attended and in pictures others had taken, and while each put their own unique spin on the creature and showed very skilled craftsmanship, none fit how I interpreted it. A mental concept for the costume formed quickly, and in less than I week, I jumped into the project.

Inspiration and Concept

To me, Cubone is a scavenger. They can’t all be wearing the skulls of their mothers, or Marowak would be nearly extinct in the Pokémon world. My assumption is that the species evolved a natural inclination to use bones as tools and protection, much like an otter’s instinct to use stones as a tool to open clams and a hermit crab’s instinct to locate shells to inhabit. A Cubone would either locate bones of deceased Pokémon to wield or be gifted bones by its parents, which would explain why newborns seem to own bone clubs and skulls immediately.

pokemon cosplay
But who knows what actually goes on when Pokémon reproduce in the daycare. The old man certainly isn’t telling.

A Cubone gijinka would have to keep the skull and bone club, so I thought, what kind of person would use bones like that? This is when I had the idea to pursue a caveman/barbarian aesthetic. Some Native American influence seeped in as well over time. Here are a few photos that influenced my concept along the way:

pokemon cosplay cubone
Native American-inspired warpaint seemed like an obvious decision to include since my face is seen beneath the skull.
pokemon cosplay cubone conan the barbarian
No discussion about barbarian aesthetic escapes comparison to Conan.
pokemon cosplay monster hunter
No one does armor made from the body parts of dead animals better than Monster Hunter. The Bone Armor U in particular set influenced my costume.

Lastly, I will honestly admit I took some design inspiration from a Marowak costume by Termina Cosplay:

Skull and Gauntlets

Moreso than the bone club, the skull is the single most iconic feature of Cubone. It had to be done right. Some Cubone cosplayers choose to design the skull to fit their faces (specifically so they can look out of the eyeholes of the skull). I had to do something different, partially out of necessity. The skull began with a Pepakura file I acquired from the Papercraft and Origami Database. For those unfamiliar with Pepakura, it is a program that converts 3D models to printable papercraft pieces. The file however contained the Pokémon’s entire body, so I had to isolate just the skull pieces. After printing the pieces onto cardstock, the process to assemble the skull began.

Pokemon cosplay
Why Netflix and chill when you can Netflix and craft?

I decided to add bone gauntlets to my costume to help differentiate it from Termina’s Marowak, so once again I turned to a Pepakura creation. I came across a file of the female Nightingale armor gauntlets of Skyrim by ZombieGrimm, and I assembled the two pieces over the course of a weekend that I was stuck at my grandparents house because of a blackout at my home that lasted for two days. In the following picture you’ll notice a fourth piece, a shoulder pauldron, which I ended up tossing from the final design. More on that later.

pokemon cubone cosplay
The first delicious signs of progress.

Next, the pieces had to be hardened. After all, a costume piece made of cardboard held together by hot glue won’t be the sturdiest item. This is where resin, specifically the kind used for car body repair, came in. Sheets of fiberglass provided additional reinforcement. The pieces had to be coated and left out to dry. By the time this step was all said and done, the skull in particular felt like it could make a decent cycling helmet.

pokemon cosplay cubone
The good stuff.
pokemon cosplay
From flimsy to fortified.
pokemon cosplay cubone
Please be warned, use a mask. These chemicals are noxious.

Next up was another auto body repair material: Bondo. Once the resin dried, this putty normally used to fill in gaps of broken car pieces is coated all over your hardened Pepakura pieces. Following that comes sanding. For pieces like Iron Man armor, much more sanding would have been involved, but thankfully since I wanted the rough bone texture, sanding was minimal. Again, if you try this, please use a mask for these two steps as well.

pokemon cosplay cubone
Get goopy.

With each step, my vision of these rough and weathered bone pieces inched closer and closer. After sanding, it was time to spraypaint. I used Ivory, since it was the closest color to a bone stained by the elements.

pokemon cosplay cubone
Pink bones would have looked pretty weird, after all.

With the spraypaint applied, it was time to give the pieces some weathering and depth. To accomplish this, I mixed brown and black acrylic paint, then diluted with water. This diluted paint was then spread all over the bone pieces, creating the image that they had been worn down and stained by the elements.

This technique is known as a “wash” and is commonly used in miniature painting.
Before and after.
Looks like I just picked them up off of the ground, doesn’t it?

There were a few more steps, namely adding elastic straps to the gauntlets and some padding to the helmet to hold it in place, but they’re not very visually interesting and were overall simple fixes. Fun fact: Adding the padding to the helmet was the very last thing I did to complete the costume, at 2 AM the night before the convention, making the skull the first and last steps to creating my Cubone gijinka.

Bone Club

The bone club was an equally important component to the costume. Its creation process was very different from the gauntlets and skull, though. There was no handy Pepakura file for a bone in the shape of the one Cubone wields, so I turned to a different way to create it. The structure of the bone was shaped with chicken wire, and following that, it was covered with paper mache.

It was quite astounding how well chicken wire works for shaping props.
It took a week to complete the layers of mache. Layers dried very slowly in the chill of February.

After I was satisfied with the mache, it too had its own fortification step. The tutorial I followed stated to cover the mache in gesso, a glue-like substance that is painted on. After that, the plots of the bone pieces intersected as the club too was spraypainted and stained.

This also took about a week.
Actually, the difference between gesso and ivory isn’t very noticeable…

Breechcloth and Shoulder Scarf

Like Termina’s Marowak, I also wanted to incorporate a breechcloth into the costume. To differentiate it though, I had the idea to cover it in ‘runes,’ to play with the idea of this character being from an ancient time. Pokémon already had its own runic alphabet, the Unown. I adorned the breechcloth with the words “Life,” “Death,” “Rebirth,” and, to reflect Cubone’s parental loss, “Mother.” For extra decoration, I incorporated the Sigil of Arceus seen in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, as well as the logos for Pokémon Sun and Moon Versions.

pokemon cosplay
I made such an elaborate design that would only be appreciated by someone taking an extended look at my crotch.

The hurdle to this elaborate design though was transferring it to the fabric itself. There was no way I could nicely freehand something this elaborate, so I researched ways to transfer a print design to fabric. The method I came across was to use CitraSolv, an orange-based cleaner that apparently can only be found at Whole Foods. It was more than I cared to pay for cleaner and was about as noxious of a scent as the resin (my workbench smelt like oranges for two weeks), but ultimately it did its job. The method is to print a reversed image of whatever it is you want to transfer, set it on the fabric, then apply the CitraSolv to the paper. It looked a little messy and blurred in a few places, but I think that ultimately helped the piece by making it look weathered.

Wax on the pungent orange cleaner…
Wax off the pungent orange cleaner…

As you can see, the transfer wasn’t perfect. The next step was to use a sharpie to ‘clarify’ the lines of the piece, then burn over them with a soldering iron I borrowed from Something Different Cosplay. Once again, it didn’t turn out the way I anticipated, yet it still surprised me with how rustic and worn the piece looked. That’s a great part of cosplay and art in general: The happy accidents that create something better than what you expected.

pokemon cosplay
It’s kind of facepalm inducing how much effort I put into this piece of the costume that ultimately wasn’t viewed as much as the skull and other bone pieces…

Trying on the breechcloth made it immediately apparent this cosplay would leave me open, exposed, and chilly in my nether regions. To counter this, I had the idea to create a waist sash from faux fur fabric. It covered my backside and tied around in the front. Simple yet made a world of different when wearing it. On a side note, I made the decision I would only use these two fabrics on all clothing items for this costume to keep a consistent theme in color and material.

pokemon cosplay
A simple pattern that made the costume feel so much more comfortable to wear.

Earlier in the piece I mentioned a shoulder pauldron that I cut from the final design. I had constructed, resined, bondo’d, and even spraypainted it by that point, but when I tried it on, it just didn’t feel right, so I decided I needed to have something else adorning my torso. I had the idea to utilize the fur fabric again to create a ‘poncho’ for my shoulders. Instead of just one solid line of the fur fabric though, I placed a sash of the faux-hide fabric on the middle of the piece. This piece was also decorated in runes, but this time, I chose to throw the URL of this blog on there instead.

pokemon cosplay
Never miss a promotion opportunity.
pokemon cosplay
High Stone Age fashion.

The piece proved itself to be a bit problematic when I actually wore it (slipping down and the web URL getting turned around), but I’m still happy with how it turned out.

Moccasin Boots

Lastly, this bone keeper of yesteryear needed some footwear. Continuing off of the Native American themes I had been incorporating into the costume, I found a tutorial for sewing moccasins. This took a few attempts to get right, I’m not very proficient in sewing yet, but I eventually got them looking and fitting solidly.

pokemon cosplay
More sewing and patterns than I’d ever dealt with before in my entire life.
Pokemon cosplay
In the event of a collapse of society, I can at least make shoes for myself.

However, I wanted moccasin boots, not just moccasins. I sewed on some ‘piping,’ and at the suggestion of a friend, added fur trim to the top. Unfortunately, I made a huge blunder with the piping: I didn’t measure fabric long enough, and it was too tight to go all the way up my calves. It was too late to redo it, so I had to wear them halfway up at the con.

pokemon cosplay
So much flipping the shoes inside and out.
pokemon cosplay
I’m so fancy, you already know.

Putting it All Together

There I was, the night before the convention, and finally, I had all of the completed pieces spread out before me on the table. I had tried and tested everything. Nearly four months of work was looking back at me. The feeling was incredible, to gaze upon the physical fruits of my labor, to know that my effort assembled all of it. None of it was premade. Without my involvement it would be just a pile of wire, chemicals, fabric, and paper. I was thrilled to premiere it the next day.

pokemon cosplay
This sight nearly brought a tear to my eye.

Cubone, I choose you!

I debuted Cubone at Oak City Comicon in April of 2016. I spent the first half of the day in my Superman costume that had arrived earlier than expected. After some relevant photoshoots, I changed into my ancient apparel. While it obviously did not have as much recognition as Superman, I received much praise for my creativity and craft in the costume. It was more comfortable than I expected (nice weather helped with the exposed skin). I had a few insecurities about being shirtless, but that’s something I work on every day with my workouts.

Check out some of my pictures. I had a short photoshoot with The Variant, but I’ll add those to the post when I receive them.

Pokemon cosplay cubone
Power Rangers utilize the power of ancient beasts. I just wear them.
pokemon cosplay cubone
Spiral Power is eternal.
pokemon cosplay
Ground Pokemon represent!
pokemon cosplay pony
Fun times with Mr. Freeze Pony.
pokemon cosplay cubone
I had to wear the shirtless costume for my panel about cosplay fitness.

Did you catch a picture of me at Oak City? Let me know! If you have any questions or comments about the costume or the construction process, just leave a comment. Now to figure out my next costume project…

superman cosplay
Oh, have to share my Superman costume too.

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