Rocksteady’s Journey: Inside a cosplayer’s head while making and remaking a costume. by John Garcia

(That’s it for Rocksteady 2.0 for now.  Rocksteady 3.0 will hopefully come out soon)


Looking back, I’ve been wearing my Rocksteady costume
for a while, around 2 years, but I have never really stopped working on
it.  I went through two versions of the Rhinoceros
head so far, and I’m still working on it.
Usually, I start an elaborate costume in time for Fall
conventions like Comikaze, Pacific Media Expo, or Long Beach Comic Con.  I sometimes start another one for Spring
conventions like Wondercon, the Long Beach Expo, or the Renaissance Faire, then
continue improving both when summer begins, so I can have at least two tested
and improved costumes by the time San Diego Comic Con rolls around – and sometimes even for Anime Expo before that.
Don’t get me wrong, I am, by no means, an
expert.  By “elaborate,” I mean big and cumbersome,
the type of costume that bumps into more than two to three people in a crowded
convention hallway.  I do
like to make costumes that are a bit unusual, and one that I feel can be an
interesting challenge both in making and donning it.
(Which one?  It’s interesting that the boar has abs while the rhino has a belly, a belly?  Decision made!)

Around February (a month before  Wondercon 2012, the first year it was in
Anaheim), I started watching old episodes of TMNT, especially since there was
news about the upcoming new TMNT series on Nickelodeon.  I thought about being the Shredder, but I
wanted something more interesting to make, so I decided to go with either Bebop
or Rocksteady.

I eventually settled on Rocksteady, as I was
thinking I can always recycle the Rhinoceros head for a Judoon Doctor Who
costume or a Kung-Fu Panda Guard costume.
It would also make making the other costumes (Judoon and Kung-Fu Panda)
a bit easier since I would have one of the most difficult elements already
made.  Since the rest of the costume was basically just normal clothes, Rocksteady would be a great place to start.

(Rocksteady could be him.)


(Rocksteady could be one of them too!)


For Rocskteady 1.0’s debut at Wondercon 2012, I
bought a motorcycle helmet from Goodwill for $12.  Goodwill also carried some of those Light
Strike guns – $10 for the rifles (from $20 retail) and $6 for the pistols (from
$15 retail) – that went to Goodwill after they did not sell during clearance
sales.  The Light Strike laser tag guns
are fun toys, but their extra lights and awesome sounds make them great for cosplay, as well.
Cost for Rocksteady 1.0 so far:
Helmet $12
Light Strike Rifle $10
Total so far: $22 (plus, I get to use the Light
Strike as fun toys anyway) 
I started building over the helmet to create that
longer face of a rhinoceros.  I used some
PVC pipes and a couple of fittings for the frame  of the headpiece.  I also went through my garage for some older
Tupperware to fill the gaps in between.
(Yup, a motorcycle helmet, PVC tubes, and a piece of Tupperware.)
Cost for Rocksteady 1.0 so far: $22


½ inch PVC Pipe that is 10 feet long (that’s a
LOT of piping) $1.66


Various PVC fittings: $6


Old Tupperware: $0


Total so far: $29.66


After the bones and muscles of the headpiece,  I needed to fill the gaps in between,
cartilages, if you will, and I used the car-repair “goop” (yes, that’s a
technical term) Bondo.  It dries up
strong, and  a bit flexible (instead of
brittle).  I then sprayed a layer of gray
primer over it, so I can paint another layer of grays and black for

(Don’t worry. Thats not blood and that rhino isn’t really screaming. I hope.)


Cost for Rocksteady 1.0 so far: $29.66



Gray Primer: $4


Total so far: $39.66


(Rockseady, primed and ready…. or I suppose that’s it for now!)


By this point, however, there was no more time to
add the extra layer of gray and black, so it was never applied to Rocksteady
1.0.  I also needed to look at his



Cost for Rocksteady 1.0 so far: $39.66


Tanktop: $6 from Walmart


cotton long-sleeved shirt: I already had this, so $0 for the rhino skin. 


thermal cotton long-sleeved shirt: I also already had this, so $0.  This was my contingency rhino skin in case it
would be a cold day, and it WAS.  It was
raining very hard and very cold those days.


Cargo pants: I already had this for other costumes, so $0


tactical boots: I already have this for other costumes, o $0


Cost for Rocksteady 1.0: $45.66 
In the end of the day, only Guinan knows how I felt after wearing something this heavy.
Then I wore Rocksteady 1.0 for Wondercon 2012, and
it looked great, but was VERY VERY VERY HEAVY.
It also tended to tip over the front, so I had to anchor the back of the
motorcycle helmet to my backpack, just to keep it upright.  I didn’t practice walking around in the helmet long enough before the con, so I wasn’t ready for carrying around something that heavy for that long.  Rocksteady 1.0 was
good, but it needed a serious revamp if I was going to use it again.


For the summer conventions of 2012, Anime Expo and
San Diego Comic Con, I needed to change my Rocksteady drastically.  Fortunately, by then I had discovered a new,
lighter, and more flexible material for the bones, muscles, and cartilage of
the headpiece, the Anti-fatigue foam floor mat.
Yes, these are exercise mats.  At
Harbor Freight, these are $10 for a 4 foot by 4 foot piece, which are 4 smaller
interlocking 2 foot by 2 foot pieces.
These also bond to the surface of the motorcycle helmet, which I
stripped from Rocksteady 1.0 to reuse for this project.   I also used a screen faceguard underneath the
face, which shows the eyes.  This
allows me to paint on the eyes, but be able to see out.
(Starting over.  Kinda.  Now, 50% lighter material!)



2.0 cost:


helmet from Rocksteady 1.0: $0


faceguard $8



lot of gluesticks for my gluegun: $5 for a pack at Walmarts and Targets.


small cup of spackling: $5  
so far: $23



I also used a thin layer of craft foam and draped it
over  the layers of foam to simulate skin
clumping and curving over muscles.  For
this phase of the project, I was going to use what was leftover of the Bondo for
the in-between parts, but even thin layers of Bondo are very heavy.  Also, using a craft foam skin increases the
amount of surface area that doesn’t need something as strong as Bondo, so I
used basic paint spackling, which also worked well with the porous surface of
the foam.
2.0 cost so far:


Pack of 11”x18” craft foam: $7


small cup of spackling: $5 


so far: $35
For painting, I used a new can of gray primer.  For the actual paint, however, I thought I
could accomplish better shading if I hand-painted it with acrylic paint.


2.0 cost so far: $35


Primer $4


of Dark Gray Acrylic Paint $2


of Gray Acrlic Paint  $2


of Black acrylic paint: $2


so far: $45


I also did not have a proper “throat” for
Rocksteady1.0, so the bar that acts as a handle and rests on my chest to keep
the face upright was exposed.  Luckily, I found
this football collar, which worked so well.
I also got a small medium-quality battery-operated fan attached to the
back of the helmet, to keep the back of my neck cool.


(That’s that collar thing, worn in reverse to act as his throat.)


2.0 cost so far:


Thing: $20


Fan $10


so far: $75
As for the rest, I got a new yellow tank top t to
resemble the 80s cartoon version instead of the toy (Rocksteady 1.0 had a black
tank top to copy the toy). I got a power drill holster from 99 Cents to place
my Light Strike gun on, and I got a bullet
bandolier for $5.  I also found some toy
grenades that make explosion sounds after you press the handle.   The turtle shell accessories were knee
guards that I had and some green-painted shell segments from the leftover
2.0 cost so far: $75


Tank Top: $7


Holster: $1


bandolier $5


Grenades $2


Guards: $0 (already had them)


for Rocksteady 2.0: $90



There were a couple more changes for Rocksteady,
mostly on the arms, hands,  and
gauntlets, but none so far worked.

(Rocksteady would rather hang out with April O’Neil than Bebop.  Who knew?)


After the year that I’ve been wearing this costume, I
decided it still needed some more improvements.
The aforementioned hand problem is one, but I’m just trying to find the
right gray glove.  The other thing is a
new gun.  I need to MAKE a new gun, not
just keep using the same old Light Strike guns.  When I originally bought those light trike guns, I was going
to peel off the outside cardboard/plastic skin, and attach some Plexiglas and
stuff over the lights and add more surface things, but I never got around to it.

As cheap and super-clearance Light Strike things are these days, I m now
having trouble finding them, and I still really liked these toys, so I decided
to start from scratch. I visited the local swap meet.  I was thinking I can find a nerf gun or a
super-soaker to disassemble and repaint.
Futuristic-looking ones would be better to get it approved by weapons
policies.  I found one, for a bargain, at
a mere $5, I found a WORKING NERF VULCAN!!!  The machinery worked perfectly, but it did not
come with the ammo and ammo belt.  That
made it easier to keep using it for cosplay instead of keeping it as a toy for

 Yup, that was an awesome toy, but it needed to be sacrificed for the sake of cosplay.


The Vulcan was amazing, and initially, I was going
to keep the machinery or repurpose it, but it was just too heavy.  I already have a slightly cumbersome and heavy
headpiece as Rocksteady.  The
innards of that Vulcan had to come out.  After
I took the motor and batteries out, I found that there were all sorts of holes
and room inside the gun.  I decided to
put inside a string of blue electroluminescent tubes from my semi-retired
Raiden costume.  I also took out the
barrel of the gun both to make it appear less “Realistic” and to showcase the “electric”
effect that the electroluminescent tubes seem to be doing.


(I will be borrowing those shiny things on your arms.)

For the finishing touches, I found out that the
opening of the battery compartment (which was big enough for 6 D batteries) can
work as a small storage compartment that is easier to access than my  backpack when I’m wearing a costume. So, I designed the battery compartment to snap open and close instead
of locking in.  I then used the strap off
an old messenger bag and used the Vulcan’s own sling attachment point.

It was still missing something.  The “electric” effect and the barrel-less
look of the gun makes it a bit more sci-fi than a normal gun, even though I
decided to paint it black.  I thought to myself,
maybe it needs a bayonet, and at this point, I did not want to spend a lot
more, so I tried to find something I already have.  I found a clear frosted Plexiglas spearhead from
my Cid Highwind costume.  That spear has
a modular tip, so I can switch the spearhead for Cid’s joke mop head
spearhead.  This costume, however, is
still in use.  Thank goodness for that
initial modular design.  I just took the
same screw-in PVC fittiing that I used for Cid’s spear and put a similar one on
the bottom of Rocksteady’s gun.  This
way, I can switch and use that frosted blade for when I’m either Cid or



(I will be borrowing that frosty thing you’re pointing at me.)
Cost for upgrading Rocksteady 2.0’s weaponry
Vulcan from Swap Meet: $5


Spray paint: $2



Electroluminescent Tubing: $0 (it’s really   $7 when I first bought it and had it
shipped, but it’s zero here because it did not cost me extra for this costume)


fitting: $0.45


Blade $0 (it cost around $20 for the Plexiglas, clear epoxy, and PVC fittings
when I originally made it for Cid, but again, since I’mr recycling it, it costs


$7.45 (0r if you want to include the cost of the things I already have, $34.45)


That’s it for now, for Rocksteady.  I think I’m going to redo it again, and start
on Rocksteady 3.0 with newer things I’ve learned like using spandex as the creature’s
skin instead of painting it, since the paint cracks after every convention, and
I have to retouch it.


And here’s the finished product.    


John Garcia is a Professor of English, specializing in popular culture,
comparative literature, and postcolonial studies. He is also an artist
and character designer for Smorgasbord Productions.
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John Garcia
John Garcia is a Professor of English, specializing in popular culture, comparative literature, and postcolonial studies. He is also an artist and character designer for Smorgasbord Productions. He has been cosplaying since 2002, and attending geeky conventions since 1998.

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