Sunday, November 1, 2009


For me, Halloween was always the holiday for kids. It wasn't one that was ignored when I was growing up, and if there is one thing I can say in favor of subdivisions, at least they're built in such a way that doesn't make it too problematic for kids to go from house to house looking for tricks or treats. Still, it was pretty standard. Like, I would imagine, most other dudes of my generation, I went out once as a Ninja Turtle. For Halloween 1984, I was a hobo. That's me on the left.

Still, I got older and the concept of dressing up and going out for treating and trickery lost its appeal, as it should - that part of it is for kids. That doesn't mean I didn't get involved anymore, though, be it handing out candies to the kids at the doorstep to being part of my mom's Halloween setup. For that I wore a big, heavy black robe that completely concealed me and did not move at all, to make the kids think I was just some stuffed figure. Then, when they weren't expecting it, a terrifying growl - awesome.

But that, again, was an artifact of the suburb I grew up in. When I moved to Toronto, I quickly found that things don't work the same way here - or at least in my part of it. I've never seen kids going door-to-door here. The management of my apartment building put up notices in the elevators saying specifically that children weren't to be going between apartments. For me, usually, it's just another day - the only difference this year being as that it fell on Saturday, it wouldn't interfere with my commute home. All the parties along King and Queen, you see.

The Silver Snail, easily the epicenter of the comic book/general nerd scene for the entire city of Toronto and much of the surrounding area, hosts one of those parties. My roommate went last year as Cecil Stedman from the comic series Invincible, and this year as Metalocalypse's Charles Foster Ofdensen. Early yesterday he reminded me not only of the Silver Snail's party, for which he had an invitation that would let him bring a guest along, but of an idea I'd had just after Halloween 2008 that I'd never followed up on.

A Tim Buckley costume.

For those of you who aren't aware: Tim Buckley is the man responsible for creating the webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del, and is seen by a lot of people as a total hack due to his apparent unwillingness to improve the quality of his work. He's known colloquially as "B^U" for good reason - look at it like you'd look at a smiley, and you'll see the facial expression his characters wear 95% of the time. Other people have examined Tim Buckley's issues and Ctrl+Alt+Del's failings with more depth than me - in June 2007, John Solomon of Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad took him to task, and while that weblog has been deleted a copy of the post remains, thanks to the Internet Archive.

So, I had my concept - which, I'll admit, was inspired by a photo I came across last year, so I can't take credit for the idea. My execution, though, drifted a bit from my inspiration. I had one resolution, and one resolution only: I would put precisely the same level of effort into the costume that Buckley seems to put into his comics. Anything else, I figured, would detract from the spirit of the costume.

My first stop was Shoppers Drug Mart, where I picked up a roll of masking tape and a sheet of yellow bristol board. This was to create the "yellow box" aspect of the costume - in Ctrl+Alt+Del this is the comic's "narrative voice," though it's frequently poorly used and states or restates things unnecessarily. For the mask portion, I had been on the lookout for paper bags, but the only ones I could find were far too small to fit over my head. Instead, I worked with two 10x13 inch full-page manila envelopes.

The envelopes, too, were too small to fit over my head, as I discovered when I ruined the prototype. Still, it wasn't that hard to overcome that. For the production mask, I cut it lengthwise along the seam in the back so that I could unfold it and wrap it around my head. Then, I used part of a third envelope to make a "bridge" connecting the two flaps that had been the back of the second envelope. This was secured on the outside with a great deal of Scotch tape, and on the inside with masking tape. I then prepared the front of it with "B^U" and cut a pair of vision holes.

It would've worked a lot better if I didn't wear glasses. As it was, the mask pushed my glasses further along my nose than I'm used to, and it was distinctly unpleasant. Too, my vision through the holes was extremely restricted - not only was I only able to see directly in front of me, I could only see clearly out of one eye. It was enough - barely - to get around, but not enough to have much more than basic awareness of where I was and what I was doing.

I came to realize that once we arrived at the party. I'd never been to the place where it was held, and my mental picture of it is extremely limited because of how restrictive the mask was. What's more, I felt distinctly out of place. There were people there who had put real, honest work into their costumes. What did I have but a stupid mask made out of shipping envelopes and a piece of bristol board taped to my chest?

So I left, after not too long, It just didn't feel right. I think, here, that the idea of the costume was a lot better than its actual execution. I think that maybe next year I'll go as a civilian SG-team member or something. I know they sell the shoulder badges at Ad Astra. Nevertheless... since it is, at least, fairly off the beaten track, here's a photo of how I went out for Halloween 2009.

B^U, man.

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