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Immortan Mama

It all started when Myla asked me why I loved Furiosa.

I told her how I was a big fan of the older Mad Max movies…but that Mad Max: Fury Road was the first time I’d ever seen a character like Imperator Furiosa:  she was a strong woman, but she had weaknesses.  She was fierce, but she also had emotions.  She was powerful, but also terrified.  There aren’t many characters like her in movies, and it didn’t end with a boring old love story.  I love her because despite her robotic arm, her character was HUMAN.

Myla asked if some day she could be Furiosa at a convention.  (I’ve had artist booths at ComiCons in the past, so she’s familiar with that world.)  I thought, “MAN that arm would be difficult, but I bet I could do it.”  And you know I love a good challenge. 

But when she asked ME to dress up too, I decided if we were going to do this as a team, we were gonna need to go all out….So there was only one character I could be that would go with hers…. the villain, and her nemesis, Immortan Joe.1

I won’t go into character and plot descriptions too much, but I’ll just say I. LOVE. THIS. MOVIE.  I love a good character, and no one (in my opinion) has done a better, more well-rounded female character than George Miller did with Furiosa.

Myla knows the basic idea of the story, but hasn’t seen the violent parts of the movie.  She knows about the Green Place, and who Furiosa and Immortan are.  I even told her the story of Thunderdome, and she’s fascinated by it all.

So I decided to jump in and give a go.  There was a convention in Austin that I had a few months to prepare for.  For those who don’t know, one of the best things about ComiCons is all the people doing cosplay, or dressing as their favorite characters.  I’m always so impressed–people get quite creative with their costumes, and put so much work into them–most of them built completely by hand.  I had seen it done many times, but I had never done it before.  This would definitely be an adventure!

For Furiosa (above, left): the big build is the arm.  And the belt buckle.  And all the leather belts.  For the Immortan (above, right):  good GOLLY.  The clear plastic chest piece.  The medals.  The mouth piece.  The codpiece.  The hair.  It all seemed SO overwhelming.  But as my husband always says:  how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  (NOTE:  no elephants were harmed in the making of this cosplay).  

It was a long, tedious process, but lots of fun….So come with me, and I’ll walk you through the Wasteland…

First off, I am SO grateful to my friend Aletta (from TheFoxyToyBox).  When I told her what I was doing, she said “Hey I’m spending the next couple of weeks thrift store shopping.  Want me to find you things??”  Umm..YES PLEASE!!!  So lovely Aletta sent me a few boxes just FULL of things I could use:  several leather belts, tools, buckles, hoses, wire, canteens, shirts, pants, you name it.  To quote My Little Pony, friendship IS magic–she was a lifesaver.

So I started with the breathing apparatus.  Immortan Joe has this giant breathing thing on his back.  I  browsed a lot of forums before I started that had tons of ideas of how to do this, (carved in foam, using a baby buggy topper, etc) and their main concern was for movie accuracy, but I didn’t take it THAT seriously.  I wanted it pseudo-realistic, so it was fairly representative of the movie, without stressing too much about specifics.  I went for the basic look, and build a sort of neck-pillow from a thick brown faux suede fabric I had, stuffed it with poly-fil stuffing, glued breathing filters from the hardware store to the end pieces and velcro’d it to my shirt, so it was detachable.


I took the easy way out on the mouthpiece, and purchased a blank used one on Amazon (don’t judge me).  I have seen people build amazing ones from scratch, but I lack the patience and stamina for that.  I painted it myself, though, and tried it on with the breathing bag.  MWAHAHAHAHAHAH.  I already felt awesomely evil.


Next, I turned my attention to Furiosa.  Aletta had found these wonderful little brown leggings for us, and I drew on them with marker, to simulate the pattern of Furiosa’s pants.  She sent TONS of leather belts, so I cut a few up to size Myla’s little body.  The best find was a sort of foldup jewelry bag belt (or something?), which you can see at the top right below.  I used that as the basis of Myla’s “corset” and laid the other belts below it.


I started working on the arm by using a kid’s long black dressy glove slipped over a paper towel roll as the base, and glued things to it from there.  I took a trip to the hardware store, and just grabbed anything I thought would help:  bits of siding, wire, little sockets and bolts, and a tiny wrench (which is one of the most identifiable things on her arm).  When I got the basic structure (shown above) I put it aside and started working on the shoulder.

This black piece needed to be solid, and after reading a few forums, I went with Kydex plastic sheets.  It was only about $10 for a 2-pack of 12″x 12″ sheets, and I only really used one sheet for everything.  I took a heat gun and shaped it carefully, burning my fingers all the while, because I am clumsy.  I used E600 glue to attach it to a little padded oval of muslin I sewed to fit under the main black part, and attached the little mower-pull (which I found in the weedeater section at the hardware store.  A little bigger than what I wanted, but it worked just fine).  I build a little velcro’d cuff under the main padded shoulderpiece, which you can see in the bottom right picture below.


Furiosa wears a belt with the flaming skull emblem of Immortan Joe, which I cut out of cardboard, painted with acrylic, and glued to a fabric backing, also gluing various sizes of jewelry chains hanging down the back of it (in the above photo, bottom left).

Next up:  The arm.  Since the Furiosa character is missing an arm and Myla is not, I did what most people do when they cosplay Furiosa:  I just built a mechanical arm.  I started with the base of a long little dressup black glove, and just added all kinds of nonsense to it.  I used the black Kydex to mold the little black finger pieces by heating it up and forming it around my own fingers, while wearing a gardening glove and burned myself again, because I am a professional crafter.  Haha!  Once they cooled and I glued them to the black glove (being careful not to glue the fingers shut), I glued corrugated metal the outside of a few of them.

The lifesaver, though, was a trick I learned from one of my favorite craft/geek blogs, EpbotMETAL TAPE.  After I got the basic shape down, I covered nearly everything in metal tape.  It’s a bit thinner than aluminum foil, but softer, and with an adhesive side.  And when you paint it, it has this great old metal look!  I put it over the black Kydex, and scraped little “holes” in the index and pinkie fingers, to give that holey metal look (I’m pretty sure that’s a professional term).  I cut the pin parts of off metal push tacks and glued them down to look like rivets.  I wrapped things in wire and leather string.  And I think it came out pretty cool….especially considering this is teensy enough to fit on my 7-year old…


Now I turned back to the Immortan again, which I had been putting off because I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about that clear plastic chestpiece.  Instead of dealing with it right away, I started on some of his “badges,” most of which are smashed bottlecaps.  I had purchased a mixed bag of decorative bottlecaps from Amazon, with coincidentally cool names like Pop’s Soda, Green Seltzer, Dad’s Ale, and Sunshine Soda, none of which are movie-accurate, but are sort of a funny nod to the character, if you know the movie.  Now THAT was fun!  If you want to get some aggression out and feel super awesome, get a hammer, and smash some bottlecaps flat.  Woohoo!  I also got a nail and hammered holes into four sides of each bottlecap so I could make them into this sort of chainmail.


The armpieces were a little easier to mold by laying a flat sheet of PETG plastic (around $8 for a 24″ square sheet on Amazon) over a curved rolling chair and heating it up, and I sealed the edges in moleskin tape.  I wasn’t so serious about the emblems.  I glued down the bottlecap  “chainmail,” put a “Mr. Yuk” symbol on his arm (above) because of the poisoned air & water in the movie, and the bear with a star is my husband’s old unit patch from Alaska (just because).  My leg chaps (not pictured here) had emblems from random cars (thanks to a trip to the junkyard and scoring several for free) instead of high-end v8 engines, which was funny.  Because it’s supposed to be fun, guys.

So the most intimidating part, the clear chestpiece, would’ve been a cinch if I’d have had one of those industrial vacuuforms.   But since I did not, I gathered my courage, went in my garage armed with my heat gun, and shaped some of the PETG clear plastic sheets over a mannequin form.  I got a couple of pieces of the PETG in case I made mistakes, which was a good thing–since the first couple of times I tried it, it turned out all wobbly and wonky, and looked like I strapped a plastic takeout box to my chest.


The codpiece belt was that same fake suede painted black with a few nuts and bolts glued to it, and the “929, 240, and 49” emblems were cut out of cardboard, sealed in that metal tape, and aged with black acrylic paint.

Finally, after a couple of bad attempts at the chestpiece, I came up with something fairly usable.  It was a little wonky, but sturdy.  I made a lower back piece to go with it, and attached them to eachother with snap-tape on the sides so I could snap myself into it.  Luckily, some of the wonky wrinkles looked like the fake-molded abs he has, so that was a happy coincidence, and I accentuated them with some thinned-down brown acrylic paint.

Aletta came through again with an old cellphone, which my husband broke apart for me, so I could use the keypad and inner panel.  I used old necklace chains I had, and a spark plug and other things from the hardware store for his chest decorations.  My favorite part was the medals, which I ordered inexpensively from random sellers on Etsy: there were medals of old Russian leaders, and awards for marching band and saxaphone, which made me laugh BECAUSE IT’S FUNNY.  I cut up one of my husband’s old army shirts to go under it all (since, um, I’m a FEMALE), and it sort of looked like this now:


And for the last bit, I didn’t want to put all that work into this and use a cheap little thin halloween wig, so I found a $30 lacefront wig on Amazon that looked so much like the real deal, it was scary.  I was going to ratt it up a bit, but when I got it out to give it a try, it didn’t really need much of anything done to it…


Whew!  Are you tired yet?    Well good, because that was pretty much it for the build.

So the best thing about this is that despite a few simple dress rehearsals, you really have NO idea what it’s all going to look like altogether til the day of.  We got to the convention center and put ourselves together in the parking lot.  I painted us both up, and wiped my painty-fingers on Myla’s shirt and arms and my pants, because we’re supposed to be all dirty from the Wasteland.  I needed my husband to help me put everything on and snap me in, but once we did, it was pretty spectacular, you guys…


Myla’s Furiosa was pretty awesome once it was all together.  We opted for NOT shaving her head (hahaha), and pulled her hair back instead (darn, those curls always escape, though!).


(And despite it being velcro’d to her shirt and supported by straps, her little shoulder piece kept sliding off the whole time.  Kid-shoulders aren’t as supportive as grownup ones, I guess.)

My “Immortan Mama” (as Myla called me) was a sight–people cleared out of our way when we walked through the aisles, and we were asked to stop for photos a LOT (which is all part of the fun of it).



People go to conventions for different reasons.  There’s usually an Artist Alley (where comic and other fine artists and crafters go) and a vendor section (full of t-shirts, comics, toys, and dolls).  There are celebrities (actors from Walking Dead, Lord of the Rings, and Dr. Who, for example) to sign autographs and take photos.  There are also panels and classes you can visit outside of the main convention area.

Any and all of that would have been very difficult to do in my Immortan costume, so we just walked the main convention floor, looking at tables and stopping for people to take our picture.  We had a pose down, and people seemed pretty excited by it all.  On the down side, no one could hear me or understand me, so it was a little awkward meeting Bob Camp (the co-creator of Ren & Stimpy), and trying to tell him my name so he could personalize a doodle.  But really, that’s fine, because I got THIS cool pic:


He was a pretty energetic dude.  I even sang along with him to the theme song of Log and the Muddy Mudskipper Show, but in my mask, it was pretty much a mumbled mess.  I sounded like a Peanuts parent.   Hahah!


We had fun walking around the convention, looking at cosplay, vendors, and displays, and talking to artists.  One challenge was that I wear glasses and don’t have a contacts prescription, so I had to squint my way through.   I kept my glasses in my pocket, and since I’m nearsighted, I could see general things, but they were mostly blurry unless I squinched up close.  By the time we were done, my face was super sweaty and Myla was tired and hungry.

Since my peripheral vision and speech were limited, I didn’t get to get a good look at much, so the next day we decided to meet up with my friend (and awesome tattooer) Annie, and just enjoy the sights.  We posed in front of Myla’s favorite Ninja Turtle, saw some excellent cosplay, and splurged on ALLLL sorts of goodies (Labyrinth Funko Pops, anyone!??!).


So if you’ve ever considered going to a ComicCon but thought it was maybe too weird, go ahead and give it a try!  And if you’re not up for going through all the construction and costume building that I did, just wear a superhero t-shirt and call it a day, because that’s fun too.  Just have a good time, and let your geek flag fly!


PS:  Did you see my super cool luna moth necklace up there?  It was from a vendor at the convention–Monica L. Knighton–she turned out to be one of my favorite booths there(once I could actually SEE)….  I got a few things the first day and had to go find her again the second day and get some more.  🙂  Go check her out!

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad MAX

Mad Max and I go WAY back. My dad was a big lover of science fiction, spread that love to me, and always asked “what if” questions about the future. He shared his love of movies like Postman and Waterworld and Blade Runner—movies that were all set in the future just far enough out to be able to still remember the past.

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When I was younger, I remember watching a LOT of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I loved that movie. My sister and I would sometimes chant “’Memba this???” when telling a story, like the savage kids. Dad would explain a bit about why the world of Mad Max was the way it was—a post-apocalyptic future where resources were scarce, and people recreated their own form of civility and structure from what was left. I remember being fascinated by that world.

When I was older, I watched the other Mad Max movies that tell the arc of how that world got to where it was: Mad Max, Road Warrior, and Thunderdome.   I’m a total sucker for a movie with interesting characters, and the world of Mad Max is full of them.

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The thing I always love about Max was that he was cool without being above it all. And he was good without being ALL good (because no one is ALL good, right?).

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And best of all, throughout the arc of all the movies, he didn’t just go in somewhere, guns blazing and save the day like some super dude. He got caught. He was captured. He was hurt. He made bargains. He made MISTAKES. He was human.

The movies were brutal, they were all about survival. And although there were some strong women, they didn’t always fare too well in the end.  Sadly, you sort of come to expect that after awhile.

warrior woman

But the movies also had a sense of dark humor to them. Where somehow even after all the mess, you could find something as simple as a grunting feral child with a boomerang or a goofy Gyro Captain to at least make you smile.

So I was apprehensive about Fury Road. I mean it had to be good if it was George Miller, but what if it wasn’t? I’m all for revamps and remakes and sequels and prequels, but I wasn’t really sure how I felt about one of my beloved movie series’ being remade.

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UNTIL I SAW THE PREVIEWS. And all my fears subsided, and excitement ensued. And it was so much better than I imagined.

There are amazing characters—and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I love drawing characters I find interesting.

Like Nux, one of the War Boys who was raised from birth to serve the warlord Immortan Joe (another fascinating antagonist), alongside Nux’s two “mates”–his tumors, Larry and Barry.

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But the most amazing character to me (as she is for a lot of people) is Imperator Furiosa. Just google “Furiosa art” and you’ll see how much she’s inspired other artist. If you don’t know why someone might find her so inspiring, hold her side to side against any other “strong” female characters and see how fantastically DIFFERENT she is.

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I think her character alone is something filmmakers should look at carefully, and pattern other female characters after. I’ll explain a bit about why her character means so much to me:

  • Furiosa is strong, but she’s different than most because while she’s badass, she also doesn’t just go in and kick butt. She makes mistakes. She’s not completely sure what she’s doing, but she’s driven, and she is fighting for something she believes in. She nearly gets killed at one point…and then dusts herself off and keeps on going.

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  • Her character isn’t driven by sexuality. Okay, she’s gorgeous simply because Charlize Theron is gorgeous, but that doesn’t even figure in at ALL to her persona. No one threatens to attack her sexually (this is often an unfortunate plot point filmmakers use to quickly weaken a female character–although it does exist elsewhere in the world Miller created). She doesn’t try to use her own sexuality to manipulate anyone. It’s not even a factor. People are too busy trying to survive.

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  • She has weaknesses, but they don’t slow her down. She’s not helpless with that one arm. No one even mentions the fact that she’s got a (super awesome) prosthetic. No one pities her; they’re doing their best to survive themselves. No one takes it easy on her either. Like she tells the Wives, “Out here, everything hurts.”
  • She’s wearing practical shoes. (Sounds silly, doesn’t it?   But I cannot tell you how completely distracted I was in EVERY single scene of Jurassic World by the main character’s spiky heels. In the Jungle. In the mud. While running. From a T-Rex. Seriously.)
  • She didn’t “get the guy” in the end. She and Max develop a mutual respect for one another’s badassery, and they share some thumbs-up looks with one another, but neither of them seems to see the other as a possible love interest. THANK GOODNESS. Most filmmakers try to give their badass women characters a softness by throwing love in there. As if the only way you can be a fully rounded person is if someone else sees you as a potential love interest. Or perpetuate the stereotype that strong women HAVE to be gay.  But in this film…

furiosa hug

  • She has emotions that don’t center around men. REALLY?? Is that even possible? As strong as Furiosa is, she is holding it together for her belief in a certain hope. When that belief falters, she breaks down. Like an actual human woman. She is a wonderful mix of hard and soft. Like an actual human woman. She’s hurt. She cries. Not because she’s weak, but because she’s held it together so long and had faith in something that may no longer exist. That’s a painful thought for anyone. …And then she sucks it up, buckles her arm back on, and tries something else. Like people do.

concept art

So recently, I got this AMAZING book on the concept art for Fury Road. Do you know most of the storyboards and character sketches for Fury Road were done as early as 1997? Other than some visual imagery, the majority of the storyline and the characters were laid out in full way back then. I LOVE seeing “behind the scenes,” where the ideas come from, what the thought process was and most especially the rough sketches.

As an artist, it’s one thing to draw a character, but another altogether to imagine and create a character based on a specific idea that the world is dying and they can only use what’s around them. You’d have to put yourself in that world, and think of what you could use around you. I thought of my days as an army lady, and what I needed to have on me, what were “luxury” items as a soldier when you’re full of gear, and how you could customize your own rig. This book has been so awesome for me, and super inspiring.

concept quote

So as amazing as Furiosa is, and as inspiring as she is to me personally, it got me wondering about the portrayal of women in movies. And most especially this thought: I wonder, is it possible to have a female antagonist?

Is it possible to have a “bad guy” who’s a woman, who commands the adoration of her tribe (as Immortan Joe did by portraying himself as “godlike”), but withOUT the use of her sexuality? A character who is aggressive and maybe even brutal…who commands fear, but also respect? Can you have a woman play a character like Immortan Joe (or Darth Vader, or Bane, or any “bad guy” for that matter)? Is that even possible?


I started by sketching some possible ideas for women in that world…regular women and more aggressive characters. There so many wonderful male and female characters in Fury Road (the Vuvalini—an all-female tribe of motorcycle riders, for example).

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I had fun playing with the idea of what a person might want in a world like that. Some face protection? Something to make them seem more visually intimidating? Masks and clothing were used to that respect in the MM films. Can she be disfigured in some way (like Joe or Vader or Bane) and still command fear and respect?

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Evidently, the actor who played Immortan Joe got into character by hanging posters of himself in costume that said “DADDY LOVES YOU.” He put them everywhere–in all the areas around set and in the gym areas where the actors playing the War Boys would train. It was this idea that as this character, he was an overlord–he was powerful and merciful, and wanted to be seen as a father figure to his people.


So would a female antagonist play off of the idea of “Mother?” Would she portray herself as godlike or motherly to her people? Would that give her too much sensitivity? Would that sensitivity equate to weakness? (PS: That was pretty much the role of Auntie Entity (Tina Turner) in Thunderdome…although she was more of a “good guy” who brought order to chaos.)

auntie entity

So I’m playing with those ideas. I’m not sure what effect it’ll have on my artwork, but I can tell you my mind’s been swimming with thoughts and ideas. And even if nothing comes of them, isn’t it wonderful to look at things in a new way? Not to just rehash the regular old characters? To ask “what if” as often as you can?

Until then…

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