My Caliban Cosplay

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve seen mentions of me cosplaying as Caliban, aka John Clare, aka The Creature from Showtime’s Victorian horror costume party, Penny Dreadful. I just dote on him. I’ve even written fanfic, which I will not subject you to here. But I will blather about the costume I made and how fun it was to make!

If you’re not a fan of either PD or cosplay you’ll probably want to give today’s entry a miss, unless you’re just really, really bored. But I did have a lot of fun making it, so I hope you’ll stick around!

“You’re some kind of Mime, right? Or Marilyn Manson?” ~ My coworkers at our company Halloween party

Head under the  jump for more pics and How I Did It!

You clicked! YAAAAAYY!!!!

First off, I’m well aware of how little I resemble Rory Kinnear, who plays the character. We both have round faces, but he has a nice, straight nose, deep set eyes, and a big, masculine jaw. I have the opposite of all of that. Also, part of Caliban’s head is bald, due to the scars.


First, I asked a friend of mine who does horror/effects makeup for some advice. He pointed me at local place, AEO Studios, that does makeup professionally. I really have to say that Allan, who owns it, was amazing at suggesting things both in my price range and within my skillset. He was incredibly knowledgeable and so supportive! If you’re looking for cosplay makeup ideas and you’re in the Central Florida area, take a ride on over there! I’m not paid for this shilling at all, he really is just that nice and helpful.

I wasn’t about to shave half my head (again), so I decided to get creative. I ordered a long, Morticia-style wig off Amazon.   It worked out very well because it has a silicon track down the middle that keeps the part in place. I settled the wig on my head and then shifted it about 30 degrees to the side, to make a side part. Once I had a good idea of how it should sit on my head, I put it on a styrofoam mannequin head, pinned it in place, and started cutting the hair to be closer to Caliban’s length, and also cutting away most of the side.

Once I had the hair right, I started working on the headpiece. I bought a latex skull cap, but early experiments with it didn’t work out so I decided to try something a bit more sturdy: leather.

First I tried white goatskin, but that turned out to be too white. It just didn’t blend right with the white Wolf makeup, so I tried a remnant of undyed leather. It took the makeup very well, as long as I was careful to apply it right up to the wig’s hairline and use a fixative spray afterward. I sewed the leather to the net inside of the wig (and had to redo it several times because it was sometimes crooked), and I am here to tell you that thimbles are AMAZING. If you have to sew leather by hand, then get down on your knees and thank whatever you worship that some person thought to make a tiny helmet for your thumb. They are WONDERFUL.

I also attached an elastic band that would hold the whole thing on and keep it from sliding around. Once positioned, I could dance, jump, and it wouldn’t move at all.


An early makeup test, aka, my Friday nights through most of the summer. Also I have a total Scrooge nose in this pic! Ha! 

You can see here where I messed up trimming the hairline – that little tuft in between the two big pieces, up near the part.

I used ProsAide, which is an adhesive used in effects makeup and also the medical industry, to CAREFULLY attach the leather to my skin. You have to be careful not to get it in your hair, or else you will have a VERY bad time. And you MUST get the special remover to get it off. But happily, the ProsAid doesn’t know the difference between live, human skin and tanned, cow skin, and the adhesive and remover worked very well. I would imagine you could use vegan leather in a similar application, if you want to avoid animal products. I was able to attach and detach the headpiece as often as I needed to, with very little breakdown of the fiber. The only downside is that it remains sticky, so I have to tie the hair back when I’m applying it so that it doesn’t get stuck in the adhesive.

The finished product! I took this at my friends’ huge Halloween party; seconds later I had to take the right contact out because it was killing my eye

It took some fiddling and lots of practice, but eventually I had a makeup look I was happy with. I ordered some contacts from, but as I have astigmatism I couldn’t get any prescription ones. Any time I wore the lenses I had to either put them on when I got where I was going, having driven there in my glasses, or get a ride, and just deal with barely being able to see. But they looked WICKED cool! I was so excited to get them that when they arrived I tried them on RIGHT AWAY, which turned out to be a mistake, because they were packed in something very similar to alcohol. One got stuck in my eye and tore during my panicked removal, so I have one and three-quarters yellow contacts now. Bummer, but that was my fault. You probably noticed in the photo up above that I was missing one yellow contact, and that’s the reason why. I didn’t even try to wear them at work, because it was so hard to get them in without smearing my makeup.

Just another day at the office… as you can tell, I’m trash at posing.

For the rest of the costume, I just went with my boots, leggings, and a long-sleeved tunic shirt. I thought about getting a coat, but again, Florida. And I realized I’d need something to carry my stuff in, so I got one of those fake book jewelry boxes from a craft store, dug out the magnets, glued some leather and a buckle to the cover to secure it, and voila! Instant book purse! So apropos!

I kind of want to carry it around all the time, now!

I was even able to find one that looked very Paradise Lost, which if you watch the show you’ll recognize the significance to the character. And if not, ask me and I can bore you with why that’s important.

This costume was super fun, and everyone agreed that whatever it was, it looked good. So I had that going for me. I know it’s nothing like some of the incredibly detailed and complex costumes that hardcore cosplayers do, but I enjoyed myself and gained an appreciation for all the dedication that those folks DO put into their work. And – I did such a good job that a friend of mine wants me to cosplay with her at MegaCon 2017 – she is going as Loki, and wants me to be Thor!

Thanks for reading this whole entry! I really appreciate it, and I hope that you have a great day.

Have you ever cosplayed? What did you go as? Where did you wear it? Details details details!


Author: jennnanigans

Orlando-area writerly person.

2 thoughts on “My Caliban Cosplay”

  1. This was fine. You’re posing was perfectly alright. I love the contacts. I’m sorry you had so much trouble with them. I’m terrified of contacts, so you’re braver than me.

    I loved this and (you know I) knew exactly who it was the moment I saw it. I’m not much of a cosplayer but as a visual artist, I admire the hell out of your love, enthusiasm, and sheer inventiveness.

    I’m definitely going to steel that jewelry book idea though. That’s awesome!

    1. Thank you! Ha ha, yes, I knew you would recognize who I was!
      I wear contacts regularly, but they are prescription and fit my eye. These were kind of a gamble – and you have to get your eye doctor’s permission to order them, so I felt like there was at least someone making sure I wasn’t about to blind myself.
      Ha ha, thanks! Go for it, I stole it myself!

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