This past weekend I had the most amazing time at Austin's Comic Con. It's the first comic con I've ever been to, but I wanted to make sure I did it right, especially since I was there as an author trying to sell some books. Since my most recent book, Brains for Lunch (a zombie novel in haiku), is about zombies I figured, what the heck, I'll go all out and zombify myself.
The response was HUGE. I haven't posed for so many pictures since ever. I earned some street cred with teenage boys, I made little kids cry (sorry!), and I sold more books at one event than ever before.
So what's the trick to making yourself a dripping gorefest? I'm gonna tell you.
1) Hit up those Halloween superstores. I knew I wanted to go for some serious skin trauma so I bought a 15 ounce jug of liquid latex. I didn't need that much, but it was a good price compared to the teeny vials. You're also going to need a palette of greasepaint in grody colors. I got a nice collection of brown, green, yellow, red, black, tan and white. These are the only things you need from the Halloween store, everything else you can get at Goodwill or Target. (Side note: I bought a can of spray on blood that I used on my clothes, but in hindsight, I could have just used my homemade blood for this.) (Additional side note: I spent some money on crazy zombie contact lenses. I wasn't going to because they were so expensive, but on the first day of Comic Con I found a vendor that gave me a great deal, so I splurged.)
2) My next trip was to Target. I got some cheap foundation that was a fairly close match to my skin tone. I bought some super cheap skin-tone colored powder, with a puff. And I picked up some toilet paper, make-up wedges and extra eye make-up q-tip things.
3) You're going to also need some chocolate syrup and red food coloring (more than just a few drops). Luckily, I had both of these things at home already.
4) Now get yourself over to Goodwill and find some clothes that look like they need a good gross-ifying. I chose some gym clothes. If you want to go all out, find yourself a pair of shoes that are a couple of sizes too big, and then another pair that are regular size that relatively match the big pair. You can use one of the big shoes to make it look like one of your feet is on backwards.
5) OK! Now you have all of your stuff.
6) Get after those clothes. Rip some holes, mess up your hems, make sure your neckline is funky. Once everything is ripped, take the clothes and rub some dirt and/or mud all over them. Run over them with your car. Get them grungy. Do the same thing with the shoes. You can mess them up with some scissors, or you can just douse them with some homemade blood and let that do the trick.
7) Make your blood. It's about as simple as you can get. Find a small bowl, squirt in several tablespoons of chocolate syrup, and then dump a whole little bottle of red food dye into it. Stir. You want to make sure your blood is very dark with just a hint of red, otherwise when it dries on your skin it will get kind of pink, and it will stain and look fake. So mess around with your concoction until it seems right.
8) Dribble and splatter the blood on your clothes and shoes, then rub everything in the dirt some more. Once your clothes and shoes are sufficiently bloody and dirty, leave them outside to get dry and crusty – but watch out for ants and bees.
9) Now it's time to zombify yourself. There are four important things to note before you start messing around with liquid latex: a) it smells really bad b) you have to put some kind of oil or lotion on your skin before you paint the latex on, or when you remove the dried latex, it will rip out every tiny hair on your skin c) make sure you're not allergic by testing out a small patch on your arm d) if you have crazy zombie contact lenses, put them in now before you start in with the latex and get your hands all mucked up.
10. Once you know you're not allergic, it's time to figure out where you want your wounds. Pour the latex into a small container and find a paintbrush you'll never need to use again. Slather the spots of skin where you want the latex to go with oil or lotion or creme make-up. (Note: I used white creme make-up, and it was still pretty excruciating getting some of the latex off. Especially on my face.)
11. Now that your skin is protected, paint the latex on with a good even coat. The thicker the latex is, the more you have to mangle, but having some really thin layers here and there works well, too. If you want to make a serious wound, you want the latex to dry until it's tacky. If you're just going to mangle some skin, you can let it dry all the way. A hair dryer set on cool can help speed this part of the operation.
12. Grab some sheets of toilet paper for your wound work. Two-ply works best, because you can split it and use really thin tissue.
13. You want to roll the tissue into thin tube-type things and stick them to the tacky latex in the shape of your wound. (Alternatively, you can just attach little tears and rips to add icky texture to patches on your face or wherever.) Then, you'll paint the latex over the tissue. When you do this, the tissue might get a little mucky and tear some. Totally fine. It just makes your wound grosser.
14. Whip out that hair dryer again and dry the latex.
15. Once your wounds (and other latex patches) are dry, smack them with your powder puff, so everything sets nicely and starts to get a skin-type color to it. After the powder is on, you can start adding make-up. I added some straight-up black and red grease paint outlines to the insides of my wounds before I painted over the whole thing with foundation. I imagine you should do the foundation first, but really, it all worked out fine.
16. Once you've got your outlines, get everything else with liquid foundation. I found that it went on better and faster with a paintbrush than with the make-up wedges. But the wedges come in handy for blending with the rest of your skin.
This is pre-liquid foundation, post-powder
17. After your latex patches are skin colored (or close), you can add bruise-y, dirty colored grease paint and then rip at the latex carefully with tweezers or your fingernails. Just peel bits off here and there, and if you can leave the bits hanging, even better.
I didn't use any special technique for adding the colors. I just globbed the brown and green and yellow and red all together on a couple of fingers and smeared them around.
18. Now it's time to gunk up those wounds. Add your greasepaint inside the wound and outside of it, and use your chocolate syrup blood liberally. Let it pool inside the wound and drip out.
Here's another angle. So gross! (But it smells like ice cream. Thanks, chocolate sauce!)
19. Now you just tear at your latex spots, add make-up and blood everywhere and ta da! You are a gruesome zombie sure to terrify everyone in your path (especially the unsuspecting people in the parking garage).
Don't feed the author!
20. And for that last, special touch, don't forget your backwards foot. I wish I could've figured out a better way to do this, but it was reasonably effective. It made people laugh and/or grimace, and it caused a few double takes for sure. All you have to do is use one of the big shoes you bought at Goodwill and either remove the tongue, or smush it down. Then you stick your foot in between the laces. Very simple. And if you tie it tight enough, the laces will still hold your foot in nicely.
photo by PJ Hoover
Ta da! You are now a disgusting zombie. Go forth and terrify.
(I'd like to thank Instructables.com for helping me figure out how to do all of this. Specifically, this instructable for wounds, and this one for blood. I didn't follow their instructions absolutely, but they were a great guide. Also, in that first link, if you scroll down into the comments you can see a picture of a guy who used chicken bones to a horrifying result.)
photo by PJ Hoover