I hope you noticed the guy wearing a working clock on his face at New York Comic Con this year. That costume took a lot of work. My name is Paul de Vries, and for three glorious days, I was the Clock King.
Last year my girlfriend and I faded into the sea of dozens of other Joker-and-Harley couples. Sure, one guy described me as “The best Joker I’ve seen all day,” but I’ve seen better pics since then. I decided this year that I wanted to be indisputably the best cosplayer for whatever character I showed up as, which probably meant I’d have to pick a character that no one else was doing.
Enter DC Comics’ the Clock King. Never heard of him? You’re in good company. Other than an impeccable sense of timing (and fashion), this villain has absolutely no super powers. As you can imagine, most writers didn’t have much use for this character, although he did enjoy a couple of years as part of a member of a rag-tag group of villains who called themselves “The Injustice League.”
I did some Google Image searches and found that while some people have cosplayed as the Clock King as he appeared in Batman The Animated Series, no one to my knowledge has attempted his comic book look. I decided that I would be the first and that my mask would have to keep accurate time.[divider]
Making the Costume
Obviously I started with the mask. If I couldn’t make that, there was no point in attempting the other pieces. I purchased a very cheap clock that was just asking me to destroy it, with words like “love” and “friendship” scribbled all over its face… ugh. The motor turned out to be small enough to conceal in a mask.
The only issue then was my nose. It’s not terribly big, but I imagined the flat clock face would be teeter-tottering on it unless I was able to provide additional support. Then I found a plastic Iron Patriot mask in K-Mart that seemed like the perfect base with its flat surface and blue elastic strap.
I created a frame made of wire mesh and blue duct tape, which I sealed with mod podge. Then I sandwiched the clock motor between two slabs of cardboard painted white, each with a set of eye holes.
Then I purchased blue long under wear and painted white clocks all over it. I was also able to purchase booty shorts, a fanny pack, and superhero-style gloves at various costume shops. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a neon green pair of boots or hooded cape anywhere.
My girlfriend, Skylar, encouraged me to sew a cape and boot covers myself, which was daunting given my fear of needles. Not the medical kind, I’m actually fine with those and have given blood in the past. My mom is actually an avid quilter, so you would think it would be no issue. However, my brother and sister used to torture me by showing that they could put a needle through the dead skin of their fingers. I still get goosebumps when I see needles, but I was able to overcome it at least for one afternoon. I actually had no idea how to go about making boot covers, so I just purchased green knee-high socks and painted a pair of black shoes.[divider]
Heavy is the Clock King’s Crown
I was a little self-conscious, leaving the apartment for the first time in long under wear, although I’ll admit that the mask helped me feel more secure in my anonymity. There was a taxi driver stopped at a traffic light who seemed very amused by my threads and his face beamed with excitement when he realized I wanted him to give me a ride.
Luckily, it was a little chilly outside, meaning I wouldn’t get overheated in my mask as I waited in line to enter the Javits Center. I was delighted at how many people asked me to stop for a picture before arriving at the end of the line. One little girl sitting on her father’s shoulders gave me a high-five as I passed by.
Unfortunately, when I finally entered the Javits Center I had to wait in another line. Turns out someone didn’t read his NYCC pass, which said the floor opened at 3pm that day. I asked someone if they could kindly tell me what my face said.
“One o’ clock.”
Great. Two hours of waiting in line. Which is fine. I had to wait seven hours in the rain by Midtown Comics and almost peed my pants in order to get my tickets this year. You know how staring at a clock makes time move slower? The people around me started to resent my costume.
When I finally got on the floor I heard great comments like, “Hey, those hands actually move!” and “Hey, that’s the actual time!”
A couple of people actually recognized my character, including some children!
Here are some other things people shouted at me:
“It’s a Time Lord!” – I was at one point considering showing up as the Eleventh Doctor.
“Hey, Father Time!” – I guess he ditched the hourglass and a sickle for an analog clock and blue spandex.
“Clock Man!” – Close enough.
My favorite caption of me on the internet is “Don’t know what this is but I like it.”
The people at the Swatch booth were positively giddy to see me and asked if I could pose for some pics with their merchandise. Then they gave me a free bag, which was good because I quickly found out I couldn’t fit everything in my fanny pack.
The tunnel vision became problematic. On Thursday, when the Javits Center wasn’t so crowded I was body checked by someone running across the showroom floor. If I wasn’t wearing the mask, I probably would have seen him coming. Also, I’m pretty sure I almost trampled some little kids. So sorry!
Wearing the mask with my glasses added a lot of extra weight on the bridge of my nose. By the end of the first day, my head was pounding and there was a huge indent on my nose. For the rest of the con, I decided to keep the glasses in my fanny pack when I wasn’t watching a panel, but the mask still added a lot of pressure on my nose.
But hey, it was worth the suffering![divider]
The Kindness of Strangers (Artists)
The advantage to wearing a huge conversation piece is that you get to meet a lot of cool people who would not otherwise approach you. I was adjusting my mask in the men’s room when a very nice man struck up a conversation while he was taking a leak. His name was Joshua Ortega, and he was working with the co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on a comic called The Other Dead, a mini-series about animal zombies.
He recognized my character and said some very nice things about my costume. Then he invited me to visit him at Artist Alley (where all the creators are). I told him that I had trouble finding my way, so he helped guide me there himself. Along the way as people stopped to look at my costume, Joshua Ortega told them who I was and even gave them a little back story on my character. He knows his stuff! He would also point out that my mask was keeping accurate time. I was very relieved to have him as an interpreter because the multiple layers of cardboard was muffling my voice.
Thank you, Mr. Ortega! The Other Dead is officially on my pull list!
Amanda Conner was also a total sweetheart. When I stopped by her booth she asked for a pic, which made me super giddy. I wanted to buy one of her gorgeous Harley Quinn pics but had run out of my cash allowance for the day. I told her I would return. I returned the next day and waited in line as she was giving a couple of aspiring artists some advice on breaking into the comic book industry and even took some time to browse their combined portfolio. How cool is she???
When she noticed me she said, “Hey, you’re back!” I blushed.
Christopher Jones, who contributed interior artwork for the Young Justice comic book series, turned out to be very giddy about cosplay and encouraged people to stop by his booth so he could take pics. Loving your fans makes your fans love you even more!
Which brings me to meeting DC’s Executive Editor Dan DiDio face to clock face. I was at a loss for words. I’m not good at confrontation, so I didn’t want to bring up my whole beef with his anti-marriage stance for the DC New 52. I viewed him as a politician I didn’t vote for. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t agree with him on, but I respected the gravity of his responsibilities at DC. I was thinking of uttering, “Hey, nice Trinity War!” But that’s more Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire’s baby, so it didn’t seem appropriate. After several ticks on my face, he broke the silence for me.
“You’re running 5 minutes late,” he said with a smirk, looking at his watch.
Just so my readers are clear, I actually made sure my face was running 2-3 minutes fast, because I didn’t want anyone missing their panels on account of my costume.[divider]
It was hard giving up my clock-patterned long johns for a serving apron on Sunday. Sure, there was one day left at the Con, but eventually I need to go back to replenishing my wallet. One of my co-workers was waiting on two people wearing Sunday passes, and I immediately approached the table and asked how they enjoyed themselves. They said they spent most of the time confused, and didn’t get to see everything.
“You have to come in with an attack plan,” I said. “Last year I had the same experience. It was like walking through a very expensive mall in costume. But if you take the time before to see what panels there are and spend some time at Artist Alley instead of the show room, it’s so awesome. Also, bring your own food.”
They told me they planned on returning next year, but with 3-Day passes. I told them I’d see them there.
Last year, when I was the Joker, I spent most of the Con pondering which costume I should attempt next. As I write this article, I know I’m not ready to say goodbye to the Clock King. I can make it better. Sew a better cape, perhaps with a drawstring hood. Make boot covers, so I don’t keep chipping the green acrylic paint on my black shoes. Also, the next mask would have to be much lighter and offer greater visibility. I’m looking into what’s the best white mesh I can use for the clock face.
And there are so many possibilities for this character! Next year I can alternate between his classic look and his Batman the Brave and the Bold look. And if I continue to revisit this character, I will roll out the inevitable steampunk look, complete with Grandfather clock torso.
Thanks to this costume, I can now walk around comfortably in public wearing tights, I’m no longer afraid of sewing machines, and I’ve learned some practical lessons about cosplaying:
- Vision is key – There’s too much to see at Comic Con for you to rely on others to watch where you’re going.
- Pressure builds – Any source of discomfort is only going to get worse the longer you wear a costume. If I were to wear the mask every day, I would eventually undo all the work of my septoplasty – it was a medical procedure, not a cosmetic one.
- Gimmicks impress people – While the craftsmanship of my cosplay was clearly amateur, the moving clock hands impressed a lot of people. That’s why many people who didn’t even know who the Clock King was asked to take my picture.
Also, it is never ever too early to start planning your costume! In fact, I intend to start revisiting the Clock King in December so I can get it perfected by Asbury Park’s Comic Con in April. If you see me there, please stop by and say hello. I’m obviously desperate for attention.