Sunday, April 11, 2010


David Sherman is a man of many disguises: Batman, the Joker, Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, a squad of Stormtrooper variations and a Ghostbuster.

Those are just the ones he can actually wear.

"Until a few years ago, I was over 300 pounds. Always a big guy, but it got to a point where I realized if I didn't make a change I'd probably end up with diabetes like all the other men in the family. Part of building a screen-accurate, movie replica costume is being able to portray the character as seen on screen, and being a very large guy - no way that was going to work. Batman was my motivation to lose the weight," Sherman said.

He shed 110 pounds in 2.5 years by overhauling his eating habits for a proper diet and "surprisingly little" exercise. He suited up as Gotham's guardian for the first time in summer 2008.

Once relegated to the din of comic book, horror and sci-fi conventions booked in whatever hotel was willing to host them, pop culture costuming has seen a popularity surge in recent years and Sherman welcomed it with open arms.

"In the third grade, I had to write a letter to someone famous. I wrote a letter to Michael Keaton asking about the special effects from Beetlejuice. I wanted to know how they made things pop out of his head and spin around," Sherman said.

Watching horror films - at a time when grocery stores weren't carding kids for checking out "Nightmare on Elm Street" - was another favorite pastime. Sherman got in trouble at school for chasing mates around with his homemade Krueger glove.

His current costumes are defined by a meticulous attention to detail. In a hobby where a single complete costume costs upward of $1,000, details matter.

"When people see you in person they don't know about all the little details in [movie] costumes. If they saw the actual things in person they would probably prefer the knockoffs," Sherman said.

As an example he points to his two Vader helmets. One is completely black, another is painted in black and gunmetal.

"Most people don't pick up on that, but they did it because the film stock back then couldn't pick up the details of an all-black mask," he said.

Sherman's collection includes Stormtrooper gear molded from a batch of plastic that was used in the filming of the original Star Wars movies and a Jason Voorhees mask molded directly from the face of Kane Hodder while in make-up. They hold positions of honor among his many Batman cowls and other pieces that were fascinating when he first acquired them, but soon fell victim to other, better interpretations or molds of the same gear.

Some pieces he's purchased or traded for simply turn out to be poorly crafted. One Batman chestpiece was sent to him uncured. If squeezed, it oozes a black goo like a jelly donut.

"You have to learn where the communities are. There are actually a lot of people involved in the film industry, but they're not revealing it. If you can make those connections you can get some really nice stuff," Sherman said.

The Seattle Art Institute grad has learned to save money by producing his own pieces, which also gives him something to trade for other items. His current project is a wampa, the ice beast that captured Luke Skywalker and ate his tauntaun on the ice planet Hoth in the Empire Strikes Back. He beams as he shows off fur samples stapled to a pricing sheet.

"Once I get it put together I'm going to add blood stains and then go have a big photo shoot up in the mountains with a couple of friends who have snowtrooper costumes," Sherman said.

While owning such rare memorabilia is much of the fun, the real payoff for Sherman is in the opportunity to show off his collection in support of charities. Most weekends he travels or appears locally as one of the characters to support charities, and he's not the only one.

The Clown Prince of Costumes

As soon as Josh Phillips finished watching "The Dark Knight," the most recent Batman film, he knew he wanted a costume to match Heath Ledger's Joker.

"I've got a dark side and enjoy scaring people, but I also wanted to do it as an homage to Ledger and the great performance he gave," Phillips said.

Fortunately, his partner, Christian David, is a talented tailor.

"It's not something I do regularly because I've never wanted to sew as as a job, but if the inspiration is there, it's worthwhile," David said.

Crafting the actual costume proved to be something more of a chore. While they were able to find a shirt and socks to order, everything else had to be modified from patterns or existing clothing that got close to, but weren't exactly the same as the movie garb.

"To get the pinstripes on the pants we had to lay painter's tape over the fabric and spray-paint them on," David said.

Phillips added prosthetic scarring "fast and angry" around his lips and caked-on white makeup to complete the look.

Hearts worth their weight in gold

Sherman and Phillips are now regular features at charity events held at Tony's Kingdom of Comics in Keizer. Sherman also joined the 501st Legion, a larger group of worldwide Star Wars costuming enthusiasts that raises money for charity.

"We only have about 60 local active members, but we raised $10,000 for charity last year," Sherman said.

Tony Grove, owner of the Keizer shop, is a costumer himself. David made his "Old Tony Kenobi" costume, which Grove dons before heading out to visit patients at area children's hospitals.

Often the costumers will let the kids shoot them with darts from a Nerf gun. Grove's chest swells as he recalls a recent experience.

"We were out on a visit when a nurse came up and told us they'd lost one of the kids we had just visited. It was incredibly said, but we were also happy. At least we'd made it in time," Grove said.

It was a feeling that buoyed spirits as they made their way to the parking lot covered in orange darts.

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