The Morgan family in the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance cosplay as a Skeksis, Mystic, Rian and Hup, pictured with the Jim Henson Studios team
Pictured with Peter Brooke – Creature Supervisor, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, Halle Stanford – President of Television, The Jim Henson Company, and Toby Froud -Production Designer; the Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
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An Idea For Halloween...

Lately, we’ve all really enjoyed watching through the new Netflix series, “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.” It’s got action, adventure, cool creatures, and even romance! Besides, what’s not to love about a show filmed with practical puppets from the Jim Henson Studios? 

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is gorgeous! Just a warning, some scenes might be too intense/scary for younger kids.

When we talked about ideas for Halloween costumes this year, Josh and I joked about how with the height difference between us and the kids, how perfect it’d be to dress up as Skeksis/Mystics and Gelflings/Podlings. They’d probably be really cute! But there’s no way we could actually create costumes that elaborate, right?

…and then came the announcement that there would be a Dark Crystal panel and Cosplay Contest at LA Comic Con, which we were already planning on attending. (We love doing family costumes there, like last year’s Puppy Dog Pals!) And the prize was a tour of the Jim Henson Studios (!!!) They don’t offer tours to the public, so that was pretty tempting.

Well, I thought, maybe dressing the kids up as gelflings wouldn’t be that hard. And just maybe, I could alter an existing dragon or bird mask to look like a Skeksis… I always love making creative cosplay for Halloween! I decided to head out and see what I could find, and that would help me decide if I wanted to take on the challenge of doing full Dark Crystal cosplay or not.

Step 1: Scour Thrift and Discount Stores

My first stop was the local Goodwill store. Starting in September, they are a treasure trove for finding used Halloween costumes! I’m not good at creating clothes from scratch, so I always look for costume bases that might work for the structures and colors I want. They are usually cut up and rearranged quite a lot, but it’s far easier than measuring out fabrics and patterns, and cheaper as well.

Immediately, I started looking on the racks for medieval-style outfits and wigs (yep, you can find some good ones here! Many have even been unopened. I had hoped to give these a good wash before the kids tried them, but you know how kids are…instantly found them and plopped them on their heads as I cringed a little, hoping they were clean enough). The boys had fun looking for shirts in the right colors and styles; it was their secret mission. 

Rian the Gelfling in the show
Hup the Podling in the show
My 30 second version of Rian
Our thrown together version of Hup. Yes, that's a Rey from Star Wars costume. But hey! It's totally the right style!

Success! I did a quick try-on of these finds, and they looked enough like the characters from the show that I was confident I could alter them to work. I look for things that will only take a minimal amount of sewing, since I can’t really do much more than a basic handstitch or straight stitch on the sewing machine. I figure that’s just fine, because characters living in the forest probably don’t have a lot of access to sewing machines, so their garments will look handmade anyway! (Yes, I think about these things!!!)

A broken hat and the Hup Podling costume in progress
How perfect is this broken straw hat for belts and accents?
A pile of fabric and Halloween masks for cosplay

Another tip I have while looking for cosplay pieces at thrift stores is to THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. I saw this half-destroyed hat, and realized that it would be perfect for belt-like material and earthy accents. Even the gold parts could work as jewelry for the extravagant Skeksis. Plus, it would be really long when unwound, so I’d have a lot of it! A pair of knee-high lace up boots would be perfect to cut apart and turn into “leather” gelfling armor. I also picked up a rubber horse mask, thinking that it might work for the Mystic, if I was able to sculpt on top of it (this ultimately proved to be a bust, however. Not much sticks to rubber latex). For the large amount of fabric needed for the Mystic’s cloak, I found this couch cover or curtain…not sure what it actually is, but it looked like enough to drape around my husband!

The Skeksis outfit was actually far simpler to piece together. I decided to make mine a female, maybe a diva-like singer or something fun. A glittery thrifted prom dress, black graduation gown bunched up around the shoulders, and a feathery witch’s hat as a collar seemed to work well. At this point, I started getting excited…I think I can actually pull these costumes off decently, I thought! 

Making a Dark Crystal Worthy Skeksis and Mystic

Now would come the biggest challenge…creating masks that would actually look like a Skeksis and a Mystic! Realizing that I couldn’t use my original idea and alter an existing rubber mask, I started researching what materials I could cheaply use to make my own masks. Finding Jonni Good’s website, Ultimate Paper Mache, was super helpful! 

Jonni has some wonderful recipes for creating “paper mache clay,” which is a lot easier to sculpt with than the typical paper strips and drippy glue. I immediately downloaded her books “How to Make Masks” and “Make Animal Sculptures With Paper Mache Clay” and began to test out some of her techniques.

Luckily, I was able to find this awesome paper pattern for building a Skeksis mask on Etsy. (If you’d like to try it yourself, this part was actually pretty easy! Just follow the pattern and glue the tabs together. It’s an inexpensive way to let your kids run around as Skeksis! Haha) After making a paper mask or two out of cheap copy paper to see how it fit, I decided to alter it a bit so that the jaw could be separated. I had hoped to make my Skeksis talk by moving my own jaw, and it seemed like this could work nicely, with a strap behind my head! 

A Skeksis mask made out of paper
I later ended up cutting off the teeth, since I wanted to sculpt those.
A woman dressed in a Skeksis paper mask from the Dark Crystal

If you use strong enough cardboard, you could probably paint this mask and wear it as is. Knowing we would be entering our designs in a contest, however, I wanted to really enhance it and make this design more of my own creation with bumpy textures and to hide the crisp fold lines. 

Some skeletal zombie hand decorations I found at the 99 Cents Store were perfect for the creepy Skeksis hands…but I hadn’t realized that they only came as a right hand. Lengthening them a bit with masking tape and clay allowed me to create a thumb on the opposite side to fix this.

A little boy in a paper Skeksis mask, holding up creepy hands

I created thick eyebrows and facial ridges with balled-up aluminum foal, stuffed the beak and jaw with rolled up newspaper, and covered it with masking tape until I got the shapes I wanted. A wearable paper mask pattern for a Mystic doesn’t yet exist, so that one had to be created from scratch. Aluminum foil, masking tape, and thin cardboard helped create the basic structure. I just pulled up stills from the Netflix series and tried to make the shapes match. 

A cardboard build of a Dark Crystal Mystic mask
A Mystic and Skeksis mask from the Dark Crystal, made out of aluminum foil and cardboard
(Here’s where I made my first big mistake. I kept testing out this Mystic mask over MY head. My eyes seemed to see out just fine, and it fit over, so I thought I was good. Nope. My husband, who would be wearing this costume, clearly has a much bigger head, AND would need his glasses. Totally forgot about that part! Whoops.)

Then, I whipped up a batch of paper mache clay and plopped it on top of the cardboard masks. This part was just a lot of trial and error.

The clay is sticky, so I used a plastic knife to help smooth it on like frosting a cake. When cracks or bumps appeared, I’d put a little bit of glue and water on a small paintbrush and smooth out the details. It sat in front of a fan overnight, then I went over it with Jonni’s recipe for homemade gesso paint once it was dry. I also made some Mystic hands (they do have four arms, after all) and some gelfling ears that I hoped to attach to a headband on my kiddo’s wig.

Masks and hands created out of paper mache clay

Whoops. More Costume Design Mistakes!

Aaaand that’s when I found a whole bunch of problems. First of all, PAPER MACHE SHRINKS THINGS when it’s dry. The Skeksis mask no longer fit over my head so that my eye holes lined up right, and the bottom jaw’s sides bent out too far in a way that made it impossible to pair with the top mask piece. It did fit right on the top of my head, though. OK. Guess it’s going to be a Skeksis HAT instead!

I also discovered that the gelfling ears were a bit heavier than I expected. Being inflexible, I also couldn’t figure out how to get them attached to the wig without possibly destroying it or having them fall off. Back to the drawing board. 

*Josh had a genius idea at this point…he had me try covering some thin bended cardboard with some of those nude-colored no-show socks. It made the PERFECT lightweight gelfling ears, that I could just sew right into the wig!*

The Mystic head was clearly not going to work as a basic mask, either. For one, it didn’t fit Josh’s face, and two, it was really front heavy. He was traveling out of town that week, so I decided to just go ahead and paint everything as if it was a headpiece, and could hopefully adjust the fit with padding later.

A painted paper mache Skeksis mask
The rotting, textured effect on the Skeksis was made with a purple base coat, then stippling on a darker color into the creases with a dry brush. I did the same on the Mystic, but smoothed out the shadows and added on dark swirls and creases.
Knowing we couldn’t see through the eyes anyway, I added another layer of foil and tape to the eye sockets, then painted pupils.
A painted Skeksis and Mystic mask

Building Fizzgig

One thing that DID work really well was the Fizzgig puppet. We thought that would be a fun addition for Brendan to hold and interact with people with.

A homemade Fizzgig puppet from the Dark Crystal

The base is an old lion mane costume piece. I just glued in a few colored pieces of felt, puff paint teeth, and created a nose and eyes out of air dry clay. A folded piece of cardboard inside behind the mouth area lets the puppeteer be able to open and close his mouth. Up close, it’s a little messy, but the effect is great when he’s moving.

Fizzgig was quite a hit at Los Angeles Comic Con! We got a lot of people asking where they could buy one. 😀

Actress Christy Carlson Romano with a Fizzgig puppet backstage at LA Comic Con
Here's Christy Carlson Romano (the voice of Kim Possible), who we met backstage. She thought Fizzgig was awesome!

Building the Mystic Body

By far the biggest challenge was creating a believeable Mystic body. My Skeksis had similar anatomy to a human, so I could just walk around like normal or hunch over a little bit, but Josh would have to have THIS shape:

A screenshot from Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance on Netflix

Mystics are huge, with a long tail, four arms, a hunched back, and lots of drapey layers. 

What did I get myself into?!?

The first costume test involved figuring out how to get that head to sit level and secure. For that, it had to be weighted down on the back. First, Josh put on a small backpack to give him a slight hunch. I used heavy duty plastic clips to attach some soft bendable plastic packing material to the back of the mask, and let it arch over his back. Draping a couple of loose scarves and fringe over the top of the head helped hide the clips and seams.

A homemade Mystic cosplay from the Dark Crystal
Yeah, please excuse the messy house. These costumes spread out all over!

The Mystic’s extra two arms were created by gluing the paper mache hands into the ends of a pool noodle, looped through the straps of Josh’s backpack. This allowed them to swing freely.

The extra sleeves were just a blue pillowcase cut in half lengthwise, and sewed up by the shoulders.

Mystic cosplay from the Dark Crystal

We decided to hide Josh’s face using some textured blue shelf liner from Dollar Tree. It was just thick enough to hide him, but had holes to see out of. When draped loosely, it looks like a wrinkled neck! I used a similar technique with grey “creepy cloth” to hide my face in the Skeksis mask.

The shape still wasn’t quite right, though. I wanted it to be longer, and we needed a way for the tail (made of rolled up paper, blue shelf liners, and a mop) to not drag on the convention floor and get ruined. 

Suddenly, an idea! What if the costume ROLLED?!? That could take some weight off Josh’s back, too. We tested a few things, like a wagon, but it wasn’t until we turned our jogging stroller backwards and clipped it to Josh’s belt that he started REALLY looking like a Mystic!

This also gave us a way to keep the tail off the ground, and tuck the cape up so it didn’t drag too much. Plus, the storage underneath was a good place to store water and snacks. 😉 

Wigs on a paper mache mask

To make the masks sit comfortably all day, we tucked some cloth up inside the Mystic skull (dried paper mache can be poky!), and cut the bill off a baseball cap to stick in the Skeksis head between the wig layer and the mask. This allowed me to easily slip it on and off if needed, kept the wig in place, and hid my ears. 

Add a couple of wigs and feathers, and these guys (er, and gal) were ready to debut at LA Comic Con!

The Dark Crystal Cosplay Competition at Los Angeles Comic Con

Now was the moment of truth. We got up really early, loaded all our costume pieces into a wagon (so. many. pieces.) and headed upstairs to the pre-judging room. 

A wagon full of cosplay stuff

Now was the moment of truth. We got up really early, loaded all our costume pieces into a wagon (so. many. pieces.) and headed upstairs to the pre-judging room. 

In pre-judging, the judges get a chance to look at your costumes up close and ask you about how it was made. We were really glad we got to do this, because it allowed us to point out all the creative pieces that we came up with and how we solved problems. We also made sure to stay in character from the moment we walked into the room. 

As soon as that door opened, the kids charged in with their sword and wooden spoon, then we chased after them. “Gelfling!” I screamed in a squawk, reaching for Brendan, as Josh slowly loped in the door, speaking slowly and humming a Mystic chant.

I think that is the extra step that helped put us over the top, so if you ever get a chance to enter a cosplay competition, keep this in mind! We had come up with backstories for our characters, too:

I was “Skek-La,” a diva opera singer. Inventing a bad Skeksis song was fun! Josh was “Ur-Jo,” a “mind wanderer.” Toby was Hup the Podling, of course, and Brendan was Rian the Gelfling, characters featured prominently in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

Here we are with Victor Yerrid, the voice and puppeteer of Hup!

Later that afternoon, we had to go to the Main Stage for the display and awards. There was a little hiccup when we realized with horror that we had to GO UP AND DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS to get onto the stage, but the tech crew helped lift Josh’s stroller so he didn’t crash. I held my breath hoping that moving it wouldn’t tear his cape right off, but it stayed put! 

The boys did a great job strutting their stuff and playing their characters, and the emcee Gigi Edgley was wonderful at leading them where they needed to go. The judges told the crowd about our costumes/characters, then asked us to “sing,” which was fun. It sounded like everyone was enjoying our costumes, but it was also really hard to tell because my vision and hearing was impaired by the mask!

Finally, it was time to announce the winners. We were SO nervous…there were so many amazing costumes! (Look at a few here:


The honorable mentions were named, then third place….second place…

I was starting to think we just may have a shot!

And they announce….”This group really represents everything the Dark Crystal stands for….first place goes to….The Morgan Family!”

No. Way.

But it was real! We won a tour of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which we are INSANELY EXCITED to do next month. We’ll be sure to write all about it! We also got a last-minute surprise prize…a 55″ OLED TV! It’s so crisp and sharp…

…The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance looks especially great on it! If you haven’t seen the series yet on Netflix, YOU’RE SERIOUSLY MISSING OUT! Go watch it. Now. 😉