Iron Dan Halifax
When Earth’s mightiest heroes reassemble for Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, Daniel Halifax will be there, looking something like this.
Iron Dan won’t be alone. Along with thousands of moviegoers, with him will be Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, even Ultron himself.
But only if he finishes making them in time.
“There’s a few more to go. I just finished Thor today,” said Halifax, 39, artist and cosplayer who designs and builds superhero suits in his basement workshop in Newark, Ohio.
This is just his latest work. I ran into Dan and his girlfriend Cecily Parkinson at Ohayocon 2014 in Columbus, Ohio, wearing Kryptonian battle armor. Quite the impressive couple they were.
Looking through my pictures from the Columbus anime convention, I also ran across this one, an Iron Man facing off against an Anti-Venom symbiote.
I checked the time stamps and they’re from different days, so I’m pretty sure I got two pictures of Dan at the same convention. If it is, it would be the cosplayer’s first version of the armored superhero.
“Iron Man was one of the first ones I did,” he recalled.
Halifax followed patterns downloaded from the internet for the first suit, which took about two months to build.
“I looked through those quite a bit and followed them very closely. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into.”
In addition to conventions, he’s worn the suit to the Iron Man 3 premier in Columbus in May 2013 for kids (and adults) to get photos with.
“We were there for a canned food drive, bring a can, get a picture with Iron Man. It’s fun for the kids, going to a movie and the characters are actually there. Seeing the look on their face, it’s like ‘aaaaah,’ wide eyed, that sheer excitement like a little kid on Christmas, that’s what you see. I love that. It’s awesome to put a smile on a kid’s face like that.”
Halifax finished his newest Iron Dan suit, the one he’s wearing at the top of this page, in December 2014.
“I’m trying to take a benchmark comparison of how I’m doing in developing my costume building, to see how much I’ve progressed,” he explained.
He’s progressed quite a bit, learning new techniques for electronics, how to use different materials, what works with what.
“I’ve definitely figured a lot of stuff out as far as the hows and the what-to-do and what-not-to-do, the different ways to do things. I’m my own worst critic. I’ve had photographers compliment me on the paint job on them, which was cool. My younger brother is actually in the movie industry. He’s been to my house and seen this stuff and he’s complimented me on it. His big compliment — movie costumes generally looks good on film but when you get close up, they lose quality. My stuff, even close up in person, kept up the quality. That’s kind of nice.”
The second suit, which he designed and built freehand, took about three months to complete.
“It’s three suits all in one. I built an entire undersuit. The shell took a few weeks,” he said.
The armor has a craft foam core with wood glue on the inside to harden it and two layers of epoxies on the outside, surrounded by different thicknesses of foam.
“Once you get the outside coated and smoothed down, it’s all about the paint, which is my main background anyway. Most of my life I’ve spent painting and drawing. I know how to use the paints to trick the eye.”
Special effects include LED and halogen lights to create glowing eyes, chestplate uni-beam projector, and palm repulsor rays.
“A mish mash of everything wired to a circuit board. The palms light up via sensor switches. When I lift my hands, they light up. They also have built in flash, like a camera, so when I move my finger just right, it’ll actually send a pulse, so it looks like I’m firing a repulsor.”
The engineering, design and construction skills are all self taught.
“On-the-fly learning ,” he said. “I like the mechanical aspects of things. When I want to try something new, I read up on it. I teach myself how to do this stuff.”
Completed Avengers work so far also includes suits for Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch, with Ultron, Captain America, and the Hulk to go.
The Hulk, a character without much in the way of clothing or armor, will be a challenge.
“I’m ready to dive in full force and make an attempt at it. I have some ideas — probably really lightweight flexible foam, padding foam. I studied some anatomy when I was younger for artwork. I’ll try to sculpt muscular structure for that. We’ll see how that goes.”
Cecily is all set to wear the Scarlet Witch outfit, and family and friends have been enlisted for the other Avenger characters.
“I’ve been kind of collecting people. Because I’m doing the full cast, I’ve been picking the person first, then building the costume for them.”
An artist his whole life, Dan has been making costumes since 2000, starting mostly with fantasy-genre, sword-wielding warriors and such.
“Leather armor for the Renaissance Fair, that style of costumes,” he said.
“Three years ago, I jumped the rails and went full superhero, all the comic book styles.”
A trip to Ohayocon that year sparked the interest, he said.
“One of my brothers tried to get me to go for quite a while. He said it was right up my alley, but I never got into it until Ohayocon,” he said. “Then I was like, I have to make something. I’m kind of sporadic that way.”
His first superhero cosplay costume was a Batman suit.
“It was kind of a throw together,” he said. “Iron man was the first one I designed and built using foam.”
He and Cecily have gone to 2-3 anime, comic, and pop culture conventions a year since then.
“It’s a big community of friendly people, a great place to go and not be judged,” Dan said. “I’ve kind of gotten Cecily into it. I like having her doing stuff with me. When making costumes, I have to come up with an opposite version it, a complementing character. I have to think about it a little more, to make one to match in some way, so we have a pair going on, so that together or separate, people know they go together. I enjoy the challenge of that.”
A creative free thinker, Halifax has been into art his entire life.
“My dad has drawings from when I was 4 or 5 years old, in-perspective drawings of deer and wilderness scenes. If it has to do with art, I will figure out a way to do it. I look at how other people do it and think, I’m going to find another way to do it, which is a funny way to do it.”
Dan is a machine operator by trade, and his father worked as a mechanical engineer.
“When we were little, my dad used to make us Halloween costumes. All kinds of weird ones, just random stuff, anything you can think of, from a wizard to a robot. They were always very elaborate.”
He spends about 30-40 hours a week on costuming, as well as painting, drawing, and other artwork.
“Boats, ships, lighthouses, whatever strikes my mood at the time. I work weekends and Cecily works during the day, so Monday through Thursday, I have time to myself. I cannot sit around and watch TV. I’d feel anxious. I have to be working on something. I’ve always been that way.”
His long-term plan is to parlay his skills into a fulltime career, working for himself or a special-effects shop.
“To do this as a career, I would love to do that,” Dan said. “It’s one of those things that would never actually be a job because it would be fun to do all the time.”
That’s also where the Avengers project comes in, showcasing his engineering, design, sewing, paint, and all the other costuming skills required for such an endeavor.
“That’s my plan, to show a larger skill set than just doing one type,” he said. “The entire Avenger line up shows my entire skill set. There’s a lot of different stuff you have to do to make that.”
In addition to Avengers 3, plans this year include Wizard World comicon, maybe Ohayocon, and perhaps some others. He’s also available for commission work.
“I’m working on a few now as I’m building the rest of them. Most of the business I’ve had is word of mouth,” he said.
Contact him through his Haliflix fan page on Facebook, where he has posted hundreds of pictures showing design work and progress for his costumes. He also posts on Deviant Art. All the photos used here are from his Facebook page, except the two Ohayocon shots. I took those. I was wearing a samurai outfit.