Have you ever been at a comic-con, and marveled (see what I did there?) at the dedication of the cosplayers? The biggest names in the cosplay community devote hours to re-creating their favorite characters in perfect detail; horns and masks are hand-made, foam is carved, sewing machines are burnt out and costumes are hand-tooled, beaded and embroidered. Some of these artists spend hours on stilts, under heavy headgear and wigs, and with full facial prosthetics... but that is nothing compared to how far some fans will go to pay homage to their heroes.
There is a separate brand of super-fan who doesn't want to just look like a character for a photoshoot, a competition or a day, but forever. These fans are turning to body modifications to completely re-invent themselves in the image of their idols.
Henry Damon (Caracas, Venezuela) has loved Marvel comic books since he was a child, and his favorite character was always Red Skull. The Nazi super-villain (who you probably remember from Captain America: The First Avenger) looks exactly as you would picture him - a bright red skull with skin. Now Damon is doing everything he can to permanently copy that look, and has even adopted the Red Skull name.
He has scleral tattoos to make the whites of his eyes black (which is exactly what it sounds like - injecting ink into the eye to change the color), and subdermal implants (where shaped silicone is inserted under the skin). Amazing as this might look, these are all (believe it or not) fairly common practices within the world of extreme body modification. The really impressive change that Damon (and his artist, Emilio Gonzalez) made, however, was to remove most of the cartilage of his nose in order to look more like a skull.
Damon's face is still a work in progress, with plans to add more implants to the cheeks and chin, and finish tattooing the skin of his face to make him entirely red. My big question is - is he going to shave that beard?!
Herbert Chavez (Calamba City, Philippines) is a DC fan, and a super-fan of Superman! Over nearly twenty years, he has gone under the knife nineteen times (at least) to transform himself into a real-life Man of Steel. Unsurprisingly, he also holds the Guiness World Record for owning the most Superman memorabilia (from June 2013).
He has altered his face completely, with skin-lightening, jaw re-alignment, rhinoplasty (nose job), and work on his lips (reports differ on whether it was liposuction or plumping... possibly both!). Chavez didn't stop there, getting pec, thigh, buttock and abdominal implants to mimic that chiseled physique.
Now, as the real-life Superman, he walks the streets where he lives in full costume, hoping to teach children about good behavior and to brighten their day.
"I feel like a Superhero whenever I pull on the costume, but my mission is not to save the world but to help in my own small way and bring a smile to the faces of local children."
Rick Genest is one of the best-known tattooed people in the world, better known as Zombie Boy. While he's not imitating any particular movie character, he has tattooed his entire head and body with skeleton, death and corpse images. Given the current popularity of zombie movies and TV shows, I just couldn't leave him off the list!
His tattoos depict a skull over his face (using black ink rather than surgery to suggest the missing nose), and a skeletal structure over the rest of his body. His zombie tattoos are mixed in with other pieces, as he didn't begin the process with total zombification in mind. Amazingly, his extreme tattoos haven't prevented him becoming a model - in fact, it could be argued that it is the bone structure on his skin as much as under it that gained him the work he is doing now.
Other people have transformed themselves with less attention to specific characters, although their modifications are often no less extreme. I'm including here any that could link to a movie-homage.
Are you a fantasy fan with a thing for dragons? Well, if you ever wanted to take that to the next level, you could always add some horns! These are among the most popular implants, and definitely more noticeable than an anchor under the skin of your hand. Taking it further, options include tongue bifurcation - splitting the front of the tongue in two to give it a forked appearance. For those that want to take it even further, facial and scleral tattoos can give the look of yellow eyes and scales.
Elves and Vulcans
Ear-pointing is an increasingly popular body modification (and one of the easiest of the extreme mods to hide). It's possible to remove (yes, that means cut out) a small section of cartilage at the top of the ear and sew it back together to form a delicate, elfin point. There are two fandoms in particular who love this look: Lord of the Rings and Star Trek.
It should go without saying that none of these modifications should be undertaken lightly - we are a long way from a needle and an ice-cube at a sleepover here! For most fans, conventions and cosplay satisfies the urge (and is far more flexible in the long term), but there will always be those whose devotion to their favorite characters goes far beyond something that you can take off for work on Monday.
Some people may find these transformations just too out there, and argue that people who go to these lengths (including the human "Barbie dolls") are suffering from body dysmorphia and need treatment. Others think that it is an incredible way to be truly different in a world of copies, or just plain looks good. Personally, I have so much respect for those who can devote themselves to their passions to this extent, and for the time, pain and money involved. I'll be pointing my own ears in the future, and think that all these people look incredible!
What do you think of these extreme fans?
How do you feel about these extreme transformations?
Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2939251/Comic-book-fan-implants-face-nose-CHOPPED-fulfil-dream-looking-like-Captain-America-s-enemy-Red-Skull.html
Daily Express: http://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/556069/Red-Skull-Man-Nose-Removed-Extreme-Body-Marvel-Captain-America-Body-Modification