She-wolf of Chicago

By AL J. Vermette

When night falls and the moon is high she hits the streets in search of prey. With long savage claws and ripping teeth this She-wolf is on the prowl, but its not human flesh she seeks tonight, but a good time. Sheís out to show off one of the best werewolf suits ever created outside of Hollywood itself. For this she-wolf is artist Melita Curphy and sheÖyeah thatís right boys (SHE) is the creator of the werewolf suit that you see before you. A woman after my own heart who is so into werewolves that she herself (made) her own werewolf fur suit. Now how cool is that? And this is no cute fuzzy little critter, nor is it sexy and all chicked out but one scary ass creature who looks like it will rip your head off. But when this she-wolf dose go out, she is a hit at all partyís events and conventions and any other place this big black wolf goes. The moment I first s aw Melís wolf on I just knew I had to get an interview with her. Its damn good to know that werewolf lovers are not just a boys only club anymore. Mel you rock girl!!!

Al: When did you first discover your love for werewolves?

Mel: I'm not sure where i first saw werewolves but I remember being really fascinated by them since i was pret ty young. I remember being really into anima l/human hybrid type characters as a kid with all the bizarre cartoons and games that were coming out in the early 80's... i guess I should blame Thunder cats, haha. I do remember seeing American Werewolf in London and The Howling and thinking how awesome it would be to be able to turn into a monster. I was never afraid of werewolves, Freddy Krueger and Jason, I feared. I just really wanted to be a werewolf. I got in big trouble with my mom for drawing werewolves all over some church pamphlets during service on sunday when i was about 8 or 9. They worried about my monster obsession a little being hardcore Christians. I think for awhile they thought i was going to grow up and join a satanic cult or something. I was just a weird kid is all, haha

Al: The werewolf head and suit you created is just amazing, how did you make it?

Mel: Thanks! I used a plaster mask and built up foam and celluclay over it. Then made the jaw and hinged it to move. Then just covered that in fur and trimmed it to look realistic and added longer hair to the mane and stuff. The teeth are made from sculpey which I actually don't recommend using just because it's pretty heavy and brittle. Someone got really careless with the head once and allowed it to drop off of a chair into the of the teeth flew off. I was so pissed, I had to be at a costume contest in an hour. So yeah, sculpey isn't a great choice, haha. I'll be using plastic or something next time...

Al: How long did it take to make your werewolf and what was it like creating it.

Mel: Well, I started the head a few years ago. I wanted to try to top my demon costume I had built in 2005 so i began the werewolf. However, a few things came up such as relocating to the other side of the country and it got put on the backburner. Being a freelancer i literally can't afford to put much time into non paying or personal work so the poor werewolf was ignored for awhile. Then I finally got the costume bug again and started to build it again last fall. I'd say if i could work on it every day all at once, I could have had it ready in about a month, maybe a few weeks. However from the very start to the very end, it took me about a year and a half, haha! Creating it was both fun and horrible. It got really hot up in my little attic studio and fake fur was everywhere. I think the worst part was severely burning myself with hot glue. I still have two scars on my arm that Iím actually kin d of proud of...they make me think of my costume. It hurt like crazy though. I also hated getting discouraged when certain parts didnít' look right and having to redo them. But you can't let that stuff get you have to follow through and keep plugging away until it looks right. However, the first time I tried20on the head my heart jumped...i was so happy20with it and was so excited to see my hard work turn into something pretty awesome!

Al: Where do you go when you become the werewolf?

Mel: I usually go to conventions with it, though i did think about wearing it to a concert. The band had werewolves on their album cover but i re thought it and figured it would be too nerdy and strange. Plus drunk people and costumes in a small space is always a terrible idea. Although I did wear it to my group show gallery opening here in Chicago and had things go just fine. People got20a kick out of it and it was like wearing my own art. I had also wanted to nerd it up and take it to the ren fair but it's far too hot to do so. Plus it's tough to drink mead in that thing...

Al: I bet you are the hit at all costume party's and the like.

Mel: Yeah I do okay, haha! People at costume parties had great reactions this past year and a lot of funny photos have been taken. There's one of me playing Guitar Hero at our Halloween party we hosted...though i can't actually play well because of the oversize claws. Funny story though: I entered my first costume contest last october at a bar here in Chicago. The audience loved me but I lost out to some dork in a store bought Sloth mask from the Goonies. Ugh, come on guys...

Al: How do peop le react to you when you are in the suit?

Mel: I get a lot of great reactions in it. Mostly "hey bro! Nice costume!" or "hey wolfman!!" or they howl at me which is cute. Haha, everyone assumes I'm a man. Some people have actually asked my bo yfriend, when he's wrangling me, if he made it. He says "no my girlfreind made it. That's a HER." Then they freak out so hard and scream " YOURE A GIRL? AND YOU MADE T HAT?" . I guess most people assume that if you are a girl, you have to wear sexy costumes or that girls don't build monsters. I enjoy changing their mind. It's funny because people either get way into it or go out of their way to ignore it. It seems to be a hipster thing like "if I don't look at it, it won't come over here and make me look uncool" or something. But I can see them stealing glances. Other people want to shake my hand or hug me. I'm actually a pretty friendly werewolf...although when i make kids or even adults scream i LOVE it. It's kind of perverse but i really like being someone's monster and getting a real, honest fearful reaction. Some full grown women have refused t o come near of course i chase them. However, if a kid goes into total meltdown i will leave or act scared or try to win them over with a high five. Some people act like jackasses and pull my fur or grab my's mostly older women or frat boys that do that stuff. I try to always have a wrangler to watch out for me and make sure i don't get hurt or damaged. Sometimes women hit on me which is so ridiculous...i love to burst their bubble and tell them Iím a woman, haha. I did hand out candy in my old neighborhood as the werewolf. SO much fun, kids got really, really freaked and one had to be dragged from his hiding place by his hood. A few people had dogs and the dogs got very, very upset with me. Glad they were on leashes, i think i would have been in a little trouble...

Al: What other creatures have you created as well?

Mel: I also have a demon suit i built. She is made of foam and celluclay and has a full set of leather armor that i made. She's also got hooves and digitigrade legs that are similar to the wolf's. Her head got stolen last spring so now I am working on a new, better head with help from some SFX friends.

Al: As an artist, what other methods of work do you work in other then creature design?

Mel: I also make clothing and costume accessories like jewelry or armor pieces. I also paint and sculpt all kinds of fantasy/graphic type stuff but...yeah it's mostly monsters, really.

Al: Where was the craziest place you took the werewolf to for fun?

Mel: Hmmm, I havenít gone anywhere too nuts with the werewolf yet. I guess a bar would be the craziest place though it was a tame time. Although I did go as the demon to see Brendan Small of Dethklok go play before he was big. It was at a smaller bar in Austin during SXSW and people either loved me or did the hipster ignore thing. I thought it was pretty f-ing metal to have an armored demon show up to see Dethklok music but whatever. I ended up getting photographed with a group of super skinny high heeled bikini models for something or was an odd nig ht. If i was gay or a guy I guess that would have been pretty awesome, haha. The models all thought it was neat that a girl was in the demon suit.

Al: What are your all time most loved werewolf movies?

Mel: Hands down , American Werewolf in London. Best looking werewolf, the face of that thing is so INTENSE and angry!! Best, most realistic transformation sequence...I loved that they actually took comparative canine/human anatomy into consideration. It was funny and fun and gross and had a tragic ending...I love it so much. The sequel they made to that was terrible though, ugh. The werewolves looked like feral hog-monkeys and they even managed to mess up the transformation sequence when the chick is changing in the sewer. I'm pretty sure they made her knee bend backwards because they didn't understand digitigrade anatomy and then somehow she grew another knee in the middle of her thigh, it made no sense at all. It's been years since i saw that movie so maybe I'm wrong...but i remember being really pissed about that. Haha, sorry to nerd out ,there...I was just so let down. Dog soldiers is pretty cool too and i do kind of like Ginger Snaps, it was an odd one. There really arent many good werewolf movies out there. I liked the way the Van Helsing werewolves transformed, with ripping off their human skin .but the movie overall was pretty ugh. The Underworld werewolves were also fun to look at but I hate to admit it, i can't stand those movies, haha...

Al: For anyone out there reading this, what would you say to them if they too would like to build their own werewolf or any creature suit?

Mel: I'd say go for it!! We need more good monster costumes out there. No offense but I see so many costumes that are just copies of already existing characters. I respect the technical ability it takes but I also like to see original character monster type stuff. Just go make something up and have fun! Costuming is a blast! If you make something over the top, make sure you have a handler, someone to watch you and keep you safe from overexcited people.

Al: What other creature&n bsp;do you have on the drawing board next that you would like to see brought to life as a full size costume?

Mel: Right now I plan to get the second version of the demon head ready. After that, I may create a suit of a monster in a Victorian styled suit and bowler hat or some sort of made up post apocalyptic mutant costume that's not so heavy and tough on my body. Less fur and foam, the better!

Al: And Lastly, what's next for your werewolf and oh by the way dose the creature have a name?

Mel: I Ďm afraid he might be retired soon. I just wore him at comic con and while he was loved very much by the crowd, he's just so dangerously hot. I should have installed a fan or a cooling system but it's too late. I'd rather move on to something else for now, maybe bring him out for certain conventions or events. I will probably mount his head for display. He doesn't have a name, he's just sort of a standard werewolf. I just call him the Wolf.

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