From Halloween to Fallout 4: Madeley costume designer brings fantasy characters to life
Lee Marshall's life-size and eye-catching fantasy costumes turn heads wherever they go.
Bringing video game characters to life is a labour of love for the 38-year-old who is always a star attraction at fan conventions.
From the alien battlemaster Urdnot Wrex who features in the Mass Effect franchise to the Vault Dweller from Fallout 4, he enjoys expressing his creative flair.
Lee also gets a buzz from the challenge of making outfits that stay true to their personality - especially if no other designer has attempted them before.
"A character from a video game is just a digital file so I love taking them from this digital world and bringing them into the real world.
"It's got to be a character I really love because each one takes a lot of time to make," says Lee who lives in Madeley,Telford.
WATCH Lee Marshall bring his characters to life
His creative hobby all started from his love of films and collectables. "I've always painted miniatures and loved collectables but they can be expensive so I progressed into making my own as I love films and video games and it's nice to own something that's part of them," he explains.
From his home Lee painstakingly researches his chosen figure or prop to get an insight into how people might have already interpreted the characters.
"I think 90 per cent of costume making is research. I look to see what's already been done and whether there are any existing patterns or templates I can adapt. But if I see a character has been done a lot it can put me off," he tells us.
A lot of the costumes are made from a high-density foam and Lee will cut out a pattern for the main body pieces before adding any other character embellishments.
"It's like the foam jigsaw piece playmats you put down on the floor for kids. If I've got a pattern already then I print it out and transfer it to the foam. If there is no pattern then I have to come up with the pattern myself," he explains.
One of the challenges is ensuring that the costume can be comfortable enough to be worn and durable which is where the soft but sturdy material comes in.
"You need to be able to stand up and sit down in it so it's got to have plenty of mobility," says Lee.
His favourite creation is his Urdnot Wrex costume which has also proven a huge hit with fans of the game.
"He's a big red alien and the challenge was the sheer size of him because he's got a big shell which is basically a massive dome.
"Because he's an alien, he's got different anatomy to a human but the costume needs to be worn by a human so that has to be taken into consideration.
"He's my favourite character in the game, as soon as I started playing him, I began to love him," Lee tells us.
After spending a year working on Wrex, he felt a great sense of pride when the costume was finally completed.
"It was a nice feeling when he was on the mannequin and I could sit back and think I made that. It's worth all of the hard work that goes into it," says Lee.
Fan conventions have steadily risen in popularity over recent decades and 'cosplay' – dressing up as a favourite character - has become an integral part of these events.
Lee attends shows across the country including Comic Con at Telford's Southwater Library and MCM Comic Con at Birmingham NEC as well as shows in Manchester in London.
And without fail Wrex always gets plenty of attention wherever he goes. "Seeing people's reactions when they first see him is really nice. Not a lot of people attempt to make this costume because it's such a big challenge so it's a real treat for people to see him.
"When he goes on display, the look on people's faces is great because they recognise him straight away, their reaction is the best.
"I've had grown me squeak at me when they've seen him and say how amazing he is and ask whether they can have a photo taken with him. It's really amazing," says Lee, who has also created a costume of an assassin from Assassian's Creed.
For his next project he wants to turn his attention to his much-loved costume to give it a bit of TLC.
"I've had him a couple of years so some of the seams are coming apart and the paint is flaking off in places so he does need a bit of repair," says Lee.
His other creations have included the costume of the Vault Dweller from Fallout 4, which he adapted to his own requirements.
"I have a disability and struggle to walk so I use a walking stick. Wearing the costumes doesn't happen much but this one I can wear because I made this one to incorporate my walking stick.
"I turned into the assassins's minigun.This means I don't have to put it down or ask someone to hold it to pose for photos as it's part of the costume. People love posing with the gun too because it's a massive gun," Lee tells Weekend.
As well as full costumes he also makes props and his first attempt saw him recreate Ironman's Arc Reactor which kept him alive and powered his first suit using items close to hand.
"It was mostly made from junk like lids from tubes of Pringles, coloured staples and a sink strainer but it looked good," says Lee.
Above everything else, he enjoys being creative as well as the feeling of satisfaction he gets from seeing his finished costumes and props.
"They are pieces of art at the end of the day. I love the characters and being able to bring them life. It's a fun hobby and it keeps me busy and gets me out of the house - everybody has got to have a hobby and I chose this," says Lee.