Becoming Ragnar

 Not unlike many people these days, I have spent years struggling with my weight and the health concerns that go along with obesity. As a young adult I was an amateur bodybuilder and ironically I broke my neck in the gym. From that point on my weight quickly got out of control.

For obvious reasons, depression and other mental challenges arose along side these issues because , as you know, misery does love it’s company. One day a few years back, I was circling slightly upwards of 400 lbs. I was tying my shoes (or at least trying to) and I’d find myself out of breath. I had gone from being an animal to a joke and I didn’t even see it happening. I had enough! I alternated workout routines, and diets. I counted calories and sacrificed. I lost 220 lbs. I am still a big guy and I have some work left to do. However I feel better. I look better. More importantly I am far healthier. That being said, anyone who’s spent any significant time in the gym will tell you that the biggest challenge is the plateau effect. This is the moment when your hardest workout becomes routine for your body and stops being effective and you stop seeing results. This requires two solutions. Switch it up and work harder. After years of work, it is so easy to give up but last year I found something that I found strangely motivating.

As a costume and FX designer, I’m big into cosplay and usually big ornate pieces. Mainly because there are no actors that I look like. That is until Mr. Travis Fimmel. AKA – Ragnar Lothbrok from the History Channel’s Vikings. A while back I wrote a blog about this similarity but what I did not include was that constantly being compared to such an iconic character and yes, I’ll admit it, a damn good looking man, felt great. It quickly became my motivation to fight my plateau and truly become Ragnar. That, ladies and gentleman brings me to my new blog series on the subject. Becoming Ragnar will document my progress thus far and in the future of my fitness gains and losses.

 

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Mythical creatures

  Recently I was given a challenge that I absolutely fell in love with. It’s been a long time since I really took the time to sit down and put brush to canvas and just paint. So with that in mind the challenge was to take a collection of the most beautiful women in my life and do nude portraits of them depicted as various mythical creatures. Once completed the whole line will be displayed in a public venue in downtown Ottawa and obviously, they will be for sale. ;) I asked each model to decide which creature they would like to be and their answers were as follows:
April V. Skyee – Mermaid
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Randi Rouge – Banshee
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Maggie Sue Sin – Biomancer(Narf)
1929507_10622222727_6352_nJenna-Marie Nixon – Phoenix
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Lisa Webb – Vampire
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Dovie – Succubus
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Shade Nyx – Sea demon
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Aurora Lou – Zombie Queen
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Belinda Anguis – Fairy
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Tailz – Werefox
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Needless to say I am having a blast creating these pieces. I am painting them in various styles using acrylic paint and some mixed media techniques. But for once I am not using my airbrush. I’m going back to the original contemporary still life skills that i learned waaaaaaay back in my college days. It’s good to go back and revive an old skill every now and then. It definitely helps to break up the monotony of working in the same medium over and over again. there is one more piece that i would love to add to this collection. She’s thinking about it. I had an image of a white viper with black pattern Medusa that screams to be modeled by one person
and one person only. ;) I hope she does it as it would fit her like a glove. :)
So stay tuned for upcoming pics and sneak peaks of the collection as it progresses.
So tell me….if I had approached you to model for this series….what would you have chosen to be? Hit me back, I’d love to know. ;)

Getting Caught Up

Sorry for the delay folks. I’ve been incommunicado for some time. It’s been a weird couple of months. That being said, I’m back and ready to go.

 
So a few months back, if you recall, I started doing a lot of collaborations with April V. Skyee – model and photography starting with Deadpool and Domino which was an incredible experience shooting on location in a completely destroyed radio station in the middle of nowhere and ,to spite the fact that I suffer from vertigo, climbing on a 20 foot high I-beam just to get the right shot. Corey Graham was very patient and took a ton of stellar shots and April…as always…was stunning.
 
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After that, we did another cosplay shoot with April as Jubilee and the incomparable Jean Baptist as Wolverine. My favorite Ottawa photographer Mike Giovinazzo shot this one in Swizzles on Queen street with a bar full of regulars who no doubt thought we were nuts. But, again the end result speaks for itself and serves to further credit the statement that mike really can’t take a bad picture. ;)
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After that April got behind the camera and managed to talk me onto a friggin horse. That’s right….a horse. A stupid way to travel but all in all it was a great experience. We shot the custom Roman Centurian armour on the back of cantankerous old black steed outside Alexandria. Although I’m not really a proficient model, certainly not on horseback, the pics came out quite well. The client was very happy with them to say the least.
 
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Then we moved on to a meet up shoot with the oh so man-pretty Mike Giovinazzo wherein we degraded a nun from pious straight through demonic. April modeled in fine form, adapting to not only the time constraints but also overlapping fields of fire from a very talented groups of photographers under Mike’s guidance. It was a nerve wracking but all in all very challenging experience for me as i had to adjust the fx, switch the costumes and completely redo facepaint and blood applications between sets. But the results defied expectation.
 
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Most recently however, I got the chance to really play in terms of body paint. There is honestly nothing harder than doing full head to toe body paint that looks good. April came to me with a geek concept, which blew my mind by the way as she is merely a Geek In Training so the fact that she stumbled across such a perfect character for her to portray is amazing. So she sat through three hours of body paint and makeup and tried her damnedest not to sweat it off for a sold out group of easily the most talented photographers I’ve met to date including the photo ninja known as John Wenzell who took a from the hip shot of the two of us in a cage that absolutely blew my mind.
 
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Since we seem to be on a roll, as she would say, my partner in crime and  have planned a series of meetup and group shoots in the coming months. Some fetish shoots, vampire shoots, pirate shoots perhaps we’ll even get down to Montreal for some one site shots and then straight into an upcoming horror shoot that will pay homage to the man that haunted my dreams as a child and made me the twisted fx and costume designer that I am today. **cough cough** Pinhead **cough cough** ;)
 
In any event, the next few months we will be hosting many photographer invitationals to give everyone the opportunity to shoot something fun and bizarre and as far outside the box as possible. So stay tuned! And sign up. Volunteer to model if you wish….and by all means, if you have an idea in mind for a shoot feel free to contact April V. Skyee to organize it for you and if you need costumes, or fx feel free to drop me a line. I love meeting and working with Ottawa’s new talent.
 
 

Cosplay 2014

Comiccon was a blast! The quality of the costumes being portrayed this year was staggering, to say the least. Ever more ambitious and industrious means of construction were being employed by hundreds of cosplayers. Vaccuuforming, casting, l200, fun foam, leather the list goes on and on. I have always held true in the knowledge that if you are seeking an artist, of any possible medium, you need only come to Ottawa to find them. Never will you find more evidence of this than you will at Comiccon. The lovely April V. Skyee and I, as you know, went as the fan favorite couple of Domino and Deadpool. It  was rather interesting running into our doppelgängers and seeing what they did differently. It’s rather like comparing notes. It was a humbling experience to say the least.

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April, in and of herself, has been impressing me greatly of late as in addition to her already Olympian workload of school, photography, modeling and keeping my rather impetuous self inline, she has been undertaking a project that we’ve come to call “Geek in training”. No doubt in its origins a mere foothold into my world so that she might  better understand what the hell I’m talking about most of the time. But recently it has become more than that. She is exploring her own geekdome, finding out what characters and plots appeal to her, and is even throwing geek references and nerd facts at myself and others in arguments. It’s inspiring. But I witnessed something recently that really took my breath away. April’s siblings are a fair amount younger than she is. She doesn’t get to see them nearly as often as she would like what with life and work and all. But she sat down the other day and got into a geek debate with her little brother. They debated Xmen, Deadpool, Jubilee, Domino, Wolverine, everything that April has been learning about. They connected over comics. April smiles a lot, but never like this. She found a common ground where her little brother and her became equals in their love and appreciation of mere fiction. Just drawings on a page and it gave her a way to be closer to him. In all honesty, how much common ground is there between those who are 10 years age difference from one another. This was impressive.
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Which brings me to my point. Geekdome in and of itself, is common ground. Walk into Commiccon and you will find people from every possible walk of life. Different social classes, income brackets, education and cultural backgrounds and every age possible. None of it matters. Wolverine rocks. Batman rules. Super Mario is addictive, and that’s that. To be a “Geek” is to openly share your adoration for characters that remind you of a time in your life when anything was possible. When you still had it in you to say the hell with it and just have fun. Before life, responsibility and consequence started discouraging you along the way. I think April just learned that. :) So I would like to publicly award her 10 Geek points for stumbling on what it means to be a geek. :) Well done, Domino. ;)
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So what does it mean to you? When you spend months throwing together a cosplay? Anticipating Comiccon, FanExpo, Ganime, Anime North, Dragon Con ..ect…? What is the best part about being a geek for you?
By: Ice Bloom

Comic-Con Cosplay

Well ladies and gentle-men, it’s that time of year again. Comic-con! The day we pull our hair out trying to perfect our costumes and practice our lines for when we meet Summer Glau so that we don’t wet ourselves or accidentally grab her ass in an over zealous hug or something. “keep calm…she’s just people…breathe…BREATHE!!” Well April V. Skyee and myself have decided to adorn a con tradition that has plagued geeks for decades…the art of the dreaded “couples costumes”.
This year we have chosen a common couple but decided to go all out for it. We are going as Deadpool and Domino. We’ve planned a bad-ass photo shoot shortly after the con to commemorate the occasion. But you will definitely see us there raising hell.
First off…in the red corner. The master of overkill and boobie sniping. With his stolen healing factor, multiple internal dialogues( none of which being his conscience ), armed with 2 kitanas, a c-7, a baretta 9mm, a 45 alongside, a custom nikita howler 50 cal. sub machine gun with a lazer sight that says “I swallow”, 6 cherry grenades and a fully functioning home-made MINI GUN…that’s right…..i went there. The batshit crazy Rodney Dangerfield of assassins…ladies and gentle-men…I give you the incomparable Deadp0ol.
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and….in the blue corner….weighing in at none of your damn business. She brings her superhuman ability to predict insane odds and glimpse her own future, giving her the appearance of pure shit luck to the fight. She’s armed with a walther mp-70, an mp5-k, and two mini mp4 full auto pistols and literally the nicest ass in the marvel universe and I really don’t suggest you argue with her about that. The seductress, the ball-bustress …the one and only…well…that’s not true..Copycat did a thing there for a while…well the one of two occasionally, apparently….Domino!
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For both of these costumes…we’ve dispensed with the notion that everyone fights in spandex and focused on building actual tactical gear. Domino retains her sex appeal…even ups it. OMG you should see her. I fainted. Honest to dog…fainted. As for Deadpool, I’ve focused on his whimsical side. Once I got his armor in place I began arming him to the teeth. I cannot WAIT to get on the bus!!!!
After Comic-Con, we will be doing a full spread shoot so stay tuned…and as previously stated, these are just two of many. :)
So, between the two of them…who’s hotter? Honestly? ;) It’s me right? right?
See you all at Comic-Con on Saturday!
By Ice Bloom
Ottawa Gothic Designs.

Cosplay

I love designing my own characters, fantasy armor, fetish apparel, gothic clothing and all the rest. But nothing strikes more to home for me that putting my own take on a classic comic character. Many of them are impractical and were never really designed to be functional if ever created in real life but the challenge is to keep that unmistakable character aesthetic while bringing this character to a more realistic life. ;)

I’m fairly transparent about the fact that I am a geek. I love comics, classic horror flicks and most sci fi…well…as long as it’s not a continuity that determines a dead man via the first time wearing of a red shirt. ;) Ridiculousness. I am always up for concept shoots and such but this year i really wanted to get back to what I love. So I have decided on a list of character cos-plays to start with many more to follow. We are a setting up shoots over the next few months starting off very shortly in honor of Ottawa Comiccon. We are collaborating with local models and photographers and makeup artists to really make something awesome.
So without further ado….the list for this springs cos-plays:
Jubilee:
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Harley Quinn:
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Poison Ivy:
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Bane:
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Deadpool:
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Domino:
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SHI:
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This is just a start to this years projects. All of which are for sale as demo pieces.
So what I want from you all is to see your cos-plays. Bigger, badder, all the gritty details of how much of a pain it was to construct. The whole nine yards. Long past are the days of wrapping a table cloth around your neck and wearing red underoos on the outside of your pants to be superman. The cos-play community have cornered a whole new art form. A labour of love that spans hundreds of hours at time for one fleeting moment of being the heroes and villains we all grew up with. Share your work guys.
Who are you for Comiccon?
By Ice Bloom
Ottawa Gothic Designs

Ragnar

Ragnar Lodbrok: A character created by the history channel to star in their historical epic series Vikings is actually an amalgamation of three separate historical figures of similar names. The tales being told in this show are actually historically accurate for the most part. Of course the occasional artistic flourish not withstanding. That being said, the character of Ragnar is hardly what one would expect given the notoriety and infamy of his real life Viking warlord predecessors
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    Generally, when one hears tell of a Viking named Ragnar one envisions a mountain of a man with bison horns upturned to Valhalla on his helm and a giant broad ax in each hand “YALPING” his way through whole armies. An exaggeration perhaps, but none the less what one pictures. Certainly one does not picture Ragnar Lodbrok. A man who stands no more than 5’11”. Topping out at a mere 185lbs. A good-looking man  with workers hands and a farmers build. A fast and agile combatant who makes good use of a simple sword and battle ax. But above all, a soft-spoken family man. He is everything that one would expect of a viking leader. He is a ruthless and brilliant tactician who embodies the very soul of the warriors edict “all that one must do to win is to be willing to do what the other man will not”. But his face lights up to see his children. He truly loves his wife. Well, he loves his ex-wife too. To his credit he makes that work. (Good on ya mate) This a man born of family and a lifetime spent defending that family. He cares not for gold. His father thought him a fool for dreaming of countries that they might conquer across the seas. This only sought to strengthen his resolve in finding them. When he finally did, he did not come seeking treasure, or status, or wanton destruction. No, he came seeking information. Information about the soil, the seeds, the climate. Ragnar Lodbrok is a farmer at heart. He swears like a Viking. He is the granddaddy of all sex addicts. He is brutal beyond measure. Caligula himself would shy away from this man. But to witness such depth of character behind mere whispers and the ghostly blue eyes of a man of such deceivingly small physical stature is shockingly impressive to watch. 

   The casting of “Vikings” is second to none. The didn’t focus on A-List actors to drum up ratings. They kept the integrity of the show intact. All of the armor and costumes in the show are period correct and they played with the design as much as is humanly possible within that guideline. The chainmaille tunic worn by Lodbork himself is a work of art. All in all, this show is a win for me. It may not have the notoriety or budget of Game of Thrones for my money, it’s just as good….in some ways better. 

I highly recommend you check it out.

PS – I’m sure at one time or another everyone has found a celebrity or two that they themselves look like. I never have. I have never once found a single famous person that I look anything similar to. That is until I first saw Ragnar Lodbork. Or rather the man who plays Ragnar Lodbrok: Mr Travis Fimmel.
Ah Ragnar Lodbork  – My celebrity doppelgänger?
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By Ice Bloom
Ottawa Gothic Designs

Public Adoration

By Ice Bloom
Every day we log into our various social media sites and scroll through recently posted pics from friends and people we’ve never met. Often pics posted by/of models, burlesque performers, adult entertainers or just women who are proud of their bodies. You scroll through the comments and the first 20 are are the most vulgar excuses for compliments known to man…the next ten are body critiques and trolls and then somewhere near the bottom are friends and genuine admirers offering support and sincere compliments. I’m not sure when we all became so shallow and cynical but as it stands the public standard of “beauty” has become ridiculously cruel and sadly motivating.
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In the words of Al Pacino in his portrayal of the epic John Milton “vanity is definitely my favorite sin. It’s so basic…self love!” Vanity, in itself, is not a sin any more than pride is. When vanity is used to motivate yourself to be healthier, to work harder, to be more confident then it is a wonderful tool. However, when used to compare yourself to the public standard of “hot or not” it is pure destruction. It’s used to demean, belittle and set a standard that can’t be met. Once a pic is posted online then it is immediately critiqued and quantified and the subject of the pic simply must be categorized. Too skinny, too fat. Too many tattoos, not enough tattoos. Too edgy, too boring. Breasts are too small, breasts are too big. Beautiful, ugly. Some comments from men thinking they have the right to dictate what they want to see and others, shockingly, from other women seeking to undermine.How is anyone supposed to be able to keep up with the public demand? What happens when you don’t meet the criteria? More importantly, if you do…..is that all you are?
I want to tell you about a friend of mine: Lisa.
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She’s one of my oldest friends and easily one of my favorite people on this planet. I’ve held Lisa up as the standard to which I measure most of the women in my life since we met. Not because of her appearance, but rather because of who she is. She is a highly educated woman who’s maintained a lucrative career in the import trade. She has built a name for herself as a Gothic belly dancer. She teaches dance classes which show other women how to be confident, exude sexual independence, strength and physical fitness and over all to celebrate life. She is soulful, dedicated, well read, she loves music and adores her son. She is a dedicated mother a wonderful friend and her lust for life is utterly infectious. She works hard for her body. Properly I might add; her fitness regiment is impressive. But her humility is even more so. She takes pride in her appearance but still blushes when a compliment reaches her. She knows who she is and strives to be the best version of herself for her son and for herself. She works hard for her body and she posts fitness pics and pics of herself on stage to promote her work of course but also because of the work that she has put in. She is the least conceded person you will ever meet but she takes a well justified measure of pride in her appearance. I have held her up as the standard for the women in my life because she has commanded my respect for her as a person from the beginning through nothing more than her grace and humility in the face of her own trials.
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However, in her efforts to exude confidence she struggles daily with being misunderstood as do most models. Most people have been conditioned to confuse sexual independence and confidence with an obsession with sex. She has accomplished much in both her personal life and both of her professions and rather than being applauded for her efforts and her courage to be seen publicly for them she is instead objectified and critiqued. This, of course, broaches a number or recent social issues regarding provocative dress and photography interpreted as invitations. An issue that has come up in sexual assault cases, comic conventions, and a myriad of other venues where in coarse vulgarity is hurled at unsuspecting victims and simply passed off as “they were asking for it…look how they are dressed”. baring in mind of course that this is only the measure of the comments from men. Women, on the other hand, have been conditioned to see each other as competition and standards for one another. Lisa is a creature of true grace and handles these matter discreetly. But on the inside, imagine the frustration she must feel not being allowed one moment to enjoy a personal victory: a target weight hit…. a muscle tone achieved…a promotion at work…her son thinking that he has the most beautiful mother in the universe without being labeled and verbally accosted as an object.

People see a beautiful woman online and their first impulse is leave some keys to the VIP line and hit on them, or compliment their ass or other such juvenile nonsense. It’s generally not considered that this is just as inappropriate and damaging as bashing a full figured girl for being “fat…chunky…” It’s just not fashionable anymore to draw the distinction between celebrating beauty versus celebrating sex appeal. So in an effort to defy convention I’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate my friend. Madam Lisa Webb…..one of the most beautiful people I have ever known.
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My challenge to all of you is quite simply the next time you see a woman post a pic of herself hoping to celebrate a small victory, to feel good about herself or to showcase herself as an artist…..have some class: fight the urge to be a pig. Try actually saying something nice. ;)

Burlesque

          The word “burlesque” is derived from the Italian “burla”, which means “ridicule or mockery”. Originally very popular in Victorian England, the typically one woman risque performances quickly escalated to full shows. The shockingly comedic performances were also mired by their scandalous sexuality and depravity. In the 1880s these lustful extravaganzas began featuring original scores. Before that time, they were spoofs of operatic ballads. Mirroring famous plays and stage shows using busty and curvacious women playing both the male and female roles, these performances incorporated dance numbers, singing, contortionism and other such spectacles designed to show off and accentuate the performers physical attributes. For a time, they were even considered the pop culture and sometimes political satire of its time. Derived from a time of body houses and brothels and vulgar persuasions to the upper class, burlesque offered the some of the first and most prolific examples of classy female performances that both upper and middle class could rally behind. Even though the subject matter was aimed solely at the narrow demographic of the highly literate upper middle class. By the 1880s, nearly every truly popular opera had become the subject of a burlesque. Skits and performances would follow opera performances to hold the audience I awe. This became the common practice. Evermore elaborate and detailed costumes began to appear in burlesque performances the world over. Italian, Spanish, French, English, German and other Eastern European performers were adorned with fine silks, elaborate bead work, tassels, expensive feathers and furs. Often times the clothing on stage cost more than the clothes seen worn by the audience members.

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            American Burlesque inevitably arose and took its influences from elements of Victorian burlesque, music hall performances and minstrel shows. Becoming popular in the 1860s, it evolved to feature wildly lewd jokes and female striptease. By the early 20th century, burlesque in America was presented as a populist blend of satire, performance art, music hall and adult entertainment, featuring striptease and broad comedy acts.

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             Let’s skip the rest of the history lesson for a moment. Burlesque’s humble beginnings paved the way for female performances on stage which beforehand, were not taken seriously. This brings us to present day. Burlesque troops are popping up in every major city in North America mixing gothic subculture, modern belly dancing, cabaret and old school Texas brothel esthetics. Hilarious and sexy performances run the gambit from political satire to vintage 1930’s fan dances. The modern Burlesque subculture has sought to empower a generation of women of all ages, races, creeds and sizes. Defying the unrealistic and barbaric social standard of scary slim being the only path to beauty, burlesque dancers display curves and confidence in glorious celebration of class and elegance.

                Ive always maintained that Ottawa has some of the best artists in the world; in every possible medium. This is no exception. Any one who has ever seen Shade Nyx, MissVixen Vega or the incomparable Kosten Kreme on stage knows exactly what I mean.

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Ser Gregore Cligane – The moving Mountain

An argument can easily be made that putting heavy plate armour on a man with the dimensions of Gregore Cligane is beyond ludacrice however the suit that was constructed for this character in Game of Thrones was not only well suited, but it also one of the most practical suits of armour on the show.
Ser Gregor Clegane aka: the Mountain tops out at 6 foot 7 feet tall and easily 300 lbs solid. He is an imposing landmass of a man. He could be wearing his pyjamas and still make you shit your pants. However, they have designed and built for him  suit of armour that offers maximum protection and maneuverability. The base, depending on which you look at as the two primary suits are very similar,  consists of a heavy 6 into 1 chainmaille tunic and battle skirt with leather and cold forged steel plating. The breast plating is sectional allowing for added range of motion. The yolk and gorget are triple layered and hardened solid. An impressive 4 layer folded steel spaulder tops each arm with chainmaille and leather sleeves lay under the equally impressive layered gauntlets.  The grieves are the only plate armour pieces on his legs but the battle skirt, being so hefty, offers not only the ability to block any hit but it being loose from the body makes it highly unlikely that he would even feel the hit.
His helmet may leave something to be desired esthetically as it is merely the old English bucket style with slit narrow visors but it is padded. It is solid and the curves and cold riveting have the natural ability to deflect any blow. No weapon would be capable of finding a surface to strike evenly. It would simply find an angle and glance off.
The overall finish of the piece is something rarely seen in cinematic ventures such as this in that it’s not new. It is not shiny and perfect. It is black over cobalt steel and it is battle damaged and aged beautifully indicating that this man loves to fight. A terrifying prospect.
Overall, the functionality of this armour completely out weighs the esthetic. This is a true testament to function over form to spite the fact that no one other than the actor playing Ser Gregor could possibly move in the damn thing with it being so heavy.
Who wears your favorite armour on the show? The crows? Ned Stark? Tywin Lanister perhaps?
~Ice~
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