By Will Wellington
Last night, on a cold, damp, and eventually snowy Halloween, as I sat on my bed weighing the loneliness of staying in against the anxiety of dressing up, I found myself compulsively revisiting the works of Michael DeForge, Canada’s premiere purveyor of the gross and ghoulish—from rotten horse carcasses worn as hats to secret societies that upholster your viscera. If Deforge doesn’t give you the creeps, well, you haven’t read Deforge. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I found that the seasonally appropriate motif of costuming runs throughout Deforge’s work. So if at any point between now and Christmas you find yourself caught with nothing to wear but your own self-doubt, simply consult this haphazardly-compiled list of Deforge-derived outfits and fret no more.
The “It’s Chip”—The foundation of this costume, drawn from the story of the same name in Lose #2 and A Body Beneath (most of the Lose stories mentioned here can be found in this book), is a wee sheriff outfit and plenty of eyeliner to make those peepers pop. But to take it to the next level, ditch that ten-gallon and top your noggin instead with the severed head of a dismembered horse. Value Village typically fails to stock such under-appreciated Halloween essentials, so you’ll have to scour the local woods instead. But that’s exactly the kind of experience that makes a night worth remembering. Accent your terrifically terrifying outfit with a dusting of maggots.
The “Theodore Cake”—Although this costume, from “Improv Night” in Lose #3, seems like a straightforward amalgamation of an insurance salesman and a eagle mascot, the devil is in the details. Needless to say, if your preparations don’t result in at least three improv-theatre-cum-occult-ritual-related deaths, your costume’s authenticity takes a big hit.
The “Grand Room”—Inspired by “Someone I Know” from Lose #4, this costume presents plenty of opportunities for customization. The more ambitious and wealthy among you will prefer the total-leather-exterior-interior look, complete with kidney zippers and spiked tongue. Those looking to keep things thrifty will opt for the more subtle blacked-out-last-night-and-woke-up-with-a-shaved-head look, set off with a single steel stud on your right forearm. Or, if you’re feeling introverted, just stay home and whip up a tray of homemade bondage biscuits with dried-fruit-skin leather and marzipan studs.
The “Stacyface”—“The Sixties,” the story of a small town in which every man, woman, child, bird, and beast bears the vacant face and plain hairstyle of the mysterious “Stacy,” suggests the perfect Deforgeian group costume. Fashion a simple paper “Stacyface” mask and make copies for all your friends, completing the look with matching wigs. Because “Stacyface” affects individuals of all genders, classes, and species, feel free to combine your new look with other costumes: try the “Stacyface” werewolf or the “Stacyface” sexy firefighter. For bonus points, move to a backwater Ontario community and convince the whole town to dress up with you and never undress.
The “Riders”—In this story, collected in Very Casual, a gang of bikers, each wearing the head of a beloved cartoon character, offer up a sacrifice to a mysterious portal in exchange for transformation into their chosen toon icon. Although this might make another great group costume, the touching romance between the “Dilbert” rider and the “Nancy” rider make it clear that this is a couple’s costume more than anything else. This isn’t the only time that Dilbert and Nancy hook up in Deforge’s work: if you’re feeling truly uninhibited, you can end your night with a reenactment of the scandalous and apparently licensed Dilbert/Nancy sex tape from Lose #4’s “Queen Video.” “Riders” indeed.
The “Prophet Child”—The “costume” motif figures less prevalently in Ant Colony, DeForge’s only full-length work (presumably for the simple reason that ants don’t wear clothing). The notable exception is Topher, the “prophet child,” who develops visionary powers after inhaling a cloud of microscopic earthworms. The bees then take him away from his colony and his sociopathic father, painting ceremonial designs on him with pollen and saliva. Take this costume as an opportunity to show off your birthday suit, stripping down and painting your whole bod a vibrant yellow. It may be chilly, but pneumonia is the price paid for a killer costume.
The “Mafia”—Inspired by “Me As a Baby” from Lose #6, this seemingly simple outfit, the uniform of the “actual Mafia,” is not without it’s subtleties. Start with a large black cloak draped over a three-layer-wedding-cake-style bustle, finish with an animal tail, and accessorize with a knife, child’s clarinet case, and coworker’s severed ear.
Will Wellington is an occasional Sequential contributor. He lives in Guelph.
By Will Wellington