My Life In Halloween Costumes

[NOTE from the future that is 2019: This is a crosspost from The Cool Kids Table, a now dormant blog I used to post at with my brothers-in-arms Ben Morse and Rickey Purdin. Though the original is still accessible, I wanted to keep a draft here as this is obviously a topic that means far too much to me personally. Below you’ll find the original post from 2008 as well as a few updated entries that ran on The CKT over the next few years. I should probably just rewrite this as an actual essay instead of a hastily drafted list of bullet points, but nah.]

It’s time for the best holiday ever invented, and since I’ve spent the past month before the annual candy binge helping out at my mother’s house, I decided to pull some photos from my Halloween archives and share some of the ridiculous lengths I’ve gone to for a rocking costume. Enjoy!

1984. A Skeleton

I don’t know about the rest of you people, but to me, real Halloween costumes are not bought in a store ready to wear. They’re made in part or in full by the wearer. Or in the case of my first costume (and a lot of them on this list), they’re made by the wearer’s mom.

The Skeleton overthrow I’m wearing here was sewed by my mom along with a matching pillow case-style bag that I used every year after that. They were totally boss.

1985. The First Time I Was Batman

I’ve loved Batman so long I have no memory of not loving Batman, which should be pretty evident by the fact that I was dressing as him at the age of four. I’m not sure if I was routinely crashing my Super Powers Batmobile into everything in our house at every available possibility at this point, but I am pretty sure I’d already taken to watching the old Adam West show and taking it 110% seriously by then. (If you see me sometime, ask me to tell the story about when I met Adam West. It’s way too long to post here.)

I don’t remember much else from when I was four, but I remember this costume…probably because I kept wearing the mask around the neighborhood for years after that and insisting that my friend Kyle Davis was Robin because he was shorter than me and had black hair.

1986. A Ghost

Everyone should dress up as a traditional “spooky Halloween character” at least once in their life. For me it was as a ghost, and I think the silver-lined costume mom made is still somewhere in our house. Although, both my brother Brian and I got way more mileage out of his Dracula cape and teeth, the latter of which probably gave us more shared colds than we can remember.

1987. A Policeman

When I was a kid, my dad was a police officer in our hometown of Flint, Michigan. His tenure on the force meant that we had both a lot of crazy legendary family police stories (the time my aunt maced herself, the time dad’s partner accidentally shot a hole through our bathroom wall) and a lot of old police equipment in our garage, including the real gun belt I’m rocking here. Also, that odd looking helmet comes from my dad’s short stint riding with Flint’s mounted division (Yes, Flint, Michigan employs police on horseback).

1988. Darth Vader

When you’re a little brother, it’s a fact of life that most of your clothing comes in the form of things your older brother has grown out of. Sometimes this happens with Halloween costumes too, including this Darth Vader getup. I seriously didn’t mind, though, as the costume was super dope. The front piece breathing apparatus my mom made by wrapping a bunch of material around one of those single serving Frosted Flakes boxes with buttons sewn on the front. Pretty slick, mom.

I honestly think the above pic is one of my brother in the costume from the year before, but for reals, how could I not include a picture of VAMPIRE SPIDER-MAN?!?!?

1989. The Second Time I Was Batman

When Tim Burton’s “Batman” film came out in 1989, I spent the summer collecting every toy, trading card, magazine, glow-in-the-dark Frisbee, mail away bank from a cereal box and Prince “Batdance” cassette single imaginable. Was there any doubt that I’d dress as the black-clad version of the Dark Knight that Halloween? No. But who could have guessed I’d look so bad ass.

In the most telling of our costume pairings, Brian (my real life archnemesis) dressed as the Joker (my fake Halloween archnemesis). We’re totally cool now. I think that I wore that Batman costume every day for a week straight…possibly without showering (less gross when you’re eight).

1990. Dick Tracy

Unfortunately, I was unable to find any of the pictures of me in the totally awesome Dick Tracy trench coat mom sewed for me out of yellow corduroy which we still have. Fortunately, I was able to find the official Dick Tracy fedora and signal watch I wore to lend authenticity to the ensemble. That watch was awesome because it both told the time and lit up when I decided to call into headquarters Warren Beatty style.

1991. Moon Knight

Unless someone presents evidence to the contrary, I’m going to go ahead an assume that I am the only 4th Grader in the history of America to dress up as Doug Moench, Don Perlin and Bill Sienkiewicz’s werewolf-fighting, billionaire, schizophrenic superhero Moon Knight. And you know what? I’m totally cool with that.

1992. Cyclops

In the summer of 1992, my family moved to the suburb town of Grand Blanc, making me change schools for the first time. In retrospect, I probably did myself no favors in terms of fighting the “weird new kid who likes comic books way too much” stereotype by dressing up as Cyclops and answering questions as to who I was by saying, “I’m Cyclops. I used to be in the X-Men, but now I lead X-Factor.” But how could I resist dressing up like this sweet Marvel Universe trading card by Ron Lim?

I made the visor myself by cutting out the red lenses from two pair of 3D glasses and affixing them to a felt headband by way of thread and an insane amount of hot glue gun work. I recall walking down the hallway of my new school and having an older kid ask aloud, “Did he seriously make that mask himself?” and thinking, “Uh…yeah! Because I wouldn’t really be Cyclops without a ruby quartz visor, you loser!”

1993. Clark Kent

Believe it or not, there was a time pretty recently in America where cheap T-shirts with Superman’s S-Shield were not sold at every kiosk in the local mall, so when “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” debuted, combining my twin nerd loves of comic book superheroes and romantic comedies, I had to have my saintly grandmother put together this shirt by giving her a Dan Jurgens comicto use as a model.

1994 – 1997. The Lost Years

Two things happened between the time I was in 6th Grade and my Sophomore year of high school: the Phegley family kind of stopped taking photos of any kind and caring about how cool your Halloween costume was became pretty low on the priority list for my peer group (I think puberty may have something to do with the latter). End result in terms of this essay? I have no photos or really a lot of recollection of costumes from that period. I’m pretty sure I did something comic related most of the time and know that in the 8th Grade I was The Shadow because of that not-so-great Alec Baldwin movie, but beyond that…I got nothing. Luckily, things started looking up in high school when I met a group of friends who got back into the costume game for an annual Halloween party at my friend Lauren’s house, leading to…

1998. Jay & Silent Bob

I know this costume choice may be perceived as a point against me for some of you, but you know what? When I was 17, the only movies Kevin Smith had made were “Clerks,” “Mallrats,” and “Chasing Amy” so Cullen Brown and I pretty much figured he could do no wrong. Plus, it allowed me to swear in front of adults and not get yelled at because I was “in character.”

Note Cullen’s candy cigarettes and my brown bagged bottle of lemonade (we were good kids) and my Clerks comic book T-shirt by the always link-worthy Jim Mahfood.

1999. Starman

James Robinson’s Starman comic is still my favorite monthly series of all time, so I had no qualms about going to a party with swim goggles on my head, an ugly Hawaiin shirt (which I actually wore A LOT back then) and a “cosmic rod” I made with half an old hiking stick with a yellow ball from the MacDonald’s ball pit glued on the end. What you can’t see in this picture of me dancing poorly with my buddy Kegmeister (who apparently went as some sleazy greaseball) is that I had nerd cred on my side that night as my costume included DC’s official Starman tin badge that I’d bought at a con that summer. Represent.

2000. Shaggy & Velma

My Freshman year of college, my girlfriend Jami and I had a whole scheme with a bunch of other kids in our dorms to go out for Halloween parties dressed as the gang from Scooby-Doo. Unfortunately, no one else came through, but screw those kids…we looked hot anyway. But you know…without Jami, my costume isn’t much of a costume as it consisted of a Phish T-shirt and a pair of hippie pants my brother sewed himself and then gave to me when he joined the army. I would’ve worn that anyway in college.


2001. Tommy Chong & Josie

Although I couldn’t find a photo of it, Sophomore year of college my roommate Justin and I did an arguably ill-advised costume team-up going as Cheech and Chong. On the up swing, Jami and her roommates pulled off a rad Josie & the Pussycats trio inspired by the totally underrated movie by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont.

2002. Green Lantern & Hello Kitty

I know nothing about the costume screams it, but in my mind I was always Kyle Rayner and not Hal Jordan, which is funny as the ring I’m wearing is actually autographed by Alan Scott creator Mart Nodell. If you understand anything about that last sentence, you’re a nerd.

Above is a picture of me and a guy dressed like “Piano Man” era Billy Joel. 

2003. The Third Time I Was Batman

Jami and I returned to the couples theme Senior year as Batman and Catwoman. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right…Batman does not wear glasses under his cowl or have a beard. But you know what? He does wear his underpants outside his regular pants, so you’ve got to give me some credit there, right?

2004 – 2007. Green Hornet, I guess?

During these years, my few meager attempts at Halloween costumes have been forgettable and largely unphotographed, but my most frequent thrown together costume was of famed radio superhero The Green Hornet. This was usually pulled off by recycling my Green Lantern mask and a fedora I bought for $5 in Chinatown. I think I dressed as Captain America once too, for a performance that would best be left as a mystery to time.

2008. Flint & Lady Jaye

Jami and I had a little too much fun dressing up as G.I. Joe’s cutest couple that year. But aside from thanking my older brother for the loan of the beret that I’m pretty sure has been to Iraq and back, I thought I’d offer these without comment.

2009. Chuck Bass & Blair Waldorf

Jami and I followed up last year’s experiment in couple’s comic bookery by dressing up as the meanest power couple on trashy TV: Chuck Bass & Blair Waldorf from “Gossip Girl.” Since we kept the party at our place, I didn’t quite get to pull off my planned move of answering everyone who asked what I was supposed to be with “I’m Chuck Bass” only to have them stare at me befuddled, but I got to do it a few times.

2010. Scott Pilgrim & Ramona Flowers

Squeezing one last drop out of the year of Scott Pilgrim, I dressed up as Bryan Lee O’Malley’s hero with an eye towards seeing how many people actually knew who I was dressed as (turns out…about 10!).

Is it just me, or is like 83% of the fun of Scott Pilgrim cosplay the act of poorly recreating poses from the book’s covers?

Jami ended up going as Ramona Flowers, which it turns out is a much more recognizable look for party people to latch onto. She was a total trooper, even though she was ready to burn that wig by night’s end.

There weren’t a ton of other comics folks on the prowl at the three parties we hit up on Friday night, but one of them did have a lone copy of Blankets sitting next to a “Peanuts” Jack-O-Lantern. Instant photo op!

I took more than a few pics of the sword because it cost about $40 to make, and unlike the Plumtree t-shirt and the six XL women’s winter coat from Old Navy, I’m never going to have any use for it ever again. The nice thing about the sword though is that when people did recognize who I was, they’d instantly go, “Holy shit! You earned the Power of Love!”

Our gimmick for the night was that whenever someone recognized who we were, we gave them chocolate coins. As you can tell, we had quite a few left over at the end of the evening.

2011. Ned and Cat Stark

This year I think we took things as far as we could in assembling pieces to be Ned and Cat Stark from “Game of Thrones.” The actual choice for costume came late in the game, but once Jami decided this was the one, she also decided to make a lot of the costumes herself on a sewing machine she got last Christmas. 

Baby did a good job too! The capes and my tunic and other bits and bobs were put together by her, and she painted up my shield to be a bit more Winterfell-ish (you can’t read it in his pic, but it says “Winter Is Coming” across the front). My main contribution was super-gluing the world’s cheapest Hand of the King broach. More on that in a minute.

Jami was a little bummed we couldn’t find some suitable fish flair into her costume, but she pulled Cat off pretty great (that wig was super long and out of control!). Overall, our goal at Halloween parties has become tallying how many people actually know what we’re supposed to be. This year about ten folks knew, many of them from the Song of Ice And Fire books and NOT the TV show. Props.

2012. Katniss & Peta

Perhaps the only time in history that Jami has gotten way more into a piece of nerdy pop culture than me was when The Hunger Games had hit huge in advance of the first movie. She burned through the books and took point on what I still think is the best costume in our long run.

Since then, we’ve become parents and have transferred all our costuming energy onto the child. Maybe someday we’ll make a dramatic return…