In addition to my creative hobbies and my day job as a physical therapist, I also worked in paleontology for a number of years, so when I started working on the Legend of Zelda Cosplay Project, I was sure I wanted to try my hand at the Twilit Fossil.
In the Legend of Zelda mythology, Stallord's origins are somewhat unclear, but it appears that he dwelt in the colliseum-like prison in the Gerudo desert called the "Arbiter's Grounds," and there functioned as an executioner for the very worst of Hyrule's prisoners.
The Arbiter's Grounds. Image from: Zeldapedia.
When Link found him, the Arbiter's Grounds prison had been long neglected and all that was left of Stallord was a skeletal corpse with a number of blades protruding from his skull. Perhaps an army of prisoners eventually overcame him, or it could be that the knights of Hyrule were summoned to end his reign of blood when the prison was at last abandoned.
In any case, this mighty creature was given one more epic duel when the Usurper King Zant plunged the magical "Twilight Scimitar" into his skull and reanimated his corpse.
For this boss fight, Stallord was also given power to summon a skeletal legion of his vanquished foes to fight on his behalf.
All in all, it's one of the cooler boss battles in the Legend of Zelda series.
Making a Monster
Naturally, I wanted to ground my version of Stallord in reality by building him out of real skeletons and fossils. The main question was...which?
With his long, curved horns, my first thought was that Stallord must be a dragon—so I considered a lot of dinosaur and lizards as candidates to for my monster's face.
None of them quite looked right, however, and on closer inspection I realized that with his long canines, single nasal hole, and remnants of fur on his skeleton, Stallord was clearly a mammal.
With that in mind, I decided to use the skull of a Bengal tiger to give Stallord a long-fanged predatory look.
I adorned his head with horns from another mammal, the Springbok.From that point on, though, I wanted my Twilit Fossil to actually be prehistoric.
He needed long arms and hands with long, clawed fingers—the body of a really scary predator.
Anybody who's seen Jurassic Park knows that I'm basically describing a dromaeosaur ("raptor"). For my Stallord, I chose a vicious mounted Deinonychus skeleton to be Stallord's torso. I even kept the legs slightly in view, because, let's face it, the only dumb part of this otherwise awesome monster design is that he's stuck waist deep in sand for the whole battle.
Image from: Tumblr.
One more subtle piece of prehistory is found in the plates behind Stallord's skull. I built these out of the skull plates from the terrifying Devonian fish Dunkleosteus.
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Dunkleosteus skull. Image from: Earthtouchnews.
Scary, right? If I ever do some Majora's Mask pictures, I'm definitely bringing Dunkleosteus back to make into the Gargantuan Masked Fish Gyorg!
With the skull plates in place, I was only a couple of details away from finishing the monster. I added a horse's mane to his neck to represent the fur seen across his body in the game, and put lights in his eyes. For these lights, I copied and pasted the shining jewel from my previous Fyrus picture in order to tie together these two Twilight Princess bosses.
A close-up of Fyrus' glowing jewel, which I also used as Stallord's eyes. To see the full picture, click here!
When I had finished piecing Stallord together, I still had a lot of work to do. I didn't want him to look like a skeletal mount, even if he was built from them. He was a reanimated fossil, so he needed to look...well...animated!
I decided the scene would feature Stallord bursting out of the sand, with Link racing toward him on the magical spinner he found in the Arbiter's grounds.
I used the Photoshop blur and smudge tools to create the illusion of movement. This can be a surprisingly effective technique and allowed me to transform this low-resolution game image...
Image from: Zelda.com.
...into a more realistic accessory:
Not bad, eh?
Sand, Sand, Everywhere
Now, all this motion wouldn't be believable if the environment didn't react.
In the game, the Stallord battle takes place in a sandy arena. To increase the sense of Stallord's enormity, I chose to set the battle in the open desert rather than inside a Colosseum so that Stallord would be by far the largest thing in sight.
And, if that wasn't sandy enough, I replaced the blue sky background with a sand storm!
All that sand would do a lot of flying in such an action-packed scene. To create this effect I purchased the Photoshop action "Sandstorm," that takes the color of a scene and scatters it in particles according to a "wind" direction determined by the artist.
For the purposes of this picture I needed the sand to be flying many directions though. I applied the Photoshop action multiple times in different directions to pull off the final look of the photo.
On the whole, this is what the evolution of the picture looked like:
The dust kicked up by Link's spinner took a lot of iterations to get right. It was especially important, though, because without it he's so little that he doesn't look like he has a chance of taking Stallord down. However, kick up a big enough cloud of dust and suddenly he looks like a real threat!
...And with that, the ancient executioner Stallord was resurrected yet again!
This was one of the first monsters I made, and with pretty rudimentary Photoshop skills, too.
So, if your cosplay costume is short one giant man-eating boss, I'd encourage you to try building one as well!