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People in Rubber Suits

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The original Man in a Rubber Suit, Haruo Nakajima.

Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News on Godzilla (1954)

Monsters played by humans in costumes.

This is the single most important special effect of all time, bar none. The man in rubber suit technique was Hollywood's original go-to method (and still utilized extensively in Toku) for portraying the Kaiju, the extra-terrestrial invader, the experiment Gone Horribly Wrong, and the supernatural terror before computer generated effects were a twinkle in a programmer's eye. This is not to say that the method is perfect — many a great riff has been made at the expense of the weaker displays of this technique — but even at its lowest the man-in-suit still takes notoriety in the form of Narm Charm. Some special effects artists, such as Rick Baker, built their entire career on this.

Note: Not necessarily made from rubber.

Compare Pantomime Animal, Rubber-Forehead Aliens. Starring Special Effects is a sister trope for animated or puppet creations in live-action films, and it's possible for both tropes to be featured in one movie. Not related to Dressed All in Rubber. In-universe examples, if resembling a real animal, can qualify as Animal Disguise. Serkis Folk can be considered the modern descendant, with the main difference being that the "suit" is added in digital post-production. Also compare Stop Motion, the other main method of animating monsters before CGI became commonplace.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Kaiju Girl Caramelise is a series about a Notzilla called Harugon, but while the monster herself is not an example, the Kaiju-obsessed Manatsu Tomosato owns several suits. She tricks Kuroe into wearing a three-headed dragon suit resembling King Ghidorah, and when confronting Arata at his apartment building she wears a Harugon suit.
  • One issue of Kochikame had Ryotsu end up stuck as a giant. After the initial shock wore off, he resolved new routines that took advantage of his size to help out around the city. One of them was wearing a Not Zilla costume to film more realistic footage for movies.
  • Invoked for the designs of the monsters in SSSS.GRIDMAN and its sequel SSSS.DYNɅZENON, which look big enough to hide a person inside and utilize mocap technology to make the movements appropriately clunky. This is even done in-universe with Anonymous, whose ravenous "B" form hides in the cheap-looking "A" form until it gets sufficiently pissed off.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • The one-panel Newspaper Comic Bizarro once showed a newscaster announcing, "The city is being attacked by an enormous Japanese actor in a rubber suit!" and sure enough, it's recognizably Godzilla ravaging the background.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Big Hero 6, Fred dons a kaiju costume that allows him to breathe fire and calls himself "Fredzilla". This is in stark contrast with his other five teammates who all wear matching suits of high tech armor.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 300: Despite the extensive use of CGI, rubber suits were still used for deformed characters such as Ephialtes and the uber-immortal.
  • The Xenomorph from Alien. They are MUCH scarier than most people in rubber suits though because they have such a un-human like head (which even requires lots of animatronics) and body that its hard to tell yourself they're just men in suits. Even more so in the first movie, where the alien was played by a 7FT 2INCHS TALL, but slender...student. Though in this case they cut down the appearances of the Xenomorph to the bare minimum because otherwise they looked like this trope. In later movies they afford to work more on the movement of the aliens. The VFX supervisor who started playing the Alien in the third movie (including AVP: Alien vs. Predator) made a career out of this.
  • One early rubber-plus-animatronics example was 1959's The Alligator People, in which the transformed protagonist's final gator head had a working jaw. Still looked very fake, the moreso because he winds up interacting with an actual alligator.
  • In the film The Bad and the Beautiful, a director and a producer are assigned to make a low-budget horror film about cat men, who are supposed to be played by people in crappy suits. They declare that "five men dressed like cats look like five men dressed like cats", and they make the film without showing the monsters (a reference to the real classic horror film Cat People).
  • The Penguin in Batman Returns has two species of tame penguins helping him. The large emperor penguins are portrayed by little people in suits, and it's very much possible to watch the entire film without catching this.
  • Beowulf (1999) reimagined Grendel as a man in a rubber suit... with a clearly visible zipper (it also reimagined Grendel's mother as a Cute Monster Girl who would later prove to have flammable blood).
  • Pearl (the grotesquely obese vampire) from Blade (1998). It sounds like a grim kid's TV show.
  • The Brave Archer 4 has Yang Guo's pet, a condor the size of a human, played by a burly extra in a suit.
  • The kung-fu fantasy film, Buddha's Palm has a Kirin which is portrayed by two suit actors using this method.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Like Lord of the Rings before it, the live action Narnia films were replete with rubber suits, although to accurately portray the leg structure of the hooved fauns, satyrs and minotaurs, CGI was used in addition to the physical costumes.
  • Conan the Destroyer: Dagoth, the god/monster Conan faces off against at the end, was played by wrestler André the Giant in a rubber suit.
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon is the Trope Codifier for Fish People depicted this way.
  • A few scenes in Cujo had Cujo being played by a man in a costume, while other scenes opted for a Rottweiler in a similar costume.
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes film had a painfully obvious human in a gorilla suit who killed one of the apes at the zoo.
  • The Thing was played by a rubber-suited Michael Chiklis in Fantastic Four (2005) and its sequel. Supposedly he requested this, because he wanted to feel some of Ben Grimm's pain.
  • The 1936 Flash Gordon serial may be the Ur-Example for Kaiju, as it featured a man in a suit portraying a giant dragon some 18 years before Toho lit upon the idea.
  • In The Fly (1986), the final humanoid stage of the Doomed Protagonist's Slow Transformation into an insectoid monster is realized in this manner as the logical extension of the increasingly elaborate makeups used in earlier scenes. The prospect of having to act through pounds of makeup and rubber put off many big-name actors from taking the role but Jeff Goldblum was up for just such a challenge...and became a name in the process.
  • Godzilla is an interesting case; Originally, Godzilla was to be animated in stop-motion, like The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Eiji Tsuburaya informed the producers that the necessary scenes would take seven years to complete, so he was instead told to create the monster another way. He came up with a new plan: instead of splicing a tiny stop-motion model into live-action footage, make a realistic monster suit and build a set where everything is tiny compared to it. It worked. Applications of this method in the years after Tsuburaya's death in the Showa period turned out not to be as impressive, however... but they do have their charm.
  • A far more convincing gorilla example was Digit in Gorillas in the Mist.
  • Halo: Nightfall: Axl the Yonhet is pretty clearly an actor in a costume, in sharp contrast to the film's other aliens, who are all CGI.
  • The Hellboy series of movies (both directed By Guillermo Del Toro) use this technique a lot, and to great effect. In fact, Del Toro's movies almost always opt to minimize the use of CGI as much as possible. Granted though, their rubber suits are most often pretty damn advanced (containing heaps of animatronics and whatnot).
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas! turned Jim Carrey into the title character via a full-body suit that was painful and stifling for Carrey to the point that he almost quit early on; he needed help from a military torture expert to handle the experience. When he was performing in it, however, he was able to turn it to his creative advantage, and designers Rick Baker and Gail-Rowell Ryan won Best Makeup Oscars for their work.
  • Jurassic Park and its sequels used men in (partial) suits for the Velociraptors in some shots. The raptor that walks to the fallen Udesky and plunges its sickle-shaped claw into his back in the third film was a man wearing raptor 'pants'.
  • In King Kong (1976), Jeff Bridges' character reacted to the plunderers' initial disbelief upon seeing the giant ape by saying "What do you think it was? A man in an ape suit?"... which is exactly what it looked like, because it was. Played by make-up artist Rick Baker, who wound up uncredited.
  • Used in the film The Last Dinosaur, here.
  • Played with in The Last Mimzy. At the beginning, the Scientist's lab gets attacked by two "alien" creatures that look like people in rubber suits. At the end, we learn that they were people in rubber suits. More specifically, they were people in all-enclosing protective suits because of the poisoned-beyond-repair environment. They shed their costumes when they see sunlight for the first time in ages.
  • Hyde (the Evil Twin of Dr. Jekyll) in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie combines blue screen, forced perspective and a rubber suit so spectacularly obvious that, like much of the movie, it borders on Special Effect Failure. (And borders is a very generous term.)
  • The Lord of the Rings produced record numbers of rubber suits, primarily for the various types of orcs but also for various other creatures, in fact the only characters who weren't either this or Rubber-Forehead Aliens were the human roles. This trend was somewhat subverted by The Hobbit films due to their greater use of the Serkis Folk techniques.
  • The first two Mortal Kombat films play with this on vastly different sides of the quality spectrum.
    • Goro from the first film is a very elaborate example, with only the lower torso fitting in this category directly, with the rest of the costume being an elaborate animatronic that while rather goofy in the face, is otherwise pretty effective. A making of was posted by the suit's creators.
    • On the more obvious side, there's Baraka and Motaro from Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Baraka in particular looks extremely lame, even for 1997. Motaro on the other hand is married to some god-awful CGI for his back half, while his front half is simply the actor wearing a pants suit done up to look like centaur legs, and poorly at that.
  • The Ur-Example is probably the 1929 film version of Jules Verne's Mysterious Island, with some really Ugly Cute undersea beings.
  • The 1957 movie Night of the Demon, directed with dark understated dread by veteran Jacques Tourneur, from a story by horror master M. R. James, was considered by many to be undercut by Executive Meddling insistence on a rubber-suit demon (showing up at the beginning, no less).
  • In Night of the Lepus this is how the Giant Killer Bunny Rabbits are portrayed when they attack people. The suits...pretty much look nothing like giant bunnies.
  • Oily Maniac, another Shaw production, uses this method to depict the titular villain, a Blob Monster whose body is composed entirely of crude oil. Incidentally, the monster is played by the same guy (Danny Lee) who was Infra-man!
  • Pacific Rim:
    • As a love letter to every monster movie ever, the movie gives this a nod. While the kaiju are all completely computer generated, they are designed in such a way that they could, conceivably, be played by a man in a rubber suit.
    • Early on in the film, we see this trope played straight in a Show Within the Show parodying the kaiju in-universe.
  • Played to great effect in Predator. The original Predator costume was a rather goofy and awkward lizard; the crew asked for a new monster design very shortly after seeing the original. The designer decided to try something with mandibles...
  • The Rodents of Unusual Size from The Princess Bride.
  • A original monster called the Tiburonera (He who hunts sharks!) appears in a short film titled "Shallow Water" made by Sandy Collara. He even made the rubber suit himself, stating that practical effects will always have more realism than CGI. No argument there, the creature looks awesome. Here's the trailer.
  • Smoking Causes Coughing: The Tobacco Force fight human sized monsters who are this. At some point a little girl looks at a video that they have made, and comments that the monster looks fake. This film also features hand puppets and animatronics.
  • Star Wars:
    • Original footage with Jabba the Hutt, who was actually a ludicrously complex puppet with two full-sized people inside his torso plus a midget in the tail and a team of offscreen operators for his eyes and facial expressions.
    • Chewbacca and the Ewoks count as well.
    • And the Droids are men in tin suits.
  • The Shaw Brothers superhero movie, The Super Inframan, uses this technique to create it's plethora of monsters, including a tentacled plant elemental, a dragon-man, a rock monster and the Big Bad's One-Winged Angel form, which is a huge dragon.
  • This technique was used for the Humongous Mecha sequences in the Tekkouki Mikazuki film series.
  • Tyranno's Claw have people in suits portraying the giant prehistoric rodent, and a tribe of furry ape-people. Averted for the dinosaur sequences, whom were played by animatronics.
  • Unknown Island from 1948 for the Ceratosaurs did this. The Ground sloth was also a suit, but mostly fur and rubber mask.
  • As part of its deliberately retro FX vibes, the Zorgon aliens from Zathura were portrayed by guys in lizard costumes, with the Zorgon heads coming out where a human's chest would be. They're much better than the trope would lead you to believe, however, and it's quite possible to go through the entire movie thinking they're just really good CGI. The towering mechanical robot was also done partly as a costume (the torso and head were real, but the arms and legs were CGI.)

  • In the novel Shambling Towards Hiroshima, the protagonist, Syms Thorley, is a B-Movie actor who specializes in this kind of effects. He is employed by the US navy to dress up as a Godzilla expy and destroy a scale model of Japan to avert the use of a real horde of gigantic, mutated iguanas.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is the bread and butter of all Toku superhero shows since Ultra Q where the heroes and villains solely exist as people in rubber (or spandex, or leather) suits, having utilised the technology introduced and innovated by Toho in their Kaiju films and really ran with it. Some fans use "suitimation" to describe the use of costumed "suit actors" to portray monsters and heroes alike. In the 2000s, the shows began to mix in some 3D computer-generated animation for when a costume would not suffice, such as for a complex robot combination or a monster with a non-human silhouette.
    • The granddaddy of them all, the Ultra Series uses nothing but people in rubber suits. Series from the 1990's onwards, but especially in the 2010s like Ultraman Orb and Ultraman Geed even have the heroes have forms that can be switched around during fights.
    • Kamen Rider still relies on suits despite being on the air during the reign of three successive Japanese emperors, for both the heroes and villains. The earlier Heiseinote  seasons rely on two-part episodes to cut down on the costs of creating monsters for a full fifty-ish episode series, plus at least two movies. The later Heisei series, on the other hand, are less reliant on 'monster of the week' plots and thus require less monsters to be made.
    • Super Sentai and Power Rangers, while putting their heroes in spandex (apologies to Doctor K) the villains and their Monster of the Week minions are always in rubber suits, save for the occasional lady villain not in a full-body costume (eg. Rita Repulsa).
      • Power Rangers: Dino Thunder even lampshaded their situation when they happen across an episode of Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger (the Super Sentai show that their own show was based on. It's a long story.):
        Conner: Oh come on! That is SO a guy in a rubber suit!
        Ethan: No one said this was a documentary. Use your imagination.
        Conner: Like anyone's gonna believe a combination... bear, mushroom, ATM monster?!
        Kira: Is it really any stranger than anything we've been fighting?
    • As a competitor to the anniversary years of Ultraman, Super Sentai, and Kamen Rider, Madan Senki Ryukendo put this to work, although often mixing things up with CGI monsters, such as with a monster who is best described as a flying mood ring laser elephant. Ryukendo's spiritual successors Tomica Hero Rescue Force and Tomica Hero Rescue Fire kept up this tradition, although most Monsters of the Week would be CGI creations.
    • Toho even threw their experience into the television ring with their Chou Sei Shin Series trilogy, with even the heroes in costumes beyond simple spandex.
    • As a Toku version of Sailor Moon, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon made use of the rubber suited people for their monsters of the week.
  • Andromeda, with all the Narm Charm, couldn't pass up this trope. Some Magog even have visible zippers.
  • The A-Team: In one episode, Hannibal is shown to be in a Godzilla costume as part of a job. Also seen in the opening credits, without the headpiece on while smoking one of his iconic cigars.
  • The dinosaurs of Barney & Friends fall into the "not necessarily rubber" category of this trope.
  • The Boohbahs from Boohbah are fuzzy full-body puppets that appeared in very bright colors.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a few of these. "Reptile Boy" and "Bad Girls" are notable examples, though the lower halves of both demons weren't seen because one was in a tank of slime and the other a giant snake.
  • The Canadian children's series Cucumber featured a moose and a beaver who are this
  • Spoofed in Danger 5 along with other Narm Charm clichés.
  • Most of the dinosaurs in Dinosaurs. The rest, however, are played by hand puppets.
  • The Day of the Triffids (1981). Though only the flower head was rubber, the triffids were operated by a man crouched inside, cooled by a fan concealed in the fiberglass neck. The clackers however were radio-operated.
  • Doctor Who, too many times to mention.
    • For his first-ever Doctor Who story (the second-ever for Doctor Who generally) Terry Nation invented the Daleks as a way to avert the trope. They still had plungers for hands. His second story (the fifth aired on Doctor Who) however already featured the Voord, literally, People In Rubber Suits. (Possibly. Perhaps the suits have fused with their actual bodies.)
    • The Sensorites are people in velour suits, with visible zippers.
    • The Dalek storyline "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (which capitalised on how un-rubber-suity the Daleks look) still contained a totally gratuitous encounter with one as a Wacky Wayside Tribe, which, curiously, is considered by fans to be the first true Doctor Who "monster" (the first non-humanoid, non-robotic adversary).
    • The Zarbi (First Doctor, "The Web Planet"): giant ants with two very, very humanoid legs. Future companion Peter Purves (who played Steven) actually auditioned for the part of a Zarbi, but the casting director was too impressed with him and wanted to spare him the indignity, and promised to have him back when he wanted "a real actor" — which indicates the lack of respect afforded to these parts. (The director stuck to the deal and had Purves back playing a human character for "The Chase".)
    • Scared of those new series Cybermen? The original Cybermen were guys in a balaclava and a (somewhat loose) catsuit, carrying plastic stuff suspenders-like. Plus a funnel on their heads. And a serious speech impediment. It actually worked; they were terrifying instead of being ridiculous, because of how bizarre and lifeless they were.
    • It's not limited to rubber suits, either — The Krotons from the eponymous Second Doctor serial resemble walking cardboard boxes with a (sometimes spinning) cardboard diamond on top.
    • At least once, in "The Ark in Space", the monster (a Wirrn larva) was actually made out of green bubble wrap — but considering that bubble wrap had only just been invented (to the point where it wasn't even called 'bubble wrap' yet), the overall effect worked, if only for about five years after the episode's premiere. Supposedly the bubbles went 'pop-pop-pop' as the extras inched their way across stage reducing cast and crew to hysterics and the sound department to tears. Most of the scenes with the larva are recorded silently with incidental music over the top — if there's dialogue in the scene, a layer of smooth plastic is placed underneath the larva to reduce the likelihood of the bubbles bursting. The Wirrn looks better but, like the Zarbi, is a bipedal insect.
    • The Terileptil Leader from "The Visitation" is notable in that it's the first rubber-suit monster to feature animatronics inside the head, which allowed its gills to move and eyes to blink.
    • Interestingly enough, "The Rescue" used this trope to conceal the twist. Doctor Who fans were used to rubber suit aliens, so it actually came as a surprise that the villain really was a human wearing a costume, not a real alien. And it was more convincing than many of the "real" alien costumes of the era.
  • Donkey Hodie: According to a Variety article, Stanley is played by a puppeteer who gets inside his body.
  • The Ghost Busters, the live-action TV series, had Tracy the Gorilla in a Shout-Out to old-fashioned horror-comedies. Bob Burns, who played Tracy, got the part because he owned the gorilla suit!
  • The In the Night Garden... characters Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka, and the Tombliboos are puppets of this type.
  • All of the characters in the Australian kids show Johnson and Friends are Living Toys depicted as full-body puppets.
  • The various Krofft Brothers productions, ranging from miscellaneous creatures (H.R. Pufnstuf) to an entire show of anthropomorphic hats (Lidsville).
  • The Sleestaks from Land of the Lost (1974) and Land of the Lost (1991)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power uses specific prosthetics made of encapsulated silicon and practical makeup for the Orcs. Only the people who would fit the created costumes were casted. Even better, Jamie Wilson, who worked on the cinematic trilogies, is the head of prosthetics for the show.
  • Lost in Space: Effects studio Spectral Motion and Shannon Shea (who did costumes for Jurassic Park and Predators) were specifically hired by Netflix to create the robot suit. They went as far as adding green fabric to certain portions of the suit, so that digital artists could create areas where people could see right through it.
  • The Muppets: Large scale Muppet characters like Big Bird and Sweetums are played by performers in full costumes operating the mouth and other facial features with one hand. For the Gorgs in Fraggle Rock, a remote-control rig was made to allow puppeteers to control the face from the outside, allowing the costumed performers full motion of the arms for a more expressive performance. This technology was used for other Henson productions, including the aforementioned Dinosaurs.
  • Pig's Breakfast plays with this. Some aliens crash on Earth (played by people in rubber suits) and are consequently mistaken for people in rubber suits due to appear on a children's TV show (because of the UFO sightings of them crashing). They prove to be so popular they end up getting a permanent gig hiding in plain sight.
  • Polkaroo from the long-running Canadian children's series The Polka Dot Door is this.
    • Bear, Marigold, Humpty, and Dumpty became this in Polka Dot Shorts.
  • Legion from Red Dwarf.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures. Like Doctor Who, except a smaller budget = less CGI + more people in rubber suits.
    • Lampshaded:
      Chrissie: I'm telling you; my ex-husband is being chased by a dwarf in a suit — now I've seen it all!
  • Star Trek mostly has Rubber-Forehead Aliens, but some (the Gorn, for instance) play this trope straight. " Arena" became one of the most iconic episodes because of this.
    • As time went on those species that were once men in suits were replaced by Serkis Folk. The Gorn appearance in Enterprise was all CGI, for example.
  • In Walking with Beasts, they originally wanted to portray the Australopithecus this way, but in the end chose CGI because of the different body proportions between humans and protohumans. However the sequel, Walking with Cavemen went back to the rubber suit approach. Both of these effects are generally regarded as the series' less stellar FX accomplishments.
  • The X-Files. Spoofed in "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'". Scully begins performing an autopsy on a Grey Alien found dead in a field, only to find a zipper; it turns out to be a rubber suit. The video footage is edited and sold as a tape of an actual Alien Autopsy.
  • Influenced by the Kroffts, Yo Gabba Gabba!. They actually use several suits that come originally from the concerts given by the creators' band, the Aquabats (q.v. below).
  • Wonder Woman (1975): Gargantua is played by an actor in an oversized gorilla suit, with an extra tall head.


    Music Videos 

  • Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular live show uses it with great effect for raptor-sized predators and a baby T. rex, in combination with animatronics for large dinosaurs.
  • Even the noise scene has these: California duo Rubber O Cement has made it a prominent aspect of their stage presence.

    Theme Parks 
  • Most of the non-human "walkaround" characters (and a few of the more caricatured human ones) at theme parks such as Disney and Universal Studios fall into the "not necessarily rubber" category of this trope.

  • There are even Microman figures released with rubber oversuits to turn them into Showa-style kaiju.

    Video Games 
  • In every main-series iteration of Wing Commander after II, the Kilrathi. Series creator Chris Roberts was NEVER happy with their appearance.

  • Parodied in Darths & Droids, where Jabba's Gamorrean guards are humans in rubber suits in-story, apparently because Jabba has some bizarre tastes (it also conveniently makes them immune to Artie's Lost-Orb-enhanced shock prod). Apparently everyone else non-human-looking servant Jabba's palace is like that too, leading them to think Chewbacca isn't a real wookiee and C-3PO isn't a real droid and taking their protests as (the result of too much) Method Acting.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! Card Game Gusto Fan Comic frequently depicts the Synchro-Summoned Mist Wurm as Caam wearing the Mist Wurm Suit.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Done as a Show Within a Show segment on Doug. Doug and his friends watched a horror movie where you didn't see the shapeshifting killer monster (in his real form at least) until the end of the movie. Doug was so scared that he closed his eyes and missed the scene. He started to suffer from nightmares afterwards, and reasoned that sitting through the whole scene with open eyes would make them go away, so he kept trying to see it but always ended up wimping out, until the final time, where he managed to not only see the monster, but laugh as it was an obvious rubber suit with a clearly visible zipper. When he mentioned this to his friends they all admitted that they had closed their eyes too.
    • Dr. Rubbersuit is one of the villains Doug imagines himself fighting as Quail Man.
  • Lampshaded by the Duck Dodgers cartoon, with a Godzilla-like monster called "Maninsuit".
  • On The Flintstones, Fred got a job in a monster movie not as the monster, but as the stand-in for the actor playing the monster.
  • Parodied with Chameleon Sr. in OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes. Despite having a Notzilla-esque child that looks exactly like he does, he's actually a giant in a monster suit.
  • Scooby-Doo: Oh the ghost is here, it's a crook in a suit. The ghost is here, he's protecting some loot.
  • Owen from Total Drama World Tour dressed up as Godzilla for his team's commercial in Japan.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Man In A Rubber Suit


The Expressive Reptar Mask

Amazing for a mask that's much larger than the wearer's head, isn't it?

How well does it match the trope?

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