Ralston native Tom Headley wasn’t content with just watching “Transformers.” He decided to become one.
Headley, 24, grew up watching the cartoon. Now he and his friends spend their time being the alien robots in his intricately designed costumes.
Six years ago — around his graduation from Ralston High School in 2007 — Headley decided he wanted a Transformers costume but couldn’t afford the hefty price tag.
So he built a costume of his own with what he could manage: duct tape and cardboard. Roughly 20 rolls of colored tape and 140 hours later, Headley’s first Transformers costume, a rendition of Transformers head Autobot Optimus Prime, was complete.
Headley’s creation sat in the basement untouched until about three years ago, when his friends fell in love with his costumes too and asked him to make some for them.
Headley doesn’t have much of a background in design, aside from playing with Legos as a child. He hasn’t studied art or engineering.
But what started as one Optimus Prime costume soon grew into much more. Headley has made 12 costumes so far. He hopes to make 43 in all — all of the Transformers from the first generation of the show.
A year and a half ago, Headley and his friends began going out in the costumes as the Duct Tape Transformers. Now, they’re invited to events to pump up the crowds.
The group has been invited to parties in Kansas City, Sioux City, Detroit and other major cities throughout the Midwest.
They’ve performed at local events at The 21st Saloon and Bar 415. They’ve also attended music festivals and even the College World Series. Sometimes, members serve as DJs or perform skits.
Headley said that when they’re out, they fully devote themselves and never break character. “When I’m Optimus Prime, I act just like Optimus Prime would in the cartoon, ” he said.
The group’s booking manager, Ryan Mathison, joined the Duct Tape Transformers after he saw them out on the town. He now has three suits fitted to him. The 33-year-old said he loves the opportunity to get out and make people smile.
“It’s a way to get out of reality to be someone else, to be a kid again, to enjoy entertaining people and just having fun, ” Mathison said.
And the Duct Tape Transformers fan club is still growing.
“We just keep meeting more and more people at events and they’re just falling in love with us, ” Headley said.