Fursuit maker Sudoku gets costume adopted by Twenty One Pilots.

by Patch O'Furr

Sudoku has been a fursuit maker since 2015, and was sole proprietor of Strut Your Fluff Ltd. in 2020-2022. That led to something amazing:

“I got my start in costumes in the furry fandom (stumbling across Matrices’ website in 2014!) That foundation helped me to reach my long-term goal of performing as an official mascot. I am Bruiser the Bulldog, NAIA-division, for Concordia University, NE.”

In 2019, Twenty One Pilots made a video featuring a fuzzy creature named “Ned”. As a fan, Sudoku built a mascot costume of him. It was made and worn for personal satisfaction, but as life went on, Sudoku wanted to retire as owner. Recently Twenty One Pilots accepted her gift offer of the Ned costume, so it’s becoming the official property of band members Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun.

Sometimes there is controversy about creators doing underpaid or speculative work for high-profile people; but that’s more about commissions and original creations. Ned is copyrighted to the band, so the costume shouldn’t be sold. Sudoku is happy to have her fan project appreciated and taken care of this way.

It’s nice attention too, with stories in Strife and Rock Sound music magazines, and now Dogpatch Press interested in the crossover between fandom and professional work. This reporter is more likely to go fursuiting with cult bands than huge ones, so it required learning about Ned and his new owners.

A band with theatrical roots.

Twenty One Pilots has a core duo of members from Columbus, Ohio. They might be called hybrid post-emo or alternative hip hop. They’re known for success with name producers for high concept, high charting pop songs, but got there with persistent regional touring and interaction with grassroots fandom.

“To catch the attention of unfamiliar or disinterested attendees and promoters, the band began to experiment with costumes and on-stage acrobatics… Tyler Joseph wears masks and occasionally body makeup while rapping and singing… Dun stated, ‘We thought it was kind of cool, new and different to wear masks onstage…'” (-Wikipedia)

In January 2019, they released a music video for the single “Chlorine”. It was directed by Mark Eshleman of Reel Bear Media – a Columbus based talent who has been with the band since their early days – and it made the alien-like creature “Ned” part of the band lore; he represents creativity.

Sudoku talks about #NedLives, Twenty One Pilots fans and furry fandom

Dogpatch Press asked Sudoku more about what she did with Ned:

“My intention with Ned was not to donate to a mainstream artist; the costume was a high school graduation gift to myself, and I planned on performing at nonprofit events. Twenty One Pilots created the character itself, and #NedLives was my own fan project.” (The hashtag features touring costume appearances with other fans.)

“The pandemic took away many opportunities to wear Ned in public; I am not satisfied with filming videos at home, as I believe strongly in in-person entertainment. This combined with rising material prices led me to the decision to close Strut Your Fluff, go to college, and start scouting for a new home for Ned. I searched in both the furry fandom and the Twenty One Pilots fandom for a suitable home, trying to contact the band as well to see if they would take him. The band emailed me in 2022 saying that they would be happy to have him.

What might be the intentions and future for Ned?

“No money has been exchanged for Ned, as I did not ask for any in return. The band and their employees have shown appreciation on social media. Ned is ready for retirement, and they are most likely taking him as a collectible item. I have not been told their intentions but know that if they put him into storage, he will be secure. My top concern is the integrity and safety of the costume, as it took a year to make, and is deeply personal to me.”

Did she deal with the creators behind Ned, or feel recognized as a performer?

“I am not affiliated with anyone who worked on the music video beyond initial contact asking about copyright, but I am very passionate about music, and it means a lot that I can contribute to the industry with a fursuit. I think mascots should be more prevalent in entertainment, primarily in live music endeavors.” (She’s doing it as Bruiser):

Has she seen crossover between furries, the band, and  their fans (the Skeleton Clique)?

“What means the most is how Ned has impacted both Clikkies and furries, as the support and love have been tremendous and built Ned as a character more than I ever could have anticipated.

I have not invited Twenty One Pilots to a con or asked them about furries; these would be great questions for an interview with them. The Clique is definitely more curious about this than the furry fandom, from what I have seen.”

How does she feel about this as part of her background coming out of furry fandom?

“I wanted to add that it was those formative years when I first started that gave me so much confidence! People were supportive on Fursuit LiveJournal, FurAffinity, and Facebook, and I started getting commission requests early on. I waited until 2019 to sell my first premade, and then opened for commissions in 2020. My clients are so devoted and have done more than they know with their support. I tend to have imposter syndrome about these things and they made it real. It was definitely not easy running a business but I do not regret those years. I had a lot of fun with furry and still have close furry friends to this day.

I do not regret giving Ned to Twenty One Pilots, either. I will miss him very much, but knowing that he will be safe gives me great peace of mind. I had a great 4 years bringing this character to life.

Entertainment is NOTHING without the audience. NOTHING without the people. This is why I value face-to-face performance so much. In every photo taken at the #NedLives meet and greets, I am smiling for real behind that mask. People helped write Ned’s story and make him special. People from both furry and the Clique. I am sad to see Ned’s story end, but am at peace with it because he is home.”

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