WHERE'S EVE?

Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM

 

 

The wait had been interminable. Near the beginning, there was Adam. Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, he was not the first. In the beginning there was Hans. Then there was Klaus. However, Hans did not beget Klaus because there were no women to lay upon. But there were hints of women to be, and The Mighty Dragon had planted the first seed of Eve in the March of 1999. She was to be Adam's counterpart.

The days of waiting turned into weeks which turned into months, as scores of Teutonic-named male figures were birthed from the loins of The Mighty Dragon's steely molds. But still no Eve. Adam was repeatedly decomissioned and reincarnated as V1.1, then V1.2... Still no Eve.

The long silence was finally broken by the corporate hint of Eve's wonderous and mysterious "removeable upper torso concepts". We of great faith recognized this as a sign that Adam's long watch as solitary master of his domain was nearing its end, and that all would be well worth the wait and sacrifice. This would be a splendid Christmas present indeed! And thus was born the concept of my own Eva, a sister fashioned in the spirit of Eve who would share in the joy of removeable upper torso concepts.

Discord, disappointment and debauchery. The century's odometer rolled over, and still no Eve. Depression, spawned by the bitter and brutal near-cold Texas winter pervaded this website. Eva was reborn as Evabeth, and Eve was transformed to Winona, sporting more than a few scanty fig leaves. Evabeth consorted with Dirty Dave and both the Jamisons before finally kneeling at the service of Medicom's Bond.

Winona finally came, but much to Adam's dismay, she was not for him. Instead, she was designed to interface with someone named Bill... Bill Smith.

 

 

 

Evabeth discovers that her long-anticipated namesake has NOT been eating Bon-Bons infused with Bovine Growth Hormone.

 

(Note: After closer inspection of the figure and some rethinking, I've added revisions and additions in blue, along with the revision date. Some of this may contradict earlier text. Understand that I'm trying to figure this stuff out too, without the benefit of being involved in the industry. My apologies...)

I think that's called the "exposition". I've been waiting for this figure for a loooong time. Heck, I even created a parody page & figure around The Event months in advance, so you've gotta figure that this was a Big Deal for me. However, seeing advance pictures of Winona, reading various reviews and seeing Dragon's figure disassembly page probably took most of the hard edge of shock away from seeing her nekkid for the first time in person. There's not much that I can say that isn't readily apparent, and hasn't been said before. But that's never stopped me before.

Some of it could have been anticipated in advance. For example, it was reasonable to assume that Dragon wouldn't make a voluptuous sex kitten-- that's just not their style. After all, sex isn't as wholesome as guns & war, ha ha. I guess we'll have to wait and see how far 21st Century Toys is willing to bend their corporate image, but I'm placing my bets on Takara's Cool Girls to blaze the path for others to follow.

It's purely serendipitous that I recently reviewed Volk's Excellent Base Model. As a few people have suggested, there are many similarities in the look and feel of these two figures. It's clear to me that Dragon's designers studied the Volks figure and emulated its look, but they also added their own engineering touches to it.

Disassemble Me: The most obvious of these is the fact that the figure can be disassembled into a bunch of parts without any tools, as seen on Dragon's page. Why they've done this is unknown at present. There's certainly some potential for parts replacement, although I don't know why you'd want to replace a figure's forearms and hands by themselves (the "Popeye" Winona?). The replaceable "upper torso concept" appears to have become a replaceable "upper figure concept", since the head and upper arms go with the assembly. The only part which is truly independent is the lower torso, so maybe they're planning a pregnant belly Winona accessory pack? (I really don't think so.) I guess they could create shins of different lengths to vary the figure's height. As others have pointed out, the parts swappable modular figure isn't very practical when it comes to outfit-swapping--finding clothes that fit is a real world inconvenience that might not translate into fun at 1:6 scale, no matter how realistic the concept is. It is true that removeable limbs make it easier to get tight-fitting clothes on, so it's a good thing. But it looks to me more like something which was designed to ease assembly at the factory, instead of something done for the benefit of the end-user.

I'm Made Of Plastic: As Dragon states in their website (to assuage our fears of breakage), they're using PVC (vinyl) in many of the parts. This is the flexible plastic used in many toys today, and it's true-- it's tough. It bends rather than break. It tears before it breaks. They've used it in all of the thin parts (the hinges) and in the lower legs and arms. The feet, upper legs, hips and torso sections are made of the hard styrene (ABS?) plastic. Fortunately, this is a light figure-- legs which gradually bend under weight are not a good thing if you want your figures to stand up for the long term.

06/10/00- I'm not a plastics engineer, so I can only guess about the names and properties of the plastics used in figures. Frankly, they all look the same when they're the same color and polished to the same reflectivity. Surface hardness and flexibility give some clues for distinguishing the plastics by their gross qualities. But it seems to me that there might more than two types of plastic in this figure. The torso, thighs and hips are clearly made of a rigid type of plastic, which I think is called polystyrene, similar to model plastic. The flexible arms and shin are clearly different, and I've assumed that this material was called PVC, or vinyl. I suspect that nylon (or something like that), a fairly rigid plastic with good wear-resistant qualities might be used in the hinges. You can probably get more clues by doing burn and melt tests, but I'm not quite ready to do that!

My Arms: As you can see from the pictures, she has regular hinges at elbows. These are functionally identical to Hasbro's Jane, since the bicep rotation is function of the hinge stem. Like Jane and due to the PVC against PVC friction, the rotational articulation is jerky and you do feel like you might break the part from bending it. Despite what Dragon says, you probably can warp the hinge apart. Or maybe weaken it so that it eventually tears. It just doesn't feel right, and a hinge being twisted open doesn't look right, especially when stressed plastic starts to show an opaque white bruise. A wise man trusts his instincts and his senses over comforting reassurances.

06/10/00- On closer inspection, the cause of this hinge bending is clear. The actual hinge is made of a more rigid plastic than the arms, hands etc. That hinge is riveted together (technically, with metal eyelets) and doesn't actually bend. The hinge is attached to the much softer & flexible forearm. The part which bends is the forearm, where the flexible plastic covers the rivet. Therefore, despite the fact that it looks like you're tearing the hinge apart, Dragon is right-- the hinge is quite durable. However, the rigid hinge can still be damaged if you force it if the stem is tightly bound to upper arm! Sometimes parts stick when compressed within the flexible plastic.

Due to the inward-facing cutaway at the elbow, the range of the hinge deflection is greater in that position. Volks does this with their figure too, although I don't really know why greater deflection is particularly more desireable in that position. At the shoulders, the arms are set far out on the ball (like the Volks figure), so the figure can deeply angle her arms in front of her body without the need for an exaggerated cutout in the torso.

My Legs: The legs use the ganged double hinge at the knee. These are a good choice here because the inner side of this type of hinge usually looks like hell, and if it's facing backwards, it's not as big a deal. With the elbows, the hinge stuff faces forward, so that may be why they used a regular hinge there. Again, this is the same way that the Volks figure is laid out, and the aesthetics consideration is purely my speculation as to why it's done this way.

06/10/00- The hinge construction is interesting: The kneecap bridge piece is molded in rigid plastic, and the bottom end of it is riveted together (similar to the elbow hinge) with what appears to be a flexible plastic. That piece is inserted into the shin section so that the eyelet doesn't show. This results in a hinge which is strongly tensioned, rigid, and doesn't bend from side to side. Curiously, they molded the bottom part with click stops, which leads me to believe that PVC is possibly too slippery to hold a position reliably, even under rivet tension. (??? I'm guessing here.)

The top half appears to be a single piece molded in more rigid type of plastic, possibly nylon. It's purely a hard-plastic compression tensioned hinge. There's an opening at the back of the top end of the kneecap piece for inserting the top piece, similar to a C-ring; once it's forced into position it locks in and stays in place.

I can only guess why they constructed the hinge this way. I believe that it's due to the order of materials: The shin is flexible plastic, so the eyelet was necessary to secure it to the hard plastic kneecap. The thigh was hard plastic, so the upper hinge interlocking piece needed to be a stiffer plastic. Designing figures involves more than sculpting surface features and figuring out the mechanics of articulation-- choice of materials determines how the articulation actually works and feels.

The leg-hip connection is truly weird. A dumbbell-shaped PVC rod connects through the hips and the ends are encased within the hard plastic thighs. The weird part is what I guess (without the benefit of disassembly) to be its construction: The ends of the dumbbells are probably notched longitudinally and encased in a hard plastic ring with similar notches facing inward, which is surrounded by a retaining housing. Now that's tough to visualize! I deduced this design because you hear a high frequency clicking (of some very small notches) when you move the legs forwards and backwards (the ring ratcheting against the ball), but you don't hear that when you spread the legs apart (the ring rotating within the housing). The other weird thing about this assembly is that it feels as if the legs are connected to each other, and that the hips and rest of the figure are floating on the flexible rod. The legs move independently without interaction, but there's a small bit of play between the legs and the hips. It's a bizarre assembly that I've never encountered before. No doubt it's designed to keep the legs from becoming floppy, but I feel that it's overly complex, and doesn't seem to work very well. You have to overbend the legs to get them to jump into the next click stop position, and if it's not what you need to balance the figure, you do it again. It's funky and it's time consuming. In comparison, Workout Barbie's leg tensioning design is beautiful in its simplicity, works more smoothly and has less visible articulation seams.

My Hands and Feet: To Dragon's credit, both the feet and hands are attached via the rotating stem of a hinge, an idea first seen in Hasbro's original GI Joe. It was a good idea in 1964, and it's a good idea today. This eliminates the extra rotational seam of Dragon's male figures (and emulated by 21C's Super Soldier and Mattel's Max Steel) which is ugly, prone to loosening and unnecessary. The ankle hinge is a PVC pin (I now think it's actually a nylon pin since it's quite rigid.) mated to a hard plastic foot, but is reasonably tight-- a credit to their superior manufacturing tolerances. The hands are remarkably well sculpted, and may be the best parts on the entire figure. The feet are passable-- the toes are nice, but like most figures the feet are devoid of any of the subtle curves that real feet have.

My Torso: The hips and torso sections are connected via a ball and socket arrangement. As seen in the pictures, internal compressible balls projecting from stems nestle within the lower torso section and provide the tensioning between the sections. There's no elastic or spring mechanism per se: Vinyl shims are sandwiched between the sections, presumably to increase the friction and increase the tension. This is another bizarre and unique design, but seems to work and is relatively simple in concept. It also does a good job of minimizing the articulation seam between the sections. However, one has to wonder whether the internal balls' compression, made possible by the slit through the center, will hold up over time. If it doesn't, the torso sections won't stay together.

My Head: The neck/head connection is unusual in the Joe arena, but common elsewhere-- it's the design seen in Barbies, Max Steel and the Volks figure. The neck is a solid unarticulated stem, and the retaining hardware on its end mates with the vinyl head to provide a limited form of ball & socket type of articulation. The advantage is that the visible seam is smaller, but the posing options are more limited and you sacrifice all neck posability, which contributes a lot to the body language of a figure. Another disadvantage is that the opportunities for headswapping are limited. Without testing this, I'm assuming that the head is attached via an expanding spear-like barb which is designed for assembly (not disassembly). Removing Barbie's head often results in breaking one or both of the retaining flanges.

My Body is Fit and Trim: Frankly, by my standards this figure is downright anorexic with its too-long limbs and thin waist, and it ain't my idea of womanhood. In fact, it's not very representative of most women who walk the Earth. With her clothes on, she looks pretty normal for a small-framed gal. But where's the fun in that?

My Body May Be a Moneymaker: This body image appears to be a stylistic convention of the fashion doll world. Since the appearance and proportioning is so similar to Volks' figure, it leads one to consider that this figure might be intended as a cross-market product. If I ran a company and produced a figure like this, I'd consider appealing to that market. After all, business is business, and that market is probably a shade more lucrative than the Joe market. Of course, this is pure speculation and I'm not privy to any of Dragon's plans. Still, Dragon does produce some stuff which clearly is not intended to appeal to the WWII & Joe crowd.

My Lips are Red: The headsculpt is pretty good, and I think the perceived similarity to Winona Ryder is probably due to the name and hairstyle. I'm not a big fan of that particular hairstyle, but so what? Change her hairstyle to a blond wig and I think she looks like the other gal Dragon's been promoting at their website. Thankfully Dragon didn't do a hideous paint job on her (which they've developed a fondness for doing lately), so she doesn't make you wince as she stares at you from the box. This sort of thing doesn't deserve a passing thought if you know how to wield a paintbrush.

Customize Me: Winona's customizing potential really depends on what you want to do with her and what you're satisfied with. Slapping boobs on her (or even on Patton's dog) is easy. The "look" I prefer and my articulation preferences are already pretty well established, and adapting her body would require a lot of radical work. They haven't done anything to improve the look of the gaping leg-hip seam, and the neck would have to be completely rebuilt. For me, she doesn't appear to offer significant customizing advantages over Hasbro's Jane, or transexualizing a male figure. That's disappointing.

I see her lower torso and its tensioning design as something to be approached cautiously. If you bung up the way the parts interlock, then you've probably got a figure with no tensioning mechanism, or a poorly-functioning one. Modifications made to increase her waist girth or hips socket might affect the distance that the ball interlock fits inside the lower torso, resulting in either an extremely loose joint, or a joint which won't snap together. Simply building up the exposed outside surfaces to make the torso beefier would take care of the cosmetics, but would probably prevent the socket from working properly. Basically, Dragon has produced a figure to fairly tight tolerances and ham-fisted homebrew efforts are likely to cause more harm than good. Of course you could always gut their clever designs and replace it with Don Levine's time-proven and field-tested design. (Just like the good old AK-- takes a lickin' and keeps on kickin'!)

Do You Like Me? Whether you like the figure or not, credit is due to Dragon for the fact that the construction of the figure has some innovative and unique features, despite surface similarities to Volks' figure. The screwless assembly probably simplifies the factory construction and keeps production costs down. I'm not a big fan of PVC, but their use of it in this figure is largely understandable as a matter of necessity. Most of the solid PVC parts are relatively lightweight, but we'll have to see how they perform over the long haul.

It's great to have another female figure in the 1:6th world, but in all honesty, I don't consider her to be a replacement for Hasbro's Jane. That's a weird position for me, since I've had a fairly low opinion of Hasbro's figure for such a long time. Oddly, Jane has grown on me lately, but only with the acceptance of the fact that she needs a lot of work! Dragon's Winona doesn't seem to offer me anything better to work with. Out of the box, her fashion doll shaping means that she doesn't fit in with the Joe world as readily as Jane. While Winona's more articulated, posing her articulation is frustrating. She may stand more reliably than Jane because of her light weight, but getting her into that position isn't as easy as it should be. Apparently, smooth articulation is being sacrificed for cheaper and more production friendly materials like PVC which can't be tensioned through traditional means, and the difference is being made up for in tricks like click stops. Bummer.

While I do believe that the thin PVC hinges are marginal, I don't see this issue of durability as a big deal. If you break a figure, it's probably because you've done something stupid (outside of product defects of course), and hopefully we learn from doing stupid things. It's Darwin's will-- Winona is durable enough for most users.

06/10/00- Let me re-phrase that: I no longer believe that the elbow hinges are marginal; it just looks and feels that way. Yes, the parts are thin and small, but they stand up to a reasonable amount of force. If the hinge stem binds in the flexible plastic upper arm, you can weaken the stem where it's thinnest by repeatedly twisting it. So I slightly upgrade my assessment to "acceptable" (but don't retract my admonition about doing stupid things. That's just good advice, LOL!).

 

This shows the similarity of Winona to the Volks figure. The layout and functionality of the articulation is identical, and the shaping of the thighs and their creases is almost identical. The didn't borrow the detailing of the area between the thighs though.

Shall I count the ways in which I cringe at thee? (1) It's pretty obvious, but the shoulders are weirdly wide; (2) All the other weird & obvious stuff, too numerous to mention. (Thanks, Scott!)

A benefit of the removeable lower torso: you can give her either a high-set or low-set bellybutton! Now that's some spicy customizing!

Left: The vinyl shim insert. This is a heavy but flexible sheet of vinyl which "seals" between the two sections and increases the friction for posing.

Right: A white bruise on plastic usually isn't a good sign. If you take a model sprue and bend it, the bend turns white. The next time you bend it, it starts to tear. I don't know the significance of this marking here, except it's right where the locking flange of the leg happens to bend when it's inserted into the thigh.

Left: The strange mechanism which connects the legs to the hips. The visible ridges aren't the ones that make the clicking sound-- those are probably on the inside of the piece, where the rod is connected.

Right: A comparison of the diameter of Hasbro Jane's elbow hinge (sans arm) with Winona's. Hasbro doesn't tout Jane's arm as removeable, and when you think about it, it's really not a terribly useful feature. However, it does make it easier to dress figures in tight-fitting outfits if you can remove limbs, just like in real life.

06/10/00- Far left, top: The spear-shaped head connector. You don't have to worry about breaking barbs on this one, but I suggest heating the head first, just to avoid stressing the thin part when you tug. There's a ball inside the neck, but a pin runs through it from front to back, so it only swivels from side to side.

Right: The knee assembly with the flexible plastic part peeled back to reveal the eyelet.

Note that you can remove both the feet and the hands, but you'll have to heat the flexible plastic limb before tugging. I didn't mention this upstairs, but the hand assembly is four parts: The flexible hand casting, the two rigid hinge half castings and the pin (which might be part of a hinge half).