JIRASS FROM ULTRAMAN
BILLIKEN GODZILLA 1965 CONVERSION

 

Billiken Godzilla 1965 Ultraman vinyl kit built and painted

 

Jirass
08/10/15- I first became aware of Billiken's 1965 Godzilla garage kit when I considered converting Medicom's 1954 RAH Godzilla to Jirass. The 1954 Godzilla conversion was a no-go because that version of Godzilla looked very different from the Godzilla suit used in the Ultraman Jirass episode. I've read that Jirass was a 1964 Godzilla suit with a 1965 replacement head.

I came across two candidates for doing a Jirass conversion: X-Plus' "Destroy All Monsters" 1968 Godzilla, and this one. I'd read complaints that the DAM Godzilla was shorter than others in their 30-cm line. I thought the Billiken version was 30-cm, but later info gave me some doubts. I preferred the pose of the Billiken version, it was a garage kit, and one happened to be available on eBay, so I took the plunge.

It turns out that the Billiken version was a shortie as well, measuring 26-cm plus a hair. ("30-cm" is a category, much the same as "12-inch" figure.) After constructing and painting the garage kit as 1965 Godzilla and comparing him to the 1954 Godzilla, I decided that I didn't need two Godzillas, and would do the conversion. Hopefully, adding the frill collar would make him appear to be a bit more massive, which might make him fit in better with the collection.

The garage kit build was typical and uneventful. Installing the roof of the mouth and moveable jaw took a bit of trial and error trimming and test-fitting. The hardest part was puttying the seams and trying to match the texture/pattern, and finding out after spraying primer whether anything needed to be fixed (I let a some borderline stuff slide). My "Doh!" realization was in not considering that there was a textural difference between the putty and the vinyl, which reveals itself after painting. I think this is something that gets fixed if you lay thicker coats of sealant or primer, but again, this was something that I could live with.

I used Rust-oleum auto primer, mainly because it was a dark charcoal gray. It dried fairly quickly, but with a faintly tacky feel. Hopefully, that wasn't a mistake that I'll later regret! After airbrushing a basecoat of Vallejo German Gray and Grey Green, the tackiness seemed to disappear.

Initially, I did the mouth flesh as lighter red-white-tan mix, which seemed a good match to the reference photos. I later thought it looked too bright and reddish-pink, so I applied a wash of a darker maroon. Teeth, toes, and claws were given the usual brown/yellow plaque treatment. After first doing it with acrylics, I remembered that I had oils, which are much easier to blend smoothly. I used a combo of the two and finished with a thinned mix of gloss.

It was gratifying to learn that I could still paint things like eyeballs (granted, these are some huge eyeballs, scale-wise), even though my 3-D vision is shot. The most frustrating part is not knowing exactly when the brush tip is going to make contact, so you have to go slow and steady with paint thinned just right. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Aging sucks.

Jirass cowl under construction

Fabricating the fringe/collar/cowl thing was straight-forward/easy. I eyeballed the approximate size from show photos and various toys that have been made through the years, with greatest credence given to the X-Plus version of Jirass.

I wanted the cowl to be flexible to give me some post-fabrication posing options, and to be fairly light-- which ruled out a putty-sculpted solution. The most obvious solution seemed to be gluing wires radially onto leather, then building up the sculpted surface with caulk. While caulk isn't sandable, it's slightly sculptable while it's wet. Since the show's cowl appears to be a crudely-sculpted piece-- lumpy ribs and radial lines on the membrane-- the caulk should be good enough. (Given the way the show's cowl flaps around, I wasn't too concerned about it looking funky! This is also one of the rare cases when gravity/physics actually favors the smaller model.)

Judging from photos of the suit showing random short and thin stick-like extensions along the edge of membrane, it appears that the suit's cowl was fabricated with stiffeners (bamboo?) embedded in the membrane. The X-Plus Jirass replicates this detail, but I'm going to pretend I didn't see 'em.

The biggest question was the placement of the cowl. The Godzilla model (which I assumed to be fairly accurate) has a proto-dorsal fin right where the cowl looks like it should be placed. On the show's suit, I think they cut the fin off... or maybe the '64 suit didn't have a fin there? I cut a slot through the fins instead of removing them, since that was easier and provided a little bit of support for the installation.

The other thing that makes Jirass, Jirass, is the yellow paint. On the screen suit, there's lots of it, and it's a bright yellow. The backside fins look okay, as do the cowl's ribs. However, the frontside looks like it was painted by a junior grafitti artist gone amok with a can of Krylon... IMO. Despite wanting it to look like Jirass, I couldn't bring myself to do it. I used a toned-down mix of yellow to nudge it away from the "X-Men" look, and went more conservative with the front suit coloration pattern.

This was an easy conversion, and with a two-steps-back perspective, I can't honestly say that it's an improvement. The Godzilla design is iconic, and gluing a cowl on him doesn't improve the design any more than gluing on a pair of fearsome horns would. Not my call though, and it is what you have to do to make Godzilla look like Jirass from the world of Ultraman.

 

Jirass made from Billiken Godzilla 1965 with Medicom Ultraman

 

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