BERU/BELL SEIJIN FROM ULTRASEVEN

PART 1

 

12/11/17- Beru (a.k.a. "Bell") Seijin is one of the first custom figures that I ever made, so it has a special place in my heart. Back in the late '60s, I had two GI Joes that I covered with plasticine clay and papier mâché... which turned them into inaction figures, or statues. i wish I had pictures... I don't have detailed memories, but I'd like to believe that I can do a better job now, nearly 50 years later.

I've been wanting to make an Ultraseries critter for quite a while. I'd originally intended to make Icarus Seijin, but found that Marmit had made a 30cm vinyl, so I bought it instead. I've looked, and I'm pretty sure that a realistic-style Beru Seijin isn't available in the 12"/30cm/1:6 size from any of the "usual-suspects" manufacturers (yet).

I'd actually prefer to buy. Even though I enjoy making stuff, I don't have enough reference photos to do a screen-faithful version, so I expect that my attempt will be off, and not as good as one sculpted by a professional. I wish I had X-Plus' version to use as a 3D reference, but they don't come up for sale very often and are quite expensive on the secondary market.

That said, I much prefer costume-covered articulated dolls over statues and minimally-articulated vinyl figures. While all of them ultimately spend the majority of their lives on a shelf in a frozen pose, I like being able to determine that pose. If Medicom were still making rubber-suited Ultraseries creatures, I'd buy Beru Seijin without hesitation.

It was relatively easy to switch focus from Icarus to Beru because they share similarities: Both are bipedal aliens with full rubber suits that give them a padded look. The suits have crevices on the skin that look like cracked skin. That was the reason I kept procrastinating: I didn't have any good ideas for how I was going to do that.

Of course, there's the professional way: Sculpt a full figure, mold it, and cast the skin in a flexible material. That's a lot of work and investment for something intended to be a OOAK (One-Of-A-Kind) hobby creation. I had some ideas, but not a fully thought-out plan. I expected to make it up as I went along.

THE BODY

I started with a Hot Toys TrueType figure (I would have used a Phicen figure for its superior articulation if I'd had one when I started) and glued a bunch of memory foam (crudely cut from a pillow) to the figure to bulk it up. Memory foam is very soft and compressible, which I thought would help preserve the figure's articulation range. I considered building a suit out of thin leather over the memory foam, covering it with flexible caulk and painting it. I didn't have any good ideas for how I was going to do the cracked skin. I didn't want to paint the cracks on, because that wouldn't look dimensional. Maybe burn them into the leather? How would I hide the suit's seams? Maybe I could paint the caulk on thick so I could hide the seams and sculpt the crevices? None of these seemed like a good solution. The project stalled, waiting for a better solution.

A few weeks back, I'd removed Medicom's King Joe inner figure, which had been wearing a full black Lycra body suit (since the figure came out in pieces, it was more like a body bag). Aha! After snipping off the suit's "hands" I pulled it over the memory foam padded figure-- not easy to do because the expanded foam prevented all attempts to slide it on, so it had to be "worked" on by constantly pulling and stretching the Lycra. That made it a one-way trip, never to come off again! When I eventually finished and velcro'd up the back, it looked good, with smooth curves, hidden articulation seams and a good amount of pudge (though in retrospect, not quite enough). However, the suit compressed the foam tightly which made it stiffer. Lycra is a pretty slippery material, but nothing slides easily over memory foam. Therefore, the combination of these factors made the articulation lose a significant range of movement.

Not ideal, but at least it was a way forward, and gave me an idea: Thin leather could be cut up into little patterns and glued like a puzzle to the black lycra suit, simulating the fissures in the skin. Not a quick job because there were lots of these pieces, but I can be patient when I need to be. I didn't try to recreate the fissure patterns of the actual suit. (I'm not that patient!)

The only part that I hadn't padded were the arms, which looked to be about the right girth. I thought that this might give better articulation... but I was wrong! I hadn't noticed or even considered it, but the cement I'd used to glue the leather bits to the suit seeped through the Lycra and glued to the figure. @#$!!! This completely defeated the concept of the suit riding over the figure and stretching. While the same thing had happened over the memory foam, at least the memory foam was flexible and soft enough to tear away from the figure so that the outer suit wasn't glued directly to the figure. I'm glad that I'd only done one arm before I noticed this. The solution was to wrap the arms in wax paper sleeves under the suit; breaking the glue bond of the arm I'd done was a bitch, but it had to be done.

There's a black section at his shoulders that I hadn't thought about. More leather puzzle pieces, except this time, I used a thicker black leather. Since the scale pattern wasn't screen-accurate, I didn't agonize over this section either.

I was curious to experiment with the skin texture and coloration; The while leather scales were too white and too smooth. I only had a guesstimate of the actual color, but I knew it wasn't pure white. I brush-painted each scale with a mix of caulk and paints (Dapple Gray and White), trying to build up the texture. Unfortunately, the caulk was quite old and didn't mix as smoothly as I would have liked, and caused some unintended "pimples" in the texture. That didn't bother me when I was applying it, but I should have just bought a new tube of caulk (my backup tube had a split in its side.). When it was dry, I randomly brushed some dark pastels to vary the shading.

The only thing missing were the weird tubes wrapped around the side, 5 on each side. I made tubes of rolled leather (so they'd be flexible) and glued them to the suit.

To be honest, I didn't want to put them on. Although the backside structure looks like it will be fun to make, I'm not on board with the design. It looks like the concept might have been to have a creature like the spiderish Kumonga hitching a ride on Beru Seijin's back, but they changed their minds and decided to make it similar, but different from the Kumonga puppet. The tubes aren't detailed like legs, although they radiate from the back structure like legs (Kumonga has 6 segmented legs, like an insect with vertibrate's eyes). Oh well... I guess that's why they call 'em "aliens", and why the shows are called "fantasy".

Beru/Bell Seijin, 30cm/12

Beru/Bell Seijin, 30cm/12

 

NEXT: THE HEAD

 

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