This one was inspired by, or stolen from the Ultraman Tiga: Final Odyssey movie of 2000. As usual, I try to avoid watching the classy stuff that reviewers love, and my present interest in Ultraman stuff makes that pretty darn easy.
In the movie, Camearra is a powerful giant warrior of Darkness (the bad guys) from long, long ago. Back then, there were bunches of good and bad ultra dudes (sporting the complete line of peculiar ultra headwear), locked in the eternal struggle of Light against Dark, Kung-Fu style. She and two of her miscreant subordinates (Darramb and Hudra) are awakened in the present day by foolish humans, and are bent on unleashing all sorts of havoc on the world, and doing mean things to Ultraman Tiga... There's a lot more to it of course, and it's a fun movie if you like this sort of thing.
I'm a sucker for villainesses, especially ones with that expression, and Camearra's skin-tight outfit with the authoritative lift-and-separate harness is kind of an eye-magnet. The outfit itself is actually kind of plain: It's a painted rubber suit with very few extra decorations, other than the boob organizer and color timer. It's a classically Ultraman-ish look.
I was very interested in the design of the mask. I think it's a brilliant design, since it conveys the essential features of the character-- the evil quality, and the fact that she's a she, while retaining the "Ultra-look". The evil part isn't that hard to caricature-- it's mainly the arch of the eyes and brow. The female part is a bit trickier, since this is a hairless creature with bug-like eyes and no nose. With humans, there's a lot of overlap between the facial features of the sexes, especially if you remove hair as a cue... so it's tricky stuff. Some of the "canon" Ultra-fems do it by simulating hair, Ultra metal-style. Those that don't can look pretty gawdawful funky: With those, the primary gender cue is the boobs. At any rate, I think they did a great job with Camearra-- The thinness of the face, the horn headress and the cheek pieces all come together as a great, unmistakeably female Ultra design.
I'm not quite as talented, and as you can see, my rendition is similar but not as kewl. I didn't start out intending to create a replica of the Camearra character, or even to copy it so closely. Creating a replica would be hard to do properly because she's wearing an actual rubber suit without seams. Also, Camearra's story has already been told-- It would be more interesting to create one who wasn't doomed to be clobbered by Ultraman Tiga. I started with a pre-fab bodysuit, just trying to make something which looked Ultraman-esque. Once I got to the head, I tried various ideas-- none of which look right --and ended up stealing more and more features from Camearra.
This is a pretty straightforward kitbash of BBI's Cy Girl Aurora. There are several variations on this BBI/Takara bodysuit, used in their later dolls (I forget their names). The bodysuit is made of two different materials in panels, with a distinctive seam running down the center front and back of each pantleg. The Aurora suit is made of white and silver panels, and is also distinctive in that the boots/feet are part of the suit. That seemed appropriate for this kind of costuming.
The main problem with the suit, besides the white panels, was the distinctive pattern of seams. One of the prime directives of kitbashing is to make an effort to obscure the origins of "kit" parts. That's awfully hard to do with a distinctive suit like this, but I tried by using some of the seams to guide the pattern of stripes, and embellishing the pattern where there weren't seams. I didn't do all of the seams like that because the idea is to mix it up.
The bodysuit was painted, and unfortunately, this isn't an ideal solution. The material does take the paint well, but the problem is that the material has quite a bit of stretch and elasticity, and the suit is tight-fitted. Paint voids will appear if the suit is stretched a lot. The main problem areas I noticed were at the elbows, and also around the back (from partially removing the suit). It appears that the material (and some other plastic leathers) doesn't handle excessive overstretching very well either-- from removing the suit, the areas that were stretched the most show the fabric backing's pattern through to the display side. It also happens in certain areas when you twist the torso from side to side, or move the legs to an acute angle. On the whole though, the paint isn't a huge problem for me -- it's not an ideal finish from a toy perspective (but is probably real-world accurate for some older suits, which were routinely touched up), but it doesn't rub off excessively from routine handling, and I don't "play" with these things. Assuming that I did: I used the stock Aurora body and found that the tight bodysuit/stock armature combination wasn't terribly poseable. In essence, it's a rubber-skinned doll, and it's the nature of such things to be lousy posers.
Speaking of problems... I make some "fixes" that I didn't even think about until they were pointed out: What the heck are those bands at the arms and neck??? The doll's elbow hinges have a ball-like protrusion at the front, which you don't normally notice, but under a skin-tight suit they look pretty funky and are a prime place for wrinkling and paint wear to show. I couldn't stand looking at them, so I covered them with flexible fabric and forgot all about them. The neck opening of the suit was another type of problem. The suit was not very well fitted at the backside, which had to be bulky to accommodate the clasp. Another problem was that the collar, folded over as tailored, was kind of thick. When cut and unfolded, it was too stiff to track the head articulation, and showed gaps when the head was moved. The flexible material tracks this much better and helps make the transition at the backside between the suit and the head. I also gave the back of the head a slight helmet-like flare to moderate the transition.
Most Tokusatsu fans will immediately recognize the Ultraseven mantle & shoulder pieces. What can I say? I happened to have extra reject castings, thought they looked kewl there, and the backstory (if there were one) could provide a shocking fan-wanker explanation: they're from the last Ultraseven-type creature she ate. They also hide the funky wrinkling and bunching up that happens at the shoulders, and besides-- I'm bored with making rigid armour pauldrons. For what it's worth, it looks much better in solid silver than it does with the rectangles painted black, gold, or purple. Trust me.
Aside from the difficulty of coming up with a good-looking original design, the most difficult part of making the head was making the bug eye lenses. It's difficult to trim the little fuckers to the same shape and size without them popping out of your fingers and flying off somewhere. Once cut and tinted, I wondered how I might get them to fit and stay in place. Your odds of perfectly trimming them to the contour of the face are practically nil, and even if you do, there's the problem of getting them to stay in place without marring them with glue. There are lots of different ways to tackle this, ranging from obvious (glue 'em) to elegant (sculpt, vacuform entire mask in clear plastic). I chose something closer to the obvious method, which was to seat them in the wet putty. There are several disadvantages: You have to place them correctly the first time; It's done early in the process, so the finished, tinted bug eyes have to survive the sculpting, finishing and painting that goes on around them, without getting marred.
I wanted to light the eyes with a diode and a pair of lithium batteries, but the priority ended up being to come up with the face/head design. Before I knew it, I'd sealed up the head. This would have been a tricky operation: One of the dicey tasks would be to grind the plastic right behind the eyes so that it was thin enough to diffuse the LED glow. Also, I'd need to mask off the interior area corresponding to everything which wasn't the bug eyes to prevent light leakage. The head's interior is pretty small and cramped to be doing that kind of thing.
The head has a few features which distinguish it from Camearra-- For one thing, it's fatter, thanks to the Aurora base figure. I also gave her a small nose to help the appearance at the side profile. I was determined to use the winglets that I didn't use in my last project, B'harbi. Here they seem to work a little better. They give the head a little bit of empty volume, like a stylized version of hair. Well, maybe bat wings are really pushing at the boundaries of acceptable Ultramanishness, but folded down, from the front, they kinda fit the genre.
Even though this is yet another snarly female villainess, it was fun to dabble in a different genre, and I'm pleased with the way it turned out. It was a pretty simple project, since most of the costuming's look is the body suit... which I didn't have to make. In this genre, the Ultra heroes and evil variations are probably the easiest to make, followed by some of the more exotic alien designs, but the real challenge is in making the bulky, sculpted monster suits. That's not that they can't be kitbashed-- many of the original Ultraman monster suits were kitbashed from other monster suits --but most folks don't have spare 1:6 scale monster suits lying around, waiting to be dissected. The alternative is a lot of hard work.