CHOOSING THE "PERFECT" FIGURE|
When selecting a base figure for a project, the main things I look
at are elbow and knee hinges, bicep rotation, hands, ankle articulation,
body proportioning, and the type of plastic. The depth of my inventory
is also a consideration because I hate using the last of anything...
Actually though, I use whatever's available at the time. Sometimes
it's more work, sometimes, less.
Hasbro's GI Jane: Basically, there are no good joints on it
and it's got a lot of that horrible PVC rubber. This doll is a shelf-diving
queen, and it usually happens when you least expect it. The reasons
for choosing this would be that you're desperate, a glutton for punishment,
don't intend for the doll to be posed standing, or don't know any
better? Still, it was the first alternative to Barbie, so it has a
sentimental spot in my heart. The first one's face sculpt was pretty
Source Tribute's Selena:
This is like Hasbro's GI Jane in a lot of ways-- they use a lot
of that horrible rubbery plastic, the joints don't work very well,
and because of this, she can barely stand. On the plus side, it's
constructed like a vintage GI Joe (elastic tensioned, but poorly
executed) with reasonable body proportions, so this saves some time
in the reconstruction work.
Mattel's Workout Barbie: A surprisingly well-designed doll,
made of rigid plastic. The elastic-tensioned articulation (a huge
rubber band thing) at the hips permits more range than most other
elastic tensioned designs, and the elbow/knee hinges operate smoothly
(but can't support a lot of weight). The main downside is the bizarre
proportioning, which takes a lot of work to fix, and it's part of
what makes the hips articulation work so well. Unfortunately, it's
also the only one on my list that doesn't have wrist or ankle articulation.
I can't recall that I've ever used this for anything but parts.
Vintage-style GI Joe
She-Dude: The hinges have great operational characteristics
(smooth, don't bind, and can be tightened to support some serious
weight), and I believe they look the least obtrusive. Obviously,
for a female doll, the male proportioning is waaaaay off, so there's
a lot of body work involved. I'm not really fond of that since the
blow-molded plastic has to be heat-sculpted, which is horribly stinky.
I prefer the genuine Hasbro (mainly Masterpiece Edition or Timeless
Collection), but these are a dwindling resource for me. Cotswold
figures can be used (funkier body plastic) although I generally
harvest Cots figures for replacement hinges.
This isn't a bad figure. It's roughly comparable to Takara's Cool
Girl, except it has odd proportioning and uglier dual axes hands...
and horrible ratcheting shoulder articulation (irrelevant to me
because I gut that part anyway).
Takara Cool Girl 2.0:
Basically, these are just well-made. They have high quality hinges
and good proportioning. The elbow hinges, like most ganged hinges,
tend to look funky from a frontal view and can look weird from the
side if they're not posed right. The hands are the best that I've
run across, with dual axes articulation in a relatively unobtrusive
design; it usually doesn't matter that the wrist hinges can't be
tightened. The ankles are a mixed bag. I like the poseability of
the ball/socket joint, but don't trust them because they can't be
tightened reliably (even though I haven't encountered that problem).
The ankle/leg seam always looks ugly, and you can't trim down the
leg side of the fat ankle without compromising the structure. The
biggest downside is that they're not manufactured anymore and everyone
BBI's Perfect Body:
Although this is a legitmate product, it seems like a cheap knock-off
of Takara's Cool Girl, with poorer quality hinges, ratcheting arm
& leg sockets, and bizarre proportioning. While they have the dual
axes wrists, the hands are somewhat oversized, and the ball-socketed
bare feet have an amateurish sculpt. On the plus side, they aren't
made of dense PVC and are relatively cheap and available. That counts
for a lot.
The motivation for this one is not typical: It's been a long time since
I've made a whole doll. I wanted to see if I could still do it, so I weighed
that against my perpetual lack-of-space problem. Although the challenge
to my competence won, that can't be considered a substantial source of
inspiration. In other words, I started this not knowing what I was making.
Sometimes you have to let the river guide you... or let the turds fall
where they may, or let the trite expressions spring from the keyboard.
I wasn't totally clueless. I was going to make a female doll mainly because I knew that I'd be more likely to maintain the level of motivation that's needed to see the project through to the end. I dunno why, but I seem to get bored making male dolls.
The second step was deciding what to use as a base. You can make these
things from scratch, up to a point: The outer shell is pretty inconsequential,
but I believe that the articulation is better left to companies with precision
production equipment and access to the "really good shit" (exotic plastics).
I suppose you could drill your own oil well and produce plastic, but I
prefer to do it the easier way.
Choosing a base figure can be an involved decision. Ideally, you'd use
several and pick the best parts from each, like I've done occasionally
in the past. That's pretty wasteful though, and these days that's a factor
in my calculations. I had a variety to choose from: Hasbro's GI Jane,
Hasbro's Masterpiece Edition Joe (Real Hero), Source Tribute's Selena,
Mattel's Workout Barbie, Dragon's Svetlana, Takara's Cool Girl 2.0, and
BBI's Perfect Body... plus a few others.
Since I didn't know what I was going to be making, I took what I felt
was the practical route, and choose BBI's Perfect Body figure. We have
a pretty dysfunctional relationship: As much as I've made fun of it, I've
still used & abused it. I've even used it for a full body makeover,
and with lots of work, it came out okay. I have a few of them left from
a couple years ago and since BBI still manufactures the PB figure, I felt
I didn't need to worry about using up my last-of stock. Well, maybe not.
Unfortunately, after ordering the "new! v2" rendition, I discovered that
there hadn't been any real improvements. The packaging's different and
you now get a deflated alternate ornamental chest, but it's the same figure
and the quality of the articulation has gotten even worse! It's almost
as if the original lame design were being manufactured by old, worn-out
production molds. But I digress...
This decision pointed towards making a Black female figure, since that's
what I had. Progress! I was getting closer to figuring out what I was
making, but there's only so long you can dwell in the generic phase before
you have to start thinking about the costuming. Ideally, the overall project
goal guides the figure's physical attributes (large boobs or larger boobs?)
and look of the headsculpt (snarly or snarlier?). However, you can work
it from the other direction and hope that the finished figure inspires
a costuming idea.
Like this, mebbe?
Sorry... I needed something to fill out the left column, and the article
needed some visual filler, something to liven up a really boring article.
This is one of Spencer Davis' Booty Babes, and if you want your
own, you can get her or one of her sisters from Booty
Babe Art. (Hey, this isn't Blaxploitation by White Guys Day, is it?)
Obviously, this ain't over yet...