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Finally, a real project! (Looks great, huh?)

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 good.

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.

Dragon's Svetlana: 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 wants 'em.

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...

--10/28/07

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