part 2         COLONIAL MARINE          part 3
Check out these web sites: John Lindsey's Space Marine & Chris Chulamanis' USCM page.
They're both great sites by top-notch customizers whose work inspired this project.

03/01/98- As you can see, it's the start of an Aliens Colonial Marine outfit. I got the Aliens vs. Hicks Kaybee set and was pretty disappointed with mostly all of it. First off, the included "Alien" is a weird & butt-ugly rendition, not true to any of the movies-- and it's barely articulated. Hicks' body is one of those articulation-impaired "Hall of Fame" types. The pulse rifle was the best thing in the set, but I got it after I'd already made my own! I think mine looks better in certain areas, but the store-bought one is more polished and has a more accurate "B-side". ( I never saw any reference shots of the gun's back side.) The other accessories in the set (welding tool & motion sensor) are oversized but okay. However, the armor is nothing like the stuff in the movie. It's obvious that they just recycled pieces from their other toys. At least the tee-shirt is pretty good (neat patches), but it does show the ugly elbow articulation of the Joe body I'm going to use. So the head is the only thing from the set that I'm using here.

My version of the armor is based on photos and a drawing from Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual (HarperPaperbacks, 1996) and from straining my eyes watching the videotape. Even with the book, it's not as easy as you might think. There's always something obscuring a detail you want to see, or a view that's not shown. It's also difficult to guess the true shape of some things from a two-dimensional picture. The pattern in the chest plate is a good example: I knew that it was there, but how far out did it project? Single framing through the videotape let me know that the structure was more subtle than I had guessed from the frontal view.

The armor was sculpted in Sculpey III over a tin foil covered GI Joe. This is a soft clay, which helped with forming the basic planes & contours. This piece doesn't have very much detailing, and the planes don't need to be that "tight"-- just smooth. The clay seems too smooshy to do really precise work, but I'd have to try it to be sure. I had intended to cast this in a flexible resin, but due to a snafu (mispackaged urethane) I ended up using rigid resin. If I'd planned on this, I probably would have sculpted the front sections separately. It wouldn't be too hard to do this now, but I'm not unhappy with this rigid casting. Some of the panels (like the shoulderpad inserts and butt pad) are easy enough to cut from the casting and attach with a flexible material.

I made the side armor buckles out of styrene-- just little boxes with tabs which slide into them. I considered making the tabs with locking flanges, but I figured it'd be too hard to unlatch a pair of them simultaneously to remove the armor. Instead, I'll rely on a belt to compress the front & back halves of the armor together.

The load-bearing "straps" are the only pieces I haven't built over the clay master. Instead, I decided that it would be easier to sculpt one flat, cast 2 of 'em and bend them to the proper shape before they were completely cured. Resin is malleable but relatively mar-resistant right before it's fully cured, and you can use this to solve some problems.

Attaching the straps is a problem: You can't just glue 'em down in the back because the straps are rigid, and this would make it difficult to remove the armor. The other design parameters are that the connection shouldn't be bulky, and that the straps will be connected to the belt in the front, creating some "pull" tension and stress. I considered several solutions, like a flexible material attachment or snaps, but decided to go with hooks embedded in the straps which would engage some holes cut into the back of the armor. A slight forward bend in the hook works in tandem with the downward pull from the front to ensure a snug and secure fit, yet makes the straps easy to remove when the tension is relieved.

03/06/98- Here I've added some buckles to the straps and worked out a design for securing the strap assembly. The buckles are functional and took a while to make. I first tried to make a clip out of plastic, but it was too fragile, so I used brass rods bent to a clip shape. These have some "spring" and lock within the buckle housing. I decided that the belt (here, a 21st Century piece) would not hold the straps down properly (they would cause the belt to ride up), so I cheated and drilled some inconspicuous holes under a ridge in the front of the armor. The lower section of the straps have a hook attached to their backside, and this is what really holds the straps in tension to the armor. The attachment to the belt is inaccurate. Movie scenes show that the lower part of the strap actually terminates in a J-shaped fastener. These would be hidden by equipment though, so I saw no reason to be a slave to accuracy.

The "grenades" in the bandolier are actually brass parts from the inner workings of 8 Bic disposable lighters. (So I'm a packrat, okay?)

03/07/98- Near as I can figger, this is what the shoulder lamp should look like. I sculpted the clay/resin box and attached parts cut from the "Hicks vs. Aliens" version. Using rods and screws, it's articulated in bunches of places-- the toy's rubbery parts helped with this articulation, since rubber holds rods and screws tightly. (Unfortunately, it's hard to remove mold lines from rubber.) Still missing is the wiring, additional lens detailing and a way to attach it to the armor.

I thought this was funny-- The photo I saw in the Aliens Colonial Marines Technical Manual showed the lamp from the backside; the side facing the back of the armor. Oddly, the HvA set had this detail on the outside, with the lamp position adjusted so that it would face forward. My conclusion is that Hasbro's HvA sculptor used the ACMTM photo as a reference, and didn't use the movie. Weird. I wonder if they work out of a bedroom surrounded by mountains of litter & smoking tons of cigarettes? At any rate, they definitely should splurge & get a VCR.

03/08/98- The shoulder lamp was mounted by drilling some holes in its rear clamp, which fit onto a twin brass hook glued to the armor. There weren't any good reference shots of this assembly, so I'll have to dress up the hooks with a design made of putty. I saw a few extra details on the videotape (the lamp back and the lens assembly), but haven't found any good shots which show the knife on the left front strap. I guess I'll have to fake it...


Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM