HANS, A MODIFIED DOLL

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

Yah, yah... Dragon's Hans figure... It's the best thing since sliced bread, and there are plenty of reviews on the 'Net which show you why. Since I hate to be redundant (except within this web site, har har), since I hate to be redundant (except within this web site, har har), I try to bring you something a little different.

The bad news about Hans is that Dragon decided to go proprietary-- kinda like IBM did with their highly successful (kaff kaff) Micro Channel Architecture. Instead of using the more-or-less industry standard for neck-head connectors, Dragon decided to make the head with a long neck, connecting to a very short neck pin. Although this may look better (he's even got an Adam's Apple sculpted on the neck), it doesn't necessarily work better, and it means no head swaps with the collection of Joe heads you've accumulated. Fortunately, Dragon is releasing other figures, each with a unique headsculpt. Maybe they'll release replacement heads? Maybe they're already thinking of that, since the hands are removeable, when nothing else on the figure is. So you may want to hold off on doing anything radical.

In the meantime, what if you bought a pair of Hanses, and you don't want to wait & see? Or a dozen? Do you want them to look like escapees from Dr. Mengele's lab? Prolly not. (That's why you come here, right?) The problem is that Dragon's figures are not "user-servicible", which as you may know, is a pet peeve of mine. It helps keep down costs, so I guess it's okay. (grumble, grumble) This means that you can't take it apart and just replace the neckpin: A more radical solution is called for.

There are several ways you could approach this:

This is a quick and easy job, requiring only sawing, gluing, puttying and painting. The only thing that's mildly difficult is judging the height offset. I made a mistake and trimmed the Dragon neckpin, when it didn't need it at all, and had to reglue it. As you can see, I sawed a vintage-style neckpin just below where it flares, and superglued it to the Dragon neckpin. I happened to use a weird quick & dirty design of neckpin for this, but a Cotswold/ME/TC part would work fine. The next step is to putty in between the two parts, even sculpting an Adam's Apple if you want. This will help secure the join between the two parts, too. Finally, paint & play. The paint ought to be fairly wear resistant, since the putty doesn't come in direct frictional contact with anything, except when posed at extreme angles.

Some heads on the unpainted neckpin (it's still curing). Of course, the lovely Cots head (left) deserves some time on Dragon's body. The Hans head (center) is made of a really soft plastic so you have to be careful when slicing the neck down (I wasn't, and did a crummy job). One of Mr. K's heads (right), purchased from Greg Brown. The base on those is a bit wide. Finally, the unpainted head in the first picture (above) was produced by Francis Tavares.

A final warning: Doing this will void your warranty, and no doubt destroy the figure's "collectible value" (snarf, snarf).

ADDENDUM, 08/29/99:  I was pretty glib in my treatment above, and things may not go as smoothly as I'd indicated. Paint matching the figure can be a problem. It takes trial & error to get a good match, and even if you do come close, the texture difference between the tinted plastic and the paint will work against achieving a seamless look. Couple this with the fact that there are shade differences between some of Dragon's figures, and you've got a stiff battle.

My advice is not to sweat the small stuff. What if the head & torso don't match? (nyuk, nyuk-- what are the odds of that???) Read sentence #1. Even Mighty Dragon doesn't do a good job paint matching between the head and torso. Logically, when coloring the neck extension, it makes more sense to paint match to the head than to the torso because those are the normally exposed parts. Note that humans are usually not uniformly tanned, so hands don't have to match the shade of the face. You don't want to paint the entire figure because a surface coating of color is vulnerable to scraping-- no matter how many protective coats you put on. It's the nature of articulated figures to suffer scrape wear, and no commonly available paint is immune to this. In other words, there's a certain amount of practical imperfection that you're going to have to live with, so there's no point in agonizing over it.

I had hoped to bring you a polymer clay solution so that you wouldn't have to worry about paint scraping off the neck. However, on doing this I discovered that while Fimo is extremely hard and tough (though not as tough as epoxy putty), it doesn't bond as well as epoxy putty does to plastic, and has a little bit of rubbery give. If you stress the baked clay, it's likely to separate from the plastic, giving you what looks like a hairline fracture. Maybe it's useful for another bizarre idea though? For what it's worth, this formula for Fimo will get you in the general neighborhood of the most recent Dragon figure I've acquired (but it will be too dark when baked-- refine it if you wish):

These are gram weight proportions for a small amount. All the kneading nearly caused thumb blisters, so I quit. As I mentioned, baking (boiling) seemed to make the color darker, so prelightening the mix would be a good idea. I leave future refinements to other experimenters.

What I did discover was that you can tint epoxy putty. It's messy, but it does work. Magic Sculp mixes to a light grayish green color-- if you mix a blend of Model Master's Skin Tone oil-based enamels in, you can color it, and it will cure without affecting the material's properties. As I said, it's messy: epoxy putty is putty, so mixing isn't done with a swizzle stick. You have to knead it and wet enamel paint together (with your fingers-- duh!). Fortunately, when it's mixed, the paint is well integrated into the putty, so you can use your putty-working and smoothing techniques without continuing to create a mess.

Again, the color mix ratios are a problem. To get a good match, you'd have to pre-compensate for the putty's natural light coloring by mixing a color darker than the target color. In the case of the MM skin tones, you'd probably have to add more red enamel too. The big kicker though is how do you achieve a uniform mix of paint to putty? Well, you could work out a putty weight to paint volume formula through trial and error. However, most of us don't do this for mass production, so unless you've got lots of time on your hands, small quantity eyeballing is the most feasible approach-- and live with the imperfections. It would be a minor miracle if you got a perfect paint match with the plastic anyway (Hey, I'm a realist!). Nevertheless, by tinting the putty, the base color would be closer than the unadulterated putty. If you then painted the entire neckpiece (enamel would bond better to the neck's hard plastic than acrylic), any paint scraping would be less obvious, and the neckpin would be uniformly colored. (I'm just extraordinarily lucky and managed to get fairly close without painting... but it's not a perfect match, so there's no minor miracle here. :^)

As usual, try this at your own risk!