LITTLE BROTHER

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

 

"In time, you will call me maaaaastaaaa."

The results of a demographic survey of the Joe world would probably be pretty eye-opening to anyone who thought their collection reflected Reality. What's been produced and collected is a distorted representation of humanity, with young, athletically fit anglo-saxon males being grossly overrepresented. There's nothing wrong with that, and I'm not suggesting that we should be guilt-ridden into adopting a quota system for our collections. Figure collecting is driven by favorites and has some similarities to storytelling-- it's focused on topics and themes. The full spectrum of mankind isn't usually represented in a single book, a television show or a movie.

However, the lack of variety does limit the types of stories which can be told. Females are underrepresented in Joe's world, but that's not a severe problem because figures can be borrowed from the fashion doll world. A few figures representing older men are available in Hasbro's WWII General's line. Almost every ethnic group has been produced at one time or another, but usually as a one-figure only token offering. Thanks to Dragon, we're finally beginning to see a lot of different Asian headsculpts.

Children, teenagers and the overweight have been grossly underrepresented though. That's not too surprising since dolls whose physiques are different would require completely different sculptures and molds. That would cost the producers extra money, and they're not sure we'd buy them-- that's what governs whatever gets produced in the first place, right? There's probably some validity to that thinking. Dolls are mainly produced for children as toys, where they have a role-play, role-molding role (whew!). Society has an apparent prejudice against overweight people (odd, considering USA's largely overweight population), and children would rather act out fantasies of adults than to act out the realities of their own lives (and who can blame 'em?).

It seems that the only opportunity for such figures to be produced is as popular media characters. It took the mega-spectacle status of "Star Wars- Episode 1" to justify production of the first 1:6th scale child figure for the boy's market that we've seen in a long time. As far as I know, the only previous offering was from Marx's "Best of the West" series, produced waaaaay back then.

Hasbro's "Anakin Skywalker" is a pretty nice figure which captures the essence of the child character in the movie. I'm not much into recreating the Star Wars world in 1:6th scale, so any child-proportioned figure would have been okay with me-- I bought him mainly for the storytelling potential that diversity brings. As I said-- as Anakin Skywalker, he looks pretty good. However, once you remove his clothes, the figure looks sorta funky. If you can get that far.

The first problem is encountered when trying to remove his pants: His boots don't come off! They're glued onto the nub ends of the legs, where you'd expect to find feet. I cut his boots off to investigate, but others have claimed that applying heat would also do the trick less destructively. (I tried that with a second figure and didn't find it any easier or less destructive: instead of the boots being slit, one of 'em got a melt impression. The glue's not temperature sensitive, and it takes a lot of tugging to break the bond. I may have even lengthened his leg in the process...)

So he doesn't have feet (hey, just like the character in the movie!). In addition to that, the articulation sucks: the arms have simple hinges and there's no bicep rotation. The waist has twist-only rotation, and the neck is molded to the body. There's also something odd about the body proportioning-- I'm not an expert on this, but lit looks to me as if his arms are too skinny, his legs seem too long and fat and his side profile is extremely thin. His head also seems unusually large. Other than that, he's perfect...

It's been difficult for me to figure out what to do to fix this figure. This is new territory for me, even though, like most people, I was a child when I was younger. I just didn't take very good notes back then. My wife and I don't have children (and don't really want any, but thanks for offering!), and looking for reference photos of children is a no-no which gets you branded as the worst kind of pervert. It can also get you locked up (So pleeeeease, don't send pics!). Basically, I know that children have larger heads in proportion to their bodies than adults-- but there are other proportioning issues related to height & age, which should somehow match up with the "givens" of the Hasbro figure.

I first got stuck on that problem after modifying the figure's head in the same manner in which I did the Lindsey figure. (It still needs some work, which wasn't apparent before painting.) After grinding off his hair and face and resculpting it, the head was still a huge mellon. I knew that something was wrong when his head appeared to be bigger than Lindsey's! From this I could only assume that Hasbro got his head proportioned wrong, or that the entire figure was mis-scaled. The only way out of this quagmire seemed to be to just wing it and not let matters of accuracy and scale-ness bother me too much. The best I could hope for was for the figure to sort of look like it fit in with the others. Besides-- like I could tell???

Of course, a person needs feet if they are to stand. This was a tough choice since I wanted to use the calf downwards off an existing figure, but not a figure that I cared about. The SOTW figures have undersized feet, and I don't mind wasting one of those. The problem is that the feet are still way too big, the ankles too fat, and the feet sculpt is ugly to begin with. It took a lot of grinding to get it down to the bare minimum and still retain some structural integrity, and I didn't bother to add any kind of rotational articulation to the legs. Honestly, this kinda figure isn't something that I'm deeply interested in so I decided that I wasn't going to waste a lot of time and resources on this figure.

Still, some of the limited articulation needed to be fixed, like the arms. By my rules, a figure has to have at least bicep rotation. I used a technique I'd used many times before, which is: slice the bicep, drill pilot holes in the two sections; screw an eyelet in one half; clip the eyelet off; screw the other half on. This works well with the soft PVC plastic of the upper arms. The downside is that the seam opens up if you twist the bicep counterclockwise. If your eyelet doesn't have extremely widely-spaced threads, it's only a negligible amount for a reasonable amount of movement though.

Another "must have" articulation point (for me) is the neck, and rotation-only doesn't cut it. I used a variation of the standard vintage elastic tensioned design for this, creating a neckpin and socket, but connecting the elastic to an internal support strut which runs across the torso. While I was at it, I added an upper torso ball & socket. Adding that articulation has an unfortunate consequence, which is an ongoing struggle for me: form versus function. How do you decide when the articulation detracts too much from the looks? Sometimes the decision is easy if you know how you're going to costume the figure in advance. I didn't, so I put it in anyway. Since male figures don't wear brassieres, that means he's got to wear something which covers his chest.

As you can see from the pics, he's destined for the "Primal World" setting as a dirty little kid of indeterminate age. Even shows of that genre can have the token kid who wins stupid pod chariot races and grows up to be the evil warlord, Smurf Vader. (I've never scenario'ed out a backstory that far...) On the Discovery Channel I recently saw a fascinating show about human evolution called "Man: Where We Came From". While this fantasy-flavored stuff doesn't really jive with all of that, it has piqued my interest in the topic. Some of the ideas are borrowable, especially the concept of different species of Man coexisting concurrently. But it also beckons me to see if I can create a more "authentic" version of a primal man. And call him "Alley Oop". Maybe someday...

--06/24/00


 


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