Last modified: Saturday, April 28, 2001 10:25 AM



Sometimes you feel lazy and you think you can shave a few corners by recycling. Sometimes that's true, and sometimes it's not, but that's something you discover after-the-fact. The latter case best describes the bumpy beginnings of this project. It was more than just laziness though-- I looked at my collection to evaluate what were "dead-end" directions for me, and realized that I was top-heavy with the Bad Babes with Big 'Uns genre. Especially since BBI's Cy Girl figures will undoubtedly add to the population there. It seemed like a good place to begin culling, since recycling also preserves the balance of display space, a truly valuable resource.

I must have thought Barbra Underwire (Revisited) looked okay when I originally made her. Even back then, I was aware of many things that could have been done better: I never thought she looked as good as the smaller sculpture I'd made even longer ago, waaaay back then. I have lots of figures that would benefit from a re-make, but there's a sentimental reluctance to do so. At any rate, I was beginning to see Ms. Underwire as embarrassing and cringe-inducing, so she was at the top of the list, sentimental considerations aside.

This time, there actually is a vague direction, or plan to the overall project... I just haven't been able to do any work on it because you have to have a figure before you can develop the costuming. That's especially true for my femfigs since they're all different sizes and shapes. It generally means that they get one outfit that they wear for life... I don't usually make extra outfits since that takes up storage space and doesn't really fit in with my style of "play". When I talk about "play" I don't mean play as in changing outfits or physically manipulating them. It's mental play, of a "world building" nature. The figures are like 3-D costume designs for visualization.

For this project idea, I hauled out an old unused head I'd made over a year ago. I'd originally made it for an Egyptian inspired project, which then turned into Liz Taylor as Cleopatra, which then turned to Liz Taylor as a Frederic's of Hollywood refugee, aka "Evabeth". Anyway, this head has some Sophia Loren-ish features and looks a little Mediterranean. I'm not wildly crazy about it-- with her big noggin, she's not a fashion plate, but she seems (at this time) somewhat appropriate for the costuming idea. Which comes later; bear with me.


So here's what I've got after nearly two weeks of an "easy" recycling job. She still isn't finished, but she's getting there.

This started out as a Masterpiece Edition Joe. In Barbra Underwire guise, the structural format was unchanged, with only cosmetic adaptations made to the form. I had replaced her hands with soft castings from a Hasbro Jane figure and some home-made high-heeled feet.

The conversion to its present incarnation involved moving the waist articulation up under the boobs, reversing the mid section of the arms to eliminate the bicep rotation seam, adding the extra rotation axis to her hands, replacing her boot feet with traditional Cotswold feet (of corrected length) and reworking the cosmetics. The height changed too, but I don't know how much: She's currently a little over 10.75 inches tall.

On the surface, that doesn't sound like a two-week job, but there were many complications: the neck needed to be adapted to the head, the head's neck opening needed to be moved forward, an arm hinge broke and had to be replaced (after I'd already done a bunch of work on it), the material used in the flexible cast hands couldn't handle the stress of pinning, failed attempts to improve the leg articulation, and the previous cosmetic alterations interferred with attempts to apply new cosmetic alterations. The last point still plagues my efforts as I get down to the near-final finishing stages. Yep, it might have been easier to just start with a new figure...

One of the big issues I had to deal with early on was the removal of the hip articulation. For Barbra Underwire, I'd done a fairly good job of preserving a balance between articulation and the way it looked, with the balance going to the articulation side. I agonized over this, since the articulation worked so well. Under-boob articulation never works as well because of the figure's cross-section at that point. Adding to the agony was the knowledge that the envisioned costuming would probably render both aethetic and articulation considerations moot. If you can't see it, what does it matter, right? I guess that's true, but it didn't sit well with me... hell, I'd know! Even if you never remove the outfit or never open the box, it's nice to know that there's some realistic detailing behind the facade. It's true that no naked doll (except a skin-covered one) is ever going to look truly realistic, but there's a perceptible continuum between butt-ugly and sculptural, and we have our own ideas about where we think the line should be. It's a purely personal decision. Which is why I sacrifice articulation for appearance even when it doesn't make sense to do so.

I admit I didn't try too hard to improve the leg articulation: I didn't want to mess with adjusting the stock hip sockets. No matter where I placed the balls' tensioning anchor pins, I couldn't cross-tension the legs satisfactorily. I think this is because the hip section is designed for upward pull tensioning; cross tensioning would require the sockets to be cut higher up, and I think the area between the legs (There are both scientific and unscientific names for that region) would need to be wider. So I stayed with the original tensioning layout of a vintage Joe, with all of its posing limitations.

The failure of pinning the flexible cast hands was also a bummer. It was disheartening to come back the next day and see that the castings had split from the stress of being reshaped by pins. I had noticed this limitation back when I was originally experimenting with the stuff; now it just lets me know that new future female projects are going to be reliant upon having genuine Hasbro Janes around if I want decent sized, pin-able hands. So now, those rise to the top of my list as being customizer's gold. (Unless I want to start making gargantuan women again.) Anyway, with the pins gone, the splits have healed so I'll keep these and permanently set them in a non "chikken chokin" pose. It would be a miserable job to deconstruct and redo the extra rotation axis with a new set of hands while orphaning the other 99% of a Jane figure. I'm not quite that wasteful!

An observation while dealing with the elbows: There's the perception that the double/ganged hinge brings a quantum leap in technology to the hobby. It's become a de-facto standard for the definition of the truly modern, state-of-the-art figure. I was surprised to again notice that the design doesn't give an astounding additional range of sweep over a single-hinged vintage Joe's elbow. This gal's elbows sweep is approximately 10 degrees less than a Dragon's, but her elbow terminates at a more realistic "V" instead of a "U" when bent. It's true that most of the older modern single-hinged figures had ridiculously limited hinge articulation, but that's not a limitation of the single hinge: The figures were just designed that way. Oddly enough, this is a zero-sum game: In order for either style of hinge to get a large range of sweep, the cosmetics have to be compromised. With the double-hinged design, it means putting a segment between the upper and lower arm. This looks unnatural from side profile when the elbow's bent. With a single-hinged design, it means putting in drastic and ugly cutaways or putting a weird bend in the forearm at the elbow (corresponding to the double-hinge's mid segment). The single-hinged design seems to suffer more drastically, aesthetics-wise, as you create a wider sweep... but seems more amenable to incorporating the bicep rotation in a single mechanism. Which means one less seam line in the arm. My point is that the double hinge isn't quite the technical innovation that it's given credit for: It's a simple redistribution of where the appearance suffers. It only appears to be a quantum technological leap because the older modern figures weren't manufactured with range of articulation as a priority. Some of that thinking still persists in the neck design of current "state-of-the-art" figures.

Anyway, R.I.P. Barbra Underwire...



04/24/01- Totally Outer Space, Where No One Can Tell How Much You Weigh: Little dumb ideas can sometimes bore into your brain and you might someday trick yourself into wasting time on them... This one was triggered by a post in the Sandbox about that ever so important issue of this hobby, scale weight. Weight isn't like a size calculation, where you just multiply or divide by six to scale stuff up or down. No siree Bob, this is like a volume calculation (Weight is actually sorta relative since it depends where you are). To do volume scaling, you cube the scaling factor; in this case of scaling up, it's 6^3 so 6 x 6 x 6= 216 (according to my Windoze calculator). This gives me what I need to figure out how much Dragon's Adam would weigh if he were life-sized, minus his fig leaf.

According to my trusty triple beam Ohaus scale, Adam weighs 152 grams. According to an online calculator, 152 Grams = .3350970017636684 Pounds (Avoir.) Multiplying that by our scaling factor, Adam, at 1:1 scale, would weigh 72 lbs. Even if we use the more charitable Troy weight conversion, he weighs in at a paltry 87 lbs! So much for Dragon's sterling reputation for realism, huh?

Nyuk, nyuk... This lady's an inch shorter but she weighs in at a scale 103/125 lbs...

Another little known fact: Relatively modest boobs look humongous with a layer of skin-tight armor strapped on.


04/27/01- Decorative doodles: Pretty self-explanatory, I think? It's not easy deciding what to put and where. The real estate that you have to work with helps guide this process by giving you a general shape for a design, but that still doesn't tell you what to put there. If you're recreating an historic piece of armor, you don't have to worry about this; otherwise, one approach would be to pore over a variety of references to pick up on decorative flourish styles and themes. (I'm trying to avoid my natural tendency to do those overdone things like skulls.) From those references, it's not always a simple process of picking stuff to duplicate: You have to be able to adapt and execute it. It's also not a totally random process of picking neat-looking stuff: It would look weird to mix styles, like Egyptian and Celtic, for example. The downside to this approach is that it's just a hodge-podge (hopefully, artistic) of meaningless doodles. It's disappointing to not approach this as an canvas for inspired storytelling, but that would create an entirely different look and take weeks just to plan.

As you can see, symmetry is the biggest challenge. This isn't a particularly critical issue for this genre, since stuff used to be hand-made and is relatively crudely made. But that's just a rationalization for the fact that it's damned hard to make stuff this small! At any rate, I'm sure the finishing steps will wipe out a lot of the detail. Hopefully, that will better blend and integrate the doodles with the armor too.