MONKEY WOMAN

Last modified:
Sunday, July 14, 2002 9:37 AM

 

07/05/02- Wow, you can't imagine the kind of fun I've been having with these guys since I started putting the backstory down in writing. You can mentally construct characters much faster and easier than you can create the physical representation, and writing lets you detail more aspects of a character than just the physical appearance. That's not to say that modelmaking is inferior-- it's exceptionally satisfying to have a tangible representation of an idea, and the two work in a complimentary way to feed your imagination. Admittedly though, some stuff just isn't very exciting to make, which can make a project meander along at a lazy pace. This one's like that... time when I coulda been working on it was used for other fun things. But if the story demands a Monkey Woman, you've just gotta hunker down and do the deed.

"Monkey Woman" was directly inspired by the writing, a result of clarifying concepts about the inhabitants of what I'm now calling "Primeval World". Is she a "Demon Monkey", LOL? Forget all that muddy nonsense, it was just a dream which occurred in another timeline. Most projects are named or titled on-the-fly, based on what I was thinking at the time. Some of that doesn't fit my current crop of ideas, but it's waaaay too much hassle to clean up. All you need to know is that if there be Monkey Men, there probably be Monkey Women too. Jeez... am I rambling again?

Because this was another "furniture" figure, I didn't want to invest a lot of prime resources in it. Another parameter was the coloration: Even though I'm sensitive to the red-herring of Racism, I thought a dark-skinned figure seemed the best choice as a base. The Discovery Channel usually shows reconstructions of Early Man as dark skinned, so my doing so plays to something familiar. After digging through the heap, my unused "Get Real Girl" which I reviewed long ago seemed to be waiting for this opportunity.

The GRG figure isn't bad. I've heard that they've improved some things in the recent editions (like the head), but we make do with what we've got. And the original goofy head was definitely one of the first things to go. Since it's soooo strange in its squashy flatness, I knew that I had to totally resculpt it. But I thought that I could use some part of the original. The head was sliced off, leaving only a small ring of the original flexible plastic where it joins with the neck. The head attaches to the Barbie-like neck with a barbed-end retainer in the head. To allow some flexibility for what I was going to do, I converted the barbed end piece to a tapered lump with putty, and cut the barbed tips off. Presumably, this would let me remove the head more easily. (I say "presumably" because I haven't found the need to do that yet.) The replacement head was built up as a wall, similar to the construction of a piece of handmade pottery. Doing it this way creates a hollow head, which reduces the weight. It also allows you to cut the head open to backfit eyes or teeth, if desired. This time, I'll just do sculpted eyeballs since it's easier-- Black painted & glossed eyeballs usually look pretty good anyway. Since she's not baring fangs, backfitted teeth aren't really necessary either. So once the really rough shape was done, the shape was refined through grinding and putty was placed where needed and for detailing. I wanted to create an ape-like face that didn't look too harsh, with a touch of submissiveness-- it's tough to determine what constitutes "feminine" features in a face, even in humans, without obvious cues like makeup and hairstyle. Trying to do this with an ape face isn't any easier. Generally, I tried to give her pouting lips, thin cheeks and jaw... but with the heavy brow and large nose, she doesn't fare well by our humanly standard of feminine beauty. After giving her some quickie hair, I noticed that she bore a slight resemblance to Zira of the original "Planet of the Apes". Or maybe it's my imagination? Awwww apes... they all look alike!

The neck was sawed off where it joined the body and converted into an articulated neck, following my usual elastic-tensioned design plan. I saw this as especially necessary since the figure would probably be posed in a stooped-over position and the neck needed a good range of backwards deflection range to allow a forward-looking face.

The second weakest feature of the GRG body is the elbow hinge. These are actually fairly well done in concept: the single throw hinge and swivel are built into one mechanism and the outward appearance is about as good as it gets. In practice, they have extremely limited throw range, less than 90 degrees. I'm totally okay with the single hinge designs since some of them approach what some companies have done with ganged hinges (vintage-style Joe compared to Sideshow Toy). But I insist that they do a little better than 90 degrees, ferchrissake! It's not a terribly difficult thing to fix and just requires a lot of careful grinding. A good guide for knowing where and how to shape it comes from looking at a vintage Joe's elbow hinge. I was more conservative and stopped short of the full vintage Joe treatment; consequently the hinges deflect an acceptable amount (for me) beyond the 90 degree mark, but not as far as a vintage Joe.

I left the arms their original length because they seemed to be about right for creating an ape-ish look. The legs needed to be shortened however, both above and below the knee. My first attempt at this resulted in more normal human-looking proportions (which I can live with) but the thighs could stand to be shortened a little bit more.

Overall, I wanted to create a fairly normal body-- small and lithe-- and the GRG proved to be a reasonably accommodating platform. The torso articulation includes the underboob socket as well as a hip socket. I'm inclined to fuse the hip socket for simplicity: It doesn't add that much extra articulation (swivel and a small amount of tilt) and it's one less joint to conceal. It also would alleviate the difficulty of dealing with the cast-in-white hip section.

The underboob socket is a little lower than I would have placed it, but that improves the swivel function due to a more circular cross section. It's not really worth my effort to change it. It probably comes as a surprise, but I've decided to equip this figure with a more modest set of boobs than the whoppers I'm accustomed to blessing femfigs with. That seemed to fit with the character of the figure and was a way of dealing with the uncertainty of how she'll be posed: Danglers require more certainty of angle due to the directional draw of gravity.

At this time, I haven't decided how I'll proceed with the finish (The figure is presently extremely rough, lacking amenities like nipples and colored eyeballs). The hair/fur is the last thing to lay down on the figure, and I haven't decided how hairy she'll be. It doesn't seem proper that she would more hairy than the male figure I made to start off this Primeval World thing. Yet hair is one of the easier ways to hide articulation seams. Beyond that, there's the costuming-- She'll probably get something simple, but that's guided by how she looks with or without the body hair. One thing at a time, I guess... and I should attempt to make some headway so I can shoot some decent pics...

 

 

07/09/02- Normally, one does the research before starting the project, but because this is fantasy, I guess it really doesn't matter. Still, the lure of the anal-retentive side is strong. It comes from my childhood interest in dinosaurs and cavemen (in addition to robots and tanks). I browsed the 'Net for info on primitive man, which promptly laid to rest any notion that my efforts had any scientific underpinnings. (Unlike the Creationists, I know when to cut bait fishy tales ;^) But it's fascinating stuff. In the millions of years of our evolution, interesting human-like behavior developed only fairly recently (in geological time); only after we had evolved to look pretty much like we look now, so we could play poker. Bummer. Well... so much for monkey wimmen. Well... so much for making realistic monkey wimmen. From the git-go, I'd taken liberties with the concept anyway by giving the ape dudes high noses, solid black eyeballs (they have really large irises) and an anachronistic mix of artifacts like stone tools, metal earrings & bone necklaces. By giving Monkey Woman even more apelike features, I've strayed even farther from the notion of realism. But that's bidness as usual in the world of Demons & Magic. Still, you can't have total anarchy. Even in flawed concepts like this, you need some semblance of rules and order, and the only way to salvage it is to remove it from our past and transplant it somewhere else. Kinda like they did at the beginning of Star Wars Episode 4. That solves lots of problems, and is highly recommended for fanciful histories which don't jive with our observed Reality.

As filmmakers know, strict realism isn't everything. In this case, I believe that a realistic monkey woman would be butt-ugly; wrinkly faced, with droopy boobs from having babies all the time. And really dim-witted. That's not what I want to make though. To an extent, I'm afflicted with the George Lucas Disease. Although I'd never go so far as to make a Jar Jar Binks character (or at least, not admit it), my monkey woman is romanticized as an innocent and noble primitive. Kinda like a smarter unfurry Ewok with boobs. I tried to make her appear as attractive and not dim-witted as possible, within the limits of her having apelike facial features. This is really about drama, not realism, and you can't do much character development with animals who grunt and only think of food, sleep, and making babies. That's not to say that wrinkly faced, droopy boobed monkey women couldn't have interesting lives, but doll-making with a dramatic emphasis relies on heavy-handed visual stereotyping.

Consequently, after the first rough draft, I've tried to clean her up, remove the rough edges and soften her-- in essence, making her look less realistic, but more appealing. That was a tough call but justified on the basis of making her "fit in" with the other figures. Even my "Demon Monkey Goddesses", while purporting to be vile & evil creatures, have a clean, soft look. No rotting flesh and festering wounds with dripping puss for my gals! She's still relatively unfinished and doesn't look much progressed beyond the first pics I posted... which is surprising and a little depressing, given the amount of work I've put in since then. But those first pics were damn good considering how little I had to work with and how little I was willing to show of the figure, heh heh. So some progress has been made: At least you can see that she's got a nipple this time (which brings the running nipple count on this page from zero to four).

I've taken a few exploratory steps in her costuming-- the headband and her ostrich feather loincloth. The flower headband is meant to "Disney-fy" the figure and imply that she spends her free time doing something besides picking ticks and nits. The feather loincloth looks very "tribal" and -amazingly- I haven't used the idea on another figure before. But that's as far as I've gotten. The figure's upper torso seam has started to bother me a bit because it's too low to be partially concealed by her smallish boobs. This doesn't seem to be the type of creature who would wear a bra, either. I figure I can either move the seam up (lots of work), give her bigger, droopier boobs (which I don't wanna do), live with it (hmmmmm), or come up with a costuming solution that I haven't thought of (more hmmmmm).

 

 

07/14/02- Astoundingly, I did come up with a costuming idea to take care of the low under breast articulation seam that bothered me. Even more astounding is that the solution isn't terribly contrived: A backside baby carrier, which would be a logical accessory for a creature like this. We're talking Jimbob monkeyfolk, who are lots smarter than the monkeyfolk which Creationists evolved from. (pfffftttt ;^) A wonderful feature of this accessory is that, unlike a brassiere, it doesn't cover up any of the good stuff on the frontside. That shows you just how smart my monkeyfolk are (okay, it's bestial to think of this figure in a sexual way... you know that, right?). Another wonderful thing about this is that it calls for a baby monkeyfolk figure, a project in itself which turns the whole thing into a complex accessory like a WWII German assault frame with a bunch of stuff stuck on it. Sort of.

The easy way would have been to do a static sculpture of the monkeyfolk toddler, with the only important decision being how she should be posed. The typical American Indian papoose design calls for an almost coffin-like pose, with the head being the only thing visible. Some other designs (from Internet research) showed the toddler facing backwards or forwards, in a seat-like or sling-like contraption. In any case, it made sense to create the toddler first, then make the carrier to fit.

I opted to do it the harder way-- making an articulated monkeyfolk toddler -- because this would offer more possibilities, in addition to being a more interesting subproject. The choice of figure fodder seemed obvious. Wow... shades of '97 or '98 (and even before that), back when I was doing Star Wars figures. I haven't done any 3-3/4" figure customizing in so long that I'd forgotten what it was like. And I had no idea where I mothballed all those fodder figures that I never got around to using! Fortunately, I found parts of figures, enough to make a complete figure. The majority of parts seem to be from one of those Lanard figures, with unmatched arms from two different figures.

One of the first things I noticed was how small all the pieces were... doing 1:6 for so long, you forget. Even though my eyesight has been getting crappier for some time now, it brought back fond memories of how I used to be able to paint eyes & lips on N-gauge figures (a little over 1/4" tall) with my bare nekkid eyes. Hell, it wasn't that long ago! Now I have to use Optivisors for just about everything. It could be worse-- I don't think there's a fix for losing eye-hand coordination. Aging sucks, but it beats the alternative (up to a point).

The second thing I noticed is how size really does matter. In the old days, grinding down a figure seemed to be an ordeal, but after working on 1:6, that part seems like a breeze. I recall feeling that way about 1:6 after working on my huge "Queen of the Demon Monkey Goddesses" figure too. There are as many steps and tweaks involved, but each step goes more quickly, the smaller the figure. That doesn't mean it was a breeze though. Resculpting and tweaking parts to refine shape and fit takes quite a bit of time, and putty's cure time doesn't have anything to do with the size.

After sculpting the head (fitted with tiny seed bead eyeballs), I shaped the body as much as I could with the Dremel, then elongated the arms. The small size may the reason why the original arms were so bulky and funky looking. Shaping them was quite a challenge since you can only remove so much material before you grind away the parts that make the swivels and hinges work. I reworked the tensioning design to more closely resemble a vintage Joe (legs-to-head). This let me convert the torso to a single piece and do away with the screw assembled torso halves. The upper chest area was narrowed to better approximate the shape of a monkeyfolk toddler. I doubt that monkeyfolk toddlers had broad, she-womanly chests although I don't have first-hand knowledge about toddlers. (I avoided researching this because I didn't want my searches to raise flags and be forwarded to the FBI/CIA/NSA/Homeland Security Axis for suspicion of being a child porn terrorist freak.)

Okay, so she's frickin' cute and she's even cuter with hair. This whole project is frickin' cute. Could it be because we just adopted feline unit #2, a frickiningly cute kitten? And to complete his journey toward the Cute Side, we've named him (the kitten) Boo Boo... BooBooFett. Awwwwwwwwww...