(Reworking the Mall Babe)

Last modified:
Tuesday, July 30, 2002 6:26 AM

fantasy high priestess doll


07/28/02- Somewhere along the path to not finishing the last project (Monkey Woman), I began tinkering with a figure I'd made back in Feb '99- Mall Babe. This figure has appeared in a number of different articles, for a long time as a redhead and then with the black braided hair, through several costuming changes including a stint as an S&M nurse before winding up in the Primeval World genre. The original figure was created from a Masterpiece Edition Joe. That was one of those gruelling and stinky projects where I used heat to narrow and shape the upper torso. This was also before I began routinely fusing the articulation between the hip and lower torso section. So while this isn't a new figure, the revisions sort of... barely justify a new article. Besides, this is an opportunity to write an article which categorizes neatly within the Primeval World index: All the other figures in that genre have their own articles, but this one's original article didn't fit in. (I don't think that's the sign of an obsessive-compulsive disorder since this article is an afterthought, not the reason for working on the figure.)

What started me down this path was her head. I didn't like her decal eyeballs and decided to replace 'em with backfitted beads. That's a total commitment job because once you start cutting out eyeholes, there's no turning back. Unfortunately, this was one of my multi-layered slush cast hollow resin heads so cutting and grinding presented a few problems. Despite what you might think about layers of resin bonding to each other, they do it half-assedly. I found that some grinding ops would snag an edge between layers, separate it and chip a chunk out. Basically, a layered resin casting just isn't the preferred construction for a grinding operation and consequently, the eye holes needed considerable patchwork reconstruction. Yes, it was very ugly.

Once that was done-- and after considerable back and forth tweaking-- the eyes were backfitted. This is tricky stuff. Not only is there the problem of positioning them with very little room to manipulate (even after gluing on handles), but getting aligned reflective "eye dots" using homemade eyeballs is an extremely hit-or-miss proposition. The first problem comes from getting identical curvature on both corneas. If you don't have identical curvatures, the reflected light isn't going to reflect back from the same place on both eyes. In addition to this you have the problem of setting the eyes to the same depth within the the head. If they're off, chances are the relective dots will be off too. I've only been successful about 50% of the time and this one belongs with the unsuccessful half. On the bright side, at least she has eyes again (even if they do look a little crossed)...

Another observation about resin: It's kinda tempermental. Resin "freshness" is a continuum which probably starts the downward slope the moment you open the containers and expose the chemical components to air. It doesn't change color or otherwise outwardly indicate when it's reached that point where it's unwise to use. One of the after-the-fact symptoms of dying resin are castings which "weep" chemicals and remain tacky in spots after they've cured. This can wreak havoc on paintjobs or even make the casting impossible to paint. I didn't have that problem with this head (I think), but upon reworking it, I noticed something else that was very strange. I'd friction fitted the head to the neck using a layer of hot glue around the neckpost. Hot glue is one of those stable, reliable things that should last forever-- after all, they've been making beach souvenirs with it since the beginning of time. Imagine my surprise when the freakin' glue disintegrated when I removed the head... the stuff literally crumbled. So I'm thinking... is there some kind of chemical reaction between the resin and the hot glue? Jeez, sometimes I hate resin...

fantasy high priestess dollOnce you start mucking around with stuff, it just leads to more mucking around... Since the eye job necessitated repainting the head, I decided to fix a few other things before repainting. The figure's fat head had been bothering me for a while. Vintage Joes have fat necks and this had naturally led to construction of a fat head. The only way to fix this was to thin the neck a bit, build up the inside of the head near the neck and grind off some outside material at the neck and jaw. (In retrospect, I didn't take off as much as I should have, but that's a task for the next revision.) I was about to grind off and completely redo her nose and mouth, but wisely conceded that the evil petulant lips and flared nostrils expression really does fit the part of a High Priestess. Besides, I had found other things to fix...

Looking a little bit further down, I realized that I didn't like the way her shoulders sloped to her arms... and I'd never given her collarbones! Grind, grind, fix, fix. And below that, her torso was lacking any hint of a ribcage... Grind, grind, fix, fix. And her abdominal curves needed some tweaking... Grind, grind, fix, fix. And her feet were still too long... Grind, grind, fix, fix. I resisted the temptation to fuse her hip/torso articulation, because it didn't look bad and worked fairly well (and had probably taken me a long time to tweak... so for sentimental reasons, it stays.) No, I didn't give her nether region detailing either... (That was fun a few times, but seemed like a degenerate fixation.)

There were a few other things which I didn't like about the original figure which I'd never fixed, mainly out of laziness or because they were hidden by the costuming. Since I now was facing a total repaint of the figure, it made sense to go ahead and fix that kind of stuff too. At the top of the list were the arms-- I'd originally only minimally altered her arms and not bothered to fix their shaping. It's hard to say whether I was just less fussy or less knowledgeable back then? Certainly now I do have the ability to make meaningless improvements which are completely hidden by the costuming.

A while back it occurred to me that on a vintage-style figure you could flip the elbow hinge, which removed the need for a separate bicep swivel. As originally designed, the elbow hinge allows the forearm to swivel-- this is useful for absolutely nothing except for removing the forearm. When the hinge is flipped top-to-bottom, the swivel can perform almost the same function as the bicep swivel and remove an unnecessary articulation seam. (This was copied from the way Hasbro did it in their Classic Collection line-- translating this to the ganged hinge design has proven to be a challenge for the manufacturers.) This is pretty easy to do; the forearm is cut at midpoint, which happens to be at the same place the bicep articulation splits, thus ensuring that the elbow stays in the same place (doesn't place higher or lower). Midpoint also happens to be where the elbow hinge's pin ends. This is mainly just a tidy fact-- the pin end probably should be shortened a little so it doesn't bind with the upper arm when you fuse them. Although this kind of plastic bonds well with Superglue, the upper arm join requires reinforcement because it will be subjected to the shearing stress of the swivel articulation. While there's plenty of room to drill and insert thin reinforcing pins between the pieces, a much simpler and faster way is to cut a short segment of piano wire, place it on the outside of the aligned pieces and heat it with the tip of a soldering pencil. It'll submerge in the plastic, leaving you with a little bit of a cleanup job. Just make sure that the arm segments are the length you want because it will be much more difficult to cut through the arm after the steel pins are embedded. The forearms don't really require this treatment since they're subjected to less stress: a simple styrene rod inserts neatly in the bore between the pieces and does the job.

After doing as much of these improvements as I could possibly stand, it was finally time to paint her and put her back together. This gave me the opportunity to play around with one more normally-hidden-by-costuming improvement, illustrated for you in this rare gratuitous nipple shot. I'm a die-hard brush painter, so I'd never bother to break out the airbrush for something like this. However, since I'd recently used acrylic extender to do her eye makeup, I decided to do a fade-into-flesh style nipple. Woo hoo. Nevermind that the genuine article's transition is usually a mottled blend rather than a smooth blend, but this looks kinda neat. Every collection should have at least one figure done up this way.

Acrylic paint extender is a great product (I just keep forgetting that I have the stuff). Acrylic paint dries so fast that adding extender is the easiest way to keep the pigment in suspension long enough for you to do on-surface blending without incurring the dreaded pigment line.


Okay, so after the figure's been painted and put back in her outfit...


fantasy high priestess doll What the...??? She looks just the same!!!

Like I said, the revisions sort of... barely justify a new article. Most of the revisions I've discussed are hidden by costuming or are of such a subtle nature that the pics don't show them. Basically, I was happy with the look of the figure before I started; she just needed a few minor refinements. So only a week after I'd decided to fix her eyes, this is where I'm at now-- and still not finished, exactly. The figure-fixin' part is done but I've just started to play around with ideas for embellishing the costuming. While I was satisfied with the original costuming, it lacked something...like grandeur? That's partially prompted by seeing Salma Hayek's Satanico Pandemonium costuming in "From Dusk Till Dawn". Her initial outfit (before it starts coming off) achieves a regal look while showing lots of skin... kinda like a Las Vegas show girl, but with a difference. Since I'm not trying to copy that outfit but trying to copy the effect, I've experimentally added the pouffy fur thing, skull headress and cape. It gets some of the effect I'm after but it's still not there...