Last modified:
Thursday, October 10, 2002 10:35 PM




R.I.P. Gretchen Gazongas??? Oooooh, nooooo, Mr. Jimbob! Gosh. Why???

One of the pitfalls of this hobby (and perhaps our culture) is that it encourages a tunnel vision where we see the accumulation of stuff as the key to our happiness. I'm certainly not immune to this, but I do realize that it's kind of unhealthy, and that I don't actively appreciate all the stuff that I've acquired through the years. My horizon of active appreciation is actually pretty short and all that stuff that once seemed so special might as well be invisible... except for once in a blue moon. Usually it just occupies space and gathers dust. But it's my stuff and I insist on having it out. As much as possible. Mine. My preccciousssss... (The trauma of having lost my childhood toys obviously left a few scars.)

Recycling figures through customizing can help to alleviate this problem (even though it's like bailing water with a teaspoon). I've only completely killed one character so far (Barbra Underwire) and a few others have just undergone recostuming and role reassignment. It's one of the joys of customizing: You can redo figures as many times as you see fit, it can be fairly cheap, and it's always entertaining. Such recycling doesn't consume additional display space. That's important for me since I've been foolishly adding to my collection lately and have had to distribute some neat dustketchers elsewhere in the house. My wife probably doesn't think that an F-15 cockpit, astronaut and samurai figures are appropriate living room decorations, but she's too sweet to say anything about it.

Gretchen Gazongas was a gag. It was funny to have an outrageously buxotic dancer figure hanging out with a musician, holding a bong and a bag of pot. But I'd already laughed at the joke, and so she just stood there, day in and day out, gathering dust. The gag didn't tell a story that I was interested in. Gretchen wasn't living up to her potential. All of her friends had gone on to glamorous film careers and got to wear neato skimpy outfits made of leather, metal, plastic and Crisco. All she ever got to wear were cheap & quickie bikinis which exploited her basketball-sized breasts. Believe it or not, you do get tired of looking at basketball-sized breasts. She needed a change. I wanted a change. So I decided to give her new life with a pair of grapefruit-sized breasts. This would open to her the glamorous world of swords & sandals films. (Everyone knows that basketballs are a modern invention and don't belong in such films.) If you remember her original project article, you know that this transformation ability is built-in (kinda like a Mammary MegaZord, minus the flashy henshin graphics). Doing one better than BBI's "Perfect Body" figure, I provided her with three boob plates: basketball, soccerball and bigger-than-a-softball-but-smaller-than-a-volleyball. So the R.I.P. sentiment is exaggerated-- even though she would be retiring her old buxotic dancer personna, it could still be revived if the old Buxotic Signal one day appeared in the night sky.

There was also the matter of The Challenge: As they say, if it ain't hard, it ain't worth a fuck. Another warrior woman? Uhhhhh... Seeing the sculpted detailing on the McFarlane Samurai Wars figures made me realize that I hadn't sculpted anything intricate in a long time. I know my limits: I rate some of the (machine assisted?) detailing on Dragon's/BBI's weapons as being way beyond my freehand sculpting ability, but some of the McFarlane detailing, being "organic", is almost within reach. Some detail is very fine, but appears to be done by human hand. The McFarlane figures contain a lot of detailing, which takes a lot of sculpting time. Determination and persistence gets you through that. (Yeppers, just acknowledging that I know how it's done... didn't say I was gonna do it!)

All these things had a grand convergence in Gretchen's boobs. Because of their henshinability, I could create a new boobplate with an intricately detailed cruel bra, along with the nifty deformation that it would inflict on the boobflesh. Because the whole plate would be removeable, the bra itself wouldn't be-- collectively, it would be a "boobstyle". And she could look "normal" too (with basketball sized breasts). The concept is kinda neat-- somewhere between reconfigurable sculpture, action figure (according to my terminology) and doll. Unfortunately, this idea can't be applied to other areas of this figure since she doesn't have a switchable belly or hips plate. But such a thing would be possible if designed into the figure from the ground up (probably would require factory production tolerances though). Awwww... get real: All this stuff is just extra parts to stash. Her original boobplates took up both seats in the Barbie Boxster. What am I gonna do now???

(What the fuck is an Amazon Warrior Queen? Okay, then she's a Valkyrie...)

The fine detail... Yep, it's certainly not evident in this pic. Once the figure is further along and some washes are applied, maybe you'll be able to appreciate the tale of Gilgamesh, lavishly illustrated in the engraved detail. Not really.

Creating detail is its own little world. It may seem to be mainly an issue of sculpting ability and eye-hand coordination (@#%!!! sticky and limp epoxy putty!), but designing it is perhaps far more agonizing and time-consuming. You start with a blank slate: What to put there, and how to fill it up? There are so many different motifs to select from, but adapting them and making them work in an area ain't easy. There's definitely an artistic talent involved in selecting harmonious detail motifs which aren't terrible clichés and which don't detract from the overall design-- You know when it works... and when you've cobbled together a funky hodgepodge of geegaws just to fill area. I've done that (the geegaws) and am even pretty shameless about using those overdone clichés, like the skulls and horns thing... But I guess you can't see it, ha ha!


10/05/02- Another crummy picture (The good pics come after I've decided on all the parts). The "claws" bra idea is similar to that of Lady Death's armoured outfit design (I like the general look of that outfit, so Gretchen may even get a helmet). Since Chaos Comix went belly-up, this is sort of like a tribute... or maybe I'm just picking over their bones? Anyway, the bra doesn't have anything which could be considered fine detail (it's mainly in the center's Giger-esque bones), but it provided some detailing challenges. The claws were the easy part. I spent a lot of time just thinking about how I was going to fill the area between the bra's "claws" -- I wanted a solution which worked with the prominent nipple detail (I felt compelled to leave it in), and most secondary detail and pattern ideas didn't work with it at all. A bumpy, pebbled texturing fill seemed to blend best. It's a simple, low-technique solution but it took a day or so of background thinking to come up with.

The neckpiece and crotchpiece are mainly a hodgepodge of those geegaws I mentioned earlier, without any real unifying theme. The only neat part IMO is the rope chain-like detail threaded onto straps at the crotch section. Originally, the crotch panel was sculpted as one wide piece (incorporating the lower part I'd sculpted a long time ago). After putting it together, I didn't like how it looked, so I snipped the side wings; later those leftover scraps were used on the straps.

I used the claw theme in the rounded shoulder armour, but toned it down so that claws didn't catch on the movement of the arms. These were actually a redesign; the first version were the big and angular shoulder armour, which ended up on the cape (this picture). They were deliberately designed with "outlandish" in mind, which seemed to go with the outlandish brassiere.

The cape... and I thought the potato sack tunic was the easist thing to make: You can make a cape without any sewing at all! It can be as simple as a circle slit up the front with a neckhole cutout. There are lots of fancy things you can do, like make it out of four panels, add a hood, a capelet, armslits, a liner, hem the edges. Basically, I wanted to avoid doing anything which might stiffen the cloth since it drapes so well, considering how much material is used. This velvety material really doesn't fray so I didn't need to hem the edges. One of the neat things is that it can be scooted to the back (like Superman's cape) where it drapes without bunching outward. The angular shoulder armour faces backwards, looking like little wings. I love it when an outfit can provide several different looks quickly, without a lot of hassle.

Here's a closeup of the outer shoulder armor doodle... It was an afterthought, meant as an obscure Taoist reference and homage to a small producer. Fanciers of the exotic high-end output of the hobby might recognize where this reference comes from; otherwise, it looks like a Japanese devil mask. Mainly, it's to remind me not to give in to temptation...

10/06/02- Yeah, the digital camera takes better pictures, but it's more of a hassle to set up and gives a funky preview of what the picture is gonna look like. I wasn't gonna get much more done this weekend, so I figured that this was as good a point as any to show what she looks like so far. Still to go are the leg/shin armour, fixing her feet (the high heels I stole from Barbra Underwire's grave are a little loose), details tweaking, and doing the wash. I'm also thinking of reworking her tummy and lowering her bellybutton. Bunches left to do, but at least I won't have to paint her nipples.

Before starting on the costuming, I did a few things to the figure: I fused her hips and lower torso (since the articulation there really wasn't very useful), and gave her beefier thighs (a personal preference). I've also replaced her hands with gloved Cool Girl hands-- these have the additional axis of rotation and were better sized than the original male Dragon hands. That wasn't very difficult (if you've ever got a reason to do this): The Dragon hand retainer has a smaller diameter hole which is easily enlarged for the CG hand pin. However, right behind the hole is a rubber retainer which doesn't enlarge as easily, even with a Dremel. Of course the CG's long hand pin needs to be shortened a bunch.

Today's big ordeal was the helmet. It amazes me how much time I can spend on something like this, and it should amaze you too since the helmet doesn't look terribly impressive. Most of the time was spent designing it on her-- positioning the handful of basic shapes, trying to see what looked good (as the parts fell off, fueling my aggravation). I've made and unmade this friggin' thing sooooo many times. The main problem has been her big hair-- I like big hair, but regular helmet solutions end up looking like mushrooms. The approach I ended up taking was low bulk, like a tiara. The main frontal piece stretches open at the sides and compresses around and into her hair. It's joined at the top frontal section (not sides, so they can remain springy) to the front half of the top cap (with the "wings", which are undetailed version of the angular shoulder armour). The back half section is hinged with leather and made of two sections of those wings. So it's like a hinged tail. It's amazing how much mileage I got out of that shoulder armour-- those were the original plain pieces I used to mockup "the look".

The helmet isn't really finished-- I just got disgusted with it. I've reached a crossroads with the rampant detailing thing-- I've discovered that I really do like those smooth undetailed expanses. Yes, detailing takes LOTS of time, especially if you attempt to do superfine detail, as I did for the cheekpieces and the brow. I'm not convinced that it's effective: It all blurs together in a general impression of busy-ness. Simpler, larger detail seems to be far more effective, especially detail that has more exaggerated 3-D depth. A lot of this is due to the chrome coloring, which has a tendency to make it look like crumpled up aluminum foil. Anyway, this impacts whether & how I finish detailing the helmet.

By the way, I may have prematurely credited Lady Death for the inspiration... I remembered that I saw Sybil Danning's eye-catching outfit in "Battle Beyond the Stars" waaaay before LD. It was so outrageous that the censors put little black boxes over the offending puffed-up parts when they first showed it on broadcast TV. Anyway, it's made me reconsider -- I guess she's more of a "Valkyrie" than an "Amazon Warrior Queen"?