DRACHAE, THE SPIDER WITCH

Last modified:
Tuesday, October 29, 2002 5:30 AM

 

Two weeks without an update... Jeez, what a fuckin' SLACKER!!! Nevermind that I've been extremely busy, having watched FIFTEEN Doctor Who tapes and DVDs and having gone through disk 4 of 17 in the Space 1999 megapack... in addition to fulltime work, a wife and two cats. I repaired a malfunctioning Dalek too. And somehow, I managed to bang this one together for the website. Yep, I'm a compulsive weirdo, and while normal people are busy turning their Volks dolls into kiddie porn seductresses, I'm turning mine into a wrinkly hag with drooping boobs. (I guess you could call her "leggy" though.)

Before getting into the fun part of this project, I wanted to comment on Volks' "Excellent Base (Neo) Figure", since this project relies on one. In fact, this is the first time I've used the figure for anything besides the review. The original review was awfully gushy and slanted towards exploration of the inner workings of the figure-- at the time, it offered some insight into the eagerly-awaited Neo Guy figure. That approach comes from being curious about figure construction and articulation, but tended to overlook the "real world" aspect of figures.

The "real world" for me meant that I had a difficult time finding a use for this figure. The appearance suggested making a thin angelic creature or a robot. However, the profusion of neat articulation and the model-like construction meant that, although the figure could do poses that few other figures could, it was finicky for common poses and had a hard time standing. It's a relatively complex figure and that can get in the way of simple things like quickie posing and semi-radical customizing to improve the appearance. Because the construction tolerances are so unforgiving in key areas-- the arm & torso articulation for example -- you can't do anything very adventurous without running the risk of screwing something up. Your recourse is to either gut the fancy articulation (why not use a simpler figure in the first place?) or accept it and be satisfied with the appearance. I used a combination of both approaches, with the idea of preserving as much of the original articulation as possible.

There were a few things which I flat-out disliked: the knees which hyperextended forward (though easy to fix by inserting pins in the hinge to limit their travel), and the multi-part torso with its segments that exposed a gap in the front and kept getting out of alignment. This wasn't quite as easy to fix: Frictioning shims were added between the torso sections and it was adapted for elastic tensioning. I also hated the way the legs looked where they joined the hips, especially for a normal standing pose. Fixing this would have required full radical surgery. If I were to do this I'd need a longer, heftier tensioning line, so I'd have to gut the upper torso, which would destroy the unusual shoulder articulation-- in other words, why even bother with the Volks figure? My solution was simple: Off with her legs! This allowed me to retain the unusual articulation features of the upper torso and improve the elastic tensioning layout since the extra distance through the hips permitted a slightly longer run of elastic (longer runs are easier to work with).

 

spider witch doll

 

Actually, the development of this project followed a different sequence than I implied: It didn't start with the Volks figure, but started with the idea of making a multi-legged creature. The Volks figure was selected because of its size and weight and because I didn't mind getting rid of the legs. The multi-legged idea was attractive because it was a change from making the Same Old Shit... plus I had a bunch of discarded Barbie arms in my parts box from previous projects. I decided to make six "road legs" with two arms to loosely meets the membership requirements for the Arachnid class... a liberal interpretation of course, since arthropods don't have boobs, droopy or otherwise.

The lower thorax is made of three Barbie upper torsos, minus the heads, ganged together and shaped. Additional elbow hinges came from three more Barbies-- Each leg is made of the shoulder hinge, two elbow hinges plus an additional simple hinge on the front legs only. (I had to defile two virginal Barbies, but their other parts may be useful in the future... unless Uncle Jimbob gives the gift of "Armless Barbie" for Xmas?) The Barbie elbow articulation was well-suited because of its compact size, the combination of hinge with rotation and the fact that the hinge could be easily adapted for effective screw tightening ("effective", because some materials don't support that very well). I wish I could justify defiling two more Barbies but that would be kinda excessive: Her "road legs" already have 38 axes of articulation [(7 articulation axes, including shoulders x 2 front legs) + (6 x 4 back legs); hinge + rotation = 2 axes]. That might also aggravate a basic problem...

One of the most important considerations for a figure like this is making sure the legs can hold their pose reliably and support the figure's final weight. Having six ground legs helps with the creature's stability-- it's unlikely to tip or fall over, even if all aren't touching ground (for point-tipped, all you need is three). However, under a heavy load the legs are more likely to collapse or fold. After posing, it would be unlikely that all six legs would be touching the ground, so the weight doesn't get distributed over six contact points-- all the weight is supported by those that are touching the ground. Given that the most stable support would be straight legs with no articulation at all, the best way to mimic that quality with articulation is to make sure the joints are tight. Generally speaking, the more articulation you add, the more potential problems you introduce.

Fixing the hinges was easy-- screws replaced a set of strategic hinge pins. In some hinges, the natural orientation in conjunction with the hinge housing limited the deflection and rigidized the leg. The rotation articulation is just as big a source of problems, but a more difficult problem to satisfactorily fix. As far as I know, the Barbie hinge stem isn't removeable for you to be able to wrap with Teflon tape to increase friction. Fortunately, I've only had a couple of hinges with this problem and I solved it by jamming a sliver of soft plastic into the joint to remove free play.

Even with all these "fixes", the legs are still awfully spindly, so the bottom line is that you've got to keep the figure's weight down. Using the petite and light Volks figure helped. Using a hollow vacuformed abdomen (cleverly attached using a couple segments of BBI's ball and socket articulated figure stand... I knew that sucker would be good for sumpin'!) also helped-- that was one of the very few ways this could have been done. Finally, I made a point of using as little putty as possible on this figure-- putty is very dense, and laying it over plastic is a sure way to balloon the figure's weight. I did make the facial and boob modifications with putty, but the rest of the figure was sculpted with the heat of a soldering pencil. Yep, lots of charred, stinky plastic got pushed around and welded... an extremely tedious job. I've been thinking about how I'm going to finish the surface-- while sanding and painting would be an option, I kinda like the rough texturing and dirty charred coloration. I've gone over the whole figure, texturing areas that didn't need work, just to make the texture and coloration consistent.

While spider wimmen aren't a novel idea, I was most directly inspired by the spider creature from the Japanese flick, Kamen Rider Z0. That creature was far more wicked-looking than my attempt (her wide gaping mouth is truly fearsome), but that's deliberate because I didn't want to borrow too heavily. Instead, I was more traditional with the facials, borrowing some of the witch/crone characterization from the movie The Witches (an exploratory headsculpt is in the "Remarks" section). The wild purplish pink hair is a slight nod to Madame Mim (?) in Disney's old animation, The Sword in the Stone. With the Volks body, the figure is relatively petite. That fits with the idea that this would be an ancient, crafty but completely insane creature who didn't rely on brute strength. Kinda like Davros from Doctor Who, even though the mouth reminds me of Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars. There... have I dropped enough pop cultural references for ya? --10/26/02

 

spider witch doll

spider witch doll
--10/27/02--