DIDDLING WITH THE IMPERIALS
MEDICOM'S SHADOW STORMTROOPER REDUX
02/03/16- Ten years ago, Medicom's Shadow Stormtrooper was the bee's knees, but since then Sideshow and Hot Toys have made better versions of the OT Stormtrooper in black (a.k.a., "Blackhole Stormtrooper"). Their versions are taller, with sturdier base figures that are less likely to break, as mine did when I hauled it out from storage (and tried to pose its arm in a way it didn't like). This seemed like the perfect excuse to spend money on a newer and better version. Instead, I decided to have fun with the remnants of the Medicom doll.
The "Shadow Stormtrooper" is (so far) a non-film creation that appears in Expanded Universe fiction (which I haven't read) and videogames, so by my reckoning, it's freer than most for personal re-interpretation. Heck, it's just an original trilogy stormtrooper done up in black (similar to the Pistachio Stormtrooper and the Wood-Grain Stormtrooper). Its biggest selling point is that it doesn't yellow and is impervious to discoloration from cigarette smoke.
A frequent criticism of Medicom is the size of their dolls-- In the past, they tended to see 1:6 scale as smaller than just about everyone else. Indeed, their Shadow Stormtrooper is diminutive compared to all the other manufacturers' Stormtroopers. However, the Medicom armor fits a female figure (with some work), which jives with the times: Even though the OT Star Wars movies don't show females in Imperial military roles (not surprising considering when they were made), the truth is that the footage was cut to avoid shocking the movie-going audience. A mixed gender army would have height variation, which makes Medicom a true crusader for the feminist movement, and their smaller figures a gutsy and progressive move, ahead of the times. Well, duhhh.
In the Battlefront game, the black armor gives the trooper a "cloaked" mode which makes for a more challenging opponent and a cool video effect. The game isn't story-driven (it's all about "kill the wabbit!"), so the variety of opponents is used mainly to serve up different challenges, not to fit how they might actually be deployed in a story. I extrapolated that the trooper's shadow/stealth abilities would be useful for special operations, including reconnaissance, infiltration, sabotage, and assassination missions. Hence, it has lots of customizing potential, like a backpack with "Repulsorlift"-technology, a base for a remote drone, assault weaponry, demolition charges, etc. It's a lot like the "Jump Trooper" that I cobbled together during my last visitation; in fact, I cannibalized that one for some parts. I think it's an improvement since the Medicom armor is a bit more upscale than Hasbro's... plus, it's black! Black armor matters.
Even though it's a simple project, it's surprising how much time you can spend on something like this. It's fun to try ideas out, like converting the WWII German MP40 to a Star Wars-ish weapon. Even simple mechanical stuff like thinning the vinyl armor and figuring out different ways to attach it can be fun.
I enjoyed playing with the concept of the backpack as a Repulsorlift-tech autonomous droid, with it's own deployable sentry drone (a slightly modified IM4 Sandtrooper drone). It was hard to rein in the tendency to turn it into a swiss army knife: Flight, shields, sensors, life-support, power generation, communications, artificial intelligence, armaments, companion, porta-potty, etc. Even harder was trying to make the backpack look "droid-ish" without giving it limbs or a head. In that, I failed miserably.
No mstter. Since the backpack is magnetically attached, it's easy to turn back into a regular black stormtrooper. A short, black regular stormtrooper.
Inevitably though, the fun winds down and you move on to the next thing...
HASBRO'S SCOUT TROOPER
After reading a few random pages I retrieved my old Hasbro Scout Trooper and Speeder Bike from storage and winced at its Hasbro-ness-- the huge hand-gloves, the limited articulation, and the funky side tabs on the chest armor. Having the Collector's Affliction, I felt compelled to get Sideshow's, assuming it to be much better. While waiting for delivery, I tinkered with the Hasbro doll and decided that it wasn't so bad after all.
It didn't take much to fix most of the really bad stuff since I had a spare Volks Neo Guy figure from the cannibalized original "Jump Trooper" (above). The oversized Hasbro gloves were replaced with some Dragon gloved hands as a temporary stand-in until the Sideshow spares arrived. The ugly side tabs were cut off and the front was secured to the body with grosgrain ribbon and a mini side release buckle at the back; the back armor concealed it and held to the front with small neodymium magnets at the sides. Despite being inaccurate to the actual costume, this gave a good fit without showing any straps, and made it easy to remove. The oversized "cumberbund" pouches and crotch pad needed to be fixed; as a temporary fix, they were made a bit smaller... but a better fix would involve breaking out the sewing machine to remake the cumberbund. Once the Sideshow Scout Trooper arrived, I made resin/foam/cloth copies of the pouches. The vinyl belt was replaced with white leather so that the side belts would hang more naturally, using the original plastic decorative buckles and boxes.
The E-11s Sniper rifle (from the Battlefront game) is a good-looking accessory that was included with Sideshow's Exclusive version... so it isn't something that you can easily find on eBay. Unlike most of the Original Trilogy's weaponry, it isn't a barely-disguised WWI/WWII armament. It looks sort of like a German MG-38 or MG-42, but the barrel shroud appears to have a hexagonal cross-section; it's hard to find really good pictures of it, which is understandable since it wasn't in the movies and probably only existed as a digital model at first. If you're not rivet-counting for the game (in fact, IIRC, one of the splash screens in the game shows it with a round barrel), just about any long rifle or MG with a scope and sling gives the same general look of the Scout Trooper-as-sniper.
As you work on stuff like this you tend to be drawn into that rivet-counter mindset and begin to be bothered by the little stuff that normal people would never notice. The inaccurate shoulder bells began to bother me so I made and modified castings from a Stormtrooper. It's slightly neurotic, but I replaced the bicep armors' straps with a wider elastic. The Hasbro doll lacked the backside Thermal Detonator, so I cast Sideshow's and devised a magnetic attachment since I'm always knocking off the hook-style TDs: I don't care if it's not how they're supposed to be attached!
Hasbro's hold-out blaster is slightly oversized but looks good in the doll's gloved hand; however, the ankle holster looks like a giant white brick strapped to the side of the boot-- it sticks out too far, and would probably knock against every tree, log, or boulder that the trooper walked by. The problem's with the design of the blaster: Less of a problem if the blaster's scope were mounted on top instead of on the right side of the blaster (a weird place to mount a scope for a right-handed shooter). With a top-mounted scope on the blaster, the holster wouldn't need to be as wide, and would look less funky mounted to the boot.
I was undecided about weathering it-- I prefer unweathered, or minimally weathered. I added a small amount of weathering with powders to bring it closer to the look of Sideshow's (minus the overdone boot grunge). IMO, it looks close enough to pose with the Marmit, Sideshow, and Hot Toys troopers.
The Sideshow Scout Trooper arrived while I was working on the Hasbro conversion. No regrets; scout troopers look better in pairs, and I wanted one for the biker role and one for the sniper role. It had the spare gloved hands I needed to upgrade the Hasbro, and other parts that could be copied and used (cautiously) as reference and baseline standard. The funny thing is that the "upgrade" Sideshow doll got some major things wrong; I replaced the knee armor with castings from the Hasbro doll, which appear to better capture the look of the screen Scout Trooper (imagine that!). The shoulder bells seemed a bit fat and squashed so I heat-compressed them to make them slightly narrower. Sideshow's helmet, although a very nice piece, appears to be less faithful to the screen version than Hasbro's. That's a weird failing considering that the helmet is probably the most-important piece and pics from all angles of screen-used helmets are available online (now, although maybe not when they were designing it).
Overall, it's a good-looking representation of the Scout Trooper that looks and feels higher quality than the stock Hasbro version. There are some things that they did very well, and others... not so much. One of my concerns-- the base body --is improved over the horrible and floppy design they had the last time I bought one of their dolls. (I didn't actually undress it to see the changes, it just worked better, or maybe I've given up on dolls being able to stand without stands?) It's hard to understand the things they got wrong since it's marketed and priced like a collectible, whereas Hasbro's was marketed and priced as a toy (albeit many, many years ago). Nevertheless, props go to Sideshow for carrying the torch and producing stuff that Hot Toys may not get around to.
Working on the same figure from two companies was fun. Researching specific bits and pieces revealed details that I'd never have thought about, thus taking me a few more steps down the proud path of Star Wars Nerd-dom. The research showed that both dolls needed a bit of work, which I consider to be a good thing: IMO, DIY involvement with a figure increases the bang-for-the-buck gratification and gives you more quality time than a store-bought, shelf-ready collectible. (I don't consider unboxings to be "quality time".) It's a worthy goal: If you're really skilled, you can transform a funky Hasbro figure into a less funky Hasbro figure for less than the cost of an overpriced collectible, and have a great time doing it. (continued-->)