Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Plastic Pantheon: 1950s Batmobile from Johnny Lightning!

Okay, continuing with the flow here... I went out to the garage-- which lately has become a wondrous treasure chest holding delights long forgotten-- and unearthed this dusty, musty kit.

Check out that layer of dirt!
I originally bought this kit from a Toys-r-Us back in 2004 (I think).  I brought it home, thought it was cool... and it ended up being unbuilt, and stored away in the garage.  Well, where else do you put a car?!

Sadly, I never bought the Bat-Gyro or 1940s Batmobile...
Anyways, I've brought it back inside, and have removed the parts, which as the pic below indicates, are few in number.  The real fun part will be the details of the mobile bat-lab contained in the rear of the car.  Thankfully, the body (which is metal) comes pre-painted, with windows already in place, so there'll be no "mystery holes" in this Batmobile!
More soon! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Plastic Pantheon: Captain America Part 3!

... and since Blogger is a weinie, here's more pics of the completed model, in a separate post!
I contemplated dirtying his costume a bit, to simulate the heat of battle. But once you've painted that bright red white and blue suit, if feels criminal to stain it!

The side poster, after weathering.

Here you can see the handle for his shield.  Like my previous Captain America model, the chest stripes were a mega-pain!
I did do a test with little floating bricks in front of him, to simulate the action of his smashing through the wall, but it actually ended up looking as if people were throwing bricks AT him!  I decided against it. 

A bit of advice though, if you plan on combining a printed image with Future polish, like I did: make sure to heavily spray some kind of clear coating onto BOTH SIDES of the printed image; this will help shield the image from the soaking/blurring effects of the Future.  Future polish continues to amaze me with its myriad of uses for the modeller!

More madness to come! You've been warned.

The Plastic Pantheon: Captain America Part 2!

So, remember how in the last post I warmed to the thought of taking my time on this kit, and really putting the effort in, in between shifts at work? Well, instead I got on a major roll and completed the model!  And yes, I still have my job!

I darkened the sinkhole in preparation for the transparent puddle.
For starters, I focused on the background.  I looked at the Nazi propaganda posters that I'd printed out, and using the color palette featured in them, I selected colors for the stones in the wall.  I didn't want the posters to stand out; I wanted a homogenous color scheme, I wanted them all to fit in.  That even went for the color of the grass and soil-- I wanted a unified front against which I could stage the brightly colored Captain America.

The color selection of the stones looks "Disneyesque" at this point.
I applied numerous washed of "dirtiness" to the walls, making sure to "burn" the edges of the bricks to simulate the smoke stains from nearby burning buildings.  Weathering is a tricky business; it's one of those things that feels good while you're doing it, but sometimes too much of a good this is bad.  Finding that exact moment when you need to stop is the trick!

And, with no further ado... the completed model!
Following a nose job and ear operation, Cap doesn't look so goofy.  I added some tiny touches of gloss to both eyes and the teeth to separate them from the flat skin.  Yes, his eyes do twinkle.
I was happy with the "splash" effect.  I'll admit that at first I thought this was going to be a cheese-tastic-looking part of the model.  However, with the proper colors mixed with Future, I was able to have color plus transparency AND shine (of course!).
This angle shows a bit of the shimmer from the puddle, as well as how well Cap stands out from the dreary background.

You can see the shimmer from the created puddle.
Here's that Hitler poster! I burned the egdes, crumpled it, then set it into the sinkhole. Then I filled the sinkhole with Future polish, and two things happened: a transparent puddle was created, and the image of Hitler deteriorated creepily! Very cool.  Sort of symbolic of the major butt-whippin' that Cap was about to unleash on the Third Reich!

Here you can see the light reflecting from the "puddle."  It makes a nice connection with the splash.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Plastic Pantheon: Captain America!

Well, as is usually the case with me, I am a man of surges.  I will get on a roll, and sometimes the momentum of everything just carries me along to the next project.  Maybe over the last 6 months or so I may have built nothing, and then suddenly I'm shippin' 'em out like a bakery!

The next character to be added to the Plastic Pantheon, the Styrene Stadium, the-- well, you get the idea-- is none other than Captain America.  This is a reissue from Polar Lights of an older kit from (I think) the 1970s.  This particular kit was dug out of my garage in a pretty sad state.  I wasn't even in its original box, it had been partially primed/assembled/painted by me, and get this-- there were rodent droppings in the open box!  Thank God above that no decals came with this one originally!

After some major cleaning, I remembered all of the things that I hated about this kit, the things that got me disenchanted with it around 5 or 6 years ago when I first bought it.  Cap comes with three different faces for you to choose from.  Only one of them is actually good, but it would be good only on a figure that was standing still, posing. He looks tranquil, assured, and shows no sign of exertion!  The other two faces are very odd; the nose on both is EXTREMELY big and pointy, and the head is small in proportion to the face.  The mouth  expression is a little dicey, and in one face the mouth is super-tiny and open.  It's just all wrong.  But I had to go with a face that had some emotion on it, so I went to work on the face, chiseling away the nose, and even building up the brow.  Check out the pic, and see for yourself:  doesn't Cap look like he's saying "Oh please mister, don't make me fight you.  Just come along nice and peaceful-like so I don't get hurt."  He looks like he's pleading with someone, or he's almost to the point of fainting or something. Hmph.  Check out the large nose, which dominates the face even after having been shaved down considerably!

It looks almost as if he's laughing.  Who did this?!

Slow build-up of red putty, to furrow brow a bit.
I ended up carving more indentions into the slightly lowered brow, giving him a more concentrated expression.  The mouth almost looks like he's smiling, which doesn't work with the setting provided.  I couldn't build up the skull to make the face not look so out of proportion, because if I did then the ENTIRE BODY would look even smaller than it is.  He barely has an athletic build... I mean, where are the trap muscles? This is Captain America, buddy!

Look at the goofy attempt at a snarl on that face.
 Another major hassle was the ears, which, inexplicably, they decided to supply as SEPARATE PIECES! And of course, they're totally too big and too thick! I put them on, and it looked like he had headphones on!  I had to shave them down to about half of their original thickness in order to get them close to being right, about a good as they're gonna get.
Thank goodness that, despite years of neglect in my dirty garage, in an open box, none of the pieces are missing.  I really like this base, and see a lot of storytelling potential here.  The indented area in the center of the base is meant to be a sort of puddle, and a clear plastic "splash" piece has been provided.  I'm going to create a transparent puddle for that indention, and will tint the clear piece to match the puddle.  I'm also thinking about making some bricks and attaching them to thin wires so that they'll appear to be flying through the air as Cap bounds over the wall, a sort of Jack Kirby feel going on.

One of the enhancements to the background is to create the impression that Cap is infiltrating a Nazi-occupied zone.  I fished the internet for Nazi propaganda posters, and then printed them out to scale.  I'm going to attach a few to the brick wall, and maybe have the one of Hitler on the ground, maybe in the puddle.  Oh, and yes, I'll be excising the text from the bottom of the Hitler poster, since it's for his "election" in 1933, long before WW2!

I had to do a lot of boring patching/puttying/sanding on all of the seams, which were particularly wretched.  As you can see, I'm basically picking up where I left off, years ago! "Oh yeah... THIS is why I gave up on this kit!"

Anyways, I've begun painting, and have basically gotten the face and overall intial coats of paint done on the figure.  He'll need a second layer of blue, and the red... well, that's gonna take some patience.

A Plastic Phoenix from the Ashes (and mice poop!)
So, stay tuned! Much like the Batmobile before, this one'll probably take a few weeks, chipping away between shifts of work.  I think it'll be fun to take my time, and really "sweeten" the base, which will hopefully make up for the bad sculpting on the face! More soon.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Polar Lights/Round 2 1960s Batmobile Model Display

So, as promised, here are the FINAL pics of my George Barris Batmobile model, now in its display case.  I picked this display case up at a Big Lots many years ago, and it sat, still boxed, in my garage, waiting for the rare occasion when I'd build a car model! Well, a Batmobile is about as close to model car-building as I'll ever get.

I scavenged Google, looking for images from the old TV series.  Sadly, there were a bunch that I ended up not being able to fit nicely into the background.  The "oof!" "boff!" and "kapow!" were extracted from screen captures from fight scenes in the show, as was the Batman logo (which I decided to color blue and add a difuse glow to).  Once I'd composited the pics in Photoshop, I place a yellowish transparent layer over it all, which made the pics look like they were from an old magazine, like a dog-eared issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland.  I love looking at an old book or mag and seeing the tanning of the pages.  While my Batmobile looks brand new, I wanted to have a connection to its older source.

I printed and cut out the bat-symbol separately, and remembering a trick from my old days as a display guy for a department store, I utilized a 3m adhesive foam cube and attached it to the back of the symbol and then attached it to the background.  The natural shadow cast from the popped-out batsymbol gives the whole thing some punch, and also reminds me of the transitions from the TV show, when the batsymbol would zoom forward and back, while the background rotated rapidly.

Yes, I did think about making an image of the Batcave and having that as the background.  But the amount of work involved would've been a bit much (I would've had to basically paint a diorama of the Batcave, make it accurate to the show, etc).  I do at times have to tell myself, "This IS just for fun.... right?"

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back from a Little Trip

So I just made it back from visiting what we valley folk call "The Coast," aka Pismo/Morro Bay/Cayucos area.  While there, I made the usual rounds, hitting the spots that commonly yield treasures.  Well, what I consider to be treasures anyways.  Probably someone else's crap, but...
At the Ross there in San Luis, I found these nifty glasses!  Of course, you KNOW they were destined to beam home with me!

I'll be honest: I know that most people refer to Jack Kirby as "King of the Comics," but I was never a fan of his work.  However, I do enjoy reading about comics history, and the author (Mark Evanier) is knowledgable to say the least! This is a big coffee table book, heavily illustrated, and was only $12 in the bargain section of the B&N.

I always wanted this, since '87 when it came out.  I found this one at Captain Nemo's Comics, in MINT condition!  It's like I jumped in a time machine and righted a wrong!  Anways, it's got neato diagrams of the internal workings of the Enterprise, aided by info from none other than Montgomery Scott!  Ah, '80s Trek....

This last find came from Nan's Pre-Owned Books in Grover Beach.  Usually, I don't find anything there; my interests are kind of narrow, and they usually have a lot of fiction or what I call "boring non-fiction."  Anyways, I spotted this one and knew that it had to come home to "The Fortress," to join the pantheon of making-of books that I own.  Yes, I know that the '76 King Kong movie was pointless, and try as Rick Baker did, he still looked like a dude in an ape suit.  But I'm going to enjoy reading this one, in particular the part when they no doubt will expound upon how all-out they're going budgetwise, and how amazing and lifelike their 40-foot Kong "robot" is.  Of course, this book was publicity for the film, so it'll be fun to see how the author has to squirm to play this one up to be good.  It actually has a lot of nifty pics, too.

So many books, so little time.  Wait a minute... I am on vacation...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Batmobuild #10 - Completed!

So, after surviving the harrowing experience of applying all of that orangey piinstriping ( I was sweating profusely the entire time), I made it through, and today clear-coated the body and did the final assembly-- the scary part when I had to take the underside and try to snap it into the upper body. After a little nail-biting, I was able to get them together, and then I realized that it was over.
As is always the case, there were some wins and some losses. After all of these years, I've learned to accept that it will NEVER be perfect. There's always that one area that, if allowed to, will ruin the whole experience of looking at it afterward. For this kit, it was the red trim that went around the grill openings on the front under the headlights. I simply could NOT get the decal to behave, to make the shape I needed. I ended up having to remove sections of the decal and replace those parts with paint! Actually, there was a point when I contemplated getting out the blue tape and just painting the pinstriping! It might have yielded better results.

I was happy with how using the screen material to enhance the grill pattern really worked. It adds a texture that would have been nonexistent had I went with the supplied plastic relief grills. I know that the siren isn't exactly right, but I intentionally left it that way. I thought it was stupid to have a siren that pretty much has no red showing!

I will be enhancing the model's current presentation in the next few days-- it currently is inside a generic plastic car display case. Of course, the Batmobile is not generic! Therefore, I did cover the floor of the display case with some mylar-covered card stock that I have lying around, in order to provide sort of a mirroring effect (as seen in the pics). I plan on installing on the back "wall" of the case some images from the '60s TV series in order to punch it up further.

Overall, building this kit was fun, and surprisingly, a bit of a challenge. Of course, sudden, mysterious gaping holes along with all of those menacing orange pinstripes kept the kit from being a walk in the park. But just like having a baby (okay, I know that's a stretch), after the pain is over and you take a shower, you look at it and decide that it's worth keeping after all. Turbines to speed!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Batmobuild #9 - A sidenote

You know how often you get advice from people concerning a myriad of solutions to a pile of problems? And you know how often that very advice ends up absolutely NOT WORKING, every single time?! Well, that didn't happen tonight!
So I read in a modeller's forum that if you get overspray on the clear area of a canopy, you can just apply some Easy-Off Oven Cleaner, wait a few minutes or so, and then scrub/wipe it off. That sounded too easy... But there had been a couple of tiny spots of unwanted overspray on my Batmobile's bubble window canopies, and so I thought, "What the heck, let's give it a try." I sprayed it on the tip of a q-tip, then dabbed it on the tiny spots, waited about 5 or more minutes, and then rubbed at it with the other end of the q-tip. You know what? THIS CRAP WORKS! It cleaned the uwanted paint off of the windows! Anyways, I've installed the headlights, exhaust pipes, antennae, and little bat-shapes on the hubcaps. Right now I'm going to start applying (gasp, take a deep breath to steel myself) the red pinstripes on the body. Last night, I applied the decals for the interior, for what they're worth (they're so small they were just about not worth the hassle of application!). After the pinstriping, then I'll spray the body overall with some gloss clearcoat, and then tomorrow I'll assemble the body to the chasis! We're almost there... now to work on finetuning the display case...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Batmobuild #8

Well, when we last saw our model, it had recovered from an unfortunate turn of events on its left rear fin. Repeatedly, I puttied-sanded-puttied-sanded-ad infinitum until yesterday, when I finally felt that it was acceptable to move on. Of course, it will never be perfect!
I've also completed the arch. Let me get this out of the way: that siren piece was a big disappointment. Instead of giving me a chrome shell and then supplying me with a transparent red thimble-like insert for the siren, they only gave me one chrome piece! So I had to laboriously paint in where the siren would be! Yech. Also, the two antennae-fin-looking things that are on either side of the siren were a poor fit. I almost had to completely remove the pegs on them in order for them to sit correctly. Come to think of it, almost every single part on this kit has required me to shave it down in some way.
The grills were these pieces with a relief of the grill pattern on them. I didn't like them, and wanted the detail of the texture to show better, so I carefully fitted some trimmings from some fiberglass screen material to the plastic pieces, dry-brushed them with some metallic black, and they look much better!
Last and maybe least, I've completed the crime computer, which is to be located in the trunk. The decal supplied for the front edge of the computer was totally pointless, since it was BLACK and basically disappeared when applied! Jeez!
Looking to complete most of the rest of it tonight. The only thing delaying me is the paintjob of the body, which is still slightly tacky. Since that was ABSOLUTELY the last time that I was going to apply paint to the body, I really want the surface to be totally impervious to fingerprints. More soon!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Batmobuild #7

Well, ever so slowly chugging along... Getting the cab together, and painting/gluing in to place the stick shift, fire extinguisher, parking brake, and steering wheel. The overall assembly of the inner door panels with the dash and back wall was, to put it nicely, "a bear." The back fin wasn't as good as I'd thought. I ended up re-puttying and sanding it over and over until I got it to what I think will be right. I have the feeling that I will never be happy with it! Anyways, looking to wrap this up by this weekend, so come on back, same bat-time, same bat-blog!