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"Legends OF Gotham City" WIP Thread of 6 inch scale Bat-Character Custom Figures

#1 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:29 AM

After several years of serious procrastination, I finally joined the 6-inch scale DC Super Heroes Action Figure party!

My plan was to create a “Legends of Gotham City Collection”… An assembly of “definitive” classic BATMAN character action figures… cleanly sculpted, deco’d, detailed and articulated… and (equally important), accurately sized in relation to each other.

In these regards, I didn’t think I was really demanding too much.
And yet, by the end of it all, almost every single character required some kind of custom modification before I was satisfied.

Admittedly, a big part of the issue was the fact that I am very much a “traditionalist” when it comes to THE BATMAN mythology. This pretty much dictated my dissatisfaction with most of the available action figures.
My preferred depictions of the Legends of Gotham City come from the classic pages of Detective Comics and Batman as published by DC Comics from the early 1970’s through the mid 1990’s.

For the most part, Gotham City's nefarious VILLAINS that most interested me (certainly as action figures) were the “classic Rouges Gallery” characters: The Joker, Catwoman, The Riddler, The Penguin, Two- Face, and The Scarecrow. The one exception to that basic rule was Harley Quinn, whom I considered to be a brilliant “modern age” addition to the Gotham lineup.
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I decided to include a quartet of Gotham City “Secret Identity” characters to the collection (Bruce Wayne, Richard Grayson, Barbara Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth).
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As for action figures of Gotham City's Heroic Guardians, I would focus on Police Commissioner James Gordon, Batgirl, and of course our intrepid Classic Caped Crusaders, The Batman and Robin The Boy Wonder.
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The figures of this Legends of Gotham City Collection would depict the comic book versions of these characters since the versions from live-action TV or films, or animation did NOT interest me.
Alright. Let’s get to it. I hope you enjoy my custom Legends of Gotham City Collection

#2 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:32 AM

THE PENGUIN

A nice, clean 6 inch scale action figure of Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot (aka THE PENGUIN) was going to be a MUST for my collection.

I will state from the start that I am NOT a fan of the post-Tim Burton concept of The Penguin. And I suspect that a slobbering, long-haired, repulsively deformed, half-human bird-man, wearing Dickenson-styled clothing was NOT what Bob Kane, and Bill Finger had in mind when they created him.



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My preference definitely leaned toward the classic Golden/Silver/ Bronze Age version of this character.


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In the end, a figure that I would consider suitable for my collection required a serious amount of customizing effort on my part. From the configuration of a proper anatomy, to the scratch building of accessories, The Penguin was certainly one of the more complex and challenging custom action figures of this series.

#3 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:38 AM

Back in 2005, I first saw the DC Direct Silver Age Penguin Action Figure (from the Deluxe Action Figure 2-pack set with Catwoman). Artist Tim Bruckner was the sculptor of these figures, and when I saw the early promotion ads for this 2-pack, his work really caught my eye.

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But once I bought the set, right from the start, the very limited articulation, awkward body proportions, and off-balance posture of The Penguin were a big disappointment. The legs on this figure were actually static and non-poseable! They forced the figure into a permanent forward leaning posture, which made it impossible for him to even stand on his own! The feet were badly undersized, and the arms were excessively long and spread far apart.




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Unfortunately this was the ONLY classic "traditional" version of The Penguin available in the 6 inch scale. Frankly, Bruckner's excellent sculpt work was wasted on a figure that was ultimately engineered to be a glorified mini-statue!

#4 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:43 AM

In the following years, other 6-inch scale Penguin action figures were released, but I didn't care much for them either:


DARK VICTORY PENGUIN & ROBIN 2 pack: I'm not a fan of Tim Sale's Batman artwork. I was, therefore, not a fan of his artwork-specific version of The Penguin done as an action figure.
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SECRET FILES: BATMAN ROGUES GALLERY: THE PENGUIN This was a barely poseable figure, which only featured a faint passing resemblance to the character. Obviously NOT a traditional take on The Penguin. No thanks.

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LEGEND OF THE DARK KNIGHT PENGUIN (Shudder)… To me, this looked more like an action figure of Dr Jekyll's nefarious alter-ego Mr Hyde! Pass.

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#5 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:50 AM

A NEW HOPE:



In 2007, Mattel Toys released their first series of very nice 6 inch scaled DC Universe Classic character action figures. I was thrilled to see that THE PENGUIN was included among them.

Unfortunately, once again, the figure suffered from overly-long "gorilla" arms. And this time around, even his hands were somewhat over-sized. His tuxedo was only a variation of the classic outfit.

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The DC Universe Classics Penguin featured a face sculpt that depicted him as a deformed sub-human bird-man with very bad teeth. In fact, when I first saw the action figure in the store, I remember thinking how much he looked like a horror film flesh eating zombie, with his pale, lifeless eye, sagging skin, and those gritted, crooked yellow teeth.

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On the upside, this figure offered a nicely sculpted, nicely articulated pair of working legs (Yaaayy!!!). My immediate thought was that I could combine these legs with the DC Direct classic Penguin's upper body for a really nice custom figure!

Easier said than done. Time to get to work!

#6 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:54 AM

ANATOMY OF A GOTHAM GANGSTER!


I removed the solid, non-posing lower legs assembly from the Classic Silver Age Penguin figure with a simple boil and pop. They were mounted on a ball-joint up inside the body sculpt.



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I then used my Dremel cutting wheel to remove the lower body assembly from the Mattel DC Universe Classics Penguin figure.

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I combined the top half of the DC Direct statue legs assembly with the cut-off waist of the Mattel lower body assembly. It took a lot of cutting, grinding, sanding and smoothing to make the two parts fit seamlessly together. But when I was done, I performed a quick test-fit between the new legs assembly and the upper body half. The figure's new overall shape satisfied me greatly.

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#7 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:56 AM

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#8 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:56 AM

I gave the lower legs assembly its final paint scheme, and put them aside.
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#9 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 09:59 AM

CALLING WEIGHT WATCHERS

Next, I performed some basic surgery on the arms to shorten them to an appropriate length. I reduced their length by about 6 scale inches, and also re-positioned them to be closer to the sides of the torso.

I needed to address the size incompatibility between the slimmer lower body of the DCUC figure, and the grossly over-sized upper body of the DC Direct figure.

The DC Direct figure had a strange rubber insert assembled into his back, which extended into his coat tails. This insert added a considerable amount of bulk to the figure's girth, so I removed it, resulting in a large open cavity .

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#10 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:00 AM

I then Dremelled off a lot of the bulk along the sides of the open cavity, and filled and smoothed the space with sculpting compound. Once it set and hardened, I re-sculpted brand new fold details into back of The Penguin's coat with an overall slimmer profile.



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#11 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:02 AM

Using sheet styrene, I created neat, sharp coat tails and did all the putty, filling and sanding work to make the join seams invisible. I painted the re-sculpted back of the coat and tails in flat black, and painted the inside of the tails in gloss black to simulate a silky satin inner lining. Using 2 tiny doll buttons, I added the final finish details to the back of the coat.

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#12 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:02 AM

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Ultimately, the extensive surgery I performed on this figure transformed the character’s basic body from comically obese and awkwardly stanced, to a much more realistic (and traditionally classic) “portly” build (as seen in the comic books).





#13 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:08 AM

THAT'S ONE BAD HAT, OZZY

With his anatomy corrected, I next addressed The Penguin's accessories… beginning with his top hat.

The DC Direct figure already included a removable hat, but I found it over-sized and strangely shaped (almost Fedora-like). The hat's wide base, curled brim, and narrow crown made it completely inappropriate for The Penguin's formal wear.
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I wanted a neater, straighter, and sharper looking top hat for a more classic, elegant appearance).

I turned to the Mattel Penguin figure. There, the hat was the correct size and shape. But as part of the overall head sculpt, it was NOT a separate removable accessory. Using a razor blade, I sliced the hat off of the figure's head, and then drilled it hollow with a Dremel rotary tool so that it could be wearable. I sand papered the un-attractive raised mold release line cutting sideways across the top of the hat, until I was satisfied that it was "silky smooth". I then re-painted the hat band in the correct lavender purple of The Penguin's classic Silver Age look.

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#14 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:09 AM

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#15 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:17 AM

UNDER MY UMBRELLA, ELLA, ELLA, EH, EH, EH...

No custom Action figure of The Penguin would be complete without his signature weapon umbrellas (or “Bumbershoots” as they are called). I thought that these accessories would be relatively easy to find in the 6 inch scale action figure world. However, based on the features that I was hoping for these accessories to have, I realized pretty quickly that I was dead wrong.

I actually wanted this figure to be accessorized with 2 umbrellas props… one open AND one closed. The DC Direct figure provided a decent closed umbrella, so that was a big help. Although the rubbery spike tip was very warped, I was confident that I could fix that.

It was the open umbrella that proved to be a problem.

The Mattel DC Universe Penguin Action Figure provided an open umbrella accessory, but it was all wrong for my needs. The “gimmicky” accessory featured strange pop rivets , a machine gun attachment, and a metallic silver and black paint scheme. In addition, the umbrella featured a deep dish rounded design which I did not care for.

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Out of desperation, I retrieved an old spare Kenner Super Powers Penguin umbrella from my parts bin, and was relieved to see that it was compatible in size with 6 inch scale figures. Plus, the umbrella featured a flatter, more traditional dish design that I preferred. Unfortunately, the rod and handle assembly was scaled for the much smaller Kenner Super Powers figure, so I would have to scratch build a new one for my custom action figure to hold comfortably.

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I used a spare DC Direct closed umbrella accessory to get the curled handle I needed. This would maintain a consistency of style between both open and closed umbrellas.

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#16 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:18 AM

Next, I decided to make the umbrella rod out of real metal so that I could avoid working with silver paint (which I find rubs off more easily than other pigments). I used one of the wheel axles from a toy car to fashion the rod by cutting it to the correct length.

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I next turned to the ink inner tube from a ball point pen to create the other open umbrella parts I needed. Draining the tube of all its ink was a tedious and messy process.

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#17 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:20 AM

Using a section of the ink inner tube from a ball point pen, I created a coupling to join the curved umbrella handle to the metal rod.

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The other end of the metal rod was attached to the pen tip reservoir, with the ball-point serving nicely as the umbrella’s spike tip.

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#18 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:21 AM

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I used the ball point from an identical pen to replace the warped rubbery spike tip of the DC Direct closed umbrella.

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#19 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:22 AM

I re-painted both umbrellas in flat black to give them a distinctive cloth-like appearance. And lastly, I carefully painted the silver armature details on the underside of the open umbrella.



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#20 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 10:23 AM

And now, this custom, frigid bird… THE PENGUIN… is ready to plunder Gotham City…

"Hwaaagh, hwaaagh, hwaagh!!!"


Actual Custom Action Figure Height: 5.5 inches (without Top Hat) / 5.75 inches (with Top Hat)


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#21 User is offline   Superpowers1980 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 11:08 AM

What a fantastic project!

#22 User is offline   TheShadowSculpter 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 12:57 PM

I must know exactly how you take those pictures! What is your lighting layout and what Camera do you have? Those final pictures are great and Id love to have that for my stuff!

#23 User is offline   DARKLORD1967 

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 02:30 PM

View PostTheShadowSculpter, on 18 August 2011 - 12:57 PM, said:

I must know exactly how you take those pictures! What is your lighting layout and what Camera do you have? Those final pictures are great and Id love to have that for my stuff!




Howdy Shadow!!

Yes good photography for Custom Action Figures seems to be something that is difficult for some people to pick up. And there's a LOT to know. But with practice and patience, anyone can learn what they need to take awesome photos of their work.

My custom Penguin (and all of the characters that I'll be revealing in this thread) were photographed with a SONY Mavica MVC-CD400 digital still camera. A reasonably old camera, but extremely well-made and VERY reliable. It is equiped with a Zeiss zoom lens which features MACRO capability (handy for shooting custom action figures). The back of the camera has a nice big viewing screen for easy composing of photographs.

My lighting is very simple. I use 3 clip-on table top desk lamps, each one with a standard soft-white 60-watt bulb. I usually do a standard portrait lighting set up: One light for the background, the other two for the subject figure (one lights the rear of the figure as a "rim" light to make it "POP" away from the background. The other light is used frontally on the figure (off to one side) as the main "key" light.

I shoot my figures on a plain white desk top (usually my cleared-off work bench). The "background" is usually nothing more than the blue wall of my bedroom.

if you're interested, I've written a VERY, VERY extensive photography tutorial on virtually everything you'll need to know on how to photograph your custom action figures well. It is a very long read, but I cover just about everything you might want to know to give your custom action figure photos that extra polished sharp look to make your awesome work stand out even more than it already does!

I hope you enjoy the read!

Regards,

-Roberto

#24 User is offline   Pharmacoviper 

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Posted 19 August 2011 - 01:51 AM

Thanks for sharing the WIP pics! Very slick custom (and I normally don't care for the Penguin). I can't wait to see your takes on Riddler and Scarecrow!

PharmV

#25 User is offline   djblizzard 

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 09:09 AM

Wow, what a beautiful custom! I never had an issue with the DCUC Penguin, but yours completely blows it out of the water and makes me wish we had gotten one closer to what you produced. Brilliant work!

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