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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


The castings required considerable clean-up to make them look smooth and clean...

But once I completed the finish clean-up work, hollowed out the sculpt into a wearable cowl, and added the leathery neck portion, I was reasonably pleased with the result.

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Last edited by darklord1967, 1/24/2018, 11:16 am
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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


For me, another critical part of The Batman's overall look is his UTILITY BELT

I believe this is a detail that is often not given sufficient consideration in mass produced or custom Batman action figures.

The right utility belt worn by The Batman makes all the difference in the character seeming functional instead of funny... ornerny instead of ordinary... effective and elegant instead of chintzy and cheap.



Back in 1972, our friends at MEGO mass produced The Batman's belt as a simplistic design that reflected the character's vial belt as seen in the comics of the time.

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Since I am an afficionado of the classic, dark "Bronze Age" comic book Batman of the 1980's...

...and since this custom action figure will closely duplicate the full sized Bat costume I built for the stage play I produced 4 years ago (which also featured this style belt)...

... it became a no-brainter that this would be the kind of belt I would work to create for my custom Batman.

There would be major differences when compared to MEGO's original utility belt, be sure:

I wanted a belt that was wider and felt more functionally military
I also wanted a belt that felt intricately detailed and not just molded as a single solid piece.
Even though I would be creating the belt as the vial design from the comics, the vials would be the later "test tube"-styled, round-tipped design from the 1980's and '90's rather than the oblong pointed-tipped vials of the 1970's (as MEGO created).

Last edited by darklord1967, 1/24/2018, 11:24 am
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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


Using hobby Styrene Rods...

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... I cut twelve equal lengths to serve as the Utility Belt's vials...

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I rounded the ends of each vial by hand with sandpaper and then primered and spray painted them all with golden yellow paint.
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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


 I am of the belief that The Batman's utility belt (specifically his large belt buckle) simply does not get adequate attention when created for production and custom action figures. The utility belt (and the big buckle) is the all- important visual center focal point on any Batman figure, as far as I am concerned, so it has to be right. The belt design and execution determines the mood and aura of the final Batman figure... It's level of professionalism, elegance, and presentation.

When constructing The Batman's utility belt, I discovered a simulated leather textured yellow ribbon strip that would serve to make a very convincing belt strap. Being soft and flexible, it would wrap around the action figure's waist much more convincingly than MEGO's rigid plastic belt.


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Since I determined that MEGO's approach to Batman utility belts tended to be a bit under-sized, I decided that a belt buckle in a slightly larger scale than 1/9 would appear more suitably prominent on my custom figure. I wanted a buckle that was slightly wider than the width of the belt strap. I liked the classic traditional styling (and the size) of the Mego Magnetic Batman belt buckle, but I could not locate one for an affordable price on ebay.

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There was another problem too: Original MEGO Magnetic Batman utility belts (even if I did manage to locate an inexpensive one) would likely still be unsuitable for my needs since MEGO's rubbery plastics tend to not accept paint very well. After a search through the MEGO customizing community, I was fortunate enough to have Paul "Doctor Mego" Clarke sell me a resin re-cast of the belt. Unfortunately, the buckle on this re-cast was a little bit warped and useless for my needs.

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In the end, I used the resin casting as a reference to scratch-build my own razor sharp and straight buckle with styrene sheet and strip.

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Last edited by darklord1967, 1/24/2018, 11:30 am
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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


He has gone through many incarnations... many different experimental body part combinations. But here now is the final Bruce Wayne "heroic male" base body that I have developed as part of a BRAND that I call 9Art: Elite Custom Action Figures (the "9" refers to 1:9 scale figures).


STATS:

Height:. 8.25" tall (nude) translates to a real life man of 6'2" in height in true 1:9 scale.

Construction: Tight, solid, All ball-joint construction (no outdated bungee circuit tension assembly) makes for superior posing integrity and standng stability. 29 points of articulation provide endless options for posing.

Torso and all limbs on this figure are solid (not hollow) resulting in a hefty, weighted figure of increased density. Careful attention to proper body proportions makes for a figure of remarkable anatomical accuracy.


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Last edited by darklord1967, 1/24/2018, 11:35 am
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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


With my utility belt issues now resolved, I turned my attention to completing the final bat-boots for this custom figure.
  
As I established on my first attempts at MEGO action figure customizing, way back in 1998, I prefer to create boots that are removable (like the original MEGO boots). However, I also require that the boots be flexible (unlike rigid MEGO's plastic boots) in order to preserve the ankle articulation of the figure. I do this by selecting an existing boot sculpt that has a foot portion that I find appropriate for the character, and then I re-create the shin extension of the boot in fabric. I give the shin extension a laminated backing of very thin plastic sheet to give the boot its form.

I cannot over-stress that the fabrication of these boots is extremely meticulous, delicate, and time consuming. If any part of this job is rushed, the boots will just NOT turn out neat or professional looking.


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These photos were taken PRIOR to the foot portion of these boots being sprayed with a coat of gloss black acrylic to make them match the sheen of the polished leathery boot shaft.

Last edited by darklord1967, 1/24/2018, 11:43 am
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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


By the time I stitched together a grey bodysuit for this figure, I had already given considerable thought, planning, and creation to the all-important chest emblem I planned to use.


The saga of the chest emblem is a fairly elaborate one:


You see, I always intended this Batman figure to represent the version of the character that I enjoyed the most... the classic "Bronze Age" (1960's - 1990's) comic book version of the Caped Crusader. As such, I always knew his chest emblem would be the yellow oval version.

The only problem was I did not really like the "official" DC Comics yellow oval Bat logo to be used as custom Batman's chest emblem. The shape of the bat silhouette never really appealed to me. To my eyes the silhouette never really resembled a BAT. And I never cared for the cutesy curved ears or the general weak profile of the bat wings.

Also, the yellow oval of the official DC Comics logo was just too oblong... even though admittedly, that was a pretty easily fixed thing in Photoshop.

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I decided that a different design for the yellow oval chest emblem was in order. But it could NOT be so radically different that it was un-recognizable as the mark of The Batman.

I found the basis for a suitable chest emblem in the world of Tim Burton's Batman films... specifically the sequel Batman Returns.

Even though I WAS NOT AT ALL a fan of Tim Burton's Batman films, I nevertheless DID consider the re-design of the Batman costume chest emblem to be a vast improvement over the official DC Comics version. The Bat silhouette appeared more angular, and therefore more imposing to my eyes. With some minor adjustments, I came up with this design as the chest emblem for my figure.

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Once I came up with a chest emblem design that I liked, my next step was to have Paul "Laser Mego" Wasson laser print the insignia as a vinyl "peel and stick" sticker, and that should have been the end of it, right?

Well... not exactly.

Unfortunately, it would not be that simple. See, there was something else that preoccupied me: I decided that
I wanted the bat silhouette to exist in raised relief on the surface of the yellow oval... something that was just a bit more elaborate than a boring flat printing.

This was a design feature that was based on the yellow oval Bat chest emblem that I created for a full-sized Bat costume which I made 4 years ago for a student stage production.


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In order to do something similar for this custom figure, I actually created two different files to print for the figure's chest emblem : The first files for the full insignia, and the second file was for for the bat silhouette. When these files were produced as vinyl peel and stick stickers, I would be able to place the bat silhouette sticker on the surface of the insignia sticker for the desired layered effect.

But in one final annoying complication, I realized that the printed yellow of the chest emblem oval did not quite match the yellow shade I painted the prominent utility belt in. To correct this, I re-adjusted the color of my emblem file in photoshop and re-printed it until the color matched perfectly. Then I placed the black bat vinyl sticker on the surface of the re-printed emblem.


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Next, I temporarily dressed the figure. I placed the leathery bat-cape on the figure to check all colors and textures, and to make sure everything worked cohesively together.

I also wanted to ensure appropriate harmony between the removable cowl and the cape.

Clearly there are some details still pending on this custom figure (uniform flesh colored air brushing of face and body, lenses on the bat cowl, bat-gauntlets, final machine-sewn grey bodysuit, etc).

But for the most part, I am okay with where this figure is going.

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Last edited by darklord1967, 1/24/2018, 11:47 am
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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


LEATHERY BAT-GAUNTLETS

When putting together The Batman’s stylized, angular and finned Bat Gauntlets for this custom figure, I had considerations and requirements that necessitated me fashioning them as custom appliances. Unfortunately, no existing action figure bat-gauntlets (un-altered) would serve my purposes

For DECADES, going all the way back to the earliest MEGO days, there have been glove accessories that have been shaped in the form of closed hands or fists. These gloves typically have been fabricated out of a rigid plastic (as in the case of MEGO’s Mr. Fantastic)…

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… and / or (later on) as a rubbery plastic.


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While I don’t think anyone would deny that both of these gauntlet approaches were VAST improvements over the earliest MEGO vinyl oven mitts, they both nevertheless completely hampered the figure’s wrist articulations… and to a lesser degree, the figure’s aesthetic looks.
The old style MEGO sculpted rigid plastic gloves featured strange stubby fingers that were unnaturally pressed together. The rigid plastic also made wrist articulation (except swivel) impossible.

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The later rubbery Castaway Toys fist gauntlets were a marked improvement over the rigid MEGO stubby fingered gauntlets… really beautifully sculpted… but they were thick-walled and appeared somewhat oversized. They gave the figures “swollen hands syndrome”. They too were so rigid that wrist articulation (except swivel) was hampered.

To the credit of the fine friends at Castaway Toys, they made a stellar effort to resolve the gauntlet wrist articulation issue by creating rubbery cuff appliances (cut off at the wrist) that could be used in conjunction with colored hands.

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 It was an elegant solution to a common customizer’s problem.

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A few years back when Figures Toys Company came on the scene, I had high hopes that the resolution to these gauntlet issues would evolve favorably yet again. And when I saw the prototype photos of the excellent sculpts for their hero gauntlets, I became VERY excited for the possibilities for my custom creations.

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Unfortunately, my high hopes where dashed when I discovered that the new FTC gauntlet sculpts (like the boots) were created as rubber appliances that popped onto a wrist ball joint on the figure. What little articulation there was in the wrist ended up being hampered by the stiff rubber gauntlet sleeve cuff. I do think that FTC was on the right track with the beautiful sculpt of their new gauntlet, but it was just that pesky wrist articulation obstruction issue was a real deal-breaker for me.

Now, my natural mode of thinking was to try and figure out a way to have nice looking gauntlets for my custom figures WITHOUT limiting their (classic MEGO-styled) 2-point wrist articulation. I decided for aesthetic reasons that I did NOT need gauntlets that could be slipped on over an action figure’s bare hands and forearms (like the early MEGO vinyl oven mitts).

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It made sense to me that the figure’s hands should be sculpted AS gloves. But when those gloves were also meant to be long gauntlets, then the sleeve cuff extension would need to be made of fabric for the sake of full unobstructed articulation of the wrist. This is the same approach I applied to my style of custom boots fabrication.

Now, this idea of creating a “gauntlet” by combining a fabric cuff with painted hands is nothing new. Customizers have been doing this for years. And it is a design approach that has also found its way into production toys as well.

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But this approach has never really looked convincing to me as a “gauntlet”. I have found that not much thought or effort has typically gone into establishing a clean marriage between the fabric sleeve cuff and the figure’s hand / wrist. To my eyes, this approach has always looked more like over-sized fabric wrist bands being worn over colored / painted hands. And since action figure’s hands have typically been sculpted as bare hands, they usually ended up looking too small to represent gloved hands.

When developing a way to address this issue, it occurred to me that carefully blending the edge of the fabric cuff sleeve into the sculpted wrist folds of a gloved hand sculpt might be a really good way of avoiding “fabric bracelet syndrome”.

Armed with this strategy, I felt like HALF my battle was already won with the advent of FTC’s excellent gauntlet sculpts. At the very least, these gauntlets provided me with hands that were appropriately-sized to represent GLOVED HANDS!

I figured that all I had to do was lop off the cuff sleeve portion of these FTC gauntlets, leaving only the wrist and hand. I would use my Dremel rotary tool to create a slight channel grove around the cut wrist stump. Then I would super-glue a traditional wrist / articulation pin combo onto the wrist stump of the severed FTC gauntlet hand. Lastly, I would create a pattern for the gauntlet’s fabric sleeve cuff, cut the fabric, and attach it to the channel grove around the FTC hand severed wrist stump.

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By my calculations, the result of these efforts would be seamless-looking “gauntlets” that would appear reasonably convincing (in terms of size and aesthetics), while not hampering wrist articulation.

Of course for my custom BATMAN: Masked Manhunter Of Gotham City, his gauntlets would NOT be complete without the signature three Bat fins sprouting from the rear seam. It was important to me that these fins look neat, clean, razor sharp and straight to give the gauntlets the elegance they required. I see so many BATMAN action figures that neglect the importance of this detail. The layout of the gauntlet fins on these figures tends to end up crooked, non –uniform, badly spaced, and very randomly shaped. In some cases (for the sake of production simplicity), the fins are just cut as part of the pattern for the wrist sleeve cuff. Completely understandable.


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To avoid these common bat-fin pitfalls, I created a pattern for the size, shape and layout (angle and spacing) of the three fins.

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I used this pattern to cut PRECISE fins, and I inserted them one by one into the final gauntlet seam as I assembled it together.

NOTE: It was very important to me that the fins looked very pointed and sharp. The Batman (as I imagine him) would have even simple design elements of his costume appear dangerous. The gauntlet fins on most 8-inch Batman figures that I've seen tend to be somewhat undersized for my tastes and feature rounded blunted tips. They do not look particularly dangerous.

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The finished work was a reasonably clean representation of The Batman’s leathery gauntlets, with his hands formed as fists, and with traditional, MEGOesque, sturdy, 2-point wrist articulation preserved.

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Here is the gauntlet holding on to the final (un-painted) Bat-A-Rang accessory that I have prepared for this custom figure. The Bat-A Rang accessory pictured here was a parts-bin acquisition that originated as a model kit part, I believe. Using my Dremel Rotary tool, I sharpened up the contours of the Bat-A-Rang to make it appear a bit more dangerous.

Last edited by darklord1967, 1/23/2018, 11:17 pm
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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


THE BATMAN: Masked Manhunter of Gotham City - 9Art Elite Edition Custom Action Figure (1:9 scale / 8.25" height)


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Last edited by darklord1967, 1/23/2018, 10:33 pm
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Re: My Own Line of Custom Batman Toys (MEGO style!)


CRAFTING A CLASSIC BOY WONDER

I never really cared for MEGO'S approach to The Batman's sidekick. He was built on the same adult male hero body as Batman, and therefore did not appear as a BOY when standing next to the Dark Knight.

Later "retro" releases by Figures Toys Company attempted to correct this issue by releasing the character built on one of the "Teen Titans" bodies (LEFT). However those bodies struck me as rather odd looking: Essentially shrunken versions on the barrel-chested adult male bodies... not at all properly proportioned for the anatomy of a young boy.


Hoping for a nicely-detailed, and properly proportioned 1:9 scale action figure to go also with The Batman, I realized that I personally was going to have to develop something from scratch as the basis for my 9Art Elite Edition Custom Action Figure of DICK GRAYSON / ROBIN THE BOY WONDER

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The "ATHLETIC BOY HERO" body archetype I created stands in perfect proportional height to the other character body types I have created for this line of custom figures. And he exists in accurate scale height when compared to a real life little boy of about 12 years of age.

The nude figure stands EXACTLY 6.375" in height. In 1:9 scale, that translates to a real-life boy standing 4' feet, 9.375 inches in height.

Stacked up against MEGO / FTC, the numbers are very revealing:

MEGO / FTC heroic adult males (who all stand the same height) are actually NOT 8 inches tall as advertised. When nude, the characters actually only measure 7.75 inches in height. In 1:9 scale, that translates to a real life man standing 5' 10" in height. While this might be acceptable for an averagely built character like Peter Parker / Spiderman, it does fall a bit short for heroic Olympian male archtypes like Superman, Batman, and Captain America.

The FTC "Teen Hero" body pictured above next to my custom measures 6.75" in height. In 1:9 scale, that translates to a real-life teen standing just short of 5'1" in height.

Like all other body types I have developed, the 9Art "Athletic Boy Hero" is an all ball-jointed body (no bungee construction like MEGO or Figures Toys Company). It features 28 points of articulation for exceptionally dynamic posing. As a solidly constructed figure with tight, sturdy limbs, ABH features body parts that are solid (not hollow). This gives the figure unpresidented density, weight and posing / standing integrity.

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Last edited by darklord1967, 1/29/2018, 5:28 am
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