Friday, June 14, 2013

Custom Sculpey: Fantasy Lizard Home

Maybe five to six years ago, I got one of my very infrequent flashes of inspiration, and I quickly created a small blue lizard-like Sculpey character.  Looking over this little creature, I immediately felt that it needed a place to call home.  Drawing up a few designs, I finally settled on one idea and got to work.  This project called for an awful lot of patience, and it was a lucky time for me in that my kids were small enough that they could not actually disturb my workspace in the living room.  I could still be nearby while I did my work.

Unfortunately, I have no "in process" photos of the project, but here is the final result.  From side to side, this measures around ten inches, maybe five inches tall, and about six inches from front to back.  That's including the green space around the house itself.

Oh!  Looks like my little lizard guy came outside to say hi!

Basically, this is just the front half of the house.  I suppose one could imagine it being built onto the side of a cliff, or perhaps the other half is identical and the house would then be free-standing.

You can see that not every stone in the walls is of the same color.  I was imagining that these had been pulled out of a stream bed or something similar, thus the tumbled look.

I must admit I'm absolutely terrible at naming my creations.  Thus this character just winds up being a "lizard."  Maybe someone can give me a better name some time.  His cloak is actually a thin sheet of Sculpey wrapped around the head and body.  He's got a crest at the back of his head, but it's not visible under the cloak.  He's got a green gem in a pendant around his neck as well.

In my mind's eye, this creature is some form of magic user, so the pendant may itself be magical.  Of course, no tiny magical creature could possibly exist without some suitably large mushrooms around.  The gods of whimsy demand it.  And, no, I have never heard of these Smurfs you are thinking of.

Here's a bit of detail of the stones in the walls.  Each stone is actually a separately sculpted piece, then stacked into the shape of walls.  It did indeed take quite some time to make.  This was quite possibly unnecessary and maybe even obsessive.

Speaking of obsessive, the grass was created by picking at the Sculpey with a hobby knife over and over.  And over, and over, and over, and over, and over.  Now repeat a number of times.  Remember I mentioned patience earlier?  The patience was getting on my nerves.

I really like how this chimney turned out.

The thatch was created in a fashion very similar to the grass.  Luckily there was less of it and so less of that annoying patience was required.

The doors and shutters got a nice coat of red paint, while I attempted to replicate the look of whitewash on the door and window frames.

Moving to the inside of the house, you can see that there are some rafters involved for roof support.  Unfortunately, the little lizard guy has to deal with a drafty house.  There are quite a few gaps in the walls that a more experienced builder would probably have filled.

Lo and behold!  Our lizard has a pet lizard!

He's also got a nice bed over near the window.

The bed can be removed, as can many of the other items inside the house.

A simple wooden table (though made of Sculpey) supports a book and some dishes.

The roof can be removed to let in more light.

A fireplace might help with all those drafts.  A symbol over the mantel matches that on the cover of the book.  Various pots and jars adorn the place.

Vampire lizards may sometimes come around, as there's some garlic-like dried vegetable hanging there.

A candle near the bed allows for some late-night reading.

He seems like a happy fellow.

His pet seems rather contented to sleep the day away.  Usually this is done in front of the fire.

The little pet can be taken off his perch to be moved somewhere else in the house.  It is only around 3/4 inch long.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how this place came together.  I was happy enough to have then gone on to create other environments and a few other lizard people as well.  I'll be doing write-ups on those projects as well in the future.  Thanks for taking a peek in on my little foray into domestic creativity.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Toy Review: Fisher Price Adventure People X-Ray Man and X-Ray Woman

1982 rolled around, and I was in the golden age of my toy-loving childhood.  This was smack in the middle of  the Star Wars merchandising revolution, Mego was importing the Micronauts from Japan (called Micromen there), Masters of the Universe was hitting its stride, and Transformers was right over the horizon.    In the middle of all this was Fisher Price - that venerable old toy maker - trying to figure out how to capture the hearts of boys everywhere in the midst of all that Sci-Fi glory.  Luckily for them, they had gotten in on the ground floor of the small action figure market that was just beginning to surface.  For sure, many people will remember Star Wars as their gateway into collecting 3-3/4 inch action figures, but Fisher Price was ahead by a couple years on Kenner, releasing their first Adventure People set in 1975.

However, Star Wars was not without its influence on the figures that came later.  Fisher Price did venture into Science Fiction land with a variety of Adventure People toys.  Mostly, these were sets that included vehicles and figures to go along with them.  The themes of these sets were always non-violent, and mostly focused on exploration, with some occasional meetings with alien beings.  Two of these are the subject of today's review - the X-Ray Man and X-Ray Woman.

Released in 1982, these two figures were packaged as individually carded toys, and were not included in any sets.  They are actually recolored figures of male and female wetsuit divers, and this kind of re-use of molds was not uncommon in the Adventure People line.  Both had hard plastic transparent green torsos, clear green  vinyl arms and legs, and solid green heads.  I suppose the idea of being able to see through their skulls might have been considered to be somewhat scary to kids at the time.  

The eyes were just simple yellow dots, and the chests were printed with some form of robotic controls.  

I think I can honestly say that their hair represents the only instance in which I might appreciate the color periwinkle.  I guess androids like puffy hair.

The torsos were really quite transparent, though the vinyl was a bit more cloudy.

Almost all Adventure People figures are sculpted with the left arm and hand turned so as to be able to grip a steering wheel.  The left legs are usually made so that the toys look as though they are beginning to take a step forward.  These designs gave the figures a sense of dynamism that the actual articulation lacked.  The heads are on a nice ball joint that allows them to look at their toes, but sadly, the arms and legs are on simple swivel joints.

Stepping outside for a moment, you can really see how these figures react in bright light.

These two were very cool additions to the Adventure People space sub-line.  I remember having a lot of fun with these, especially given that with their size and styling, it wasn't at all a stretch to place one of these in an X-Wing and go zooming around the room.  Good old simple toys that fired up the imagination were just my cup of tea - in 1982 and today.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Toy Review: Masters of the Universe Classics Zodac

Here's a character that I always loved as a kid.  I'm not really sure why, though.  When compared to most other Masters of the Universe (MOTU) characters, Zodac (not "Zodiac") is a bit on the dull side.  He's got little in the way of bright colors, and really no special features.  He's even only got the one real accessory.   Beyond that, Zodac hardly ever put in an appearance on the He Man and the Masters of the Universe television show.  Still, there's just a quality of completeness about Zodac.  He's just a good clean science fiction action figure.  

This Zodac isn't an original MOTU toy, but rather one of the many Masters of the Universe Classics figures that Mattel has released since 2009.  These figures are designed to closely mimic the feel of the originals, while bringing the toy engineering up to a modern standard.  There are many more points of articulation and a greater attention to "fit and finish" than their vintage counterparts.  Partly this is due to the MOTUC line being an adult collector's line (sold by Mattel only online or through online vendors), where the original toys were strictly children's playthings.  Oddly enough, despite the collector's nature of these, they are pretty much just modern toys.  There's little difference in my opinion between these and many other action figures released in retail stores these days.

Like the MOTUC He-Man figure, Zodac stands around seven inches tall.  He shares the same upper arms, thighs, and hips/loincloth as He-Man, and this is par for the course for both the original line and the Classics line.  Reuse of parts was a way to reduce development costs back when these toys were originally introduced, and now it serves the same purpose while being true to the way the older toys were made.  Very clever, Mattel!

Zodac sports his iconic red and gray helmet with glassy black bug-eyed sunglasses.  I'm not sure what the helmet does for him, given that he's nearly half naked otherwise.

Zodac's other bit of armor is an angular chest-plate.  I've done my best to find a way to remove it, as was possible with the original toy, but it seems that Mattel's designers made it a permanently attached part.  That's a bit of a shame as most of the rest of the armor bits on the toys in the MOTUC line are removable.

Zodac always had weird forearms and hands, and no wonder, as these are reused from Skeletor.  They have a strange fin-like quality, but also look as if with a proper splash of paint they could easily become fancy gloves of some kind.

The lower legs give more of an example of the paint possibilities I was talking about with the arms.  These are, again, reused from Skeletor.  Somehow, Zodac's three toes are part of his boot as well.  

Another trademark Zodac feature was his hairy chest.  Very few MOTU figures got this particular part, but Zodac got to be just that bit more manly than He-Man in this regard.  The hair, however, was never anything more than just the color of the rest of his flesh, so there's always the possibility that his chest actually was just highly wrinkled.  Highly wrinkled or fleshily hairy.  Oh well, he's already got those weird arms and toes, so what's one more oddity thrown into the mix?

Zodac's backpack looks as if it might contain a rocket or possibly anti-gravity generator for limited flight.  As was the way with the MOTU world, both fantasy and science fiction elements are at play here.  Zodac carries a gun, and wears futuristic armor, but he also wears a furry loincloth and barbaric...  uh...  belt-thingy.  

Speaking of his blaster, there's quite a bit of detail molded in.  It's made of a brighter red plastic than Zodac's other gear and does include a few paint applications.  

The MOTUC figures are chock full of articulation, with joints just about everywhere.  Oddly enough, this doesn't actually yield all that much in the way of poseability.  Zodac can pull off some action poses, but they're not really all that dynamic.

Zodac's really at his best standing heroically at attention.

I poke fun at poor old Zodac, but he really is a pretty cool action figure.  Gotta hand it to the folks at Mattel all those years ago for coming up with a unique vision for the world that these characters exist in.  The mix of swords and sorcery and technology actually works well in tandem, and this allows many of the MOTU characters to be pretty outlandish and still fit in nicely.  Zodac's weird enough in his own way, but he's pretty tame in comparison to some of the others.  That still doesn't keep him from being one of my most favored characters in the line.  It's nice to have this faithful update to the original in my possession.