Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Dr. Fate was one of those Golden Age characters whom I never fully understood, mainly because I never saw an origin story and the old comics weren’t prone to repeating origins like they did in the Silver and Bronze Age. His powers (and nifty costume) were drawn from some ancient Middle-Eastern mystic named Nabu, but other than that, he was just another hero with cool duds as far as I was concerned.

My custom action figure of Dr. Fate started years earlier when my wife bought me a Dr. Fate costume from Rauty’s Toy Shop. I loved the costume, but I had no idea how I was going to make the helmet. My first attempt involved taking the back piece of a helmet from the Marx Silver Knight set and gluing the face shield from a G.I. Joe Cobra Commander figure onto the front. The seams where the two pieces joined looked pretty crude and never really glued together properly. Also, I couldn’t find a paint that would adhere properly to the slick vinyl pieces. I knew I would have to resort to Sculpey.

To create a mask out of Sculpey, I first needed a 1/6th scale head to build the clay around. I chose to use one of the busts that came with Captain Action costume sets. I positioned the bust in a coffee mug stuffed with newspaper so it wouldn’t move around. Then, to keep the clay from sticking to the head, I wrapped it in plastic wrap, secured the wrap to the head with a rubber band around the neck, and greased the whole thing with petroleum jelly. Although it looked like something from a G.I. Joe S&M party, the rig was perfect for sculp
ting the mask to its proper size and shape.

Next I had to determine how I wanted the mask to look since Dr. Fate’s helmet evolved over the years. I definitely was not going with the “half-mask” version used in later JSA stories where his grinning teeth could be seen. I always preferred the menacing nature of the early full-mask design, as do the modern comic book artists. I was never crazy, however, for the odd, soft-serve ice cream curl the early masks had on top. I chose to go with the design used in a Dr. Fate mini-series put out a few years ago where the front of the mask has a sharp, axe-like point. I know it’s not strictly Golden Age, but it’s my figure and I like it this way.

It took two attempts to create a mask that looked right and was sturdy enough to not collapse while I transferred it from bust to baking tray. As you may know, after modeling something in polyvinyl clay, you must bake it in an oven to firm up the piece. Once it was baked and solid, I painted it with yellow acrylic paint and coated the whole thing with a clear varnish made specifically for Sculpey. After it dried, the helmet was pretty similar to a solid plastic mask.

The Golden Age Dr. Fate comics showed the hero both with and without gloves. I may invest in some yellow gloves for my figure from Classic Plastick. The yellow boots are Captain Action boots which I repainted yellow (don’t worry, I used newer Playing Mantis boots and not vintage ones). The necklace is a hubcap from a car model, painted yellow and attached to some yellow yarn.

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