Monday, February 16, 2009

Custom Figure - Silver-Age Iron Man

For years, I've wanted to create a custom Iron Man action figure along the lines of the Captain Action suit sets from the 60s. Although I was always more of a DC kid than a Marvel fan, Iron Man was one of the few exceptions. The tone of the stories seemed different than most of the other Marvel characters, with dashing Tony Stark fighting communists and other world dominators in his fancy, hi-tech armor. He was like Bruce Wayne and James Bond rolled into one, which was more my speed than whiny Peter Parker or those preachy X-Men. Iron Man was definitely one of the super heroes I had hoped Ideal would use for their Captain Action line of outfits. Alas, it was not so and, like the Flash and Green Lantern and so many others, I would have to do it myself. But how?

At first I toyed with the idea of creating an actual suit of armor using bits and pieces from other action figure sets, mostly relying on the armor pieces from the old Marx Noble Knights line. Unfortunately, that did not prove very feasible and it really wasn't in the spirit of the old Captain Action outfits, which were stretchy polyester leotards. Then, a couple years ago, Rauty's Toy Shop created a nifty Iron Man outfit for 1/6th scale figures sort of like the Mego figure. I'd provide a link for Rauty, but he doesn't seem to have a Web site at the moment. His stuff pops up regularly on eBay, however.

At least I knew I could get a costume, but what about the boots and gloves? Wes McCue of Classic Plastick makes all kinds of gloves and boots based on super heroes, but he didn't have anything like Iron Man's, which had little repulsor rays in the palms of the gloves and on the soles of the shoes. I was lamenting all this to my wife Kathy who, God love her, took all this in and set into action. She contacted Wes about whether or not he had such items and, while he didn't, he liked the idea of creating some. Kathy wanted to present me with these items for Christmas, but as Christmas approached, Wes had only created prototypes, so he sent her the prototypes to avoid her being empty handed. The gloves and boots were modeled on his existing stock, but with the little repulsor rays added to the palms and soles. He has since refined the design to feature rolled cuffs on the tops of the gloves and boots as well. I think the prototypes work just fine, though.

On Christmas Day, Kathy presented me with the suit, gloves, and boots. Needless to say, I was bowled over and couldn't wait to get started on my custom Iron Man. Of course, there was still the issue of the mask. Wes had suggested to my wife that I start with the back part of a vintage Phantom mask. That made a lot of sense, but I had already used my last spare Phantom mask to create a mask for my Space Ghost custom. I finally decided to mold one out of polyvinyl clay even though I knew the material would never be thin enough to have the proper proportions. It would have to do for the time being, however.

To mimic the sort of belt arrangement with the red discs on the sides of Iron Man's hips, I used a strip of red foam rubber and scored lines and a belt buckle shape into it with an X-Acto knife. For the red discs, I used some red push pins I found in the crafts store, and I secured the belt around his waist with velcro.

I was also stuck on how to fashion the round disc on Iron Man's chest, so I scoured my spare model parts until I found a wheel piece from a old car kit. After painting, I glued the female part of a snap to the back of the wheel piece, and sewed the male end of the snap to the chest of the costume. By using a snap, the disc stays securely on Iron Man's chest.

Except for the bobblehead effect of the helmet, I think the rest of the costume turned out pretty well. If I can get a vintage Phantom mask at some point, I may take another stab at the mask, or I may pursue some other approach all together.

I have to thank Rauty, Wes, and my lovely wife. I haven't had this much fun with a custom figure in a long time!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Neal!

Ol' Shellhead looks great! Hey, all of Captain Action's sets are a wee bit 'bobbleheaded', aren't they?!? Good to see someone taking matters into their own hands, creating the things they want. Glad I could lend a hand, er, glove!

Wes at Classic Plastick