Monday, July 06, 2009

Meet Doctor Doom!

Shortly after Playing Mantis released its reproductions of Captain Action and some of his old costumes, it seemed as though a mini-cottage industry (dollhouse industry?) popped up with enthusiasts creating reproductions of old Captain Action accessories and new masks and costumes for super hero outfits never before offered by Ideal or Playing Mantis. One such entity was 2GFX which made custom masks such as Red Skull, Nick Fury, Captain America's sidekick Bucky, and Doctor Doom. I managed to buy a Red Skull and Doctor Doom mask before 2GFX disappeared into the ether.

The reason why I wanted to make a custom figure of Doctor Doom was because, unlike so many of the other Marvel villains, Doctor Doom seemed genuinely dangerous. I know I'm more of a DC guy and Marvel fans would probably wonder where I come off with a statement like that, but so many of the Marvel villains seemed more goofy than threatening, from my perspective. Mole Man and Green Goblin and The Lizard looked more cute than scary when I was a kid. On the other hand, Doctor Doom was a guy who wore armor and ruled a Balkan country and dabbled in the occult. He had brains like Lex Luthor, but he also had the power and influence of a national ruler. This was Saddam Hussein to the nth power. That was truly frightening to me.

Although I didn't read many Marvel comics when I was young, I was a regular follower of The Fantastic Four, and I was always thrilled when Doc Doom came to ruin the FF's day. As comic fans know, Victor Von Doom had once been a college friend of Reed Richards (a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic) and, when a dangerous experiment permanently damages Von Doom's face, he forever blames Richards for the accident and launches a decades long crusade for revenge. His capers were ingenious, and his status as a dictator made him difficult to touch. Still, the Fantastic Four (and whatever other Marvel heroes he battled) always found a way to put him in check...until the next time.

When I set out to make a custom figure of Doc Doom, I was of course first inspired by the mask 2GFX was offering. I was also working under the notion, at the time, that all my customs should be designed specifically for Captain Action or Dr. Evil figures. Since Dr. Doom was a villain, the costume had to be on a Dr. Evil figure, but I didn't want to use the standard blue Dr. Evil figure since he was...well, blue. Fortunately, Playing Mantis produced a tan colored Dr. Evil for its Ming the Merciless costume, so I managed to land a couple of the tan-colored figures on eBay. With a figure in hand, I first gave him a pair of black pants, black boots, and a black shirt to cover the bulk of his body. Over that, I created Doom's green tunic by making a rectangular piece of fabric with a hole in the center for his head and seamed it with fabric glue. When first put on the figure, it resembled a sandwich board, but by gathering the fabric at the waist with a belt I snagged from my Star Wars Count Dooku figure, it created the illusion of a tunic.

For the armor covering his arms and legs, I used the pieces from the Marx Toys Silver Knight character. At the time, a revised version of Marx Toys was putting out a reproduction Silver Knight figure, so I bought it. I later realized that I probably could have purchased original Silver Knight accessories on eBay for the same amount of money or maybe less. I was living and learning the game of action figure customizing. Anyway, the armor pieces worked perfectly even if they were a struggle to put on. Of course, I already had to the mask, so the only piece missing was Doc Doom's iconic hooded cape.

To make the cape, I used the same green fabric I used to make the tunic (most likely purchased from a scrap bin at Jo-Ann Fabrics). I found online a pattern for a Renaissance Fair type of costume which employed a hooded cape, so I scaled the measurements down to 1/6th scale. I didn't have a sewing machine at the time, so I feebly attempted to sew a black lining into the green fabric that I had cut to size. Taking pity on me, my wife took over the sewing chore and did a wonderful job with the finished cape. The finishing touch had to be the gold chain fastener that joins Dr. Doom's cape across his neck. In most of the later drawings of Doom, the chain is connected by two large, flat gold discs. After searching various fabric and craft stores for awhile, I finally found a chain that perfectly matched what I was looking for.

Even now, with all the other custom figures under my belt, I still think this early attempt is one of my best. Of course, the mask looks great, but the Silver Knight armor and that terrific cape by my wife really sets the whole thing off. He looks just as menacing as the guy in the comics.

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