Background & Introduction
I have always loved toys, and action figures especially, hold a prominent place in my heart. Even now, I still find myself spending the majority of my money on what are
ostensibly childrenís playthings. My next love, on par with toys but on a slightly lower level, is Half-Life. I think I can safely say that Half-Life is the first shooter Iíve ever played and gotten through. I mean sure, Iíd dabbled with Doom and Duke Nukem 3D back in the day, and maybe a few rounds of GoldenEye on my friendsí N64s, but Half-Life was the first game that ever engrossed me enough to actually try to beat.
Now, having said that, itís always been a source of bafflement as to why they have never made Half-Life action figures. I mean címon! Gordon in a Mark V HEV suit, packaged with a crowbar and the gravity gun? Or the chase variant, in a Mark IV suit with a Gauss gun? How about a scientist packaged with a headcrab that fits on his head? Barney in his Combine MetroCop outfit with removable faceplate? The build-a-figure could be a Gargantua or maybe Dog, for the Half-Life 2 wave! The possibilities are endless.
My two greatest loves, joined together, would be frigginí awesome like pie and ice cream. Or like guns and a watermelon surplus. Or like Megan Fox and Elisha Cuthbert making out. But no, it wasnít to be. I watched as Master Chief got immortalized in plastic by Joyride Studios, as Agent 47 got the same treatment from NECA. Hell, even Solid Snake got a figure from McFarlane! But whereís the crowbar love?
So as is usual when Iím feeling depressed, I go out and find more toys for my collection. When I went out that day to this discount toy warehouse near my house and saw some G.I. Joe: Sigma Six figures on sale, a thought suddenly hit me. How hard would it be to turn the G.I. Joe teamís first sergeant into a crowbar-wielding, headcrab-hunting theoretical physicist? It didnít seem that hard, after all their haircuts are similar and the Sigma suit looks and acts kind of like how the HEV suit would. The seeds of creativity were sewn, and so without further ado, I present to youÖ
A STEP-BY-STEP WALKTHROUGH ON HOW I MADE MY CUSTOM
Part 1 - A Dream Realized
Okay, so I started with this, a stock, off-the-shelf, 8Ē scale Arctic Duke figure.
*These images courtesy of Joe Central
Ideally, Iíd have liked to use a Frontal Assault Duke, but this figure isnít readily available in Canada for the price Iím willing to pay. But, the boots on that figure look more integrated with the rest of the suit, and itís already mostly black anyhow, which would save a LOT of brushwork and a lot of paint. However, the lower legs on the Frontal Assault Duke are not poseable like on the Arctic Duke, and he also has a painted-on five oíclock shadow that might make the end result look sloppy. Still, another option would be to take a Hi-Tech body and swap Dukeís head onto it, that would work even better. But, this one was ten bucks, so really there was no question.
Anyway, as soon as I brought the figure home, I decided to see if my judgment regarding facial resemblance was accurate. I got a picture of Arctic Duke from Joe Central (Very good site, by the way, with thorough reviews of all the toys) and brought it into Photoshop. A few minutes of tweaking colour balances later, I came up with this:
Not a bad resemblance. This might actually work. The first thing I did was mask off the neck area and paint the hair.
I used Testors #1133 Light Brown. Itís way too shiny for my liking, but then again, you get what you pay for. Better quality paint might yield better results. Next, I painted the goatee using the same colour and a tiny, Gold Sable liner brush. For the eyes, I used Testors #1164 Flat Green and very carefully dotted paint over the original blue. The pupils were done with an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie marker.
Now, it was time to test out the orange paint I got for the HEV suitís signature colour. Testors #1127 Orange worked beautifully on the inconspicuous spot that I tested it on.
I donít mind the shininess so much for the orange bits, since theyíre supposed to look like plastic/composite anyway. It took a few coats of orange to cover up the black underneath. Oh, I almost forgot, the textured underarms on the figure were originally white. I used Testors #1149 Flat Black on them and they almost look like the figure came that way. Iím very pleased with how it turned out.
Once I was satisfied that the paint would look good on the figure, I turned my attention to sculpting the bits of the HEV suit that arenít present on the Sigma suit. All things considered, the Sigma suit is a pretty good base, and has the same sci-fi-but-grounded-in-reality look of the Half-Life series. I used some orange Crayola Model Magic to make a chest-piece, as well as to make a gauntlet for the right arm.
Of course, the orange of the Model Magic wasnít the same shade as the paint, so it was painted later.
I originally chose to use Model Magic for a few reasons. First, itís cheap. A packet of the stuff costs pennies in comparison to premium materials like Sculpey. Secondly, it air-dries. I found this preferable to Sculpey as well, since the thought of the figure melting in the oven didnít appeal to me. Lastly, I chose Model Magic because itís easy to work with. Iíd considered trying two-part air-drying modeling compounds like Miliput or Aves Apoxie, but I couldnít find them in any of the art stores I went to. Also, from reading reviews online, I found the consensus was that theyíre difficult and messy to work with. And you have to work fast before they dry. With Model Magic, you trade durability for ease and cleanliness of use.
While I was waiting for the Model Magic to dry (it takes 24 hours according to the package), I decided to make Gordonís glasses. I made a test pair out of cardstock and used a permanent marker to colour them black.
When I was happy with the size, shape and fit, I made the desired modifications and cut out a master pattern using the cardstock. I then traced this pattern using a Sharpie onto the plastic that came as the figureís packaging.
Recycling this way makes me feel a bit better about the ludicrous amounts of packaging a Sigma Six figure comes with. Anyway, as you can see from the third pair in the above image, I kind of screwed up the first one when my knife slipped and I ended up with a deep score along one of the frameís arms. I ran with it anyway, and found that the proportions were a bit off, so I modified the design and tried again. This time, they fit perfectly.
Also, a tip for if youíre working with sheet plastic, donít fold it because itíll stress and shoot spider-webs of opaque white through the piece, which ruins the effect. Instead, score (make a light, shallow cut that doesnít go through the material) the side opposite of the way you want the bend to go, so that when you bend it, it eases the stress on the material and also gives a cleaner edge.
Painting the glasses wasnít too difficult. Using the smallest brush I had, I outlined the frames using Flat Black, then when they had dried, went over that layer with Testors #1147 Gloss Black. The end result is what you see here, a pair of rather convincing-looking glasses, complete with transparent lenses.
By the time Iíd finished the glasses, the Model Magic pieces had dried and I was ready to sand them into the proper shape. Using extra fine 600-grit sandpaper, I smoothed out the cracks and imperfections as best I could.
Those I couldnít sand out, I filled in with a wet concoction of Model Magic that I made by storing it in a Ziplock bag with a little bit of water for a few days.
When the filler had dried, I sanded it some more. At this point, I had to think ahead to what I would do to seal the figure once I had finished painting it, since the paint kept chipping off and I had to reapply every few hours. I figured Iíd use some Krylon clear coat spray, but aerosol sprays have a habit of melting foam, of which Model Magic is made. To test this out, I took a separate piece of Model Magic and used the spray on it. It didnít seem to do anything to the foam, which was good. However, to be extra safe, I mixed up a batch of sealer, made simply by taking some white glue and adding some water, and brushed it onto the finished piece to protect it.
While that was drying, I started painting the rest of the figure. First up was the chest, painting the parts that werenít covered by the chest piece.
Next came the handsÖ
Ö And the chest pieceÖ
At this point, I decided to spray the top half of the body with Krylon Clear Satin Varnish Spray, since I was tired of constantly reapplying paint. Now remember, if youíre going to do this at home, spray only in a well-ventilated area. I masked off the lower half of the body, took everything out to my garage and sprayed the figure thoroughly from about a foot away, to get nice, even coverage. The beauty of using a satin-finish spray is the nice, consistent luster it gives the figure. In this case, the hair that I thought was too shiny was dulled to an acceptable level.
When the varnish was dry, I took it back inside and it was about then that I realized two key mistakes Iíd made. First off was using enamel paints. On the soft plastic that makes up the figureís arms and hands, enamel paint does not dry and stays tacky forever. Secondly, by using a spray sealer, I exacerbated the problem, giving the whole figure a sticky, never-drying coat.
I decided I had to start over.
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