Marvel Universe: Orange Hulk (Marvel vs. Capcom)

Do not adjust your set.

Personally, 1999 was kind of rough. There were a lot of life issues and whatnot to be dealt with, and that sort of dragged on into the next year. However, pop-culture-wise, 1999 was a super-cool year — the midpoint of the Attitude Era was on fire like nothing else, a ton of great indie music was on the still-thriving NU107, and the video game scene was very promising. Between Street Fighter Alpha 3 (still THE best overall Street Fighter game of all time, to me) and Marvel Vs. Capcom, Capcom had a really solid grip on things that year. Barring a lackluster PSOne port that couldn’t really deliver all the glitz of the arcade, MVC1 was a smash that brought to the fore dream matches we didn’t know we’d dreamt about .

A natural culmination of Capcom’s Street Fighter growth and increasingly adventurous forays into Marvel (from Children of the Atom to Marvel Super Heroes to X-Men vs. Street Fighter to Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter), the game was a high-energy mix of concepts with silliness and fun out the wazoo, right down to the somewhat weird easter eggs. The hidden character was a staple in most fighting games of the era, from Mortal Kombat‘s Reptile to Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter‘s “who the hell is this guy” Norimaro. But while MVC1 had one legitimate (if traditional) unlockable character in Roll, the rest were unusual palette swaps (although at least Shadow Lady, the darker-palleted, superpowered Chun Li, made a bit of sense). Aside from Shadow Lady I think I actually turned all of the WTH palette swap guys into toys! Continue reading

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Marvel Universe: Vapor (and the U-Foes)

This completes the posts building up the U-Foes lineup! The final member, Vapor, showed up on the Avengers Alliance Facebook game alongside the rest of the team and made it back into the public consciousness along with the rest of the team. Perhaps I sell the U-Foes short, but it’s admittedly hard to remember specific villains (or even villain teams), especially for someone whose usual favored universe is that of the Distinguished Competition. I know my Royal Flush Gangs and Secret Societies, but I have trouble naming the U-Foes and Circus of Crime members. Nevertheless, looking into this team allowed me to gain a new appreciation for them, both in terms of their interesting designs and their neat group aesthetic.

As noted above, Vapor completes the team, and provides a nice dose of green to what so far has been a fairly warm palette (with Vector’s orange-gold-yellow and X-Ray’s pink-magenta-whatever). The clear green necessitated by the need to represent her ability to transform into any gaseous form was a tricky thing, as the only clear-plastic female figure in this scale was the variant Invisible Woman from the 3-pack. Fortunately, a local collector shop had a pretty varied selection, which included a clear green version of Fire from a DC Infinite Heroes giftset. This was pretty much all we needed — the scale was a little iffy, but it was passable for the group’s female to be at least almost as tall as one of the males (X-Ray). All it took was painting the white gloves and the fleshtone for the face and shoulders, and then deciding what to do about the hair. Ultimately I went for a brown drybrush, to give her a bit of a mid-transformation feel in that area as well.


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Marvel Universe: X-Ray

I’ve approached these U-Foes posts with a bit of fascination, since a bit of background research reveals they were acrtually trotted out to fight the Avengers every now and again. It’s worth noting that the Avengers weren’t always the huge mainstream stars they became thanks to the MCU — for most of the 80s and 90s they were iconic characters but not exactly setting the public afire thanks to the more glamorous X-Men taking the spotlight. (Why do you think Spidey and X-Men movies got made first, despite the film rights being held by other studios, and the MCU only got started once Marvel themselves took a gamble on film?) Then again, maybe it’s the fact that villains and villain teams (as I’ve mentioned before) tend to be created as storytelling fodder that has kind of resulted in many having a hard time staying in the public consciousness. The U-Foes have pretty cool powersets, but Masters of Evil they’re not.


Amusingly, from Ironclad — who was kind of done up as a consolation for  my brother having missed out on the first Hulk movie toyline’s take on the character — onwards, the U-Foes were quickly revealed as fairly quick customs, given their fairly straightforward construction. Indeed the only really tricky bit was the sculpted bits on Ironclad and the need for clear body parts for X-Ray and Vapor. So while they weren’t fairly weighty characters they made the to-do list because they were comparatively easy to put together.

In X-Ray’s case, the clear Vision body we had left over made for a perfect base. His clear green and yellow weren’t particularly saturated, so a few coats of clear red allowed him to match up well with the very pale red of the game model. The head was a bit of a writeoff, as we had no more clear heads left (the Vision head, well, looked like Vision and had already been transplanted to the new body), so I had to make do with a remaining ROC Destro head.

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Marvel Universe: Vector

Taking another stab at the U-Foes today, we bring Vector to the fore.

The U-Foes were, for some reason, a team my brother was interested in seeing done. They were never too popular with us so I suspect this desire to see them made was borne of the Avengers Alliance game, as well as their relative ease of execution.

Vector was, like Ironclad, a more or less simple custom to carry out. Even simpler in some ways since no sculpting and sanding was required; just a good overall coat of gold and a one clear yellow, which seemed like more of a match for the in-game set than the usual comic orange. Some thin lines all over then followed, and he was completed alongside a few other customs that day.

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Marvel Universe: Ironclad

I’ve mentioned before how cool I find it that the Avengers Alliance Facebook game has taken and run with the new lease on life given to Marvel in general by its cinematic success. It’s a shame that DC doesn’t really have anything on the same level, as I have more affection for those characters. (To be honest the only reason I haven’t done up actual DC characters as 3.75″ customs is that I don’t want to get started on ANOTHER collection scale, hence my confinement of that universe to Minimates. That, and the almost total lack of parts for such customs.) Consider the example of the U-Foes, who might never have seen the light of day outside the comics if not for the game eagerly mining A- to D-listers and the like.

Ironclad here is one of the occasional villain group, the U-Foes. Villain teams tend to be a hard act to get off the ground, to my mind, because making satisfying characters out of the individuals takes narrative time that is ALSO needed to establish and play with the team dynamic. If they’re created and debuted AS a team, it’s doubly hard because they won’t get panel time that the protagonists will, reducing th available space to do that juggling act in.  Whether it’s that or just the fact that there are many more interesting characters to give page time (or MCU reinvention screen time) to, I’d completely forgotten about the U-Foes.

Which is a shame since they’re mostly fairly easy customs, as was made clear by the game art for Avengers Alliance. Ironclad in particular was essentially a metallic human form — although the traditional depiction always gives him modesty briefs or boxers or a weird spa towel around his waist (what’s so weird about a spa towel? Think of a naked guy fighting the Hulk in one.) Fortunately the game avoided the latter and gave him he briefs instead. It’s worth noting it also skipped the bare feet, instead making them blocky like they were in socks.

This was easily executed in figure form by taking an Avengers movie toyline Hulk (whom we’d heretofore affectionately nicknamed Rice Pants after a Kenan and Kel skit involving similarly-colored slacks) as the base. Sculpted blocks over the bare feet, sanded down the fabric texture on the aforementioned rice pants, and tweaked the sculpt of the pants so they would look like regular thighs and not torn slacks (this also involved sculpting over the belt line a bit). The head came from a different MU Hulk, whom I’d given the movie head to for another custom. This head I then sculpted a flattop hairdo onto, to further match the Ironclad look and separate him from Hulk.

The paint was one of the trial-and-error metallic silver jobs I did during the time frame of my search for anything that could replicate the look of gold chrome. This stage was I think, my “chrome silver base then clear yellow coat” which erroneously assumed you COULD do silver chrome with spraypaint. In any event this looked spectacularly shiny to start, but the paint began to get tacky and sticky after a day or two for some reason. This appeared to have been fixed after giving it a brushed on coat of Vallejo Chainmail, which unfortunately also dulled the shine quite a bit (not that there was a lot after it got sticky).

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Marvel Universe: X-Men: Darwin

Retcons are fascinating things. When done right they really change the landscape of a work, giving readers totally fresh things to enjoy about the material and the characters. When done wrong, though, it can poison the well enough that everything that spills out of it just get ignored in the name of waiting for the next retcon.

The intriguing thing about storylines like X-Men: Deadly Genesis is that they serge the tricky dual purpose of improving and expanding on an older work, while introducing new material for the current run. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it was done ‘right’, third Summers brother and all, and just focus on talking about Darwin.

This interesting character came in as a member of Professor X’s ‘lost class’ of pre-Storm team recruits, and has gotten some love (albeit with unfortunate Black Dude Dies First implications) in the first film of the current film trilogy. The design for Darwin, as it was for the rest of the team, is a pretty clever mashup of classic (i.e. the team that preceded them) design and more dynamic and varied colors (they didn’t all have a uniform yellow/black combo like the first class did). As such, since the design kept to the traditional bodysuit look, the custom was a fairly quick one to do.

The main trick was preserving comic Darwin’s gangly, lanky features (gotta love how perfect the words are for what they describe) as well as his somewhat elongated, 90s-alien face. Fortunately, after my brother picked up a Marvel Universe Galactus (in the darker color scheme, to complement his classic-colors Toy Biz BAF) with a packed-in Silver Surfer, the single-handed Surfer became surplus to requirements and thus most welcome fodder. Painted him up in Darwin’s overall color scheme, preferring a more saturated purple than the thin lavender of the comic. It’s actually a decent body build, as long as it matches the character well (I like it here more than I do for, say, Spider-Man or Iron Fist).

I forget now if this custom came before or after the custom of aforementioned third Summers brother, Vulcan, but that guy got made too. I wonder when we’ll get around to Petra and the rest? So many mutants, so little time.

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Marvel Universe: Stryfe

I’ll see your X-Men: Apocalypse and raise you an X-Cutioner’s Song. All this to sorta justify this choice for today’s custom reveal – all without having much to actually DO with the film.

Stryfe, the principal bad guy from this weirdly-named story arc (seriously if this is a literary reference or somesuch, I am missing it), is emblematic of a lot of character design principles from his era: must look badass, must be  morally questionable and thus edgy, and must have similarly dark motives. Practicality and depth can come later which they sort of did. After all, what can one realistically expect of an evil clone of a hero who follows the same design specs?


Regardless, Stryfe was always a cool look to turn into a toy. And so Hasbro did just that… for the 6-inch range. As with many other examples that year, Stryfe was missing from 3.75-scale pegs. This didn’t intimidate most customizers though, and I had a lot of bases to pattern this custom after.

Stryfe is essentially a Death’s head body (itself a welcome retool from Colossus), with some mods done to the shoulderpieces, and a Wrecker head with sculpted-on cowl. The spikes were the tips of bullets, cut from a GI Joe belt, and the helmet fins came from blister bubble plastic. The fins actually almost ended up being repurposed helmet fins from the Super Hero Squad version of Stryfe (which to be honest I only found out about by accident), but this way looks better than having some soft, cartoony chunks there. It’s a shame he can’t really turn his head well though.

The rest of the work ended up being a good couple of coats of Bosny Metallic Silver on top of gloss black, and that ended up being a damn sight better than the other brand of spray-on silver paint. All he’s really missing now, as per some art, is a few spikes and that loincloth, but he looks nice enough without the latter.



Marvel Universe: “Big Hero 6” Iron Man armor concepts

The grand finale to this round of the Iron Age takes us to some totally unexpected territory — the fascinating, cleverly-designed San Fransokyo!

Continue reading

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Marvel Universe: Disco [Iron Man mk XXVII]

As we wind down this iteration of the Iron Age, it’s time to revisit one of the cooler color schemes from the Iron Man 3 Iron Legion.

I don’t think I would have imagined getting some official love for “Disco“, the Chameleon Suit designated Mark XXVII from the film’s Iron Legion. And for years, that was pretty much what we got — nothing, until this year’s Civil War toyline saw a Target exclusive two-pack that had Disco along with the latest (as of Civil War) iteration of the War Machine armor. Interestingly, with this release Hasbro comes ahead of the Hot Toys toyline — which had otherwise been the absolute forerunner in releasing IM3 Iron Legion armors (that is a HELL of a collection to complete). Unlike Hot Toys, though, the Marvel Legends release gets it almost entirely wrong by using the War Machine base body for some reason.


This one hews closer to the original concept art design — which mainly called for a straight redeco of the Mark VII armor. The colors were really the only unique part of Disco, but damn if they didn’t make them as striking as popssible while they were at it. And, well, with my preference for striking color schemes this was really a no-brainer. It helped that the more-articulated Mark VII figure had shown up in later waves of the Avengers toyline, freeing up the earlier one for customs like this one.

All it took was some priming and some mixing of orange — earlier on I think I had an old bottle of Vallejo orange that had separated, resulting in the need for constant remixing. In retrospect I’m a bit surprised it looks so consistent here. The blue-violet was also a custom mix, to try and infuse a metal-flake effect into the stock purple. Disco’s depictions usually vary slightly in how close the blue is to the purple, partly due to the shade of the color and partly due to the bright orange it contrasts with.

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Marvel Universe: Modular Armor Iron Man

Beginning the last week of the Iron Age, we go all the way back to a classic and a longtime favorite (you’ll see why below).


The appeal of the Modular Armor — to me, and perhaps to others — is undeniable. It singlehandedly sums up 90s comic-book Iron Man for me in the way that the Silver Centurion armor does for fans from that era, and perhaps in the way that the Extremis suit represents the early- to mid-2000s. Aside from simply looking perfect for the character and boasting a simple but suitable concept — an armor suit that can be modified and expanded with mission-specific tech, all the way to the Hulk-busting kind — this was simple the longest-in-use armor from that era that I paid attention to, so it’s embedded in my memories of the decade. It was so prominent, it was THE suit of armor in the Capcom games starring Marvel characters (only giving way to the Extremis suit for MVC3, which, as mentioned, saw release in another decade).

Frustratingly, despite this seeing Minimate form and Marvel Legends form (the latter sporting his sweet video-game bright red and yellow), this classic armor had never hit the 3.75″ scale. While we wanted to rectify this quickly, the custom was actually one of those that took forever to get around to. This was because [1] the sculpting needed for it would be somewhat extensive and [2] I’m notoriously dubious of my actual sculpting capability.

Eventually, though, my brother found someone who’d used the Oversize Armor as a base. A brilliant idea, really, since much of the base body of the Modular Armor was drawn similarly bodysuit-like rather than armor-plating (par for the course with comic art at the time), which would limit the sculpting to some external plates and details. Taking my cue from the way the customizer did his, I sculpted extra ridges onto the shoulder pads and the proper border shape for the unique Modular Armor helmet, then covered up the forearms with new gauntlets. Then I shaved down/sculpted over the vertical stripe down the abs to separate it from the now-pentagonal chestpiece (upon which I also sculpted the chest repulsor). The different lower body simply required sculpting a “belt line” and a buckle for the front, and the rest was just paint. Not counting, of course, the ribbed padding panels on the kneecaps, upper and lower legs (the lower legs also needed some sculpting to cover the exposed/unplated calves). For paint I elected to follow Toy Biz’s lead and go bright red and yellow, using them straight out the paint pot. The yellow’s a little greenish in some lighting, but overall it’s faithful enough to the video game (which is why we wanted the armor in the first place) that it isn’t much of a bother.

One of these days I’ll get around to making the other iconic piece of Iron Man hardware from that video game…




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