Monday, November 29, 2010

Feline trees falling in domesticated forests...

Have you ever seen a cat try and jump to somewhere and end up falling instead? If so, you know they immediately adopt this attitude like they never really wanted to be where they were trying to jump to, have no desire to be there, and really would prefer if you stopped looking at them as they indignantly walk off in the other direction to do something completely unrelated to jumping, you, or even the area of your home where they had been (suitable but lesser seen alternative to this is said cat rolling over on his or her back, trying to make you realize how adorable they are and distract you from their failings).

Anyway, my question here is: do you think they act like this when people *aren't* around?
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who the @#$! is Toryn Farr?!?!



Who The $%#@ Is Toryn Farr!?!?

Proving that I can out-geek the best of them, Toryn Farr is the only female character other than Princess Leia with a speaking role in The Empire Strikes Back. Described as the “Chief Controller at Echo Command. Responsible for communicating orders to the troops. Personally gives firing orders to Ion Cannon Control”, you may remember her for the line “Standby Ion Control…Fire!” during the Rebel’s evacuation of Hoth.

Played by German Actress Brigitte Kahn, Toryn went unnamed for over 15 years, credited only as “Rebel Officer” in the movie’s credits. It wasn’t until the anthology book “Tales of the Bounty Hunters” came out in 1996 that the character was named and fleshed out. Whether it was just that good of a story, or the fact that she was paired up with my favorite Star Wars alien, Zuckuss, in that story, I decided I wanted a Toryn Farr action figure after reading the story she appeared in. Back then, Star Wars wasn’t out on DVD yet, and since she was such a minor character in the film, there weren’t any promotional pictures of the character. That being said, the best I could figure out was that Toryn wore the exact same outfit that Leia wore, only with head-phones, and had a different hairstyle. A couple of years later when Hasbro came out with their updated Princess Leia in Hoth Gear figure, I cobbled together a Toryn figure using a couple of different Leia figures and hand-crafted headphones.

The whole process I think took no more than 30 minutes, not counting the time it took for the clay to cure. For all I knew, I had created a fairly decent action figure, and that was “good enough” for the time. I gave her a blaster and called it ‘done’. That was back in 2000, and for the next couple of years I was satisfied. But then a couple of things happened. First, Star Wars figures started to…I guess you could say ‘evolve’. The sculpting got more and more detailed, and they could move a lot more than just swivel joints at the hips, shoulders, neck, and waist. Suddenly, my Toryn Farr figure was significantly ‘dated’ by the parts I used to make it. Then, more damaging to my opinion of the figure was that a company named Wizards of the Coast started making a Star Wars Customizable Card Game (Think Pokemon or Magic: The Gathering, only with Star Wars characters), and they used an image of “Toryn Farr” (more on why there are quotes there later) that showed a bit more than what I originally had to go on. While the picture was only a profile shot from the neck to the upper torso, I could immediately see a few things: 1.) The hair was different than what I had thought (more on THAT later too…), 2.) The collar of her vest was ‘popped’, and 3.) She was wearing a jacket, not Leia’s snowsuit. Where Leia had a puffy suit with a communicator on her wrist, Toryn had a cuff and ‘scomp links’ on her upper arm (you can Google ‘Scomp Links’, I don’t care to explain them…) Lastly, Toryn wasn’t wearing gloves, the Princess was. This all added up to make me realize that not only was my Toryn action figure not ‘done’, it all added together and made the figure I had created wrong, Wrong, WRONG. So, I set off to re-make my Toryn Farr action figure, dragging my feet little by little, each year hoping that Toryn might get an official action figure as the selection Hasbro produced included more and more obscure characters from the film saga. Even so, every time a new 3.75” female action figure would come out, I’d eyeball her in detail to see if there was something that could be used as a part for Toryn Farr.

This year, 2010, marks the 30th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and I figured that if there was ever going to be a really GOOD chance for Toryn to get made, this would be it. After the summer convention circuit ended and Hasbro announced their figure line up sans Toryn, I decided it was finally time to start putting together MY Toryn Farr, version 2.0. The first step was to see how many pictures I could find of the character now that the movies had been out on DVD for so long and there were plenty of still shot screen captures. While there weren’t a LOT, there were certainly more than ‘none’, and that led to my final discovery: The character that Wizards of the Coast had identified as “Toryn Farr” in their card game was NOT in fact Toryn Farr. That was an actress by the name of Stephanie English, and her she remains credited only as “Rebel Technician”. That character’s hair was different (the ‘bun’ in the back was significantly smaller than Toryn’s), and her vest was a lighter color (that may or may not make her jumpsuit look lighter). I had to do some research (meaning I watched the film again…twice) to make sure, but the actress in the card game was from a scene where Han walks through the Rebel’s war-room to talk to Leia. Toryn (the woman who later gives the order to fire the Ion Cannon) can be seen sitting back near the entrance, and the woman in the card game is already sitting down near where Han finds the Princess. This revelation didn’t make my task any easier though, as Toryn and faux-Toryn were wearing the same outfit. So then it came time to figure out what exactly she was wearing. From what I could tell, it was a jumpsuit, like the pilots wear (minus the extra gear), only in light tan. That gave me a good starting point, as Hasbro had made a few female Rebel pilot figures (even though none of them ever appeared on-screen…). They had the baggy pants, and their upper arms had the scomp links. Unfortunately, they also had all the extra pilot gear details on, so it wouldn’t be simple. To make matters worse, the upper torso moved under her breast line, not at the waist line, so all I could really use was the upper arms and upper legs. The best I could see for use of the upper torso was from…I don’t remember her name…the Russian chick from the last Indiana Jones movie (Cate Blanchet’s character)…it had the pockets, and the flap down the center. All I had to do to make that work was to X-Acto the buttons off. I needed a ‘crotch’ piece to join the torso and the legs, and the best I could find was from one of the Hoth Leia’s that I had used to make the original Toryn Figure. I could assume that the lower legs looked like the rest of the Hoth Rebels, complete with the boots with straps, and those came from a Jedi-Leia figure that Hasbro had made based off of a comic book scene. Her vest would come from Hoth Leia again, and all that left was the lower arms and the head. I decided to get as much pieced together as I could using what I had figured out and get to the rest later… and then the problems started…

First off, the legs didn’t really fit all that well onto the crotch piece. In fact, they left her backside looking *really* wonky, and the front wasn’t all that great. Secondly, the upper-arms from the pilot figure were too thick and the vest wouldn’t fit around them. The leg issue I could deal with, but the arms were a problem. I decided to go with the arms from a Juno Eclipse figure (a female Imperial Officer from a Star Wars video game), even though they weren’t really baggy enough to represent Toryn’s suit, and then use an X-Acto and super glue to get the Scomp-Links on there. These were concessions I didn’t want to make, but did, and in the process of getting Juno’s arms off, I decided that Juno’s head would work as a starting point for Toryn as well. So, after some frankensteining and painting, Toryn 2.0 was ‘born’. It wasn’t perfect, but it was done.

In a discussion about Toryn on Rebelscum.com (the Internet’s biggest Star Wars action figure website), I posted pictures of my creation. To say they went over like a brick is putting it nicely. Even the nicer ‘compliments’ seemed like a “good job!” one might say to a retarded kid who never left the starting line during the Special Olympics…it was a blow to my confidence, but after a day or so of sulking, I went back to work.

Toryn 2.0 spent a day soaking in soapy water to get all the paint off, and I had to then figure out another crotch piece. The problem came from how petite the Indiana Jones lady figure was, and other crotch pieces truncated the figure in such a way that her arms hung too long giving her a gorilla appearance. This meant I had to get creative. I went back to the female pilot figure…there was no way I could find a piece to work for the upper torso, but maybe there was a way to make the lower part work. I went to work with a Dremel and sanded down the abdomen to a point where I could build it up just enough with Milliput putty that it made it join nicely with the upper part. This meant sacrificing the waist joint, but since I don’t *play* with my action figures, I’ll gladly choose aesthetics over articulation. This did require her needing a belt of some kind though, and in the selection process, I discovered a Han Solo figure that not only had a belt that I liked, but also had arms that looked a lot more like Toryn’s outfit than the Juno arms I had been using.

So now that I had the parts finalized (AGAIN), I went back to work. This time I went with Krylon Fusion spray-paint which gave the paint-job look a lot more smooth and polished, and changed the boots to a bluish-gray to better match the other Hoth Rebel figures. Now that I had the Milliput, I was also able to sculpt the ‘popped’ collar to her vest. But I still wasn’t thrilled about the final way the head turned out. It may have been the fact that I felt bad about tearing the figure apart for the arms that I ended up abandoning, or it may have been because it’s such a plain-jane head in its original state, but whatever the reason, for some reason or another, I was still sold on the Juno Eclipse head. Still, it was lacking something. And if you’re actually reading this, you’re probably thinking “headphones!” but that’s not it. The answer was the hair. Despite figuring out that there was Toryn and faux-Toryn, I had made the hair more in line with faux-Toryn, and needed that to change. Milliput to the rescue again! I also redid the eyeliner because, as dumb as this may sound, most of Toryn’s screen time had her looking ‘up’ at her tactical board, and taking off the bottom eye line gave her that appearance. This is what the end result was:

To be honest, it actually came out looking loads better than I could have ever imagined. To quote the movie series that started this whole ordeal: “Sometimes I amaze even myself!”

Now it was time for accessories. And no…STILL no headphones. The requisite Rebel blaster was a given, but there was the one picture I had found of her using a…something, to scan her control board. So even though I had no idea what it was, I set off to make it. The victim here was a welding tool that came from yet *another* Han Solo figure, attached to a cable from a Jawa figure, and a silver box thing from a GI Joe figure. Considering that I had no idea what the tool was, and what it was actually attached to, I hope my creativity isn’t so far-fetched.

So there is it. A figure that’s been somewhere between 30 (the release of The Empire Strikes Back )and 14 (how long ago I read “Tales of the Bounty Hunters”) years in the making is done, and I’m thrilled. In the “Oh My God, that’s kind of sad…” category though, I stopped counting at 7 figures who gave up one part or another to make this figure. With that being said, I’m still hopeful that Toryn Farr, the only female with a speaking role from the original Star Wars trilogy that hasn’t been made into an action figure yet gets one from Hasbro…and soon.

As for why no head-phones? Well, there’s more than one reason. For starters, as someone who spent years in a call center and knows how shitty it is having to wear those things all the time, I don’t want to have them permanently affixed to her head…besides, with as happy as I am about the way the head turned out, I don’t want to try to sculpt or affix anything to it with the possibility for screwing up and ruining a good thing. So the only option is to sculpt or craft them and have them removable…as I’m toying with the idea of creating a custom blister card ‘package’ for the figure, I may do just that, and package them in there as an accessory.

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