DIY The Heap Action Figure

By | Monday, April 01, 2024 Leave a Comment
The space above my work desk at home is decorated with some action figure displays. I somehow got it into my head that a neat "end cap" type of piece for them would be a fire escape on the side of a brick building, where I could place some pulpy Golden Age comics characters. I was able to get pretty easily a Plastic Man (debuted 1941) and Wildcat (debuted 1942) and "first appearance" Batman circa 1939. But I wanted include some characters beyond DC lore. (I could technically throw in my Captain Marvel figure as he was owned by Fawcett back then, but I'd also like to keep this a bit more pulpy.) There's some nice Flash Gordon and Phantom figures out there... but frustratingly not in a 6-inch format. Both Mezco and Boss Fight Studio have some very nice, in-scale Popeye figures but the Boss Fight ones are a little too cartoony in style and the Mezco ones are too expensive for not using a centerpiece to a display. The Dick Tracy figures from both Shocker Toys or Mezco would fit the bill but, again, those are far too expensive for this. The Collectable Legends Blue Beetle isn't super outrageous price-wise but I've literally never read a Golden Age Blue Beetle story. Fresh Monkey Fiction has a nice collection of Golden Age figures like Phantom Lady, the Blue Flame, Atoman, Black Terror, the Claw, Fantomah, the Green Turtle, and Miss Fury among others. But here again, none are in the 6-inch format.

Well, maybe I could customize a figure or two. I'm not great at painting but I could probably do a simple deco job like the original Daredevil or something. Boss Fight Studio even has a line of blank figures available for pre-order now... except those aren't scheduled to be released until 2025. My 3D printer also isn't high quality enough to do good six-inch figures -- at least, not ones with much articulation. I did make a bunch of army-builder type Skrulls a little while ago, but they pretty much only work as background fodder. Ah, but there's a thought... what about a character that didn't have a lot of articulation to begin with?

And that's how I got to thinking about doing a custom action figure of The Heap. He's the original swamp monster in the same vein as Man-Thing or Swamp Thing but he debuted decades earlier in 1942. His design changed a bit from issue to issue, but he was really only humanoid in the loosest sense: two arms, two legs, and a head. Sometimes he had hands, sometimes not. Sometimes feet, sometimes not. Sometimes he was white, sometimes brown, sometimes green. Sometimes he had eyes or a mouth, sometimes not. About the only thing that was consistent in any way was that his "nose" was kind of a root-looking thing in the middle of his head and even that was inconsistently rendered.

As I began looking for models to work from -- I was originally thinking maybe a "shambling mound" Dungeons & Dragons miniature that I could add some articulation to -- I stumbled across someone who had recreated Kenner's old Wampa creature from The Empire Strikes Back toys. It had the articulation already and the basic design was there; all that really needed to be tweaked was the head. The modifications weren't difficult -- I was able to do them in Tinkercad, which is about the most bare-bones 3D modeling program out there. I basically just removed the ears and horns, and tuned one of the horns into a nose. The hardest part was actually trying to blend the blank spots left by the horns into the rest of the head, but I eventually just copied the upper part of the shoulder and let the piece mesh together naturally.

While I was in there, I opted to add a few other joints as well. By splitting the torso and the two arms each in half and dropping a simple rod through the middle of each, I easily created swivel joints for the hip and biceps. Because of the original design, they don't line up super smoothly if you rotate them a solid 90° but they add a great deal of movement, almost doubling the amount of joints of the original figure. I printed all the parts at 142% to make sure the figure towered appropriately over the other figures. Printing and doing the additional design work took a grand total of maybe two and a half days.

As you can see from the photos, I use green filament for the base and that alone make it look more like The Heap than a Wampa. A little on the overly bright side, but it's what I already had. So to give a little more depth and nuance, I hit the printed pieces with a can of grey spray paint. Not much, of course, just enough to dull the color a bit and make things look a bit "dirty." I then assembled the figure and did a light paint wash over the whole thing with some really, really, really thinned out brown paint. The only thing left at that point was a spot of solid brown for the nose.

Less than three days, start to finish.

The model did cost me about five bucks, and I probably used maybe a dollar's worth of materials that I already had lying around. Buying an appropriately sized Wampa figure would set me back at least $60 and I would have had to have done a LOT more work on it, no doubt taking much longer than just a few days.

Now I just have to wait until somebody makes a six-inch Airboy figure and I'll be all set!
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