Special Modifications - The Vintage Collection VC25 R2-D2

The philosophy behind the Special Modifications feature is simple: to make small enhancements to 3 3/4" figures while remaining faithful to their original store-bought aesthetics.

A huge problem faced by toy collectors is yellowing plastic. Despite all of the precautions we take, the inherent chemical composition of some plastics means that, over time, they will inevitably lose their bright, white lustre. Recently, I noticed that my Vintage Collection R2-D2 had succumbed to this blight. Despite being kept out of direct sunlight, it seems the ambient light in the room had been enough to slowly turn his entire right side a sickly yellow. I was hugely disappointed, as this R2 is one of my favourite figures - being the closest thing to an "ultimate" R2-D2 that we've ever seen in the 3 3/4" line. I soon hatched a plan, however.

I'd recently completed a Back to the Future III Delorean time machine model, and during that process I'd stumbled across a new modelling resource to add to my arsenal: Humbrol's Weathering Powder. Coming in a variety of colours, the powder is designed to look and behave in the same way as the various dusts, dirts, and detritus that typically adorn used machinery. I'd opted to use a rust-coloured powder to give my Delorean an authentically dirty "Old West" feel. And that's when inspiration struck: despite being a wonderful representation of R2, this figure was far too clean - and that rust weathering powder I had on hand was a perfect stand-in for Tatooine sand. So I set to work dirtying him up a little bit.

The trick with using this powder is to apply it in much the same way that it would adhere in a real world environment. For starters, the quantity applied should decrease as you work your way up the model - the legs and treads should be caked in the stuff, whereas the head should only be lightly dusted (if at all). Secondly, you need to remember that - in the real world - the accumulations occur from the top down and build up on level surfaces. Sand doesn't defy gravity. In order to achieve this, you need to ensure that you're always moving the brush in downwards strokes. Other than this, you really can't go wrong. The beauty with dirtying something up is that it's meant to be messy, so there's really no such thing as a 'mistake'. Pretty soon, you'll have something that looks just like it's been pulled from the Jundland Wastes.

As with most subtle weathering techniques, photos don't really display the full level of detail. Nevertheless, I'm absolutely rapt with the finished product. R2's yellowing has disappeared entirely, being completely incorporated into his weathered look. Better still, the added grime brings out a lot of details in this phenomenal figure that weren't as prominent when he was entirely clean. In fact, I'm so satisfied with the effect that I may consider giving the same treatment to some other figures that aren't even suffering from a yellowing problem. (Where did I put that sandtrooper...?)

The Hunt Is On - Vintage Collection 3 3/4" Doctor Aphra Comic Set SDCC Exclusive

While I've never been an avid comic reader, I've become a huge fan of Marvel's Doctor Aphra series over the past few years. She's a fascinating character, and my work in the ethics of artificial intelligence has given me an added interest in BeeTee and Triple Zero's search for meaning and self-determination. I was hugely excited to see Aphra win the fan's choice award and earn herself a figure in the Vintage Collection line. She went right on my hunt list, and I resolved to pick up her droid companions if I ever had the chance. It seems that opportunity may now be on the horizon.

(Images courtesy of io9.gizmodo.com)

Hasbro recently revealed a San Diego Comic Con Vintage Collection exclusive that will not only contain Aphra, but also her droid companions. It was a bittersweet announcement, as there's no way I'll be making it to this particular event. Fortunately, however, the press release also announced that limited quantities of the set would be available on HasbroToyShop.com after the convention. Hasbro has now created a product page for this item, and confirmed that it will become available for purchase at some point on August 13th.

There's no doubt that these sets will go for a pretty penny on the secondary market, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that I manage to wrangle one directly from Hasbro on the 13th (after copious amounts of refreshing their page, no doubt). Stay tuned for updates!