Custom Corner: JLU Batman Of Zur-En-Arrh

After checking out a ton of customs lately and actually editing almost every Customizing 101 that has appeared in ToyFare over the past two years (not counting the last few months obviously), I figured it was finally time I gave this whole thing a shot for myself. I have zero experience and haven’t painted anything since…maybe ever. I want to do a Guy Gardner Warrior custom out of a big burly WWE figure, but I want to get better at this whole painting thing a little bit more, so I took an extra Batman JLU figure (of course, I forgot to take a picture of him still together so I had to borrow this one from CollectorsQuest) and turned him into a pretty rough version of The Batman Of Zur-En-Arrh. Hit the jump for the full (read: long) post.

So, the first thing I did was take this bad boy apart. As you might notice from the picture above, this version of Batman not only has the standard shoulder and hip joints but also elbows and knees, which make taking him apart trickier. First I took the easy stuff like the head and cape off, then I boiled some water and set the figure in there to loosen up the soft plastic joints. The knees and elbows weren’t too bad, but in the process I accidentally broke the figure at the waist (there’s a peg connected to the lower half of the figure that’s clamped inside the torso which gives the figure waist articulation). I also ended up cracking the chest and back of the figure and breaking it in a weird way down the back half. But I got everything apart, then figured out what colors each piece needed to be and made notes which you can see here. As I mentioned, I broke the back and tried gluing it together. Unfortunately, I used Gorilla Glue which dries kind of puffy and would give me problems later. I also used it on the little peg that connects the legs to the torso and that was a mess. More on that later.

I also used the paper towel to make a list of which parts needed to be which color.

And now here’s a pic I took of the source material. For those of you who don’t know, The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is from a crazy 50s Batman story that Grant Morrison resurrected during Batman: RIP. The reason I chose to do this particular figure is because I dug the story and the design, but also because it’s just a repaint and didn’t involve swapping parts. Oh, also, it’s a pretty grungy costume, so I figured some of my eventual missteps wouldn’t look SO bad.

As far as paints and stuff, I picked up a big bag of brushes and the set of Testors acrylic paints below. It came with the orange spinning rack thing, three other brushes, cemet and 12 paints, which you can mix to get just about any color. You can also see the plastic tray I used to mix paint and the Miley Cyrus cup I used to clean my brushes. I’ve also got some masking tape, though it ran out which was annoying and lead to some bleeding. And of course, I’ve got paper towels and toothpicks which will come into play soon.

I started with the purple, mixing some blue and red paint. I was pretty happy withe the deep, dark purple I got. I started with that and did the cape, then the boots, gloves, mask, upper thighs and trunks. I think I ended up doing 3-4 coats on these, focusing on one side of the cape, letting it dry and then doing the other side. I used what little masking tape I had to cover the edge of the boots and the lower thigh which worked really well. I’ll make sure to have a full supply next time.

I wish I would have thought of this while the boots dried, but when I started working on the upper legs and arms, I realized that I could thread a toothpick through the joint holes and hang them in a beer bottle to help them dry. I’m working on designs for something other than beer bottles, though I do usually have some lying around. After the purple finished I moved on to the red and yellow. For red I mixed red and a little bit of black and just used the standard yellow because I didn’t want to mix it and then need more. Luckily I had just enough paint for all the initial coats, but that meant I didn’t have any extra for touch-ups.

I was pretty happy with how the red turned out too. I got just the color I wanted and it went on well. I think I did 2 or 3 coats with this. My real problems came with the yellow parts. See, what I should have done is painted a white coat over the darker gray/blue of Batman’s costume. Instead I just started with yellow and kept slathering it on, which ended up making it thick and gooey. I also wasn’t sure how to handle the knee and elbow joint pegs, so I basically covered them in paint which was pointless because most of it came off when I tried to put the thing back together. You can see the problems with the upper arms sitting on the plastic tray to try (which didn’t work really well).

Eventually, I moved the arms to the bottles for drying, but it didn’t work all that well. I also kept accidentally touching the yellow paint and it smeared a lot, so there’s a lot of rough spots in the yellow (you’ll see them in the final photo).

The only place the yellow looks even remotely okay on my figure is the belt and that’s because I was painting yellow on yellow and even there there’s holes and bleeding. I should have done the same thing I did with the cape by focusing on one side, doing several coats, letting it dry and then doing the other side. Ah well. The nice thing about this figure is that the cape covers most of the back flaws (like the giant, glued crack).

One last touch I wanted to add was Batman’s five o’clock shadow (and to cover up some of the purple splatter), so I just used a fine point black Sharpie. Oh, I also drew a really crapped Bat-symbol on the chest and then tried to paint it in with the black paint. It turned out really crappy, off-center and partially covered by the cape. I think I’ll look into printing off some decals in the future as I am not good with the drawing. I don’t have a picture of it until the very end.

After a while, I got sick of trying to make the yellow cover all the gray and just kind of quit on it. After letting it sit for a while, I tried to start putting this thing back together and it was way too soon. After struggling with the joints, I gave up for the night and came back at it the next morning when I remembered a trick I read online: you can use a hair dryer to heat the plastic up which makes it more pliable. I was able to get the knee and elbow pegs back in (though all the paint rubbed off) and then was left with trying to get the legs back around the huge pegs. See, the holes in the legs were really small and the discs are pretty huge, plus it’s an awkward angle. I tried digging in a little with a pocket knife to make the hole bigger and I think that worked a little. By heating it up, I was finally able to get the legs on there, but they’re not really solid. I even threw the lower half into the freezer which helped set the joins better.

I also had trouble getting the chest and back to snap together thanks to all the damage I caused when splitting it apart in the first place. I’ll have to do some research on how to do this more delicately next time. But the last thing that took forever was trying to get the peg glued back onto the top of the leg portion so I could put this thing back together and be done with it (I know, it’s not the best attitude, but I learned my lessons and just wanted to move on to the next one and use what I learned). The Gorilla Glue kept getting in the way and I’m not sure if the cracked chest cavity would actually hold the peg even if it was completely secure, so I sacrificed the waist joint and just glued the snapped-together top half (now with cap and head reattached and arms back in) to the lower half with recently purchased Crazy Glue. It seems to be holding pretty well, but I’m not going to be handling it too much.

Anyway, here’s the finished product:

It’s not the coolest thing you’ll ever see, but I did have fun putting him together and learned a TON as I went. I’ve already got a list of new materials I’ll need to pick up and my next project in mind: repainting a DC Direct Power Girl figure with a slightly modified version of her yellow and white Justice League Europe costume. Should be fun. What do you think? Please be gentle, I’m a complete newbie.

6 thoughts on “Custom Corner: JLU Batman Of Zur-En-Arrh

  1. I’m impressed, broseph. I always want to customize toys but I always feel like I’d suck balls at it. But good job, smart to start with the JLU style figures.

    1. Thanks man. It was pretty easy to get started. That kit I picked up was less than $20 and I had some spare figures lying around, so I just figured what the hell and went for it.

  2. Not bad for a first try! I took the same Batman & made him into Adam West Batman 🙂

    My work isn’t awesome (See my myspace) But here’s a few tips…

    You didn’t need to pull him apart.

    To get lighter colors to cover darker colors, First Base coat the whole figure White with a good PVC spraypaint like Krylon for patio furniture (Same plastic)

    Don’t waste time trying to paint “Bat Logo’s” & such. Get inkjet decal paper at your hobby shop, get the logo off the net, print it out & follow the instructions.

    Dullcoat with Testors spray lustorless flat when done to avoid chipping.

    Hope this helps with your next one! 🙂

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