Creating custom Azrael - help and advice

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Garlador

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I'm one of the very select brand of comic fans out there who really likes DC's Azrael. Don't know how it happened, but I guess I was just in the right place at the right time to love this crazed, unstable religious zealot who utterly failed at being Batman, but whose mental issues, struggle with religion, and constant struggle to do the right thing despite his mistakes resonated with me... heck, Moon Knight leaned in hard on those same traits years later, and I love him for the same reasons.
xs8mootg6ux81.jpg

My boy is getting a weird but appreciated resurgence right now, 20 years after his last solo run, and his co-created Denny O'Neil's recent passing had me revisit his issues, and that's gotten me eager to start building out a custom for him. I'm extremely talented as an artist, 3D modeler, painter, and even have some sewing and costume-creation under my belt (usually custom wired capes and cloaks). But making Azrael would be the biggest challenge for me yet, as I've never done 1/6 scale before (only stuff for 6" hard plastic figures). Thankfully, while it's not going to be EASY, per se, the basics of Azrael aren't incredibly complicated in isolation. So I'm breaking it down and seeing what advice or help I can get.

So let's start with the general overview, starting with the actual COSTUME and body:
azrael references01smaller.jpg

Azrael has had a LOT of varying looks over the years, and these aren't even remotely all of them. But I do know I want to harken to his classic look as designed by Joe Quesada. That's what I grew up with. However, there are many elements I really like that they added to other incarnations of him, particularly from The White Knight/Legends of the Dark Knight stories, and his modern, upcoming solo series is a near perfect fusion of his iconic features with modern designs and flourish. My goal is to basically create a fusion of the best elements of the character. Azrael is typically presented as a very big dude; he's usually a size or two larger than Batman is, and in White Knight is like 6'7" or so, so finding a big, muscular figure base will be important.

azrael references cloth small.jpg

The biggest thing to nail at a glance will be the colors. The crimson and scarlet hues are utterly striking against the gold trim and accessories, and figuring out the right shades is paramount. I'm looking at materials that are dark, but with lighter highlights and shimmer. The big question is whether to get a complete red full-body suit or "cheat" by painting a custom 1/6 body to match the skin-tight physique of the comics. Regardless, layering his cloak and robes with varying shades of red should do much to provide visual interest as well as create bulk, size, and hide blemishes or articulation points.

The next biggest challenge is going to be the head.
azrael references headsmall.jpg

The comics are inconsistent on whether Azrael's mask is cloth or a rigid faceplate. For best results, I'm going with a helmet/faceplate. Thankfully, full-face helmet masks like Red Hood's are perfect fodder to work with and customize. Sometimes his head is presented as completely black, but I'll probably go with a very deep, dark red as the base. Azrael's trademark mouth-piece has changed over the years, and I'll probably go with his original design. That will require either some sculpting or 3D printing, followed by ensuring I can get the paint shades right. The hardest part will be getting the hood right. Hoods are notoriously difficult (and even Hot Toys is opting for rigid plastic for Moon Knight). Ensuring I can get the right "reaper" look will be some trial and error, but hopefully will look professional and not sad, saggy, and sloppy.

Probably the biggest hurdle will be the gauntlets, and I may have to do some serious compromising here.
azrael references gloves small.jpg

Azrael's original Quesada gauntlets are, frankly, ridiculous. There's nothing quite like them, making kitbashing extremely difficult. They're full of all the pockets and overdesigned elements that defined the 90s. Even the fingers are a unique four-fingered glove with the middle and ring finger sharing a glove spot. Why? I don't know. The 90s. And many of them have that really crazy telescopic flaming blade. It was like Wolverine's claws, but on FIRE. Because, again, the 90s. More recent endeavors have either streamlined the gloves, or eliminated his gauntlet blades entirely. I would like to find a healthy compromise that keeps as many elements as I can, but without resorting to a substantial amount of custom printing, sculpting, or sacrificing articulation. This is the area I'm least confident in my abilities.

Lastly, his cape. His crazy tassel cape.
png-transparent-deadman-adam-strange-dc-universe-dc-comics-figurine-dc-comics-fictional-characters-comic-book-hand.png
a03_l.jpg

McFarlane toys I felt did an amazing job solving this problem, wiring only part of the tassels and ensuring they jutted into the air before falling behind the figure. Sometimes his cloak is tattered and long. Sometimes it's short. Sometimes he has no cape, only the tassels. I'll probably do my best to find a happy medium.

The rest seems very attainable. Belts, straps, and various design elements won't be too difficult to manage. I may need to get some decent shoulder and chest armor for him, but much of it will be hidden by the cloak.

As this is my first big figure custom at this scale, help on optimizing this would definitely be appreciated, or pointing me into a more accessible direction. The last thing I want is for it to look amateurish, even as I know I lack the resources to make a truly Hot Toys-caliber figure. But getting something created that can stand alongside my other figures is the goal. I don't expect any figure maker out there to make this, so it's all up to me.

Appreciate any feedback and suggestions, and I'll definitely keep this updated as the actual process commences and progresses.
 
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Chindie

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Azrael is on my list to do a custom of in time so following this with interest for sure. Good luck.
 

Garlador

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A weekend of planning... and I think this is going to be feasible. Here's my current breakdown.
Azrael reference plan.jpg


1. The body - Currently, Threezero's Snake Eyes Deadgame seems like a great starting point. The whole suit is a great red with tonal variations, with even his armor pieces broken down in just the right way that I could paint the pleather sections. Not just that, this figure even comes with a bladed gauntlet that's extremely close to the White Knight/Urban Legends version of Azrael. I could just buy another gauntlet for the other arm and my biggest challenge would be almost solved. Some minor sculpting and painting should be a snap. Even his waist belt is nearly identical to the current Azrael's pouch belt. I have no idea if the base figure underneath it is any good though.

2. Various 1/6 Red Hood heads are sold, and one of them is nearly perfect as custom fodder for making the rest of Azrael's mask. The only additional work would be sculpting in the mouth piece and then painting it up. That and possibly drilling out the right sized peg-hole.

3. A surprising number of flaming sword options are out there, which seem nearly perfect for Azrael's weaponry. One of them ostensibly is supposed to just be a flaming blade that pegs into the hilt. With minor modifications, I could easily make that his flaming gauntlet blade and keep the sword as his back-up.

4. There's a surprising number of medieval and religious golden pins and buttons, so those can stand-in nicely for his order's emblems.

5. I'm torn on the feet. Some versions have him with seamless boots. That'll be next-to-impossible to pull off and look good. I'm weighing my options of giving him some sturdy military/medieval boots, painted either a similar crimson to blend in, or go gold like the Urban Legends version and stand out.

6. My local hobby store has a ton of crimson and scarlet fabric shades, so I'll have plenty of material to work with when doing his cloak and hood.

Ultimately... it looks like the pieces are all here. I just have to budget it out, do some minor sculpting, and bring out the right paints.

If anyone has any forewarning advice or know if any of these parts might have drawbacks, let me know.
 
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Victοr

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Nothing to add as I have 0 clue about customs in this scale, but I hope you make it. I was pretty into Azrael too, and when I was planning a Batshelf he was in my shortlist. But I dropped that idea and stuck with just a comic-accurate/Arkham/Battinson 2.0/whatever Batman, whom I'll put in my small Punisher/GR/MK/Hellboy in... 7 years.

Still, Azrael has great aesthetics going for him and I always wondered why he never became bigger. The comics wre largely forgettable, but he had a solid hook. Maybe they should've just said "screw it" and played him straight as a militant religious-themed Punisher of sorts, instead of doing those stories where JPV was torn between his conditioning and wanting to be better.

Anyway, it's shaping up pretty well, you've got the basics down at the very least. Why not stick with the same boots the Snake Eyes figure uses? They fit the style, maybe give them a repaint if you're going for the golden look.
 

Garlador

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Nothing to add as I have 0 clue about customs in this scale, but I hope you make it. I was pretty into Azrael too, and when I was planning a Batshelf he was in my shortlist. But I dropped that idea and stuck with just a comic-accurate/Arkham/Battinson 2.0/whatever Batman, whom I'll put in my small Punisher/GR/MK/Hellboy in... 7 years.

Still, Azrael has great aesthetics going for him and I always wondered why he never became bigger. The comics wre largely forgettable, but he had a solid hook. Maybe they should've just said "screw it" and played him straight as a militant religious-themed Punisher of sorts, instead of doing those stories where JPV was torn between his conditioning and wanting to be better.
Azrael is my favorite character, and for me it’s pretty easy to explain why, but also easy to explain why he didn’t quite “break through” like a Red Hood or a Punisher.

Ironically, the things I like about him are a lot of the same things writers added to Moon Knight years later. He’s got mental health issues, exploited by his parents, a complicated relationship with religion, and a constant struggle between his good nature and violent persona.

He’s largely overshadowed by his tenure as the “failed” Batman, which makes him more interesting to me as a character. A failed hero who could never measure up to Batman instead carving his own path and seeking redemption is great.

And Azrael’s solo series lasted 100(!) issues. That’s crazy. Red Hood never had a 100 issue solo series. Countless heroes never did. There had to be some demand there.

As a reader, though, his series started off extremely well! Solid arcs. Strong supporting cast. Great art. But after the No Man’s Land storyline, it was clear they didn’t know what to do with him. He had no status quo, constantly changing costumes, shifting locations, altering relationships, in some attempt to find something that would stick. It’s painful to compare the writing at the end compared to the earlier issues.

And after he was killed off, they teased his return… and never committed. They introduced Michael Lane as a new Azrael, but he didn’t really resonate either.

Now we have a bit of a 90s nostalgia wave hitting, and Azrael’s 30th anniversary is this year, so it’s good to see him back and in a solo series again. I doubt he’ll ever be “big”, not after they wasted his potential over the years, but where he worked he really worked. Given the love people have for similar characters introduced later, he was ahead of the times. Who knows? Maybe he’ll get a renewed surge in popularity.
SWORD_OF_AZRAEL_1_OF_6_CVR_A_NIKOLA_CIZMESIJA__58265.1653984588.jpg


Anyway, it's shaping up pretty well, you've got the basics down at the very least. Why not stick with the same boots the Snake Eyes figure uses? They fit the style, maybe give them a repaint if you're going for the golden look.
I’ve thought of it. I may make the effort. It would be a deviation from his comics, but some creative liberties will be taken regardless.
 

Victοr

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Azrael is my favorite character, and for me it’s pretty easy to explain why, but also easy to explain why he didn’t quite “break through” like a Red Hood or a Punisher.

Ironically, the things I like about him are a lot of the same things writers added to Moon Knight years later. He’s got mental health issues, exploited by his parents, a complicated relationship with religion, and a constant struggle between his good nature and violent persona.

He’s largely overshadowed by his tenure as the “failed” Batman, which makes him more interesting to me as a character. A failed hero who could never measure up to Batman instead carving his own path and seeking redemption is great.

And Azrael’s solo series lasted 100(!) issues. That’s crazy. Red Hood never had a 100 issue solo series. Countless heroes never did. There had to be some demand there.

As a reader, though, his series started off extremely well! Solid arcs. Strong supporting cast. Great art. But after the No Man’s Land storyline, it was clear they didn’t know what to do with him. He had no status quo, constantly changing costumes, shifting locations, altering relationships, in some attempt to find something that would stick. It’s painful to compare the writing at the end compared to the earlier issues.

And after he was killed off, they teased his return… and never committed. They introduced Michael Lane as a new Azrael, but he didn’t really resonate either.
I hear you. It's the little unique, less mainstream attributes that give characters their flair. But I think it's kind of what kept him from becoming a hit if we go by the cold calculous of popularity with the general audience. JPV had too many issues and could come off as "weak" to someone not invested. Let's be real here, MK only started to really catch on during the 00s when he was ripping off faces and making Taskmaster crap himself by tanking all hits. The hard truth is that the majority prefer badasses in that genre, and all the subtlities are just dressing. However, take them out and it's not the same character anymore. JPV without his issues that he has to rise above, isn't JPV.

As for Lane, he was pushed as the more "sane", streamlined version but he didn't go anywhere. His biggest claim to fame was being the Azrael from the Arkham games, but they didn't boost his popularity. The fact that DC's currently using JPV speaks to that. Even due to just Knightfall, people remember JPV. Even if he's "that loser who couldn't be Batman", he's got history with the crowd. Lane's a blank slate. The uninspired costume didn't help matters either I think. JPV has a pretty memorable costume; Lane's is a Templar armour made too busy with the mask and hood and cape and everything; it's not balanced.

Now we have a bit of a 90s nostalgia wave hitting, and Azrael’s 30th anniversary is this year, so it’s good to see him back and in a solo series again. I doubt he’ll ever be “big”, not after they wasted his potential over the years, but where he worked he really worked. Given the love people have for similar characters introduced later, he was ahead of the times. Who knows? Maybe he’ll get a renewed surge in popularity.
SWORD_OF_AZRAEL_1_OF_6_CVR_A_NIKOLA_CIZMESIJA__58265.1653984588.jpg
They're pushing him enough, so maybe they have something cooking. I could see them mixing the Azrael and Court Of Owls lore for a Battinson sequel.
 

Garlador

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Minor issue I've run into... Azrael's shoulder armor.
Azrael shoulders.jpg


I'm looking for medieval style shoulder pads, and I honestly thought they'd be easier to find. More accurately, they are plentiful, but every one of them has some sort of caveat.

The best match for Azrael's unique, layered shoulder armor are TBLeague female armors, and I fear those are just too small to fit, and even if they fit they wouldn't give him the big-shoulder look he sports in the comics.

Second from top might work, with the collar obscured by cloth, but the shoulders go so far down they cover most of the arm.

Alternatively, I was eying some shoulders from the TBleague Osiris, but those have no straps and seem to have been designed with magnets or plugs of some kind. I could theoretically kitbash some straps so they'd stay in place, but I'd also have to remove a bunch of fur and bring out the glue. I'm not 100% sold on the design either, even if those Ankhs almost pass for crosses at that size.

The one I initially looked at, the top one, is almost perfect in size and design and set-up... except it only works for one shoulder. The other shoulder is a totally different design. While Azrael's had some asymmetry before, I'd like to minimize that. All the sellers are also in China, and it appears to be tied to a model that's still on pre-order, so I'm wary of investing the high asking price for that. I'd have to get two for a matching set as well.

So... I'm debating whether it would just be simpler to construct it myself from scratch. If that's the case, I'm trying to figure out the best method to do so.

I'm preparing for a big move so I there may be a delay on updates, but the base body, head, gauntlets, weapons, and fire options are all acquired.
 
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Garlador

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Okay, I'm getting there.
IMG_0524edit.jpg

The base body is a great starting point. The 3D printed head is going work just fine. The extra gauntlet works just fine, and the fire sword is exactly to scale.

The only major bit I'm missing is that annoying shoulder armor. I'm thinking of just sculpting it by hand, since I'll need to get some epoxy to mold a few elements like his face plates. And after that, it'll be cloak-making time.
 

Garlador

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Crazy few months. Moved into a new home. Still getting set up. Currently out with Covid...

But moderate progress. Currently found an armor set for a good base and buying a few of the right materials. I was looking for a firm plastic to use as building material to create a support for his shoulder tassels and to layer some additional armor bits on him, and I've concluded a few empty plastic milk jugs should do the trick.
IMG_0703.jpg


Additionally, before I get to priming and painting, I need to get a few of his embelishments sculpted out. I'm thinking of grabbing some Apoxy sculpt and seeing how that stuff works.

The cloak remains the most daunting thing, and one reason I'm going to try and test a "shell" for the hood. The last thing I need is some floppy, sad hood ruining the whole build.
moonknight10in3.jpg
 

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Looking good in foundational form! Got the skinny legs though but being a Kitbasher myself, I understand it happens.
 

Garlador

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Looking good in foundational form! Got the skinny legs though but being a Kitbasher myself, I understand it happens.
Yeah, I wish I had a bulkier body to work with. I’m not that bothered by it since the current main artist actually draws him with pretty skinny legs.
Sword-of-Azrael-Dark-Knight-of-the-Soul-1-4-scaled.jpg
 
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