Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Team Fortress 2 Backburner

When I was commissioned to build Sasha, I was also asked if I could build the Backburner at the same time, with the same deadline of a month.  Again, I said yes.
Any questions regarding my sanity should now be clear.

The Backburner is one of the weapons the character Pyro uses.

I admit that after watching the video, I wanted to make the bubbly flamethrower too.

Backburner - Reference
Going off of the reference images, I could break down the parts of the Backburner:
Gas pump handle
Fuel tank
Looking at it that way made it a bit more manageable.  Plus it didn’t hurt one bit that I already had a gas pump handle sitting around.
Backburner Handle
What?  You mean everyone doesn’t keep antique gas pump handles around just in case you ever need one?  Actually this one was bought a long time ago and was supposed to become a Bioshock Adam syringe.
The fuel tank was a bigger challenge.  I couldn’t use an actual small capacity propane tank.  Just too heavy and I’m sure con security would flip out seeing one walk in.  I’d seen where others had used garden pressure sprayers as the fuel tank.  Not a bad place to start.
Backburner Fuel Tank
Bit of modding with some PVC pipe fittings and the look is getting there.
Backburner Fuel Tank 2
Some fiberglass work to get it all looking like one piece.
Backburner Tank 3
Bondo, sanding, prime, bondo, sanding, prime, rinse, wash, repeat.
The holes were made with a 1 inch spade drill bit, and were the most frightening thing I have ever done.  Spade bits + PVC = PVC part flying all over the place when the bit catches or the drill spinning out of control and trying to break your wrist.
Backburner Tank 4
I hate when seams are visible.
Now about this time, the weather took a cold snap, too cold to work with Bondo.  On to the body parts then.
Honestly, these are just a few pieces of PVC pipe and fittings.  The custom cuts were all done with a Dremel.
Backburner 1Backburner 2Backburner 3Backburner 4Backburner 5
I really don’t know why, but the small fuel nozzle under the main thrower was my favorite part of this whole thing.  To get the bend in the pipe, I just used a heat gun and a lot of patience.
Now came the hardest part of this whole build: strapping all these pieces together.  Wrapping aluminum straps around three different round objects was more of a challenge than I ever thought.
Backburner 6
I hate this picture of me, but I love that Remus is right beside me.  He was no help at all, really.  Cats suck at prop making.

Backburner 7
Fun thing is that the hose that came with the garden sprayer worked out perfectly for the fuel line.
As you can see, this thing is huge, and needs some paint.
Backburner 8Backburner 9Backburner 10Backburner 11
Please forgive me for the mess that is my workshop.  I’m trying to clean it up a little, but it gets seriously trashed during the winter.
This headpiece was the most intimidating part of this build.  I went through several ideas and trial versions before I stumbled across a solution.
Backburner 12
That is part of a milk jug.  Well, sweat tea jug actually.  It had just the right curve and angles.  The textured bottom even gave the nose a scale like surface.  I started calling the Backburner Jug Head at this point.
For the details, I thought about just painting them on, but that felt like a cheap cop out.  Instead, I sculpted them out of Apoxy Sculpt.
Lastly was a lot of hand painting for the details.
Once all the weathering and touch up had been applied, it was done, and just in time too.
Thanks for reading through all this.  As a bonus for sticking around, here’s Sasha and Backburner in action at Chattacon.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fake Geek Girls – Scourge or Hype?


Every once in a while, I use this blog for a rant.  This is one of those times.  No cool pictures of props this time, just opinions. Long winded opinions.

Me being me, I’m typically really late to the party topic of the minute.  However, one of my favorite web comics (weregeek) has been running a series of comics covering the latest (for me) plague sweeping the convention and cosplaying world:

Fake Geek Girls  *dun dun dunnnn*

When I first saw the term, my initial reaction was “What the hell is a fake geek girl?”  After doing some research, my forehead is quite sore from slamming into my desk over what I found out.

A Fake Geek Girl is a hot girl that is not into anything nerdy or geeky, but shows up to conventions dressed in some sort of sexy costume.  These girls do not read comics, they don’t watch sci-fi, they don’t play games, but they crash our conventions and strut around all sexy and hot.  Apparently this is just another form of terrorism and must be stamped out.  Girls at conventions are OK, but they can’t be hot. If they are, they should be prepared to have their “Geek Cred” called into question and challenged constantly.

I swear, I wish I were making that up, but I’m not. 

After finding out what it was, I next had to know where it came from.

Most fingers point to Penny from The Big Bang Theory (again, I am not making this shit up).  She’s a hot girl that knows nothing about the geek culture, but hangs out with geeks because it is the new trendy thing to do.

Go back and read that again.  A fictional character, portrayed by an actress, working from a script is the source of the new Geek trend.

Now it is the in thing to do, to dress like a geek, pretend to be a geek, go see geek movies, etc. but without actually being a geek.

And this is wrong?

I’m going to put my opinions on this into two buckets:
The Geek Trend
Fake Geek Girls

I believe that the two are connected and must be addressed together.

The Geek Trend

Comic book and Tolkien movies are everywhere.  You want a successful movie, go read a comic book or a fantasy adventure book and make that into any kind of movie.  Good or bad, it will make you money at the box office.  Better yet, look for an old title and reboot it.  You’ll make money every single time.

This has led to a rise in awareness of the Geek subculture.  We’ve been here forever.  I was born a geek and I predate the Internet.  We’re not new, but we’re an untapped source of entertainment income.  We’ve been throwing money at comic books, action figures, games, dice, and replicas for years.  Someone finally noticed.

Now what that really means?  WE WON!  We freaking won people!  We’re no longer on the outside.  We ARE the trend.  We have taken over nearly every aspect of society and pop culture, and that is what is wrong, according to some.

We can’t have that chip on our shoulder anymore.  We can’t play the role of the outcast.  We can’t be bitter towards the popular crowd.  All those negative emotions we’ve carried that we’ve used to help identify ourselves as Geeks has been stripped away.  Good, I say.  Those attitudes only contribute to the negative.  They need to be removed.  Geeks can be some of the most awesome people you’ve ever met, but not when they’re all broody and gloomy.

“But, these Trendy Geeks, they aren’t real Geeks.  They are an insult.  I’ve spent my whole life reading X-Men and all the splinter universes and being unpopular for it.  Now they just walk in wearing a Wolverine T-shirt and it’s cool.  I suffered.  So should they!”

Really?  Seriously?  Let it go.  Besides, have you ever been caught up in a trend only to find that later, you actually enjoy it, but you wouldn’t have found it if it hadn’t been the trend at the moment?  Give these folks a chance.  Worst case, the trend wave changes and they go away on to the next wave.  Best case, you have a new friend to talk to that you can amaze with your knowledge of all the different X-Men back stories.

Fake Geek Girls

Trends, they bring trend followers.  In my day, the trendiest people were the popular beautiful people.  These were people to sit back and admire.  They were always there with the latest and greatest and looked amazing with them.

Now they’re wearing Portal T-shirts.  Now they’re going to see The Hobbit, not knowing it is based off a book.  These beautiful trendies, are the source of the Fake Geek Girls.  Also, notice, there is nothing in here about Fake Geek Boys.  I think we’ll see why later.

So what if you see the head cheerleader dressed as Sexy Superwoman at Dragon*Con?  Can you please explain how that is NOT a fantasy come true?  Oh, wait, it’s because she really doesn’t know about the character.  She’s just there to get attention from overweight Geek Boys and torture you with her hotness that you can never touch.

Taking a closer look at that last statement:
She’s there to get attention from overweight Geek Boys. 
Now yes, there may be a 1:1,000,000 chance that by looking hot, and working the cameras, she could get discovered by a professional photographer or a celebrity panelist walking through and thus begin her rise to fame and fortune.
That is probably the saddest thing I have ever written.  We’re talking about someone with no sense of identity.  They just drift from trend to trend, and here, they are whoring themselves out to drooling and sexually frustrated Geeks in the hope of possibly finding success.  At least that is my theory on why they would do this.  Maybe they do just get off on sexually frustrating men.  In that case, they have a great career ahead of them as a stripper. 
Either way, what is the big deal?  Why can’t we as Geeks, just stand back and at the most basic, admire the view?  Is it because this outsider is getting attention for her Halloween Express costume and you’re not getting attention for your hand made Lord Elrond costume?

Now who is the sad one?

Oh, and why are you not hissing at and running off the well built beefcake in the 300 Spartan costume.  “He’s a dude.”  Does he know that The 300 was more than a movie?  “Doesn’t matter.  He’s a dude, and from the looks of it, he could give us a convention swirly without breaking a sweat.  Let’s go back to picking on the hot chicks again.”  *sigh*

Putting the obvious misogyny aside, let’s take a look at this from an art form angle.

Like many others, I do believe cosplaying is an art form.  From making the costumes and props, to wearing them, it is all a creative process.  Even if you commission the work, you had to have the creative desire to know that you wanted to do this.  Creativity flows out of the cosplay world.

So, do these Fake Geek Girls insult and lessen the artistic value of cosplay?  I would say no more than a bad movie lessens the artistic value of film making.

I was trained and taught to be a classical artist.  At the time I went through college, comic and graffiti art, were not art.  Digital art was just commercial, and again not art.  There were still arguments going on about if photography was true art or not.  Now look how things have changed.  It is quite awesome.  However, this training has given me the ability to compartmentalize art, not qualify it as art or not art, but place it in the right category. 

I do believe anything that is created, can be called art.  However, that doesn’t mean it is all good art.  Anything can be art, but not all art is equal.  What I call good or high art, you may call trash, and vice versa.  That is the heart and soul of what art is.

So, is the half naked girl with electrical tape covering the pink bits passing out cards at the convention an art form?  By my definition, yes.  Is it good?  The last time I saw it, no.  No, it wasn’t.

Art is subjective.  In a museum, you spend time admiring the creations that move you.  Just like at a convention, you’ll spend time talking to the cosplayer that did something you think is awesome.

To sum everything up and close of this long rant:
Fake Geeks are simply a by product of Geek culture having finally taken over.  We have won the day, but we can’t enjoy it.  All these people that we spent so much time and energy being bitter toward are now surrounding us.  They are trying to speak our language, but they haven’t paid their dues like the rest of us.  They must be shunned.  Girls bear the brunt of this, because on top of the bitterness, they must carry the sexual frustrations they cause.

Growing up as a Geek, I could only admire the beautiful people, and resent them. Why were they popular? Why did they have money? How did they get that status and I didn’t?  Why do I have to learn their ways and pretend to be interested in what they say just to survive?

Know what though?

I grew up.

I got over my bitterness by seeing it for what it was.


I decided to get comfortable in my own skin.

You should too.