Once upon a time I used to collect Hot Toys figures.
I stopped when I realised that:
So I sold most of the 1/6 pieces I own, save for a couple of personal favourites, featuring characters close to my heart. Chief amongst them was Hot Toy's DX09 figure of Michael Keaton's 1989 BATMAN. Not to turn this into yet another internet Nolan-Burton debate (I have place in my heart for both), Michael Keaton's rendition of Batman is amongst my favourite popculture performances of all time.
People more eloquent than me, allready penned numerous articles on why his interpetation of the character was so powerful and evocative, despite being (seemingly) simple in comparison to all the painfuly genre-aware, deconstructive movie supeheroes of today, so I won't be getting into that. What's important is that I decided to keep my Hot Toys rendition of the 1989 version as my One Ultimate Keaton Batman Collectible, couse I simply love me some Keaton Bats.
Especially BATMAN RETURNS Keaton Bats which is a movie whose quirks, melancholy and twisted romanticism I fell in love with as a kid. Plus, that fucking cowl man. Say what you will about the design changes made to the rest of the suit, I won't defend them, but BATMAN RETURNS cowl coupled with Keaton's face resulted in the most badass looking rendition of Batman in any medium. Period.
I mean look at this fucker.
So why am I talking about BATMAN RETURNS? Well, some time ago Hot Toys released their RETURNS version of Batman, which you can see here. It immediately became my newest One Ultimate Keaton Batman Collectible, and is currently on my "to buy list", despite me moving away from collecting 1/6 figures..
It meant that my old DX09 1989 HT Bats was dethroned and destined to be sold to a different collector, since there is room for only one rubber-clad, S&M gargoyle figure in this house. But not before I had the chance to apply some...modifications of my own.
Allright, so the general idea behind this custom was to take the "fresh out of a superhero factory" look of the original figure - which showed Batman at his most presentable - and modify him to look the way he did in the final act of the first film, during the Cathedral sequence of the movie.
With customs like this there will always be an element of improvisation when it comes to accuracy, due to poor documentation of the movie. I scoured the net looking for high quality pictures of the suit used in that scene, as stills from the movie proved to be of little help, mostly due to poor lighting conditions and camera focusing mostly on the cowl and not the rest of the body. Fortunately I found high res photos of the suit, taken at some Hollywood prop auction, which documented every inch of it. Even that didn't fully remove the element of guesswork, since when looking at 20 years-old rubber custumes like this, it's sometimes hard to tell what is intentional "movie damage" and what is just natural degradation of the suit due to passage of time. But I think it did help to better my placement of the damage on the suit. It's not 100% accurate, some of the burn marks on the cowl are a little bit too heavy, but I think the overall feel of the scene was captured.
The damage on the suit was done by doing exactly what it was meant to represent. I burned the rubber and texturised it with hot tools. Btw. the rubber used by HT in this figure is really solid. A far cry from their previous rubber suits which were infamous for quick self-degradation and just generally being shit. In addition to burning, cutting and scratching, I also made sure that there was a glossy, smooth sheen visible on some of the damage, which was meant to represent the glass-smooth surface of liquidised rubber. You can clearly see such glossy patches showing through the patina of dust on the original costume.
The effects of dust and dirt (which I think look a bit better in hand than they do on the photos) were done using modelling pigments, which were later affixed using matt spray varnish. The matte varnish not only helped seal the pigments in place, but also contributed to the dusty, dirty look of the figure, by flatting the surface of the suit, making it a bit greyer, dustier, as it appeared in the movie. However, since modelling pigments never really look 100% dry when covered with varnish, I also applied a second layer of pigments with no protection. Though there was risk that pigments could be eventually misplaced/removed by too much handling, I knew that re-applying them as needed, would be super easy and would only take minutes, so it didn't worry me.
I also painted my own blood effects on the face. Firstly, becouse I wanted this figure to sport the neutral face plate instead of the open one (the figure came with three different facial expression plates, only one of which - the open mouth one - came with blood). And secondly - becouse HT factory painted blood looked really poor and inaccurate, more like an accidental splotch of ketchup.
I also added some fine scratch marks to the belt. Though the pictures you're looking at. show the cleaner version of the belt, before I added futher dirt effects, since after looking at the photographs I decided that the belt looks to pristine and high-contrast in relation to the rest of the figure.
The cape of the figure was de-lined to make it just a bit more flexible and less stiff. Despite the overal engineering excellence of HT products, they are infamous for not beig able to properly produce something as seemingly simple as a cape, which results in their super-realistic, 250$ figures, looking like they're wearing table cloth. It does drape around Bat's shoulders a little bit better now. Unfortunately, by de-lining it I uncovered it's inner surface which is grey and made from a different material than the black, faux-leather exterior. You can see it clearly here.
Fortunately, when the figure is posed in a simple, standing position (which is where he looks best after all), it's not really visible.
There were also some subtle modifications done to the ears.
When DX09 was first showcased, people went crazy for it's fantastic sculpt of Keaton's face and the cowl. My only small gripe with the sculpt is that it's so good, it's almost a little bit too good. What I mean is that HT has done an idealised version of the cowl. The original movie costume was very crude. It was a simple, low-tech ruber cast with lot's of imperfections, bumps and asymetrical lines. The HT sculpt on the other hand was perfectly symmetrical. One of those asymmetries in the movie costume was a certain subtle but noticable curvature to the ears that made them slightly stick out from the cowl. It's especially visible in the cathedral scene.
Here's the curvature that I am talking about, compared to HT's perfectly smooth lines:
I am not sure if this curve was especially noticable during the catheral scene becouse they've used a different suit for that particular sequence (those low-tech, rubber casts always sported some small differences between them, even if made from the same mold). Or was it part of the weathering that the prop department put the suit through for that sequence. Either way, I decided to replicate that effect, by sculpting subtle curves on the sides of both ears and then give it some texture so that it matched the surface of the rest of the cowl.
The important thing here was subtlety. This kind of effect can be easily overdone, so I tried to keep it subtle enough that most collectors wouldn't even notice it if it wasn't directly pointed out. But I do think it slightly betters the accuracy of the suit and adds some of that assymetry visible in the original costume. Here's the final effect:
And lastly, I've modified the base so that it represented the old, moldy, dusty planks of the Cathedral floor, riddled bit cracked bits of dark brown masonry. The planks were made from Algida sticks. Perfect excuse to stuff your face full of icecream.
Anyway, I hope you'll like it.
Here's an obligatory Elfman theme, to cap things off: