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Custom Korner: Building NECA’s Colonial Marine Squad

custom-korner-aliens-featIt’s easy (and addictive) to build out the Colonial Marines army from NECA’s Aliens collection.

I’ve been mildly obsessed with NECA’s Aliens series since it launched last year.  James Cameron’s classic sci-fi horror film is one of my all time favorites, and a large part of that is the awesome Colonial Marines design.  NECA has already delivered two of the movie Marines, Hicks and Hudson, as well as their own original character Sgt. Windrix… But I want more Marines, so I decided to make some of my own!

What’s cool about this project is how limitless the possibilities are.  NECA isn’t done with their Marines team, although some actors have been slow with or not interested in approving their likeness rights for an action figure.  So I decided to split my custom team– half based on Marines from the movie and the rest new background characters.  I started with these four– Sgt. Apone and Pvt. Wierzbowski from the film, and a generic male and female Marine to round out my team, or provide backup for Windrix.

Al Matthews, who played Apone, has thus far not ok’ed his likeness for an action figure.  This is why the Hot Toys version looked nothing like him, and also why NECA switched their Apone body (complete with long sleeves and Sergeant badge on the shoulder) into a different character in their second wave of figures.  I’m hopeful NECA will still score the likeness rights to do an official figure, but in the meantime I wanted to make sure the Marines had their leader.

I started with a Windrix base figure, since the uniforms are identical.  After lots of research, I decided on WWE’s Jinder Mahal for my Apone head.  It’s not an exact match, but it’s close, and the head works very well on the scale of this body.  The neck peg is a little sunken in, so I added some putty to extend the inside of the head and have it sit properly on the Marine’s neck.  Mahal has lighter skin, so his head and hands got a new paint job, and I repainted the body armor to remove the custom markings on Windrix’s armor.  Then, I simply equipped Apone with a pulse rifle and a Hicks helmet which I dremeled out to fit on the head.

The other movie Marine to go with Apone and my previously completed Vasquez was poor, overlooked Wierzbowski. This guy was bigger and bulkier than many of his jarhead allies, so I switched his upper torso and arms with a jacketed Dutch from Predator.  The ab peg fits well between both figures, and the chest armor still rests fairly naturally on top of the thicker Dutch chest.  I dremeled down his back a bit, until the torso was slim enough for the armor to fit well.  Then I added the cuffs from Hudson on Wierzbowski’s elbows and repainted the shirt in a camo pattern to match the other Marines.

For Wierzbowski’s head, I started with one of the old Aragorn figures from Toy Biz’s Lord of the Rings line.  They never managed to nail Viggo Mortensen’s likeness, but I thought the face they did get shared a “sad sack” quality with the least important Marine in the squad. I pulled off the soft rubber hair from Araagorn, and used modeling resin to sculpt up Wierzbowski’s forehead and hair line, then sanded it to mesh with the plastic of the head and repainted the whole thing.  The neck hole would have fit perfectly on the Dutch body, but the peg inside Aragorn’s head snapped off, so I ended up dremeling it into a new hole.

I also trimmed the extra bullet shells off another Hicks figure and glued them in place to give Wierzbowski his film accurate dual bullet straps, and gave him another Hicks helmet, which cocks to the side of his head rather nicely (yay for happy accidents!).  From there, a quick repaint of the chest armor gave Wierzbowski his correct markings, and I finished him off with a flame thrower from Windrix and a shoulder lamp.

What I love about NECA’s Marines is, thanks to Sgt. Windrix, we have a bigger pool than just movie accurate figures.  So using some extra parts, i cobbled together two more new Marines, including my first shot at an armored female soldier.  She started as Chell from NECA’s Portal line, split at the waist and featuring the lower torso and legs of Hicks.  The Marine legs are slim enough to read fine for a female body as well, so she worked quite well.  I repainted Chell’s tank top to a military brown and added chest armor, which is a little big but lo looks pretty good if you cut open the sides and tuck them in on themselves slightly.  Chell got a shoulder lamp and pulse rifle, and she was all set… and with that experiment complete, I’m ready to use a similar formula for my movie accurate Dietrich!

The last guy is a new one I put together for fun using a head from Toy Biz’s TNA wrestler Senshi.  The head was in scale, his expression looked appropriate for a Colonial Marine, and his skin tone even matched very well with Hicks.  I painted some new tattoos on his arm and gave him a smiley face marking on his chest armor, because why not.  He fits in nicely with the rest of the squad, and his bald head fits one of my loose Marine helmets nicely.

I don’t think this is the end of my Colonial Marine custom project, but with these four and Vasquez, I’m off to a fun start.  I’m hesitant to go too deep– NECA is still hard at work on more Marines and I’d rather not make a character they will release professionally.  But if nothing else, my original figures will always have a nice home in the overall Marines squad.

Check back soon, as we continue showcasing some new and old custom figures.  If you have a custom figure you’d like to see featured here, email me–  Your figure may be the next one featured on Custom Korner!

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