Articles:
Gremlins in the Garage!

To Shred A Catwoman...
Or whoever...
by Andy Price (aprice@hiwaay.net)

Okay... lessee where to start. What I am currently doing is attempting to make the shredded suit Pfeiffer was almost not wearing by the end of Batman Returns. I'm using the Horizon vinyl Catwoman, and have her fully assembled currently, except for her hands, as they block part of the body, and they remained whole and untorn anyway. I have gone ahead and assembled the claw tips to the hand (THE biggest pain!).

This kit needs some putty work to begin with, along the joint for the left leg, both shoulders, and a little under the corset. There are a few awkward wrinkles I have also gotten rid of, the worst being an awkward and strange wrinkle under the right breast. It is just near a seam, one that I have to doctor into a rip, and the wrinkle was standing in my way. The breast now looks smoother, and gives the chest a little more flow.

I have taken a lot of reference (always important) from mags, cards, and the video. I jotted down some notes on paper as to where the rips on the suit are. Almost all the rips follow the sewing seams in the outfit and mask, due to stress. There are a few from her fall through the window. On the model itself, I took a pencil and marked each rip. Next, the trusty Dremel tool proved it's worth by removing the raised stitching at each rip. I then took an X-acto to smooth my work with the dremel a bit, and carve away any straggling bits. The stitch holes were then puttied to make the area smooth, since this will now be flesh under a ripped vinyl suit.

Most every seam on Catwoman's suit had suffered some stress by the end of the film, especially at the knees and shoulders, and the back of the mask. The more difficult areas have proven to be the minor stress areas, since a seam has to be separated rather than removed. For this, I went ahead and smoothed out small areas in the seams, and left other spots, so it looks kinda like this:

-----( )----()--( )--( )-( )-( )---

Small holes helping to spread the seam. Now, I have to replace the threads and fabric I have removed, to keep it from looking like a sanding mishap. For this, I am using Squadron green putty to build back wrinkled fabric near the edge of the hole. This isn't a major operation, as the rip is minor. I just want to do a slight recess of the fabric away from the seam. I am also resculpting the stretched thread over he hole with the putty, and in some cases, I'm using actual thread. Catwoman's suit was not only shredded, but the threading was hanging in spots like webbing. The majority of the thread can't be put on until after painting, as any paint would catch the fibers of the thread, and make it a mess. Since this is a vinyl suit, the wrinkles aren't going to be too major near a minor hole, as the fabric is stretched taught. View your stress points, particularly bony areas. This is probably going to be a smoother spot, and digress towards a wrinkle as the body gets softer. Here's a great time to refer to Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Wrinkles book. But remember: Any wrinkling near these spots should be minor!

Now, I have to tackle the big rips: Her shoulders, her knees, the back of the mask, and her left butt cheek (JOY!). Again, sand & smooth is the procedure, as I am exposing flesh. Once completely smoothed out through sanding and putty work, I'm ready to reestablish the pulled away vinyl fabric. For pieces of the fabric that hang away from the body, or establish a major fold, I am using smooth, unembossed napkins, dipped in liquid latex. Latex can be found at Michael's (and many other) art & craft store.

Mold building latex is what you want, as it is undyed, and dries clear. Since it is undyed, you can add any color of acrylic paint to dye it as you wish. The reason you want to dye it, rather than paint it afterwards is simple: Latex doesn't like to take too much paint once dried. It makes the whole process easier if it's the proper color to begin with. An added bonus is this: With the paint added to the latex, it will dry faster. Pour some of the latex into a small tray or dish (use glass or ceramic, as the latex might wanna stain certain plastics. or use a tray you can get rid of.), and dilute slightly with water. Add the paint (in this case, black) and stir until you have a semi-thick mixture. if it's still as thick as the stuff left in your can of latex, it's too thick. It needs to be diluted to about half that thickness.

The reason you need unembossed napkins is this: Any pattern on that tissue will show up, and your finished Catwoman will have little flowers on her rips. If the tissue has a minor grain, you can emboss it out to make it smooth. take a piece about 1 1/2 times the size of what you wish your finished rip to be, and dip it in the latex, coating both sides, and then run it along the edge of the dish to remove all excess (the same way you run the tip of a paintbrush on the edge of the bottle) from both sides. Place it on the area you need, and be ready for a minor battle. The tissue will have a mind of it's own and be argumental at first, until you figure it out. The larger the piece, the more it's gonna bitch at you. once applied, let it dry a little (a hair dryer works wonders here). Once it's almost set, mold the cloth into the shape you want, whether it be a fold, or in the case of Catwoman's knee, a piece hanging away from the body. Once dry, you have a three-dimensional effect, and you can trim away all the excess with a pair of scissors, or a sharp Xacto, as well as do some stressing and shaping into a shredded rip, a separated seam, or what have you. For a different fabric effect (such as Superhero spandex), the stressing should be a bit more, and look threadworn. Rubber or vinyl will have more of a tear. For Catwoman's separated seams, the thread holes have to be put in, whether thread is going to be put there or not. I'm doing this with the tip of the Xacto.

Should you find that the piece is not as stiff as desired (Unlikely), a light wash of white glue, or epoxy, can be put on the underside of your fold. Any excess latex from drips or running can be cut and peeled away once dryed, and it won't harm your kit at all. Any excess I've had has been removed, again to keep the flesh areas smooth. Cleanup of the hands is easy-- peel it off, and wash with soap. Any tools such as a brush, should be cleaned IMMEDIATELY or the latex will dry and ruin it. Again, just clean with warm water and brushsoap.

For Catwoman's mask, I'm presented with a possible messy problem. Her hair is flowing out every rip in the mask. For her hair, I sacrificed a knockoff Barbie fashion doll that had platinum blonde hair, and have stored it in a zip lock baggie. What I am having to do, is create the fold from the ripped fabric, and leave a slight space underneath to apply the hair, so that when done, it looks as if the fabric is lying on top of the hair. Why not put the hair down first? Getting latex or putty out will be too much of a battle, and most likely a losing one. In some minor areas, I am applying hair first, and then building up a putty seam over it, but only in these minor areas. Smoothing the putty wants to get the hair entwined.

For the most part, the kit will be base painted before the application of all the hair, just to make it simpler on me. and after all this, the simpler the better!

For painting over the latex areas to achieve a general color and such, it's best to use an airbrush for a general coating. An airbrush gives a light coating spray, rather than a layer of paint as a paintbrush will do. The less paint on the latex the better, for once dry, any handling may stress it and cause it to crack. Here again is a benefit to dying the latex first. It dries to the base color you need, and all you really need to do is apply shadows and/or highlights, depending on the effect you wish. It will take a wash all right, but accepts drybrushing a lot better, and since it's a minor layer of paint, it doesn't want to crack at all. Any paint put on the latex should be fine and free of cracking as long as it is not handled too much.

So now you have what I have been doing to Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman to modify her outfit into a ripped mess. She is looking sweet! She's about halfway done, and I'll have her finished and rarin' to go at Wonderfest.

If you have any questions, gimme a yell!

Rock'N'Roll
Kirby (aprice@hiwaay.net)

-----

The Gremlins in the Garage webzine is a production of Firefly Design. If you have any questions or comments please get in touch.

Copyright 1994-1997 Firefly Design.