The Thing



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(from: The Thing From Another World  - 1951)

Manufacturer: Billiken

Sculptor: Unknown

Material: Vinyl

Scale: 1/6


In the August 1938 issue of Astounding Stories, its editor John W. Campbell, Jr. included a novella he penned entitled “Who Goes There”. It was the story of artic scientists trapped with a shape shifting alien they had discovered and accidentally thawed out. Upon it’s awakening, it systematically began to pick them off one at a time.


Thirteen years later, director-producer Howard Hawkes unleashed his own version of that story in which the alien differs greatly from the one in the original text. Hawkes’ visitor was basically a walking, humanoid, alien, vegetable that lived off human blood (go figure) and reproduced in little pods – much like okra in your garden. And while he didn’t stay true to Campbell’s storyline, Hawkes’ vision became one of the best sci-fi films of that era – in my opinion anyway.


Billiken of Japan produced a nice kit of this character with a good likeness and overall pose. The Billiken artists always did an excellent job of capturing the features of whatever character they sculpted. And yet I’ve never really liked the face on this kit. I keep telling myself that it doesn’t really look like James Arness but when I see past the make-up, I guess it does. Maybe it’s his expression. I don’t know.


The kit came in 7 hollow cast, vinyl parts. The casting was excellent, of course, and had the usual flange design that makes Billiken kits possible – like toys. The figure stands well enough on its own but I wanted a little more stability and something I could drive pins into so I filled the feet with Durham’s Water Putty before assembly.

The pose of the kit, with the outstretched arms, made me think I had better reinforce this.

I created somewhat of an armature using clothes hangers, cut to length and bent to follow the contours of the arms, torso and legs. Once inserted, I stuffed the remaining areas with foam rubber for additional support. When completed, the kit had a nice weight to it. I posed the figure the way I wanted and cemented the joints with CA glue. A little puttying, priming and our spiney little friend was ready for paint.


The base was a scratch build. I placed the figure on a board and did a mock up of the scene I wanted to create. I did a recreation of the finale when the alien is about to get fried on the boardwalk. Once I had everything measured and marked out in pencil, I cut and routed the board. I built the boardwalk and crates from balsa wood strips and wood blocks. The fencing beneath the board as well as the cable was picked up at a local hardware store. The axe and shovel are accessories for 12” action figures like GI Joe or Dragon soldiers. It took a while to find ones I really liked. When you give the Joe toys a close look, they are really not very good – not for modeling anyway. I stripped them, cleaned up any imperfections and repainted them to suit my dio. The crate labels came from my computer and the names stenciled on the crates were done by hand with a regular old #2 pencil.


Because the film is in black and white, there is no clearly defined color scheme for the alien. This is good if you want to have more freedom in your choices and bad if you want to stay true to the original concept. I’m a purist so I tried to stay close to what I thought the actual colors were. I’ve seen this character’s skin tones range from green, to blue to just some odd flesh color. The clothes have run from brown, gray, copper, silver, to olive drab. I wasn’t sure what to do which led to some interesting painting.


Now I could say I sat down with a clear vision, slapped some paint on this kit and it was perfect on the first shot. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. This paint job was great deal of trial and error. The clothes went thru about 5 layers of altering color. My original pass turned out way too silvery blue so I continued to build off that base coat, changing shades and blending, building it up until I reached the color I felt was what I was looking for. The skin was a similar situation. I tried some various colors and accents, several of which I wished I hadn’t. Instead of trying to take them off, I continued to layer over them with light coats of other colors, bringing it ever closer to what I wanted. By the time I was done, the previous errors actually turned out to be a nice effect of various spots under the skin.


This kit is long out of production but can still be found on line. Keep an eye out for it on the auction sites and be patient – one will turn up eventually. So grab yourself a piece of sci-fi movie history and create your own interpretation of this classic creature.





































































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Copyright © David E. Bennett    All Rights Reserved