By Owen Oulton - images & text © 2006
The figures in the accompanying images are examples of conversions I've done. Some of them have had arm and/or head transplants from other manufacturers, among other "surgery."
Image: TNG officers
Image: Gender swap
Image: Klingon and Starfleet ground forces
Image: Babylon 5 officer
Image: TOS security
Image: As intended
Recently, I found out that Airfix had rereleased their 1:32 scale WWII Multipose figure sets. I immediately rushed out to my local hobby shops and picked up the following kits:
Although not an SF subject, the Airfix Multipose series of WWII figures are invaluable for SF modellers. First released in the mid 1970's, these figures were a positive boon to the figure modeller. Until that time, one was restricted to expensive and inconsistent metal miniatures, hard to get (and expensive) Historex figures, a smattering of individual Airfix Napoleonic or the few 1:35 scale styrene figures just beginning to show up. Of the latter, many were unbelievably crude and most were moulded in very hard styrene. Only the excellent Tamiya figures approached the quality of the new Airfix Multipose at the time, but tended to have fewer assembly options and fewer items of equipment than the Airfix figures. Even today, few figures approach the quality and versatility of the Multipose figures. The best competition comes from the German Preiser nude figure sets, which do not come with any equipment and are both more expensive and harder to find. The size of the Preiser figure parts is close enough to that of the Airfix Multipose figures to make parts swapping easy.
What You Get
The Airfix figures have a consistent breakdown of parts: head, upper torso, left and right arms, and legs. Unlike Tamiya's figures, helmets are hollow, and the figures' heads are completely moulded as opposed to chopped off at the forehead. Each figure comes with an array of weapons, pouches, packs, canteens and other accessories. Headdress (covers to you Americans reading this) include helmets (with and without nets and covers), berets, and a variety of hats and caps, depending on the subject. Weapons include rifles, submachine guns, machine guns and automatic rifles, pistols, bayonets, grenades and the odd heavy weapon. A .040" thick base is provided for each stansing figure.
Each kit comes with parts to build six individual figures in a variety of poses - early releases came with two sets of sprues, enough for twelve figures - injection moulded in a light bluish grey polystrene, somewhat softer than that used for vehicle models or for some other military figures such as those made by Tamiya. Early issues were moulded in white, and also came with a small section of white .005" sheet styrene (plasticard for British readers) for slings and straps. Later issues of the kits were moulded in a neutral light grey. The instruction booklet is A4 sized (about the same as letter size) and saddle-stapled, with assembly and decalling diagrammes, and explanatory text in ten languages with paint colours called out by Humbrol paint numbers. Curiously, the entire instruction booklet is printed in halftone including the text and line drawings, giving a blurry look to the instructions. Further, they haven't been brought up to date and still refer to the kits including twelve figures, and to the inclusion of the .050" styrene.
Detail overall is quite good considering these kits are thirty years old. The only flash I could find was around each head, but since you have to remove the mould lines here, that's not a big deal. The hair on the figures is moulded "high'n'tight," closely cropped to allow the helmets and hats to fit. In spite of this, some of the hats need a little work to fit well, mostly sanding on the outside to reduce the thickness of the sides. Most of the figures have Caucasian features, nicely sculpted with individual features and relatively relaxed expressions. The features of the one African-American figure in the U.S. Infantry Europe set are very coarse and heavy-handed, as are all the heads in the Japanese set (I haven't picked that set up yet, but I used to have it back in the 1970's). There are two types of heads - figures with buttoned collars have short neck stubs, while those with open collars have full-length necks with a wedge of torso attached. Types are consistent within a single kit.
Some of the detail, like the ribbing on the 8th Army and Akrika Korps figures' stockings, is indexed for moulding purposes, but that's standard for injection-moulded kits. The fingers on the hands are moulded to accept the variety of weapons and tools provided, and require a little adjustment to look good. The plastic is soft enough to be carefully bent into place to firmly grip the items, and a tough of glue will maintain the shape. A little heat from hot water or a hair dryer will allow you to close the hands into fists. The weapons are of course 10 per cent larger than the familiar 1:35 scale, and the detail is heavier and softer than the superb weapons accessory sets available today with computer-aided design and CNC-milled moulds.
The selection of weapons includes (depending on the individual kit) Colt M1911, P08 Luger and Webley pistols; Thompson, Sten, M3 "Grease Gun" and MP40 submachine guns; Bren guns, BARs, MG-34 and MP42 machine guns; Garand, Lee-Enfield and Mauser rifles and M1 carbines. The Japanese kit comes with a Samurai katana. Bayonets are moulded with and without scabbards. Other weapons include "pineapple" and stick grenades, a Bazooka and a 2-inch mortar.
Most of the kits come with a small decal sheet including rank and unit insignia. These are thin and matte-finished, and are a rarity in figure kits - Tamiya supplies helmet decals for some of their German figure kits, but that's it. Unfortunately, The printing isn't always as crisp as it could be - some of the lettering is barely legible. Several sets have registration problems, the worst being the Wehrmacht tricolour helmet decals (no SS decals are provided) and the U.S. Infantry Europe rank chevrons. A little careful trimming and touchup will fix the problems, but it would be nice if they were printed in register from the start. The biggest problem, though, is with the two British kits - you can't do all the figures as members of a single unit, as there's only one set of decals per unit.
So why am I reviewing these kits on Starship Modeler? They're not SF kits, after all. Well, that's not strictly true. The Afrika Korps figures are perfect as-is for an Indiana Jones diorama (yeah, I know, not much science in the Raiders movies, but it's a closely related genre), and the U.S. Infantry and Marines would fit into a Roswell Crash model. Further, the figures are very easily modified. The plastic is soft and easily carved, and accepts epoxy putty (Aves, Magic Sculp, Milliput, A+B, etc.) readily. Limbs can be cut apart with a hobby knife or razor saw and repositioned with standard modelling cements or with CA glues. More intensive modifications can turn them into female figures or even aliens. I've used them extensively for SF models, including Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek figures. As noted above, they are in scale with many other figure kits, including individual Airfix Napoleonic figures, both mounted and foot; and Preiser nudes. Historex figures are slightly larger in scale, but still within the range of normal human proportions. Some 1:35 scale figure parts can also be used, extending the range of options available. Further, many of the accessories can be used as greeblies on SF models - German gas mask containers are particularly useful for repeating texture. Weapons can be cut apart and reconfigured in much the same way as done in 1:1 scale in such SF classics as Star Wars.
Many thanks to Owen's wallet for providing the review samples. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized on a site averaging 3500+ readers a day? Contact us!
This page copyright © 2006 Starship Modeler. First posted on 28 February 2006.