You don’t have to read the pages of this blog very long to know I wasn’t the brightest kid. Still, I was easy to please. While I liked new toys as much as the next kid, I was quite happy with climbing up trees, using sticks for swords and guns, and all other manner of make believe.
Once I actually duct taped a kitchen strainer to my head so I could “fence”. My foil was a car’s antenna found lying by the road no less.
So while I definitely landed somewhere near the “oh dear does this kid have an actual brain” end of the scale, I managed to entertain myself quite well thank you. And I generally avoided injury… generally. 😉
A banner day for me was when I found some cardboard boxes sitting in front of a neighbors curb, waiting for the trash pickup. In a way I was like a raccoon, rooting through neighbor’s trash in search of treasure. And just like a racoon, I’d often be chased away with brooms, hoses, and shouts of “stop digging in the trash you idiot kid!”
On this day though the lady of the house was kind to me. She actually called out from the front porch that she’d left those boxes just for me, as she knew I liked making things from them. Waving and shouting my thanks, I headed back home, boxes stacked neatly, arms held low to cradle them, balancing the tall bulk from a fall with my forehead.
Time To Make Stuff
My plan was simple. Halloween was coming up, and I needed a costume. All we could afford were those horrid plastic grocery store monstrosities – brittle plastic masks, held to the wearer’s head by an elastic band, and a “costume” that amounted to little more than a trash bag with printing on it. I’d had to do that a few years, and it wasn’t pretty.
Arriving home, I left the boxes in the carport, and headed inside for my supplies. Crayons, serrated steak knife, duct tape, a permanent marker… and a can of silver spray paint.
With the knife I stared carving the cardboard. The largest box was given openings for my arms and head. A smaller box, turned upside down, was given leg openings, to be worn “sumo style”. Duct tape suspenders would make sure it stayed up. Other boxes were cut up to create armor coverings for my arms and legs. The final box had a vision port cut into it, and would serve as my helmet.
Making It Look Cool
I gave it all a coat of the silver spray paint, and then began decorating it with dials, gauges, and all manner of warning signs. Pipes, ducts, bolts, and various and sundry greeblies were drawn on to the surface. Cheap paint powder mixed with water filled things in with color. As I worked away at it, the pile of boxes started to transform into something quite nifty looking – at least in my estimation.
A few quick test fits of the components showed I needed to pay attention to every detail. Hurrying back in the house, I found a pair of my darkest jeans, and a black long sleeve shirt. A ski mask would hide my face, and I could paint what did show from behind that with dark blue paint, to obscure my eyes, nose, and mouth. A pair of my mom’s old black dress gloves would cover my hands, and dad reluctantly agreed to let me borrow his old Army boots.
Little did I know it, but I’d converted myself to an inner frame. 😉
A few final touches were added. Antennas made from a coat hanger, the face plate opening covered with clear kitchen wrap, and a few real wires were added on to give a more realistic appearance. The final icing on the cake was a flashlight, strapped to the left wrist armor. This would let me see my way through the neighborhood, and of course act as a “laser”.
As the sun went down, my mom helped me strap into my creation. First I stepped into the waist piece, lopping the suspenders over my shoulders. Leg armor was taped in place – more duct tape. The boxy torso was added next, then the armored bits covering my arms. With circles of dark blue paint around my eyes, nose, and mouth, my mom pulled the knit cap over my head. She plopped the “helmet” on, taping it in place so as not to slide around.
The final step was to turn on my wrist mounted flashlight. Stepping back, she looked me over. “My goodness, son, you look… like a robot.” Looking over at dad, she asked “How do you like Jon’s costume?” With forehead furrowed from perpetually raised eyebrows, he glanced up and down. “Don’t run into any phone poles.”
About that time, my friends arrived for our candy-laden quest. All agreed my robot suit was very, very cool – and far better than the grocery store masks and trashbags they were wearing.
With my prideful smile beaming from behind the clear cellophane, I waddled off into the night.
Building The Nixe
Wave’s Maschinen Krieger Nixe kit has turned out to be one of my favorite builds from the genre. (For what it’s worth, the name is pronounced something close to “nee-zay”, not “nixie”. Why? Got me… 😉 ) While not substantially different from other kits in the post-apocalyptic future universe – it really is just a torso, arms, and legs… something about the overall shape really appealed to me. At the time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. but when the opportunity to purchase it at a reasonable price came along, I didn’t wait. Buy Now. 😉
Assembly was uneventful. While Wave’s kits aren’t Bandai-type fit, they’re still very, very good. I assembled the toros, arms, legs, and feet as separate units. A bit of seam filling and sanding was applied to neaten it all up. I wanted to stay “in canon” for the build, so an application of Mr. Surfacer 500 was stippled on to give some surface texture.
I didn’t plan to have an open-hatch build, so the “cockpit” was simply painted a dark color, drybrushed, and called done. The pilot was painted up quickly, and mounted inside. I did need to cut back the mounting block the pilot’s torso slid on to, so I could make sure the hatch would close. Test fitting still showed a few gaps, so I clipped off the hatch detail above the pilot’s head. With that sorted out and hatch glued shut, the whole model was given a primer coat of Mr. Mahogany Surfacer 500.
Keeping The Paint Classic
While I’d initially planned to do a lacquer brush paint finish, some non-modeling family concerns took me away from the workbench for a period. When I was able to get back to work on the kit, I decided in the interest of speed to simply airbrush the main colors on.
The base paint was very “Ma. K”, with Mr. Color RLM02 applied over the entire model. This is a classic color in the genre, inspired by its originator, Kow Yokoyama. He made use of colors from World War II aircraft in his original creations, and thus the light gray/green figures prominently in many builds.
The camo pattern was applied free hand, Mr. Colors RLM74 being the choice. This too is a “canon nod”. While there is nothing that says canon color must be used, I just felt it really conveyed the Maschinen Krieger look.
While I initially planned to paint a stripe around the torso as shown in the box art, I ultimately decided to let my own history add to the look. It was common practice in the Army for the backs our our helmets and patrol caps to be adorned with small bits of reflective material. During the day it appeared as a green/yellow color, and at night it gave off a faint glow. Most of us had two small vertical patches. However, a few key leaders might use an extra stripe, or triangle shapes, so that we could ID where they were anytime – and make sure we followed their lead.
So instead of the wide, circumfral band, I opted for short, vertical red marks. In my imagination, I could see a squad being briefed before action. “When the wall is breached, follow me in. I’ll have red stripes around my suit – stay behind me.”
Adding Some Weathering
For the weathering, I actually kept it fairly simple. A bit of a dot filter was added with a few grimy oil colors, just to add some tonal variation and streaking. Panel lines were shaded with a dark enamel wash, and then roughly blended with a brush damped with odorless thinner.
Paint chips were added using a sponge and a dark brown chipping color, with additional areas treated to some brushed streaks and dots. Acrylic rust tones were applied to many of the chipped areas, and a dark gray acrylic wash added more streaks and marks. The same color was used to apply splatters across the suit.
The feet were given a coat of brown acrylic washes to suggest some light dirt and dust accumulating around them. A light tan color was airbrushed over this in a very thin mist coat to add to the dust effect. A darker exhaust stain color added some streaks and stains in other places surround the suit.
I wasn’t too precise about the weathering really – I just kept adding in layers of the same few items, looking for the “TLAR” moment – That Looks About Right. When I was satisfied with it all, a few drops of gloss fuel staining was added under what appeared to be fuel filler caps. I didn’t even apply a matt coat, allowing various matt, satin, and gloss elements to stand on their own.
No, That CAN’T Be The Droid We’re Looking For
As I walked along with my friends, some immediate problems began to manifest themselves. For one, while the clear plastic wrap seemed like a cool idea, it turned out to be less than cool. It “sold better than it installed”, so to speak. Basically, I could hardly see anything. What light did get in was horribly distorted. Over the evening, condensation built up too. Every trip up a driveway and steps to a front door was an exercise in frustration. Because of the bulk of the box, my mobility was limited too. I couldn’t see inside my candy bag, so I had to trust they were giving me candy, and not the poison-laden fruit my mom warned me of for years.
And the sound inside my helmet would be best described as “cacophonous”. I’d apparently discovered a way to not only amplify sound, but to also make it echo horribly, while simultaneously distorting it. It was this aspect that was ultimately my downfall.
I’d lost track of where we were, and had simply started following the voices of my friends. I just walked in among them, hoping they’d not steer me wrong. But because I could not properly hear them, I missed out on a key piece of information.
All The King’s Horses
As we turned to go down a driveway, I was a bit off to the side. Being clueless which house we were actually at, I was walking off to one side of the paved area. A friend, realizing where I was headed, said “Jon, watch out for that rut.” Next to this particular drive was a deep rut, caused by the homeowner parking alongside the paved area.
What I heard was “Jomb, Mwaff Bloug Dorf Bwat Glupt”. Not sure what he said, I replied back “what?” All he heard was “Flawf?”
The next second would best be described as “the noisy part”. Though the rut was only a few inches deep, the precarious balance I was working with already gave way, and I toppled straight forward. The boxy torso made contact with the ground first, which did impact my fall somewhat. However, this was offset my my body continuing forward, driving my neck directly into the cardboard edge of my head opening. This somehow caused me to get the breath knocked out of me, thus removing my ability to breathe, a function of which I was very fond.
Armor pieces went everywhere, my flashlight fell off, and my bag of candy blew open and scattered across the ground. Boys who had been friends only seconds before quickly devolved into “Road Warrior-like” raiders, grabbing candy as fast as they could.
I was rolling around, trying to grasp at my throat, but all that cardboard prevented me from being able to do so. I tried to rip it apart, but the copious applications of duct tape proved to be my undoing. Thankfully, my breath returned, and I laid there amid my cellulose ruins. The sharp, distinct laughter of my fiends now penetrated clearly inside my smashed robot helmet.
It Made Me Laugh
While the Nixe is certainly a fun kit, I think what drew me to it in the final analysis was that it actually looked a bit like my robot suit of that Halloween so many years ago. Had I painted that cardboard suit in RLM02 and 74, it might have been a pre-Ma. K cosplay of epic proportions. I even briefly considered painting the model silver.
After my friends, helped me up, I got out of the cardboard armor. Dragging it over to the nearest trash pile in front of a house waiting for pickup the next morning, I changed my costume. I was no longer “silver stompy robot”. Rather, I was now “Secret Agent In WWII France”. A secret agent still slightly gasping for air, and looking for his candy, but a secret agent nonetheless.
Pick up the Nixe – or any Ma. K kit that looks cool to you – and give it a go. They’re a lot of fun, offer wonderful paint and weathering opportunity, and are kinda cool. And as long as you don’t go wandering around in the dark with them, you won’t get the breath knocked out of you.