One of the strengths of Star Wars is the complexity of many of the characters. Darth Vader is a prime example. Evil, a Dark Lord of the Sith who can kill with a thought, yet he was once Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight and a force for good. The air of the "fallen hero" hangs around Darth Vader, making him a far more interesting character than your everyday villian.
No matter how evil Darth Vader was as the right hand of Emperor Palpatine, you had to give him credit for the way he turned obstacles into assets; I'm talking of course, of his body armour. It is actually a mobile life support system with breathing apparatus which he has needed to wear since the battle between himself and Obi-wan Kenobi, where Anakin Skywalker was transformed completely into Darth Vader. By having the equipment made in black and a speech modulator inserted into the breathing mask and the addition of a long flowing cape something that can be considered a defect has been turned into a very subtle weapon.
Kaiyodo's kit of Darth Vader has been reviewed in a previous issue of IM and you can get quite a good representation of Darth by building it straight out of the box. However, if you watch the movies again (mind you, I always have trouble with this as I get all caught up in the story), you will discover what I did and that is that the costume is different in each film! There are some good photos available of Vader as well but the films will reveal quite a bit about the look of the costume and the varying shades of black used. Some differences are really quite noticeable, and others very subtle. The kit itself is closest to the Vader seen in "The Empire Strikes Back" and that is the version I chose to do. Modifications to the kit to achieve the look of the costume used in the other films could easily be done however.
As with most vinyl kits the excess must be trimmed away from the kit parts. I used my hairdryer on a low setting to warm the part and with a *sharp* No 11 blade began cutting. Warming the vinyl gives you more control over the knife, definitely an asset when you come to cutting the cape. Clean up any rough edges and give the parts a wash in warm soapy water. While they're drying you can work out what you're going to stand your figure on - he's quite heavy so a base is pretty much a necessity. I chose two differing sized ovals of "craftwood" which you can get at craft or art supply stores. Thanks to the popularity of folk art you can buy all sorts of shapes which have the edges already finished quite cheaply. All you have to do is find one to fit your figure.
Where the kit differs from the Vader seen in "Empire" is in the small things and all were easy to do so I took the opportunity to try a few new techniques that I had read about and wanted to try. The first of these came about due to the need to fill the legs of a hollow vinyl figure with something. This is necessary to balance the weight of the cape. Plaster of Paris is usually suggested but at the time that I was wanting to get started I had none and neither did my local stores. Upon enquiring I was told they wouldn't have it in till next week. What to do I want to build this kit NOW!
Attaching the figure to the base I discovered that there is only one suitable point through which to drill and that is the left heel. The right foot is raised slightly as if he is about to step forward so the left heel is the only part of the foot which touches the ground. Having attached the figure to the base and allowing plenty of time for the glue to dry I went to the nearby lake and got myself some sand. By the time I got back the foot was firmly attached to the base and I could pour the sand into the legs of the figure up to the waist. White glue was poured in on top of this which when dry ensured that to formed a seal. The only quibble I have about this method is that the glue takes days to dry.
Turning my attention to the torso, I attached the life signs monitor with superglue. Joining the torso and arms to the legs with Zap-a-Gap, I then gave the whole thing a shot of Mr Surfacer (just enough to provide "tooth"). Using Tamiya's Black, Flat Black and at times a mix of the two I proceeded to paint the figure in varying shades of black.
Vader's robe comes in two parts, the upper part being moulded onto the torso while the lower is provided as a separate part which attaches to the waist. Aiming to recreate the dull, shadowed effect of a flowing piece of unlined fabric, I sprayed the inside of this part with a mix of Flat Black and little bit of Black. To be honest, I can't remember the ratios I used for any of the shades. I just tinkered with the paint until I thought it looked "right". The outside received a reverse mix of Black with a little bit of Flat Black to match the shade used on the upper part. Using the minimum of superglue I thought I could get away with (I didn't want to have to clean up any squoodges) I attached it to the figure. Once this was dry I attached the life support control boxes. These require careful fitting to get right but once they are on they look very good.
Careful viewing told me that Vader's cape was lined. Shiny fabric inside, while the outside fabric though dull, was a fine weave. In addition to there is a leather? binding at the neck to provide stability for the clasp and the chain fastening. The cape provided in the kit has the chain moulded into the cape and no binding. I thought I could do better so I cut this part off. I substituted a very fine piece of chain from an old necklace, glued on with cyanoacrylate glue. The inside of the cape was painted with unmixed Black while the outside was painted unmixed Flat Black. Because of the fine weave of the cape, you will have to make sure that your surface is very smooth indeed. I gave the outside of the cape two shots of Mr Surfacer before I painted it. The binding at the neck is painted with Humbrol 33 giving another black with a slightly different sheen to the blacks already abounding on this model.
Put the cape on the model before attaching the head, it goes on easier this way. Kaiyodo have given you the option to model the figure with the helmet off, thus exposing more of the breathing apparatus and some of Vader's real head. The head is quite finely moulded, the detail of the back of the head with the exposed skin as well as the extra connections for the body armor being particularly good. However, I chose to leave the helmet on as I preferred this option. It was a bit of a loose fit but I put a thin strip of plastic inside the helmet (just like the stabilizer in a hat) and it fits fine.
While this figure does come with a lightsaber it is switched off, so no energy beam. I wanted to show Vader with his lightsaber on. This meant that all throughout the construction and painting I was wondering "How am I going to do the lightsaber"? Various ideas came to mind only to be discarded. The one I finally settled on was to attach a thin white straw cut to the right length into the collar of the lightsaber and paint it a sort of streaky red to try and mirror the fluctuations of energy in the beam itself. The straw is reinforced with a pipecleaner that sticks out just a little past the straw. This end was soaked with glue and the fibers of the pipecleaner shaped into a round tip and painted red. The rest of the lightsaber was painted black and then drybrushed with aluminium.
Using red, blue, yellow,green and silver I painted in the details on the life support controls on the chest monitor and the control boxes either side of the belt buckle which I painted in silver. More silver was used to paint the knobs on the edge of the breathing apparatus and I used aluminium to drybrush the screen in the lower half of the mask. The whole thing then received a coat of clear varnish to finish it off.
While this is a simple kit, the finished figure looks good. The shades of black are a lot more varied on the model than seen in the photos here but you don't have to get as obsessive as I did. Kaiyodo have produced a kit which was a fun build, but with opportunities to add more if you wish, making it a good kit for all modellers interested in the Star Wars universe. I really enjoyed myself building this model and that's really what it's all about.