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posted by ROB JAN alias zero g on Sunday 4th of January 2009 10:26:42 PM

(BEST VIEWED IN LARGE SIZED, BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS - PLEASE NOTE THE EVEN MORE HUMUNGOUS ORIGINAL SIZE IS IMPOSSIBLY EPIC SO BEWARRREEEE.....ONLY TO BE SCREENED IN TECHNICOLOUR MAXIMUSMAXULTRAHYPERCINEMASCOPE...) HOLIDAY GREETINGS TO ALL MY FLICKR MATES. What If...? Iron Man was born in Bethlehem and Tony Starkmas was celebrated each year...? Even more entirely appropriate now that Tony Stark died (in the MCU movies) to save the entire universe from Thanos! That's WAY more peeps and critters than Baby Jesus could ever save on one puny planet! MY LITTLE NATIVITONY Away in a manger, Sleeps baby Shellhead The billionaire Tony Laid down his steel head Our Stark is a bright guy Inventing's his way The billionaire Tony Iron Man of the day! The eyeslits are glowing Our hero they wake The billionaire Tony So handsome a rake "We love Thee, wee Tony" The babes all do sigh And stay by his side, 'Til morning is nigh. Now cheer on our Tony, A playboy at play To our Golden Avenger Even Thor says Thee, "Yay!" So don all your armour It's the coolest of wear To light this diorama Repulsors must flare! Sometime (not nearly enough!) before Christmas I thought it might be a beaut idea to have a go at creating an Iron Man themed Nativity..... Sadly, no one tried to stop me, and my medication ran out while dear Doctor Hackenbush was away on holiday. Then again, as a cheerful atheist and ubergeek if I want to celebrate the holiday season this is a relatively logical way for me to do it. The Iron Manger concept grew from an idle thought I had about the technology obsessed humanist/futurist Iron Man/Tony Stark being a more personally appropriate fictional character for me to spotlight at this time of year. "It seemed like a good idea at the time!" is the rallying cry for hobbyists forever and a day. Which is precisely how long it took to craft and shoot this ludicrously intricate beast of a project. First, the stables. I cut the walls and roof from MDF craftwood and then went in with a Dremel tool and hand carved the stone facades. The stables are painted with acrylics and the roof is thatched with dried Australian native grass. There's certainly more windows than you'd generally need for a stable, but then I wanted to stick figures through them, so, "Go Figure!" I resorted to my tub of good old, lumpy English yellowstone plaster for the base, which was a problem as I spilt a bit of water on it at one stage during construction...oh well, no art without mess! Dressing the set was the next 'bear', but I had a lot of fun once I figured out this this was, after all, an Iron Manger, so logically it would also be an armourer's workshop. The forge is carved from blue insulation foam but the jeweller's anvil is from my own workshop. The Manger is a painted plastic crate from the Marvel Figure Factory range. (No prizes for guessing what kind of figure came in it!) The stable railings I'd already constructed from ice cream sticks for my Iron Man: My Little Pony conversion. Assorted spears, swords, helms and other ironmongery decorating the set are on loan from my Lord Of The Rings action figures, bulked out with gear taken from Gladiators, Predators and Klingons..oh my! There's an Apollo Lunar mission antenna on the roof and yes, that's a TARDIS in the background, which I'm told functions as a mobile telephone ringer module, which would be remarkably handy if I happened to have a mobile phone. Originally I was thinking that this scene should be populated entirely with Iron Man figures but realised that the concept didn't quite work and decided that I needed to use a much wider range of toys. The wee Iron Man figure in the Manger, actually, is a Hasbro Super Hero Squad toy, with removable helmet. I chose him, back then, because he was holding a hand up, just so, that would look right with a repulsor flare kicking off his gauntlet palm. So, the other Players, from the left of the picture. The Three Wise Men/Kings of Orient are Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Stephen Strange, the Fantastic Four's Reed Richards and kneeling, sans wheelchair (A miracle!), Professor Xavier of the X-Men. I've given them Lord of The Rings helms and cloaks, except for Stevo, who came with his own natty wrap. They have three attendants, Sylvester the Cat with his own Iron Man visor and chest mounted ARC reactor, Fone Bone from Jeff Smith's "Bone" epic fantasy comic book series, and Scrooge McDuck, who is obviously interested in cashing in on the lucrative ground floor of the future Stark Industries. Sylvester is wearing the Marvel Legends Series 8 Action Figure Modern Armour Iron Man visor. (Strewth, I was short of farm animals and Sly's a cat and that old tightwad Scrooge is a duck, fair enuff?) Peeking through the left window are Third Class Nuclear Power Plant Technician Homer Simpson and an unnamed Camel. Behind the railings is Bartleby, the young rat creature from "Bone" (ta to Patrick Goldsworthy for these two charmers!), Donkey from "Shrek" and Iron Pony: My Little Tony, for the construction of which see elsewhere in my photosets. (A rat and a cyberhorse...still short of mundane farm animals!) The central group around the Manger includes the Great Inventor Wallace ("Wallace & Gromit", of course) playing Joseph of Nazareth, with mates including, Handy Smurf (I think! This one seems to be good with a wrench, which is useful around Tony), and "The Rocketeer" (from Dave Stevens classic comic book series) whom I reckon must be one of Tony Stark's uncles! Framed in the 'rear window' are the "Kingdom Come" version of Wonder Woman (An immortal armour clad babe, who else could stand in for Mary Magdalene in a Tony Stark nativity?) and of course Doctor Who's signature time/space travelling TARDIS Police Box. The latter is surrounded by nervous looking Roman soldiers, wary of the Doctor's past, present and future dealings with various Empires. I reckon the TARDIS lamp would make a pretty fair Star Of Bethlehem, y'know? In front of the manger is a pack of Deinonychus. I've included these out of respect to those flossy minded Creationists who insist that dinosaurs coexisted with human beings. (Right, good luck with that! You keep them busy, I'll go for help.) Anyhoo, these bloody taloned toy carnosaurs from The Carnegie Safari are about to meet their maker after being made extinct by their intended lunch, the Unmincible Iron Ram, who is tougher than old metal mutton. Iron Ram is wearing the Marvel Legends Series 14 Action Figure First Appearance Iron Man (Gold variant) visor. To the right of the manger is David Carradine as a convenient shepherd. The "Kill Bill" action figure makes a halfway decent Kwai Chang Caine priestly messenger of "Kung Fu" fightin' Buddhist Peace. (Get it? Priest = Shepherd? Cor, subtle or what?) The "Bill" figure had a Caine style shirt and flute (the latter may even be one from the old series) and I added a shoulder satchel (more insulation foam) and hat (Milliput epoxy putty) plus a Shepherd's crook. In front of Caine sits the Witchblade, from the comic book series of the same name. Another armour wearing babe, she's also carrying the Slayer's scythe from "Buffy The Vampire Slayer". As Witchy is standing in for Mary, Mum of Jesus, I figure she'd best have formidable anti-supernatural mojo and hardware, just in case Tony someday resurrects as a vamp or zombie, which is my admittedly whimsical understanding of Easter. At the anvil works Gimli Elf-friend, son of Gloin, the Dwarf from "The Lord Of The Rings", the notable metal-worker seen here forging the faceplate of a First Appearance Iron Man helmet. Keeping it in the Mighty World of Marvel he's using Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, as...a hammer. In Norse legend Eitri was the name of the bloke who forged the hammer, and yes, I am shamelessly mixing mythologies; no worries, she'll be right. Gimli is wearing the visor from the Marvel Legends Silver Centurion action figure. Bugs Bunny (farm animal!) and a kangaroo (Er, Aussie mate!) are in front of the forge's quenching tub. Bugs is sporting the visor from the Modular Armour Iron Man action figure as featured in the Marvel Legends Face -Off Two-Pack: Iron Man Vs. Mandarin. In the right window is my Iron Cyberman conversion (no reason for including him, I just wanted another of my I.M specials in there) and riding on the rocket next to him is Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, wearing a Toy Biz metallic Iron Man helmet. To the right of the forge is the Iron Giant, from the animated movie based on Ted Hughe's 1968 novel, "The Iron Man". 'Nuff said? On the extreme right of the picture is Doctor John Henry Irons, a.k.a Steel, who in many ways is the D.C comic equivalent of Iron Man. Also in the picture is a Predator helmet, the faceplate from my Iron Zombie scratchbuilt figure, Hawkman's Claw Of Horus, Captain America's shield, and the Incredible Shrinking Iron Man The six inch action figures give some idea of the large scale of this set up, and the depth of the diorama. Ironically, I found out that I couldn't maintain a constant depth of field, which I wanted to showcase the detail, flying in the face of a more realistic approach that would have the deep background properly out of focus. I tried everything within my current photographic repertoire to nail it; blasting the scene with light, small apertures, a macro lens...and wasn't able to get the required resolution. Eventually I decided to stack different sharply focused pictures using photoshop. Since I didn't have photo stacking software at the time I did it the hard way, cutting and pasting each element by mouse, something which I have a lot of experience with. Many tricky days later I had it pretty much done. And here was me thinking that the Zombie In The Toy Box Halloween shoot I did was complex... The best part of the exceedingly time consuming photoshoot was jury rigging an adjustable workbench so I could bed the camera down on it, allowing me to use the crank handles to move the camera backwards and forwards and from side to side in an extremely precise fashion, a sort of D.I.Y motion control rig. Looking at it as a piece I find it suitably surreal. My work here is done. Now, where did my holidays go? “The creative habit is like a drug. The particular obsession changes, but the excitement, the thrill of your creation lasts.” (Henry Moore) "Let's face it, this is not the worst thing you've caught me doing." (Tony Stark)

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