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Dan Lee
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Do you APES want to live forever!??!? 1/12 Wave Starship Trooper Kit

March 17, 2023 · in Sci-fi · · 13 · 549


Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is one of the seminal and controversial classics of Science Fiction. Viewed by many as an idealized fascist paradise and by others as an important lessons in civics. I’m not going to wade into the philosophical debate on the novel as I sit on the fence with regards to the novel. I read this book first when I was 13. Most of the idea of service (main point of the novel) flew over my barely functioning brain as I was more interested in reading about the Terran Federation’s Mobile Infantry fighting bugs in their “cool” powered armor. I realize now that Heinlein’s premise of “everybody fights” sounds cool but dies in the reality that the more sophisticated the weaponry, the longer the logistical tail is required.

Despite one’s own personal views on this novel, it made a lasting impact in science fiction literature where one can not write a Military SF novel without alluding to elements of Starship Troopers. It also struck a tone within the real military as it is the only science fiction novel that is on the USMC enlisted man reading list.

And then there’s the movie. The film version of Starship Troopers seemed to me a loud, bloody and rather stupid movie whose political satire was lost amid the stupidity. It had humans fighting alien “bugs” but it dropped what I thought was the most important technical aspect of the the book, the powered armor. For those who remember the movie, the humans instead wore modified hockey helmets and football pads which proved to be useless against the bugs (which was also done to show the pretty faces of the pretty actors.) Also forgotten was the fact that these were supposed to be elite troops, not a bunch of rank amateurs whose preferred combat formation was the circular firing squad and whose “leadership” provided them with mere solid slug firing machine guns while ignoring more useful weapons like explosive tipped bullets, flamethrowers or industrial sized canisters of RAID insecticide (something not forgotten by the writers of the much better movie Aliens.)

In the novel, there are three main types of powered armor described. The first is the Command Suit for the leaders (a logical extension of the “everyone fights” philosophy) with extra power and communication gear. The next is the Scout Suit which is faster than the standard armor and carries recon gear at the expense of less armor and fewer weapons. The last is the standard Marauder Suit which as Heinlein put it: “for the sleepy eyed fellows, the killers.”

Wave’s version of the Marauder Suit has a “Japanese” look to it (not surprising considering that it is a Japanese model maker) for those who have seen or are familiar with Japanese Samurai Armor. It contains all the main weapons as described by Heinlein from the hand held flamers to the Y-Rack grenade launcher to the shoulder mounted rocket launcher. Updated 2023: This model kit is actually based on the suit from the Japanese 1988 anime TV mini series version of the novel.

Wave is a prominent kit maker from Japan who focuses on semi posable figures.

The kit contains 13 sprues of olive drab plastic, one small sprue of clear parts and one polycaps sprue for the joints. The parts look fairly crisp and without any obvious manufacturing defects. As for the accuracy of the parts? Are you kidding me?

Looking back, I can see that the engineering and fit of the parts is not as good as Bandai's. Closer to an 1980s/1990s era kit in terms of fit, but the detail is excellent than the usually fuzzy details provided in Science Fiction kits of that era.

The instructions are in Japanese with some anglicized number callouts for Gunze paints but thankfully Wave provides well detailed pictures for those of us (including myself) who can not read Kanji characters. They provide a step by step assembly guide although I had to deviate from the order due to painting issues.

It was a harsh transition going from well done Bandai Star Wars Figures to this kit. It might have been state of the art in 2004, but it was a teeth grinding, filling and sanding kit that needed a lot of work to get right.

Each of the limbs required a lot of patience as the polycaps and parts didn't have the best fit. I first glued the parts together then threw them into a box for a couple of weeks to allow for the Tamiya Extra Thin Glue to cure.

I had some very large obvious gaps like the wrist joints. I think I may have messed up the assembly of the first one I made. The 1mm wide gaps in that area were first filled with Vallejo Plastic Putty and then covered with CA glue then sanded smooth. No other limb seams needed that kind of work, just CA glue to fill and sand with various grits of wet/dry sand paper. I did have to repeat filling/sanding in several places due to the depth of the seams.

The legs weren't any easier as I had a moment when I forgot to add a polycap in the left leg. In my haste to add the necessary polycap, I snapped off part of the upper thigh off at the pivot. I spent a few minutes swearing and them calmed down enough to glue the broken piece on and fill the gaps. I sanded seams on both sides of the leg, but I ignored the bottom of the feet as no one was ever going to see them and I just about had it with filling/sanding at that moment.

It is much easier to write this than actually do as the filling/sanding of the limbs took a couple of hours of work for at least 7 days (as it was all I could stand in one sitting.) FYI I went thru several sheets of 320, 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper to finish this kit!

The body and various elements were the same amount of work. A lot of CA glue was used to fill in the seams on the various pieces including the rocket launcher, the Y-Rack, the hand flamer and the side pieces for the helmet. I attached the headpiece to the torso but avoided the whole filling/sanding thing by cutting pieces of plastic card and gluing them to cover up the seams of the hinge. I did not add the jaw, side pieces or front face of the helmet as I needed to paint the clear parts that went there.

The various rocket pack nozzles needed a lot of careful sanding. The main booster nozzle was difficult because I had to avoid sanding all the detail flat as I had done in the past with similar detail. I did manage to avoid damaging the detail thanks to experience doing similar work on other kits. The side nozzles still required care as I had to sand both the inside and the outside and not sand too much as the parts were very thin. I sanded smooth enough of the inside just so that it would not be noticed when I added the vents.

The helmet side pieces were sanded as well. I don't think there was a seam I didn't have at least fill and maybe sand.

I did have to fill and sand the head of the Trooper, fill in the various gaps with Vallejo plastic putty because I treated those seams as panel lines.

I opted to paint most of the figure Tamiya NATO Green without any preshading. Usually my grounder pounder models are dirty and worn, but I opted to make this one clean as if it were ready for a combat drop. A couple of thin coats were required for the initial coat. Note: I did this in between working on the many many limb seams so the torso and one arm were painted first and then as I completed each limb I would paint the limb. The various face pieces were also painted NATO green.

Based on the pictures of the completed model in the instruction, the rocket launcher had some crevices that were brush painted flat black.

The interior of the helmet needed to be painted. I used a brush for that as I painted the metal areas neutral grey and the padding desert yellow. I then sprayed the bald head Tamiya Buff as I used a skin tone more appropriate for an Asian as Juan Rico is Filipino in the book unlike the character in the movie played by Casper Van Dien. Next I brush painted the eyebrows (I laughed when I remembered dialogue from a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip) and the eyes using a 0 fine brush. Unlike most faces I've painted this one turned out fine.

I then painted the inside of the clear pieces using Vallejo clear blue (forward side sensors and visor) and Tamiya clear red (forward center sensor.)

Two areas at the side of the head piece were masked off and painted MM Acrylic FS36622.

I sprayed the rocket nozzles flat black then Tamiya X10 gunmetal and the grenades Tamiya Flat Green.

The various light or sensors were hand painted with Vallejo Metal Color Silver. When dry, I painted certain lights with an over coat of clear red.

The last thing that needed to be painted was the hand flamer. I first sprayed on gunmetal but then I tried to give it a more of a blue tone and sprayed on Vallejo Clear Blue (I had some extra after spraying the clear parts.) The blue gave the hand flamer a blue metal look.

After the face pieces including the visor were added to the helmet, I masked off the clear parts and then sprayed on a few light coats of Gunze Clear in preparation for the decals.

There is no decal placement guide so I just winged it. I placed them in places that would be obvious like the rank insignia on the right arm (it should be on both arms, but Wave only supplied a single rank insignia of each type) and used the number decals to denote that the suit belongs to George Two-Three aka squad leader of the 3rd squad, 2nd platoon (which is the Roughnecks) of George Company. There were no noticeable issues with the decals as I used MicroSet to settle the decals in place. When dry, I wiped the model to remove decal solution residue.

Weathering and Final Coat
As I mentioned above, I did not weather the figure much with the exception of dry brushing the rocket launcher nozzle with metallic grey. Lastly I sprayed on a flat coat to seal the decals in and left off the hand flamer and rocket nozzles for this step.

I glued in the painted head into place. The visor and helmet face pieces were added. There were some really big obvious gaps so I had to mask off that area and fill it with Vallejo plastic putty, remove the excess with damp Q-Tips and then spray with NATO Green. Once that was done, I glued on the helmet side pieces in place. I had to hand paint the lights within a clear piece silver and then used white glue to secure it into place.

The shoulder and hip joints consist of several parts linked together and do not need to be glued to allow the figure to pose in whatever position. I left them free despite the fact that the figure's left leg is stiff because I broke it earlier. I added those then slid each of the limbs in place.

Finally the hand flamer, grenades and rocket nozzles were added.

This is not a Bandai superkit so be prepared to do a lot of work as every seam will need to be dealt with. It is not a kit for beginners at all and probably for those who are comfortable with short run kits and like the challenge, but the effort and work will reward you with a well done model. Once past construction, the painting was a breeze.

I finally have my own Starship Trooper and I am really happy with the final result.

Reader reactions:
4  Awesome

15 additional images. Click to enlarge.

13 responses

  1. Excellent final result after the great amount of construction work, Dan!
    Well done!

  2. A very nice build, Dan @dblee
    Nice to see the suite with the 'canopy' open, you don't see that too often.

  3. I too read the novel at about the same age. The concept of "service" allows one to enjoy the novel whichever side of the political aisle you approach it from. As a s-f author myself (not recently), I can assure you that yes, when one deals with the interstellar military, you deal with this novel. Since I know the filmmakers who did the adaptation, I can tell you that they and the screenwriter were also influenced by my friend Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War," which did have goofy draftees out on the front lines (since he was writing from experience as a Vietnam grunt).

    Anyway, despite all the difficulties, your modeling talent overcame that and the result is very nice indeed. I've never seen a 3D visualization of what I saw in my mind reading the novel, but this is pretty close.

    Good work!

    • Thanks very much Tom. I enjoyed "The Forever War" more as it felt more honest. I get that Heinlein was writing a kind of manifesto outlining the need for service (in the face of communist hordes aka the Bugs.)

      My issue with the film was I was hoping to see an adaptation of the novel, not a satirical parody of it so the satire of the fascist state was lost on my rage (I wanted to see the suits, damnit!) I know the director didn't like the book so it explains a bit.

      I would enjoy seeing an adaptation of "The Forever War" if they ever get a chance.

  4. I don’t know anything about Starship Troopers but your model looks great, especially after all that hard work you put in.

  5. Thank for sharing technique Dan. I am not familiar with starship troopers, growing up in Europe where it was not known.
    I did read Haldemans’ forever war. Similar perhaps and perhaps the best Sci-fi anti war novel out there

  6. Nice! Haven't read that novel in a looooooooooong time. May have to revisit it. Great job on the build. One wonders when they adapt a book to a movie and the final result is out, did anyone connected with the movie really read the book.

    • Speaking as someone who has adapted a couple books into movies, the problem with an older book - like Starship Troopers - is that you are also working with an older cultural milieu - the film maker tries to make it contemporary. In this case, the director (Verhoeven) and the screenwriter also got involved with liking "Forever War" better so adopted much of that idea (not the book) into how they treated the movie they were making. They learned that when you are adapting a classic that a lot of people who buy movie tickets like, you should stick close; the movie was not that well-received by critics or audience because they were all expecting Starship Troopers and not Starship Forever Troopers.

    • Thanks Robert!
      I know the director tried to read the book, but stopped. Ironically, James Cameron made the actors who played the Marines in Aliens read Starship Troopers to understand the mindset of the Colonial Marines. Maybe they'll do an adaptation with the suits.

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