February 05, 2016

TOM STARK'S PLASTIC PASSIONS: Remembering Atlantic

Happy New year to all despite the fact it is already February. The first month back to my day job always tends to be busy and it has kept me from a new entry- until now...



It is inescapable that today’s makers rely on the ability of new age plastics to be bonded to create figures alive with action as well as to extract more “poses” by gluing different combinations of arms onto  fewer basic torsos. More power to them. This attribute of the new plastics certainly has contributed much to the hobby. But for this entry I want to go back to an old favorite of mine, Atlantic, and point out an example of how they pushed the limits of production in their hey-day of the 1970-80s. Working in 60+mm scale, ever popular in the EU and taking over today’s US market, Atlantic did not shy away from BIG. This was best seen in the multi-pose, mini-diorama poses in their American western series of releases and I am picturing some of my favorites. From the Souix Camp set I show two braves carrying in a dear on a pole and a brave collecting firewood (or attacking over brush depending on who you pair up against him), two poses of Custer’s last stand of two troopers and a flag bearer shown next to a trooper paired with an officer behind his fallen horse, a trapper with his mule team  from the miners set and a hanged man, and bandit being dragged beside his runaway horse from the cowboys and sheriffs set. There are quite a few others but this will certainly do for this post.



Each of these comes from a single mold. Thanks to thoughtful sculpting design, there are no visibly detracting blocking fills, the figures are full of action and there are no mold release/ejection deformities. The action projected by the bandit being dragged is fantastic while the just slightly off-vertical angle on the hanging man gives the impression of his gently swaying at the end of his dance. I wonder if this was intended or a consequence of how this particular piece cooled after being ejected from the mold? I prefer to think it was intentional.



As I have asked more questions of contemporary makers I have come to realize that the molds needed to withstand the required injection pressures for the plastic have to be much more robust than those used for spin-casting metals. Mold making is often the most expensive part of the production process and each of these must have been a challenge. I can just begin to imagine the expense of the molds for any of these fellows and the length of the mule driver and bandit at 7 and 9 inches respectively are really impressive. I really can’t think of any other maker that came close to figure moldings of this size.



Could these groupings have been even more useful if cast as individual pieces that “fit” together? Probably, even though through the years it may have been hard to keep the individual components together. Who couldn’t use a stand-alone mule driver, separate mules or a kneeling 7th cavalry officer to put  behind a horse one day and a wagon or log another? That isn’t the point. The point is that Atlantic thought big, had a market that could support the expense and went for it. Even if their style isn’t for you, you just got to love the effort. I love both!


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