Over on OAFE, a poster asked for advice on how to get stuck joints unstuck. Having successfully unstuck seven hips in my DCUC5 set (only three weren’t stuck) without a single break, I thought I’d share my own method with everyone. This will work on almost any action figure joint, though I wrote it specifically in regard to DCUC hips.
FREEZE Toss the figure in the freezer for about half an hour. The longer you freeze it, the stiffer the joint will get, but it will also get more brittle, so I don’t recommend going longer than an hour at most.
WORK IT, DON’T JERK IT As soon as you take it out of the freezer, very very gently move the hip joint back and forth. I can’t stress enough how gently you have to do this. Work it around a bit–push the hip joint inward, maybe tug it outward just a little bit, to help loosen up the paint or whatever’s making the joint stick. Remember, though, that while the plastic has shrunk a bit and become stiffer due to the freezing, it’s also become more brittle, so if you jerk the frozen joint forward it’s quite likely to break.
BOIL If the joint doesn’t seem to be moving at all, you can try heating some water (don’t let it get too hot–preferably just below boiling) and dipping the hip in for about thirty seconds (don’t let it touch the sides of the bowl!).
RE-FREEZE Then throw the figure back in the freezer for another half hour. All the heating and cooling will make the plastic of the joint expand and contract and, hopefully, sever the connection to whatever’s keeping it stuck (paint, a tiny piece of flash, etc.).
PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT Once it’s been in the freezer for another half hour, repeated the process in the first paragraph. Eventually, you’ll have to start bending the leg further forward or back. You can help minimize the risk of breakage by pushing the peg in at the same time you’re twisting the joint. In my experience, 75% of the time the paint holding the joint stuck will crack and the joint will work fine.
ACCEPT FATE Occasionally, the joint is going to break, and no amount of freezing or boiling will help that. Not often, but enough that you may want to consider whether you’d rather have an immovable leg or have to find a new figure.
I think a good percentage of figure breakages could be prevented just by being patient and careful. I’m impatient in many aspects of my life–too many–but one place I’m not is action figures. I’d rather spend an hour getting my action figure to work properly than spend weeks looking for a replacement.
While breakage seems to be a recurring problem with DCUC, I do think part of that is collectors not taking their time. However, it’s a terrible shame that any kid who receives these toys will almost certainly break them.
If anyone should get on Mattel’s case for these QC issues, it’s DC Comics. Today’s kids who ask their parents for a Superman figure will be tomorrow’s DC comics readers. But if the leg breaks off right out of the package, while their Spectacular Spider-man figure survives being tossed against the wall fifty times, which hero do you think the kid is going to form more positive associations with?