I designed this LEGO Minifigure series (affectionately known as a “figbarf” among the fan community) for a figbarf contest. One of the categories was “Space,” and I wanted to do something a little different. I became enamored of the bold graphic language of retro science fiction and retrofuturism a few years ago; indeed, I first explored LEGO retro sci-fi with my series of “set-style” creations Body Battlers in 2017. Rather than making a series of Body Battlers figures here, though, I opted to create some characters that were a bit more universal in the ‘50s sci-fi space.
Retro Sci-Fi Minifigures
From left to right, these are our characters:
• Bort-Bort, a deadpan robot. Devoid of emotion, cultural references, and understanding of human scansion, Bort-Bort frequently lets off one-liners which are unintentionally hilarious.
Here, at last, was an excuse for me to use every possible robotic limb piece from LEGO! I enjoyed designing such a washed-out figure; I think it makes his “eye” scanner stand out even better. Originally, this figure also held a ray-gun, but I thought exposed claws seemed more fitting of a classic humanoid robot.
• Lois Mills, a hapless All-American Girl. A neophyte to space exploration, Lois hopes—maybe in vain—that she can get back to Earth in time for her senior prom!
Problematic and utterly sexist as the trope of the helpless “damsel in distress” is, it’s nevertheless a staple of the pulp sci-fi genre… As such, it felt accurate to include such a character here. Stay tuned for much more empowered women in upcoming works! I love the combination of dark azure and purple, so that’s another reason I’m glad I designed Lois. Interesting note: the head dome she wears is only 1/2 there, as her hairpiece is too large in back for the second piece to attach.
• Chip Fleming, a dashing adventurer. Leader of a hundred space explorations, captain of his own rocket ship, and frequenter of dozens of worlds, Chip is a classic hero of ‘50s science fiction.
Just as quintessential as the disempowered woman in this genre is the hyper-masculine, clean-cut, alien-blasting spaceman. I loved getting to use some of the blondest possible hair here for that perfect, matinée idol look. Like Lois, Chip only wears 1/2 of his helmet; although his hairpiece would have fit inside the full sphere, I wanted the two bubbles we see here to be of equivalent opacity.
• Toscoob, a malevolent Martian. Emperor on his home planet, and renowned even there for his wickedness, Toscoob’s favorite delicacy is raygunned human!
What more can you ask for than a villainous green Martian? This character was another clear trope to include in my retro space collection. The decorous military flairs, like the cape and epaulets, are actually inspired by the Looney Toons character Marvin the Martian. I appreciated getting to use a Harry Potter wand element in the enormous raygun, which itself has been borrowed and modified from Body Battlers Set 52015. Toscoob steals his name from Tolstoy’s Aelita, a famous work of Soviet sci-fi about an advanced Martian society.
• Salno, an absentminded Venusian. Half the time, Salno even forgets her home planet—this is why she carries around a sonic resonator, which can capture and replay sounds to jog her memory (as well as blast aliens with sound waves!).
Of the five characters on display here, Salno is the most out-of-left-field, not really having a clear precedent in retro sci-fi literature or film. Nevertheless, I think her aesthetic matches with the rest of the collection nicely. I built this fig around that gigantic pink afro; giving her short legs resulted in a hugely disproportionate body that I really liked. Originally, Salno was gonna have the hairpiece on backwards, resulting in a bulbous, textured head, but I so appreciated the expression of the minifig head I chose that I couldn’t resist showing it off. I also am proud of the combo of silvered 2x2 dish and silver-capped microphone on her sonic resonator.
Thanks for reading! If you have any other questions or comments about these minifigs, feel free to leave them in the comments below