Every June, DFWLUG holds a “MOC the Set” contest. The idea of this is that you take a recent (last couple of years) $20-$30 value set and use it like a seed piece, building around and with it to produce a more extensive creation.
Knowing this was coming, I had bought myself the 75229 Death Star Escape set a couple of months ago, anticipating extending it mostly vertically into something more like the actual open shaft that Luke and Leia swing across in A New Hope.
That would still be a pretty good build, but as it came to the end of April and I needed to start thinking about that contest, I found I wasn’t remotely inspired by the idea of putting the 75229 set back together and expanding it.
No; we’d got tickets for Captain Marvel at that point, and what was inspiring me, for the first time in my building life, was Marvel superheroes.
I’ve talked at some length on here before about how most superheroes aren’t that easy to LEGO. Batman is an exception in this regard because he does build themed vehicles and so do several of his bad guys. Iron Man, Marvel’s primary wealthy technologist/gadgeteer hero, is all power armours, and those are mostly just variations on the baseline minifigure.
It’s always been a little weird because I’ve never been as heavily into the DC universe as Marvel. I don’t know most of the characters that well, and don’t feel any particular desire to recreate the Man of Steel as a Man of Bricks, for example.
By contrast, I read several Marvel titles in my teenage years (Thor, Avengers and Excalibur chief among them) and I know that universe way better than anything DC has produced. And yet I never connected that with my LEGO obsession.
There I was, casting my mind around for something I could build for the contest that wasn’t the Death Star Escape, and what do I see but my son’s 76109 Quantum Realm Explorers set, sitting there still built from his birthday back in March.
Aha! I thought. Maybe I could build Hank Pym’s quantum laboratory!
Quickly ascertaining that I didn’t have all the elements I’d need for the first way I thought about building the Quantum Portal, but still inspired by this great set, I shelved the idea of the lab and started in on the Quantum Realm itself.
The weird, shifting landscape of the Quantum Realm as pictured in Ant-Man and the Wasp necessarily involved certain design decisions, as there was no way I could reproduce all the shifting and warping without some serious investment in Power Functions and Technic engineering expertise, and I only had a month. I’ve tried to convey the impression of that bizarre, unnaturally-coloured scenery’s continual shifting and changing, and though I haven’t inserted that city that people think they’ve seen in the Quantum Realm, I’m pleased with the result.
The actual build, though, is one of the simplest landscape builds I think I’ve ever made. It was abundantly clear by the time I’d finished that even extending it to another 32×32 baseplate wasn’t going to result in a contest-winning MOC if I stuck with the QR; I know the building ability of my fellow LUG nuts, and that would basically be an entry for the sake of it. I can do better than that.
Besides, if I’m MOCing the 76109 set, I’d better include the minifigures, and though Ant-Man went into the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and the Wasp, he did not do so in the Pym Shrinking Submarine thing. And neither the Ghost nor the Wasp even went into the Quantum Realm in that movie.
Right, then. Better do that lab.
For the purposes of symmetry I wanted to keep the laboratory to a single 32×32 baseplate like my Quantum Realm build. This meant that the three-dimensional Quantum Tunnel I initially had in mind wasn’t going to fit, but on the plus side it let me have a reasonable chance at building it out of what I had on hand, and also let me tile over basically all of the laboratory. (Secret: I skipped tiling under the Quantum Explorer’s runway area because I was almost out of appropriately-coloured tiles by then).
I’ve kept to the general look and layout of the lab, but the precise details are my own because we don’t own that movie yet and I couldn’t find too many good reference images. The Quantum Portal is hinged so it will open and you can drive the Explorer craft through into the Quantum Realm. Of course, once I put the two sides together it was clear that this wasn’t precisely going to work. You couldn’t close the door afterwards, and the hard juxtaposition of the two halves of the build just looked odd.
Struck by sudden inspiration, I joined the two sides with a single 1×4 hinge plate at the front inner corners, and that worked to solve both problems. The “distinct-yet-joined” nature of the two halves of the build seems like the proper physical expression of the relationship between Marvel’s on-screen macro-world and Quantum Realms, and now the Quantum Gateway will open and close like anything.
Best of all, now I could make the set properly represent the events of the movie, where Hank Pym uses the Explorer craft to venture into the Quantum Realm after his wife, while Ant-Man and Wasp fight the Ghost.
To do this, I needed Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne minifigures. There is a Hank Pym ‘fig, but I don’t own one and didn’t even know of its existence when I was building. I decided to use Bespin-Han’s torso (from the 75137 Carbon Freezing Chamber set) with old Obi-Wan’s hair (from 75173 Luke’s Landspeeder) and a random Resistance trooper head. It’s close enough that you can tell who it is from context, even if it doesn’t look that much like Robert Redford.
Janet was way easier. Rey’s desert cowl (from 75099 Rey’s Speeder) is about as close as LEGO comes to the face-shrouding Quantum Realm robes she wears. Where did those come from, by the way? When she went into the Quantum Realm she was in her Wasp suit. Then I used Leia’s head and torso and Qui-Gon Jinn’s arms (and possibly legs) to complete her QR appearance. (Note: These pics use an earlier version of Janet drawing more heavily from Rey’s Jakku ‘fig) Again, not totally movie-accurate, but unless I’m going to paint my own, which I’m not, this isn’t bad.
Following the completion of the lab, I did try to build the microscopic tardigrade field on a blue 32×32 baseplate between the lab and the Quantum Realm, however, this ran into major quality issues and I was forced to abandon the idea.
There was no way a tardigrade on the scale shown in the movie was going to fit on a 32×32 baseplate, so I was forced to build my water-bear smaller. I was also forced to use black for the sake of element availability, and though I could have acquired the elements I needed in brown, I wasn’t sufficiently enamoured of the addition to bother. It just seemed to detract from the main action at either end to have a slightly crap rendition of a tardigrade intruding into the central focal point, and I just can’t think of a way to do it well enough to include. I pulled the tardigrade field and put it back the way it was, which is much, much better.
I’ll be taking my Into the Quantum Realm build for the contest tomorrow. I’ll let you know how I did.