How did you get into customizing?
As a kid, it was a way to make something that I couldn’t find in stores – my first real custom came about because I couldn't find a Snake-Eyes anywhere (this is late '82-ish), so I painted an MMS Hawk black and had my own SE until I finally found a factory version. The next custom consisted of putting a Flash head on a Breaker body so Breaker would be more comic accurate. And here we are nearly 30 years later, those are still my two primary reasons for customizing: 1) making something that I can’t get otherwise, or 2) "fixing" an existing toy so that it fits with my ideal version of the character, etc.
Who is your favorite super hero and why?
I’ve always been a big fan of Green Lantern (Hal Jordan.) I like that he had limitless power, but was really just a normal dude without the ring. And his motivations intrigued me as well – with Batman, he’s got this horrible experience from his childhood to motivate him, Spidey felt guilt from allowing Uncle Ben to die, etc – but Hal could have walked away or said no at any time, but he became a hero because it was the right thing to do. Nothing really compels him other than a sense of duty and right and wrong – which really appeals to me – there’s no real emotional scarring (if you don’t count the whole deal where he murdered millions as Parallax) and he’s pretty grounded compared to other heroes. Plus, green’s always been my favorite color, so....
What irks you the most about the customizing/collecting hobby?
Are you trying to get me banned?!? ;-) - I could go on and on, but the one thing that seems to be a recurring theme is when collectors/hobbyists are felt that they’re “owed” something by the companies that produce their preferred toys. I’ve always maintained that toys are for kids – which is why I enjoy them so much – they connect me with my youth and provide endless entertainment. And despite many collectors’ claims, we aren’t the target demographic for the majority of these product lines. So hearing “Stupid Hasblow!” or “Mattel Sucks!” because a 40 year-old man didn’t get the proper articulation on his action figure just bugs the living crap out of me. Especially coming from members of the customizing community, who can make their own version of whatever character exactly the way they want it.
Although I am perfectly capable of suspending disbelief with regard to fictional characters, I do like a semblance of practicality when it comes to weapons, costumes, etc. Call me crazy, but men in furry Speedos have never appealed to me. Same with grown men wearing brightly-colored panties on the outside of their Spandex tights – I just don’t get it. Sure, in the cases of He-Man or Warlord or Conan, I’ll make my customs shirtless – mostly because the look fits the character. But if you’re going to go sans-pants, there needs to be a reasonable explanation. Namor lives in the ocean – so a Speedo is appropriate. Tarzan and Ka-Zar are swingin’ through the jungle – got it – loin cloths all around. But for characters who visit a variety of environments, it’s just silly to wear furry panties and furry boots with nothing in-between.
Do you have a favorite figure to use as a base body to build off of?
Every year, I get a new favorite “buck” that I use for a good chunk of my customs. It really speaks to the evolution of Toy Sculpting when you realize how many I’ve gone through in the last few years. Currently, the Marvel Universe Cyclops/Steve Rogers figure is my go-to sculpt for most of my superhero customs. For Joes, the “Ultimate” Snake-Eyes that came out last year (v54?) is great and surprisingly versatile.
If you had all the money and time in the world, what project would you love to tackle?
If you add "all the space in the world" I'd really dive into a large cityscape dio project – a 1:18 scale Gotham or Hell's Kitchen. I've got a modular mini-version that I’ve used for different projects, but a permanent, interactive city playset with rooftops 5 feet off the ground would rock.
You tend to show off your work in large batches. Do you work on the groups of customs all at one time or do you save them up for the reveal?
I have dozens of WIPs on the bench at any given time. I may finish them one or two at a time, but my work and school schedule (I’m taking 3-4 upper-level college courses each term) saps all my free time, so they pile up until I can snap pics and upload them during a long weekend or break. I could post them as they get finished, but one thing I try to avoid is posting my stuff but not taking the time to comment on anyone else’s customs. People put such effort into their creations that it’s pretty douchey to swoop in and upload a bunch of "look at me" customs without taking the time and effort to comment on other customizer’s hard work and provide good, constructive critiques. So for me, it’s not so much an issue of not having time to post my own customs, but not having time to provide effective, thoughtful comments on other people’s work. If I’m not going to give another customizer the attention they deserve for their efforts, then I sure as hell am not going to throw my customs up and expect responses from others. There are SO many great new customizers here on JC (the reason why I’m really striving to be more active in the Critiques section lately) and I want to make sure that I do my part to participate to keep the flow of ideas going. Sometimes folks will get an idea for their own project from one of mine, so I’ll post the customs that I feel have a unique quality to them. But more often than not these days, I’m in there stealing ideas from everyone else ;-)
If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing you've learned about customizing, what would it be?
Primer is your friend. Whether you intend to paint something with light or dark paint, prime that mofo.
What sets your work apart from anyone else's?
I’ve been told that there’s a sense of “realism” with my customs. – I suppose there should be a caveat to that saying “as real as flying superheroes, mythical monsters and ninja super-soldiers can be.” It goes back to the discussion about practicality, I guess – I’m all for fantasy and unbelievable characteristics to my customs, but things have to make sense on some level (at least to me.) I don’t go for the hyper-realistic gritty customs because those end up being repetitive and sometimes tedious, but I do try to have at least the thinnest and most tenuous of threads grounding my work in “reality.”
What is your favorite GI Joe item that you own?
It’s a toss-up between my ’83 Breaker and my re-issue 12" Land Adventurer with Kung-Fu Grip. My first Joes were 12" figs (talking Commander and Eagle-Eye Joe), so the 12" re-issue really has the ability to trigger those same feelings I had when I was 5 years old and playing in the dirt with giant Joe. Breaker was my first 3 3/4" Joe, so I was bummed when I lost him at the beach during a fatal Cobra-Island tunnel cave-in back in the summer of ’83. So when I picked up a swivel-arm replacement Breaker a week later, I grew even more attached to that figure because, c’mon – he had friggin’ swivel-arms. :D