Interview with Darko
When did you realize you were a customizer?
Quite a bit after I actually started customizing. When I was a kid, figures would break and I soon discovered that I didn't have to put them back exactly the same way they came. It wasn't until many years later when I was getting nostalgic and did a google search to see if there had ever been a Pythona figure made (she had been one of my favorites as a kid, and I had always heard rumors that there *was* a figure of her out there) that I discovered that GI Joe customizing was a thing. That's also what got me started on collecting toys again.
You've created this "Reign of the Serpent" universe for your GI Joe characters. Can you tell us how it started and a little bit about the story so far?
Honestly, I started with Reign of the Serpent because I was getting bored with the established Joe canons. I loved the comic as a kid (not so much the cartoon), but after years and years of reading about Cobra Command and/or Destro launching some plot to rule the world, then GI Joe beating them last minute, I felt it was growing stale (I will say that the last "World War III" arc was a welcome departure from the formula). I've always loved post-apocalyptic and "what if?" scenarios, so I decided to create my own "joe-verse" like so many have. Basically, the story starts with the premise that Zartan missed his crucial shot during the Cobra Island Civil War and Serpentor lived, going on to win the war and, years later, launch a successful invasion of the United States. The Cobra Empire, led by Serpentor, currently controls the entire North American continent from their citadel in Washington DC. Destro is head of the European Union after he and Serpentor staged a false-flag invasion of the European continent to allow Destro to gain control. However, tensions between the two leaders have reached a boiling point, and now Serpentor has launched an actual attack to cease control of Europe from Destro. Meanwhile, back in the United States, the remains of the shadow government that took power after Serpentor executed the president and congress tries to run a counter offensive from Area 51 in the Nevada desert. The GI Joe team, having suffered heavy loses in the war, is split. Some support and work with the shadow government, while others attempt to take on Cobra by themselves. One such group, led by Clutch, is attempting to launch an attack on the Citadel in DC, putting them at odds with the shadow government, which believes such an attack would cause a massive retaliation from Serpentor. Fred VII, now exposed as a fraud, is also still around, leading a rebel group called The Coil out of the jungles of Africa, though no one has heard from him in quite awhile....
Which comes first, the figure's parts or the character back story?
I usually try to write the back story first, but I will admit that sometimes I'll just glom together a series of parts on a whim and go from there.
You pioneered the hot glue flame and electricity effects. How did that come about?
Very accidentally. I had been using hot glue for a vehicle custom and had ended up with a large glob of it sitting on my desk. While using transparent paints on a figure custom, I ended up with too much paint on my brush and wiped it off on the nearest piece of garbage I could find (...which happened to be the hot glue blob). I didn't think much of it until I noticed later that it had ended up looking vaguely like a flame. After that, I started experimenting with seeing if I could mold the hot glue and, lo and behold, I could.
What is your favorite custom that you've done? That someone else has done?
My favorite custom that I've done is my Overkill custom . It took a ton of sculpting work, and still, it's one of the only customs I've ever done that came out exactly like I pictured it in my head.
As far as other people's work, it's a tie between JFAK075's Devastator and Dark Horse's Indiana Jones tank. Both for the same reason. I love giant custom projects, and both of those came out flawlessly.
Outside of toys and customizing, what is something that you really enjoy?
I'm pretty boring, really. I write a lot, and I love to read. I've also been trying my hand at digital art lately (...I'm still in the "You suck, please die" stage, but I hope to improve).
You win the lottery and can finally do whatever you want. What project would you start working on?
One that I have wanted to do since I was a kid: I giant Cobra airship. I actually attempted it once, and got pretty far, but, during a move, it got severely damaged and I realized I wasn't really happy with how it was turning out anyway. Still, one day I hope to have enough space, time, and money to make it a reality.
If you could be a fly on the wall when other people are talking about your customs, what would you hope they say about your work?
I'd hope that they would say that I managed to find a way to put a new spin on old characters and concepts.
What advice do you have for someone who is giving up on customizing?
Try something new. It's easy to get caught in customizing ruts without realizing it. Try customizing a character you've never thought of customizing before, or using a figure type that you usually don't work it. If you typically stick to 100% accurate military customs, give a sci-fi version a try. Just keep trying new things until you find one that reignites your interest.
It turns out you can take it with you when you go, what one GI Joe figure and vehicle do you want with you in the after life.
I'd take the 25th Cobra Commander that came in the elusive Best of the 80's pack. It's the battle-helmet Cobra Commander that I've been wanting since I was a kid, an absolute perfect cartoon version. I'd also take my Night Ray (Night Force Moray), since I spent over a year rebuilding it from a bare shell.