Doctor robert strange Interview
Tim 121RVC interview of Doctor Robert Strange.
How did you get started in customizing GIJoe? What led you to the brand, what type of stuff were you doing before?
Became obsessed with the idea of making my own toys by about second grade (1987-88), and clearly remember using LEGO minifigs to make Nintendo characters like Mario and Link. By about fourth or fifth grade (very late 1980s), my friend Fletcher showed me how to take out the back screw of ARAH Joes and swap pieces to make new characters. I can't even explain in words how important that moment was.
Like a lot of young customizers, I started with basic limb swaps, then began experimenting with Sharpies, and, later, all different kinds of failed attempts with paint (tempura, t-shirt paint, enamel). Looking on those customs now, on a technical level, they're HORRIBLE. Many were rush jobs, but mainly because I was so stoked to be making toys!
I continued collecting and customizing throughout junior high, high school, and college; gradually moving from Joes to Star Wars, and then bashing the two lines together to get super-poseable toys.
It's only now that I've been able to recapture the excitement I had then while working with Mega Bloks/Mega Construx.
How did you discover JoeCustoms?
Lurked as a guest about 10+ years ago, when I visited a lot more message boards. I think I had done a search for custom GI Joes and eventually stumbled across the site. I was just completely in awe of guys like AdrienVeidt, Teknokyo, Killumanti, Alyosha, Chief... I would just stare and wonder how my stuff could ever begin to compare. Sharing it seemed impossible at that point.
Every once in a while, I'd make something I really liked and photographed it with my phone. While my friends always liked my customs, I started showing my toys to my buddies at work, who completely flipped. That little bit of confidence got me started sharing via social media like Instagram, which has been a tremendous way to get my work seen internationally.
That growing fanbase has really pushed me to improve my photography, as well as my creativity with shooting my work, but I still create what I want to create. I'm very fortunate to have dedicated fans that are always receptive to new (and different) work.
What are your hobbies outside of joe customizing?
Photographing my pieces has become an entirely separate hobby, but it can be just as time-consuming and require just as much planning. I started very simply, with plain white backgrounds, then progressed to store-bought dioramas, then custom dioramas. Now I do a lot of shooting outside because of the light, but also find myself improvising backgrounds from almost anything these days when I have to shoot indoors. Many of the photos are art pieces unto themselves, and I do consider that work different from my custom pieces.
I also create abstract art using the accidental photos I take when my finger hits the shutter early, or it goes off mid-setup. I take the images and run them through various apps and filters until they're completely unrecognizable. I recently showed the pieces at the Coral Gables Museum last month, and, I have to admit, it's a scene I'm still adjusting to and it's absolutely surreal at times.
What figure/vehicle/project are you most proud of? If they all had to go, which would be the one that you wouldn't part with?
Gah! It's hard to pick a favorite, especially from the customs I've created based on my original concepts! I could part with a number of my 4" Batman/Gotham's Most Wanted figures, and the 4" comic-based stuff.
It would be hard to let go of Mega Bloks Hellboy and Mega Bloks Hulk. I made a 4" Modern Era style Dark Knight Returns Batman that I've had offers for, but had to politely decline. Mega Bloks Batman. The Kryptonian.
Sheesh, just one?!
Where/what/who do you draw your inspiration or ideas from?
Recently, I've been inspired by 1980s & 1990s toylines as I develop my own, original pieces. Really just using my love of the era to guide me, and a simple question: Would 8 year-old me want this figure?
At this point, I'm almost exclusively customizing toys to accompany my Dianaut/Diaclone collection. Easily my favorite toy of 2016, they've completely changed how I work and even what I do. As a customizer, they're as revolutionary to me as GI Joes and Star Wars figures were earlier.
Can you name something that you did that turned out way better than you expected it to? And something that you finished that you just weren't happy with and why?
In recent memory, my Mega Bloks Groot was a salvaged repaint that was a complete, sticky disaster. It was a total loss anyway, so I figured I might as well bash the pieces onto some Mega Bloks fodder I had. Groot required extensive sculpting, which is a skillset I'm trying to improve, but it didn't look so bad once I hit it with some drybrushing.
Not the biggest Superman fan, but I completely fell in love with my Mega Bloks Kryptonian, which is a Dianaut-scale homage to Microman Cyborg Superman. It's my favorite version of the character, and it fits in seamlessly with my Dianauts collection.
I very rarely (if ever) complete customs I don't like. They either get reworked 'til I'm happy, or they go back into the fodder bin. A few months ago, I attempted to recreate an Acid Rain figure in Mega Bloks scale. I was so dissatisfied when it was assembled that the figure was immediately trashed. 30 seconds after completion. I'm brutal with my work.
I have a MegaBloks Spidey WIP I've been fighting with for months on my workbench. When I see it, I just sigh.
Not a trick, but definitely something I've learned over 28 years of customizing:
Take your time and focus on quality over quantity. To me, a small collection of well-crafted customs is much more impressive than 100+ rush jobs and half-assed attempts.
Also, projects take however long projects take. Forcing the work is never successful. Sometimes you need to step away from a custom for a while. The concepts that you can't abandon, the ones that are crystal clear months or years later, are the ones to keep and develop.
Lastly, when it stops being fun, stop for a second. Work on something completely different, or pause customizing, if you need to. Sometimes you need to recharge. When a project starts to feel like a job, I usually try and work on a 1-2 day distraction, like a super-quick custom, or finishing a WIP that just needs a couple more days to be done. Part of the reason I got into making Mega Bloks customs was because I was able to knock them out between 4" projects so much faster.
What do you find the most enjoyable about customizing? What about the most frustrating?
I love the customs that just come together. Some of my favorite pieces start as free building; just mixing and matching parts that catch my eye, then hitting them with primer. I used to plan a lot of my customs out, but then I started getting stressed and overwhelmed.
I had gotten away from making toys because I wanted to and more because I had projects too ambitious in mind, or one custom concept would imply a whole universe of accompanying pieces.
Now, I'm free. I work on whatever I want, whenever I want, and don't worry how it fits with what I'm doing. I focus on having fun and creating toys I would actually buy. It's completely changed my workflow. 2016 was one of my most productive years as a customizer ever, just because I built whatever I wanted in the moment.
I'm currently building my first playset and having a blast free-building; going through the fodder boxes for just the right parts. It was overwhelming at first, but then I stopped over-thinking it and started fodder-diving.
You got time, and you got money, and you have the space. What do you build? And why?
My focus would immediately shift to small-scale production of limited runs of original toys & packaging, specializing in minifigures and microfigures. I'd love to eventually produce something akin to Palooka as a gashapon-style capsule toy or vending machine toy... so many of my first treasured toys as a kid were from quarter machines. It would only be right to pay it forward.
We've seen quality high-end collectibles that go for hundreds or thousands... I'd like to bring that quality and purity of concept back to inexpensive toys. It's a lost art.