Iron Will Interview
When did you first realize you were a customizer?
I apologize in advance as this will be my longest answer. In April of 2004, I started playing a game called City of Heroes. This game ended up consuming 3 years of my life. I made over a hundred characters. At about the same time Marvel Legends by Toy Biz were really raising the action figure bar. I decided I wanted to make some of my characters in figure format. I made about 10 or so with part swaps and repaints in late 2004. I did not pursue it beyond that. In 2007 my wife and I decided we wanted to build a house, I made sure I had a large basement for my future man cave,1600 square feet to be exact. I spent the next year working on my basement. I painted, furnished and even came up with a new ceiling tile format that I tried to market with no success. Bear with me almost there. I covered the entire floor with rubber gym floor tiles and half the basement was a full gym. The other half contained a pool table, air hockey table, coin op dart board, flat screen and the center piece: a mint USS Flagg that I converted into a dio coffee table. One week after I finished Milwaukee was hit by a massive rainstorm that caused flooding through out my area. I came home from work to find that my sewer had backed up and flooded my basement. I was devastated. The good news was only my house and one other were running on that line so it was more water than sewage. I stripped out and cleaned the basement, leaving only one thing sitting in the middle of it, the undamaged Flagg. I swore I would leave the basement like that not wanting to go through that experience again. At the same time the GI Joe 25th line was out and I slowly started to populate my Flagg. Over the next year the single ship grew into a 17 table (each 5 feet) dio with past and present Joe toys. Robulus got a chance to see it in person in all its glory. The only problem was that the figures I wanted for the dios were not coming out fast enough or not at all, so I started making them myself and have not stopped since. The long and short of it was that customs pulled me out of my little disaster.
You're one of a very few who has professed a customizing end point goal, what is that goal and how close are you to reaching it?
Very close. When I started branching out beyond Joes I had a wish list in mind, which I added to as I went along. I finally have every figure that I wanted to have in my collection. Swamp Thing is the only one I am not yet satisfied with, I have one on the table now and another format already in mind after that, but once he is finished I will be satisfied with the collection I have.
Will you be going into customizing retirement once you reach that goal?
Not retirement. I like the hobby too much. At my peak and when the list was massive I was making 3 to 4 a day, 7 days a week. Now I am down to 1 or 2 a week. I am sure new characters will come out or new parts that I will want to upgrade old customs with, but I don’t think I will ever see the frenzy that was my peak again.
How did the Mascot Madness custom challenge get started?
I started it on another board after I saw a few contests that I felt were skewed (not casting stones, just my opinion). I wasn’t in them but I just watched the voting and the posts and it seemed like there was a lot of conflict in my opinion. I didn’t want to stir the pot, but I did want to try something different and fun. Robulus can back this up, when I start a hobby I go overboard and when I stop, I get rid of it all. At one point I had 12,000 comic books and about 250 statues and busts which I unloaded all at once. Now I had a basement full of Joe stuff which had run its' course. So I ran the first Mascot Madness with prizes and an idea that I had not seen before and was a little outside the norm, a little more fun and lighthearted. Again this was not done with any intent other than to hold a fun contest and give back a little to those that entered. It was a success. I revived it here, because I wanted to give something back to the board I have considered home for a long time. On that note, please be sure you guys enter MASCOT MADNESS: CASTING CALL – March 1st Deadline!!!
You've used several different body types for characters and have redone several of those characters. What do you think makes for the best action figure design?
I don’t think there is a best body type, as much as there are the best parts for the vision of a custom that you have in your head. I used the BnB upper and Joe lower for sooo long because to me those were the best hero style parts I could find at the time and some of mine still have those parts because I think they still work. I have never done an o-ring custom, but have seen some incredible customs in that style. That being said Marvel Universe is my preferred base.
What is the trick to getting as much precision into your customs as quickly as you do?
I believe I have a little OCD which I tend to direct into my hobbies and pass times which can be a plus and a minus. On the plus side, once I start I custom I tend to work straight through until it is done and as perfect as I can get it. On the minus I have a room filled with over 400 customs.
The other half of that answer is I am lucky enough to be able to paint straight lines very quickly and I think a lot of customs, particularly comic style are composed mostly of lines whether it be color separation or symbols.
Also it's a lot easier to paint a mask versus a face as most of my customs are comic based.
Have you ever had a time while customizing where something just wasn't working? How did you overcome it?
For the volume I have done, I consider myself pretty lucky with getting the outcome I wanted on the first run. When I do have one that fails, I will typically toss that custom move on and do several others and then come back to that one and start from scratch.
Which custom(s) are you the most proud of and why?
Superman. This is a weird pick for me as I am not a fan of the character (although I am excited for the new movie.) With how DC centered my collection is I had to have Superman. I have made four or five Superman customs, but I have also made four or five Batman customs. The Batman customs all had something I liked about them and I kept them all. Superman I hated each one I made and tossed out the previous as soon as I made the next. He is a hard character to get down with both a fairly complex symbol (colors and shape) and an iconic face. With this last Superman custom the ‘S’ symbol really broke a barrier for me and then the head and hair also happened to come together on the same custom.
Judge Dredd and G-Force because when I started they were on my list and I never thought I would be able to make versions that I would be happy with.
Triple T Tank. This is my most requested and copied recipe. I was very happy that I turned an existing cool vehicle into an updated modern version of the original while keeping the same general design.
What customizing tip, trick, or technique have you picked up since you started that has helped you the most?
Krylon Flat White Spray. I use this on all my customs to some degree. When I have yellows, reds, oranges, etc . . . this allows me to get a solid cover in one to two coats.
Grow lines. This is hard for me to explain, but it is the breakthrough I had with the Superman ‘S’ symbol. I had always tried to block out the symbol and then fill it in like a coloring book. Instead I found that if I just drew the outer diamond and then the ‘S’ with a single line each and then expanded the thickness and shape by pushing the paint out a little farther in different areas as I went I achieved the design much more quickly and neatly and have been able to apply that to my painting as a whole. I hope that makes sense.
When you are in the toy aisle, don’t look at the toy look at the parts. This is usually how I get the ideas for what I want to work on.
The Smithsonian calls and wants to borrow one figure and one vehicle for a display in the museum, which ones from your collection do you choose?
Judge Dredd – Figure
Phoenix – Vehicle
Thanks a ton for the honor of the interview and thanks to all the board members for a great 4 years and more to come!