Spin Doctor Interview
What got you interested in customizing?
As a kid, I thought the original Joes were a little too similar looking. So I used whatever I could get my hands on -- Sharpies, fingernail polish, even Krazy Glue and random accessories from Star Wars or Fisher Price figures -- to make them look more individualistic. Mostly I just made messes of the figures and my room. But once I learned I could use my dad's eyeglasses screwdriver to open the figures up, I felt like I had the keys to Hasbro's factory.
Do you have a favorite custom?
My all-time fave was a simple head swap I did as a kid. A paint-worn Breaker head on a Firefly body. I pretended he was the original G.I. Joe, back from retirement, and I code-named him Greywolf. I was still playing with him long after the thumbs and crotch broke away. I've put a lot more time and care into many customs that I'm artistically more proud of since then, but none has come close to getting that much of my love.
You weren't the first to include custom figures in your dio-stories, but you were the first to have an entire cast using customs. Which came first, the story or the customs?
The story. Definitely. I was playing out very basic versions of the same storylines with my original Joe figures as a kid. I drove my mom nuts with all the long, dramatic dialogue. The customs are what got me back into Joe about 20 years later (after seeing some of the truly inspired work by the tremendously talented folks here), and I started using the newer and easier to manipulate materials of the GvC era to make versions of the characters I loved that were closer to the way I'd always pictured them in my mind. Before long, I was reliving those long hours of story play in my head. Then I saw General Hawk's, Tim Elf's, and Camper's dio stories and suddenly I realized I could bring my own stories to life. The fact that other people enjoyed reading them, well, that was just about the coolest side effect I've experienced since I first spray painted indoors.
When will we see a new dio-story form you?
Soon, hopefully. I've re-shot Swamp Rats twice now (once when I made the decision to switch to 25th-style figures in my dios and once after a catastrophic computer failure -- rest in pieces, HAL 9000). I just need to find the time to edit and post it somewhere between work and time with the family. Sometimes I wish I could hire someone to shoot and edit the stories for me, but so much of the characterization happens during that process that it just wouldn't be the same, I think.
If you only had time on this earth for one last custom project, what would it be?
It would be the characters for my Endgame story arc. I'm not quite finished writing it (and there's a lot more story to come before it), but it basically depicts the core characters (for me, mainly those from '82-'87) a fair distance into the future. So we'd see a retired Hawk, a fifty-something Duke, the child of Scarlett and Snake Eyes, and so on. Part of the joy of rebooting my Joeverse was the chance to recapture the youth and inexperience of the characters to help show how they eventually become who we know them as. But that's only half the vision. I'd like to see how they all turn out in the end, as well.
What is something that most people don't know about you?
Deep down, I'm a very lazy and unmotivated person trapped in the body of an insomniac with OCD. And my wife is a saint.
What would you say is your weakest area for customizing and how have you tried to overcome it?
Painting, without a doubt, was the hardest thing to teach myself. I just never had the patience to do it right (i.e. multiple coats with long dry times between) until after I had kids. Unless you're wired weird, kids teach you all about patience. Something about dealing with my children every day made the mistakes I'd make while painting seem less disastrous and made me feel a lot less frustrated about having to clean up and start over, which I still do from time to time. Apparently I'm also a lot easier to work with in the office, now.
Can you offer any advice to the kids getting started in customizing?
The thing above about patience is pretty key. It's easy to get carried away in the moment and feel like you need to rush something to its conclusion -- especially if you're like me and can visualize the end product so clearly. But the results you get when you take your time to do something right are almost always more satisfying.
Can you sum up your body of work?
Tweaks and modifications, mainly, with scattered bits of inspiration and a whole lot of finding the easiest possible way to do a thing.
Nanomites have started destroying your collection, what items do you try to save?
Harsh. I'd want my original 13 customs (25th style) definitely, and the Cobra hierarchy (CC, Baroness, Bludd, Destro, Stormy, Scraps and Firefly). Maybe a couple of Cobra Troopers and an Officer. Basically the figures I had at the beginning. Fortunately I keep just that assortment in a special storage bin, ready to boogie in case of fire or nanomite attack. For me, that would be enough to keep the dream alive and a perfect excuse to start over.