Kwinn Lives Interview

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How did you get started in customizing GIJoe? What led you to the brand, what type of stuff were you doing before?

To be honest, I’m not really sure how I first came across GI Joe customs online. I was a lifelong Joe fan (with the customary gap starting around age 13 when girls suddenly become more interesting than toys), and when I was in university I started combing the internet for information about GI Joe. I think as a part of that I happened across a few sites where people had posted their customs, but I don’t have any specific recollection of which ones. I thought it was kind of cool, but didn’t think too much of it. But it kind of floated around in the back of my head for a number of years.

Later on when I had started working and had the disposable income to build a collection, I got more and more interested in what people were doing with customs. But I was a lurker for a long time, I never really thought I would have the patience or the ability to do customs justice. I finally started dabbling with a few things here and there, and came to realize that I probably could do a good job at it, and jumped in with both feet a few years ago. The Marvel comics were an important part of my childhood, and there were many characters I wanted to be able to recreate from those pages, and that’s been an important part of my custom work since I started.

How did you discover JoeCustoms?

I’m sure it was part of my search for GI Joe info as discussed above. Again I don’t really have any specific memory of when I first came across the site. I know that I lurked at the site for quite a while before even creating an account, and then it was even more time before I started posting anything.

What are your hobbies outside of joe customizing?

I tend to dive into hobbies one at a time. I’ll go months and months doing one hobby, then set it aside for a time in order to work on another. That being said, I’ve been focused on Joe customizing for some time now, and don't see myself letting up any time soon. Other hobbies I've devoted significant time to include historical ice hockey research, statistical analysis in hockey, and role-playing game design, the latter two of which I’ve done on a semi-professional basis.

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?

That’s a tough question, for a bunch of my customs that’s like asking me which of my children is my favourite (for the record, Caleb is my favourite – sorry Abby). If I had to pick one custom I might go with Zanya. She’s one of the special ones; I’m quite proud of the Dreadnok logo I painted on the shirt.


Roughneck is an original character that was very well-received when I posted him, so he’d be on the shortlist as well.


Then again I might go with urban watchdog Stalker because he looks badass and is probably the most comic-accurate custom I’ve done to date. Feet to the fire? I’ll say Stalker.


Where/what/who do you draw your inspiration or ideas from?

I make a wide variety of customs from a wide variety of inspiration. A lot of my customs originate from me just digging through my fodder pile and letting inspiration strike me. But one of the most important direct sources for me has been the Marvel comics, which really inspired me in my youth (and which still do, really, thanks to Larry Hama’s storytelling). I’ve done Mangler, Cool Breeze, a Red Ninja, Deep Six in a deck outfit, and many others inspired by something in the Marvel comics, including some pretty obscure ones like a Cobra officer who appeared in a single panel of issue #1, and my urban watchdog trio of Stalker (link above), Storm Shadow and Wade Collins who appeared for one page in issue #97.

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?

I really like how Jarhead turned out. The parts I selected work really well together, I managed to do a really nice, clean camo pattern and the modding I did on the hair exceeded expectations as well. It’s one of the few customs that when I finished it, I looked at it and thought I had done something pretty special. I think it was the first one that I felt that way about, so it still stands out to me. The urban watchdog version of Stalker that I’ve mentioned twice already would also be in contention here.


For most disappointing, I’d probably go with Mariner. Something about him just doesn’t work as well as I had it in my head. I don’t think the parts match very well, but the character wasn’t important enough to me to invest more effort into making it better, so I just left it as it is.


What tricks and tips have you mastered that you can share with everyone?

I feel like I’m still learning a lot, and don’t know if I’ve really mastered anything in particular. But one of the most important things I’ve figured out is part selection. When I first started customizing Joes, I assumed you could just plan figures based on how various parts looked, so by scanning through you could put customs together, and then go get the parts and voila! With the standard buck being used to design the figures originally, it made sense to me. It’s not true, of course, and I learned that pretty quickly. You really have to find parts that fit together well, or with just a little modification, with the most important fit being where the waist and torso meet. It will save you an awful lot of headaches, even if it does mean you have to have the parts in hand before you can know whether they’re going to work together.

What do you find the most enjoyable about customizing? What about the most frustrating?

For me, Joe customs are primarily a creative outlet. It’s not the having, it’s the making. I like digging through fodder, I like coming up with ideas, but probably like painting the most. Once I have some customs pieced together, I’ll just put some music on and just paint for a couple of hours at a time. I used to paint some when I was younger (landscapes, that sort of thing) so I suppose it makes sense. I also used do some model-building, and lately I’m coming to appreciate customs that need a little work to make them work – my first instinct has become to reach for my craft knife when working on a new custom.

The most frustrating thing to me is the paucity of available parts for female figures. I only work in ARAH format (it’s the only one that appeals to me), and there just isn’t a wide variety of parts available for female customs. It’s a good thing Lady Jaye’s parts are so versatile. There’s probably a joke in there somewhere.

You got time, and you got money, and you have the space. What do you build? And why?

I suppose a great big diorama featuring various playsets, vehicles and figures, covering land and sea and air. I would probably include a WHALE being overrun by Cobra frogmen (you’ll have to imagine Cutter making the obvious joke), and also recreate the cover of issue #47, with Beach Head piloting a Devilfish flanked by Wet-Suit and Hawk v2. That one always stuck with me. When I was young, every year I would anticipate receiving the latest Sears and/or Consumers Distributing catalogues to check out their spreads of new Joes, and I would spend time just studying the layouts in detail. I would want to create something like that, turned up to 11.

Marvel #47

Additional work

You can see more of Kwinn_Lives' custom work in the Gallery archive and in the Critique's section of the forum.

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