Featured Customizer for September 2009 There are customizers we admire because they do such outstanding work and then there are customizers we admire because of what they bring to the community that goes beyond their craftsmanship. Raptor is admired for both. He's one of a few customizers who has cranked out an army of customs and then write a tutorial on how he did it. He soaks up everything the community introduces to him and then pays it forward ten fold by trying to show it to others. Be sure to check out his customs in the Gallery and his monthly customizing article and Evil Empire dio-comic in the JoeCanuck Newsletter.
Which style of figures do you enjoy customizing the most?
I am all over the place! I love the clear delineation of the parts and the hard durable plastic of ARAH, I love the carvable soft plastic and cheap availability of new sculpt figures, and am drawn to the complexity and coolness of 25th and Movie figures. I have at least a dozen or so of each of them on the go...
What brand of paint do you prefer?
I prefer to dye over paint any day because it almost always leaves a production finish. However, there is something very relaxing about sitting down with a paint brush and painting. As with the figure type, I am all over the place on my paints. I love Badger model paint films for clean thin coats, but it doesn't really stand up to handling well. You can't beat the Citadel paints for range of color and ease of use and clean up but they tend to dry a little thicker. Modelmaster paints tend to go on very smooth and stay thin, but don't have as much of a range of color. For sprays, the Krylon Camo line is amazing. I prefer acrylic over enamel, but as for brand, there are different strengths and weaknesses to all the paints.
Where do you find inspiration for your customs?
There is "top down" inspiration where I see something in a movie or read about it in a book, and have to have one of those. I am often inspired by other toylines, or unproduced and foreign figures that I would like to own. Sometimes I see a character that I would just like to have an action figure of.
More often though, I will be inspired from the "bottom up" where I will have a bunch of available parts and piece something together that I think looks cool, and figure it out later.
When designing the the Canadian 2009 Convention set with Ed "Stealth Viper" Dam, Mike "The Mike" Heddle and the rest of the convention planning crew, I took the Armadillo/Air Chariot 2 pack and had to come up with something cool using only what was in the box, or could be obtained in quantities of 100. It was like that scene in Apollo 13 where they dump the pile of stuff in the middle of the table and say "you have this stuff to make it work". It was likely one of the best times I've ever had customizing because the stuff that we had to work with was absolute shelf warming crap, and we made it into something really cool. That's the best form of customizing to me, turning something awful into something desirable.
What do you consider to be your best tools of the trade?
I am a tool and tech junkie, and every time I hear of a new tech on the board, I am itching for an excuse to try it out. I've recently tried Darko's method of using hot glue and clear paint to create flames, and loved the results.
There are a few tools that I can't live without. The $12, magnetic, powder coated screwdriver that I use for back screws is one - and the best advice that I can ever give you about the hobby is not to skimp on the screw driver. I also love to carve plastic, so I get decent X-acto knives that hold the blade tight and change the blades often to make sure that they are sharp. I also love shader brushes (the flat kind) for detail painting. - but my desk is covered in a whole range of tools - from a clothes pin to a Dremmel - because half the fun of this hobby is trying new things.
What is your strongest area when it comes to customizing?
Well, there are people who are better than I am at pretty much everything, but I do have 2 strengths that are pretty unique.
I do a lot of large volume customizing.I generally don't do much in the way of single figures anymore, I tend to work in groups of 3, 9 or 50 depending on the project. Doing 100 Chacal Noir's was a lot of work, and got to be more of an assembly line kind of job than the artwork that you'd usually associate with customizing. It's a different kind of project to do a lot of the same custom or build cohesive groups, and often most of the work is getting the materials in place to work in quantity.
The other thing that I am known for is my work on write ups ind bios. I think the greatest and most sincere flattery that I have received (and on more than one occasion) is when people say, "Let's get Larry Hama to do it, but if he doesn't want to do it, we'll just get Raptor to do it." being a second stringer for Larry is pretty flattering.
I once heard Larry say that a file card has to have "a certain flow" to it, and I get that. A file card has to establish everything that anyone knows about a character in a few lines and do so believably, and in a way that doesn't bore the heck out of you. Simple concise writing that reaches the reader does as much to define a character as his clothing or equipment. I like being able to do it, and do it as often as I can.