Monday, April 14, 2014

Cardboard Chicken Walker for 6" Black Series Figures

My latest project. It's a great big AT-ST fro Return of the Jedi.  The trooper there is 6 inches tall.  You get the idea.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Yoda (this time really small)

I’m sure Yoda will be in the 6" Black Series line at some point if it survives, but I kind of assume we’ll be getting a prequel  version instead of an ESB version, so I thought that making one based on the look of the puppet would be my best bet.

This is 100% scratch made.  I used some metal wire for the armature, sculpted the head with Aves, and made his hands and feet with plumbers epoxy.  I bulked out the body with aluminum foil and wrapped it in duct tape, and dressed him in the same fabrics I used for my live sized Yoda, then coated them in glue. The wire body means that he can be posed in a few limited ways.

Now all I have to do is make his hut!

Friday, February 28, 2014

And Ode to IDW's Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye

How could a Transformers comic book be so good?

When it comes to comic readership, I’m a bit of a lightweight.  I dabble and dip into the occasional series, and do follow a couple of monthly titles.  For the most part though, I will happily wait to hear about a good thing and then check it out than be on the vanguard, picking through the trash to find the treasure before anyone else.

Which is how I came to hear good things about IDW’s Transformers titles.

Before I get into that, I’m going to back up a bit. Last year, in a bid to find something new to watch on Netflix with my son, we tried Transformers Rescue Bots.  He sort of thought it was okay but not great, so I switched gears and we checked out the old Transformers show from 1984.  I never had cable when I was a kid, so my main exposure to the Transformers was repeated viewings of the 1986 movie on VHS, and my childhood chum Adam’s extensive (and I mean extensive!) Transformers toy collection.  I figured it was high time I gave the show a fair shake, since it was such an iconic thing from my childhood that I missed out on. 
Well, any of you who are familiar with the show are well aware that it’s a pretty clunky piece of work, essentially churned out to sell the Hasbro toys.  But my son caught onto the groove pretty fast, and we blew through the first two seasons (a whopping 65 episodes) over the next couple of months.  What the show, perhaps in spite of itself, managed to do pretty well was make characters out of these weird toys. They weren’t necessarily good characters, but there was actually a certain amount of personality that came through, and I could begin to understand how certain favorites would start to develop for kids (as a grown man watching the show, I got a big kick out of Wheeljack).  The other neat thing was that there were a handful of strange relationships…namely, Starscream and his adversarial relationship with Megatron, and the weird, barely tolerant alliance between the Dinobots and the rest of the Autobots.  And the cool thing?  My son’s favorite characters are Starscream and Grimlock, with Optimus Prime topping them off.  There’s an unhinged, probably unintentional charm to the show that may very well be why it has endeared itself to so many people.

Ultimately, this is kind of a long form way to say that James Roberts’ writing on the Transformers comic More Than Meets The Eye seems to have captured that weird, unhinged series of relationships quite well.  Reading Roberts is kind of like watching the old cartoon, but with a great deal more skill and craft involved to create a clever narrative that is populated by some of the most complex, “human” characters I’ve ever encountered in a mainstream comic.  If that old cartoon was created today with an eye for continuity and quality control, it may look something like More Than Meets The Eye is what I’m  trying to say.
I won’t get into the plot too much, but the setting is a ship that is traveling through the galaxy on a quest, which is merely an excuse to set these “people” loose and develop alliances, friendships, and make discoveries along the way…in essence, what Roberts has done is create a brilliant ensemble piece of characters that come to life and behave in complex and realistic ways, albeit in outlandish adventures that involve giant transforming robots.  It is so chock full of amazing characterizations that it is hard to pinpoint favorites…but a list of favorite characters is possible.  Ultra Magnus, Tailgate, Chromedome, Cyclonus, and Whirl all raise to the top because they have such fierce characters that aren’t so much put through arcs as they are shown to have an ebb and flow very much akin to emotional, living people.  Sometimes they learn, and sometimes they don’t, but they all have realistic or understandable reasons for their behavior (well, maybe not Whirl), and when bad things happen to them, you feel sympathy…and you just as frequently laugh because you’ve gotten to know them. 

Keep in mind that I’m talking about a Transformers comic.

I think the keenest demonstration of this was the loss of one of the characters during a particularly shocking development in the series.  I won’t get into specifics, but one of the Transformers fails to get  reconciliation with a friend after a major crisis on board the ship occurs, and that friend dies.  You feel it…and you miss the character for the rest of the series.  Another example is the unexpected and slow-simmering friendship between two characters that doles out moments of tenderness with the slightest gesture, and then topped off by a very big gesture that saves a life.  The moments are at times melodramatic, but they work so well within the story because there have been little moments and small progressions to earn the big ones.  Seriously…Roberts has worked some magic voodoo, or just knows what he’s doing when it comes to crafting character-driven stories.

James Barber’s companion series Robots In Disguise is much more concerned with plot machinations than characters, and so on the whole I think it is a little less resonant for me.  That isn’t to say his stories are poor…they’re fascinating in their own right, and he does manage some good moments here and there, but his writing is more about the story moving forward than about getting to know and love his characters. 

So, what am I saying here?  IDW is allowing its creative teams to make some great stories and characters, and I think that it is paying off tremendously.  A licensed comic book title like Transformers shouldn’t be one of the most emotional and well written comics on the stands, but I challenge anyone to show me a comic that has more heart and skill than More Than Meets the Eye.  It would be a tall order. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cardboard City

 These modular city streets are made of scrap cardboard and glue with some masking tape.  The idea is that they can be reconfigured in a million different ways to create different backgrounds and environments.  They are great for play (my oldest has been playing with them non-stop for the past week and a half), and they are insanely fast and easy builds (it takes about an hour or two for each section, since all I’m doing is sawing cardboard with a steak knife and gluing it all together with carpenter glue). 

I tried to make the design work with both 4” and 6” figures to give the play and diorama photo options more flexibility.  I wanted to create something that could work for multiple toy lines (like Empire’s amazing Rot Gut Station)…it could be Cyberton, a spaceport city from Star Wars, or it could also work with various toy cars.  I chose to spray it with a mixture of darker colors and silver overspray, though there is one building that has a blue side and a pink side to add variety to the background for photos.  

It’s quick, cheap, and dirty, but man is it a hit in the playroom.  The neat thing is that, by doing this, I can see how this type of thing can be improved or adapted, I could create some accessories to liven up the scenes, or I could knock out a few more buildings from cardboard because of how quick and easy they are to make.  Lots of fun

Monday, December 9, 2013

Tatooine Skiff - Homemade Exclusive

The Tatooine Skiff is a simple Star Wars toy that seems to become rare no matter when it has been released or re-released.  I've been eyeballing them on eBay for years, waiting for an auction that seems to have a sane price...but to no avail.  So, after building the Sail Barge, and feeling that something was...missing...from the epic battles, I figured it would make for a quick styrene build.

030 and 060 thickness styrene sheet, along with some styrene rod, make up this little build, and it was nice to work at getting a smooth, clean finish after all those cardboard builds.  I made a retracting 'plank' as a small play feature, sprayed the whole thing olive green, and dirtied and dry-brushed the finished piece.  It was small enough to be quick, but had some tricky bits that needed some figuring...a fun, medium-scale project that I think will be greatly appreciated around the house :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013


This Yoda has been in progress for about a year.  He's made from cardboard tubes, papier mache, masking tape, old fabric, leather, and Aves Apoxie Sculpt for the head sculpt (over a papier mache base).  My son helped with the papier mache, and was the initiator of the project in the first place.  He stands around 20" tall, which is a tad smaller than life size (Yoda's 2 feet tall), but he's big enough for me.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

C-3P0 (See Threepio) "Black Series" custom


As a Star Wars collector and fan, the 1/12th scale Black Series of action figures from Hasbro is extremely exciting.  I have collected the smaller 1/18th scale figures since, well, forever...but these larger figures have some of the finest sculpting, design, and articulation I have ever seen.  I can't afford the Sideshow or Hot Toys figures, and the huge catalogue of smaller figures I have are now serving their intended toys to be played with by my kids.  Which reserves the Black Series as a great middle ground...and another avenue for customizing.
I'm sure Threepio will be in an assortment soon enough, but I had made much of the basis of this figure a couple of years back, and I figured with so much of the work done, why not finish him up and give the official Artoo some company on the shelf?  I had acquired some parts from the EPIC FORCE Threepio statue through a trade, and grafted the head, torso, and pelvis onto the legs and arms I had sculpted for my previous Threepio custom.  Some sanding, cleaning up, and painting (basecoat of silver, topcoat of Tamiya Clear Gloss Yellow) and voila! 6" Threepio.
Any other additions I create will be more obscure characters, since I'm thinking the major characters will be covered soon enough.