Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bucky











Bucky, the orphaned sidekick of Captain America, isn't really a personal favorite character of mine, but I wanted to give him a shot. Keeping with the style of my Cap, I envisioned Bucky as a young GI who dons an ill-fitting jacket similar to his hero's, fighting alongside him against the Nazis and watching his back at every turn. I tossed the red pants and pirate boots in favor of a more realistic costume, with the jacket being made to look too big for the young and smaller-framed Bucky...he idolizes Cap, and wants to be like him despite his diminunitive appearance. One of the funnest parts of this custom was the scratch-built Tommy gun...made from styrene, this mini-project was quite satisfying.




Monday, December 29, 2008

Pulp in your Serial?







Pulp and serial characters are fascinating...both influential and contemporary to comic book characters, many of the elements of these heroes of a bygone era have been incorportated into popular culture in a deep-seeded way. Their stories are simplistic, violent, sexist, and racist by today's standards, but there is an element of adventure and wonder that transcends many of the unfortunate and dated elements. There's a reason why names such as Doc Savage and The Shadow are still known to so many today...these characters still have an appeal, and the now historical nature they hold and the context of their time make them fascinating. I myself just enjoy learning about these characters, and reading their often poorly written but always entertaining exploits. The figures above were all commissioned pieces, but the reason why I chose to do the commissions was because I wanted to make the figures. The first is Commando Cody, or King of the Rocketmen, who was a character featured in a a few serials from the forties and fifties. He was the primary inspiration for Dave Stevens when he developed The Rocketeer (which happens to be among my favorite comic books), thougn Stevens removed most of the Sci-Fi elements from his interpretation of a rocket-clad hero. The second image is that of Doc Savage, a brilliant and grim defender of justice who uses his tremendous intellect and inherited fortune to stop fiendish villains from achieving world domination. My figure is very much based on James Bama's interpretation of the character...Bama painted a series of covers for reprints of Savage's adventures in the sixties, and defined the look of the character ever since. The last image is my custom of The Shadow. The Shadow is well-known in numerous media, but started out as a pulp magazine favorite. My take on the character is heavily influenced my Michael WM Kaluta's depiction of the character in the comics he illustrated first for DC in the seventies, then later with Marvel in the story Hitler's Astrologer.



General Grievous












Say what you will about the Star Wars Prequels (lord knows I have), but one aspect that has never been lacking in quality is the Lucasfilm Art Department. Some of the designs generated for the three films are simply fantastic, and my personal favorite is that of General Grievous. Warren Fu's design is elegant, frightening, and downright cool. In many respects, I think Fu's work on Grievous is equal to that of Darth Vader and Boba Fett in terms of capturing an original and yet instantly iconic character. This custom is going on three years old, but I consider it to be my best action figure custom to date. It's imperfect and lumpy in parts, but it's also far more ambitious than anything I've attempted in a while (in terms of action figures anyway), and the end result came out far better than I imagined. The last image posted above is the basic structure I used...basically, there are parts from a Spiderman figure, as well as Marvel Legends Elektra legs for the four arms. The torso is from a Daredevil figure, and the head sculpt was grafted onto a Scorpion head. The sculpting compound was epoxy putty...a quick curing and tricky substance that has many drawbacks but sets very quickly and sands to a lovely finish. The exterior plating is very thin styrene sheet, and the light-sabers are acrylic rod with metal tubing hilts. He stands about 9" tall when at full height.



Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Captain America!!












My word! Who is this patriotic fellow, leading the charge against the Axis forces? Why it's none other than the intrepid Captain America! Young Steve Rogers volunteers himself to be injected with an experimental 'super serum' that enhances his physique, speed, and mental capacity to battle Hitler and his unstoppable blitkrieg...and a whole host of masked supermen and wierd mutants, apparently.
Anyway, this fellow was made with a crappy Wolverine figure from a few years back, and a Lord of the Rings figure's head (a ceremonial guard, I believe). The outfit was crafted from fabric and leather, the mask was sculpted from Apoxie Sculpt, and the shield was made from styrene. An interesting note: Captain America, the invention of Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, was fighting the Nazis before the US even entered the war...Kirby's cover of Cap punching Hitler in the face caused quite a stir when it first appeared.



Saturday, December 20, 2008

Red Skull







A Nazi with a skull for a face...what's not to love! This dastardly jerk is one of Jack Kirby's most iconic creations...the Red Skull was and always will be Captain America's most notorious foe. There wasn't much to this custom, really...the only major element that I constructed here was the uniform and trenchcoat...the rest is a Marvel Legends Bullseye body, a really icky Spawn figure head, and some miscellaneous hands from the fodder bucket. Though I must say that I'm pretty happy with the paint job on the head...it's the perfect balance of malicious evil (as if there was any other sort!), disgustingness (which is definitely a word), and glossy shine. Now I just have to make a new custom of the Star-Spangled Patriot to knock ol' Skully here in the jaw.



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More Star Wars!




Artoo and Threepio are the most brilliant aspect of the original Star Wars. Think about how unusual these two characters would have seemed in 1977...they're the ones who take the audience into the action, and they're not even human! In many respects, the droids are the lowest order of sentient life in the Star Wars universe, treated as servants and slaves, yet when left to their own devices begin to develop intelligence and personalities that are the equal of their masters. Artoo in particular stands as one of the best characters of Lucas's creation...he's likable and endearing, and considered cute without being irritating. Anway, these figures are in 1/12 scale (Threepio is 6" tall). Artoo is made from a krazy glue bottle, a vending machine dome, styrene, and vinyl. Threepio is made from a heavily modified Marvel Legends Gambit figure...the body was stripped down witha dremel, than completely resculpted. These two are among my favorites.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

A new head for Tars Tarkas












My Tars Tarkas version 2 felt a little...lacking. I think what was bothering me was that the head sculpt I did was very relaxed and undynamic...I wanted to push it further, perhaps making the head seem more 'alien' rather than conforming to the basic shape of a human head. The configuration of the tusks was borrowed from Kevin O'Neill's design from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen...the rest was an amalgam of dozens of familiar sculptures and illustrations of the massive Thark's mug. I wanted him to be fearsome, yelling a battle cry or perhaps laughing without mirth at the pain and misfortune of others (as is customary among green martians). The sculpt was rendered in Super Sculpey and planted on the neck post (I kept the first headsculpt just in case I wasn't happy with how this one turned out). This worked out okay...I think I managed to make him look angry and ready to kill as opposed to constipated or yawning (which is always a danger when bared fangs and open mouths are featured in a head sculpt).



Monday, December 8, 2008

Go Joe!







"Eh wot!? Another GI Joe custom? My goodness...he's gone made with childhood nostalgia!" Yep, another Joe...but this time, it's one of the good guys...the ultra cool Snake Eyes! Using ML parts, cloth, epoxy putty, and some leather, I whipped up this guy relatively quickly. I doubt this Joe kick will last too long, but it's pretty fun!



Saturday, December 6, 2008

So, where have I been?

There is a sizable gap in posts on this blog. I was living in Victoria, but my wife and I decided it was time to come home. I wasn't finding any library work, and she was unsatisfied with her job...she managed to find another one in her field back in ol' Nova Scotia...so we packed up our belongings, our two cats, and took a ten day trek across this massive country of ours (literally from coast to coast...look it up on a map of Canada...from Victoria BC to Halifax NS). It was an amazing experience, really. The highlights were Banff Alberta, Swift Current Saskatchewan (where life makes sense), and Ottawa. We squeezed in a very compressed trek around our nation's capital, saw the Parliament buildings (with a tour from Raphael...thanks Raphael!) and the breathtaking Rideau Canal. But nothing...nothing was as amazing as when we crossed the border from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia...it was such a wonderful feeling to know that we weren't just visiting...we were coming home for good. After that, we finished off the details of our wedding and got married, moved from Halifax to Yarmouth (on the south west tip of the province), and settled into our new life. The best part is that I've actually found library work here...not out west, and not in the provincial capital, but in Yarmouth...a town known for its quiet life and lively lobster fishery. It's not a bad little town, really...though we do miss having family and friends close by. But everything is relative...they're only a 3 1/2 hour drive instead of a 6000 mile journey.

A trip to Barsoom











There are few things more absurd than the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Low-brow pulp at its finest, really...but he was extremely inventive, and his Martian tales, following the exploits of John Carter and his kin on the strange and dying planet of Barsoom have captured the imaginations of generations of sci-fi writers. And I hear that Pixar has actually taken on the challenge of adapting these wacky and influential tales to the big screen. If Pixar's reputation for quality holds, I consider myself extremely excited at the prospect. Anyway, the rich visuals of Burroughs' universe have inspired many artists, and have certainly inspired me. I made earlier versions of the main characters a while back, but have since parted with them...and thus, to fill the gap in my collection, I decided to make them again. Tars Tarkas, the massive green Martian of the Thark tribe, is made from wrestling figures and Marvel Legends parts. The head is an original sculpt, and the armament and harness are fodder parts and leather. John Carter himself (seen in the first picture) is pretty weak, in my opinion...I may have to fiddle around with him in the future to make him more to my liking.




Indiana Jones vs. a Flying Wing!












Raiders of the Lost Ark kicks ass. Out of all the respected, cerebral, provocative, and intelligent films that I've seen and loved, I'm afraid none of them satisfy my tastes in the same way that Raiders does...it's just pure pulp, a stripped down action-adventure that stands as one of the most flawless blockbusters in cinema history. It still stands as my favorite film, because (unlike its sequels) it has an honest heart and an unbridled enthusiasm for its subject matter. It was just before Lucas and Spielberg became cynical and consumed by the profits of their creations as opposed to the sheer thrill of what they were creating, and it shows in the final product. Naturally, since what I do is make models and toys, I felt compelled to create my own incarnation of the Flying Wing to go with the action figures I've been accumulating over 2008. This monstrosity was completed in the summer, from a styrene structure that was extremely complex and time-consuming to create. I'd say that the whole project took about three weeks in total, and taxed all of my skills at one time or another. I've had to part with it recently because of an unanticipated financial requirement...and I have to say I'm pretty sad to see it go. I consider it my best work to date in terms of personal satisfaction...I really had no idea how I was going to pull it off when I started, and it came out better and far more sturdy than I originally expected. Oh well...selling it off means that I get to make it again.



Indiana Jones vs. a Tank












The Last Crusade is a silly, silly movie. But I love it anyway...and one of the reasons why I love it is the massive World War I tank that functions as a major action set piece in the film. Since Hasbro was kind enough to create a great series of action figures from my favorite film series, I knew that I wanted to make to vehicles to accompany them...the Flying Wing from Raiders and the Tank from Last Crusade. This here is my second take on the tank...I made an earlier version that was larger and clunkier, and I wanted to apply the lessons I learned from making that one to a newer and improved version. Styrene sheet, rod, and tonnes of found pieces and miscellaneous fodder went into ths construction of this 'steel beast', and I paid especially close attention to the interior (the first version was much less detailed). The paint job was a lot of fun...as was adding the hundreds and hundreds of rivets. I think the best aspect of an involved project like this is learning to slow down and really pay attention to the details...I find I'm very impatient, but detailing requires discipline, and the results tend to be far more satisfactory.