REMARKS 01/22/00 - 04/24/00

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04/24/00- Let's see if I can make it through one of this without indulging in a rant...

Check out: this absolutely cool custom of "Ilsa", a German female figure made by a Japanese customizer (website: "Scratch Head Go Go!"). Wow! The head, physique and outfit go together perfectly! (Now I wanna make one.) Apparently, a "Workout Barbie" was used as the base figure, which shows you the potential of that figure. Of course, there's a helluva lotta work between point A and point B. Thanks to TJ for the heads up!

Not GI-Joe, not 1/6th scale, not even articulated-- but check out George Stuart's Historical Figures if you want to see some museum-quality figural work. I'm speechless.

1/16th Scale: Hobby Link Japan is soliciting preorders for Tamiya's upcoming 1/16th scale radio controlled Tiger I tank. At about $1000 each, the sucker's too expensive for them to be able to keep spares in inventory, and for me to order. Okay-- it's not Joe scale. But the list of features is jaw-dropping: Besides the obvious stuff, the turret and gun elevation are radio controlled; when fired, the main gun strobes and recoils-- in fact, the entire model recoils; the thing's got synchronized digitized sounds, including the startup and shutdown sounds. But I repeat, it's not Joe scale...

Besides the unimaginable pricetag, something like this in Joe scale would really stretch at the boundary of what's reasonable. Too damned heavy, biiiiig and noisy (with gas engines) for most people to accommodate in their houses and apartments. R/C tanks (especially the large scale ones) are an esoteric hobby for the type of folks who can afford garden railroads (the kind you can ride on). The type of folks who might design the construction of their house around their hobby.

I want a true scale Joe-sized Tiger tank (evidenced by the fact that I wasted my bucks on Action World Collectible's stealth turret model), and am salivating over 21st Century's Stuart tank, whenever it comes out. Against my better judgment. The weight of a plastic non-R/C version is cool, but where the fark am I going to put the thing? Rationally speaking, Joe is a doll scale-- large enough so you can do interesting things with outfits and accessories. But it's a natural inclination to want to extend this out to furniture... dioramas... vehicles... The reality of physical space demands of this scale affects even the most die-hard sixthscaler when you start talking 1/6th scale B52 bombers.

At the other end of the scale you have 1/35th-- an astonishing variety of stuff, and great for dioramas. But it's static, for frozen display only. You can motorize the vehicles, but there's not a lot of room inside the vehicles for very involved R/C mechanical systems.

1/16th scale military figure customizing is practically nonexistent-- Most of what you see at that scale is superheroes and sci-fi, usually part-swapped stuff modified with Sculpey. The articulation at that scale can be surprisingly good (the 3-3/4" GI-Joe style figures, that is), and manufacturing different body sizes, shapes and heights is not that big a deal at that scale-- plus it's cheap. Dragon has an incredibly detailed WWII German equipment set roughly at that scale, so sharp micro detail is possible (unfortunately, there's not much else available). But heck, why not make fabric uniforms (glued together and non-removeable), designed to look like the real thing to hide articulation seams? You couldn't get the working level of accessory detail like you can with the 1/6th scale stuff, but you could get more figure detail than 1/35, and they'd be posable. The scale is better suited for things like R/C tanks and dioramas than 1/6th.

There are lots of advantages at that intermediate scale, and in a sense it's already established by virtue of the small-format action figures-- but a high quality version would be kewl. If only one of the model manufacturers recognized the potential of the format and committed to it...

Nawwwwww. It's just one more thing to spend money on. But the Tamiya tank sure sounds neat. (That didn't count as a rant, did it?)

JBWID Stuff: I'm not sure if the "Demon Lord" project is finished or not, and that's not a good sign! Yeah, he looks okay and he fits into the Primal World lineup. Sorry to sound down on it, but I guess I'm getting a little tired... and I'm thinking of turning a rugrat Anakin into a dwarf/sprite creature or something like that. It's another case of the world having an opening for the figure, but it's not something that I'm burning to make.


04/11/00- HAH! Since I jammed the project feedback polls at the ends of the recent projects, I suppose I can stop hassling y'all to sign the stewpit guestbook. I appreciate the nice comments, but fishing for compliments is pretty desperate, huh? I guess it's because I wanted to make the site interesting for me to browse. At least the poll thing is less of a hassle to participate in and you can still make project-related comments & suggestions if you're so inclined. I imagine that it will also be somewhat interesting for you to see what other people think -- especially since anonymous polls turn people into tigers! That's okay-- I kin take it...

I've reached that point in the Little Sister/Alor of the Littlecups project where I feel I can coast-- clean & vacuum, tweak things, eat potato chips, work on accessories, stage photos, watch TV, and start thinking about what's next. You can easily spend hours working obsessively on a single small accessory until your neck can't stand it no mo'... but you have to be in the right mood. There are plenty of loose ends in the Primal World projects (as with most of my other projects)-- nobody's got any knives or daggers yet, and some figures still need to be painted.

Since the Darth Vader as Rugrat figure is being clearanced at TRU (and elsewhere), I may try to do something with one of them. It's not a very articulated figure and his head seems bigger than most of my adult figures, but the physique is unique and I like that kind of variety. Maybe I'll slap wings on him and give him a monkey's face? And so what I am I gonna do with the Max Steel figure? Grind all of his muscles off and turn him into a pot-bellied old man? Standing next to the Mall Babe figure, he looks like something out of a Chippendale lineup, but I don't want to go there!

After seeing the neat dolls at Kouki's website, I suddenly made it my mission to acquire some of the Volks figures... Maaaaan, talk about hard to find! My Hobbylink Japan order's on what seems to be permanent backorder, and they're not to be found & ordered elsewhere (even Ebay). Meanwhile, Dragon's "Winona" figure (I thought they were gonna call her Eve?) has been promised for sooooo long... Sheesh, it's like these companies torture us deliberately. I guess that's where customizing comes in... if the companies entice you but won't let you feed that consumerholism then dammit, make your own. Yeah, I can do that, but I'm still burning with curiosity...

Speaking of Hobbylink Japan, I think you may want to check this out if you're into big sci-fi robot suits. It's Machinen Kreiger/Nitto SF3D's 1/6th scale S.A.F.S (Super Armored Fighting Suit). I received an e-mail message from Ken M. a while back which mentioned this. Since it's a vinyl kit, I'm not sure how useful this would be for most Joeheads, since it would probably require a radical conversion. But it looks like a really good shell for a fun, creative project. The SF3D concept is really neat and the models have a distinct and unique look. I'm not all that enthused by the plain design of this one as shown, but I'll bet in person it would be pretty awesome.


03/29/00- Yo! The "Primal World" thing is developing into a full-blown genre here, so I've tucked the projects under the "Medieval" sub-index. Categorizing this stuff is tricky business since it's so arbitrary. Too much junk on one page is overwhelming (like the Joe section). Putting the sub-index navigators across the screen without taking up too much vertical real estate limits how many categories you can have. Personally, I don't think you should have to scroll down to see all the categories, and I absolutely hate to scroll sideways (even though I may inflict that on you sometimes). But I digress...

It's amazing how easy it's been to come up with stuff for Primal World. The character archetypes have been recycled endlessly dating back from the ancient heroic tales of dudes like Beowulf (who slayed the original Grendel). Frank Frazetta provides us with the definitive modern portrayal of those primal heroic tales. It's great stuff, and so many artists have borrowed from and imitated him that I don't feel too bad about translating my version of his vision into this medium. The really cool thing about it is that you can just look at the figures and know the story behind it. Yeah, lotsa hacking, gore, bulging veins... Anyway, more's on the way and the newer pic in the Medieval sub-index should give you a hint.

Dreams of Milkmaidens & Honeys (apologies to Leslie West)... You've probably heard, but the Female Figure Arms Race has heated up with Takara's latest entry-- "Cool Girl". Waow... This looks to me like it may be the best yet-- not having handled any of 'em, but it's just a vibe. At a comic store yesterday, I noticed that there's been a proliferation of boobage in the smaller format figures as well-- you could say that the whole thing has just ballooned within the last year or so, kaff, kaff... I wonder why it's taken so long for the manufacturers to clue to this, when I was hip to the fact years and years and years ago? Maybe it's related to the decay of our culture? Jeez, it's great to be a pioneer in that sort of decadence-- Dad would be sooooo proud.

I'd like to thank those who have signed the Guestbook (especially Adam B. for nailing it, LOL...). It's one of the ego stroking rewards the website provides. When you don't sell stuff, you rely on that sort of thing and "hit" counters for that extra bit of motivation. Otherwise, you might as well be talking to yourself. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Right??? Right??? Helllllloooo???

I've got to end this on a trademarked self-righteous rant since this has been far too cordial (pfffffffttttt!):

A disturbing trend in the world of customizing: Thou shalt not recast and sell other people's stuff! I stumbled across a discussion on the 'Net and noticed how oblivious folks were to the moral issue of recasting. Even to fill a demand, it's still wrong. There's a lot of demand for cheap recast twenty dollar bills too. Duh! Even the "just covering costs" justification falls flat considering the true materials cost of small cast goods (unless you're inept or wasteful, it's pennies for a pistol or pouch): In such cases, charging for your time and labor shows the less than altruistic motivation, especially if you're not willing to take the time to get permission or pay the creator for his time and labor. If you're doing folks a frickin' favor (though still illegal according to copyright laws), you don't charge 'em for your time! The 'Net is contributing to the proliferation of casting skills, but the art of creation is lagging way behind. Why? Because it's much easier to rip than it is to roll. Casting has becomes an end in itself because it can make money and turn those who don't do it into happy little campers. Why bother to learn? We just want stuff. Who cares about the creator, huh? If you recast his stuff, it's just like you made the whole thing yourself. At some level, you've got to at least recognize the parasitic nature of the practice and decide whether you want to feed a tapeworm or become one.

Grrrrrrrr... Must be time to go & torment the cat.


03/11/00- Traumatized by ol' Thunderthighs??? Don't say I didn't warn ya!

There are people who like only WWII stuff, and there are people who like futuristic Sci-Fi and there are those who like slim & trim fashion model babes brandishing big-ass guns... "Demon Monkey Goddess" (boob alert!) doesn't fit any of those categories, so she probably doesn't appeal to very many people at all. (Maybe Frazetta freaks, but they're throwbacks to the seventies...)

I like her. It's another one of my weird fetishes. I think the bald-headed and greasy-complectioned "Borg Queen" (as played by Alice Krige) is pretty sexy....and she doesn't even have big boobs! I don't find the stereotypical vision of female perfection to be very interesting-- the Swedish bikini swim team, while eye-pleasing, look cloneish to me. That's my take on perfection-- it's kinda bland and "Stepford Wife"-ish. But everyone has their own tastes, which is why you see this particular kind of weird stuff here. Anyway, expect the project to drag on, since I'm having fun with her.

Victor M. sent some great links: Kouki has some terrific pages for your perusal. It's all in Japanese, but there are lots of pics of a slew of different figure styles in various stages of dissection, so it's a worthwhile browse despite the language barrier. Although his tastes are very different from my own, I admire the fact that he's a bold customizer who uses his skill to achieve the look he likes.

LD Smith and One and Only are both Barbie/Gene doll sites (which shouldn't bother you if you're here at this doll website :^). I may have mentioned these before, but I'll do it again because they show the artistry and diversity of this hobby. Even if that particular offshoot isn't your bag, you've gotta respect it, and you can learn a lot from it too-- check out the articles at the LD Smith site.

Finally, and related to the last "Remarks" update, here are some pics of the Tom Hanks/SPR headsculpt nabbed from an Ebay auction which expires in a couple days (I nabbed 'em because they will disappear soon). According to Raving Toy Maniac (reported by Angry Bob via the Mighty Dragon Message Board), these and the headsculpt below have started popping up in SE Asia (A website visitor from Bangkok confirms a TH sighting).

I was asked how much these were worth in the US of A, and I had to think... Well, unless you've got a certified original or prototype (which is truly rare, and worth as much as someone is willing to pay), it's really just a chunk of plastic. Right now, it's rare in the USA, so people are probably willing to pay big bucks for it. However, if thousands were produced (which just suddenly surfaced?) and eventually make it over here, the value goes down. If someone has the molds and is currently cranking 'em out, then they're worth the blackmarket price for an unauthorized chunk of plastic. No doubt someone here will recast it in rigid resin and sell 'em for 5 or 10 bucks a pop.

So head on over to Ebay and bid that sucker up so you can be the first on your block to own this rare piece of cinema history! If you don't win the bid, I wouldn't worry too much. There's probably another one waiting in line to be auctioned.


03/04/00- Wow! Guess who? The pics of the headsculpt were sent by Adrian of Malaysia, and are due to be released in Japan very soon (love the "Unauthorized Edition" packaging!). Adrian sez he can get 'em (about $25), so if yer interested... I don't want to condone unauthorized facial hijackings, but I'm sure that any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

As far as I know, selling a facial likeness of popular media characters isn't illegal; you just have to avoid referencing the name of the character or real person and any costuming which clearly identifies them in a distinctive role. Don't quote me on that though, because I'm no lawyer.

I recently saw Village Comics' 9 "Repliheads" (about $45), which vaguely resemble characters in a fairly recent WWII movie produced by the guy who made the "Indiana Jones" movies. Painted as they're shown (they're sold unpainted), they look pretty funky and I had a tough time picking 'em out (wink, wink). Except for really obvious features -- the rest by the process of elimination (Even TH wasn't immediately apparent), which leaves about 3 or 4 who could be anyman. No doubt they look better expertly painted. Someone who bought 'em liked 'em but talked about having to move their ears back... Yikes! That's a ringing endorsement as to the artistry of this professional product! ;^)

Back to the heads pic though... packaging the different versions of the same head is a cool idea, but why not expand the concept? Sell the same head with four different expressions. A lot of people seem to indicate a preference for expressive heads (my guess: dioramas), but in my opinion a neutral expression fits the most posing options (A guy with a teeth-gnashing expression looks pretty silly in a relaxed pose). If you can pop 'em off fairly easily, why not take advantage of it? It's in the spirit of their "doll-ness" along with removable outfits, hands and feet. But first, I suggest the industry think about standardizing connectors. (Dragon should be flayed for introducing a new "standard" with few apparent benefits, other than concealing the neckline.)

Wassup at JBWID, huh? I'm posting a bunch of other folks' kewl stuff, but I'm also working on something new or old, depending on how you want to look at it. "Dirty Dave" naturally inspired me to want to make another femfig (trying to use up my ME Joes). Don't get your hopes up for a "babe" though... I seem to go after the offbeat stuff, so at this point I can say that she probably won't be everyone's cup 'o tea. I say that now, but it's really too early to tell. See? I'm making this up as I go along...


02/18/00- I make all kinds of snide remarks about the Classic Collection-style figures, and I'm pretty certain that it gets under a bunch of people's skin (even though no one's complained to me about it). But I know that it's irritating to see your favorite figure trashed, and maybe more so since this isn't a public forum where you could tell me to shut the f**k up.

I'd be lying if I said that I liked that body style. And I'm ambivalent about 21st Century's upcoming "Super Soldier" which looks like it will be only an evolutionary improvement. However, I recognize that it's probably the best choice for a lot of people. Price, availability, and durability seem to be its biggest assets, and these are important considerations for many people. If you're making a diorama or assembling a mini-army, buying figures in squad-sized quantities can be expensive. If you've got kids or enjoy driving your Blazer over your Joes, durability is a requirement. Some people are also specialized collectors or loyal to a particular manufacturer, so whatever their favorite manufacturer produces is what they like. I'm sorry if I offend those people with my occasional snide remarks (but that doesn't mean I'll stop! ;^)

This is a web site about customizing, and my interest is in realism. Scale realism and durability are naturally at odds with each other. Accessories reduced to 1:6th are prone to get broken when handled by 1:1 scale humans. Of course, we use different materials, and this may help or hinder. But durability isn't the main consideration in customizing for realism, and it often gets sacrificed in favor of scale appearance.

Detail is a component of realism, and detail is sometimes achieved by assembling a thing from many separate pieces. But "playability" goes out the window if you have to worry about those separate pieces falling off and getting lost. You're not likely to roughhouse with a figure that you've spent days or weeks fixing up either. While these are outfit and accessory issues, they affect how the figure gets handled, custom or not: A durable rubber figure dressed in a spun glass outfit gets treated as if it were made of glass. (This is my answer to people who point out that 21st Century manufactures toys, while Dragon manufactures models-- the accessories make them both less than ideal toys for the young child.)

Because of my interest in customizing, most of the assets of the Classic Collection figure aren't relevant. Factors which contribute to its durability are actually a liability. The thicker plastic is more difficult to cut through. The increased weight of the thicker plastic plays a role in the figure's inability to pose for long periods of time, which is what a lot of custom figures do. That's not an issue if you play with toys and leave them strewn around. The rubbery plastic is break-resistant but it contributes to the posing problem since the rubbery parts tend to bend. More importantly, it's a difficult material to work with. You can't sand it very easily, it doesn't melt ideally, and it doesn't take putty or paint very well. Another issue is the way the it's assembled: the production-optimized design makes the figure cheap to produce, but difficult to repair if joints get loose or worn. And they probably will if you move 'em around a bunch.

Anyway, that's the lowdown on the CC from my perspective, and why you're not likely to see much about it here. Remember, if it cain't stand on two feet, it must be a CC! :^)


02/01/00- Huh? Two 'Remarks' updates in a week? I just received my "catch up" Dragon figures from Legends Toys And Hobbies . Wow. Even though the novelty has worn off, Dragon still makes some magical figures! "Dave" (their first WWII US figure) looks great and his helmet with liner is a fine piece of work. The rubber web belt with grommets & the gear's authentic method of attachment is a good solution to a difficult problem. While a fabric belt would have looked "more quality", the grommet effect would have been less realistic. (To my knowledge, they don't make Stimpson eyelets smaller than oversized.) It's a nice compromise between producing something servicible & authentic and keeping production cost down: Their rubber cast stuff is totally unlike Formative International's (SOTW). Also noticed that smaller sewn-on button castings (vs. nailheads) are becoming more common (They're still a tad oversized). I first saw this on a Barbie, and it's a good development-- I guess some technological obstacle that allows these to be sewn on at factories was recently conquered?

Maybe I'm just getting spoiled, but the German figures didn't seem nearly as interesting. "Alfred" and "Wilhelm" are awfully similar in their autumn oakleaf camo. Like any good mass producer, they do a certain amount of recycling, but they put just enough new or variant stuff to make ya wanna bite. Nevertheless, innovation is probably going to be falling off. I think that they must be getting near the limits of what can be done at such a small scale. The "Gumby" fingers & working fastener clips on the HK SDU figure are waaaay out there. But I'm curious to see how well they've implemented the rubber covered elbows in their future releases. Bad news: I noticed the usage of twist-ties in Dragon's packaging... Ack!

I should mention that 21C is also doing a fine job on their WWII line, now that they've fixed some things... and the sculpt quality of some cast gear is comparable to, and in some cases, better than Dragon's. They're even putting buttons on outfits! Their figures still suck though.

Finally, I must recommend Legends Toys. I've dealt with them before, and while you may not get your stuff in two days, it arrives within a reasonable amount of time (UPS willing). Best of all though-- and the reason why I chose to buy from them --you see the prices on their web site, total them up and that's how much you're charged. No bullshit "handling fee" to surprise or outrage you. (It's not the money, it's the principle of the thing.)


01/29/00- This collecting thing is a sickness. After seeing the 21C Little Bird helicopter, I decided that I had to have it despite having nowhere to put it. Heh heh. It seems that you can always find room somewhere! So despite my intention to go Spartan, I'm weak and succumbed to the mindless lure of the material world.

I stripped my Lizzie figure from 12/99 and saw that she needed to be voluptuized. What was I thinking? No point in pretending that I like making figures with svelte, model-like bodies: Give me the R. Crumbian/COOPian ideal woman any day-- lotsa meat, with buttocks that you can stack beercans on. I'm in that kinda mindset, since Dragon et al are slowly carving away any reason to customize. I love 'em.

Sandtrooper1 pointed me at pics of the upcoming 21C Dragon clone (vs. their Hasbro clone). Sorry. Cheap shot, huh? In fairness, it looks like a hybrid CC w/Dragon-like articulation. It's too soon to say with certainty (I can always speculate), but it looks like they're carrying forth the lame plastic pin articulation (which is the secret ingredient in the CC-style figure's mahvelous knees & ankles) and because of this, the equally lame dense rubber plastic which goes flaccid when exposed to Reality (aka Modeller's Bane). The neck looks like a winner too. Yarrrghhhh. A little hyperbole there, but can you tell that I'm excited about this? Not. Great vehicles, but I'm satisfied with Dragon's figures. We'll see? Of course.

I apologize for the obnoxious tone of this update. Y'see, I've been playing Quake 3, and it does make you want to blow up everything in sight. To think that my noble goal of wanting to use the computer as a tool for learning & self-improvement has degenerated to this!


01/22/00- Just checking in... I put a couple of things up today, including the great pictures of Luciano's/Pierfrancesco's stuff. Big thanks to Rick! I've still got lots of correspondence to catch up on, and I apologize to the afflicted. Note to self and everyone else: visit Ransome's & Francis' sites!!!

Computers & technology... damn. What time gobblers! I'm mebbe two months into this "vacation", and I feel like I'm just now getting ready to actually use the sucker (Maaaaan, dual monitors are GREAT!). I think the point is to configure a computer so that it won't boot-- then fix it, and try again. It's heartbreaking when you've run out of peripherals to add, and still have a slot or two left. Sadly, they don't make a cigarette lighter card (imagine the power supply you'd need!). At some point I suppose you have to face the prospect of actually using your computer for something... don't you?

Well, I promised a 3D direction for the web site, but I don't think it's going to happen. For one thing, that territory is broad and takes a looong time to get a handle on. Another thing is that there are freakin' gazillions of web sites out there already, with loads of tutorials & galleries! The world won't miss having one fewer. Nevertheless, it's a kewl thing that I intend to eventually get marginally competent with, along with desktop video and multimedia apps. There's just too much kewl stuff-- it's an overwhelming burden which hangs from my neck like a dead albatross.

One of the personal "discoveries" I made was how easy it was to fall prey to the "dark side" on the Internet, and become a hypocrite about issues regarding intellectual property. Yes, I do but I don't, and only on occasion. There's the delicate balance of doing what's prudent for your personal financial situation and the moral concept of doing what's right. And all the rationalizations which pop up along the way, like victimless crimes and feeding the desire to learn. Am I babbling hard enough? You have to wonder in Star Trek, whether royalties are paid each time a matter replicator is used? Oh... I forgot: In the future they don't grub for money. What losers!

 


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