REMARKS 12/31/02

Last modified: Monday, June 19, 2017 12:16 AM

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Goodbye 2002 It's time for the indulgent and rambling yearly retrospective, a break from the usual indulgent and rambling project commentary. This year it's colored by a somewhat bleak, washed-out feeling that's hard to shake: My trivial dollmaking efforts take place against the backdrop of troubling real world developments. Homeland Security. National Database. Omnipresent video monitoring. Roadblocks. Pre-emptive justice. Shades of Palpatine. When the us becomes them, they will come for our guns. But I insist on looking at the bright side: Hopefully, I'll be long dead before our ideals are twisted unrecognizably and we fully embrace the Orwellian future where less government is more government. The promise of human cloning comes just in the nick of time; genetic and social engineering will ultimately help us achieve our vision of a perfect and safe future. We just need to rid the Earth of all the flawed people who currently occupy it.

Here at JBWID, it's been a good year. I even met my self-imposed target of n figures early, sometime in October, and tackled a few more after that. True, it's silly to get hung up on quotas & quantity, but if motivation relies on competition with something, competing with yourself is a good way to go. The other main motivational pressure came from a mission to provide new material and updates fairly often-- like I've said before, the website has an insatiable appetite for new material, and the visitor traffic responds to it. Admittedly, it's not very motivating to pump out a variety of projects and receive so little feedback about them in the Guestbook... but I'm resigned to the fact that this is primarily a lurker's tourist attraction. Tricking yourself into believing that these motivating pressures are somehow important serves a greater purpose, much like the way we muddle through life. It's worked for me, at least. Of course the hobby itself is rewarding, even without the website and feedback-- I wouldn't be doing it otherwise. This year my output was more character driven--squeezing out primitives, monsters, villains and heroes to fill empty nooks and crannies of my Fantasy world-- but I managed to challenge and entertain myself with the technical aspects of the projects too.

The 2-foot tall Queen of the Demon Monkey Goddesses project was especially challenging, and resulted in one of my all-time favorite kick-ass figures. She and her plump, green-skinned little sister "fleshed out" the ranks of the first-string antagonists but also fulfilled a personal fetishy urge, transgressing the boundaries of good taste and (I felt) showing that grotesque creatures could have a curiously erotic appeal. I liked how giving Greenie pasties actually made her look nastier!
The Demon Warriors and re-costumed Lilith filled solid, vital roles in the pantheon of baddies. They gave me the opportunity to try out a different armour scheme using some kewl materials, and in the case of the Demon Warriors, allowed me to dabble in minor monster-making according to a theme.
Drachae/Spider Witch and Troll Demon were expanded monster-making projects based on familiar monster archetypes; They weren't envisioned as being main baddies, but as loners with their own agendas. The Troll Demon was an exercise in distorting a figure's proportions (and using a Sideshow Toy figure for something), but Drachae was probably the most radical restructuring of a figure I've ever done... and finally gave me a use for one of my Volks Neo EB figures (plus a bunch of spare Barbie arms). She was also an exercise in the unusual technique of plastic melt-sculpting.
Figures like Ashanti, Jezebel, Valkyrie-Amazon Queen, and Big-Butted Bunny were familiar exercises in maximizing the bare skin-to-outfit ratio using different materials. Maximum flesh exposure is old hat here-- the challenge has been finding new materials and new approaches, this year through algae, chainmail, wire and pushup armour. Some of the old-timers, like Livia and the High Priestess got minor makeovers using new materials.
Monkey Woman was an interesting project on several levels-- first, the primitives needed female representation just for balance; That triggered some interesting research, some thoughts (It's kinda funny that the Raliens are ridiculed for their absurd beliefs while the Creationist version is seen as "respectable"...), and a major revisualizing of roles. Although similar to a Demon Monkey Goddess project-- naked breasts and an inhuman face-- this one went in a different direction by projecting innocence through facial expression, costuming, and props.
Abuela, Impotentate, and the other guy (with weird eyes and pointed ears) were simple character archetype projects. I hadn't created any older folks, so that was a different direction that needed to be explored. Their roles, though not flashy, were unique and necessary if I wanted to give this world a depth beyond large-breasted, scantily-clad heroines prancing around fighting large-breasted, scantily-clad villainesses (with a few token beefy men thrown in). Okay, I admit that while I'm still fixated on that, the vision is now a little bit broader.
As the year drew to an end, I was drawn in a more "respectable", historical direction-- the Transitional Armour Knight. Something that even my mom could appeciate. This guy (and suite of technique explorations) tentatively bridges the gap between my earlier Excalibur/Medieval projects and the Primeval World; Even though he's reasonably historically accurate, he doesn't look terribly out of place plunked down next to Jezebel, or a Demon Monkey Goddess... it's a loose link that appears to work only because the Primeval World is such a confused, bastardized jumble that spans so many different ages. It's the miracle of Fantasy.

I've said it before, but I reiterate that it's gotten more difficult selecting figures to make, since I've already made most of what I've felt driven to make. Besides that, there's the shrinking pool: The Lord of the Rings 1:6 figure line has already dampened my plans to make a Dwarf and something resembling a Ringwraith. Does that kind of thing matter? Does whatever you made retain its luster, even if a superior commercial version is available? I'd be lying if I told you that it doesn't matter, although it's a noble sentiment. After the initial glow of pride in your accomplishment has faded, the work stands on its own merit or loses its halo according to whatever else that comes along. It's happened to me many times before, and I wouldn't have bothered making my homemade Brosnan Bond if Sideshow's had been available, for example. But you shrug and move on; you're not supposed to wallow forever in past glories. The part that remains special is the memory of the work you put into it and the knowledge you gained...which is not the same thing as the figure itself. The figure is a memento, a souvenir of the learning experience. I'm just glad that there were reasons to make certain figures when I did, since I've learned a lot from those projects.

To aspiring customizers who are just now getting into this hobby, it's a tougher world in which to find purpose and distinguish yourself-- it's hard to find the drive to reinvent the wheel, and it's gotten harder to improve on it. While commercial customizers are hardest hit by this, even non-commercial ones (like myself) are finding it difficult to remain relevant. It doesn't promise to get any easier, as we get pushed into making more obscure things like, say... 1:6 scale tampons? So the trend continues-- what's great for collectors isn't necessarily great for those traditional customizers who want a deeper level of involvement in the hobby than decisions of what/where to buy pre-made fodder. That's been a democratizing development, but while it's swelled the ranks of folks who dabble in customizing, it's produced few new Joe customizers/figure artists who fly the "full service" banner. That's not to condemn or lament the plentiful and excellent commercial offerings. Customizers are almost always collectors and benefit equally from this year's great offerings such as Dragon's Sturmpionier, Apollo Astronaut and Ignite's Roman Centurion. And we all suffer equally from the hole this leaves in our pocketbook.

More than ever, this plentitude forces us to be specialists and niche area collectors rather than the generalists we used to be. The result is that this hobby has become more fragmented. I've focused on making Sword, Sandals, and Breasts figures and have written fewer reviews-- mainly because I'm buying less because it's so overwhelming. The past year has seen the proliferation of special purpose forums defined by areas of interest. While one can be interested in lots of different areas, it takes a lot more money to play that game, a lot more space to display all those figures, and a lot more time to browse all the different forums. The "Sandbox" (Usenet's remains a popular general purpose forum, but is no longer the primary source for all the latest-breaking information. It's a little sad to see the change, but change is an unavoidable part of life.

This year has also brought us terrible news of tragedies suffered by our fellow hobbyists. Earlier this year, Kevin Epling lost his son, Matthew. Their close and loving bond through this hobby was always evident in Kevhead's postings at the Sandbox, and in their Father and Son entries in the 1997 Halloween Customizing Contest hosted here. Recently, Sgt. Zang, reknowned for his chat room and for producing superb stamped metal helmets, passed away. These tragedies have had profound effects which reached beyond their immediate families; the entire hobby community experienced a loss and shares in the sadness and pain. Rest in Peace, Fellow Customizers.

Despite the downbeat tone of this retrospective, I'm actually an optimist. Undoubtedly, there will be lots of cool things coming from the manufacturers in the future (like the 1:6 Melusine SAFS in Feb.). And new customizers will join the ranks. I'll manage to find new projects to tackle, even if it's accompanied by a lot of hand-wringing. In objective terms, the change of the year signifies nothing real. The Earth doesn't glitch on a restart and we don't magically become revitalized or renewed. Psychologically though, it can signify a fresh start or the end of a marathon. At this time, I'm feeling more of the latter since I've barely managed to finish the last project of the year, just under the wire. While I don't forsee quitting this hobby anytime soon-- it's too much fun for that -- I can't imagine maintaining the pace I've kept these years in terms of new material and website updates. It's seemed purposeful: I've seen the site get over 600 visitors in a single day, which is gratifying for a niche site like this-- but that's unsustainable and is a peculiar justification for working one's buns off. Besides running out of project ideas, I'm also running out of things to say-- no, it only seems like I have Alzheimers; I'm painfully aware of the repetition and rehashes. So this seems like a good time to ease into a more casual relationship with the hobby and shed some of the self-imposed pressure to produce. Of course, the future is a blank slate so I don't know how I'll actually act as it unfolds. Anyway, Happy New Year, 2003.


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