Thursday, September 30, 2010

Custom Flashback - Vintage Ewok Village Play Set Repaint (4/2006)

Can you believe it? This is the 50th post on my customs blog. (What I can't believe is that it took me this long to get to that number.) What better way to celebrate this mega milestone than to spotlight another vintage custom! This custom spotlight features the "Yub-Yubbing" awesomeness of the vintage Ewok Village. I can actually credit this piece as the one that got me into customizing Star Wars figures. I painted this play set back in 2006 when I was looking to have a creative outlet outside of work again. I always loved painting and I was also looking to create a more detailed display for my collection. Restoring and updating vintage play sets seemed like a good way to fill that creative void while reaching my geeky goal. I recently went back to refresh it with some washes in order to punch out the natural sculpt details more. It also helped show off the paint job I gave it back in 2006.  The Ewok Village was a truly cool play set that most Generation X-ers still fondly remember. I remember when my Mom bought this for me on my 7th birthday, I also got Wicket with it. It was one of my most memorable birthday gifts and I played with it for years after. (Thank you Mom for the great memories, you rock!)

When you look at the size and features of it it's still far superior than the majority of play sets released in the last 15 years. It's sad to see that the golden age of large play sets is over, it has been that way for quite some time. Growing up in the 80's, large play sets were an integral part of just about every action figure line. They were the epicenters of our child hood action figure adventures to wage heroic battles from. So many kids will not experience this cool aspect of action figuredom. The current generation of kids are just not into classic toys like so many of us were growing up, they are more into their iPods and the internet. (BTW - I am laughing as I type this. I am writing an article about a crusty old play set I repainted in order to post it on the internet that I was just indirectly bashing!)

Being a professional Industrial Toy Designer, I can confirm the great difficulty and financial risk in designing a worthwhile play set like this. I really can view this from a very practical business sense and also view it from a design perspective. The limited shelf space, high price points, large development costs and slow sales have created a retail atmosphere that just does not want to support items like these. There is just too much financial risk for the manufacturer and retailer. So when a play set does make it to retail it really has to be something special and it must be supported by a TV advertisement campaign.  Break out the violins, shed a tear and lets move on to the custom spotlight:

The Ewok Village was another prime example of toy perfection and it's truly a testament to the Kenner line's greatness. If you look past the bland molded color scheme, the sculpt is really well done, it's a true work of art that stood the test of time! This play set was so good that even Kevin Costner's Robin Hood borrowed it for their recycled Toy line. It become a Sherwood Forest base that sported new (at the time) leafy tree cap attachments.

 If anyone has those for sale please contact me I would love to add them to my custom.

As always, comments, hate mail and Yub-yub songs are always welcome.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Custom Flashback - Vintage Jabba's Throne Repaint (6/2006)

Today's custom flashback is not a figure but a diorama… set. It all depends on your certain point of view on what you consider this item be. Now that the new Vintage line Jabba Throne set has been released it officially renders the 80's one to an outdated status. The vintage 80's version is all we had prior in the line in terms of a Jabba's Throne in the 1/18th scale format. In retrospect, it was kind of surprising that it took Hasbro this long to make a modern version of this iconic piece of SW lore. In the end, it was very much worth the wait, Hasbro's design team did a fantastic job on it! Enough of the compliments on the new one, this post is about the Vintage Throne, which is still a solid piece that was ahead of it's time in terms of sculpting. If you paint it the right way you can really punch out the details of the old sculpt.

I am a huge fan of the Jabba's Palace in ROTJ, so I really wanted to recreate that scene for my collection display. Since Hasbro did not release a modern throne at the time I felt my Ultra Jabba was really missing something. Jabba needed his signature stone seat to command his goons from. In my opinion, Jabba's dais is an extension of the character. Think about it, all this fat space slug did was lounge around, ho-ho, and occasionally bark a few orders at his underlings while stuffing his face with rubbery Muppets. He is basically an intergalactic coach potato. I bought a vintage Jabba Throne off eBay for $12 shipped and once I received it I was reminded of how detailed this toy was. That's one testament to the sculpting of the vehicles and play sets of the vintage Kenner line. When I was a kid I really loved the internal cage area that was filled with the rats, snakes and bones of prisoners past. I knew when I was going to paint this I really wanted to do that area justice. I used the Sideshow Jabba Throne as a reference guide for color accuracy on the fine details. The natural molded colors are really accurate so there is no need for a base paint. After the painting was completed I wanted to add a few more details for more scene accuracy. I used the 2002 Padme Arena chains instead of string, used the Ultra Jabba Hookah/Stand, cut up a dice bag for the throne blanket and threw in some pillows that came with some Charmed figures. Take a look at the end result, I am always interested in your feedback:

I am still in the process of finishing my Jabba Palace shelf display but as I revisit that project I am very much reminded that the old Throne would still work well with it. The new Wal-Mart Jabba is truly the best to date and would still look great on the 80's throne if you prefer that version. 

While this item is no longer in my collection I think it is still worthwhile to share. I know many fans actually still prefer this version. Hopefully it will help inspire you to customize your own. As you can clearly see a little paint can make a huge difference on it!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Custom - KOTOR Jedi Consular Karissa Amori

It's time to mix things up with today's custom figure profile by showcasing a generic creation that I recently made. Most of the customs that I profile on the front page are based on "real" characters that have not been made into official plastic. A worthless fact is that most of the customs that I have made in the last 4.5 years were my own generic creations. This latest custom creation was made up on the fly with parts I had on hand (I am super low on parts too!) but in the end she appeared to be inspired by the Jedi in the second KOTOR game trailer. She was not but really resembles some of the traits of that Jedi character:

 I love customizing on the fly because it produces some of my best work. There is something to be said about not following source material, to me it takes off the pressure and gives you the artistic freedom to let the customizing Force flow. I am not sure what else to say about this figure but sometimes less is more, so I will let the figure speak for itself.

If you think it stinks that’s cool too, but please send me some hate mail to let me know. I may wind up going back to actually replicate that Jedi character from the game trailer if the response on this one is good...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New custom - Marka Ragnos

Marka Ragnos…have you ever heard of him? 

Do not feel bad, neither did I until my closet friend "stocos28" made a superb custom figure of him about a year ago. It was an awesome custom, just like the rest of his work! It was such an awesome custom that another customizer (Who is quite famous for ripping off others work to a "T" and gives no credit where credit is due) copied him. After I received a few requests to make Marka I asked my closet friend stocos28 for his blessing to use his design as a base for mine. I decided to make him a little different and made him look closer to his Sith spirit form where he looks a little more monstery. Actually, he looks a lot like the B-rate Skeletor wannabe Mumm-Ra, the Ever-living!!! Hmmm, did the Dark Horse folks who created him rip off the lame Thundercats antagonist?

(I really look forward to my Thundercat fan hate mail for dissing the embodiment of Ever-living lameness. Look, I really like the Thunderctas but the fact is Mumm-Ra is a really, really lame bad guy. The only main bad guy lamer than him is his reject C-rate cousin from Silverhawks, Mon*Star. 

Ah, I can hear the kitty calls of blasphemy from my inbox!

I suppose I should talk more about Mr. Marka Ragnos's back story instead of ripping into Mumm-Ra and Mon*Star for formalities sake. I really do not know much about Marka Ragnos, or really care, so I will have to refer to his Wookiepedia page and my observations of him from his picture reference. I prefer commenting on the latter because I can make fun of him a lot easier.

So here we go, Marka Ragnos is a super ancient Sith Lord that is so old he does not even have a Lightsaber! He wields a plain old sword, for the Star Wars universe that's really old! He also sports some serious Sith bling around his neck. If that is not enough of a costume overkill take a look at the unwieldy helmet on his lumpy noggin. No wonder why all of those ancient Sith Temples have massive door ways between rooms. Anyway, he is the predecessor to some other obscure and very ancient Sith Lord named Naga Sadow. Naga Sadow is a Sith Magician according to his Wookiepedia profile. When I hear Sith Magician it conjures (no pun intended) an image of Darth Maul in a typical Magician tux pulling an Ewok out of his hat. (BTW - I am actually making Naga next so I can make fun of him.) Who was I writing about, oh yeah, Marka Ragnos. So, Marka Ragnos walked into blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…blah-blah. Marka Ragnos then went on to blah, blah, blah blah-blah blah. The end. Here is my custom:

I had to give him a Lightsaber in addition to a plain sword. Without a Lightsaber, well, he is just another Mumm-Ra wannabe who really just wants to be like Skeletor. So that would make Marka Ragnos even lamer than Mumm-Ra. At least he does not want to be like Mon*Star.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Little Differences - Agen Kolar and Super Articulated Quinlan Vos

It's been awhile since my last installment of the Little Differences so this one has two very different fixes to make up for lost time. The first one focuses on correcting some minor but important details on Agen Kolar. The second one is how to create a more perfect and articulated Quinlan Vos. So lets get started shall we...

Agen Kolar
There are always those little details missing on some figures that sometimes puzzle us. The recent 2009 Legacy Agen Kolar really improved on the ROTS version by leaps and bounds. The ROTS release was a solid figure for its time but Hasbro went back to upgrade the sculpt and articulation. They gave him a new head sculpt with a ball jointed neck plus they added more articulation to his arms and his legs. Those changes have really brought him up to par with the modern Jedi articulation & sculpts that we are now very accustomed to getting. He is a superb figure but he still has two minor flaws, in my opinion, that prevent him from being a perfect figure. For some reason Hasbro refused to give both versions of him the blue Lightsaber that he wielded in ROTS. After all, both versions versions were based on his appearance in ROTS. Even the back of the 2009 package showed him weilding a blue Lightsaber! For the record, he did wield a green Lightsaber in AOTC so I can see were the confusion came in. This is an easy fix, so there is no need to waste anymore time on that issue. The real flaw on the new Legacy Agen Kolar is his robe skirt, it is too short, it does not match up with both of his brief appearances in the AOTC and ROTS films. This can also a minor fix if you have some extra parts on hand and are willing to do a little dismantling. Do you happen to have an extra Obi-Wan from the superb Resurgence of the Jedi Battle pack? If you do and do not need him, his cloth robe skirt color perfectly matches up with Agen Kolar's robes. It also happens to be the correct length as in the films. All you have to do is just boil some hot water and drop both figures in. When the plastic gets soft just pull them apart and swap skirts then reassemble the figures. Once you are done you can also give him that cloth Obi-Wan cloak and give him a spare blue Lightsaber with the matching handle. Aayla Secura actually comes with a Blue Lightsaber that has the same handle as Agen Kolar's. Here is the end (and more film accurate) result:

Parts needed:
Legacy Agen Kolar
Legacy Resurgence of the Jedi Ob-Wan Kenobi
Blue Lightsaber with same handle as Agen's (several figure came with this style: Aayla Secura, Deluxe ROTS Grievous, etc)

Quinlan Vos
One of the most popular EU comic characters without question is Jedi Master Quilan Vos. He is so popular with fans that he was originally scheduled to appear in a Season 1 episode of Clone Wars but was dropped for some unknown reason. The good news is that he is scheduled to appear in an upcoming episode in Season 3. If that is not enough, you will be pleased to know that he is even getting an animated figure and Galactic Hero figure later this year! In the mainline thus far we have received two figures of him in the comic pack line. The first Quilan Vos came with the much better executed Vilmarh Grahrk figure. This version of Vos was outfitted in his undercover Darkside gear, the figure itself was no home run but it was a decent figure overall. The biggest flaw on it is that it lacks knee and ankle articulation, this really limited the figures greatness. Another yet tolerable flaw was that his robe colors did not match the source material. The robes should have been molded in black and not the gray color Hasbro produced this figure in. The following year we were treated to another Quinlan Vos figure. This time around he did have a lot of improvements from the previous figure. He sported a much better head sculpt, proper Jedi attire and a better color pallet. This figure did reuse the lower tunic (great sculpt BTW so no complaint there) and the same very limited articulated legs. Once again, this is the only aspect that prevented this figure from being great. I still really like this figure, he is much better than the first Quin figure. I did like the sleeveless arm look of the first Quinlan Vos so I decided to make a custom that combined the best aspects of both while adding super articulated legs to overcome the limitation of existing ones. Best of all, this requires no paint just some extra parts! All you have to do is just boil some hot water and drop the figures in. When the plastic gets soft just pull them apart swapping the arms and skirts. Here is the end result:

Parts needed:
30th TAC Quinlan Vos (Arms)
Legacy Quinlan Vos
ROTS Evolutions Darth Maul (Legs)
Saga Screen Scene Eoth Koth Skirt (I cut it down. You can also use other similar colored cloth skirts.)

As you can see the "Little Differences" can make a big difference to your figures! Until next time!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Custom - Jedi Master Dooku

"Don't look so amazed. The Sith were always born and re-born within the ranks of the Jedi!!!" - Darth Krayt / A'sharad Hett

A prime example of Darth Krayt's quote can be found in Count Dooku. Count Dooku was a former Padawan of Yoda, he was the Master of Qui-Gon-Jinn and he was also considered one of the greatest Jedi warriors of his time. Despite all of that impressive Jedi street cred, Jedi Master Dooku could still not resist turning to the Darkside of the Force. Supposedly, he became disillusioned with the Jedi Order and the rampant corruption within the Republic. Does this plot line sound familiar? Well, it should. Like a good leftover dinner, Lucas reheated this successful SW story formula of a once great Jedi that turns to the Darkside yet again! Hey, if it's not broken...

When Christopher Lee was announced as the brand new Sith Lord in EP2 fans were a bit perplexed. Given the high bar that Darth Maul set for a Sith Lord it's easy to see why there was concern in the actor choice. Darth Maul was one of the few redeeming aspects of the TPM. Darth Maul really left a Boba Fett like impression on fans for such little screen time, a testament to the character. So how was the crusty Christopher Lee going to top the galactic mime Ninja Darth Maul? Do not get me wrong, Nerdom has always loved Christopher Lee, he appeared in many cult favorite B-movies. But c'mon, he was really old, even in 2002 when the film was released!! Well, as we all found out the hard way, GL relied heavily on his beloved green screens. It was no surprise that he just had a much younger stand in for Lee and photoshopped his face on him for all of the mediocre duel scenes. Apparently it worked as he was/is a generally well received character. He is also a pretty prominent player in the Clone Wars cartoon.

Now that I got all of that back story jive out of the way let's get to the custom figure. I am actually surprised that a Lightside version of Dooku has not been made thus far. There are a lot of depictions of a younger Jedi Dooku, so there is a lot of great material is out there to work with. Here are a few depictions:

There was an awesome appearance of a Jedi Dooku in the comics. It featured a younger Jedi Dooku, in the issue he encountered Jango Fett in battle for the first time. This encounter was burned into his memory as he was so impressed with Jango's fighting prowess. Jango's display of battle skill influenced Dooku's decision to recruit him for the template of the secret Clone army. This would have been a superb comic pack for Hasbro to produce. (It would have made a much better set than the Mr.T in red armor and squatting Titan AE girl pack.) Unfortunately, the demise of the comic pack line has really lowered the chances of seeing an official figure of a Lightside Dooku. Instead of waiting for one I decided to take another stab at a custom Jedi Master Dooku figure. I have made several customs of him before but this time I wanted to go back to do a better job. I blended my favorite elements of the available imagery to make this new custom. I feel that I have nailed the right formula this time around. Take a look:

 BTW - The good folks over at gave me my third random plug on their website, so maybe I was successful. What do you guys think?