Thursday, June 12, 2014

COBALTs - Blue Laser Heavy Armor

Over at, 36 customizers have randomly been assigned to two teams to see which group can submit the most customs to the figure gallery by the end of the year. Started as a challenge between bucky and joemichaels70, it looks like we're off to an amazing start with almost 200 new submissions currently in the queue for the gallery! Team members assign either a "redlaser" or "bluelaser" tag to their submissions, and the side with the most at the end of the challenge will each get a custom made by a member of the losing side. It's all in good fun to promote activity on, in my opinion, one of the best hobby sites on the internet, and I'm excited to be part of Team Blue Lasers!

Of course, I began to wonder just who the Blue Lasers were after the team leaders each made mascots for their side(here and here), and suggested bolstering our ranks with characters based on shades of blue.

COBALTs (which probably stands for something awesome) are the muscle of the Blue Laser military. Formidable mechanized units, each packs a trio of devastating lasers that can track individual targets, or focus into a single, powerful beam of destruction.

(Update: Levantine and agcaper at helped me come up with Cybernetically Operated Battle Armored Laser Troopers for the acronym.) 

Parts Recipe:
Classic Iron Monger - Base figure
Wet-Suit - Power Pack
Lightsabers - Shoulder Lasers and Laser Effects
LEGO - Power Pack Hoses

Cobra Commander - Back In Black

A lot of great accessories have come out since I made my first modular Cobra Commander, so I took a crack at giving him some more configurations, and updating some of the heads with more recent chromed versions or better sculpts. While coming up with names for each of his looks, I noticed there are a lot of "R" titles in the G.I. Joe universe (Rise of Cobra, Reloaded, Retaliation, Reneges) so I tried to stick to that format.

Top to bottom:
Regent, Resolved, Risen, Reborn, Renegade (half helmet and backless helmet), Retaliation, Reloaded, Rearmed, and Retro.

Parts Recipe:
DG Cobra Commander - Upper Torso, Arms, Scabbard, Sword
25th Crimson Guard - Lower Torso
ROC Destro - Upper Legs
ROC Rescue Mission Snake Eyes - Lower Legs
ROC The Doctor - Black Coat, Scarred Head, Breathing Aparatus
Marvel Universe Blade - Red/Black Coat
POC Cobra Commander - Chrome Head
Resolute Boxed Set Cobra Commander - Silver head, Black helmet, Half-Cape
Renegades Cobra Commander - Half Mask, Backless Mask
Avengers Red Skull - Open Coat
Retaliation Cobra Commander - Armored Helmet
Retaliation HISS Cobra Commander - Armored Helmet
Battle Armor Cobra Commander - Armored Base Figure
Mercenary Wraith - Chest Armor

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

General Warhawk - Leader of SAVAGE

I never saw Rambo (or First Blood) until a few years ago. Imagine my surprise when I found out it WASN'T the over-the-top cheesy 80's action franchise I thought it was, and was actually a pretty sad, dark story about PTSD and being unable to return to civilian life. That makes it all the more cringe-worthy that the films "evolved", movie by movie, into pure ridiculousness. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy them... but that first film and story doesn't fit in with the RAH-RAH-RAH! craziness of the sequels. And they MADE A CARTOON from it all. My understanding that rather than "saving" John at the end, Col. Trautman shoots Rambo out of mercy at the end of the original novel. AND THEY MADE A CARTOON.

So naturally, when I went looking to expand my Axis of Evil 80's Villains, General Warhawk (the baddie from said cartoon) seemed like a perfect fit. The toon is pretty awful, and there's never much explanation given to what Warhawk is trying to achieve. COBRA, we knew at least, was trying to take over the world. SAVAGE just seemed to be farting around with a couple tanks and goading Rambo into showing up. I love it.

Parts Recipe:
MIB3 Agent K - Head
Red Skull - Base Figure
Recondo - Lower Torso
Windchill - Thighs
Snake Eyes - Arms
Cobra Commander - Feet, Sword, Scabbard, and Holster
Colonel Vogel - Transplanted Iron Cross

Die Spinne - "Frankenstein's Army" Inspired Zombot

Expecting just another cheap found footage horror flick, I was VERY surprised with how much fun I had watching Frankenstein's Army. It had been a while since I remember seeing a horror movie with a group of interestingly designed "monsters," and something about it reminded me of series like Ghoulies, Puppet Master, and Gremlins, much more than it's found footage genre. The creature designs are pretty wonderful, and while not quite on par with the original four Cenobites, they're much more interesting than most of the later Hellraiser offerings, and not too dissimilar in spirit.

It was a fun watch, and I started to take a crack at "Mosquito Man", but decided to take it in my own direction as the figure evolved.

Parts Recipe:
Red Skull (Winter Soldier) - Base Figure
Zartan - Head (under helmet)
Cobra Shock Trooper - Mask
Cobra Trooper - Helmet
Croc Master - Air Tank
Roadblock - Upper Legs
B.A.T. - Lower Legs

Rock 'n' Roll - Gun Stilts
Lightsabers (various) - Mouthpiece and Lenses
Arcee - Leg Blades

Bagmen - COBRA Smash and Grab Raiders

Sometime LBCs are a good way to break "customizer's block" and get the creative juices flowing. It's always nice to find a use for parts that go together well with minimal effort, and when you can make a quick batch of them it's even better. Here, only the neck needed to be drilled out a bit, and the rest came together quite seamlessly.

I see COBRA Bagmen as being utilized alongside Dreadnoks for small criminal operations to generate quick capital for larger operations. They're usually given a crash course in urban combat and intimidation tactics by Firely, and sent on their way with minimal investment in training and equipment. Those who are successful and show enough raw talent are often promoted into the Alley Vipers.

Parts Recipe:
Snake Eyes - Base Figure
Sgt. Airborne - Head
Cobra Commander - Coat

Quarrel - Commando

Quarrel was a UK/Action Force repaint of Scarlett. This is another figure that's seen an official release as part of the Collector's Club, but I just can't justify the price they charge. I probably don't save much making my own version of these character, but at least they're unique and tailored to my liking. I'd planned on doing this figure for a while, and serendipitously received a half-finished version in a fodder trade box. I tweaked the paint, and added a head, accessories, and a water slide decal arm patch, and called it done!

Parts Recipe:
Scarlett - Head
Scarlett - Base Figure
Zartan - Crossbow and Quiver

Monday, June 9, 2014

Chronophiles: The Reich Stuff

Chronophiles: The Reich Stuff is a series of alternate history action figures I made for a sculpture midterm while working on my BFA. I think it was one of my more successful attempts at bridging the gaps between hobby, craft, and art. Those are actually incredibly loaded descriptors, and a lot of my time in school was devoted to exploring how we navigate those labels, when they're helpful, and when they're limiting. C:TRS was also a means of exploring who gets lionized and who gets demonized in history, and who does and does not get representation when popular culture explores the past.

What set this project over the top, in my opinion, is the additional documentation I made. I had a pretty detailed story about how the timeline these figures are from differed from our, and rather than spell it all out for my audience, I decided to only give them glimpses into that world. On a whim at Half Price Books looking for inspiration, I tried to find books from the same era (or older than) my alt-history verse was set ib, and much to my surprise I found quite a bit. I harvested the blank binding pages and printed photographs and documents to accompany each character.

Amelia Earhart

George Washington Carver

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

Charles Lingbergh

Adolf Hitler

"The Little Prince"

Chronophiles: "The Little Prince" (with poster and illustration)

This was another clarifying moment in the creation of my altered timeline, and a particularly fun figure to work on. I think this figure, his documents (both of which are unaltered, real world replicas), and all they suggest are sort of the keystone to a lot of the narrative behind my Chronophiles project.

Parts Recipe:
Anakin Skywalker - Base Figure
Concept Starkiller Hero - Belt
Clone Youth - Head

Chronophiles: Adolf Hiter (with translated journal entry and photograph of the aftermath of the Wolf's Lair assassination attempt)

Mecha-Hitler is a guilty pleasure of mine. He's not as neatly tied into the narrative of my Chronophiles project as the others, but putting historical figures in giant robot suits is always fun.

This is the second time I've tackled the concept. The first was mostly based on his appearance in Wolfenstein 3D, so I wanted to do something even bigger and more absurd when I revisited the idea.

"(continued) yes, I was thrilled when I heard the news of the explosion at the Wolf’s Lair. And how curious they made no mention of him... it was this lack of any word of his condition I took to be confirmation of his demise, and, overjoyed, I drank.

I awoke on a plane with a dozen or so other doctors, and curiously a few mechanics and even a renowned watchmaker. We were told only that our country needed our service and nothing more. By this time, it was well known one did not argue with the tiny silver skulls. They never threatened us. They never had to. They marched us through the gates and past the women, excitedly introducing us to our new home. We were assured they had the utmost confidence in our abilities, and they boasted that even our loved ones (referred to by full name and address) could not be more sure of us.

I managed to endure almost to the end. I simply didn't ask where they got all of the blood for his continuous transfusions, or the hearts for his daily transplants. And I did my best not look into his horrible eyes as he screamed lung-less and silent at us all, awake through all of it because it was feared if we anesthetized him he would never awaken. It wasn't until we had what little remained of his body secured into the panzermensch frame and started the internal life support that I realized what we had done.

That awful combination of rumbling and metallic staccatos as all those machines inside him grinded their engines into life, into his life, was what set me over. Now even his breathing sounded like a thousand boots stomping step in horrible step. He rose and laughed, and it rattled through his mechanized lungs like thunderous applause. And as he towered over us, it was then that I realized what we had done... what I had done. I knew that in spite of all the unthinkable things that had come before, that THIS was the precipice of darkness, that THIS was the beginning of the end, and that history would place the creation of this monstrosity squarely on our shoulders.

But we did not make the monster.We just made him unstoppable.

(translation ends. 7/27/1944 journal entry, author unknown)"

Parts Recipe:
Admiral Ozzle - Head
Iron Monger - Armor

Chronophiles: Charles Lindbergh (with ruined photograph)

Lindbergh lacks any documentation other than a crumpled photograph of himself. I leave it to the viewer to decide why he's decked out in red and black, and who's angry hand crushed the photo.

Parts Recipe:
Grand Moff Trachta - Toros, Hands, Belt
Cade Skywalker - Coat
Colonel Vogel - Arms
Cobra Commander - Lower Torso, Legs
Capt. Ace - Helmet
Dusty - Head

Chronophiles: Benjamin O. Davis Jr. (with correspondence from the First Lady)

There were moments as I was piecing together my invented history when I couldn't believe how little I had to alter some details. When I decided a letter from the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, would serve as the documentation for this figure, I did a bit of quick research to make sure it wasn't TOO implausible. Not only did the First Lady support the Tuskegee Army Airfield, but she actually kept correspondence with faculty and airmen.

"Colonel Benjamin Davis Jr.
Tuskegee Army Flying School

Colonel Davis,

I hope you will excuse the breach in protocol, but I wanted to make sure this letter reaches you before the upcoming operation. Understandably, news of this supposed Axis Space Program has rattled the public’s nerves, and I cannot say I am without my own concerns. As you are aware, your interception mission is to be made public tomorrow evening, by which time you and your fellow airmen of the 99th Pursuit Squadron and 332nd Fighter Group will be close to the estimated point of engagement and well out of communication range.

It was the thought of that isolation that prompted me to write. Secrecy should not be the prelude to such solitude. Your journey should be trumpeted, cheered, and celebrated. It is a shame that war necessitates our country’s first adventure beyond our skies be undertaken so violently. But the things are not as they should be. The world is not as it should be.

Our enemy takes and takes and takes. He invades our allies’ land, he blights their skies, and now he threatens to take the very Heavens. Deny him the Heavens, Colonel Davis, and instead give him Hell.

I would consider it a personal favor.
-Eleanor Roosevelt"

Parts Recipe:
Rex "The Doctor" Lewis - Base Figure
Neo-Viper - Arms, Boots
Indiana Jones - Jacket
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Space Suit) - Helmet
Kesi Ommis - Head

Chronophiles: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (with personally inscribed title page from "The Little Prince")

Interestingly, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was going to be a villain, playing up his "Saint X" moniker into a pulp bad guy. But, like many of the personalities I included, truth turned out to be far more fascinating than fiction and he took on a bit of an "Obi-Wan Kenobi" role as I mostly exaggerated his already impressive adventures, rather than entirely rewrite his life.

"Mon petit, 
I have taught you everything I can. I pray that it is enough. 
-St. X"

Parts Recipe:
Ric Ollie - Head, Upper Torso, Arms
GI Joe Trooper - Lower Torso, Legs
Storm Shadow - Coat Tails
Dusty - Goggles

Chronophiles: George Washington Carver (with "Chemurgy" propaganda poster)

I try to let the documents in Chronophiles help the viewer decide what is and isn't different from our own timelines, and allow room for interpretation. But there are some stepping stones and landmarks to help visitors to this alternate history find their way.

George Washington Carver plays a pivotal role in my imagined timeline, as his real world innovations are embraced and expanded on... pushing technology and food and fuel reserves to unimagined levels when World War II begins.

"That’s right! The CARVOLINE products you love help keep our Airmen AND their aircraft fueled up and ready to fight! And through the exciting field of CHEMURGY, Mr. George Washington Carver continues to keep us on the frontline of innovation! From ethanol-based fuel solutions to Carver’s Patented Protein Paste, CARVOLINE products help win battles and save lives! Support the products that support the war effort. CHEMURGY: Grow, Buy, WIN!!!"

Parts Recipe:
Henry Jones Sr. - Torso, Legs, Umbrella
Ugnaught - Apron
Rolan Dyre - Head
Wooof - Arms

Chronophiles: Amelia Earhart (with excerpt from "Maiden Voyage")

The figure that inspired my "Chronophiles" project. I initially envisioned Amelia as a part of time traveling team of alt-history heroes, but when I began to expand upon the strange timeline she came from, I decided it deserved to be more fully explored.

"and though little is known of the nature of Earhart's recruitment by Howard Hughes, a popular story states that upon locating her and her disabled craft Hughes told Earhart he had come both to rescue her and offer her a job. Insisting she needed no rescue, Hughes replied “Never the less, madame, you are rescued. Now let us discuss the job.”

One of the first civilian flight instructors to work directly with the military, Earhart maintained a close relationship to the 99th Pursuit Squadron and 332d Fighter Group throughout their training and combat service.

Though never formally a member of the United States Army Astro Corps, Earhart is believed to be one of the main reasons the Axis were never able to establish a strong lunar foothold. Though Hughes' experimental spacecraft were still in the infancy of their development, her innovations in exosphere combat maneuvering were able to deter the seemingly unstoppable Uberzepps of the Axis lunar supply lines.

Earhart would eventually head and train Hughes' all woman Lunar Wing, and be one of the last living beings allowed to visit his isolated "Tranquility Island" on the moon."

Parts Recipe:

Agent Helix - Base Figure
Neo-Viper - Gloves
Ahsoka Tano (Space Suit) - Helmet
Padme Amidala - Head