Welcome to my website of custom 12" action figures!

IN THE BEGINNING

When I was a little kid, I played with my 8 inch Mego Batman almost every day.  My cousin had the Mego Mummy with the
glow-in-the-dark hands, but of course, he was nowhere near as cool as Batman.  And, as little kids often do, I took that
Batman with me everywhere I went.  One day, I went shopping with my mom to a mall, clutching Batman by his boot,
following her everywhere she went.  But, to my horror, when it was time to leave, I realized that for quite some time, I must
have only been holding the boot!  Batman was gone!

WWWWAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!  We couldn't find him, and I went home, devastated.  Sad, isn't it?

What's even sadder is, I didn't own another action figure for the next twenty years.

Even though 12" GI Joe figures were reintroduced by Hasbro and the sixth scale world began growing in popularity by
leaps and bounds, it wasn't until last year, when I saw a friend's Toys McCoy Indiana Jones figure, encased like some holy
relic behind glass, that my fascination and love for action figures was rekindled.

I couldn't afford to get my own Toys McCoy Indy, so I had to make my own archeologist hero.  I was new to the hobby,
didn't know what figures were out there, which bodies were best or anything, so I began absorbing what I could from the
various websites out there.  I also began to hang out at the alt.toys.gi-joe newsgroup (also referred to as the "Sandbox")
where I learned much lurking and reading the posts of other "sixth-scale enthusiasts" (sounds better than "doll collectors",
doesn't it?).

I eventually realized what drew me to the Toys McCoy figure:  a great likeness, and a well-thought out inventory of
accessories to go along with it.  Many other enthusiasts come into the hobby by way of an interest in the military or
science fiction, but I really look at action figures as a form of art.

Unfortunately, most toy companies don't.  There's an abundance of bad product out there.  Poorly articulated bodies, not
at all realistic, dressed in cheap, doll clothes, and featuring really, really bad likenesses.  Likenesses so bad, that they
make you wonder why they'd even pay for a license to make that celebrity in the first place.

The best figures out there are typically military figures from various wars, complete with weapons sets and uniforms, but I
couldn't find figures in my areas of interest, or if I did, they were cheap and ugly.

So, I realized, if I was going to have a worthwhile figure of whatever character I desired I would have to become a
Customizer.
CUSTOMIZING ACTION FIGURES AS AN ART FORM

While many would view "action figure toys" as mere playthings for children, the sustained popularity of such lines as GI
Joe (even Barbie) and the recent advent of more and more figures manufacturers here and abroad prove what adult
collectors and hobbyists (commonly called "Joeheads") have believed all along:

"Action figure toys" is a form of art.

Is this consideration really a stretch?  Maybe not.

Primitive cave drawings and their three-dimensional counterparts of crude carved sculptures, often human figurines,
reveal man's desire to create representations of his reality and of himself, whether for enjoyment, for inspriation, or even
for spiritual edification.  The power of his creations to serve these functions derives most directly from
the expressive
accuracy of the art
.  That is, the more the representation actually looks like the real thing, the better.  And so it is not
surprising that an oil-painter who paints masterfully and photo-realistically garners more praise from the lay person than
his counterpart who chooses to paint in the abstract.

And so it is with action figure toys.

Yet, the goal of the toy maker who manufactures his product on a massive scale is simply to maximize profits through
volume.  Cheaper materials and simplified manufacuring processes certainly help in this endeavor, but these methods are
not without their "costs".  Typically, the sacrifices come in the way of poor likenesses, lower quality and, in the overall,
diminished credibility as an art form.

And thus is born the need for us who humbly call ourselves "Customizers', who seek to fill the voids left by streamlined
manufacturing processes, high licensing fees, and the huge flat costs for launching a new figure.

If there is an art to being a seamster, an art to being a sculptor, and an art to being a painter, why should it not be
considered an art if all three are done at once in one-sixth scale?  For in crafting our own custom figures and heads, we
Customizers are simply striving to elevate this genre to an art form.
HOW I MAKE MY FIGURES:  
CUSTOMIZING VERSUS KIT-BASHING

In creating a figure, one can use an existing body and headsculpt, but one must be willing to accept the realism of that
figure.  I've found, unfortunately, that few available figures live up to my standards.  We all have standards, and we all
have them set at our own levels for maximum enjoyment.  For some, lowering expectations for likeness and quality,
means more enjoyment from completing figures faster, being able to play with them sooner, and being able to move onto
the next project.  For others like myself, the "ordeal" of trying to find the exact best material, substance, or pre-existing
item, that lives up to our standard of quality, is part of the fun and challenge of customizing.

I am not judging or denouncing the practice of kit-bashing (taking pre-existing parts from other kits to complete a
different figure).  In fact, if the part lives up to my standards, it can save a lot of time and energy.  But, unfortunately,
maybe it's because of the figures I do, but I usually can't just go out and find exactly what I need, in terms of accessories
or costumes.  I'm forced by my own standards and stubbornness to make the stuff I need for myself.

Customizing a figure may entail sculpting a likeness from scratch, sewing clothes from scratch, even casting and pouring
parts from home-made molds.  In the end, customizers adopt whatever means are necessary for the sake of the figure.  
And, when it comes to the figure itself, the best likeness, with the best set of accessories, is what I always go for.

One needs to be a jack-of-all-trades to be able to complete a figure.  Some of the skills (and talents) one needs (or
acquires/develops) for this hobby include (in no particular order):

- a good, critical eye for likenesses
- rendering in two dimensions (drawing)
- rendering in three dimensions (sculpting)
- understanding how clothing is patterned, cut, stitched/assembled
- understanding the stretch, durability, washability, heat-resistance of a wide variety of fabrics, leathers, rubbers, etc.
- a broad understanding of what substances, materials and media are available, as well as the basic properties of each,
such as silicone, rubber, leather, plastic (usu. styrene), aluminum, brass,  urethane, latex, acrylics, varnishes, plaster,
putty, Sculpy, etc.
- color theory (for painting accurate colors)
- an ability to think in three dimensions, for creating parts, accessories and/or clothing that must be made from scratch
- proficiency with a sewing machine, possibly also irons for ironing transfers, decals, patches...
- proficiency with digital media, photo-editing software, color printing, etc.
- proficiency with an air-brush
- proficiency with traditional brushes and methods
- proficiency with sculpting tools and methods
- photography
- et cetera...

I've taken many classes in high school, college, and graduate school in drawing, painting, sculpting, photography and
design.  I've won art contests for my drawings, sold many oil paintings, worked for awhile as a portrait artist, built plastic
kits of cars and motorcycles in my spare time, and dabbled a bit in photography.  I speak from experience when I say,
this hobby of customizing action figures has been the most interesting, most stimulating, and most challenging of any
genre/media I've worked in!  And, of course, the most fun!  This is probably because it is a culmination of a great many,
many skills!

Another great perk of working in 1:6 scale is that there is no shortage of sixth scale toys, miniatures, and collectibles that
can blend into a diorama, should you decide to build one to accompany a figure.  There are 1:6 planes, motorcycles,
cars and furniture that many other customizers have found for their dioramas.

The figures I create are more intended for posing and display, and not so much for "outdoor play".  I would build
dioramas to accompany my figures except that I'd rather spend the time working on another figure!  Oh well, it's all a
matter of priorities...

Whatever you choose to do in your spare time, whether custom-building or collecting, sixth scale offers endless hours of
challenge, stimulation and satisfaction.

Best of luck in all your future 1:6 endeavors!

Dan Chung
6/17/2002