Monday, November 18, 2013

The Little Differences: Vintage Figure Style MOTUC Skeletor

Vincent: It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same $#!t over there that we got here, but it's just – it's just there it's a little different.


Today's installment of the Little Differences is a quick, down and dirty, Masters of the Universe Classics kit-bash! I was very excited to get the more "vintage action figure style" body construction with Dragon Blaster Skeletor. However, after I had him in hand, I knew achieving the vintage figure look would not be as simple as swapping his chest armor and giving him some weapons.

First, unlike any other Skeletor figure to come before him, Dragon Blaster Skeletor's body is actually black plastic painted blue. This practice fans on have dubbed "blastic" was used on several figures last year. The problem with this technique is that the paint on these figures rubs off over time revealing the black plastic underneath. (This is totally unacceptable for someone who enjoys posing and displaying their figures out of the package. Thankfully Mattel has stopped doing this on subsequent figures.)

The second problem with Dragon Blastor Skeletor is that his right hand is not a Skeletor "creature" hand with long pointed fingernails. Instead, for some odd reason, they gave him a standard "human" right hand. The last nail in the coffin preventing this from being an easy swap was that the armor tassels "hanging" from his belt were painted black instead of purple.
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So instead of simply swapping the Dragon Blaster armor with regular Skeletor armor, I needed to put the DB forearms, boots, and feet onto a standard Skeletor! Using the tried and true hot-water technique, I swapped the arms at the biceps, hands, and boots. I was especially careful removing and re-attaching the DB parts as the paint on the "blastic" comes off even more easily when heated. Here's my recipe...
Head = Demo Man (alternate head)
Body = Skeletor (from Mo-Larr pack)
Arms = Dragon Blaster Skeletor
Hands =
Skeletor (from Mo-Larr pack) 
Boots/Feet = Dragon Blaster Skeletor
Armor = Skeletor (from Mo-Larr pack) 
Trunks = Skeletor (from Mo-Larr pack)
Weapons = Skeletor (from Mo-Larr pack) + Fang Man

Note; the blue on the body parts are not a 100% match but they are close enough. In fact, I've seen much greater differences on factory painted vs molded color production pieces. So my decision to swap the entire arm instead of just the forearm is for two reasons; removing the complex elbow joints and re-attaching them could damage the paint on the DB pieces and I felt the biceps would be a better place to hide the color difference with the shadows created by the armor and the deltoids.
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Yes, he isn't totally toy accurate with the Alcala head but it's such a wonderfully expressive sculpt that I couldn't resist using it. I also gave him Fang Man's sword as a stand-in for his "energy-blade." The skull motif on the handle suits him especially well.

So if you like your Masters of the Universe Classics with a little more vintage-toy flavor, this is an easy one to do. Until next time, I remain The Insidious One.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Little Differences: Three Kings of Masters of the Universe Classics

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Vincent: It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same $#!t over there that we got here, but it's just – it's just there, it's a little different.


I'm a huge fan of the MOTUC toy line for many reasons; the theme of sword and sorcery mixed with technology, nostalgia for the characters, the excellent articulation, the amazing sculpts by The Four Horsemen, and the diversity of characters to name a few. But one of my top reasons is the modularity of the figures. What do I mean? Their parts are intentionally designed to be swappable from one figure to another (or kit-bashable). You can easily swap heads, armor, and weapons by simply pulling them off. But with a little warm water and some elbow-grease, you can go even farther and change out limbs, trunks, and other pieces.

This modularity is the subject of today's "The Little Differences" and its no coincidence that today is also the final day to subscribe to Club Eternia on I hear a lot of people are not subscribing this year because they don't want to get "stuck" with figures they don't want and won't be able to sell on the aftermarket. I'm here to say, don't sell them because while you may not like the character, their parts are probably pretty great. With a little kitbashing, you can easily turn a character you don't like into one that you do.

For example; many complained that they didn't want the Fighting Foe Men last year and sold them, often at a loss. However, if they had just opened them, they might have seen the awesome potential of their parts. The FFM are loaded with great stuff to make dozens of cool figures. Below is one example for the 200x and recent mini-comic fans.
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Prince Keldor or Alternate Universe King Keldor, as I like to call him is from an alternate universe where Keldor becomes King, stays good, and raises Adam after Randor's death at the hands of Hordak. He is made using the body of Ditstroyer, the amor from a Palace Guard, the sword of King Randor, and the head of Keldor.

A figure whose design I absolutely hated from day one was the subscriber exclusive King He-Man. Some of the parts were cool, but together they just looked silly to me. The head looked too small and the gold and silver everywhere was too much. And the trunks with their blue, gold, silver, and red coloring and his bare legs were just a little too reminiscent of a creepy old man lounging around the house in his boxers.
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In the end, I was able to get two figures out of his pieces (with a third still in the works) by combining them in a more visually appealing way.
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The first figure is a replacement for King He-Man. This is the look I imagine he would have shortly after becoming King but before he would go on his adventures in space. He's in his mid-thirties and still very much the warrior-king. He has the body of Battle Armor He-Man, the armor and cape, boots, and sword, from King He-Man.
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This is my take on "old" King He-Man, or as I like to call him, Alternate Universe Old King He-Man. This is a decidedly older and war weary He-Man who has been space and back and, having passed the Power Sword to the next generation, sits on the throne of Eternia. He has the upper body, head, and staff from King He-Man, legs and boots from Bow, and He-Ro's armor. The armor's shape helps the small head look more proportioned. The dominent colors are now gold and blue with accents of red. The blue pants are a nod to having returned from space and help him look less like a creepy old man in his boxers.
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I've even concocted my own story for them I call, "Three Kings."

In an alternate future, King Hisss returns, deposes "Old King He-Man" and captures his son Dare and the Power Sword. In a desperate last ditch attempt, Old King He-Man reaches out across time and dimensions for aid. But the one who answers his call is someone he never would have expected; King Keldor! In that dimension, Keldor never went bad and when Randor was killed in battle, he became King. He is also raising his brother's young son, Adam. King Keldor knows Adam's destiny but also knows he is too young to be of any assistance, so he in-turn travels to another time and dimension and enlists the help of another King He-Man. Together they travel to the alternate future, defeat King Hisss, retake the Power Sword, rescue Old King He-Man's son, and restore order to his Eternia.

I hope you see from these examples that with a little bit of creativity and elbow-grease, you too can turn your most unwanted figures into fun new characters, or variations of characters that you will like. To paraphrase the words of the poet Ezra Pound, "If you don't like it, make it new." And if you haven't subscribed for MOTUC 2014, take these words to heart as you review this card-back showing a sampling of vintage characters that may appear in MOTUC in 2014.
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Yes, there may be some characters pictured that you have little or no interest in owning, but think about the possibilities of their parts. And if we don't get enough subscriptions, you won't even have the opportunity to cherry pick those that you do want. So if you are able, please subscribe today so we can all continue to get these awesome action figures. If I've swayed you with my speech, click the gold sun-burst below to subscribe.

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Until next time, I remain The Insidious One.

Monday, July 8, 2013

James Bond 007 (Daniel Craig) Skyfall Custom Action Figure

This is my 101st post to this blog. Being a bit of milestone, I felt it should feature one of my most-requested and, according to Google Analytics, one my most searched-for and viewed pieces. The answer? Yours and my favorite M16 Agent; 007, James Bond as portrayed by Daniel Craig. I've done several versions of Craig's Bond. You can see two of them here and here
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This time, I decided to go with the gray-suited look that we saw in the latest Bond film; Skyfall. I really enjoyed this film and it is my favorite of the Craig Bond movies. In addition in the change of suit color, I aged his face by a few years to convey the weariness of his soul but still tough as nails as I really enjoyed this theme in the film.
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The light-blue shirt was also a nice compliment to the gray and suits the mood of this era in Bond's career.
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I was pleasantly surprised by the vintage Aston Martin DB5's appearance in the film. It's a beautiful car and symbolizes Bond's return to his roots. The RC2 replica looks great with the figure.
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While I'll admit that I was skeptical of Babara Broccoli's choice of Craig as Bond, I feel that she has truly done-right by the character and Craig has contributed to it. He's more like the Bond from the novels than ever; he's highly skilled, cool, and deadly, but he's fallible. He's a scrapper again and he fights and struggles to get the job done. After seeing Skyfall, I have every confidence in Barbra's ability to shepherd the franchise in the years to come.
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Suit? Check.
Car? Check.

Babe? Double check.
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I hope you dig him. Until next time, I remain The Insidious One.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Little Differences: Flash Gordon Masters of the Universe Classics Action Figure MOTUC

I love Sci-Fi. I love how it can cloak social commentary so that it presents a familiar and often sensitive subject in a different light. I love how it speculates on new technology and explores the technology's impact on the human condition. But most of all, I love how it takes you to different worlds, completely unhindered by current norms, so we can experience new and exciting adventures.

Modern Sci-Fi like Star Trek, Farscape, Doctor Who, Blade Runner, Prometheus, and Star Wars are fantastic. But several years ago, I decided to explore the roots of Science Fiction and luckily, I had a great resource nearby. Atlas Comics just outside Chicago had a wealth of material such as old comic strips from the 1930's and comic books from the 1950's. There, I was able to research and actually see things like Flash Gordon comic strips and comics books like Weird Fantasy first-hand as well as add them to my collection. Additionally, the store's proprietor John Stangeland was a wealth of information on vintage films which helped me track down information on the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon movie serials. (John is a comic book artist, writer, and author of the fantastic book Warren William: Magnificent Scoundrel of Pre-Code Hollywood. You can learn more about him and his book here.) Many of these early creators were making Sci-Fi before the term was even coined, breaking new ground and telling stories that rival those of today.

Years later, my friend Doug Klauba created a piece starring Flash Gordon called "To Be Continued...". My plan was to put in in my son's room to inspire him but it was such a large piece that it didn't fit his wall, so it currently resides above my work table and inspires me daily.
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So when I recently picked up an extra loose Masters of the Universe Classics King Randor and took the armor off, his bright red shirt was a natural inspiration to make my own MOTUC Flash Gordon type of character.
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The bright blue pants and head were donated by an extra Bow figure; and the black boots are from Mo-Larr. I used the "hot water" method to swap the parts; submersing them in the water for a minute or so to soften the plastic  and then gently working the parts off. I used the same process to put them together.
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I added a Jet Pack from Snout Spout as an homage to the Filmation Flash Gordon cartoon as I remember seeing him wear one in an episode. (Considering Filmation's contribution to Masters of the Universe, I thought it was more than fitting.)
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As you can see, he fits in well with the more "Spacey" characters in Classics.
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Yes, Bow's tiara is a little weird, but Flash did sport some strange outfits back in the day and I remember seeing a painting of early Sci-Fi hero John Carter in a tiara of sorts so it isn't completely out of place.
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As always with these "Little Differences" posts, I hope you are inspired to bash your own classic/retro Sci-Fi hero and you see that the little differences can make a big impact on your action figure collection. Until next time, I remain The Insidious One.

On a more somber note, I'd like to add that the fantastic comic book store that I mention above, Atlas Comics, will be closing it's doors after 25 years in business.
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John Stangeland, the owner of Atlas is both a mentor and a good friend and I am sad to see the shop close. However, this is an opportunity for YOU to get your hands on some incredible books, toys, statues, and collectibles at insanely low prices.

The liquidation sale begins Saturday, 06/01/13 and culminates with the store closing on Saturday, 06/29/13. Atlas is in Norridge, IL a few blocks from 90, on the corner of Cumberland and Lawrence (next to The Phoenix Restaurant). See map below for directions and click this link for more info on the sale

View Larger Map

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Trap Jaw Mini-Comic Custom Action Figure Art - Masters of the Universe Classics

For those of us who were fans of Masters of the Universe before the Filmation cartoon began airing in 1983, our first experience of many of the characters came from the mini-comics packed with each action figure. In these comics, the character's appearance often differed greatly from the very action figure it was packaged with. Trap Jaw is one perfect example as both his design details and his coloring were dramatically different.
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The obvious differences include the action figure's green face and blue skinned body compared to the comic version which had a yellowish-green skin color. The toy was also more heavily armored on the legs while the comic version featured the standard Masters of the Universe muscle legs and furry boots.

So when "Comic Trap Jaw" finished in 3rd place, in the 2013 MOTUC Fan's Choice Poll, I decided to give him a second look. On closer examination, I discovered other small details that make the comic version of Trap Jaw even more unique. First, the Frankenstein-esque "bolts" on the sides of his helmet seem to suit the character's cyborg look while the metallic jaw makes his bite (and the "red meat" inside his mouth) appear even more menacing. The striped trunks even add to his "criminal" background in a subtle prison-uniform kind of way. But one detail almost missed my attention, the ram's head relief on his belt which replaces the pirate-vibe created by the original skull and crossbones. (...and begs the question of a possible connection to the ram skull-head of Skeletor's Havok Staff.)

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Before he was part of the Fan's Choice Poll, Mini-Comic Trap Jaw was slotted to be part of the Toys R Us MOTUC/DC two-packs. But with that line's cancellation and since he didn't win the poll, I knew he wasn't going to be released officially. I really loved this figure as a kid and loved his story from the mini-comic even more so I HAD to make him.
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In the comic, the wraps on his boots were white. I made them a dingy gray to better match the battered metallic look of his metal components.
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I removed the skull and crossbones on the belt by carefully sanding it off. I sculpted the ram's head in it's place. The most difficult part of this piece was matching the yellow-green skin tone on the forearm and the lower legs. (I'm a stickler for color matching.) Other than that, he was a labor of love and he's loaded with subtle details like washes, highlights, and spot varnishes to really bring out his sculpted details.
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Instead of just painting stripes on the trunks, I followed the contours of the fur to make it look more natural. (As natural as striped purple fur can look.)
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I hope you dig him. If you do, leave a comment, follow my blog, or follow me on Twitter at the links at the right side of the page. Until next time, I remain The Insidious One.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hordak (Blue) Filmation / MOTUC Mashup Custom Action Figure Art

I like the design of the gray-skinned vintage Masters of the Universe Hordak figure. And while I more often than not find Filmation's changes in both the design and coloring of my beloved Masters to be uninspired, their color changes on Hordak work for me on many of levels. photo hordak_vintage_zps9f243384.jpg
Despite their simplifying the face details, making it less organic and more mechanical looking, the starkness of the white color makes him even more demonic and maniacal. (I can't help but hear the They Might Be Giants song "Turn Around" in my head whenever I see it.) Their skin color change from gray to blue also livens up what was originally a very muted color palette.
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I've seen some fantastic Filmation Hordak customs on and elsewhere including an incredible sculpt  of the Filmation style head by Kevin Kosse. But I wanted to do Hordak a little differently: First, I didn't want to paint his entire body blue. No matter how much you prep, sand, prime, and seal it, you can't avoid some level of paint chipping, especially on joints. To minimize this, I chose Webstor as a base body. Second, I love the Four Horsemen's MOTUC sculpt but I was curious to see what the head would look like in stark white with dry brushing to really bring out the sculpted details. Finally, the forearm canon of Hurricane Hordak gave me the final component to truly make this piece a tribute to both Filmation and MOTUC.
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While the structural cues are mostly Masters Classics, I gave him the double arm bands and sculpted a simple bracer for his left wrist to give him some key Filmation details. The "bleached bone" white face was painted in several stages starting with a medium gray and working up to the bright white details on the uppermost surfaces. I also gave his red costume elements the proper treatment with a very bright red base and a wash so they would really pop-off the black just as they did in the cartoon.
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Inspired by's tutorial on using laser pointers in photography, I experimented a bit achieving some pretty cool blaster effects.
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I modified a red tinted plastic rod for this shot. It looks good on it's own but the laser really brings it to life...or should I say death!
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"...and his face which was a paper-white mask of evil sang us this song..." - They Might Be Giants
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"Grayskull, you will be mine!"
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I hope you dig him. If you do, I've made him available in my Etsy store. Click here to purchase him. Also, leave a comment and be sure to follow Insidious Customs at the links at the right. Until next time, I remain The Insidious One.