[Duo "Tomorrow Kings from 3A Toys. There more of them, oh so much more…]
DELUSION IS A WONDEROUS THING: Thinking back to my heydays of yore as an "active" 12-inch figure collector, I must have been really deluded. I had "claimed" not to collect "military", when I have in fact a miniature ammo-bunker filled with military uniforms and weapons (of course I exaggerate but you'll be surprised). I had claimed to only collect streetwear and urban styled figures (that much is true tho), and I realized just the other day, I had claimed not to be a "team-builder", and instead promoted the virtues of collecting not more than 2 x similar figures at a time (so you could pose them in the display shelf - one standing and one kneeling with his weapon pointing the other way). - when in actuality, I do and like to build "teams"!
And hey, I even had plans for a hypothetical toyshow (which one day I WILL make happen) - and that works real well with teams! (and of course, "dioramas").
TEAM-PLAYER: And when I mention "team-building", it is specifically catering for 1/6th-scaled figure, which involve making multiples of similar-styled or themed figures which interact within a group dynamic, and not a group of Storm Troopers with differing production ranks - bought off the shelf - that is what I call instead "Collection Building". There is a very strong element of "kitbashing", or even "customizing" involved in team-building, and I do not mean going in a group of folks to summer-camp and taking turns sliding down a rope across trees, no.
OBSESS ME: The thing with "obsessions" (which I embrace and lay claim to now, since I "live" it everyday via my blog and memories of my "collecting past") is that once you admit to it and embrace it, that is one thing less that others have a hold over you. You will never be accused of being "deluded" or "self-delusional", or even "lying". I am obsessed with toys. I Like Toys. I LOVE TOYS!
(Okay, that was my schpeel for the day, the rest is up to you to how to face the world, can't help you more than that buddy!)
[I build so much more fashion / streetwear folks that I no
longer call them "teams", they are literal "neighborhoods" :p]
YOU BUILD, I BUILD, WE BUILD: The thing with "team building, is the tiring but weirdly exciting aspect of amassing the uniforms and similar weapons (of course they were mostly armed!) in multiples (depending on how many in your team), from all over the place (depending on price-point), to cater to a group of figures which represent your hopes and desires for human-kind (okay, that much is a stretch of any imagination, scarily so), with each build up as easy as an online bid or "add-to-cart", or as hard as sourcing for items not necessarily popular to be taken apart and sold - or even "too easily popular", they were be snatched up once they are parted!
PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW: When I mention "parted" or "loose", it literally means parts of a complete boxed-figure (aka "what you can buy off the shell") are taken off and sold separately from the box. The accumulation of the loose-parts are more expensive in cost combined, compared to a boxed figure, but sometimes you DO NOT want the whole box-fig, just the weapon, or shoes, or uniform etc - that's where kitbashing as a hobby, caters primarily to.
Sure, there were days when I thought to myself: "I can buy the whole box-figure, then take out what I want, and sell the rest for a price so I get my loose parts free!" - and that's why I used to lug around a mini-suitcase filled with loose-parts bagged and ready to sell - folks might have thought I was a bootleg DVD salesman instead!
But let it be known that the concept of kitbashing is both an adventurous everlasting hunt, and as well a hair-tearing task sometimes. Ever turn a corner into a shop filled from top to bottom with kitbashed loose parts? Ever discovered an online merchant who was clearing out stock of exactly what you were searching for? Ever had a
<>u>HERE's an old post about the "Anatomy Of Kitbashing", for alla you folks who missed it the first time around (Disclaimer: Mind you, that was written in 2006 - so some details might have altered, but the principal remains the same).
[Old-skool war Marvel comicbook buffs might recognize these trio of characters
which I have yet to complete but for a Medusa-headsculpt -recognize them yet?]
HOW MANY IS MANY?: How many is "enough"? Depends on each individual's preference, or tolerance to being poisoned by toys! I am personally stuck with a notion of a 5 or 6-man fire-team configuration, inclusive of a leader-type character, a comms-specialist ("communication"), a demolition-expert (most times off his/her rockers), a sharp-shooter, a heavy-arms specialist and another or two rifleman (blame my military-training for the roles lol). Most times the mix change along with themes, like a robot, a cyborg, a space-ninja etc (yes, I had a "few" teams!), and I heart me ninjas and cyborgs LOL
Figure-type is always an interesting notion for me, with numerous headsculpts fitting particular characters, or prone to customization (which I used to always say, but hell little done about them lol), as well as different body-types from various toy brands. Wouldn't it be boring to have ALL the figures in a similar body-type? Being able to afford them is one thing, but not everyone needs to be kit out in a 38-points-of-articulation-body, innit? IMHO, of course :)
DO I LOOK FAT LIKE THAT?: Sideshow always provided the tall lanky types, while Dragon provided a mixed similar-style of regular non-heavily muscled bodies, of which I could always depend on BBI-G3s for hunky-builds, and even bulky 21st Century bodies gave their awkward charm (I hear *gasps-of-disgust* somewhere behind there…). Never heard of brands beyond Sideshow Toys and Hot Toys? Can't really blame you if you're new to the the hobby in the past couple of years.
[Not exactly 1/6 "adults" but you get the picture :p]
ONCE UPON A 1/6-TIME: In the early-to-mid 2000s, the height of 12" figure collection hit Eastern collectors with an abundance of choice - with primarily Hong Kong-based makers struggling for action figure supremacy, while us collectors lapped it up, and were actually spoilt hard for choice. Those were heady times indeed!
Price-points were extremely compatible that SGD$50 per BBI-box with a foldout spread of weapons, was not unheard of. Imagine a nude body was parted out to around SGD$20-25, while an automatic weapon could go for between SGD$8 to SGD$15. Get a box, right? And so loads of us did, and we had parts to spare - at least I had!
[Pic circa 2006 - don't judge me…]
IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED: Things have changed so drastically thru the years, with beloved companies closing, and generic figure lines stopping production, and choices dwindling down to exclusivity. You might be able to find a Sideshow body loose somewhere, or perhaps even a Hot Toys. But brands like Medicom Toys cater specifically to brands and remain unparted, and the most DID (Dream In Dragon) does is separate the body and the uniform, and nothing else. There are of course other players of 1/6th out there, but most remain in-boxed and un-parted, so perhaps that is another post for a possible otherwhen.
[All above images via Store Rooms - I have no affiliation with them whatsoever]
One thing is interesting though - bootleggers going at it with their own unlicensed characters (movie-based), and they do not advertise their wares, save for Ebay listings and availability on specialist-1/6 purchase sites (Yes, they are from Hong Kong as well). Folks like Brothers Production and ToyMasters et al delve into the cult-genre themes unreleased by the big brands, and cater to the have-nots, and folks are happy. I remain hopeful one day I will be able to afford a figure or two (Not that they are expensive, but just that I have no toy-spending money these days). But building teams with them? Hardly, as parts are seldom available. The current exception being a whole slew of jackets/trousers and/or suits set being released for figures (since the advent of Iron Man with Tony Stark by Hot Toys). I still remember the days when I was lucky to find a loose or even a color-dyed suit set from Dragon! (Remember "Michael Chang" in grey? Or Patrick-whatever in brown? ToyGawds-Bless DML! lol)
LOOSE BUT PRICEY: For a period of time, certain brands popped up and offered uniforms and equipment, without the figures - Hong Kong brands like Saturday Toys and Very Hot veered dangerously close to Hot Toy's offerings (but without the weathering paintwork) with rumors persisting those days that they were in fact HT-manufacturers gone rogue (nothing would ever be substantiated or proved), until later when they came out with their own jackets and clothing. But they were no longer as affordable as before. And frankly, how many fireman figures would be enough? (Hey, there were considered a team-build too you know?).
QUALITY VERSUS PLAYABILITY: Know that "quality" was pedestrian at best in the "good old days" (compared to the lushness of Hot Toys, Enterbay et al these days) which frankly afforded loads of "play", and the notion and action of "kitbashing" - which aided especially well for the notion of "team-building". The current offerings of three-numbered prices deter the notion of taking figures apart somewhat (not necessarily true, as I have witnessed loads of DX Joker being parted out!), although there no doubt are other constant supporters and purveyors of the hobby on dedicated toy-forums (if which I used to be a fanatic, now no more).
[The name "Bravo-6" does not actually pertain to any until I have had served in while in the army]
INDULGE ME: So instead of yakking about the industry (which you probably already know of by now) - let me indulge on my OWN teams! I had a few team-builds going on: The largest number of folks kitbashed belonged to my Vietnam War-era team of soldiers BRAVO-6 (12 soldiers in all - mostly with different body-forms too / circa 2004), my S.W.A.T. team-turned-urban mercenaries (aren't they all? LOL) - and my S.W.A.T.-team would have been a 6-man team, if not for the advent of B.B.I.'s LAPD-SWAT release (then my boys needed to have a "upgrade" in uniforms - their TUAS uniforms no longer cut it lol).
"Upgrades" = the bane of all kitbashing attempts. Tis either you upgrade your boys with the latest gear, or create yet another team altogether - they can't be mucking about wearing different uniforms tho, innit?
I have a collector-friend Edwin, who collected and created meticulously different ranks for his Police Officer series, who all wear the same uniforms in the frist place. Now THAT, is dedication! And every year he holds a "change-over ceremony", whereby his advances his characters, and retires the old ones - now THAT, is team-building and cohesion!
Far be it I am making a mockery of anyone's action, for this is serious business we folks are saddled with, and this is a serious hobby involving time and money, and least mentioned of all: SPACE. (Display Space, in fact). Why have a team, when you can't display them together? (Sadly, I do not have space, but I've always just posed them together, snapped pics and boxed them up together afters anyways :p).
[I actually used to actively source out brown Jedi-robes! Hasbro might have
torrid figure-bodies, but they were the only affordable producers of props…]
A failed team that never got past three figures - that bugs at me until now - is my 3-man "Kerberos Panzer Cops" - JIN-ROH unit (with a female as team-leader, no less!) - featuring armor from Dragon Models (I couldn't really afford multiple Medicoms or Takaras tho), which one fine day I hope to make a 6-man/woman team. And the Jedi and Sith guys (shown above) did not really pan out (but they were blink-n-miss "stars" in a television opening once!)
What I had completed, and actually taken pictures of, were another trio of teams that did not thread the regular stores, for which I want to share with you folks now. You might have seen them before, or you might not (thanks for indulging me this far tho!) - Presenting: SCARLET SQUAD, RED HUNT and NEO-OPERA CLAN.
ORIGIN TOY STORIES: The Scarlet Squad was basically my upgrade of Captain Scarlet from the marionette-based science-fiction TV series of 1960s. I had loved the series (tho memories the actual episodes have faded with time) and had even written/planned up an entire story around the characters. The Scarlet Squad no longer policed the Universe. In it's place, the Darkness reigned supreme, and the squad is now a ragtagcollection of rebels found and recovered from around the outer fringes. Shown just above are "recruitment posters" featuring the series of characters I have amassed and kitbashed so far, including two characters I had featured on this blog before: PRIEST and RAVEN. Ironically enough, the genesis of the series was actually spurred on my a classic "Captain Black" figure I had in my humble collection.
I had actually trawled Ebay for old 12" Captain Scarlet figures, as it was their sleeveless vest I was looking for! Instead of getting someone to sew them for me (or even sew them myself), I bided for each figure individually online and won the ones I have put on my figures! (And somewhere in my boxes, is a series of naked "Captain Scarlet" figures, as well as the cap, and some scarlet boots :p).
As the notion of blogging about toys slowly crept into my lifestyle, I lightened up on the frenzy of collecting (believe you me, calling it a "frenzy" is being kind to myself) and started to concentrate on "story-telling" with my creations - if only to appease myself, and of the need to "create", even if with kitbashed figures. One of this series, was THE RED HUNT - a 6-man zombie-kill-squad squad (brought on by a myriad of zombie movies and comicbooks, no doubt - including Robert Kirkman's "Walking Dead" and possibly "28 Days Later"). I created an overall-synopsis of the story, I made individual character back-stories to the folks, and posted them with aplomb. Response was temperate at best, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself! And if checking out tagged posts on this blog is tiring (circa 2006, no less!), check out my dedicated-hobby blog at http://theredhunt.blogspot.com :)
[FatherX: Christmas-themed group kitbash for a toy-forum competition
for which I missed the dateline - with no particular story besides lol]
Yes, there is a master-plan for ALL of them, and I have had kept them pretty close to the chest, all these years - for fear of "theft", truth be told. And the reality is, they remained as a "hobby" for me, as I had not actively "shopped" them or the concepts around. And hell, they're not all "original" ideas to begin with in the first place. let's not over-kid ourselves and give phantom back-pats to ourselves besides their "creation" (even tho their characteristics resound within me). And why mention them now? Because I no longer want to play with myself .. eerrr… I meant, play with my own toys by myself … eerrr … aaaahhh you know what I mean! :p
One of the last "teams" I had ever built, was the "NEO-OPERA CLAN" (posted here in 2009 / Full-screen slideshow) - featuring a group of assassins themed with Oriental/Chinese wayang masks. "Neo" because I had always envisioned a world of abject commerce built out of desolation (yes, AKIRA is king in my mindscape!), and the guys (and girl) of NEO CLAN did what they did, to survive. And a little bit of Chinese heritage is interesting, for after an age of apocalypse, what would more folks attempt to grab ahold of? Money? A fancy car? Or a sense of past, which foretells their future? This notion I had, derived from reading Brian Wood's amazing DMZ. I had attempted to kitbash the characters of the series tho - but I reckon somethings should remain as they are, and not need to be manifested unto toys or products, IMHO.
[Unfinished series of kitbashes featuring characters from the Vertigo-book "DMZ"]
Thinking back, all of the ideas I had created, were based on characters that I could easily adapt to, or from, a comicbook (I grew up on comicbooks), and as well easily lend themselves to being animated. And perhaps that was what fueled me from the very beginning, the influences I have had - that made me build teams, with 1/6th-scaled action figures being the most accessible and workable or me.
Different people build teams for different reasons, and begin with their own "origin stories". Mine is just my own reason and not necessarily yours (But I am interested to know about yours tho! Can't be just myself geeing out here alone, ya'know? LOL). And as much as folks do share the hobby, it seems to be quite the solidary vocation as well. But know that YOU are not alone! (Second schpeel for the day, tired yet? Heh)
And I've always liked the concept of "teams" = especially a ragtag-collection of dark-horses from around the world, very Samurai 7, Magnificent Seven, Buckaroo Banzai, Star Wars (the early trilogy, not the later torrid prequels) and surprisingly "Battle Beyond The Stars (which affected more so than SW) - and yes, even Akira. The team structure has gone from Robin Hood sensibilities to Lord of the Rings-lore, gained regimentation in Battlestar Galactica and conquered worlds in more sci-fi films then we'll ever give credit for, IMHO.
FLASHBACK: The CyPunkX were perhaps my first ever "team-build" made public, all those years ago (shown here in an exhibition+competition at Heeren). Having debated to creating a singular figure (themed ala Akira, thanks), I had decided to create the four Lords of each Clan living in the same city, which has and is constantly being "developed" (I even had wanted to do a stop-motion series with the concept - so many dreams back then, eh?).
HERE+NOW: These days of collecting 1/6, a lot of emphasis is placed now on "licensed properties", with movie characters lining the road pathed with toy-gold, and folks would buy them and display them straight-out-of-the-box, alongside the "other" characters released from the series. There hardly is ever a need to kitbash anymore (specific hobby forums and hobbyists notwithstanding, of course), or even a "desire" for that fact. And "teams" might well be a small series of figures from the same series. Exceptions to team building come in the form of G.I.Joe or even Star Wars characters (ironically also from movie licenses) where folks can form entire groups or extended Universes, and a ready continous production of military personel (I only get the accessories from the P.M.C.s lol). Figures from 3A Toys had initially rekindled my passion for 1/6th, and they blast their way thru with ideas and concepts from one sole person - a unique abnormally in the arena of the 1/6-hobby.
[Tomorrow Queens by 3A Toys / Photography of Alice Adrenochrome]
WHAT'S IN A WORD?: And the word "kitbashed" was strictly kept in the 1/6-scaled hobby, but seems now it has surfaced as a description for a less-than-perfect custom of an art toy, which should not be the case.
And the word "kitbashed" sounds less satisfying than "custom", it seems. Someone slap a few paints unto a figure and call it a "custom" already - the line is so murky these days, I not longer subscribe to the public notion of, in lieu of my own private explanations.
[Pic circa 2006 - when there was more time for "play"]
IN THE END: But perhaps, besides being a "team-builder", I am also a "kitbasher" at heart. Never an opportunity of "loose parts" miss my attention, and frankly, with the amount I had spent on them, I would easily procure quite a few complete boxes of figures in the first place! But the reality is, they would not have been able to satisfy my need to kitbash, and create a world of my own, populated by characters I actually feel for - individually, or as a team.
And though I am not as "active" as I was in the 1/6-hobby, I have been creating yet another "team" of my own, in the art toy culture: A series of custom toys, all actually belonging to a similar story-concept! Sort of like an extension of the "Scarlet Squad", in colors and intent. Ironically I let them leave my side to go on for overseas shows and being procured by folks with excellent tastes (*cough*). Notice the similarities?
Perhaps I should blogyak less and make more toys, be it as "individuals", but always a space in my toy-lurving hearts for "teams".