Archive for the ‘Personal favorites’ Category

The family’s language

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Originally published in August 2005, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.

It’s untelling how many peculiar words and phrases we Powells have adapted over the years. A lot, maybe. I happen to have a few minutes of privery, so let me pour myself a piece of water and share a few.

First, I’ll go back a bit to Granny Powell, my father’s mother. Granny is unable to commit to stating even the simplest thing as unqualified fact. So, if I asked her something like, “Granny, where are the fried apple pies you made this morning?” her answer would be along the lines of, “They might be on that plate on the kitchen counter.”

This is a woman who has faced – and continues to face – some serious hardships in her life, so it’s possible a certain timidity came from that. This is too bad, but it’s also probably part of what inspired her loyalty to her children and grandchildren.

My father (who could never be accused of being timid) grew up in her house, and I’ll bet her example is part of what inspired him to never fear saying exactly what he means … occasionally including when he shouldn’t.

Dad and Mom are my source of the phrase “it’s untelling,” which means the same thing as “there’s no telling.”

I presume they acquired this phrase in their hometown of Hazard, Ky., but I didn’t catch on to its uniqueness until years after I’d moved out on my own.

Nowadays, I don’t ask about “untelling” for fear of making my parents overly conscious they’re saying something few others would. If that happened, they might stop doing it, and I don’t want that.

For the same reason, my wife and I will probably never correct our 4-year-old when she uses the words “lasterday” (yesterday), “lasternight” (last night) or “lasterweek” (last week).

Lisa and I couldn’t point to the moments these words were created, but we flat adore them. I’m serious, these “laster” words our daughter created, for whatever reason, are musical to us and we’d be delighted if she never stopped using them.

We know, though, it’s only a matter of time before she catches on, the way she caught on to the fact that it’s commonly accepted to state a mundane “I’m cold” instead of the more colorful “I’m brrr-ing” she used for so long.

Luckily, she continues to refer to the hospital as “the Popsicle,” a name she created in her first couple of years. These days, however, she does it as a joke.

Our younger girl is about to celebrate her second birthday and her vocabulary grows by the second. Sometime in the last few weeks she started asking for “a piece of water” when she’s thirsty. She’s also taken to saying “I do” or “I don’t” in place of yes or no.

Once again, Lisa and I love these developments.

There’s so much we save from the people in our families. The letters, pictures, drawings, toys and some of the clothes will be around a long, long time, ready to be taken out of storage and admired anytime.

But we slowly lose the sounds of our loved ones; lose the quirkiness shaped in their vocabularies as they grow up and out of it, or as they grow old and out of touch with their surroundings.

We often don’t even recognize these kinds of changes until long after they’ve happened. Some of the quirks in our kids, I’m sure, came and went so quickly and subtly we didn’t even have time to appreciate them before they were lost.

Just last week, my older girl asked for a few minutes of privacy and a little bit of my heart broke. Not because she didn’t want me around, but because she used to call it “privery.” I’m gonna miss that word.

Everything we own ends up on the floor

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Originally published in March 2005, The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.

Things drop at our house.

Open a cabinet, a plastic 32-ounce Taco Bell cup tumbles out, deflects off the counter and skitters around the kitchen floor.

Pull out a dresser drawer, a T-shirt unfurls and flops onto the carpet.

Reach for the Ibuprofen in our cabinet, the Tums bottle that strikes my brow worsens my headache.

Canned peas dive like lemmings. Neckties slither off hangers. Frozen chicken breasts thump the linoleum. Model kit boxes. Play Dough. Paintbrushes. Screwdrivers. Tennis balls. Videotapes. Books. CDs. Pencils. They all topple defiantly from their perches.

Is our place sitting at an angle? Are mice or gremlins at work?

Sometimes I fear I’ve grown so fat I’m creating my own gravitational field, one strong enough to pull items toward me until Earth’s slightly greater mass takes hold of them.

If no one’s around to see me do it, I blame faceless entities and say words I shouldn’t. As often as not, the item that dropped gets kicked, stomped or otherwise mistreated by my feet. For a few seconds, I’m convinced the object has consciousness and wants to aggravate me, so I take my revenge in a way I never could with a person.

In other words, I behave like a child. No, wait, that’s not true, because when such things happen to my 4-year-old, she says “Whoa” or “Oopsie,” picks up the item and moves on. It’s more accurate to say I behave like a jerk.

A part of me would love to call my little girls the source of chaos in our home, but they’re not. In fact, they’re pretty predictable. They’re just not doing things exactly the way I want them to.

The baby books tell me infants will start sleeping through the night after a few months, and so every night for the last year I’ve gone to bed certain that our toddler will “sleep like a baby.” There’s gotta be some reason for the cliché, right? Except every night, our baby girl wakes up at least twice and demands attention.

Every night she does this, and every night I go to bed presuming she won’t.

Our 4-year-old is an aspiring artist. She works with paints, construction paper, glitter, coins, ribbon … no one can guess where her artistic vision will guide her next, but it’s a sure thing it will take her somewhere, and it will involve scissors and glue.

Every day she asks for the tools she needs to create her works, and every day the rejected bits of her efforts scatter on the kitchen table, her desk and other surfaces. She picks up what she can, but it spreads almost as fast as the hair our dog sheds around the house.

The blunt fact is, I am the source of chaos in our home. Being totally unwilling to deal with the predictable uproar that comes with having two small children, I’ve thrown basic organization right out the window.

If I’m the one to empty the dishwasher or straighten up a room, instead of placing things where they belong, I shove them all over creation. My only rule is to make sure plastic ends up on top of glass.

Laundry? Sure, I’m willing to do it. I’m even willing to fold it. But precarious piles atop the dressers are as close as I’ll get to putting it back into the drawers where it belongs.

Obviously, then, I shouldn’t be surprised when these things head south at the first opportunity, and if I’m going to kick anything, it ought to be me.

Monarch gears up to become 21st century Aurora

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published Nov. 28, 2006, at


In this era of shopper mania about PlayStation 3 or TMX Elmo, it’s easy to grow nostalgic about a time three or four decades past, when the Aurora company’s plastic monster models beckoned menacingly – but quietly – from store shelves.

Wide-eyed boys gazed at the bright artwork on those boxes, created by painters such as James Bama or Mort Kunstler, depicting the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera and more. At home, they struggled with the glue and paints needed to assemble the models, then often played with their creations until they fell apart.

Scott McKillop was one of those Aurora fans, and if he has his way, plastic monster models will return to excite boys of all ages by Christmas 2007.

MonarchMcKillop, 40, a doctor in London, Ontario, is dedicating one year of his salary to starting up Monarch Models, which he plans to launch late next year with a “Nosferatu” kit, based on the Max Schreck vampire, Graf Orok, in the 1922 F.W. Murnau silent film based on Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula.” The film has moved into the public domain, and thus no licensing of the character is required.

The kit, designed by artist Gary Makatura and sculptor Jeff Yagher, and sculpted by Yagher, will be in one-eighth scale, the same as most of Aurora’s best-known monster kits, and will be “packaged to harmonize perfectly with the early Aurora long boxes,” McKillop said in an e-mail interview. He hopes the kit will make “the toughest die-hard Aurora fan feel like a 10-year-old again.”

McKillop wasn’t ready to be specific about what will follow the Orlok kit, but he did say the second offering is “a gift to the sci-fi fans, and the third offering is sure to spook you.” After that, he said, Monarch will “step into the murky waters of licensed properties.”

Makatura said Monarch will aim to be true to what Aurora could have actually produced “in both substance and spirit.” He will be in charge of original kit design and box-art illustration.

Monarch also intends to reissue classic Aurora kits that have been often requested by fans, McKillop said. This will be largely determined by how easily the company can get licensing agreements, and so he couldn’t say yet which kits might be reissued.

The company’s Web site is scheduled to be unveiled in February. McKillop said it will feature illustrations by Rod Keith, who will also be in charge of illustrations for Monarch’s print advertisements.

The company will be headquartered in London, Ontario; the kits will be produced in China, “but I am looking into bringing the work back to North American soil,” McKillop said.

The marketplace will determine the number of kits produced, McKillop said; the initial run of Nosferatus will be 5,000. They’ll be sold “through the usual outlets typical of any hobby kit company, including the Monarch online retail outlet.” McKillop said he hopes to price the kit at $24.99, with a maximum possible price of $29.99.



Monarch is attempting to fill the Aurora void left when the Polar Lights company stopped producing figure kits after being purchased by RC2 Corp. in 2004. Polar Lights had built a dedicated following among figure-kit enthusiasts by “repopping” many of Aurora’s classic figure kits as well as creating a few original character models, but RC2 chose to end those efforts.

McKillop said he was inspired about two years ago by Aurora “What If?” paintings Makatura, 40, of Cleveland did for boxes sold by Stratten/Holland Products Co., sold in the 1990s. Makatura’s Bama-style paintings represented characters, including the Invisible Man, the Fly and the Mole Man, in Aurora box-art format. These characters were never actually offered as Aurora models.

“As one candle can light another, in March 2006, I started looking into the nuts and bolts of the plastic model industry,” McKillop said. “I learned from Dave Metzner (formerly of Polar Lights) the basic cost breakdown of taking a concept and putting it on the hobby store shelf. This sounded affordable, and more importantly, the timing sounded right.”

Owning a model manufacturing company was a dream, McKillop said. “How much money would I be willing to spend to finance a dream? My answer: One year’s salary.”

He named the company Monarch partially as an homage to the early Crown/Aurora Knights figure models, and partially because he can use a monarch butterfly as a symbol, similar to the praying mantis of Polar Lights’ parent company, Playing Mantis. Monarch will also use a logo similar to Aurora’s best-known insignia, with red lettering inside a yellow field, surrounded by a sphere of blue.



Yagher, who lives in Los Angeles and says he’s “over 21,” will have first nod to sculpt all of Monarch’s patterns. He has worked for a variety of producers of resin and vinyl model kits, as well as several of the larger companies that produce pre-painted statue figures, but this is the first sculpture he has done for a styrene plastic kit.

Monarch“The thing about sculpting for styrene that’s really different, and frustrating if you want to know the truth, is having to adhere to the ‘no undercut’ rule,” Yagher said in an e-mail. “Styrene kits are made from metal molds, usually in halves. Because there is no flexibility with the metal, a piece has to be fashioned to separate from the mold cleanly with no details that will catch on the metal and ruin a plastic piece. Accordingly, everything in the middle of a part’s ‘half’ must be higher than anything that radiates from the middle – sort of like a pyramid.

“Things like nostril cavities and mouths must be filled in. It really stifles one’s ability to get ultra-realism and requires a lot of preplanning. I’ve the utmost respect for the great artists at Aurora, who turned out such memorable pieces while having to obey this condition.”

In addition to sculpting, Yagher is an actor and screenplay writer with a long list of credits to his name, including a recurring role on the ABC television series “Day Break.”


Monarch’s first kit won’t be available before late 2007. In the meantime, McKillop is working with associates in China to get the tooling ready for producing the Nosferatu and preparing to start introducing the public to the kits.

His plans for 2007 include a booth at WonderFest, the premier show for figure-kit fans, in Louisville, Ky., in late May. He also plans to be at iHobby Expo late next year.

Mike Rutherford paints Retro Resin’s Fly and more

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published Sept. 27, 2006, at


Some guys just seem to be particularly in love with this hobby of ours. Mike Rutherford, 38, of New England has long struck me as one of them. Check out his Web site, which is stuffed not only with pictures of his own kit buildups, but with information about model kits both past and present and plenty of other genre subjects of interest to hobbyists.

Mike’s also a family man; his wife is Melanie, his kids are Michael and Madison.


Resin the Barbarian: You strike me as someone who truly loves this hobby and has for a long time. How long have you been involved in building kits, and what got you started?

Mike: Hello Todd, and thank you for this opportunity.

TrendonWhat got me started was my Uncle Jonathan, in 1971.

When I was 4 years old and he about 10, he had both the Victim and the Frankenstein “Monster Scenes” kits. We would play with these as toys.

My grandmother had an old birdcage that we would use as a cage for the Monster to put the Victim inside of.

However, I didn’t get a model kit of my very own until a few months later. It was a glow in the dark kit called “Fiend” that was made by a company called Lindberg.

My first Aurora monster kit was the glow version of the “Forgotten Prisoner.”

Between the two of us, my uncle and I, we had most of the Aurora monster line.

If it hadn’t been for him, I truly wouldn’t have known the love of this hobby.

TrendonI’m glad that I was able to tell him this before his unforeseen passing this past March.

RtB: Which came first, your love of classic monster subjects or love of model kits?

Mike: Actually, it happened at the same time because I really didn’t know much about the monsters until I was exposed to the Aurora monsters. (Remember, I was only 4 years old.)

Believe it or not, what really hooked me was the box art. I was just obsessed with this art, as a kid and I still am.

RtB: Have you ever NOT been involved in building model kits?

Mike: Yes and no.

There were times when I didn’t build but it wasn’t because I wanted to stop. However, I’ve been involved with the Aurora monsters at some point during each decade.

During the end of the 1970s I was forced to stop building when Aurora closed their doors and there really wasn’t much else available unless I wanted to build cars, spaceships or other vehicles and I truly wanted no part of that.

I’m a Maker of Monsters.

In the early 1980s I was hospitalized for a few weeks. During this time, my grandparents came to visit me with a couple of big boxes full of my (newly married) uncle’s old Aurora kits that he no longer had room for.

It was cool to get these at this time because they were off the market for a few years.

TrendonBecause of the fact that I had absolutely no knowledge of garage or resin kits, I was away from the hobby until the birth of Polar Lights.

The funny part about this is that I didn’t even know that there was even such a company as Polar Lights until my wife and I went shopping one day with my son, who was just a baby at the time.

He was riding in the shopping cart and he threw his bottle out of the cart. When I bent down to pick up the bottle, I saw (on the bottom shelf) the Mummy box art looking back at me. My wife wasn’t really sure what I was so excited over but I’ve stayed in the hobby ever since that day.
Todd here, with an interruption: My own rediscovery of the hobby probably happened a few years after Mike’s, but I also have my own, similar story. My wife, 1-year-old daughter and I stopped into Grand Junction’s now-defunct Toys R Us in October 2001, and there on the clearance table near the entrance was a collection of Polar Lights kits, including the one my wife talked me into buying, the Mummy.
RtB: You use the name “Trendon” (“Trend” rhymes with “end”; “on” like “un”) on various Internet model-kit forums. Why?

Mike: Trendon was the name of the first band that I played in during high school.

I use it as a handle on most message boards because I don’t even think that it’s a real word and thus, I figured that no one else would have already taken it as a user name. However, I recently discovered that there is a person that uses it on MySpace.


RtB: The kits you paint often have a very bold, bright look that still manages to fit the black-and-white, scary-movie nature of the subject matter. What approach do you take to painting a kit?

Mike: That really all depends on the kit itself.

I basically paint in two styles. The first being that I’ll paint something to look as realistic as I’m able to make it look. The second being the Aurora look where I basically try to paint something the way that I think James Bama (painter who created the majority of the Aurora monster-model box art) would have painted it with those bright, off-the-wall colors that basically represent light and dark.

The Aurora look is starting to be a trademark for me. I may start painting non-box art kits in this style. I’d love to experiment with this on a kit from the “Yagher Classics” series.

I tend to paint from light to dark but I will occasionally work backward.

I have never used an airbrush and I have no plans on doing so. People have accused me of using an airbrush because I have achieved the effect of smoothly blending one color into another but that’s all done with a flat head brush in an almost drybrush circular motion.

With every kit that I work on, I tend to use a lot of washes and drybrush effects. I’m also one of those modelers that use the cheap craft paints like Delta Ceramcoat.

RtB: You participated in my blog in August by giving me a list of suggested model kits for Halloween, and all of the kits you suggested were sculpted by Jeff Yagher. What can you tell me about the friendship or association you seem to have built with Mr. Yagher in the last couple of years?

Mike: Really? I didn’t even realize that Jeff sculpted all my choices but that’s cool.

TrendonAs you know, I have been a big supporter of the Aurora Box Art kits by Monsters in Motion since day one.

When the first three kits in this line were released (“The Phantom,” “Wolfman” and “Jekyll as Hyde”), I basically promoted them and gave them tons of free advertising on my Web site. I did this because I truly do LOVE this series of kits; I never expected anything to come of it.

One evening, I received this anonymous e-mail telling me that MiM now had the “Dracula” kit up on their site. The person never signed the e-mail so I just hit reply and thanked them.

Some time later, this same person sent me photos of the “King Kong” sculpt for me to post on my Web site. The first thing that I did was to check the MIM Web site and oddly enough, they didn’t even have these photos up yet.

I e-mailed this person back and told him that I wasn’t really sure about posting these photos to my Web site without permission from MIM because the last thing that I wanted was for them to be upset with me for showing off their new product before they did.

It was at that point that this person revealed their identity.

It was Jeff.

We’ve been in contact ever since.

RtB: Your Web site is a great resource. Do you have any idea how many hours per week you average working on that?

Mike: That all depends on what’s going on at the moment. If I’ve finished a kit, I’ll post the photos. If a producer or sculptor asks me to help advertise a kit, I’ll do it. If things are slow, I’ll create things like “The Library of Box Art” or the “We Remember” features to keep the viewers interested.


“THE FLY (Monsters of the Movies)”
• Sculpted by Jeff Yagher.
• Price: $50 plus shipping.
• Available from Retro Resin.
• 1/12 scale, resin kit
• 19 or 20 parts, including an extra hand that gives the modeler the choice to use the hand that holds the axe.
• A continuation of the classic Aurora series of model kits from the 1970s.
• Mike’s paint job is the “official” “Fly” buildup and will will be the kit’s box art. Until the Retro Resin Web site is updated, watch Mike’s site for updates about the company’s products. Other kits that can’t be found on the site include an original “Monsters of the Movies Mummy.”

TrendonRtB: Did you help put Retro Resin in touch with Jeff Yagher?

Mike: Yes, I introduced them. Gene (Toparcean) and I used to talk about how cool it would be to have Jeff sculpt for RR but at the time, neither of us had a clue as to how to get in touch with him. So, once I had contact with Jeff…

Well, you can guess the rest.

Gene and I have been friends for five or six years and I knew that the combination of Jeff’s sculpting talents and Gene’s quality castings would be perfect together.

Like peanut butter and chocolate.

I don’t like to tease or spread rumors BUT…

There are some rumors floating around that the next project between Jeff and Retro Resin is going to be a “Monsters of the Movies Phantom of the Opera” for 2007.

If this does indeed come to pass, I’ll post the news on my Web site.

RtB: What was the most challenging aspect of building and painting this kit?

Mike: I guess the machinery.

Basically, this was just a very FUN kit. It was fun to build, fun to paint and very little aggravation. It was a very clean cast and an easy build.

Like anyone else, I do enjoy a challenge from time to time but I also like to just relax and have fun, sometimes. This kit allows the builder to do just that.

RtB: How did you get that woodgrain effect on the axe handle?

Mike: OK, first I painted the handle with a coat of “Light Chocolate” (yes, that’s the actual name of this color of paint). After it dried, I took a darker brown and watered it down (like a wash) and I painted the wood grain freehanded.


TrendonRtB: Plainly, you use the original Aurora box art as a reference while painting these kits. How do you do that? Are pictures taped up on the wall around you, or…?

Mike: The first thing that I do (even before the kit arrives at my door) is I find a decent photo of the box art and set it as my desktop wallpaper. By doing this, I’m forced to see it every day and I’m able to study it.

Aside from that, I’ll just use the actual boxes as a guide. However, this raised a problem with the “Phantom” kit because I don’t actually own that box. I spent many hours on eBay searching for photos.

For whatever reason, the walls in the Phantom art sometimes photograph as a greenish color but other times, they look to be a grayish color. Due to the fact that the rest of these kits have bight, bold colors, I decided to go with the green.

RtB: Monsters in Motion is now using your “Dracula” pictures on its Web site, which I found an improvement over the pictures it used before. Does MiM plan to use pictures of your other buildups, past or future?

Mike: At one point, my “Phantom” was up there, also.

I’m no expert on this subject but…

The way that I understand it is that there is an inside artist for MIM (maybe even more than one) and I would assume that they would naturally want to use their own artists’ buildups because they’re paying them to build and paint these kits.

Terry (the owner of MIM) did ask me about my Bride kit and how she’s coming along.

It would be cool if they wanted to use my Bride but I guess that I’ll just have to wait and see.

Right now, I’m just waiting for the release of the clear parts for this kit so that I can finish her. After she’s finished, I’ll send some photos over to MIM and wait to see what happens.

Steve Riojas paints the Yagher Classics

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published July 26, 2006, at

Imagine you’ve got a kit that looks wonderful before you even start working on it. Something created by Jeff Yagher, a sculptor who is so talented and well-respected by garage-kit fans that the kit is named after him instead of the character it depicts. A kit that would look great if you just set the unpainted piece on a shelf.

Something like this:


If you’re like me, you might get intimidated and let the thing sit in its box, gathering dust until you feel you’ve gotten “good enough” to subject it to your talents. Or maybe you’d go ahead and slap some paint on it and figure, who cares that it’ll look worse when I’m finished than it did when I started? I’m doing this for fun.

If you’re Steve Riojas, paints are the tools you use to bring out the details and reveal the sculpture in a new light.


Take another look, side by side:


Sculpted by Jeff Yagher.
All 1/6 scale, resin.
Produced in limited numbers by Tower of London.
Available from X-O Facto.
Prices range from $150 to $250 plus shipping; check the X-O Facto Web site for specifics.

You know what I did when I first saw “Yagher Classics Vol. 1″? I cursed Tower of London. It was getting close to Christmas and I needed to spend my money on things other than model kits, but I saw that piece and reacted to it the same way I did to the neatest toys as a kid: “I want it!” I was well entrenched in the garage-kit hobby by then and was familiar with Jeff Yagher’s name, but I had no idea that “Vol. 1″ represented the beginning of one of the best series of kits ever produced.

I thought, “I’ll resist. It’s a model kit, I don’t HAVE to have it.” But all I’d seen up to then was a black-and-white picture of the raw sculpture. A few weeks later I saw full-color pictures of Steve Riojas’ paint-up and I knew where a chunk of my Christmas bonus was going.

Yagher ClassicsSteve Riojas, 50, has lived in Denver his whole life and loves it. He’s been married for 16 years to Lori; he has a daughter, Rachel, and two stepdaughters, Crystal and Jennifer.

Steve worked at a factory for 28 years; “when the company decided to shut its doors for greener pastures in Mexico, I ended up a happy art bum,” he wrote in an e-mail. Part of being this kind of “bum” is regularly contributing to Amazing Figure Modeler magazine.

If the pictures and my own endorsement aren’t enough, how about a quick word from the guy who gave these “Classics” their name?

“I love Steve’s painting,” Jeff told me through e-mail. “He uses great subtletly and finesse to bring the characters to life. His work is clean and precise and makes me look good.”

(Pssst – Since I was contacting him anyway, I asked Jeff if he’d spill the beans on what’s coming next in the series. His answer was, “I think the next one in the ‘Yagher Classics’ line is Mr. Hyde.”)

As a hobbyist, I value Steve’s painting not only because it’s so impressive and gives me something to aspire to. Sometimes, it also helps me figure out or confirm what I’m looking at. Take this “Classic” for instance:

Yagher Classics

If you hadn’t seen the movie “Dracula’s Daughter,” would you know that was fire on the ground? A quick look at a picture of Steve’s paint job would show you.

Yagher Classics

Plainly, Steve keeps busy. A look back through a few months of “Resin the Barbarian” entries reveals he painted the Paquet “Nosferatu” bust I wrote about June 1 and the “Batman Begins” from June 8. I’ve seen a sneak preview of his paint job on Earthbound Studios’ “Mole Man Big Head” and it’s wonderful; unfortunately, I can’t share those pictures yet, but watch for them in an upcoming issue of AFM. Steve has also done some amazing work on life-size dinosaurs such as the one pictured below.

Steve Riojas


Resin the Barbarian: You’re one of the few people I know who seems to do a steady business of painting model kits and other subjects, as opposed to the vast majority of us who simply do it in our spare time as a hobby. Did you set out to make this happen, or is it something that evolved from your interest in kitbuilding?

Steve: It just evolved. When I first got into this hobby, I quickly realized I’d never be able to afford all the cool stuff I had to have so I needed to find another way. After doing fairly well in local collectible shows and Star Trek convention contests, I found I was able to trade buildups for kits and it took off from there. If you told me then I’d end up actually making money doing this, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I still do trade now and then, especially kit producers such as X-O Facto, because I love kits and feel these guys spend enough money producing a kit and don’t need to be paying out for a paint job.

RtB: When and where do you do your work? How many hours in a day or week? What tools do you use most frequently?

Steve: I work out of my garage, an unheated one-car that’s a lot of fun in the middle of January, but I needed the large door opening to bring in smaller 1/1 dinosaur models when I was involved with CM Studio. That plus storing supplies, boxes, etc., it made sense to stay there.

I pretty much work every day, usually 10 to 12 hours, unless it’s close to show time, then it’s day and night.

My main tool would be the airbrush, probably 90 percent of everything I do, but I’ll use whatever it takes for the job at hand.

RtB: The “Yagher Classics” series launched more than a year and a half ago, and you’ve painted what I guess you’d call the “masters” for all of them. Do you have a favorite among the “Classics”? If so, which one and why?

Steve: Man, that’s a tough one. I really do like the entire line for two reasons: I love the Universal Monsters and mainly, I am and have always been a Jeff Yagher fan. To me, his work is “garage kit” in the classic sense, he’s like the godfather and to work on this line is an offer I could not refuse.

Yagher Classics

Yagher ClassicsSeriously, I really do feel lucky to be able to paint these beautiful sculptures.

RtB: You have painted all of these kits in full color, yet they all come from black-and-white source material. The colors you end up with usually just seem to make sense, but every now and then I wonder at your choices. The Phantom in a red coat? Never occurred to me, but I like it. The lining of Dracula’s cape is periodically debated; you chose red.

Who decides what colors will be used on each kit? And, are they chosen because they’re believed to be “authentic” in some way to the source material, or because they’re visually appealing?

Steve: Like everyone else, I have an idea in my mind of what these characters should look like, no doubt influenced by countless images going back to when I was a kid in the ’60s ingesting anything monster, to what we have today.

I usually stay pretty conservative with my color choices unless a customer would like to see something different, which I am happy to give them. John Tucky wanted to see more color on the Phantom and suggested a burgundy coat, which I think worked very well. The same with Dracula’s cape; the red lining gives a shot of color to an otherwise black and white paint scheme, plus, I think it also has that classic look from the old days.

John leaves most of the color choices to me, but think it’s a good thing to go over the paint jobs together as well as asking Jeff what he’d like to see on his sculpts. You can’t go wrong getting as many ideas as you can to make the best presentation possible, plus make a deadline. So in the end I guess it’s be authentic and pretty at the same time.

RtB: Which of the “Yagher Classics” was the easiest to build and paint, and why? Which was the most challenging, and why?

Steve: I guess the easiest of the classics to do is Frankenstein. His look is textbook, dirty black clothes are a snap. I tend to go with the gray/green flesh as opposed to the healthier look you see a lot of these days but I suppose that’s a sign of my age.

As far as most challenging, the Phantom was a bit more intense because I really wanted it to look good and I stressed on it more trying to get the girl’s clothing realistic.

Yagher Classics

RtB: What kinds of reactions have you gotten from sculptors after they see your paint on their pieces?

Steve: The reactions have been positive, at least no one has said anything otherwise! It really is a thrill when a sculptor gives a nod on a paint job. The sculpting talent in this hobby is truly amazing and it’s an honor if they like my presentation of their work.

RtB: Would you like to say anything else?

Steve: Well, I’d like to say thanks to everyone involved with making this hobby and the collectible business what it is. It would be impossible if not for the main ingredient, that all of us love this stuff. I’ve made some great friendships and it’s fantastic to be able to work on some of the coolest stuff ever. To be 50 and 10 years old at the same time … beautiful!

Nocturna’s Grasso Nosferatu

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Originally published June 16, 2006, at

David Fisher\'s Nosferatu

Sculpted by Dave Grasso.
Phil Sera\'s NosferatuSoon to be reissued by Nocturna Productions.
1/6 scale (a little more than a foot tall), made of resin, with a piece of jeweler’s chain holding the lantern.
Price: TBD.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, many garage-kit makers and builders love the vampire – Graf Orlok – from the silent movie “Nosferatu, A Symphony Terror.” Why should a pale, rat-toothed creature be such a draw to GK fans? I’m not certain, but I suspect it has a lot to do with two people: David Fisher of Amazing Figure Modeler and sculptor Dave Grasso, the subject of today’s e-mail Q&A.

Dave GrassoIn 2000, Fisher wrote an article in issue 21 of his magazine headlined “Nosferatu: Land of the Rats.” The piece was a look at more than two dozen Nosferatu garage kits and remains a valuable, though slightly dated, summary of the subject. In it, he said of Grasso’s “hatted” Nosferatu: “…the face captures the old man features of the character better than any other I’ve seen. The features and accuracy are incredible, and the expressive hands are exactly what is needed to cure my Orlok fever. The pose is classic, the detailing superb.”

Coming soon from Nocturna Productions, the company run by Cindy Fisher, David’s wife: A much-anticipated reissue of that Grasso Nosferatu. More about the Fishers later this week.

VampirellaNow, Dave Grasso. If you’re interested in the subject enough to have read this far, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re familiar with Dave’s work even if you don’t know it. He’s a special makeup and creature effects artist currently finishing up on the third “Resident Evil” movie at Patrick Tatopoulos Studios. He worked at Stan Winston Studio about nine years. Other titles on Dave’s résumé include “Jurassic Park,” “Batman Returns,” “Terminator 2″ and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

Dark Horse Invisible ManGarage-kit hobbyists will also know Dave for his first Nosferatu kit, the Invisible Man he sculpted for Dark Horse and a Vampirella based on artwork by Sanjulian. He also did a few toys for Stan Winston Creatures and many maquettes for studios he’s worked with over the years.

“I’ve always wanted to get back in the garage-kit world (I’ve had other ideas for kits in the past), but was always to busy with film and toy work to pursue it,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Dave lives in California and has a wife and kids.

“My dad was and still is a great one for starting my interest in this hobby at such a young age,” Dave wrote. “My mom is also amazing in that she and my dad supported me in my decision to pursue special makeup effects all the way.

“My wife is also very supportive and quite creative as well, and my son is where most of my inspiration comes from. He loves the hobby as well.”

Dave Grasso


Resin the Barbarian: How long ago did you create the Count Orlok sculpture?

Dave: I think I started it in ’94, put it on the shelf for a long while, and finished it in ’97.

Dave GrassoRtB: Does the original sculpture still exist, or only castings?

Dave: The original sculpture does exist, in fact, I’m remolding the original sculpt again so the quality won’t change from the first runs.

RtB: This is your second Nosferatu kit and I know it has been out of production for a few years. What led to the decision to reissue it? Who approached whom with the idea?

Dave GrassoDave: I’ve wanted to reproduce it again for some time now, and recently, David Fisher got in touch with me about releasing it through Nocturna. He’s been great to deal with and has been very patient with me and my hectic work schedule.

RtB: What, if anything, is going to be different about the reissued version of the kit?

Dave: The character himself I decided not to change at all. I figured everybody would want it just the way it was. I am doing a new base for it that should be a little more interesting, but not detract from the figure.

Dave GrassoRtB: When do you expect to have it ready to deliver to Nocturna Productions?

Dave: I’m still playing around with the base, so as soon as that’s complete, then I’ll be able to ship out some masters to David Fisher.

RtB: It seems that the thrust of your work is creating state-of-the-art special effects for movies. What drew you, as a sculptor, to “Nosferatu,” a silent-era movie?

Dave: Well, I’ll try to keep this short. My dad used to bring me home the Universal Monsters Aurora model kits after his work day and also an occasional Famous Monsters issue or horror movie book … I was about 6 or 7 at the time.

One of the horror movie books had a small picture of Nosferatu standing in the open gateway to his abbey with his classic long, bony fingers and nails. That image still pops up in my head now and then and he will always be the creepiest-looking vampire on screen.

I also got into silent films at an early age as well, I was watching “Nosferatu,” “The Golem” and “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” when I was 8.

So much for keeping it short.

First Grasso NosferatuRtB: Is there any chance your first Nosferatu kit will also be reissued?

Dave: I really hadn’t planned on it because the main reason I did the hatted Orlok was that I grew to dislike the first one I did. I wanted to do a much classier version of him.

I know it was keys that he was holding in the film, but I decided to do a lantern instead, just a little change.

RtB: Are you steadily involved in the garage-kit hobby (collector, builder, etc.), or do you simply return to the hobby from time to time as a sculptor?

Dave: I haven’t been involved in the hobby for a while now, but it’s cool to see that it’s still alive.

RtB: I know David Fisher once called your second Nosferatu kit one of the best Orlok kits ever made. Now it is a highly prized garage kit. What do you think about the popularity of your piece among this subculture of hobbyists?

Dave: Wow….I really wasn’t expecting that kind of response when I did it. It’s cool to see how many Nosferatu fans there are out there. I have to give a very big thank you to David Fisher for the incredible praise, I’m very grateful to you and everybody else that just loves Nosferatu the way I do.

RtB: Is there any chance that you’re squeezing sculpting new garage kits into your heavy workload? If so, can you tell me what’s in the works?

Dave: I actually have two pieces that I try to work on when I can which is hardly ever. One of them is a small diorama based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, and the other I can’t say what it is just yet.

Dave GrassoThere are a few others that I definitely want to do after these are done. Two of them are from early 1920s cinema as well. The Lovecraft piece I want to do as a series, one diorama each from three of my favorite stories.

RtB: Would you like to add anything else?

Dave: I’m just blown away to see that there is still interest in this kit, and I have to thank all the Nosferatu fans out there that like it enough to want to have one. I was going to do another one based on a particular scene from the movie, but there seems to be a flood of Nosferatu sculpts out there right now. I’ll probably hold off on that one for a while.

Again, thanks for the interest, guys.

And from me, a thanks to Mike Nordstrom for helping me get in touch with Dave.

William Paquet’s Nosferatu

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Originally published June 1, 2006, at

Paquet\'s Nosferatu

Paquet\'s NosferatuPAQUET “NOSFERATU” BUST
Based on the 1922 silent classic movie “Nosferatu, A Symphony of Terror”
• Sculpted by William Paquet
• Produced by Tower of London, available from X-O Facto
• About 1/2 scale, 11 inches tall
• Made of two resin parts; casting by Mark Brokaw of Earthbound Studios
• Price: $120 plus shipping
• The “Nosferatu” kit pictured was painted by Steve Riojas of Denver

Back in the silent era of movies, director F.W. Murnau turned actor Max Schreck into Graf Orlok, one of the most memorable vampires ever put on screen. Unfortunately, instead of coming up with a story of their own or paying the Bram Stoker estate for the rights to “Dracula,” the filmmakers simply swiped the story. That led to all kinds of nasty legal entanglements, and for years it was a challenge to see the movie.

These days, “Nosferatu” has moved into the public domain, and in addition to being able to find cheap DVD copies of it all over the place, it’s one of the most popular subjects for garage model kits, one of the latest being the bust pictured above.

That piece and the others pictured are the work of sculptor William Paquet. William’s name is one of the first I learned when I got interested in garage kits, because he’s the creative talent behind some of the most sought-after kits ever produced. Of course, I’ve been watching for an excuse to contact him to do an e-mail Q&A ever since I started doing these profiles.

William, 41, lives in Virginia. He’s got a wife, Laurie; daughter, Valerie; a border collie named Rex; and two cats, Clovis and Vincent. Considering the frightening nature of much of his sculpture, I had to ask if there were any tell-tale hearts beating in his home. “No corpses under the floorboards,” he told me, “but a decent collection of animal skulls, including a crocodile and a bear.”

Paquet\'s monsters


Resin the Barbarian: Wasn’t the Nosferatu sculpture originally intended to be a very large, full figure piece? If so, why didn’t that work out?

William PaquetWilliam: Time. The piece as it originally was intended is about 80 percent complete, but finding the time in my schedule to complete it has been difficult,

RtB: Does this bust represent a specific moment in the silent movie “Nosferatu”? If so, what is the character doing at this moment?

William: There is a scene where the vampire is walking through a courtyard. At first the camera shows a long shot, and then the view pulls into a close-up of him. He stands there and slowly turns his head as though listening to something. The portrayal is so stiff and creepy that his look there always struck me as very unsettling.

RtB: To my amateur eye, your work looks like an extremely accurate representation of Max Schreck in the movie, so I presume you use books, photos and/or videos as references. Do you keep images pasted up on the walls around you while you work?

William: I have some horror anthology books with a few decent images which I did use, but most of the reference was straight off a DVD on still frame. Not the easiest way to work, but printed material on the film is so rare that it was the only choice I had.

Paquet\'s NosferatuI did want to get as accurate a portrayal as I could, but the art director in me is always there so I will sometimes alter things slightly. That’s why he has no hair behind his ears. I don’t like it visually. To me it looks out of place and haphazard, and just breaks up the clean yet freaky shape of his head.

RtB: You are considered one of the “pioneers” of garage kits. What was the first of your sculptures sold as a kit, and what led to you creating it?

William: The first sculpture I made was a zombie stormtrooper from a movie called “Shock Waves.” Why I made it is solely because of my appreciation of the movie and the great makeup designs that Alan Ormsby developed.

RtB: I’m betting that these days you make a lot more money creating the sculptures that get sold as prepainted statues than you do making Nosferatus and the like for kitbuilders such as myself. Is that true? And if so, what keeps you coming back to garage kits?

William: There is certainly a lot more money to be made from creating sculptures for the prepainted statue market than from garage kits.

Paquet Sin CityI do enjoy the work of sculpting comic-book-based characters, but I am a die-hard horror freak. If given the choice, I will always choose to sculpt a zombie, freak, monster, corpse, etc. first. Unfortunately the market for that genre within the pre-paint business is slim at best, so the work that is available, while not my main area of enjoyment, still is fun and does pay the mortgage.

I have stepped away from garage kits for different lengths of time at different periods within my career, but you’re right … I do keep coming back to them eventually. There are several reasons for that.

Firstly, I started my career with GKs, and so there is a strong element of “coming home” when I do a figure for that market. Secondly, when I decide to make a sculpture on my own, I have carte blanche to do whatever I choose. I can create any character, in any design, and the only art director for the project is me. It’s the best of all worlds. The only thing that would make it better was if the market for the items was bigger, so that I could do more.

I’m currently working on a series of monster designs to be released as prepaints in the near future. I have no idea how the market will react to them, but if all goes well perhaps I will be able to devote more time to the genre that I love.

RtB: I did a Q&A with Mike Falcigno a few weeks ago and he spoke of you in glowing terms. How do you recall meeting Mike?

William: I got a package one day, that contained semi-nude pictures, a pair of old boxers, and a tube of lipstick. It was from Mike, and I thought, “Wow, what a sweet guy.”

OK, sorry … here’s the real answer -

Paquet\'s GrampaI got a call one day from Mike inquiring about buying some of my work. We chatted a bit, and he seemed like a decent guy. We traded phone calls for quite some time, got to know each other, and found we had a lot in common.

We met face to face the first time shortly before I moved from New Jersey, to here in Virginia. I had called Mike one day, letting him know that I had a bunch of stuff I wasn’t interested in packing up and moving, so he drove down form Connecticut. We had a lot of fun hanging out. Mike went home with a carload of kits, and I didn’t have to pack so much for my move.

Mike is like a creepy little brother. Stranger than me, and that’s saying something.

RtB: I’m sure you’ve encountered your share of unique characters, probably even a few true oddballs (no, I don’t mean Mike and I hope I don’t mean me). Would you mind sharing a memorable story about meeting a fan of your work?

William: I wish I had a juicy story for you but I don’t. Are there oddballs around? Sure. Most of the folks I meet at shows or through business transactions are very nice. Fans don’t usually gush or shower praise, but mostly just talk about what they like that I have created. It’s a real treat to meet the people that enjoy my work.

Paquet\'s MummyFrequently collectors will request that I sculpt something that they want for their collections, or offer very kind words about a favorite work of mine that they own. It’s rewarding to hear from people that what I make with my stinky mitts, is often beloved by them or sometimes even the pinnacle of their collection. Combine that with the fact that I’m doing what I love to do, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Although there was that one time that someone called from Mike Falcigno’s cell phone at 3 a.m., saying only, “Play ‘Misty’ for me”…

RtB: Anything else you’d like to say?

William: Absolutely … I’d like to thank anyone out there that has liked my work enough to lay down their hard-earned dollars to buy it. You people allow me to work at a craft that gives me great satisfaction, and allows me to pay my bills every month. Without the collectors, I’d be a guy doing this in limited spare time after getting off work at whatever job I could find that would pay the bills.

So, to any and all that have kept me off the streets, dancing for nickels, THANKS!

Godzilla Ghost with T’s Facto

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Originally published May 25, 2006, at

Thanks to “kiryu” and “raydrz” for the suggested questions.

Godzilla\'s Ghost by T\'s Facto

Godzilla\'s Ghost by T\'s Facto“GODZILLA GHOST”
Inspired by the original, 1954 movie “Godzilla”
• Produced by T’s Facto
• Sculpted by Takashi Yamawaki, popularly known as “T”, who also painted the piece pictured
• About 15.75 inches tall
• 51 parts (see below for a breakdown)
• Made of resin
• Price: 29,000 yen (about $260 U.S.)
• Shipping to the United States would cost about $37
• Scheduled for release in June

Frankly, the giant-monster (kaiju) movies from Japan are often pretty cheesy stuff. People dressed in rubber costumes stomp on neat scale-model buildings and fight each other. The best I’ve seen of them are fun and have some wonderful moments; only the very worst are so bad you can’t enjoy them at least a little.

Godzilla\'s Ghost by T\'s FactoFew are what I would define as truly “great” movies, although I do get a chill from post-attack scenes in the first Godzilla movie, made when the nuclear bombings in Japan were a recent memory.

Model kits based on this material are often some of the most dazzling you’ll see, and this week’s subject – “Godzilla Ghost” from T’s Facto – is the latest to floor me, coming from a sculptor whose works often make me wonder just how much I want to overheat my credit card on my hobby.

Full-time Godzilla\'s Ghost by T\'s Factosculptor and kit seller “T” (Takashi Yamawaki) is 38 years old, unmarried, and lives in Saitama prefecture, just next to Tokyo. His mastery of written English is wonderful, judging by our e-mail exchange, which is great because I couldn’t have written this entry based on my nonexistent skill with the Japanese language. For the record, I had to do some minor editing in the Q&A exchange below, but not as much as I’ve had to do with some native English speakers in more than 15 years of newspaper experience.

“T” says he worked at International Hotel as a bartender in Singapore from the ages of 20 to 35 and learned English from his Chinese girlfriend. He moved on to sculpting three years ago.

Godzilla\'s Ghost by T\'s Facto


Resin the Barbarian: This kit represents Godzilla at the end of the first movie, when he is destroyed underwater. As I recall, the skeleton is not clearly seen in the film. What did you use as reference material?

T“T”: There was a movie in 2002, “Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla.” “The Monsters Inc.,” which is a sculpting team, made the skeleton model for this movie. I have a reference book of this movie. I used it.

RtB: Where did you learn how to sculpt?

“T”: I did not learn how to sculpt from anybody. Self -education.

RtB: What inspired you to get involved with sculpting kaiju model kits?

“T”: I have a pet monkey which is very small. I bought a vinyl Godzilla toy and put it in the monkey’s cage. But it had terrible looks and poor painting. So I fixed it. Repainted, remolded…

That was the beginning. Since that happened , I started to buy the kaiju model kits and fix fix fix. Then finally, I wanted to sculpt by myself.

Godzilla\'s Ghost by T\'s FactoRtB: I assume you enjoy kaiju movies. What is your favorite?

“T”: My favorite kaiju movie is the 1954 “Godzilla.” This is the best! Very artistic movie. And also I love “Gamera 1999.”

RtB: What is your favorite character to sculpt?

“T”: I like to sculpt Godzilla but don’t want to make it ordinary. I love to make it spikey and really look evil.

RtB: What inspired you to revisit the subject of the Godzilla skeleton, after having already released a smaller version?

“T”: After the smaller version sold out , I had so many requests to resell it. But I do not have a master form to fix the silicone. Since that time, I had a plan for this big version. And it should be the 1954 G Skeleton. I want them to believe that it is still standing.

RtB: How do you feel about the latest Godzilla movie, “Final Wars”? Do you think the lack of new material will affect the popularity of kaiju kits and future releases?

“T”: Well , I think that was OK for the kids. When I was a kid, I was always so happy to see the G movie. But for adults , I believe they had same answer which I have now. We grew up and think, “The old G movie was better than the new one.”

I think a new Godzilla movie will come up someday. And then the latest one will become popular like as usual. The same thing will happen for the kaiju kits.

Finally, I’ll tell you that my next release kit will be G vs ? from “Final Wars”!

Mole Man Big Head by Mike Falcigno

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Originally published April 27, 2006, at

Earthbound\'s Mole Man Big Head

• Produced by Earthbound Studios.
• Designed and sculpted by Mike Falcigno.
• Scale according to Mike: Technically the Big Head line is 2/3 scale, basically very close to 1/1 scale but people sometimes think they are 1/1 because if you take a 7-foot monster’s head and make it 2/3 scale it is still the size of an average human head, hence the confusion.
• Material: Resin.
• Price: $150 plus shipping.
• Kit pictured painted by Steve Parke.

Earthbound Mole Man Big HeadOccasionally, some garage-kit fan will visit one of the various Internet forums available and ask the assorted members: What’s the appeal of a bust? This question inevitably leads to a bunch of sophomoric jokes about women and bosoms; I don’t have the stats to prove it, but I suspect at least 75 percent of the people who build these kinds of kits are male, and like most guys we’ll take any opportunity to discuss female anatomy with a level of sophistication that rivals Beavis and Butt-Head.

Then genuine explanations get thrown around. Busts are distinct from the full-figure kits and have their own unique appeal. Since busts generally don’t go much beyond head and shoulders, the scale is larger and the facial expressions more interesting. Busts are more “artsy”. They use up less space on the shelf. The smaller ones don’t take long to complete. And so on.

However, I think most of us get the appeal of the Big Head busts from Earthbound Studios. First, the sculptures are simply fantastic. Second, they’re big, and that’s important to guys. You don’t appreciate just how big until you actually see one right in front of you. Third, the subject matter (most of them are B-movie monsters). Fourth, they’re offered by Mark Brokaw’s Earthbound Studios, which means you’ll get a first-rate kit for a fair price. The sculptor of this week’s Mole Man, Mike Falcigno (pronounced “fal-cig-no”), said $150 for the Big Head busts is an “incredible value” for their size and quality, and he’s right.

I traded e-mails with Mike recently to find out a little more about him and his work. He’s a 31-year-old resident of Milford, Conn., produces garage kits under the name TerrorForm Design, and has been with his girlfriend, Erin, for five years. Mike is talented enough to make his living as a full-time 3D/2D artist and he writes a weekly home video column called “Digital Creep” for the Fairfield County Weekly.

Fiend Without a FaceIn addition to the Mole Man bust, Mike’s 3D work includes another Big Head, “The Fiend Without a Face”; a piano-key deluxe base for Forbidden Zone’s “Phantom of the Paradise” and an upcoming 1/4 scale bust of Peter Lorre for Forbidden Zone.
Mike’s works for TerrorForm include a popular 1/3 scale “Abominable Doctor Phibes” bust (picture below), a “Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell” bust, a life-sized “Invader from Mars” Martian wall plaque under his Creature Cranium series and a bust of infamous dead punk rock icon G.G Allin.

Mike creates life-sized monster figures through commission. “I am currently finishing a life-sized Karloff Mummy for a client that had me do all the Universal classic monsters,” he said. He also takes on the occasional film effects job.

The “2D” part of Mike’s career is “a lot of ink and paint work. Mostly character design, graphic work, tattoo design and commissioned illustrations.”


Mike Falcigno and his WolfManResin the Barbarian: What is the original Mole Man sculpture made of? I assume Super Sculpey, but I’m not a sculptor and so my assumptions count for nothing.

Mike: Actually the Mole Person was sculpted entirely with the Aves Apoxie line of products. A hard foam
understructure was used as a base and worked up to its finished stage with Apoxie Sculpt and a few areas in Apoxie Clay. The claw was sculpted in the same manner.

For the sand areas of the base I used Aves ClayShay over a hard foam understructure and used more Apoxie Sculpt to render the rocky terrain and mushrooms.

It’s really incredible stuff, the detail you can push into the material is astounding and the fact that it cures without baking makes for a “crack”-free project. I did find it very strange at first because of the working time involved, but with a little messing around I worked out a method for sculpting with it in no time.

RtB: How long did it take you to sculpt this?

Mike: Well, if I kept a time sheet next to all my sculpts I would probably slip into a depression because of how long some take compared to the pay rate, but for the Mole Person I would roughly guess over 100 hours from start to finish, this includes the base.

TerrorForm Design StudioRtB: From what I’ve seen of your articles in Amazing Figure Modeler, you do a lot of sculpting to enhance the kits you build and paint. Have you always done this with your model kits, or it something you started doing after time?

Mike: I was into sculpting before model kits so it’s just a natural tendency of mine to want something that’s more a one- of-a-kind piece. Granted, when someone paints a kit it’s the only one like it, but adding or augmenting an existing design makes the finished piece even more personal.

RtB: How long have you been involved with model kits in general and garage kits in particular?

Mike: Building models goes back to my preteen years, probably 6 or 7 years old. I used to build them too at my grandmother’s house every Sunday (in between making monsters with Play-Doh). Various family members could be swayed into buying me kits if I promised to finish them.

My earliest figure models included AMT’s Bigfoot, Aurora monsters, Monogram’s Allosaurus and ankylosaurus and anything else that would have appealed to a my warped little-kid sensibilities.

I got into garage kits when I came across an issue of Model and Toy Collector when I was about 13 and from that point I would save months of paper route money just to blow it on a garage kit, then start the process all over again. Billiken’s Creature, Horizon’s Mole Man, Tsukuda’s Metaluna Mutant, Screamin’s Freddy and some Lunar/Dimensional Design kits were my first garage-kit figures.

RtB: What model kits drew you to the hobby as a sculptor?

Mike: I ended up pursuing special effects makeup for many years (through and after college), which caused me to devote far less time to figure kits.

TerrorForm PhibesA few years ago I came across some of William Paquet’s stuff online (“Plague of the Zombies,” etc). I was blown away by the quality of his work and tracked down his phone number. After a few lengthy phone calls, we ended up having a lot in common and started hanging out in person.

William is an immensely talented and giving person, I would have to cite him as the catalyst for me getting back into the hobby as a sculptor. The days spent in William’s studio inspired me to start sculpting smaller-scale pieces and I eventually had my first work produced by Mark Brokaw of Earthbound Studios.

RtB: What do you buy and build these days? And do you build as much as you buy, or do the kits accumulate faster than you can build them?

Mike: Amid my personal workload, I don’t have time to paint much in the way of kits. Writing for AFM and AVM (Amazing Vehicular Modeler) enables me to paint a piece every few months which is nice.

Recently, I started collecting the built-up work of artists who I feel are the industry’s best painters in hopes of building a diverse cross-section of museum-quality statues. I am always running out of space so I only buy sculptures that I truly love.

RtB: Who are your sculpting “heroes”?

Mike: This is a very tough question because I’ll never be able to name them all. I am heavily inspired by various types of artists. From the brush paintings of Basil Gogos, James Bama, Jack Davis, Ghastly Graham Ingles, Frank Frazetta , Rainer Engel and a slew of others to musicians, writers and kit painters.

As far as sculptors go, William Paquet, Andy Bergholtz, Barsom, Mark Newman, Tony Cipriano, Takeya, Oniki, Jeff Yagher, Stuart Jackson, Jordu Schnell, John Pinkerton, Mike Elizade, David Grant, Thomas Kuntz, Dave Grasso, Miles Teves,Tony McVey, Ray Harryhausen, Mark VanTine, Thomas Keubler, Rick Baker, Mike Hill, Mitch Devane, Gabe Perna, Casey Love, Mike Petryzack and Gabriel Marquez all immediately come to mind.

There are plenty of names that escape me and some I’m not yet aware of but all the people listed above have created some truly beautiful works of art.

At the risk of putting readers to sleep, I should move onto the next question.

RtB: Is anyone else in your family involved with the hobby?

Mike: My younger brother Mark is a hardcore Hot Rod/Lead Sled builder. He works on real cars along with scale car models, which in itself is an artform.

RtB: As a home-video columnist, what would you say about the 1956 movie “The Mole People” (upon which this bust is based) to persuade someone like me, who’s never seen it, to put it in his Netflix queue?

Mike: “The Mole People” is a textbook example of great ’50s-era entertainment rising from a pool of cinematic cheese! You’ve got hilarious opening exposition presented by a melodramatic “scientist”, a bunch of square-jawed adventurers (one of whom is actually Ward Cleaver from “Leave it to Beaver” fame!!) delving into the bowels of the Earth, a beautiful girl in peril, a race of subterranean albinos who enslave bizarre mutant beings that eventually run amok, putting the humans in a perpetual state of terror.

Mole ManDid I leave out the ear-screeching musical score, cardboard props and hammy acting? Oh yeah, and the Mole People can’t stand sunlight and live off giant mushrooms!! Oh, the simpler times … before morons like Stephen Sommers had to ruin everything great about monster movies!

Unfortunately, the film isn’t available on DVD so you’ll have to seek out a bootleg or old crappy VHS copy.

RtB: What are your favorite movies?

Mike: Again with the impossible questions!! Here’s a partial list:

The silent horror films all monster fans like (“Nosferatu,” “Häxan,” “Caligari,” etc), the classic Universal stuff, anything with Peter Cushing, Chistopher Lee, and the rest of the wonderful Hammer Horror players.

I love “Big Trouble in Little China,” “American Werewolf in London,” the Romero “Dead” films, the “Blind Dead” series, good Fulci flicks, Argento films, crazy Asian horror and weird s— like “The Calamari Wrestler.”

“Creepshow” No. 1 is awesome, I like my kaiju served with lots of rubble and beginning with the letter G Godzilla, Gamera, Gargantuans, etc.), I can watch B-monster flicks till my eyes dry out (“Fiend Without a Face,” “Black Scorpion,” “I Married a Monster from Outer Space,” etc).

Have you seen “OldBoy?” That movie is friggin’ amazing!!! “Hellboy,” “Devil’s Backbone,” “Blade 2,” “Mimic” and anything else Del Toro makes in the future is fine by me.

“Ichi the Killer” – you’ll feel dirty watching that one.

“Fearless Vampire Killers,” “Fright Night” and lest I forget the granddaddy of in yo’ face balls-out horror – Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”

If I’m in the mood for brain eating it’s “Return of the Living Dead.” “Alien,” “Fight Club” and “Halloween” also rule!!

VINCENT PRICE films are … well … Pricelessly good fun.

As for remakes. “The Thing” and “The Blob” rock and if I want to feel sick I’ll throw in anything directed by German auteur Jörg Buttgereit (“Nekromantik,” etc).

So you see, Todd, I’m a movie geek. I love the stuff. All the pictures I rattled off don’t come close to all my favorites (here’s another one I just though of – “Blade Runner”! And another – “Time Bandits,” which then leads me to “Brazil” and “Fear and Loathing.” This is madness!!). Besides, yer only reading a horror film chain of thought.

I also really enjoy comedies, animation (NOT MANGA except “Akira” and “Blood”), ’70s grindhouse sleazoid pictures, crime thrillers, and s— – even a few dramas. Let’s move on to the next question.

But first I must recommend John Carpenter’s segment of the “Masters of Horror” series: “Cigarette Burns.” It stars Udo Kier and it’s sweet!

RtB: What media and snacks do you have on hand while you’re working? Do you watch DVDs, perhaps, or drink caffeinated beverages? What’s the environment like? Where is your workroom?

Mike: I like to drink strong iced coffee by the quart and smoke Camel Lights by the carton. The latter I really should quit but I’m a weak little slave to the nasty things and I lack the willpower to stop at this point in time.

The studio environment is wall-to-wall stuff. All the things I love surrounding me in one studio, which is set in a basement location, kinda like a modern-day dungeon but minus a cauldron of boiling oil and any real corpses.

I can’t watch movies while working and prefer music, mostly soundtracks to films or bands that I like.

AFM bannerRtB: You recently became a moderator for the AFM Forum, in part I think because David Fisher couldn’t monitor it closely enough and things sometimes got out of hand. Do you get aggravated by the politics and occasionally strange behavior you encounter among others involved with the hobby? Do you have any problem keeping yourself separate from the battles that arise?

Mike: Wow, that’s a touchy question. I’ll answer it but expect vague generalities because I don’t care enough to argue with any of the paranoid people that repeatedly assume the worst with no valid reason.

Fisher is an artistic genius. The guy single-handedly lays out an entire magazine, his work ethic is inspiring to say the least. David and Terry Webb have managed to build the only figure magazine still in existence owned by the same people there from its inception. Therefore, the dedication to producing the highest-quality magazine possible keeps both of them from moderating the forum full time.

For the record, the AFM Forum was never intended to branch so far out into the hobby but as a place for readers to share tips and ask questions about things pertaining to AFM and kits in general. Where everyone connected to the forum was happy to see it take off without any heavy promotion, the unfortunate reality of the Internet is that select diabolical idiots troll all the forums online with trouble stirring on their minds.

Terry is too busy with the business side of AFM and David is always up to his ears with art duties, so I joined as a moderator in an effort to take up some of the slack.

As for the politics and strange behavior of some kit guys, it’s like any other business. Basically, —holes exist in all walks of life. These “bottom feeders” are annoying but they do serve a purpose, namely, they make all the good people look even better in comparison.

You’ll find that most people in the hobby that are artistically talented (sculptors, painters, mold makers and promoters) or have a TRUE love for the subject and the art form. Producers, dealers and writers are for the most part great people.

Every so often an egomaniac/ bitter human being/deranged lunatic decides to lash out against someone they perceive to be an enemy and arguments inevitably insue. I (like most) don’t have time for this and would rather be doing something constructive but at times it’s unavoidable.

The important thing to remember is that these weak little goons won’t last very long. Everyone has the ability to change for the better and ignore those that have nothing positive to offer.

Mole ManRtB: How long have you been writing for AFM?

Mike: My first article was for issue 28 (The “Denizens of the Deep” issue). I may have written some kit reviews prior to No. 28 but I’m not sure. It’s all a blur at this point!

RtB: What do you think was more important to Terry Webb and David Fisher when you got involved with the magazine, your ability as a model-builder or your talent as a writer?

Mike: I’d have to say that both factors played equal importance. AFM is an incredible publication to write for.

David and Terry are both genuinely nice guys and the magazine has always had an open-door policy. I had talked with Terry in the past and when we met in person and hit it off, he asked if I would be interested in writing for them.

The AFM staff are, for the most part, working professionals outside the hobby so the work we do with kits is fueled by a desire to take great sculptures and created finished works of art. I have always had the feeling that if any of our writers needed a hand with a project they could call a fellow staff member and find it.

Thanks for taking an interest in my work, Todd, it’s really been a pleasure talking with you.

Bubba the Redneck Werewolf and John Diaz

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Originally published March 30, 2006, at

Doesn’t this look like a happy fella?

Bubba the Redneck Werewolf

Meet “Bubba the Redneck Werewolf”, a 1/6 scale resin kit from the wonderful folks at Resin Realities and Wolf’s Den. The kit’s sculptor is Mark VanTine and it comes unbuilt in four resin parts; the one in the pictures was painted by Saul Alvarez. Bubba – who is also the star of his own comic and soon a movie – will be available in kit form for only a limited time; the price is $65 unbuilt or $75 for an assembled “bronzed” edition, plus shipping.

Sculpting Bubba “was a fairly straightforward job, which I both designed and executed,” MVT told me in an e-mail. “When finished, I sent it to John to do his thing.

“I’ve been working with John for over 10 years now, and over the years we’ve both learned to trust each other enough to allow the other to do their job. That’s the best way to work, if you ask me.”

The “John” he’s referring to is John Diaz, president of Resin Realities, a person known and admired by garage-kit fans around the world. I’ve known John for a few years, mostly because we’re both members of the Clubhouse modeling community, and I’ve also done a few transactions with him. I finally got to meet him face to face in the dealer room last year at WonderFest in Louisville, Ky. It was amazing; I approached John’s table with a bit of trepidation, wondering if I should bother to introduce myself; before I could decide, and while I was still several steps away, he picked out the name in small type on the tag I was wearing, gave me a big smile and started a conversation. Being able to make people so comfortable, so quickly, is a rare gift.

Bubba the Redneck Werewolf

Here’s what John had to say about Bubba in particular and producing garage kits in general recently through e-mail:

Me – What can you tell me about the character Bubba the Redneck Werewolf? (I wasn’t even aware of the comic until last week or so.)

John – Bubba was a character created by a friend of mine, Mitch Hymen. The story goes that he was a dogcatcher who was bitten by a dog that had been infected due to cosmetic testing in a lab and escaped.

Bubba likes to drink beer, drive a 4×4, has a hot girlfriend named Bobby Joe and is extremely jealous of anyone around her. He is more of an antihero as he really only cares about himself and just ends up beating and eating guys who cross his path. He has a sick sense of humor and is a redneck through and through. A fun read should you get the chance.

The comic was released sporadically due to finances and was mostly in black and white and has a major cult following. The new issue being released will be in color under a new label. There will be a feature film done sometime this year and there’s a good chance I’ll cameo in a bit part.

Me – How did you get involved with producing garage kits, and how long have you been doing it?

John – I have been doing garage kits for about 14 years now. I was a collector first and once I discovered how unique and cool it was, I was hooked.

Bubba the Redneck WerewolfBack in 1992, the availability of certain merchandise – be it toys or models – was scarce or nonexistent for some characters and films. Resin garage model kits filled that need for the collector. It was like trading and selling to a few fans, and sometimes you’d make a buck and sometimes you’d be lucky to break even.

The bottom line was that you were getting these cool figures that were never going to be produced due to whatever reason or lack of interest or profit potential the larger companies had. Some of those companies were watching what we were doing, though, and we are directly responsible for the high quality of the toy and statue industry today. They basically watched us garage-kit producers and used us as product research. They knew they had the resources (money and license). So they hired the sculptors who started out doing garage kits (through which they honed and developed their talent) and began their own companies.

Look at any of the big-name toy- and statue-producing companies and I can name many of those sculptors who worked in the garage-kit industry first. So the bottom line is that we serve a real purpose here and enjoy what we do.

Me – You are a well-known person among garage-kit fans, and I think your involvement with GKs has taken you to places around the country. Can you share one or two favorite memories about life as a GK fan and producer?

John – Being a producer, you get to travel a bit doing the various shows. I have been to Florida, Virginia, Kentucky and New Jersey, to name a few. You also get to meet some very interesting people and celeberties at these shows.

One of my fondest memories was at a Chiller show in Jersey. I was to bring Tom Savini as a guest to the show to help promote a new kit. I had hired him to sculpt a Fluffy kit, an updated version of the crate monster from the movie “Creepshow.” It was a large 1/4 scale figure. Tom had explained to me no one had ever approached him to sculpt a garage kit before and he’d be thrilled to do it. He did his best and sculpted an updated version of the beast with less body hair, atop the crate in a menacing pose.

I was thrilled to be working with one of the guys who was not only a great person but a top special effects makeup guy in horror film history. He also co-starred and cameoed in several films, including “Knightriders”, the original “Dawn of the Dead” and “From Dusk Till Dawn,” to name a few. Here he was working for me and hanging out with me at a show. HOW COOL IS THAT?

Another great memory was a couple years ago back in Kentucky at the WonderFest show. The guest of honor was none other than movie special-effects legend Ray Harryhausen. This was big, as Ray rarely if ever did these shows. The lines to get his autograph were hours long and me wanting one but being stuck behind my dealer’s table, it was not going to happen.

Ray would take breaks and just walk around the dealers’ room, looking at the various kits. I was surprised to see him not only stare at my table but take the time out to begin a conversation with me. He was mesmerized by several of the kits I was displaying for sale. He had taken notice of the gypsy woman Wayne “the Dane” Hansen had sculpted and particularly the bust line I had of the Bride of Frankenstein series. We had the Bride and both doctors (Frankenstein and Pretorius) displayed; the monster wasn’t sculpted yet.

Ray asked if he could pick them up and look at them and said SURE. He loved the way they were presented and sculpted. He asked if I take checks; jokingly I said the answer would normally be “no,” but for him I’d make an exception. We both laughed and he said he’d be back.

He came back later with his wife to show her and she was equally surprised and showed great interest. He asked if it was the painted ones I was selling. No, I said, they were just for display and my personal pieces. He looked at me and asked if I would sell the painted ones and I said I didn’t think so. So he smiled and said he’d be back .

He was set up with John Ulakovic from Janus Co. and I had discussed with Mark VanTine (the sculptor) and my painter, Saul Alvarez, what I should do. Saul and MVT suggested that I give him the busts and Saul would paint another set for me as a replacement. I agreed, but I wanted an autograph (LOL), so we sent John of Janus the message that I would sell the busts to Ray, nothing else.

So John comes to the table with Ray and a crowd is following at this point in hopes of getting his autograph. So he says, “I’m here to buy these busts,” and he pulls out his checkbook and asks “How much will it cost?” I joke with him (“I hope you have a lot of money”) and we laugh. Saul and Mark are standing next to him as he picks up the kits again and is staring at them, reciting lines from the film and telling Mark how exquisitely he thinks these were sculpted. Mark is in heaven and I’m in awe that he comes to my table when there are over 200 hundred other kit dealers there and this legend in film history is like a little kid in a candy store drooling over the kits I had produced.

So he says how much and Saul tells him it will cost you a check for $1 plus sign some autographs. He gives us a surprised look, saying “What, all you want is a $1?” We respond its the least we can do for a legend such as you and thank him. He was genuinely touched and very appreciative of the gesture.

We then proceeded to have him sign some photos and had several taken with him. Now I didn’t have to worry about waiting in line, LOL.

So, in closing, although the financial reward is not always there in garage kits, the lifetime experiences and memories can never be taken away.