Archive for the ‘Hobby blog’ Category

Moebius Models

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published Nov. 15, 2007.

What you see below is what I was able to recover of a Moebius Models blog entry I lost when the Clubhouse moved to a new server in early October 2007. The loss of that entry isn’t the worst inconvenience the Clubhouse experienced, and at least I held onto this much. The Q&A with Frank Winspur, the most important part, is intact, and for that I’m thankful.

Please keep in mind that Moebius has continued to make announcements about its future since I wrote this entry; check the Moebius Web site for information.

Resin the Barbarian: Why did you name your company Moebius?

Frank: The first two choices were turned down at the trademark office. I am a fan of the artist Moebius, and when I did a little more research and found out it is actually a mathematical term, I thought it would be a cool name. Its reference in mathematics is very interesting, I encourage everyone to check it out online at one of the many sites devoted to it.

RtB: As I understand it, you’re about to issue your third and fourth editions of the Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde kit. The first was the long-box version; the second was a glow-in-the-dark Wonderfest long-box; the third will be a glow version released the week of Chiller; and the fourth will be a square-box glow version. Is it safe to say, then, that the doctor has been a success?

Frank: The doctor has been a great seller. We hadn’t planned on four releases of it, but the limited WF kit got quite a bit of e-mail sent to us. The Chiller edition will be visually different in the way of box art, but still the Frightening Lightning edition. Slight color change. More copies this time, 480, hopefully everyone that wants one will get one!

RtB: Is it true that the teeth were trimmed off the Jekyll mold master by someone in China? And, is there any chance the figure’s teeth will be restored in a future issue of the kit?

Frank: That’s not quite the whole story. We started out with a ’72 version to tool off of. There was basically nothing left for teeth on the kit we got, either head. It was a sealed kit, so I know no one tampered with it. I can only think that some of the detail wore off through all its pressings earlier. We have had much e-mail on this, and it will be fixed. The only problem is, how to get heads back out to customers that want them. I will be speaking with China about having this done in a few weeks, and I will keep everyone updated.

RtB: How soon will Captain Action be available?

Frank: I wish I had a good answer on that. It has fallen behind due to the factory in China. A few small problems have come up. New regulations in China due to the recalls this year have effected almost everything, whether it needs testing or not. The other problem is that it is such a limited kit. No one is saying this to me, but I am guessing they are putting it off due to the fact that it is an extremely small job as to what they are used to.

RtB: Let me make sure I have this straight: Moebius has issued the Jekyll as Hyde repop and is about to issue the Captain Action. The kits that are coming include the Seaview, Voyager and the Prehistoric Scenes Jungle Swamp. Did I overlook anything?

Frank: For now, no. We have put the swamp on hold, as there really had been no interest in it. We are hoping next year once the brand grows, we can put it out. October we will have the first half of 2008 to announce at iHobby in Chicago.

RtB: For the repop kits, can you tell me where you acquired the mold masters? Were these, say, eBay purchases?

Frank: For Jekyll and Voyager, they were picked up on eBay. From there China went about prototyping them to fix original flaws.

RtB: Can you tell me the order in which these kits will be available, and/or specifically when?

Frank: Voyager, then the rest is a toss up. I am hoping for Captain Action and glow Jekyll for October. Seaview will most likely be November from the way it looks. Very hard to say until the prototype is finished.

RtB: Some sellers are offering preorders on, and taking money for, Moebius kits that probably won’t be available until well into 2008. How do you feel about that?

Frank: Honestly, not much I can do. I can guarantee the kits we have listed will all be released. We haven’t gotten that far ahead to predict 2008 on anything. This is why were not releasing any new info on 2008 releases at this point. Everyone needs some time to digest.

I guess it’s the same with any manufacturer. Retailers sell the kits and take preorders, so they have a view of what they will need. With the advent of Paypal, there doesn’t seem to be a way that someone can allocate funds to a product when it comes in.

All I can tell anyone from my experience in retail is use a credit card for online purchases. You can always go back and charge it back to the seller. Protect yourself first and foremost. There will be enough kits to go around, don’t worry about missing out. Unless it is limited.

RtB: Of your kits, do I correctly understand that the Seaview will be the first original creation by Moebius? I’ve seen at least one seller label it as an Aurora repop.

Frank: Yes, our first original. Not sure why someone would refer to it as a repop, definitely not that!

RtB: Do you have any more original creations in the works? If so, what?

Frank: Everything for 2008 at this time is an original kit. I cannot announce any of it at this time due to licensing. October at iHobby will be the announcement date.

We currently have one kit in the sculpting phase by someone many of your readers may know, Shawn Nagle. No hints yet, though. We have two other sculptors lined up for 2008 kits that I can hopefully announce in October.

RtB: I’m not going to get into a bunch of wish-list material because I know you get it all the time. However, If I don’t ask specifically about Gigantic Frankenstein, people will ask me why. I’m sure you’ve been asked about it yourself a thousand times. Any chance you’ll plug in the electrodes on this piece of classic plastic?

Frank: That has by far been the most requested piece so far. The one thing that everyone doesn’t realize is that it needs to be licensed through Universal. Check an old box and you’ll see a “copyright Universal Studios” line on it. They are a little more interested in checking Frankenstein licensing than some of the others they may own.

RtB: Can you tell me about any further repops in the works?

Frank: We actually got into it to make original kits. In the future we may do some repops as limiteds like Captain Action, for sale through our club/newsletter. We are hoping to get that going next year, just no time right now.

RtB: What’s on your own wish list? What subject would you most like to tackle? And, do you build kits yourself?

Frank: Myself, the ‘60s Batmobile would be No. 1. The 2001 kits have to be next. But as everyone knows, those are very tough licenses. Batmobile is impossible.

I built myself for many years. My eyes have been getting weak, and my hands are horrible now. I had to have one hand/wrist rebuilt this year, and it has put a huge damper on any building for some time. Hopefully again, as I love plastic!

RtB: I’ve heard a GK producer who sells Aurora recasts tried to prevent Moebius from repopping the Jekyll as Hyde kit, basically claiming that he owned the rights to the kit. Can you tell me anything about that?

Frank: Very interesting question. Anyone can claim they own anything, and more specifically put in a copyright for it. As my attorneys put it, “Anyone that has a correct address, and a check that doesn’t bounce, can copyright anything.”

None of what I was drug through is public knowledge, but I believe if anyone wants to look at the trademark site, this “GK producer” has filed opposition to our trademark for the series using the name Dr. Jekyll as Mr Hyde . This is public knowledge. I am not sure why someone would be so spiteful, as this has cost plenty to defend at this point.

If anyone checks copyrights on this particular kit, it is owned by Universal, and the OLD Aurora Plastics that was bought by Nabisco. Currently, it is expired and no one has come forth to register it that has proof of ownership. A “derivative” copyright, so everyone knows, claims you are making changes to the original, with the original owners’ permission. The changes must be “substantial” to have a valid copyright. Anyone owning a “derivative” owns the changes, not the original!

RtB: Has the possible emergence of a new Aurora, (or “A”) run by the Giamarrino family and planning to reissue many Aurora originals, affected your plans with Moebius? If so, how?

Frank: No effect that I know of. Honestly, we went into it looking at the large percentage being new kits. Polar Lights did nearly everything of value as far as sales are concerned. If I wanted to build a company that I knew would be selling repops, and probably only 500 at a time, I would be crazy. It’s just too costly, you couldn’t make money. Unless someone else had the tools and would do it for you with little cost. We’re trying to keep it reasonable, and interesting. We are not, nor would we ever, work with another company as some people have suggested.

RtB: You and Scott McKillop of Monarch Models seem to have a cordial relationship. Can you tell me about your first contacts with one another?

Frank: I spoke with Scott originally back in December. Most of what Scott is looking at is public domain properties. We were both a little worried we might have some overlapping interest. Jekyll was on Monarch’s list, Nosferatu was on Moebius’ list. We exchange some info so we don’t do something really silly. It’s expensive and too much work to have two of the same kit come out at the same time!

RtB: What are the high points, so far, of creating and operating Moebius Models? What’s the smartest thing you’ve done?

Frank: As crazy as it may sound, the high point was getting our first licensing deal done. It is so much more work than most would think. The studios just aren’t throwing their doors open to anyone with a check. It is a lot of work to get to the signing.

Smartest thing, not public knowledge quite yet, but that would be getting Dave Metzner on board. He officially starts Oct. 1 barring no complications. He is truly one of the most knowledgeable guys out there as far as getting this stuff done.

RtB: What are the low points and the biggest missteps?

Frank: The low point is just the waiting. Much of this we have no control over. You can’t pick up the phone and yell at someone and get it done quicker. Most of it is an art, and to get it right, there can be no rushing.

That is one thing if any I can stress to fans, do you want it fast, or do you want it right? We are working on getting out the best quality we can, and there can be delays. Like in the case of the Seaview. There were just a lot of small things we thought could be improved on. And we’re doing it. It has slowed the release down, but everyone will be happier with it. We learned a lesson with Jekyll’s teeth, and we are much more careful.

RtB: What have you learned that will affect what you do in the future?

Frank: Hard to say, we are still so young with this. Just get out the best product we can. At the most reasonable price that we can.

RtB: Anything you’d like to add?

Frank: Not much to add, other than a thanks to all of you that have written, bought Jekyll, and placed preorders with our dealers/distributors. Always open for comments, but please remember anything we receive for new kit suggestions are either the property of the copyright holder when we receive, or become the property of Moebius Models on receipt.

We love the suggestions, but remember we’re basically builders/fans/collectors that have been in the business for a very long time. Most things we receive are already on our list, it is a big one!

More with Monarch Models

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published July 1, 2007.

Thought I’d begin with an image I was anxious to see, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

Monarch Models

As 2006 drew to an end, the future of the plastic figure model kit looked grim. Polar Lights was out of business and the established model companies didn’t seem to have any interest in figure kits. Then, in the middle of a thread at the Clubhouse’s “Styrene Dreams” forum, Jeff Yagher advised members to keep an eye out for Monarch Models.

I decided not to wait for news, but asked Jeff if he could put me in touch with the guy behind the company. He electronically introduced me to Scott McKillop, who was happy to talk about what he was up to. I wrote a news story that ran in my “Resin the Barbarian” blog during the holiday season, then I sat back and awaited updates from Scott.

A few weeks later, Frank Winspur of Doll & Hobby Shop exploded back onto the kit scene with Moebius Models, which he was launching with a repop of the long-missed Aurora Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde, and following that up with a lot more. I was excited, but also concerned about what this apparent competition might mean. Scott, though, was just as happy as anyone.

Monarch’s first kit, Nosferatu, should be on work benches in a few weeks. Two more – the Moon Suit and the Ghost of Castel-Maré – have been announced and should be available this fall or winter. “We are also working on a cool little project that will hopefully come out in the early new year,” Scott said in an e-mail. “Real cool and real cheap. Plastic of course.”

Seems like a good time to get an update about where he’s heading with his new company.

Monarch Models

Resin the Barbarian: What’s your current expectation for when the first 2,000 Nosferatu kits will reach North America?

Scott: The Nossy kit should be in North America by the end of July. Gary is working on the instruction sheet and the second test shot has some tiny part fit errors being corrected as we speak.

RtB: Do you have a sense of how well the kit will sell? Does the potential for distribution look promising? I know a number of online dealers are offering presales.

Scott: The pre-order sales of Nossy are excellent. The last big distributor bought the last 404 kits. The first run of 2000 has been sold out (by Stevens Int., Hobbytyme, and Squadron). If a person hasn’t already preordered one, they had better hope their local hobby shop is on the phone to the above distributors.

RtB: Are you going to have more of the Nosferatu kits made?

Monarch Models

Scott: Another run of Nossys would be based on market demand. I want the kit to remain highly collectible by keeping the production numbers small. At the same time I want everyone who wants one, to be able to find one without having to resort to hijacked prices on eBay. Tricky balance.

Once I open up the Monarch Club, the members will have a big say in what happens.

RtB: How was WonderFest?

Scott: WonderFest was awesome and I had to chance to put faces to bulletin board names. Everyone was very nice to meet and it was good for the business.

RtB: What other shows do you plan to attend?

Scott: ihobby expo for 2007. Back to Wonderfest in ’08 and maybe the tabletop expo in Las Vegas (but it is the weekend following WonderFest and that’s a lot of travelling).

RtB: What age group do you expect Monarch’s products to appeal to? I’m guessing middle-aged men but I’d like to see kids such as those featured in your ads get excited about them.

Scott: I have no doubt that my target audience is younger middle-age men such as myself, 40-55, but it is certainly my dream to have the younger kids discover the hobby. This is why Gary’s artwork for the boxes is so important. It was the artwork that hooked me in the early 1970s. We shall see.

RtB: Speaking of ads: Your first teaser poster and the comic-panel advertisement in the current issues of Amazing Figure Modeler and Kitbuilders feature a blond boy (named Jack, I believe?), as well as a friend and family members. Is that boy based on someone in particular?

Scott: The “boy” is Jack Q. Public, Anytown, USA. Based loosely on myself, on all modelers. We started into this hobby as kids and that’s the fun and the memories brought back when modeling monster or sci-fi kits.

RtB: What’s the story behind the Ghost of Castel-Maré? What will he look like, and when will he be available? Will he be 1/8 scale?

Scott: That was an early conversation regarding one of Gary’s ideas. The Ghost. I wasn’t too sure of his original concept and Gary mentioned a play on the Castel-Maré character, and I was sold. The scale will match the original prisoner. We are working to meet the end of 2007 deadline on him. His appearance is so scary that Jeff Yagher has to sculpt it blindfolded, working only during daylight hours, curtains up, and his wife in the house within earshot.

RtB: Are the Ghost and the Forgotten Prisoner supposed to be the same character?

Scott: Yes, the Ghost is the ghost of the Prisoner of Castel-Maré.

I asked Jeff to use the prisoner’s skull and bones to guide him on reconstructing the ghost’s facial features. “CSI” meets Monarch.

RtB: Is the Moon Suit the sci-fi kit you mentioned when you did the first Q&A with me last year? If so, who’s going to sculpt that one, and when will it be available?

Monarch ModelsScott: Yes, the Moon Suit is the first sci-fi kit that I “teased” about last year. Again we are aiming for the 2007 deadline. Because of the machined parts, Jeff Y. and Tony Cipriano, had to turn it down. It will be a Made in China solution. Likely 1/10 scale. Presented in the wide long box format. While technically not a fictional item, it never made it into space, yet spawned the toy suit for Major Matt Mason. It kinda acts as a crossover kit for space history buffs, sci-i guys, and MMM fans (I hope).

RtB: What other original kits are in the works from Monarch? Anything that will require a license? Any vehicles or other non-figure kits?

Scott: The other original kits in the works are top secret. But new sculpts will be the rule at Monarch. Reissues would be the exception. All things are pending licensing agreements. Kit No. 4 marks the beginning of licensed properties. Of this kit, I can tell you that it is a licensed property of a para-military character. Original. Vehicles: That’s a tough one because Frank (of Moebius) has that nicely sewn up Non-figure?!?!?! Todd are you crazy or just tired?

RtB: What’s the potential for glow-in-the-dark parts?

Scott: Glow-in-the-dark, parts? Hmmm, well I did grow up in the ‘70s and glow kits were the only thing that I knew, so … we’ll see. Looks like Frank received a hero’s homecoming for his glow Jekyll, that’s a good sign. I got five of his glow Jekylls at the show.

RtB: What do you think about the resin replacement part market that has sprung up? Do you plan to offer any resin parts in your styrene kits?

Scott: I love the idea of the resin replacement parts market. I won’t offer resin parts for my kits, but I would be quite happy if someone out there did make a go of it.

Monarch Models

RtB: Since we first spoke, some other “players” in the kit field have come to light, particularly Moebius Models and supposedly a new Aurora Plastics Corp. Considering that both of these companies plan to repop a number of Aurora kits, has your thinking on reviving any of the old kits changed? Do you still want to produce any of the Aurora classics?

Scott: Definitely the appearance of Frank’s company has helped everyone, including me. I can’t do everything and neither can Frank. But with both companies maybe modelers will have the best selection of new and repopped kits. Frank’s a great guy and we have a very good gentleman’s agreement of not trying to compete for the sake of competing. His standards ensure that I keep my standards high, and vice versa. How can you lose? I had planned on repopping Dr J., but now I can spend those tooling dollars on the Ghost. I would like to repop certain Aurora kits, but again this will depend on Frank’s releases and licensing agreements. Believe me, there is certainly no shortage of great new ideas out there.

RtB: If the answer to that is “Yes,” which kits do you want to bring back?

Scott: Top secret.

RtB: If I don’t ask specifically about Big Frankie, someone will ask me why. So, what do you think? Any interest in putting that Monster back on the table?

Scott: Gigantic Frankenstein is always on the table but at this time I need to learn how big my market is and how profitable figure kits can be. I would never say “no”, but the fact that Polar Lights wanted to do it, and chose not to, despite their strong history, is reason to be careful. But honestly, it always remains on the table. Frank and I have talked about it, because I know it is on his wish list too. Time and money, of course.

RtB: Any chance Monarch would do a “missing pieces” kit? Kind of like the old Customizing kits but with parts that seem always missing on a lot of vintage original kits. Examples: Badge for U.S. Marshal, shotgun for Jesse James, sword blade for Spartacus, scabbard for Zorro, lantern for Blackbeard, sword blade for Captain Kidd, chain links for Big Frankie, palm tree pieces for King Kong, axe for Viking, web section for Spider-Man.

Scott: Interesting idea. Not one that I would have ever thought of doing. I don’t really know how serious the potential of seeing that “kit” come to light is, at the moment. But again, all ideas are put in the bag for future consideration.

RtB: What have been the high points so far in your effort to start up Monarch?

Scott: The biggest high point is the mind-boggling power of the Internet. I have not had to set foot outside of my house to accomplish 98 percent of what has been done. I have never met Jeff Y. or Gary (prior to WonderFest) and I have never been to China (although it would speed up development if I did go). This whole Nosferatu project has been surprisingly easy to accomplish. And with the experience gained, the Ghost and the Moon Suit should be faster to market.

RtB: What have been the low points?

Scott: Believe it or not, the low points have been so minor that it isn’t worth mentioning. And now that the test shot is in my hands and Frank’s Dr. Jekyll is in the stores, my motivation has steamrolled any unforeseen obstacles.

RtB: Are you glad you’ve taken the steps you have, and do you plan to keep going?

Scott:I am very glad with what has been developed. We have let the $ flow pretty easily with Nossy. The next two kits will be developed on a rigorous budget to follow the actual costs versus revenue. This will help determine how profitable a figure model kit company can be. I have no plans to stop until it is quite apparent that I am flushing money down the toilet repeatedly. But like I said before, I am willing to pony up and lose a year’s salary before I throw in the towel. Based on what I have seen to date, the future looks very bright for a small niche company such as Monarch. And Moebius, too.

Monarch Models

What follows is Scott’s reaction to a mishmash of “wish list” material members of various forums provided. I asked, “Do any of these strike you as something Monarch might produce?” Here’s what he said:

The Golem, Dr Caligari, London after Midnight, Metropolis: possibly but not in the next year or two.

Edison Frankenstein: I’d have to look that one up. But it has an interesting ring to it.

The Phantom of the Opera: No to an Aurora repop. New sculpt maybe. It comes with the whole Universal monsters licensing package.

Aurora Blackbeard and Capt. Kidd: I like the sound of those repops.

MoM Creature: I like the sound of that one too.

Pirates of the Caribbean: I wonder what Disney’s licensing fee would be?

Generic pirates: possibly what with the popularity of the new movies but who would buy and build it? We shall see how are Ghost of Castel-Maré kit sells first.

Aurora’s unproduced Godzilla: I like it.

Curse of the Werewolf: Maybe, but currently lower priority.

Mole people: Maybe but more likely.

Morlocks: I like it. I really liked the movie.

Glenn Strange Frankie: I would have to look into that one.

The Fly: Ah the Fly, the pretty pretty Fly, the one that started it all for Monarch … My dream come true. I would love to do the Fly.

The 4-D man: You’ll have to educate me. Who is he? (I had to look it up myself.)

Ymir: Another dream kit. Why has no one done this before? Is there a licensing issue?

The Thing: James Arness?

Cheech and Chong: Hmmmm I am not really sure how well that would sell.

Coppola Dracula: Tough one, I am not too confident in its sales.

Dinosaurs: Only if it is designed by Steve Ross in the PS style.

Langella Drac: I don’t know what that version is, worth checking it out.

Aurora prototypes: Maybe, depends on the specific kit.

Silver Age DC heroes: Tough one because I only knew the Bronze age, and I always thought the “pre Bronze” age art was too stiff. Plus the licensing.

Super heroes: I would love to do them based on the ease of licensing. I am a Bronze age guy. Maybe once Monarch has earned a good reputation it will be easier.

Phantom Cruiser: I would have to look that one up.

Space Ghost: Same thing as above.

Lone Ranger: Seems that the Comics Scenes version is almost free on eBay. It doesn’t command a very big price. And with a reproduction box from David Vaughn, you’re all set.

Zorro: Disney. Licensing.

Classic sci-fi vehicles: Oh there is something I have in mind, there is so much to be exhausted from the public domain. In fact I do not think a person can exhaust the public domain. That’s the beauty of it.

This Island Earth Mutant: He comes included in the Universal Monster Licensing group. We will see. But I like it.

The Mole Man: Same as above and Gary has already done the box art, so we will see.

Gort (or Gnut): 20th Century Fox. Sticky people at Fox, haven’t seen the Fly yet in plastic either. I like it, though.

Original Mary Shelley Frankenstein: I do like the public domain. But would a literary interpretation sell like our silver screen favorite? Hmmm, between Jeff’s sculpting skills and Gary’s box art, it just might be a seller.

HG Wells: We would like to think of it, but Frank is likely to have something to show for it, before we get around to it.

Jules Verne: Same as above.

Hammer Films: Hmmm, I would have to look into that, would they sell as well as the Universal characters?

Rondo Hatton: I would have to look into that one. I don’t know the character.

Werewolf of London: Jeff Y. thinks that one is a good idea too. It might be public domain.

Frankie meets Wolfie: Hmmm. Well it would be covered under the Universal Classic Monsters Licensing package. It is possible.

Aurora UNCLE: I like the concept. Maybe the new Aurora guys will do it first.

Wacky Racers Cars: I will do any kit that has fangs, claws, and a few bones and spiders scattered on the base. After that, I get out of my league. Besides, I thought car kits and firecrackers were meant for each other.

Jonny Quest: Haven’t given him too much thought because cartoon characters always look like toys when they are made into models.

More things to come: There are many more things that we have planned that come from the wonderful world of public domain (P.D). Jeff has a pet project idea for one Public Domain kit. I have already come up with a name for the series of sci-fi P.D. kits, that I would like to do.

We are working on something in the parody exemption line thanks to a friend at New Line.

In general, the goal at Monarch is to offer original sculpts concentrating on figure kits (Monster, Sci Fi, Hero, Fantasy). There are some Aurora repops on our list, but not many, and that may shrink, depending on what Frank, and the new Aurora people produce.

There is a healthy 50:50 mix of public domain and licensed characters on our wish list. The wish list will change based on sales and licensing ease. If a public domain character commands as much retail return as a licensed character, then why pay for all the licensing hassle? We will follow the market, but at the same time try to steer the market in the direction of our products. Jeff Yagher, Gary Makatura, and I are big-time Aurora monster model fans, and we are listening to the GK world for ideas and to the BBs for ideas. There is no shortage of ideas, but there is a shortage of time and a limit on money. But hopefully between Frank’s work at Moebius and my work here at Monarch, all modelers will have plenty of reason to celebrate over the next several years.

Monarch gears up to become 21st century Aurora

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published Nov. 28, 2006, at GJSentinel.com.

Monarch

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

‘THE TIMING SOUNDED RIGHT’

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.

Monarch

PLASTIC CHALLENGES

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.”

WHAT’S NEXT

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 GJSentinel.com.

Trendon

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.

MIKE RUTHERFORD AND MODEL KITS

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.

Trendon

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.

MIKE PAINTS AN ANGRY “FLY” WITHOUT WINGS

“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.

A BIG FAN OF THE AURORA BOX ART SERIES

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.

Andy Bergholtz creates the Salty Sea Dogs

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published Aug. 16, 2006, at GJSentinel.com.

“THE SALTY SEA DOGS”
Sculpted by Andy Bergholtz of AB Sculpture Studio.
Available from Dark Carnival.
1/4 scale, resin.
The first two “Sea Dogs” sell for $75 plus shipping; price on the Captain is $85; the set of all three is $175.
Kits in pictures painted by Phil Sera.

The truth about pirates was ugly. They were thieves and murderers sailing the high seas, and the closest thing they probably got to taking a bath was the occasional saltwater spray from the waves. No fun at all. But the iconic images of pirates built around sources such as the Pirates of the Caribbean and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” – that’s fun.

Sculptor Andy Bergholtz celebrates those iconic images with his “Salty Sea Dogs,” a trio of buccaneers who are obviously very happy about being very bad. They’ve never had what Andy calls “official” names, but he refers to them as the Captain (the most recently introduced), Deadeye Henry and Frosty Bill.

Andy, 27, lives in St. Louis. He’s married and has kids: Lucy, 3; Andy Jr., 18 months; and a third on the way.

Norm “Kitman” Piatt wrote a terrific interview with Andy in the Spring 2004 issue of the now-defunct Modeler’s Resource. The magazine doesn’t seem to be available through the MR Web site, but it’s worth searching for you if you want a more in-depth piece about Andy. For now, I’ll share what he told me through e-mail.

Andy Bergholtz

Q&A WITH ANDY BERGHOLTZ

Resin the Barbarian: Were the Sea Dogs based on some kind of illustration?

Andy BergholtzAndy: I didn’t use any illustrations as a basis for the designs, they are all original. I was heavily inspired by imagery from the Pirates of the Caribbean Disneyland attraction, which has always been an obsession of mine. Old-school Disneyana is kind of a hobby for me, I’m a huge fan of anything related to the Pirates or Haunted Mansion, etc. These busts are in large part an homage to the old greats like Marc Davis and Blaine Gibson.

RtB: The first two “Salty Sea Dogs” have been around for more than a year; the Captain is new. How long, roughly, did it take from the first, “let’s do this” step when you (and Robb, I resume) decided to do this until now, when all three are ready?

Andy: Well, the first two busts were not planned, they were just clay sketches I had done for my personal collection at the time. They got such great feedback on the forums, etc, and I began to get all kinds of requests to turn them into kits… I’m not much of a kit producer myself, but I knew my buddy Robb (Rotondi of Dark Carnival) was a huge pirate fan, so I pitched it to him and he picked them up to produce.

I had always intended to do a third pirate, which we decided would be the Captain, to finish off the set. That piece took considerably longer to complete, partly because he’s a little more complex than the others but mainly due to scheduling.

Andy Bergholtz

RtB: How many hours a day do you sculpt? And WHAT hours of the day?

Andy: I work anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a day on average. I typically begin the work day around 8 or 8:30 am, stop working at 5 p.m. to have dinner with the family and spend time with the kids, etc. Most days I’ll go back to work after the kids go to bed, from about 7:30 until 10 or 11 p.m., but I’m trying to cut back on the “overtime.” :)

RtB: I would suppose that, as sculptors go, you are doing well. Would you say sculpting pays well, or do you have to worry a lot about where the next job is coming from?

Andy: I’m blessed to be in a situation currently where I don’t worry about where the next job is coming from, although it wasn’t always that way.

Like most artists I spent my fair share of time struggling with work and living off beans and Kool-Aid. The industry has been good to me over the years, though, and I’m constantly surprised and humbled by my level of success.

It’s hard to answer the question “does sculpting pay well,” simply because the sculpting industry is so broad, the answer is vastly different for every artist. My income is currently healthier than it’s ever been, but the money I make is directly related to how much work I can get done. God knows I’ve seen my share of overdrawn bank accounts over the years of freelancing, though, so I think it all balances out. :)


RtB: You sculpt many well-known characters, including comic-book heroes, movie monsters, etc. Do you consider yourself in a sort of good-spirited competition with other sculptors to “top” each other’s work? Do you ever look at “Mr. X’s” newest version of the Frankenstein Monster and try to “beat” that?

Andy: One thing I love about this line of work is the great amount of respect the artists have for each other. It really is a small industry, almost everyone knows each other in some capacity. There’s a great level of camaraderie, which in my personal experience has always outweighed the sense of “competition.”

That’s not to say there aren’t many sculptors out there who aren’t competitive … Some of them can be downright cutthroat when it comes to competing for work. But the sculptors I’m closest with (whose work spans the entire industry), it’s all very positive and kind-spirited.

I wouldn’t say that I consciously try to “top” other sculptors’ work, but I’m always amazed when artists create a piece that raises the bar of expectation, and it definitely inspires me to do my best with each new piece.

RtB: What can fans expect from you as 2006 progresses? Do you have any in-progress works you can tell me about, maybe share a photo or 20?

Andy: Unfortunately I can’t be too specific due to the nature of the licensed work … But I can say there will be a bit more variety in my portfolio in the coming months.

Andy BergholtzI recently entered the freelance market again and am no longer exclusive with Sideshow Collectibles, which has opened up many opportunities to expand the types of work I do. I’m still working on a great deal of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings pieces for Sideshow, but I’ve also got some projects for DC Comics in the works, and even Disney.

One piece I can share is the 1/4 scale Incredible Hulk that was recently announced by Sideshow. The sculpture is a couple years old, but I’m still fairly fond of it.

More Bergholtz pictures

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Additional photos from Andy.

Andy Bergholtz

Andy Bergholtz

Andy Bergholtz
Andy Bergholtz

Andy Bergholtz

Kingdom Come Superman from MikeTek

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published Aug. 10, 2006, at GJSentinel.com

MikeTek

“KINGDOM COME SUPERMAN BUST”
First in a series of busts inspired by the artwork of Alex Ross.
Produced by MikeTek.
1/4 scale, resin, one piece.
Price: $50, including shipping inside the United States.

MikeTekTen years ago, comic books were pretty much over for me. Not entirely over, I’d pick up a title every now and then, but for the most part the writers were putting out stories I’d read before, the artists drawing the same muscle-popping heroes. I stopped in at Comics Odyssey on North Avenue (like most comics shops I know of, it folded years ago) and browsed once a month or so, but only when I was bored.

During one of those stops, I happened to see a promo poster for the upcoming four-part series “Kingdom Come” by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, neither of whom I’d heard of. I wasn’t interested. But then the shop’s owner pointed it out and said it would be good, so I figured I had little to lose and bought the first issue when it was available.

It was wonderful. Best comic I’d seen in years, since Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” in the ’80s, and better than anything I’ve seen since.

Like “Watchmen” and “Dark Knight,” “Kingdom Come” is set in the future, when the children of the original superheroes are wreaking chaos around the world. They’ve grown up in a society that values revenge over justice; their leader is a ruthless superhuman vigilante called Magog, whose popularity so disgusted Superman years before that he retired to his arctic Fortress of Solitude.

The young superhumans’ carelessness climaxes in a battle with a villain called the Parasite. In a desperate moment, the Parasite manages to split open the nuclear-powered Captain Atom, which causes a blast large enough to kill a million people and destroy the farmlands of Kansas.

Seeing how much things have deteriorated during his years of isolation, Superman comes out of retirement, wearing an “S” shield with a black background that I presume was inspired by the 1940s Fleischer cartoons. The Man of Steel reforms the Justice League, and…

MikeTekWell, stop by a bookstore and pick up the graphic novel collection of all four issues if you want to know the rest. Believe me, if it sounds stupid, it’s probably because I simply can’t properly explain it. Mark Waid is generally a good writer and this is probably his best; more importantly, Alex Ross’ artwork is nothing short of amazing. He paints the familiar characters – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Captain Marvel and more – in a way that maintains their “mythological” feel while also making them look like real human beings. It’s wonderful stuff.

The garage-kit fan behind MikeTek is Mike Blankenship, 32, of Olathe, Kan. Mike works as a network engineer for CIO Inc., which means he does information technology consulting and installs and troubleshoots IT infrastructure such as servers, switches and routers. Mike’s been married for 11 years, no kids; aside from models, his hobbies include customizing 12-inch action figures and woodworking. He’s putting together a Web site which he hopes to have ready in a few months.

MikeTek

Q&A WITH MIKE BLANKENSHIP

Resin the Barbarian: You and I met briefly at WonderFest 2005, in the hotel’s restaurant, and you told me you were taking some steps toward becoming a garage-kit producer. Now you’re apparently getting well into the swing of it. How do you like it so far?

Mike: I love it! I really enjoy contributing to the hobby. I’m on pins and needles waiting to see some paint-ups of the piece.

RtB: Can you give me an idea of how much self-education was involved in becoming a kit producer, and what equipment you had to buy? Did buying the equipment put a serious dent in your kit-buying budget?

Mike: I used several tutorials from the Web and relied on some sound advice from others in the hobby.

I got my start in resin producing 1/6 custom heads for the 12-inch action figure hobby. I had commissioned a custom head sculpt and it arrived and I pretty much jumped right in, made a mold and started producing copies.Through a little trial and error, I soon had clean casts and started to offer them for sale.

MikeTekI had started without any equipment at all and was frustrated with bubbles and voids. I almost immediately purchased a pressure tank and air compressor. I since have added a vacuum pump also to help with eliminating the RTV bubbles. While the equipment is somewhat pricey for a person only doing one or two casts once in a while, I’ve found that if you want to produce casts for sale, it is absolutely necessary to have some good tools.

RtB: What drew you to producing this Superman bust?

Mike: I have always been a huge fan of Ross’s work as well as a huge Superman fanatic. I have always liked the Kingdom Come “S” shield style and color scheme.

RtB: Does it represent a specific panel in the “Kingdom Come” series? If so, what’s happening at the moment Superman is depicted?

Mike: It’s based more on some of the supporting artwork than from a specific panel. The composition of the bust was chosen by the sculptor. I couldn’t be happier with it; I feel it’s a very powerful pose that suits this type of bust well.

RtB: Will all the busts in this series be inspired by “Kingdom Come” in particular or just Alex Ross in general?

Mike: They are not limited to the “Kingdome Come” storyline. The next few in the series are Batman, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. These are based mostly on the current “Justice” comic series as well as the line of posters that Ross did for DC. Also in the works are Hawkman and the Joker.

RtB: Have you ever met the sculptor face to face?

Mike: Yes I have. It’s great to meet someone that you work so closely with face to face. I was attending a convention for a different hobby that put me within visiting distance of the sculptor so we planned a meet-up. He is truly an extremely talented person, and it was great to see him in his element surrounded by works in progress.

MikeTekRtB: Would you like to add anything else?

Mike: Yes, while the Superman kit is my first big step in selling kits to the hobby, I have several commissions that are still sitting on my shelf waiting to be offered for sale. Some are waiting for my skill level in casting to increase so that I can do them justice and some are waiting for bases and final touch type of things.

A couple of pieces that are awaiting the kit treatment are a 1/6 Wolverine and a 1/8 original sci-fi type character that was actually named by someone at the Clubhouse as “Thud” (pictured above). It’s really a great piece that I would love to get kitted up soon.

I also have at least six more commissions on sculptors’ workbenches right now.

Pirate Captain by H2Creative

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published Aug. 3, 2006, at GJSentinel.com.

Pirate Captain

Pirate Captain“PIRATE CAPTAIN”
Sculpted by Jim Maddox.
Produced by H2Creative, info@h2creative.com.
1/6th scale resin bust in six parts.
$75 plus shipping.

Something about Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” connected with me right from the start – and I don’t mean the movies, I mean the characters from the rides at Disneyland and Disney World, which I discovered when Johnny Depp was probably a year or two ahead of me in grade school. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was fascinated with the idea of “living” skeletons sailing the seas.

Like so many of the entertainment things I’ve loved in my life, I was introduced to the Pirates through model kits. Specifically, a series of kits from the company MPC, heavily advertised in comics in the early to mid-’70s. I remember staring at displays of those kits every time Mom took us to Kmart.

I’m not positive, but I think I did end up getting one of those kits – one of the skeleton ones, I’m not sure which – and made such a discouraging mess of putting it together that I quit bugging my parents to buy me more. Now I’m hoping someone will repop the kits for today’s kids (and grown-ups) the way Polar Lights did for the classic Aurora monsters, because I’m not willing to pay eBay prices for 30-year-old boxes of plastic.

For the moment, however, corporate America doesn’t seem interested in the relatively small but thriving community dedicated to figure model kits, even though the financial success of the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie and even greater financial success of its current sequel (which recently became Disney’s all-time-biggest money maker) would seem to indicate that repopping the old kits would make a little money for someone. Oh, well. Fortunately, hobbyists such as myself can turn to garage-kit producers for some wonderful stuff, particularly the “Pirate Captain” recently introduced by H2Creative. Inspired by the character of Davy Jones in “Dead Man’s Chest,” this pirate has been shivering the timbers of many a GK fan recently.

Pirate CaptainFamily man Lonnie Hale, 38, of Atlanta is the man behind H2Creative. He has mostly worked at producing resin model kits – “literally dozens” – for other people’s companies and he also produces “a lot of movie prop stuff for people.” One of the biggest things he produces is a line of 1/6 scale “Hero Heads” and he sells once a month on eBay under the member name “TK570.”

“I really specialize in very small run stuff and/or prototypes and specialty materials,” Lonnie told me in an e-mail. ” I do a lot of stuff that requires glow in the dark colors, clear or translucent material, rubber, soft and hard foam cast product or simulated special effects in mold like tortoise shell, ivory, jade, etc.”

Pirate Captain

Q&A WITH LONNIE HALE

Resin the Barbarian: I know you recently had surgery, although I’m not sure why. You feeling OK?

Lonnie: I had surgery recently on a muscle in my upper thigh. Fine now, thanks.

RtB: The second “Pirates of the Caribbean” has only been in theaters a few weeks. When did you and/or Jim start working on this bust? Whose idea was it to create this sculpture?

Lonnie: As a big fan of the first POC film, I had created a custom figure of Captain Jack several years ago complete with a custom head of Depp, etc. This was very popular with people, so I knew there would be some renewed interest in the subject matter when the second film was to come out.

As pre-production on DMC got under way, some pictures from the art department got out and showed the character of Davy Jones. I read the script to determine his level of appearance in the film and decided he would be a great project.

Pirate CaptainPlanning started on him around the first of the year and figure studies for pose were developed by early February. Some other projects got in the way for a while, but then it got back on track and was finalized by May.

RtB: What’s your history of working with Jim Maddox?

Lonnie: I have been working with Jim for about six years now on a wide variety of projects that cover everything from heads and busts both large and small to props and toys. It really is a good partnership on a lot of things.

Jim is such a remarkable talent. His ability to create a likeness is truly unrivaled even by those scan capture technologies.

RtB: I’ve never done resin casting, but I know enough about it to look at this kit and see it has a thousand small details that could be lost without extra care. What particular challenges did casting this sculpture present?

Lonnie: This project presents some challenges in both molding and casting. I have never shied away from a project due to a challenge of detail and I often encourage Jim in pieces that “I’ll find a way to do that” when it gets to the casting end.

Jim and I usually talk the details out with respect to how a piece will be cut or designed for casting. This helps for the work later if you plan it well before any sculpting is done. Planning where sprues or vents are to be placed, how to hide a seam or even if there is to be one, etc.

In the specific case of the “Captain,” there were a ton of mold locks created by his tentacles and several small and delicate coral protrusions on his surface. This was all going to be unavoidable so I knew going into the molding that it had to be right the first time since the master would get destroyed in removing it from the mold.

I usually don’t tell how I mold things or my casting techniques, but I will say that he does take six molds
for his six parts and with the exception of the hat, all of the molds are one-piece molds and they are pressure molded silicone.

The creation of the torso cast is the tricky one as I opted for a two-stage pressure-casting process instead of adding a ton of vents to his front. The piece has to be slush filled on the front and then pressurized, followed by the addition of the remaining volume and additional pressure for completion.

The other parts are cast pretty much as you see them in one piece molds and the hat is a two-part mold with traditional venting.

Pirate Captain

RtB: Do you do your resin castings in your own home? If so, is it hard to clear out the smell?

Lonnie: I work with very high-quality resins and there is no smell in them. A lot of people use resin that has that hideous smell and the pieces turn a dark amber color with a little age. I never liked getting kits made in that stuff because the smell never went away. Knowing that, I decided to never offer anything but premium stuff. It costs more, but it’s so worth it to me.

I vent all sprays, release agents, and chemicals when I use them.

RtB: Do you have any further new kits coming soon?

Lonnie: I usually stick to producing kits for other people, but if the “Captain” kit does well and is popular with people then I think you could see more kits directly from me in the near future.

Steve Riojas paints the Yagher Classics

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published July 26, 2006, at GJSentinel.com.

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:

YC12

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.

YC12

Take another look, side by side:

YC12

YC8“YAGHER CLASSICS VOLS. 1-12″
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

Yagher ClassicsQ&A WITH 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!

Fantastic Plastic’s Galactic Raider

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Originally published July 13, 2006, at GJSentinel.com.

Galactic Raider

“GALACTIC RAIDER”
Galactic RaiderInspired by the Cylon Raider from the Sci Fi Channel series “Battlestar Galactica.”
Master by Alfred Wong.
Produced by Fantastic Plastic Models.
Scale: 1:48. Dimensions: 7 inches x 4.5 inches.
Solid-cast resin; 11 pieces. Casting and scribing by BLAP! Models.
The display stand does NOT come with the model. It must be ordered separately.
Price: $75 plus shipping. Display stand is $7.
The display model pictured painted by Allen B. Ury.

In 1978, “Battlestar Galactica” was a network TV show with great (albeit frequently recycled) special effects, wonderful sets and generally bad writing and acting. As I recall, it got off to a roaring start and then crash-landed at the end of the season. Two years later, after hearing from a lot of fans begging to give it another chance, ABC debuted “Galactica 1980″; the cancellation of that one was a mercy killing.

Fast-forward to the 21st century. The call to give “Galactica” another shot was again building; I wasn’t one of the people all that concerned about it, but I knew of a couple of groups trying to revive the show. It was the Sci Fi Channel that finally did it with a 2003 miniseries, which led to a continuing series that quickly became bigger and better than its predecessor.

*Sigh.* OK, it’s confession time: I saw the 2003 “Galactica” miniseries and was IMpressed, but also DEpressed. A show about a ragtag fleet of spaceships carrying human refugees wouldn’t normally inspire me to use the word “realistic,” but this “Galactica” was so convincingly done that I found it hard to stomach a scene – presumably inspired by “Daisy,” Lyndon Johnson’s notorious anti-Barry Goldwater campaign commercial of the 1960s – in which a peaceful girl is killed in a nuclear flash. I just wasn’t in the mood for that, so it kind of soured me for the whole effort.

However, in the months that followed, I read more and more from people who flat LOVE the new “Galactica.” They called it the best sci-fi show around, possibly the best sci-fi show ever done, so I checked it out again and it was good. Intriguing, even, and the actor playing Cmdr. Adama – Edward James Olmos – never fails to impress me. I could see getting hooked on it if only I could catch up on the story line, but I didn’t get a chance to because we moved to a new home and still haven’t connected to a cable or satellite service. I’ll bet the series is available on DVD, so I’ll check it out eventually.

Galactic RaiderOne thing I’ve liked from the start about the new “Battlestar Galactica” is the ships, particularly the updated Cyclon Raiders. The design is interesting; the strobing red lights in front make an instant connection with those who remember the same lights on the Cylons in the original series, but the rest of the ship is a sleeker design that manages to be new while incorporating a few familiar elements. I was happy to make Fantastic Plastic’s “Galactic Raider” the first hardware kit profiled by “Resin the Barbarian.”

Allen B. Ury, owner of Fantastic Plastic, is the gentleman marketing this Raider. Allen, 52, lives in Costa Mesa, Calif., with his wife, Rene. They have a son, Robert, 20, who is a junior at the University of Southern California. In addition to running Fantastic Plastic, Allen’s occupations include being a senior copywriter at The Peterson Group, Newport Beach (communications marketing); a screenplay analyst for The Writers Network, Beverly Hills; staff writer for FADE IN Magazine, Beverly Hills; and a part-time screen/TV writer.

The Fantasic Plastic Web site, which displays Allen’s “ever-expanding collection of X-plane, concept aircraft, real space, concept spacecraft and pop culture models,” went online in 2002, he wrote in an e-mail. “Fantastic Plastic Models, an offshoot of that ‘hobby’ site, was legally founded on May 29, 2005 and released its first model kit, the Avro 730 bomber, on Oct. 1 of the same year.

Like most garage-kit producers, Fantastic Plastic Models is essentially a one-man operation. Allen chooses the kits to produce, finances their development and production, and does all the marketing and distribution. Sound like an interesting way to pass the time? Then read on to find out more.

Galactic Raider

Q&A WITH ALLEN B. URY

Allen UryResin the Barbarian: Alfred Wong created the master for this ship. Does that basically mean he sculpted the ship and castings were made of that sculpture?

Allen: Alfred Wong created the original 1:48 pattern. This means that he sculpted the pieces that were later used to make the mold for the resin castings. Before the molds were made, additional surface details were added by Dave Guertin of BLAP! Models, who then did the actual castings.

RtB: Looking at your photos, I think I recognize some influence of H.R. Giger’s Alien design in the Raider’s cockpit area (the ship’s “face”?) and the area behind. Do you agree? Am I just finally catching onto something fans of the new “Galactica” have known from the start?

Allen: I believe the works of H.R. Giger (“Alien”) were the influence for the “head” of the new Raider design. The wings look a whole lot like those of the Kilrathi Raiders from the popular “Wing Commander” video games of the 1980s and 1990s. The alien fighters from “Independence Day” – which were themselves influenced by the original Cylon Raiders – also provided some inspiration, I suspect.

Galactic RaiderRtB: How difficult would it be if a kitbuilder wanted to put real lights in this kit, specifically the famous moving red Cylon light in the cockpit’s “eye”

Allen: I don’t light my kits. However, there’s enough room inside the cockpit “head” for an LED. Where the wiring and power source would go, I have no idea.

RtB: Do you prefer the original “Battlestar Galactica” or the new one, and why?

Allen: I find the new “Battlestar Galactica” to be far superior to the ABC-TV original from 1979. Not only is the new Sci Fi Channel series more technically advanced, but its storylines, characters, acting and direction are significant more sophisticated and mature. The original “BSG” was written for 12-year-olds. The new “BSG” is written for adults. It’s as mature, complex, sexual and politically sophisticated as any show on prime time – if not more so.

RtB: So, do I correctly understand that you have been involved with the hobby since the age of 7? Was there ever a period in which you weren’t buying and building model kits?

Allen: I built models continuously from the time I was 7 until I was 18 and left for college (1972). I had to stop while I was living in the dorms, but took it up again when I moved to my own apartment during my senior year (1974). I then took another hiatus when I graduated and moved to Orlando, Fla., to work as an entertainer at a hotel in Walt Disney World (1975), but resumed about a year after that. The building has continued ever since.

Galactic RaiderRtB: What made you decide to become a kit producer as well as a hobbyist?

Allen: My decision to become a kit producer was based on my frustration with not being able to get kits of many subjects I wanted to build. Over the years, I had developed online relationships with many “garage kit” producers, including Igor Shestakov of Unicraft (Ukraine), Ren Magnallon of Sharkit (France) and Arnold Chiu of Anigrand (Hong Kong). I greatly admired what they did and how they did it. In 2005, I ran across information about the Avro 730 bomber project and thought it would make a great kit subject. I suggested this to all three of these gentlemen but, much to my disappointment, they passed.

Coincidentally, the marketing company I work for was in the midst of a period of “strategic planning,” and we were discussing the concept of “core competencies” and the fact that you can always subcontract for those skills you don’t have in-house. I’m not a pattern-maker. I don’t know anything about casting. But through my many garage kit purchases and correspondence with other kit-makers via Web sites like Starship Modeler and CultTVMan, I knew people who did this stuff. So I found someone who could do the Avro 730 pattern (Scott Lowther) and someone who could do the casting (Erin Lantz of Controlled Energy Designs) and paid them (via credit card) to do the work for me.

Since I already had my Fantastic Plastic Web site with a mailing list of several hundred – and was an active member of many hobby bulletin boards – marketing the kit was no problem. When the Avro 730 proved successful, I went on to produce and market other kits, including the “Galactic Raider.” (Actually, it was Alfred Wong who contacted ME about this particular project. He was already making the pattern and offered to sell it to me. Dave Guertin heard about this and offered to cast it. All I had to do was front the money and then market it.)

I should note than none of this would have been possible 10 or 15 years ago without the Internet. The fact is, I’ve never actually met any of the people I work with. Everything is done either via the Web or by phone. And, to date, all my marketing and sales activity has been Web-based as well.

Welcome to the 21st century.

RtB: Roughly how many hours per week do you spend on your hobby? Has this time remained pretty much constant over the years or has it changed?

Allen: I devote about one to two hours per day to either building models, developing the Fantastic Plastic Web site or running the model company. This has been my pattern for the past five years.

RtB: As a man of mature years, do you ever feel silly discussing model kits with people who aren’t fellow hobbyists?

Allen: I have no problem discussing model kits with others. Everyone has their passion, whether it’s cars, fishing, motorcycles, video games, rare coins, stamps, sailboats, etc. We’re all still kids at heart and we love our “toys.”

RtB: You speak glowingly of your wife on your Web site. What has she done to support you in your hobby?

Allen: My wife, Rene, and I met at college and married shortly after she graduated in 1977. I’ve always been a writer, which is a solitary activity much like model-building, so she know that giving me “time” was part of the bargain. She recently discovered watercolor painting and has become as obsessed with it as I am with models, so now she does her “art” while I do mine. It’s a nice arrangement. (And, by the way, she’s a damned good painter!)

RtB: Anything else you’d like to add?

Allen: I hope to continue producing kits as long as there’s a market for them, and I have the physical and mental acumen to build them. My only disappointment is that the hobby continues to shrink. Fewer and fewer people have an interest in model-building, which was once THE hobby for young boys. I play video games, too, but there’s nothing like building something fantastic and permanent. Games are ephemeral. Models last forever. And now, with the Internet, we can share them with the world.