Friday, November 17, 2017

Facing The Problem

Now of all the sub groups I was intent on completing in my Star Wars 6” collection, the main cast of Episode 4, A New Hope was on top of my list. Thanks to SH Figuarts I already had my farmboy Luke, and they had already announced Han Solo, but a proper Princess Leia was no where in the horizon. Hasbro had their version and it was pretty, pretty pretty....bad. It was so bad that Hasbro literally went back to the drawing board only a few months after the initial release, and re-released the figure with an *slightly* better head sculpt. Unfortunately I had the first release and I figured that there must be something I could do with it.

Now action figure customizing isn’t something new to collectors. It’s a way for more talented collectors to get specific characters or versions of them that they want through painting, additional sculpting or “frankenstein-ing” parts from various other figures. I did a number of customizing myself a few years back with some G.I.Joes as well as creating additional ewoks for my Endor village. But my painting skills were nowhere close to the to the levels of getting Leia to look the way I wanted. So I started looking for someone else who was up to the task.

Enter possibly the most talented customizer I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across, Mr. Myke dela Paz of Phoenix Force Creations. While there are a lot of great customizers out there in the collector’s community, his work really stood out for me and he was readily recommended by many of my friends. You can take a look at the amazing custom work he’s done by visiting his Facebook page. I took a chance, shot him a PM and he replied and was fortunately for me, game to fix up my Leia. I’ll leave the before and after pictures to speak for themselves.

His work on Leia was so good that I knew I couldn’t just stop at her. There were a number of existing Black Series figures in my collection that were just begging for a makeover. So batch by batch I sent them off to Myke and they returned to me a few weeks later as completely new figures. See the thing with Hasbro was that for the most part, their face sculpts were spot on, but their sloppy paint or lack of it just didn’t do them any justice. It took the talents of someone like Myke to bring them to life.

And I didn’t just stop with painting faces. Myke also did a full figure custom for me, turning a rather unspectacular Black Series Episode 2 Ben Kenobi into the armored General Kenobi that I’ve always wanted.

Anyway, quality work like Myke’s is in high demand and he takes his time (rightfully so) in making unique high quality customs, so while I was very happy with his work, I also started looking for other similarly talented customizers to satiate my appetite to have a truly unique and detailed 6” Star Wars collection.

I got to know Marvin Delacruz when he contacted me offering to buy an extra First Order Snow Trooper I was selling. By chance I found out that he was a customizer too when I came across a post on FB from one of his happy customers. So I proposed a partial x-deal with him, my Snow Trooper for his paint work on my Yoda and Finn. While he himself would admit that he was just starting to paint human faces (he specialized more on realistically detailing clone and stormtroopers) his work on my Yoda and Finn were very good as well. Definitely better than anything Hasbro could come up with. I especially liked the extra effort he placed in the details of Yoda’s eyes...literally adding a little sparkle to them (the photos don't really do it any justice).

I definitely recommend either of these customizers if you’re looking to fix up any of your toys. They charge a fair price for the works of art that they produce. I’ve seen tutorials of action figure face painting and the amount of work they put into just one piece is amazing. It isn’t just a matter of slathering a layer of flesh paint, filling in the eyes and hair and calling it a day. It involves multiple paint layers and blending to get the right realistic flesh tones...and sharp eyes and steady skilled hands to put in all the finer details. My wife jokes that I now have make-up artists for my action figures….and she’s partially right...these guys truly are artists!

Here are more examples of what Myke has done for me.

And here are some from Marvin.

Here are some “work in progress” pics for his own custom version of Clone Commander Gree which is just as good or even better than the hard to find Black Series exclusive version.

Anyway, with more and more collectors calling them out on their sloppy paint jobs and turning more and more to companies like SH Figuarts and Mafex for the 6” Star Wars needs, Hasbro has finally decided to step up their own game adopting a similar digital face printing method for their upcoming Black Series figures moving forward and the results are quite impressive. The irony of this is that digital face printing is supposedly cheaper to do than traditional face painting so they aren’t even raising the retail prices of their Black Series figures which is their main advantage over their more expensive import competition. Better looking action figures for the same retail price is definitely a win win for collectors!

To close, with a robust lineup of quality figures from companies like SH Figuarts and Mafex (and you can include fun detailed action figure model kits from Bandai, as well), a great number of super talented customizers like Myke dela Paz and Marvin Delacruz and Hasbro finally rising to the challenge of creating a better Black Series truly is a great time to be starting out on your own Star Wars 6” collection!