Tag Archives: custom Marvel Legends

Action Figure Activism! Toy lovers for Black Lives Matter.

Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 cuI can’t leave our house to join the Black Lives Matter protests.

Both my husband and I are in high-risk COVID categories, and I had knee surgery that did not go well last year, which means both of us have limited walking capacity now.

Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 beginningSo there was a protest in front of my School for Gifted Youngsters instead.

It started small, with Monica Rambeau, Misty Knight, Bishop and some gay New Mutants and other allies. (You know Rahne and Dani are CANONICALLY GAY NOW, right????) And Northstar married his boyfriend in the X-Men comics!

Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 allies use white skin to protect black protestersHere white allies demonstrate the technique of using white skin to protect black protesters from carceral forces.

I instantly learned that when photographing white protesters using this method, you MUST show the carceral/military/police threat in the picture, or all you have is a picture of white people standing in front of Black people. We all know not to take pictures of protesters where they are identifiable, unless they have given consent or we are documenting police brutality, right???Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 with Ororo

I’m not a good photographer, and toy photography is actually a specialized skill set, as you’ll see in a minute.

I wanted to show air support in the form of our Queen Ororo arriving but I had to hold her with one hand and hit the button on the ipad with my nose! You can see as the protest grows, Non-disabled ciswhite folx with Black partners are protecting disabled queer folx in the vanguard. And the protest has crossed the street ( old comics Pro in-joke re: Marvel/DC).

New Mutants and Moses say Black Lives Matter by Suzanne Forbes June 16Unfortunately, I had trapped X’ian Coy Manh and Professor Xavier in the house by accident before I set up all the figures (which is actually a huge amount of work). There is a historic lack of Asian representation in both Marvel and DC comics; it carries through to the figures.

So Shan, as her friends call her, got a new shoot with some other New Mutants, and the John Boyega Star Wars Black Series figure I bought to make a custom of Moses from Attack the Block.

Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 2I did my best as a lousy photographer; now for the real art.

Being an action figure photographer requires three things: terrific photography skills, deep understanding of the characters’ history in comics and an amazing action figure and toy prop collection. I only have the good collection and the character knowledge!

Madd Lion Black Lives Matter toy art June 15 2020

Madd Lion Black Lives Matter action figure art, June 15 2020

This is the work of my very favorite action figure photographer, Madd Lion.

Ororo Rising Vanity Fair cover by Madd Lion Dec 2019Madd Lion is a tremendous photography artist, and also a Power Blerd and hardcore oldschool comics and X-fan like me.

He has made powerful images and posts in the last month, as well as hundreds of beautiful toy photographs over the years.

I love this magazine cover with Ororo so much!

And this disability-inclusive image of a blind woman who is happy and loved and successful! Click for a beautiful scene with Alicia Masters and Ben Grimm, and click through for wonderful New York subway moments with Black characters living their lives.

Here is Madd Lion’s facebook as well!

Pete Menocal Hamilton cover homage June 2020

Another great toy photographer is Pete Menocal.

Pete Menocal has been making powerful protest art with action figures in the last month.

Pete Menocal Black Panther punching Red Skull June 2020

Pete Menocal Black Panther punching Red Skull June 2020

This uses both the figures and the cultural weight of their backstories so well.

You know you want to see Black Panther punch Nazis! I highly recommend a visit to Geek Speak and Junk, Menocal’s Youtube channel with TIff Menocal, which features some great how-to dio videos!

Action figures with Berlin George Floyd Memorial by Bryan Konstantine

Action figures with Berlin George Floyd Memorial by Bryan Konstantine

Here is a memorial scene by Bryan Konstantine.

Known as ActionFiguren00b, he used the George Floyd mural by Eme Freethinker in Berlin’s Mauerpark as a background. Stan Lee spoke out against racism in his comics from the start.

Together we rise by Bryan Constantine June 1

Together we rise by Bryan Constantine June 1

And a beautiful, inspirational scene by Konstantine. Toy photography has enormous potential because of the emotional investment fans have in the characters, and this is a great use of it.

Malcom X tribute art by 850sithlordMalcolm X tribute by 850sithlord.

There is also a video with Malcolm X’ “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself” speech here, and a beautiful group protest shot here.

These are just some of the toy art that has been created this month. I am so glad to see members of the community making political art. It’s a big risk.

Politics in the toy collecting/toy photography world are complex.

Angel Salvatore by FaceCustoms aka Stewart Walker-Barnett

Angel Salvatore by FaceCustoms aka Stewart Walker-Barnett

There are so many incredible collectors like ToMeMyScoobies (awesome Buffy/Xmen mashup joke handle) who are proudly gay and proudly inclusive. There are the incredible photographers above. There are customizers like the fantastic FaceCustoms, whose work features representation and diversity.

And then there are also 1:12 collectors who are obsessed with military imagery, the misconstrued and appropriated alt-right/police notion of the Punisher, and some other very imperialist, colonialist shit. Yet all of us are obsessed with collecting, and with finding the coolest figures and accessories.

So sometimes community members with very different values follow each other to see what’s new.

Some custom creators enter the realm of explicit politics by using real politicians’ likenesses. Action Figure Customs makes and sells a gorgeous 1/12 scale Obama head. He also makes a Drump, but it appears to be for use in mockery.

I had to unfollow a figure prop maker who I had actually bought from, because he posted pro-Drump custom orders.

I don’t care if you’re starving, printing Srump propaganda is equivalent to printing Nazi propaganda. And I live in a place where making propaganda for a genocidal terrorist isn’t protected free speech.

Speaking of freedom, let’s end here with this instantly recognizable image of Luke Cage shattering some chains, by Pete Menocal.

Happy Juneteenth! Luke Cage Juneteenth art by Pete Menocal June 19 2020

You can sign Miss Opal Lee’s petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday in the US here.

There is an easy-to-use article on how to support protesters in every city here.

Women of the X-Men’s World: Lila Cheney and Lilandra.

Lilandra and Lila Cheney action figure customs by Suzanne Forbes Sept 21 2019The amount of X-Men action figures being produced this year is BANANAS.

Yet some more obscure characters still may not get their own full figures. So Hasbro, the toy company that has the mass-market 6″ scale Marvel license, is making kit-bashable assets for fans to DIY.Lilandra action figure custom in library by Suzanne Forbes Sept 21 2019

Marvel Legends Mystique picture from TheFwoosh! which you can now support on Patreon, and I do!

Lilandra, Majestrix Sh’iar, was on the 90’s cartoon, so she’s fairly well known. Well enough to justify making her head and including it with shape-shifter Mystique. (Visit SUPERB action figure site The Fwoosh for their review of this fig, which I stole this photo from!)

Mystique was released around the same time as an old school Spider-Man villainess, Silver Sable. Hasbro correctly assumed collectors would combine the two, as even mass-market figures are designed for easy head and hand swaps these days. Hasbro gets to sell two Silver Sables, and collectors get a quick-fix Lilandra by removing Sable’s tactical pouches and adding a cape.

A similar principle is in effect for obscure and weird 80s villainess Typhoid Mary, whose release as a toy is inexplicable until you consider how toy releases are tied to tv/movie deals and behind-the-scenes Marvel Studios machinations.

Typhoid Mary figure pic from OAFE.net, an action figure site worth your visit!

Mary, a character I never liked, is a natural dupe for New Mutants/X-Men foe/ally Lila Cheney, who you can see above with her friend Dazzler, putting on some makeup!

All she needed was some rocker glitz and a poufy mini-skirt! I already had experience using ribbons, nail art elements, and miniature horse tack parts to fancy up a teen action figure, Nico Minoru. (Lot more discussion of action figure gender politics in that post!)

Typhoid Mary pic stolen from OAFE.net, a really good action figure site run by cis guys who are trying hard!

I even follow them on twitter!

My vision of Lila in full 80s rockstar regalia was exhilarating!

I jumped on it. All I had to do in terms of painting Lila was paint her face so it was an even color, matching her body, paint her hair black, and add some purple 80s makeup.Lila Cheney action figure custom in bathroom with Dazzler and Longshot by Suzanne Forbes Sept 21 2019

Her likeness already landed perfectly between Joan Jett and Sage Montclair, who plays Lila in the video you can see a bit further down.

Sculpting wise, I removed the figure’s bizarre forelock, resculpted the ends of her hair, and added a thicker flange around her hip joints so I’d have some surface to attach her skirt to.

If you have love in your heart for the New Mutants and X-Men of the 80s, and you haven’t seen this video, I implore you to watch it.

It is the most charming thing you will ever see.

I’m super pleased with my Lila figure!

Since I am not a professional customizer, I didn’t seal her face – the satin finish of the artist’s acrylic was such a good match shine-wise for her existing flesh areas.

So if she falls over she might get a paint rub on her nose. But since she will live in my X-Men dollhouse where everything is glued down, I hope she will be ok.

The belt stars and studs are little brads from Rio Rondo, the model horse tack supply company, who still haven’t updated their website. the belt is Illyana’s, and the padlock is from ebay. The two sizes of tiny studs on her jacket are from a nail art set I got for like a euro on ebay.

I lost the collar Typhoid Mary came with while removing her head at some point (it happens, with tiny things). I had intended to stud it for Lila’s signature look. Now I have to buy ANOTHER Typhoid Mary figure, which is ok because I can use the parts for other projects. Then Lila’s little star necklace will become a classic 90s “Y necklace”!

For Lilandra, I decided to go the extra mile and use my fave epoxy clay, Apoxie Sculpt, to build out her cuirass, stomach armor plate and hip flanges.

Oh and her boot tops. Oh and her sword arm armor. And paint her dark blue bodysuit. And repaint all her armor in a uniform silver. Since this was my first time painting any body paint on a figure, I was nervous! But sculpting the detail enabled me to paint clean lines really easily.Lilandra action figure custom in process Suzanne Forbes Sept 2019

I used Liquitex Matte Varnish, which is similar to Testor’s Dullcote in performance, to prime Lilandra’s figure and Lila’s head.

It created a surface with good tooth for adhesion of the regular artist’s acrylic I used for the painting.

I did push the boat out and order Tamiya Chrome Silver model paint for Lilandra’s armor, and it was kinda overkill; I think I would have been satisfied with the results from any silver tube acrylic.

Or my universal-surface acrylic craft spraypaint. It’s called Dupli-Color Deco-Matt, but isn’t available in the US. Here’s a good piece on UK sprays for plastic!

Evil but sexy goth-twink figure of Reeve Carney from Penny Dreadful holds his glass of absinthe in one hand and the drying cape of my Lilandra custom action figure in the other.

I have seen real customizers get gorgeous results with proper model paint, but for midnight blue metallic I just mixed the same kinda acrylic interference paint I used in art school in 1990 with blue artists acrylic.

I have said this before, but making one‘s own #actionfigurecustoms is a fool‘s errand, even with a full professional artist setup.

Just pay a professional customizer like @christinaconan, @facecustoms or @rafaelo.customs ! Don‘t drive yourself nuts like me.

There’s a really good article about interference paints on Golden’s site. It’s super relevant in this time when “color-change” and “chameleon” finishes are so popular.

The tiny learning I have acquired about painting tiny things with a tiny brush: move the paint, not the brush.

You need to have a bolus of fairly liquid paint well towards the tip of the brush and touch that to your piece, then gently move it around with the brush. You really don’t want the tip of the brush to touch the surface, because then the fibers it’s made of splay out. You lose the value of the “point” of the brush, and you lose your control. This is actually the same principle used in painting edging and trim in house-painting. When I was eleven feet up on the ladder trying to paint up to the ceiling molding in our library, I experienced it over and over. Don’t get lazy and try to use all the paint on the brush, so the brush fibers touch your surface; keep enough paint on the brush so you’re moving the line of the paint, not the brush.

The big learning I’ve made about model painting: always, always quit while you’re ahead.

You can always make it worse, and faster than you’d believe possible. With the microscopically delicate layers of paint and tiny details, fixing a fuckup is really hard. It’s not like portrait painting, where the “Rubik’s Cube Effect” is often part of my learning a subject’s face. Lila was the third face I’ve painted; Rahne was the second and my White Witch/Ice Queen was the first.

My Rahne and Dani lovebird customs


Projects for the X-Men Dollhouse – a blackboard for the library

The X-Men Dollhouse – nearly finished, and the goddam lighting

The X-Men Dollhouse – stairs and lighting

The X-Men Dollhouse – wallpaper and assembly

The X-Men Dollhouse – getting started!

My first dollhouse, SlurkCroft.