Thursday, July 30, 2015

Action Figures and 3-D Printing

3-D printing is pretty damn cool.

I have limited access to the use of a 3-D printer and I've recently tried to make some original designs for use with my various action figures. One of my most notable attempts was to create a small "stage" to use as an environment to just take simple photos of the figures.

I use Google SketchUp as the design tool to create the actual 3-D model that will eventually be printed. I decided to create a corner with a floor platform.

The design phase went pretty well; at least I thought so. In creating the various extrusions coming out from the wall just a little, I have discovered that I'm really not that creative and just need to "play" with SketchUp more.

I used white PLA filament and the original print turned out decent, but there were errors in the print. More on that later. The next option that I decided to try was to add color. I used a combination of permanent markers and acrylic paint (of dubious quality). Mistakes were made. Bad choices. Combined with the mediocre detailing, it looked like shit. So just spray paint the whole damn thing, right?
Not good. Not good at all. As the paint dried, it kind of shriveled and distorted the wall section and the floor panel. Ugh.
Oh, that's good! The paint bubbled up on the plastic! Wonderful...
Time to try again. 

For the next print, I tried a new color filament - Army Green!
 The color doesn't quite hold true for this picture. It's a bit too washed out.
Here are the two pieces glued together. There's a slight curve on the front edge due to the cooling of the material as it is extruded and layered. That's a design issue to consider. On the original print, I printed both pieces on separate print jobs. This time, I figured I would just load them together and print both together. Not a good choice. The closest edges had stringy filaments connecting them together as the print head went from one piece to the other.

The printer builds from the bottom up, laying down thin layers of material in tiny little layers. That's also a drawback to current 3-D technology because the tiny layers show up in the finished print. I'm thinking they could be sanded; maybe I'll try that on another print in the future.

In general, I'm pleased with what I created, but I'm not satisfied. This will work for now as I go back into the redesign stage. I really need to improve on my "geebly" skills for all the extra detailing. Plain walls are boring, but these look weak in their design. It's the learning curve, that's all.
Here's another shot of a design flaw with the extrusions that I pulled out of the wall in SketchUp. The printer wants to just build the bottom edge of the extrusion but it really doesn't have any surface to print it on. As you look at that square-ish shape with the circle pulled out of it, you can see the distorted bottom right corner. The printer just couldn't recreate the design. Additionally, along the bottom edge of each extruded shape, there were loose filaments as the printer lay down filament in an attempt to create the pulled out shapes. You following me? Play along...

So there's things I need to consider as I redesign new pieces similar to this. I won't paint this one and I won't reprint it. That's what is fun about this whole process. The math involved in creating the virtual 3-D objects as well as figuring out how to create the slots needed to assembled the pieces.

Another option may be to build them in individual walls and assemble them at the corner. If the model is flat on the printer bed surface with the detailing rising out, then the details may print cleaner. Lessons learned, I suppose.

For now, I'm back to the virtual studio to try again. Stay tuned for future 3-D printing updates!

I decided to take a bunch of pictures of various figures just to showcase how the environment can work as a background. Enjoy!
 Looks decent, but those crappy details... Ugh!
 No, Tartarus. You're too big.
 Goblins and Dwarves?
 Hulk like!
 Bombstrike is pleased!
 No, Al... You don't fit.

Stay tuned for more 3-D printing updates!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Oreobuilder's Blog: GI Joe Resurgence II

The crew over at Oreobuilder's Blog is made up of some amazing customizers. I first became aware of the blog when they did a proper 50th Anniversary salute to GI Joe. They've begun a project called GI Joe: Resurgence II, continuing their story line from resurgence in which new characters, with a few older characters, were introduced. July will feature daily updates on Resurgence II. I'm going to just list each day's entry with a direct link on this ridiculous blog so that a few more people can see the wonder of Oreobuilder's Blog.

I can't guarantee that I'll be able to keep up with new updates every single day, but I'll try. With vacation and back to work at the end of the month, I'll probably fall behind, but I will get the list caught up eventually. I'm guessing you'll almost be grateful that these are customs and not real figures, because you would be BROKE after buying all of them!

Day 01: Strongarm and Landmine & Sniffer
Day 02: Kobura Kai
Day 03: Vampyrebat w. Vector Viper
Day 04: Silent Master
Day 05: Nega-Watt
Day 06: Grease Monkey
Day 07: Mail Away Dusty & Roadblock
Day 08: GI Joe Cougar w Treads and Switch Gears
Day 09: High Noon
Day 10: Meathead & Desert Viper
Day 11: Eagle Eye
Day 12: Techno-BAT & Cobra Debugger w/ Icebreaker
Day 13: Prodigy
Day 14: Chuckles & Destro
Day 15: Bonesaw
Day 16: Upshot
Day 17: Doc
Day 18: Cobra Sand Wolf & Desert Vipers
Day 19: Groundpounder & Sun Devil
Day 20: SWARM Locust
Day 21: Kickback
Day 22: SWARM Command Mech w Glitch 2.0
Day 23: SWARM Invasion 3-pack
Day 24: SWARM Hunters Battle Unit
Day 25: Steel Brigade Squad
Day 26: Neat Freak
Day 27: GI Joe Dragonfire w Mongoose
Day 28: Devilsharc w Overboard
Day 29: HISS VI w Sabot Viper
Day 30: Cobra Anaconda w WORMS
Day 31: Catalogs & Final Thoughts

Friday, July 24, 2015

Take them outside!

Sometimes you just need to take your toys outside.
This is an older shot, taken a few years ago. Creative Photoshop skills here. The Flight Pod is actually hooked onto a piece of curtain rod that I digitally erased.
I think this is a goblin from the Hobbit figure line. I like the weird looking creatures sometimes more than the standard characters from toy lines.
Gator - my custom troop. The Club used a similar formula for an update to Outback for their Zombie convention set. Everything works well with these pieces to make for an interesting character. Digitally tweaked like the rest of the pictures.
Tunnel Rat from Renegades, excellent figure. Great to shot in weird odd locations.
POC Jungle Duke because he's in the jungle? You've got to put him in his natural environment!
World War Hulk? Barbarian Hulk? Either way, he looks pretty dang cool! And then I notice that the harness isn't sitting down flush on his shoulder until I start editing the pictures. Sigh...
Thorin from the Hobbit series. That head sculpt looks pretty good on a standard Joe body as well. Maybe I'll come up with a new character?
Helix. Because...
Helix is probably one of the best, easily top five figures from the Rise of Cobra series. I don't know why Hasbro hasn't re-used the body, but it's a damn shame.

Recondo with arm mods. Gotta' put the jungle guy in the jungle!
Bilbo because I wanted a hobbit. Not a great figure, but still fun.
 The goblin again, but at the beach from my recent vacation. He's ugly, but very photogenic.
Barbarian Hulk on the beach again. It was just too damn hot and the wind was blowing sand everywhere. Moan, moan, bitch, bitch... #FirstWorldProblems
I've posted this one before. Repeater and Bombstrike recovering a downed drone.

I've done quite a few outdoor photoshoots over the years. That's one aspect I've always enjoyed about toy collecting. 
Stay young, have fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

FSS 4.0 Reveals: Quick Thoughts

Just a quick overview of all of the 12 members of the FSS 4.0.
From left to right, top to bottom.

Row 1:
Interrogator - Looks cool, glad to add the character to my modern mix. Hoping that the seemingly lower head is just a Photoshop thing.
Ice Ninja (Night Creeper) - I like the look, well designed, good use of parts. Ultimately an expensive troop builder, so he'll be off to the secondary market.
Nunchuk - Kind of a blah original figure, but effectively recreated. May need new military web gear.
Inferno BAT - Another expensive troop builder. I like BATs, but this one just looks dumb to me.

Row 2:
Outback - Over-sized head compared to body? Still, I like this version. Don't mind the white hair.
Barricade - I figured that the Club would go with the Delta suit torso/body. A bit too bright on the colors? Still a keeper. A favorite character.
Sneak Peek - Euro Tiger Force? I don't care. I'm glad to add the character to the mix.
Billy - Basically a brand new never produced figure. Billy has been around for quite a while. A welcome addition to most Joe collectors and well done by the Club. Not a huge fan of the bronze highlights, maybe Photoshop issue?

Row 3:
Law & Order - More accurate vintage colors, older vest. Looks great, but I'm not 100% sure about opening him. Some want him for a Bozigian autograph one day, but the key to the link between Kirk Bozigian and the original Law & Order was the head sculpt for Law was based on Kirk. Not the case with the new one.
Jammer - Action Force character? So what? Looks cool. Will he stay as Jammer or become a new Stalker?
Pathfinder - Decent upgrade, a little concerned about the small head and bulky vest, but he's a keeper.
Bullhorn - A real simple upgrade by the Club. A new head sculpt would have been nice, but he'll do. The original was pretty basic looking, so the Club redesign works. Hey Bullhorn, the 90's called. They want their headband back!

Mystery figure 13: The Club commented on this figure being an established female character with a new head sculpt. Intriguing! Cobra or GI Joe?

For the basic 12, it looks like 3 Cobras, 8 GI Joe/Allies, and 1 independent mercenary. I don't mind it too much, but Cobra offerings are going to be much tougher as the Club goes through the named Cobra personalities and are left with troop builders. 

If the Club could do some troop builders outside of the FSS realm and make some multi-packs, that would be pretty sweet. Maybe an intensive collector poll and lay out basic costs with an increased production run and hopeful strong fan response would be able to support something like this? That basic Cobra Trooper mold used for the Dollar General figures is ripe for an awesome upgrade.

Overall, I'm pleased with the Club offerings for FSS 4.0. Maybe I'm treading close to becoming a GI Joe Club apologist, but they do pretty good work.If they had the full resources of Hasbro, I'm sure they could crank out some even cooler figures. They are doing their best to support the brand as well as running the Transformer Club. 

Maybe one day, I'll actually make it to a national convention?

Monday, July 20, 2015

FSS 4.0 Reveals: Billy

Saving the best for last...
As I was headed down to Florida for a week of vacation, the Club revealed the last figure for FSS 4.0.

Cobra Commander's son, Billy, makes his appearance. I figured I ought to complete my thoughts on the reveal even though I'm late. So what.

Is his last name Kessler or Arboc? Does anyone really care that much? Arboc is an obvious anagram of Cobra, so that's kind of dumb. 
I do like what the Club has done with Billy. They've capture the missing eye from an attempt on his life, but no blatant appearance of mechanical limbs. Good, don't need them.

I do like the idea of the rebellious son of Cobra Commander on the side of the Joe team. I even like his training by Stormy and Snakes. Is he fully aligned with the Joe team? I don't know. Ultimately, that decision will be mine to make in my own twisted GI Joe world. I'm thinking he's more of an independent, working with the Joe team at times, but not an actual member.

I'll be looking forward to this figure. I'm guessing he may be a late release. Your thoughts?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Vacation shot

"Just get the data from the drone uploaded. We're going to have company."
"Almost there, just a couple more minutes."

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Thursday, July 9, 2015

FSS 4.0 Reveal: Night Creeper Ice Ninja

And then there was one...

The Club revealed the next figure in FSS 4.0 - the Ice Ninja. Based on some repaint of the Night Creeper, this figure actually looks pretty decent.

I like the use of the cape it looks like the Club chose some different parts for this figure rather than going back to the 25th Night Creeper figure. Thank you!

It's still doubtful that I'll keep this figure. Another troop builder and these figures are a bit too pricey to troop build.

Now we play the waiting game...
Cobra Commander's son, Billy.

Ooh... I posted before General's Joes and JoeBattelines!

FSS 4.0 Reveal: Sneak Peek

Oh, the cries of "Butt Hurt" ring across the inter-webs like a symphony! "He doesn't look like the vintage version." Get over it.

The Club revealed Tiger Force Sneak Peek yesterday. I think he looks pretty decent. It looks like the Club used the Shock Trooper body (again) and it looks like Airborne's head. Not a bad mix of parts and I really can't fault them for using the Shock Trooper body. It's a good base for just about any figure.

Two more to go - the Ice Ninja and Cobra Commander's son, Billy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ghost Hawks

I don't discuss GI Joe vehicles very often on this silly blog, but I decided to take a look back at the Sky Hawk Ghost Hawk. I'm not sure what happened, but apparently Hasbro lost the rights to the name Sky Hawk and had to come up with a new name. 

Hasbro reintroduced the Sky Hawk as the Ghost Hawk in 2009. Everything about the new version was brand new. Nothing from the original mold from the 1984 Sky Hawk was reused. Maybe those molds are long gone. That really doesn't matter to me; Hasbro did a great job with the new one.

I've always liked the Sky Hawk when it first appeared and have always considered it to be an iconic GI Joe vehicle. Don't ask me how it flies or where the fuel tank is or how long it can fly. It makes no sense at all. Who cares? It's still a damn cool vehicle.

Like the Sky Hawk, I consider the Ghost Hawk to be a standard vehicle in the GI Joe motor pool. A light-weight air vehicle that just about any team member can jump in and fly. It always seemed like just about anyone could fly these in the cartoons and I'm okay with that.

I would think that nearly everyone would get checked out in the use of the Sky/Ghost Hawk. There's probably a few team members who wouldn't fly it. Perhaps Keel Haul or Heavy Metal or maybe the ugly dude who drives the Rolling Thunder. But then again, I can kind of picture the Flagg under heavy attack and the only way to get the Admiral off the ship is to get in his personal Ghost Hawk. Maybe?

In 2010, Hasbro revisited the new Ghost Hawk mold and breathed new life into it.

The unique design of the 2009 Ghost Hawk allowed Hasbro designers to come up with new parts that would give the 2009 model a new, slick look for 2010. A new canopy was designed, along with new skids, engines, and tail fins.

The new 2010 Ghost Hawk now looked more armored and ready for a little more serious air combat role. The new engines just looked like they had more speed and maneuverability. The armored canopy had less options for direct line of site for the pilot, but I'm thinking that technology upgrades gave it a whole new sensor suite of visual tools.

Does it look like it could be an actual flying vehicle now? No, not really. That still doesn't matter. It still looks cool and fits perfectly into the technology of GI Joe.
Let us not even speak of this.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

FSS 4.0 Reveal: Bullhorn

The Club released another reveal for FSS 4.0 today. 
Bullhorn is next up for the reveals. Initial thoughts are pretty good. Bullhorn was a pretty basic character in his original form. Upon closer inspection of the mock-up picture, it looks like the Club is going with the Shock Trooper body again. And they are using the Dusty/Duke/Spearhead head again.

But he actually looks pretty good. The original head sculpt was kind of bland, so this head sculpt works. That head band though... It has got to go. The 90's are over.

We're down to three more reveals! Sneak Peek, the Ice Ninja, and Cobra Commander's son, Billy.

Marauder Task Force Review

Just getting my two cents out there...

I am a huge fan of Marauder Inc equipment. If you've never heard of them, then I really don't know why you are here. They've been "sort of" a part to my internet claim to fame in recent years. I did a review of some of their weapons way back in 2010 and that particular post has been my most visited post around the world. Oddly enough, when you do an image search for "types of guns with names," the picture on my post usually shows up in the first few slots on Google. The down side is that my original image was "borrowed" and used on various lame sites to promote whatever firearm agenda of the site. Ha! Toy Guns!

Marauder recently started up a Kickstarter with the intention of creating their own line of action figures. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take part in that start up, but I knew I would get involved as a customer! There was a brief bump in the road in the release of the figures, but they recently sent out all the packages to the Kickstarter backers and added the figures to their store.

I ordered one figure in the dark green color palette and most of the gear that goes along with the figure. You basically order the various bits and pieces to build your unique figure.
You start off with just a basic pre-painted body. The body has the typical articulation as a modern GI Joe figure. The ankles pivot and swivel. Double-jointed knees. Waist pivot joint, not the mid-waist joint. Rotate and pivot hands. Pivot and rotate elbows. Ball and socket head. 
The head selection is impressive. There is only one style pf sculpted unmasked head, but it is molded in varying skin tones and hair colors. The face is good enough to work with any of the skin tones. The other heads are primarily various masked heads in various deco patterns.
There's a pretty big assortment of head gear as well. There's a few different styles of helmets and a beret. Each item comes in colors that can be matched to the basic body style.
There's also a nice selection of holsters and sheaths. You can buy individual pieces, but they do have sets with one of each that make shopping more convenient. One cool aspect about the simple holsters is that there are left and right holsters. Double carry, baby! No pistols or grenades are included with these sets, but they are available elsewhere on the site.
There's a huge assortment of pockets and pouches, each in the different color palette of the basic body. I went with the set just to get everything. 
While the weaponry is located elsewhere in the store, I wanted to buy a new item for my new troop. I went with the ACR Assault Rifle with the full load of add-on sites and scopes. While I like the idea of the folding stock, I'm not too crazy about it in-hand. The joint doesn't stay put and tends to move around a bit too much. Not a huge deal.
There is also a selection of modular vests to complement your figure. I chose to go with the armored vest and shoulder pads.
For me, I needed one particular item to properly enjoy this figure. My damn reading glasses. Shit.
The key to what will be the huge success of these figures is the modular functionality of the figures. There's a socket in each upper arm, one in each thigh, and one in each lower leg. This allows for the various bits and pieces to be added according to the desire of the owner. And that is damn cool.
Here's my troop loaded up, with his hat and goggles.
A different load out with a holster on each hip.
At this point, I'm almost satisfied with the load out for my troop. While the pieces do remain fairly secure, Marauder recommends gluing the pieces on in order to secure them.
I think this is his final load out; I don't have him in front of me as I write.
One thought came to mind as I was putting this guy together. I recalled the old Twilight Zone episode, "The Soldier." Crude effects and costume, but still a powerful story.

Are these figures expensive? Yeah, they are. They're more expensive than the Club's FSS figures and are better because Marauder is all in-house design and they are not reliant on the demands or constraints of Hasbro.

Are they worth it? Hell yeah! But these are not toys for little kids. These are designed more for the adult collector. Maybe a teen aged collector, but seriously, how many of those are out there right now?

Are they a threat to GI Joe? I don't know. After considering the upcoming "50th" releases this August, I'm less inclined to pick up the troop builders or the previously released characters and save up $$$ for Marauder Task Force figures. Hasbro should take notes from Marauder Inc; they've tapped into a market that may take a few dollars from the Hasbro coffers.

I highly recommend these if you are a fan of the military action figure! I've added enough links for you to go begin building your own army. 
Go there now and buy some!!
Then come back and tell me your thoughts!