Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Historical Reenactors

   Here we go! Let the hatred begin. Go for it. I can hack it! I'm going to ramble a bit away from 1/6 Scale and about historical reenactors, and what I say about reenactors won't at all be good. I'm going there anyway. It won't be pretty. 

Let's reference all of this by first saying that I was a reenactor for 20 years. I started doing Civil War reenacting as a Confederate. I also did some Union reenacting. I ventured into the realm of WWII reenacting, and I loved every bit of it. I thought reenacting was great. We could spend ridiculous amounts of money on weapons, uniforms, and gear. We could research the folks we were trying to be, finding out such things as who they were, where they fought, how they fought, and why they fought, and we could justify it all in the name of history, remembrance, education, or whatever the appropriate catch phrase of the day was.

Only at a Civil War reenactment could find groups of men ogling a garment and analyzing stitch count, construction quality, fit, and sizing. Only at a reenactment could one find men spending $100 for a pair of pants because they had "the right look", and then dragging them through the mud to make them look better. 

As I say, I've done it. I was there. I was one of them. I've spent a lot of money on things I didn't need, and I've always wanted more. I've read the books. I've watched the documentaries. I've done the research. I've driven the miles, and have gone to many states doing so. I've read the drill manuals. I've visited the battlefields. I've marched in the ranks and worn the uniforms. I've run out of ammo. I've burned myself on the weapons. I've slept on the ground. I've cooked over the campfire. I've been rained on, snowed on, stormed on, been in the wind, and have been outside in nearly every type of weather imaginable. I've been hot. I've been cold. I've been wet. I've sweated nearly to death, and frozen nearly to death. I've acted skits. I've done scripted events. I've laughed, moaned, groaned, cried, complain, been hurt, helped others who were hurt, ran out of ammo, ran out of water, ruined shoes, torn trousers, and had weapons malfunction. I've been victorious, I've been defeated. I've won tacticals. I've lost tacticals. I've seen fear in the faces of other reenactors who were being flanked. I've shown the same fear when I was flanked. I've slept under cannons, slept in the rain, slept on concrete, slept in frost, and slept in a bush in Gettysburg. 

Does this make me a better person than anyone else? Of course not! Does this mean I've seen the elephant, and know what combat is really like? Not even close! Does this mean I can understand the mindset of the Civil War soldier or WWII GI or paratrooper? Nope!

What then does it mean. It means I've mastered the art of playing army. I've grown up without ever really growing up. I've played an expensive adult version of a childhood game.


That's what we'll explore in the next post. Bye for now!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Upcoming; "The Misfit Squad."


Coming soon will be my online comic called, "The Misfit Squad." It will take place in the days immediately following the Normandy invasion, and will be loosely based on the old "Haunted Tank" comic. There will be ghosts, and a tank haunted by JEB Stuart, but they aren't the main characters. Details will follow here, including photos, pre-production notes, and a background on each of the major characters.

I'm casting, equipping, making sets, and working out story lines. Anyone wishing to loan or to donate figures or gear are quite welcome to do so, and all are appreciated.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

"Codename Gravedigger"


Gravedigger was the code name given to an African American special operative during WWII in D.C.'s "Men of War" comic book series. Captain Ulysses Hazard became "Gravedigger" after he covertly raided a Joint Chief of Staff meeting in the Pentagon after having his talents wasted on grave detail. Born in Mobile, AL, Hazard suffered polio early in life, but he fought and forced his body to overcome the disease. He had a strict regimen of strength and endurance training, and he became an expert with almost every handheld weapon known to mankind. After convincing the army of his worth as a solo operative, he was sent to war and given only the highest priority and most difficult missions. In an early episode, he was captured by the Germans, tied to the front of a Tiger tank, and used as a human shield. It was during this incident that he suffered the head wound that left him with the distinctive and unique scar, the cross between his eyebrows.

My Gravedigger build was simple. He is a comic book character, so detail and historical accuracy really aren't an issue. His uniform in the comic book appears to benothing more than a t-shirt and a set of HBTs. It was a pretty simple setup to recreate. I gave him a grease gun. I also labeled his helmet with his codename. Though this was never shown in the comic book, I wanted anyone who saw him to recognize that he was supposed to be more than simply an African American GI with a gun. 

For the distinctive scar, I heated a pin with a cigarette lighter, and melted the shape until I was happy with it. I then cleaned up the edges with a hobby knife, colored it with a red magic marker, and wiped away the excess.

I think he turned out pretty good, considering it was in reality a very simple figure. What do you think? Tell me in the comment section, and feel free to send pictures of any similar figures that you may have.

I'm back, and it will be better than ever!


My 1/6 scale blog is back, and I hope to make it better than ever. It's been a few years, but let the rebuilding begin.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"One motivated Marine, and his rifle!"

Sideshow Toys is known for making quality figures. I have a few of their Civil War commanders series, and they are well done. They are the best Civil War figures available. They also did a series they called "Bayonets and Barbed Wire", which as you can guess was based on WWI, the Great War. Though Sideshow has gotten away from the military figure aspect and instead have begun producing figures based on the movie industry, many of the Sideshow military figures are out there.

I recently purchased one such figure, and he is the basis of this post. He's a Sideshow 5th Marine Regiment WWI figure. Going into the Great War, many politicians and army brass wanted to do away with the Marine Corps and blend it in to the army proper. Marines, both those currently serving and those who had served in the past, of course strongly resisted this idea. They were of the "First to Fight" mentality, and believed the USMC was both a viable and necessary fighting force that had repeatedly proven itself in past conflicts. 

Marine Corps recruitment screening was the strictest in the US Armed Forces. In order to enlist, a recruit had to be at least 5'4", no less than 124 lbs, be able to read and write in English, be at least 18 yrs old, be of sound mind and body, have good hearing and eyesight, and have at least 20 teeth. Thus, prospective Marine candidates were some of the finest and fittest the country had to offer.

At the start of the war, the effort to preserve the Marine Corps was becoming a formidable obstacle. The forest green uniform that made Marines distinguishable at a glance from the soldiers of the Army was being done away with. It came to be that only new recruits fresh from the states wore the Marine green outfit. Much of the replacement gear was being supplied by the French and the British as well. In the wet and moldy environment of the stagnant trench warfare, uniforms and equipment wore out quickly, and oftentimes replacement gear was hard to come by. Marines were given the distinctive British "Brodie" helmet and small box respirator. The respirator, or gas mask as it was called, was the most important piece of gear issued to individual soldiers and Marines, as the threat of German gas attacks was constant, and to be without a respirator meant almost instant, and very painful death. The French "Adrian" helmet, French M-2 gas mask, canteen and boots were also being worn by US troops, and the leather Marine gaiters were quickly replaced by the British puttees.

They may not have been pretty or even uniform in appearance, but after brutal fighting that would have almost surely overwhelmed any other fighting force, the Marine legacy of being the hardest and most tenacious fighters was preserved during the fight in the Battle of Belleau Wood. Belleau Wood was a brutal, 20 day affair that saw some of the most viscous fighting of the entire war. Marines were pinned down, flanked, wandered into areas behind the German lines, and were thought to be in a fight they couldn't win. At the end, however, the Marines, though suffering massive casualties, indisputably held the entire field. They began being called "Teufel Hunden", or "Devil Dogs" by the German soldiers unfortunate enough to get in their way.

The 5th Marine Regiment, one of the participants in the fight in Belleau Wood, was a regiment that came to France in June of 1917. It was comprised of many veteran Marines, and its commander was a Medal of Honor recipient. The 5th and 6th Marine regiments were joined by the 6th Machine Gun battalion to form the 4th Marine Brigade, which became a part of the 2nd Allied Expeditionary Force (AEF) Division.

Even after the fighting in Belleau Wood, there remained the push to do away with the Marine Corps, but the Marines held out and remained separate. They would fight valiantly in such notable battles as St. Mihiel, Champagne, and the Argonne Offensive.

Review of the Sideshow figure to come soon in Part 2.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"One, two, three, four...

...United States Marine Corps!"

We're going to do something a bit different today. I'm breaking with the usual way of doing things and am making the same post on both blogs, as I feel the topic is that significant.

10 November 2013 marks the 238th anniversary of the USMC, so this post goes out to all who wear or have ever worn the Eagle, Globe and Anchor insignia. Founded on 10 November 1775 by Samuel Nicholas in Philadelphia, and being credited with having its first recruitment drive in the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, the Marine Corps began when the Continental Congress formally authorized the formation of two battalions of naval infantry. Thus, a legend in military lore was born.

The Marines are regarded by many as the finest fighting force in the Untited States Armed Forces. Though their mission has changed, the Corps has been there in every conflict the US has ever been involved in, often leading the way and being "the first to fight!" A saying among Marines is that the single most deadly weapon in the World is a motivated Marine and his rifle.

During the World War II era, there was talk of defunding the Marines and disbanding them as a branch of military service. That all changed when five Marines and one Naval Corpsman, in a moment that they considered almost insignificant, made history on a small, ash-covered island in the Pacific.

In response to this photo, the Marine Corps was given new life.

  • The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.  [James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy; 23 February 1945 (the flag-raising on Iwo Jima had been immortalized in a photograph by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal)]

Thus they were formed, fought, were re-born, and continue to lead the way in the fight today.

"Semper Fi!" Marines, and God bless you. May the United States Marine Corps live forever!

I have a father, and several good friends who are Marines. Even though they no longer serve, everyone knows they will always be Marines. The following photos are of figures crafted by me that were made to honor the Corps and those who are part of it.

Early-War Marine, with an '03 Springfield:

Marine in HBTs island-hopping in the Pacific, armed with a Thompson for close-range firepower:

And finally, one motivated Marine in camos, and with an M-1 Garand:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

So, what's the best way to photograph your action figures?

We see the photos on Facebook and Twitter, and all over the Internet. We all like to show off our collection and point out the detailing and effort we put into our creations. The Internet makes doing so very easy, but to really show them off the photo must be good.

What makes a good photo? 

Sure, you can take pictures of them on a shelf. I do it often purely for convenience, especially when I'm trying to show off more than one figure. It's quick and easy.

You can take photos outside, like Danger did here:

Personally, I think this is the best way. Action figures are representations of people who would be outside. The lighting is natural, and with well-done figures the colors look as they should. It helps even more when you have trees or plants that look scale, and when you can manipulate other things in the photo to add an element of scale realism.

People like Pablo Martinez Estrada and Carlos Quintana make diorama-like bases for their figures. They can be quite effective again in adding a sense of realism. The base can be as simple as you want it to be, or it can be very complex and detailed. It's up to the builder.

Here is one of Pablo's figures on a base:

Here's one of Carlos' figures, also on a base:

Vito Carlucci often takes a different approach. Vito tells me he has nearly 150 figures. Often, he posts photos of them on his Facebook page. Vito likes to put his figures in front of a photo that gives the look of a real person in his or her element.

Some examples of Vito's works are here:

A Spetznaz in the mountains:

An LA SWAT officer:

And a 160 SOAR airborne trooper:

A few suggestions that I can offer are as follows. First of all, and most important, is proper lighting. You can't show off detail unless it's lit and highlighted properly. Flashes up close can wash out detail, and a picture that is too dark hides the details. All the intricacies in the World are lost if we can't see them.

Secondly, for realism try to pose you figures naturally. Relaxed poses are often the best unless you want an action shot or are capturing a moment, because, and let's face it, people in the field are often standing around doing nothing. Smart ones take advantage of any chance to relax. Also, if your doing a shooting pose try to make a realistic point of aim. They're not shooting to kick up dust 50 feet away, and they're generally not hunting ducks. You don't have to have him in a marksmanship challenge, but try to keep it as real as possible.

While overhead shots are often necessary, especially in the case of diorama or vehicles, I think the best photos are at or just above the figure's eye level. Don't be afraid to kneel or to lay down to get a good shot. We all live life at eye level, so things shown that way tend to look more familiar and more realistic.

Finally, don't be afraid to take lots of shots! In the era of digital cameras and camera-phones, more can be better. The more pictures you take, the better your chances of capturing the moment in a great photo.

So there you have it. There's my take on action figure photography. If you are going to take photos of your figures, try out some of these techniques. And, if you don't take photos of your figures, why not? What are you waiting for? If they're your's, and your proud of them, show them off! Have fun, and try new things. You'll not be disappointed, and I guarantee that you'll enjoy it!