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!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One of the best figures out there!

This Teutonic Knight, done by Pablo Estrada Martinez is an example of kitbashing at its best. Pablo paid strict attention to detail while making his figure, using paints to make plastic look like leather and steel, and adding the elements of dirt, age, blood and battle damage. This knight looks like he's been on the march for quite some time, and has seen more than his share of battle.

It's not my work, so I won't go in to the details. I'll let Pablo tell his own story (Please excuse some of the grammar; Pablo does not speak English and told his story through Google Translator. I think he did quite well!).

" Figure the long buy and Ignite brand , but as old is seen that the quality was not very good , too many plastic parts , a head that looked very doll as well as a very weak body , so I decided to make a few changes . The change the head by a head brand of actor Sean Connery play because I found it was the perfect head for the look you could give it to the figure ( a veteran battle-hardened Teutonic ) The Body use one brand did , that recess with a dremel machine shoulders , back and chest to prove not very muscular , plus the amount of clothing that would lead him. repaint belt with acrylic paints to give leather look , as well as chain mail to look like metal and not plastic ( this is Dragon brand ) The same hull was completely repainted with acrylics and washes to give aged appearance worn. Clothing and was aged layer with pastels and pigments Mig brand to make it look dirty, sweaty and no time to change clothes ( at that time was not changed often normal ) stains or blood spatter made with acrylic paint . The shield was also dirty , I made marks as knocks on the struggle for swords and axes and also I put blood spatter . I made a stand simple to give more realism to the figure and that's all.

Pablo obviously put a lot of time and effort into this figure. Seeing the pictures and hearing the story, it is time well spent!

Monday, November 4, 2013

An awesome WWII diorama.

Starting with this post, and continuing with various posts over the next several weeks, I'm going to be featuring the work of others in the kitbashing and 1/6 diorama hobby. There is some awesome work out there. We see the pictures on Facebook and other places, but very rarely do we get the story behind the figures or of what inspired the dio. 

They're not my works, so it's not my story to tell. I'm going to let those who have done them describe them in their own words, so here we go.

The photos above are of a dio by Rob Field. Here's Rob's story on how and what he did:

"My first 1/6 scale Diorama


I did this diorama recently. I have been collecting 1/6 scale figures for a while, mainly 21st Century with a couple of Dragon figures thrown in there when I could get them cheaply enough. About 5 or so years ago, I won an eBay auction  where I got 50 figures of various head sculpts and body types (although all were 21st Century). Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, those figures came with no clothing, supplies or accessories, which led me into the world of kitbashing.

Several years later, I have about 6 figures or so left to bash and have enjoyed the heck out of kitbashing these guys. All my kitbashes are WWII related and they are pretty evenly split between GI and German, with an uneven smattering of paratroops and infantry on the US side and Afrika Corps and regular Heer on the other.

I came up with the idea of the wounded Lt when my youngest daughter, who was two at the time, broke the arm off one of the figures. My first thought was that I was just going to have a guy for parts, but as I collected more stuff to bash with, an idea formed in my head.

re-enact WWII (that is my main hobby, kitbashing on a 1/1 scale if you will) and I always notice that there is a dearth of medic impressions. Just like in 1/6 kit bashing, rarely do you see dios done of the medical arm of things. So I started to look for medical items, beat up clothing and equipment and of course, the jeep.

That led me again to ebay, where I saw the medical jeep from SOTW mis-listed and cheap. I snapped it up with the outrageously low “buy it now” of $25. It included two stretchers and another figure so it was a steal.

From there I took my busted figure and dressed him in a ratty shirt that I cut the arm off of and tattered the short end. I wrapped his arm in a real gauze bandage and dressed it up with fake Halloween blood. I dipped the end of the arm into the blood, with the shirt on to get the effect I wanted, a battle field casualty that the medics need to get to the field hospital ASAP!
From there it was a straightforward bash. Two troopers with M-43 gear and a medic helmet later and it was off to the back yard!

I have a ring of small pine trees around my patio that are perfect 1/6 scale. With the uniforms on the medics and the fact they were pine trees, I set the scenario as October/November of 1944, somewhere in Western Europe. From there it was just a matter of snapping pictures!

I hope you like the results!


Robert Field"

Awesome! I love it! They don't get much better. I hope you all enjoy it, and I hope to be able to share more like this.