Are you into making monsters?
Just about every horrorhead has at one time or another assembled his or her own garage-kit Frankenstein, or ghoul, or zombie, or creature from some lost lagoon or godforsaken planet in resin, styrene or vinyl. I can't say for sure that it started with Aurora's monster kits, but it's the ghost of Aurora that remains deeply impaled in many a kit-building horrorhead's beating heart.
But today's kits are more sophisticated, and today's modelers more passionate about their art; both demand more expertise with the tools that will turn those unassembled and unpainted pieces of a dream kit into that bashed diorama of fiendish delight.
Lucky for us there's CreatureScape, the online magazine for monster model lovers everywhere to help.
What is it about model kit building that's so enjoyable and addictive to horrorheads everywhere?
You know, you're right about the "addictive" aspect of model building, and there are a lot of factors in that. Overall, it is probably a matter of personal investment of time, energy and money.
When you work on a kit--which may be an hour here and there, or a day, a weekend or more--you invest yourself in it. You make choices along the way, experiment with color and technique, and you have a vision of the finished kit. Unlike buying a collectible (which is a very short term satisfaction), you end up with something that represents not just your interest or personality, but also your time and creativity.
Additionally, there are so many cool garage kits available these days, there is always one more reason to do it. And for a lot of people it is a nice break from the hectic stress of daily life because it requires you to slow down and focus, which is very meditative, really. In fact, it requires your attention to be really focused and pretty soon, you feel like a kid again with nothing on your mind but what is right in front of you.
Why do an online magazine like CreatureScape: The 21st Century Monster Model Zine? I'm sure it's a lot of work.
It is a lot of work . . . but it is also a lot of fun, especially when people write in with questions or comments or order kits from our site for the first time. We have articles waiting on backlog simply because of the time it takes, but we also feel like it does a lot to promote the hobby. We get to tell people what's new in kits and show them how to do it themselves, which only encourages a stronger hobby for everyone.
Speaking of doing it yourself, how should a budding monster kit builder learn the proper techniques to build the kit of their dreams?
Honestly, the single most important thing to remember is that you want to do it to have some fun. You can't be too worried about end results when you begin, so you should just concentrate on doing it for pleasure at first. Put your favorite monster movie on or CD and just dive in. Most learning is done by experimenting, really.
CreatureScape publishes a lot of "build-up" articles, which are basically "how-tos" to pick up the secrets of the hobby, and there are two publications currently focused on the craft in publication right now--Kitbuilders and Amazing Figure Modeler. Also, don't be shy about emailing people to ask questions. And, there is a great website forum for builders at www.theclubhouse1.net they are very newbie friendly.
What is a recast and what are the problems with recasting? Why should people avoid them?
A recast is a kit that has been copied by a person who is neither the creator nor the manufacturer and sold for profit. It is a form of piracy and buying a recast is about the worst thing a model builder can do, and it will make you few friends in the hobby. Essentially, it is like stealing a painting and claiming it is yours and selling second rate prints of it, robbing the artist of his or her time and devaluing their talent. It really, really hurts the hobby.
A second problem is that recasts are typically very poor copies and a buyer is going to get crap 99% of the time, so it doesn't help the buyer either. Lots of recasts never get done because they are just too difficult to put together. There are other issues with recasts too, many of which are rather tricky. One thing is that many kits are unlicensed and technically, they are illegal too, which may seem like a hypocrisy, but in the end the money is not big enough to bring anyone to court.
You see, large scale rights owners (like film studios, comic book companies, etc.) typically charge outrageous fees that independent producers could never afford--$25,000 down payment and 10% of profits, for example. Film companies are mostly interested in toy producers who will produce tens of thousands and make millions; a small time kit maker who makes 50 copies of a kit total and barely makes a few grand is not worth it to them. Therefore, lots of rights holders look the other way or simply have their legal department send out a C & D (Cease and Desist) order if they do care and that is the end of it.
To get back to recasting, the hobby and its art form rely on a solid market that is essentially self-regulating. Without the artists and small companies, the hobby would not exist, so don't buy recasts. Both Horizon and Screamin', and for a little while, Geometric, went out of business in large part because of how recasting stole their profits.
What's your all-time favorite kit and why?
Hmmm. . . what's my favorite kit that I own--or one that I want to own? I think the kit that really knocks my socks off that I have is Cretaceous Creations' Spinosaurus (which is currently under construction in my garage). It is over 3 feet long, 18 inches high and exceedingly and perfectly detailed. Wow!
I also really, really love "The Venusian," an out of production kit from Menagerie Productions that is world class sculptor Tony McVey's interpretation of Harryhausen's Ymir. That one sits proudly on my "done" shelf.
As for kits I would like to have (what we call "grail kits"), Kaiyodo made a 1/87th scale Godzilla that was huge--as in about 6 feet long! Too bad it goes for about $1200-1500 bucks and takes a basement to display.
McVey's Id monster is on my grab it when you see it list too. Also, I just arranged a swap for one of the all-time great kits, Horizon's Creature from the Black Lagoon. That is a beautiful creature.
How did you get started in monster model kit building?
Most people, myself included, started when we were kids. For those of us who remember the days when plastic monsters were available at every department store and kids were glued to Universal classics on the weekends, these were really great times.
Aurora died out in the late 1970s, of course. For a while in the 1980s and 1990s, hobby stores were carrying vinyl kits from Japan and that rekindled the American interest in them. Most people find them on the Internet now while searching for a picture of Frankenstein or the Wolf Man.
Where do you see the hobby heading in the future? Will it still be around ten years from now?
This is a question that gets a lot of debate currently. Prices for everything are going up and it makes pursuing hobbies a little harder. In 1998, there were five convention-style model shows centered on figure kits, but today, there is only one--Wonderfest. Another big problem is that kids need to get into it to keep it going and it is hard to compete with video games.
On the other hand, the quality and creativity of garage kits has never been higher and that is a sign of a solid demand. Plus, the Internet is great for the hobby and for that reason alone, in 10 years, the hobby will be around. People can connect with the whole world, of course, and that brings kit builders together.
Which monster model kits should we be on the look out for? What's hot?
This is actually a huge question, as there might be 100 or more releases this year alone. There are many great companies and kits out today, but as for what is out right now of interest, here are a few things:
Resin Realities (www.resinrealities.net) just put out a very cool kit on the creature from The Host. It is a moderate to advanced level kit in some ways, but it is perfectly represented. A new company called Monarch Models (www.monarchmodels.com) is releasing its first kit, an old Aurora style Nosferatu done by seasoned sculptor, Jeff Yagher, who is a hot name right now. I just got a very sinister looking kit release called "Lord of Chaos" from www.greenwellstudios.com.
Four specific sculptors who have caught my attention lately are Robert Blair (www.blairstudios.com), Bill Gundmundsen (www.bills-kitchen.com), Jon Rader (www.raderstudios.com), and Paul Schiola (www.ultratumbaproductions.com).
Blair has been around a while, but he has made a splash in the last 2 years with some of the coolest looking kits I have ever seen. Rader has a number of kits, but he is a relatively unknown dinosaur sculptor right now . . . that will change. Bill Gundmunsen is the only American to ever get a license from Toho Studios to do their kaiju monsters in resin. And Schiola has been putting out some crazy and fun B-Movie creatures like the bat-rat-spider-crab from Angry Red Planet, a string of Mexican monsters, and most recently, Beulah. Paul gets better with every new kit.
If you are a collector, there are really four things to look for--quality of the sculpture (i.e. the sculptor); quality of the cast and fit; individuality, originality and creativity of the kit; and finally, the number of kits produced. Smaller numbers mean more value down the road.
Why are Aurora kits still hot collectibles after all these years?
Part of the Aurora appeal is generational, but part is passed down through the generations from parents who want their kids to have the same experience. The retro/nostalgia factor is present too. But, the main reason may be that Aurora came along right at the height of the monster boom of the 1960s, and pop culture became a part of regular culture in a big way about the same time. In the 60s and 70s, nearly every TV market had a horror host, Universal classics were everywhere, Toho and Hammer were drawing American dollars in the theaters, and kids were becoming the center of American pop culture in many ways. Throw in a little Scooby Doo and you have a recipe for longevity.
Another thing to consider is that the original kits were typically built by preteens, played with like toys and then thrown out by mothers who thought they were junk. As a result, an original Aurora kit in plastic wrap with a sticker is a really rare thing and thus very collectible.
Can you name some monster model kits that a neophyte model builder would find easy and enjoyable to build?
Yep! Geometric Designs has a Mummy bust that is just perfect for the beginner. It is one piece, you can get a little practice sanding and filling with putty, and the paint is very simple and straight forward. I keep a beginner's how to article up here (http://www.creaturescape.com/modelbuilding/mummybust.htm) and you can even order it through us if you like.
What was the most complicated kit you ever built? What made it difficult?
There are a few kits in mid-production on the CreatureScape bench that are challenging either because of assembly, size, or the intricacy of the parts. Godzilla kits can be tough with all the fins, but I have a Kaiyodo King Ghidorah that takes the cake. It is just a bear to fit together well and the cutlines are not well designed.
Skyhook models put out an excellent Robot Monster bust a few years ago that utilized resin parts, acrylic parts, copper wire, and instructions on making tiny springs. On top of that, we put in some LED lights in the eyes just for kicks and chrome paint for the helmet. It was not particularly hard to do, but the kit was complex in its own way.
What are your favorite horror movies?
Personally, I like a good monster and some compelling characters as opposed to mindless gorefests and movies that dwell on human brutality and mental illness. Karloff's FrankensteinThe Mummy are big favorites and truly great films, as is King Kong. The Thing, Gojira, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and It Came from Beneath the Sea are post-war gems and 60's Toho films, especially Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, get a lot of runtime around here. So do Hammer films. Alien is perhaps the best horror/sci-fi film ever and John Carpenter's version of The Thing and his Prince of Darkness are great. I also like the new Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later, as well as a very underrated film--The Relic.
Thanks to CreatureScape for sharing lots of great information. CreatureScape: The 21st Century Monster Model Zine. You can also join the CreatureScape Yahoo Group.
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