Thursday, October 24, 2013

Do you still play with G.I. Joes?

Like a lot of boys, and even a few girls, growing up I had my share of 12" G.I. Joes. I also had Johnny West and some of "The Best of the West" series, 8" "Fantastic Four", 8" Star Trek, and 8" "Planet of the Apes" action figures. Many hours were spent with them, and even though I've outgrown playing with them, I still have an interest in the 12", 1/6 scale figures. G.I. Joe was clearly the most popular of these, but many other companies make figures now that have features and details that leave G.I. Joe near the back of the pack.

With many different companies making figures, uniforms, and equipment in basically the same size the desire to create something different becomes strong. The hobby known as "kitbashing" is rapidly growing in popularity.

 A "kitbash" is a figure that you create. You use extra equipment or purchase weapons and equipment to make an action figure that is uniquely your own creation. Scale modelers have been doing it for years, so why not do it to action figures as well? Everyone can buy a complete kit, and have a figure that is like lots of others out there. Not everyone has the patience or desire to "kitbash". It does take some time and effort.

I have thirty-one 12" action figures in my collection. Over half of them are kitbahes. In some cases it was due to lack of finances, as ready-made kits can be expensive. Generally though, it is because I enjoy it and want something different. I look at figures, uniforms, and equipment and constantly think of projects. Even my figures that are complete are often changed.

Many people make dioramas of their figures as well. There are dioramas of many sizes and in many scales, but the 1/6 is generally the largest and often most expensive. While the creation of 1/6 dioramas is a growing hobby, time, space and financial constraints have limited my personal diorama building. The two paratroopers under the net in the photo above are the basis for a D-Day Normandy diorama I've started. Though it looks good, it is far from compete. I'm always thinking of ways to change it and things I can do to make it better.

One of the photos above shows a German soldier taking a British paratrooper prisoner. It's a staged scene from two figures I had on display. Note that the paratrooper has a surprise, in the form of his commando knife, for the German. Will he make it? we are left to wonder. I'm a WWII living historian, so scenes like these are my attempt to create a small moment in history, and what it may have looked like.

The bottom photo is of a US 17th Airborne trooper as he may have looked in "Operation Varsity", the Allied jump across the Rhine river into Germany in March of 1945. While most have heard of D-Day, Normandy, "Operation Market Garden", the 101st, and the 82nd Airborne divisions, few know of the 17th or "Operation Varsity". I got the idea from a flea market purchase that had the jump suit. It took almost a year, but I got the figure, the weapons and the equipment to finish him. I think he turned out pretty good.

1/6 collecting and kitbashing is a fun hobby. You can recreate history, purchase ready-made figures, or just use your imagination and go for it. However you do it, it can be very enjoyable.

So, in answer to the above question, "Yes, I do!" The play is different now than it was when I was a kid, but it's just as fun.

By the way, my dream kitbash/diorama is already planned. It will be expensive, so it may take awhile, but I want to recreate a scene from the movie "Patton". I want to make a muddy crossroads, and have Patton himself directing traffic. I have Patton, a few figures, and a wooden box. I just need a 1/6 Stuart tank, a 1/6 half track or truck, and a few more figures. It's on hold, but it will be done!

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