Custom Action Figures and the Dilemma of the Replacement

Having been an action figure fan pretty much my entire life, I perceive popular culture in, perhaps, a different way than some.  In many cases, my enjoyment of certain entertainment is almost directly linked to just how much I want to have its heroes and villains in articulated plastic form.  This in many ways stems from my parents willingness to whisk me to a nearby toy store shortly after seeing a movie so that I could acquire a figure of my favorite character.

However, while I may be willing to buy action figures of just about anything, toy companies are hardly going to risk producing such an item for every piece of entertainment.  Inevitably, there will be holes in the collection that cannot be filled with an official product.  Sometimes it’s a single character who is just too obscure to warrant a figure, or is tied up in some sort of rights issue.  Other times, it’s an entire property that gets overlooked.  And sometimes, it’s just that the property isn’t available in your preferred style.

For many, this simply means that there is an item you will never own.  But for the more intense, devoted collector, there’s another fix: the custom action figure.  Customization of action figures has existed for a good long while in the world of collecting, and it can take many forms, ranging from a simple part-swap or repaint to a figure with extensive uniquely sculpted pieces.  For many, how extensive you go is based purely on your own personal talent.

This far into this article, it’s probably not a huge surprise that I myself have ventured into the world of custom action figures.  I worked in a variety of scales and styles, but the largest focus by far was Minimates.  My love of the line is no secret to those that read the site, so it’s not really shocking that I felt the need to increase the ranks of my collection.  As a plus, the fact that parts were completely interchangeable and most of the design relied on painted or printed details made assembling them with quick speed a relatively easy task.

I’ve mostly given up customizing to focus more on pure collecting, and, of course, this very site.  However, I was quite proud of a few of my sets of Minimates.  One in particular was my set of custom Aliens-themed Minimates, which was one of the more expansive sets I completed, created over the span of a week or so in the summer of 2009.  There were 10 figures in all: Ripley, Hicks, Newt, Vasquez, Gorman, Hudson, Burke, a Xenomorph, and Bishop in both standard and battle-damaged varieties.


If you’ve been keeping up with my reviews, you’ve probably caught the news that Diamond Select Toys is currently producing their own official set of Aliens Minimates.  This is a fact I couldn’t be happier about.  Aliens is my favorite movie of all time, and Minimates is one of my favorite toy lines.  Combine the two and I’m in toy heaven.  But, that does sort of bring up the lingering question: What do I do with my customs?

Well, I should definitely start off by pointing out that not all of the characters I made have been added to Diamond’s line just yet.  Hicks,Burke, and the Xeno are the only ones with direct replacements currently.  The line has a Ripley, but it’s not the same iteration of her costume as the one I made.  However, the version of Ripley I used, as well as Newt, Vasquez, and Hudson will all be joining the line with Series 2.  The “half Bishop” has already been shown as a prototype and is set to be included with the Alien Queen.  That leaves Gorman and regular Bishop, both of whom have been heavily implied to be in an upcoming assortment of the line.  All of these figures will have proper replacements soon enough.

For now, how about a look back at the three that have already been “replaced?”

AliensCustoms4Burke was really the first at the axe.  For the most part, my custom was assembled from unaltered pieces of official ‘mates.  The body was from one of the X-Men Origins Wolverines, and the vest was from another.  Throw in a hairpiece from one of the movie Tony Starks and a face decal designed by me, and there you have it.  Liberties were taken with the style of the shirt and vest, due to my not wanting to ruin the only copies I had of these pieces.  I also recall really not wanting to have to paint a flannel pattern.  I’m still really proud of the face on this guy.  The expression just turned out so well.  I don’t mind the face on the official version, but I do miss this guy’s more panicked look.  At the end of the day, the official version wins, and my custom will likely be disassembled so that the parts can finally make their way back to their rightful owners.

AliensCustoms5With the official version being one of the earliest released official ‘mates, the Xenomorph came under fire pretty quickly too.  My Xenomorph was a later addition to my set.  When I created the original figures, I still wasn’t entirely comfortable with sculpting new parts wholesale, as would be required by the Xeno, so I put it off.  I eventually built up my skill a bit, and this was the end result.  I won’t lie, this figure has aged the worst of the set by far.  I was happy with him at the time, but the sculpting really didn’t hold up, and  he is devoid of many of the proper Xenomorph details.  The figure is also essentially a statue and rather brittle, making this one of the easiest replacements of the bunch.

AliensCustoms2The last replacement is perhaps one of the most difficult to go through with.  Hicks was a custom I put a lot of thought into, and one of the figures with which I was most pleased after finishing.  Some of the details of the uniform are a little muddled, and the armor isn’t quite what it could be, but I was particularly proud of the head.  I love the official version, but I wasn’t sold on the included hair piece.  As you can tell from the pictures, I’ve already replaced it with the same piece I used on my custom.  I was also quite proud of the likeness on the face, something I feel the official version was just the slightest bit off on.  Ultimately, the sculpted armor of the official version wins it some serious points, and it has a much more polished look, but it hasn’t quite surpassed my original like the others here.

That’s all for this particular side bit.  More than likely, I’ll come back to this a few times, as DST replaces the rest of my customs.  Until then, I guess my Aliens Minimates collection is just a little bit more complete than everyone else’s!

One response

  1. Well, you could always keep both — one for “before” his head injury & one for “after” & display both together with all of them.

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