It is likely true for most toy photographers, but the bulk of my collection is full of figures representing already established characters. Marvel, Star Wars, DC, pop culture figures—all characters who already exist and have their own established backstories. Lately I’ve found myself wanting a custom character in my collection that is entirely mine.
Though it’s not entirely fleshed out yet, I have some specific ideas for this character. I am not ready to reveal the specific concept, but I want a normal looking character who could be plucked out of a mundane life and thrust into a whacky and crazy adventure. He has no super powers, not special abilities. Just a normal Joe.
I am absolutely new to this sort of thing. I did customize an action figure back when the pandemic started, so I could have my own Plague Doctor figure, but that was taking an established figure and adding some props to it. This was going to be a whole new creation.
The method to my madness
Since I don’t have a lot of experience with this, and no clear end goal, I started by trying to assemble a figure from parts I could buy online. I got some bits that seemed to go along with the general idea I had in mind. I learned some lessons and could refine my ideas from there—hopefully it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.
The first thing I did was Google 1/6 scale accessories. I immediately noticed the vast majority of places that sell custom accessories are based in China. This is not a great surprise in retrospect as the vast majority of toys are made there. China has a reputation for ripping off copyrights and making cheap products. I saw a lot of knock-off accessories that definitely violated copyrights, but the quality was pretty dang good.
So I placed a few orders and waited for my items to roll in. It took a few weeks. Stupid exercises in patience!
There are a couple of established body types for male and females. in 1/6 scale. For males, they tend to come in muscular, “narrow shoulder,” and overweight I also discovered some rather, let’s say, anatomically correct, figures out there. I’ve seen things… things that would scar most folk. So be warned! However, I soldiered on and picked a basic narrow shouldered male figure, as that seems to be the most common type.
The nice thing about using common body types is the figure is much more likely to fit with a given accessory. As a computer engineer, I am a big fan of standards.
The figure comes with several hand options. The quality of the hand molds are not super awesome, but they will do for now. It looks like there is a standard connection for the hands and heads, which means I can possibly mix hands from other figures if necessary.
There is a surprisingly large amount of heads out there. Most are based on existing people, which is a bit annoying for a completely custom character. However, for my first experiment in purchasing these things, I went with a sculpt of Wade Wilson, the man behind Deadpool’s mask. The reason is that Deadpool is my fave character, and if nothing else came from this experiment, I’d at least have a maskless Wade head to put on my 1/6 Deadpool figure.
Heads come in two main styles—with a moulded neck, and without. The head I purchased had a neck. But it requires a connector to be added so it fits onto the body.
Once the adaptor was fitted, the head snapped onto the body without issue.
As an impulse purchase, I bought a black fedora along with everything else in my purchase. It doesn’t really fit my ideas for this character, but it looks pretty dang dapper, if you ask me. I’m sure it will come in handy at some point.
I also tried another hat I already had for another shoot. This fits more with my character idea, but it’s still not right. A good hat is something I’ll be adding to my “needs improvement” list.
For the feet, I wanted a character that could travel. So I found this awesome pair of boots.
Though the price of these accessories was a little steep—the boots were in the $20 USD range, but the quality is outstanding. They look absolutely amazing in real life. Just like mini versions of real boots.
For the clothes, I picked a combo that Peter Parker wore in Spider-Man: Homecoming. I liked the casual combo that would fit this nebulous character taking shape in my head. The quality is equally good. The printing on the t-shirt is top notch, and the snaps are nice and solid. This is top quality stuff—the type of quality one would expect from a premium Hot Toys figure.
One thing that did occur to me—action figures don’t wear underwear. Everyone in the toy universe is going commando!
Putting it all together
So all that’s left is to dress up the figure and see how it looks. The size of the accessories made this a bit tricky, but I soon had him dressed in short order.
Not too shabby! I like the basic look, but I may want to swap out the shirt for a jacket that has a more “traveler” vibe to it.
I learned a couple things from this process. One is that there seems to be standards with 1/6 scale, or 12-inch, figures, so random accessories should fit the character I am building. Second, everything is super new looking. I am definitely going to have to spend some time aging the clothes, especially those boots. Right now he looks very “fresh from the store,”and I want him to have a lived-in look. Finally, this is not a good way to get a 1/6 figure on the cheap. The money for these accessories can be quite spendy. However, with a little shopping around, and some minor customizing in my shop, I should be able to get the bits I need to create my own figure.
Stay tuned as this figure evolves. If anyone has any experience with custom figures like this and wants to drop some tips in the comments, especially trusted sources for accessories, I would love to hear from you!