Friday, February 3, 2017

Full Circle

Y'know, I started this blog almost seven years ago now. In all that time as a budding toy maker, I've had a number of successes, a number of failures, and countless learning experiences. I've had the honor of forging friendships with some amazingly talented folks. And I might've made some enemies along the way too. But the one dream that I let guide my initial foray into this madness was the seemingly absurd goal of creating a homemade chogokin figure of Saucer Animal Gin Gin, a villain robot from my favorite cartoon growing up, UFO Robo Grendizer. If you're reading this, you're probably already well-aware of my fascination with this character. So few of the bad guys from these shows got a proper toy treatment. But this wasn't just *any* baddie! This was the machine that led the charge in subjugating the homeworld of our hero, Duke Freed. And upon returning from Duke's tragic past, Gin Gin's terrifying superiority was evident in how easily Gorman, his pilot, defeated Duke. Gorman would have killed Duke, too--just as he killed Duke's parents during the war that drove him to take refuge on Earth. But just as he was about to finish off Grendizer, Gorman was shot in the back, betrayed by his own subordinates! Such drama! Ya just don't get stories like that in your average monster-of-the-week show anymore! ;)

Now, if you've been following this blog, you know that the "Foe-Gokin" (or faux-gokin if you like!) Gin Gin project never truly came to fruition. Sure, I sold a few antiqued ones made of pewter and a few plated in various metals like copper and nickel...but the intended final production item--a metal and plastic figure, painted and stickered to match the animation--was never released. Just too many outside resources to wrangle, and ultimately too much labor to complete a single piece. I went deeper into the post-mortem in my 2013 wrap-up.

The Foe-Gokin project was perhaps ludicrously ambitious for someone just starting out making toys. But then again, if you're NOT full of piss and vinegar when getting into this game, then you might as well quit before you get your damn feelings hurt.

Fail or no, Foe-Gokin Gin Gin paved the way for a future toy project. See, I learned how hard painting is. I learned how hard cutting and applying--all by hand--stickers is. I learned how much entropy is generated by relying on multiple outside sources for parts, materials, and labor. The sea-change from the early Foe-Gokin Gin Gin years to today's all-3D-printed plastic fabrication has been nothing short of profound. Production may be relatively slow and extremely labor-intensive now, but almost EVERY aspect of the process is in-house. The perfectionist in me is constantly overjoyed at the fact that I get to micro-manage the complete lifecycle of each of my projects...from prototyping to production to variants.

And that future toy project has finally arrived! I'm proud to announce the first Shogun Voyager DX figure, Chakradhar Robo:

Look familiar? ;)

True, Chakradhar (pronounced chuck-rah-DAR) Robo is clearly inspired by Saucer Animal Gin Gin. I wanted to make the character my own, however, so I decided to recreate Gin Gin within my own little fictional universe that serves as the backdrop for my ever-evolving "Shogun Voyager" toy line.

This figure stands a little over 10" (25cm), so he's in perfect scale with many vintage and modern super robot sofubi. In fact, that was entirely by design. Whereas Foe-Gokin Gin Gin was an interpretation of that character in the style of the original Popy diecast figures of the 70's, Chakradhar Robo was designed from the ground up to emulate Bandai's missile-firing vinyls of the same era!

The toy is almost entirely 3D-printed in ABS plastic then bathed in acetone vapor, meaning the toy is extremely durable and quite hefty. There isn't an ounce of paint on this figure--all the coloration was achieved simply by carving up the design and printing each separate part in its own color.

If you're sharp, you noticed the "wound" on his back! The aesthetic of this toy fits in with Go Nagai's classic designs, but I obviously changed the details (and name!) to make this homage to Gin Gin my own. That said, I *had* to keep the blasted armor on his back--it's just TOO important a reference to the original character to leave out!

Okay, so what's with the name? Well, I haven't written up the fluff for the character yet (as he appears in my Shogun Voyagers universe), but the name comes directly from the robot's design and from my South Asian heritage. See, much like Gin Gin, the shields integrated into Chakradhar Robo's arms have built-in circular saw blades--blades somewhat akin to the ancient Indian throwing weapon, the chakram, meaning ring...or circle. The word, "chakradhaari", means "one who wields the chakram" [see also Xena: Warrior Princess :P ]...so you can see where the robot gets his name! In fact, there are other references to India in the design and story for this character, but I'll leave those details for a future post...

As for gimmicks, you know I gotchu covered, baby.

The blades in the arm-shields spin freely, as you'd imagine. But that's only the beginning. ;) The shoulders rotate forwards and backwards by way of a tough ratchet joint. It's the same ratchet joint used in the Powered Bio Suit shoulders, and has VERY strong detents--all achieved through 3D-printed parts! Okay, so maybe a point of articulation isn't REALLY a gimmick...but I'm proud of the design, dammit! But while we're on the subject, the arms can splay out to the sides, the fists can rotate at the wrists, and the head can rotate at the neck. Look, this toy isn't looking to break any records for poseability here! Remember--this guy was meant to match the aesthetic of vinyl robot toys, paragons of immobility and derpy proportions!

Now we're getting warmer. When I mentioned this toy was designed to emulate the Bandai missile-fire vinyls of the 70's, I didn't mean just in appearance! This guy packs heat like you don't even know! Two fully-functional missile launchers integrated into the chest...plus two additional missiles stored in his thigh clips. Be careful--or you WILL shoot your eye out!

Not enough? Okay, how about some rocket punch to go along with your missile-fire???

Ferocious.

But y'know...the shooty features aren't even my favorite gimmick of all! If you know me--and my history with GID sofubi--then you KNOW I can't drop a fancy toy without it having some kind of glow-in-the-dark feature.

And Chakradhar Robo does not disappoint.

That's not photoshop, kids. That's straight legit blue- and traditional green-glow plastic! Like I said: this toy project has brought me full circle.

GID missiles? Oh yes.

And incidentally, those are Getter 1's vintage missiles above, just for comparison. Which means it's about time to wrap things up with some comparison shots!

Here's the aforementioned Getter 1, along with the very first prototype of Chakradhar Robo to feature the chest launchers. See, when first conceived, Chakradhar was meant to have the vinyl-style launchers you see above. When CAD-modeling the toy, however, I found that the original launching mechanism that I'd developed for the forearms could not be integrated into the chest...so I dropped the feature altogether for the first few iterations of the design. But once I had my proof-of-concept that this large-scale, print-in-color methodology could actually succeed where the Foe-Gokin project had failed, I decided to design all-new launchers for the chest. Unfortunately, that means the chest missiles cannot be fired from the forearms (which was what I had originally wanted).

I know--probably way more information than you needed, but hey...I enjoy sharing my thought process!

And above is the original version of Chakradhar, as y'all can see, without the chest launchers. Different color scheme, too.

Mean muggin' that 70's Bandai missile-fire Grendizer!

And here's what I call the "anime colors" version of Chakradhar Robo, along with Medicom's recent Grendizer Giga figure. Damn, he's tall.

More modern comparisons! This time, Chakradhar goes back to his roots as a villain, alongside these excellent Medicom Mazinger Z villains, Kingdan X10 and Doublas M2. A trio of shelf-hogs.

And finally, one last glow shot, featuring Chakradhar and Medicom's Getter Dragon in Shine Spark mode! Like I said--no photoshop here. These images give you a good idea of how much glow power the toy really has. Getter Dragon happens to glow *really* damn bright for a sofubi, so it's a conservative comparison:

Well, that's it for now, guys. Or rather...that's all I'm letting you in on for now! ;) I've got some other things in the works that I alluded to before, including the next incarnation of the Shogun Voyager minifigs. But I'll save that for another post!

Before I bounce, I have one last big announcement to make: I'll be at Zolocon in Bucks County, PA later this month! I'll have the four Chakradhar Robo figures featured throughout this blog post for sale, as well as some other surprises. If you're in the area, come check me out--I'll be right in the center of things, sharing table space with my homie, Dr. Rampageo of Doomkick.com, along with some other friends of ours.

Sounds unusually cryptic for me? Most definitely! I've got something in the works coming VERY soon that isn't patterned after Japanese robots or monsters at all. Something big...and muscly. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Format Shift

Welcome to 2016…even though we’re already closing in on 2017! Pretty much par for the course around here. But then again, y’all probably know by now that the less I post on my blog, the more stuff that’s going on behind the scenes. ;) And that’s a pretty accurate assessment. I’ve got some pretty fun stuff coming real soon as I promised in my last post wrapping up 2015…and I finally get to tell you about it in the coming weeks! But first, a couple quick pics from this past August’s East Coast Chogokin Summit

2016 has been great for me so far, as a collector and as a maker. The 3D-printing homies, Ben, David, and PJ, have been killing it throughout the year, and in this game, I couldn’t ask for better P.N.C.’s. And while the designer vinyl scene has taken a bit of a step backwards*, appreciation of cheap toys continues to thrive. When it comes to the resin/rubber-slinging arena, I haven’t thrown down for too many custom keshi as of late, but I’d love to do another collaboration with the Eric Nilla’s and the Zectron’s of the world. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, big up to my homie, Marcus of Onell Design, for his successful launch of his new vending machine line, Bit Figs!

* PLEASE, no more of the two-headed monsters, the rocky-textured horror/poop monsters, the eyeball/gorilla/cyclops/cat themes, the innumerable generic cutesy minis, the Garbage Pail Kids/Madballs/Ooze-It rip-offs, the pachi drawing adaptations, the bootlegs of bootlegs, etc…

Okay, let’s dive right into today's main topic. I wanna talk about a big decision that’s bound to ruffle a few feathers. There’s a pretty major format shift on the horizon for the MicroClone line. See, at the end of last year, I had talked about doing another big wave of MicroClones consisting of the standard figures, the augmented troops I teased about earlier, and the Mk II Powered Bio Suits. Lots of folks have asked me over the months when this release was coming…and at this point, the answer is likely never. That doesn’t mean that these toys won’t be available ever again—so don’t trip! But I felt bad being forced to tell everyone that other projects/collabs had priority. The real nail in the coffin, however, came with some pretty…shocking…mainstream Micro/Takara SF Land (Henshin Cyborg, Microman, Diaclone, etc.) releases that few people—myself included—saw coming.

First, US-based Hasbro and IDW Publishing have brought back the Micronauts! If you’re reading this blog, then you very likely know how EPIC this news is. In fact, the return of the Micronauts—not to mention the return of Rom to the comic book landscape—is part of IDW’s Revolution initiative. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Hasbro is developing a shared fictional universe consisting of some of their most popular toy properties of the 80’s, including GI Joe, Transformers, M.A.S.K., Action Man, and the aforementioned Rom and Micronauts.

Yes.

This is a real thing.

And if you didn’t know about it before reading this, I sincerely hope I’ve given you at least a mild heart attack. A shared cinematic universe—akin to what Marvel Studios is doing with the MCU and Warner Bros is doing with the DCEU—is being developed, but it all begins with the foundation laid down in these comics published by IDW. And to kick off the hype, Hasbro released a set of four new Micronauts figures at this past SDCC, featuring brand new box art by the legendary Ken Kelly. Expect this story to continue to accelerate in the coming year…

And second, TakaraTomy, original Japanese producers of the Microman and Diaclone toy lines, have released the DA-01 Dia-Battles V2, the first in a new line of high-end “reboots” of the original Diaclone line. On one hand, the sheer audacity and utter absurdity that TT would resurrect such an obscure, failed toy line of the 80’s—cult following notwithstanding—is already mind-blowing. I mean, seriously. I’m part of that “cult”...and my head is STILL spinning from this news. *But then*…you go and add the fact that this new Dia-Battles toy might be one of the greatest Japanese robot toys ever conceived…and it’s game over, man. And I ain’t fronting: this toy, my friends, will leave you speechless. I’m pretty sure in all my years in the toy hobby, I’ve never handled such a brilliantly-engineered and flawlessly-QC’ed adult collectible. And again, NOBODY saw it coming. Besides their nice MP Transformers line and the mainstream Hasbro Transformers line, TakaraTomy had been pretty quiet on their “hobby” (vintage-themed) front for years. When the return of Diaclone—really a sequel more than a reboot—was announced last year, I was floored. But there it was: a completely re-engineered Dia Battles toy that sets a whole new standard for complex modularity and play value. I can’t say enough about this toy. And given the popularity of this initial release, TT has already announced Big Powered GV and updated Powered Suits (yes, the beloved ancestors of my Powered Bio Suits!).

So what does this all mean for the future of the MicroClone line?

Well, there are suddenly a number of new and exciting releases competing for Takara SF Land fans’ dollars (or yen). See, when I first developed the Powered Bio Suit and later MicroClone figures, my intent was to serve a community I was part of that didn’t really have any new content/product being generated for it. Microman and Micronauts fans certainly had vintage toys to keep them busy, but there just wasn’t anything new on the horizon. These toys were my small way of helping revitalize the fandom…and to push my engineering and 3D-printing skills, of course!

But now that Micronauts/Takara SF Land fans have multiple comic books to look forward to on a monthly basis, new Micronauts toys undoubtedly being developed, and an ultra-high-end line of Diaclone reboots to smash their wallets, where does my high-priced bootleg (read: homage!) toy line fit in??? Even without my toys being a part of the conversation, I’ve heard plenty of grumbling about how there’s all this new legit/mainstream stuff to pick up. I wouldn’t quite call it “overload”, given how diverse all this new content is, but it’s still a financial strain for those who want to stay up-to-date with these franchises.

So here’s what I propose: rather than doing formal releases, where I kill myself making a huge stockpile of toys to put on sale at a particular date and time, I am going to produce them to-order, on a commission basis. Essentially, everything will be a “custom”—meaning colors can be selected, rather than forcing folks to buy into the colors I’ve already manufactured. Every now and then, I’ll post images on social media reminding folks that these toys exist and are available for custom-ordering…but my day-to-day focus will remain on my Shogun Voyager toy line and the various collaborations I have in the works.

I think that’ll be the best for everyone. The hardcore fans out there (you know who you are! THANK YOU ALWAYS!!) will be able to order the figures they want—in the color schemes they want—and I won’t have to drop everything I’m doing to spend several weeks cranking out toys en masse. I know this will annoy some casual fans who are accustomed to easily-accessible products that they can click-and-buy instantly. I get it—I hate having to jump through hoops myself. But I think this is the right move for me. Plus, I like the idea of a “sale” actually being a conversation. I don’t like being a vendor who has customers. I look at everyone else in the hobby as my peer, a fellow fan. And to work with someone to make the “perfect” toy for them in the exact color scheme they’re looking for will be a breath of fresh air!

And onto a lesser-known aspect of my Takara SF Land homage series: the Powered Suit Fake Type! Yeah, remember those? LOL

Okay, so it’s been an eternity since I’ve even brought up these all-Shapeways-produced minifigs. For those who may not know, I designed these toys when I first got into the 3D printing game (and before I had my own FFF printer!). There are a few reasons why I’ve sorta abandoned these lil guys. First, they’re damn expensive. That’s just the nature of Shapeways—it’s an online service that has access to some pretty exotic 3D printing materials and technologies. If it weren’t for those high-resolution processes, I never would’ve been able to make these Diaclone-scaled suits on my own. But on top of cost, if you wanted the steel “DX” version suit, you’d have to purchase separately the exact magnets used to articulate the shoulders. Who wants to do that?? And lastly, Shapeways is unfortunately infamous for screwing up orders involving complex assemblies of components produced in different materials. :/ There have been a number of reports from folks I know saying that they ordered, for example, a Type A suit, but it came with Type B fists…or some ridiculous thing like that. That’s unacceptable.

So my solution here is that I will be offering these figures for sale *myself*. The idea is that when someone contacts me to buy a Fake Type suit, I’ll order the parts myself to make sure there are no Shapeways shenanigans. I’ll then assemble the figure (adding magnets where needed), and ship the completed item to the customer. I’ll likely leave the components in my public Shapeways store, but I’ll continue to urge people to contact me directly if they want to order a suit.

And y’know, I’ve considered abandoning the Fake Type suits altogether, given the cost and annoyance involved in dealing with Shapeways…but here's a pretty compelling argument that pushes me to keep hope alive for these shorties:

Yowza! (that closing price—for the most common Powered Suit type and color—is $405USD, in case it's hard to read)

Okay guys, that’s it for now on the Takara SF Land front. Please feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts on this shift in format. Meanwhile, in the coming weeks, I’ll be (finally!) revealing the future of the Shogun Voyager line. And, oh, it’s a BRIGHT future. ;) Also, I’ve got a wild collaboration in the works with a big name and local homie of mine…that’s of a more barbaric nature. As always, stay tuned, my people!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My philosophy

What's really good, everybody? Time again for Sanjeev's big year-end round up! This is my way of talking a little bit about what kinda ish I got cooking on the toy-production front, how techniques and technologies have evolved, and also to document this creative process for posterity. I suspect I'm gonna get a kick outta reading some of this stuff in years to come. ;) Anyway, instagram's still the best way to follow my day-to-day toy rambles...but at the same time, I don't really like to post too much of my own toy-development progress there. Sure, I'll post announcements of new releases and whatnot on ig, but I use it primarily to talk about what I love about toys in general. From a collector's perspective, feel me? This blog, however, still serves as my personal playground focusing on the toy-making side of this hobby.

So let's get it popping!

First off, I had actually planned to post after last summer's East Coast Chogokin Summit in August. The event was held in East Boston and was "closed" (invite-only) this year, given the limited space we had. That's unfortunate because it's always fun to meet new people and grow the community. But it is what it is...and while I had some pretty cool things to show off at the Summit, nothing was really production-ready (hence why I held off on making posting at the time). So what were those reveals? Heh, well, I'm gonna hold onto those secrets for just a bit longer still! 2015 was a solid year of learning and growing. And 2016 is already shaping up to be a year where we'll be able to enjoy the fruits of that labor!

Before I get into the philosophical stuff, I got a quick announcement I'm real excited about! There's a new member of the fam. But don't get it twisted--this is NO rookie by any means. This dude's been slinging resin for a ill minute, and he's apprenticed under none other than the great Ron Daley and Matt Doughty for even longer than Onell's been around. And now with the recent boom in 3D printing, he's thrown his lot in with dangerous individuals like myself, David, and Ben. He is PJ Bartlett of Spaced Out Design! If you get a chance, please check him out. He's been rocking some amazing Glyos-compatible 3D-printed figures that are blowing up the spot.

So probably the most interesting challenge I've pondered this past year is the concept of scale. See, just like with any sort of manufacturing process, there are strengths and weaknesses associated with using common FFF technology to produce toys directly. For example, if the resolution on these machines were better, it would be a snap to produce MUSCLE-style figures that you could sell for peanuts. Or if they printed MUCH faster (and if the parts required a fraction of the cleanup work), you could sell a Transformers-style toy for about how much you could expect to pay for a mass-produced one at retail.

Now, as it turns out, producing runs of smaller toys like the MicroClones is actually surprisingly labor-intensive. The parts come off the printer much faster than with a larger toy, so you're constantly having to keep track of all the tiny parts and stay on top of the post-print cleanup workload. And just because those parts are smaller, that doesn't mean the cleanup's all that much easier! So in a lot of ways, a MUCH bigger toy like the Powered Bio Suit ends up being easier overall to produce! It seems counter-intuitive, but the reality is that the bigger, chunkier PBS parts are ultimately easier to clean up...and because those parts take so much longer to print, there's a lot more time available between print jobs to do that work. Sure, it still takes 3 days to make a single PBS (while I could do half a dozen MicroClones in that time), but you can imagine how less taxing it can be to produce larger toys that sell for over $100 than it is to produce smaller toys that sell for a lot less.

The philosophy of scale, therefore, boils down to the question of whether or not I want to sustain the toil required to keep on churning out cheaper offerings, or switch over to producing exclusively high-end items at a more leisurely pace. On paper, the high-end approach looks more amenable to my lifestyle. But there's an undeniable allure to producing cheap toys: your offerings become more accessible to a larger number of folks...plus you gain the ability to give away large numbers of your toys. That last bit may sound a bit odd, but trust me--after having given away dozens of dozens of Glyos figures over the years to kids I know, nothing beats that feeling. NOTHING.

So for now, I'm gonna stick to doing what I'm doing. The response to the "Wave 0" MicroClones (see last post) was intense. The couple dozen or so figures I offered on Monster Kolor sold out in just over half an hour! Clearly heads are feeling them...and unlike the first generation Shogun Voyagers (yeah, remember those??), they don't break my back to produce! I'm still working out details for a sub-$10 Shogun Voyager mini that will fill that cheap toy role...but I don't think it will expand into a whole line. We'll see how things progress into the next year as I grapple more with this question...

And speaking of the MicroClones, the intrepid forces of Earth and their allies from Micro Earth [or the Microverse, if you prefer! ;) ] are getting some upgrades to their gear in the coming New Year! Yup, the standard MicroClone explorers will be joined by two new troop types for when the action calls for more specialized roles.

The Powered Bio Suit is what I'm really excited about for next year, though. Now, keep in mind that the PBS was the *very* first toy I ever tried to develop when I first got my own 3D printer. That was one helluva learning experience! Over the years, you guys have seen quite a few iterations of the toy on this blog. Each and ever piece I produced sold (THANK YOU!!), but clearly it's taken me some to get it perfect. And, yes, being a perfectionist is part of being a toy-maker! Well, after a recent few months of design tweaks, I've finally got it right. At least, as far as I'm concerned--your mileage may vary. ;) I've completely overhauled the packaging design, hardened several joints and connection ports, upgraded some aesthetics, and added some new gimmicks. And probably the most significant change is that I'm folding the toy into the overarching "MicroClone" brand. Of course, the MicroClone line didn't exist when I first started developing the PBS, but now that the MicroClones are an established thing, the move just makes sense. And to commemorate this ultimate iteration, I'm calling it the "Mark II" PBS:

I don't have a set date for when the next MicroClone wave will drop, but it will certainly include the original figures, the two new augmented soldier types, and at least a few MkII Powered Bio Suits. A little something for everyone! Of course, all the details will be revealed here and I'll be making the announcement on ig and on the usual facebook groups.

There's more coming in 2016, of course...including a Shogun Voyager release that's bound to snap necks and cash checks. As I'm often fond of saying, stay tuned. ;) Oh, and more keshigomu collaborations are on the way. If I can somehow carve out the time to do it, I'd love to do another Spiral Zone keshi vehicle with my homeboy, Eric Nilla. So, yeah, LOTS going on!

Stay sucka free in 2016, y'all! Now go listen to some KRS-One!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

MicroClone

What up, people? Happy First Post of 2015...and as usual, I'm here to announce a quantum leap here at Brownnoize HQ! It's been several months in the works, but now I'm finally ready to reveal the big (micro?) project I've been cranking on. See, the response to the Powered Bio Suits (see previous posts!) has been crazy. And humbling. But I knew from the get that these things would be only realistically accessible to a small segment of the Micro-collecting community. When it takes around four days of blood, sweat, and tears just to make *one* toy, you have little choice but to charge a lot. I have no regrets, though, because the whole point of the PBS was to push the limits of what home-grown 3D printing could accomplish...and I'd like to think I made an impression in that regard! ;)

On the strength, the Powered Bio Suit was a ill learning experience for me. On one hand, it was a crash course in design-for-manufacture: not just CAD-modeling what you want the final toy to look like, but reconciling that with what geometries are optimal for printing, clean-up, assembly, etc. But on the other hand, it also forced me to get serious about package design, social media (peep my instagram feed!), gallery shows, and other stuff beyond the physical objects I was producing. Those lessons were vital to this whole game.

But it's time to take it back! This one is for the people. Now that I've had a chance to sharpen my swords, I can take bigger risks and continue testing the boundaries of what a consumer-grade FDM printer can do. And the result is something that I'm excited to be able to share with fellow collectors. I'm happy to present: the MicroClone!

It's kinda funny how this project came about...not to mention what it evolved into. See, I was sorta expecting *just* Diaclone and Microman fans to take notice of the PBS when it first dropped. But I was getting hit up by folks into "art" toys, 3D printing, or DIY jams in general. At gallery shows, it was getting kinda awkward to have to explain over and over why the toy was "empty"! LOL To be fair, the whole "Suit" thing isn't automatically obvious outside of Takara SF Land fans. So it dawned on me: why not develop a cheapie 3-3/4" action figure that I can just stuff into these suits for shows or other displays? And from there--since the PBS is a bootleg of the Diaclone Powered Suit--it was a no-brainer to design my figure around the "type 2" Diaclone driver that was originally sold with the vintage Powered Suits!

Well, you know it goes. At first, I said, okay: five points of articulation. I'll just use the 5mm ball-and-socket joints I'd been developing for the Shogun Voyager minis and call it a day. But then I kept poking and prodding--mostly at the behest of Matt Doughty and Ben Mininberg (see? this is why we peer review, folks). I quickly found that with a little massaging, I could work those ball joints into more areas of the figure. Yeah: a chance to design a *legit* 1/18 scale action figure with articulation that can rival a vintage Micro. No custom toy-maker would pass that up! So at the risk of potentially doubling my original target pricepoint, I decided once again to push the boundaries and see how far I could take this thing. And I'm happy to report that the result far exceeds a mere accessory for the PBS. It's a durable, nicely-poseable 10cm action figure that can interact with existing Microman/Micronaut figures and vehicles. And it can stand alone as a fully-fledged product.

The MicroClone now features 14 points of articulation, 10 of which are ball-joints. The head is on a 5mm peg for some Acroyer head-swapping fun! The waist is a 5mm swivel joint as well, and the wrists can rotate on a peg compatible with original Micro figures (more on that later!). The shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles are all ball-joints with a wide range of motion. In play-testing, I'm happy to report that these joints remain tight even after a considerable amount of abuse. Unlike your typical ABS plastic toys (which are completely solid and can actually "polish out" and become loose after excessive joint use), these 3D-printed parts are actually semi-hollow. That gives printed joint mechanisms a bit of springiness that's perfect for play! Still, after some destructive testing, I found that the old nail polish trick works perfectly: if a joint gets loose, simply pop apart the pieces and apply a thin layer of clear nail polish to one of the surfaces...wait 24 hours, reassemble, and you should be good.

And while you *can* disassemble the ball-joints, it's not really recommended as part of the play experience. It can be done, but I noticed after snapping them in and out a dozen times or so, they will eventually start to get loose. So if want to create a unique color combination for your figure, go right ahead--it should be fine. But don't get in the habit of doing it a ton. These aren't Glyos guys! ;)

Bits connected via 5mm pegs can be swapped all day, of course. The head, for instance, is actually available in four styles, representing different "modes" of the mechanical helmet. There's the open face helmet, which is it's default configuration. The visor mode features a shield that I like to imagine slides down from under the forehead shield to provide enhanced optics. Similarly, I imagine the armor bits for the mouth plate mode slide into place from the sides and lock into the chin strap to help with breathing in harsh environments. And finally, the full armor mode incorporates both the visor and mouth plate for combat missions in your sandbox. Each basic MicroClone figure will come with a single head, so when you click on the page of the color scheme you want, just select the desired head from the drop-down list at the bottom of the page.

But the 5mm-compatibility doesn't end there! There's a 5mm port (hole) on the back just like a classic Micro. There are additional ports on the thighs for mounting accessories, as well as ports on the bottom of the feet for connecting to display stands or for perching a figure on a vehicle. And speaking of the feet, they also have neodymium magnets. Because Diaclone. ;)

Each basic MicroClone figure also comes with a Pulse Pistol accessory, which incorporates a 5mm peg into the design for attaching to the figure when not in use. The handle of the pistol is roughly 2.5mm to match existing Microman weapons. Yes, that means that it can be used by stock Micro's, and vintage figures' weapons fit just fine in MicroClone hands. But y'all know me--I had to take it a step further! Remember when I mentioned that the wrists swivel on a Micro-compatible peg? Well that means hand-swapping! If you don't like the stock MicroClone hands, you can always give him an upgrade. Or if you need replacement hands for a vintage figure, it's no sweat.

One last note about these figures is the color schemes. I'll obviously be making them in a variety of colors, but there are two main "styles" available. The Microman-style figures will feature color separation reminiscent of the original Microman/Micronaut figures: the chest, arms, and thighs are the primary color of the figure, while the pelvis and lower legs are the figure's secondary color. Alternatively, the Diaclone-style figures will be separated like the original Diaclone drivers: the chest and pelvis are the primary color, while the full arms and legs will be the secondary color. Both styles will have black feet and Pulse Pistol, and glow-in-the-dark head and chest piece (though I may switch up these colors in the future for fun!). The hands of the Microman-style figures will be GID as well.

As for the fluff, I like to imagine that these guys come from an alternate dimension where the Microman and Diaclone universes are truly one and the same! After having protected Earth time and time again from the Acroyer invasion, the Microman race has formed an alliance with humanity in exchange for their continued hospitality. In order to respond to extra-dimensional (as well as extra-terrestrial) threats, the Diaclone Corps were developed using a hybrid of Earth and Micro Earth technology. The standard "Diamond Cyclone" armor suit (the MicroClone) is powered by the Phase Driver (the figure's glow chest piece), and allows the human wearer to shrink down to Micro-size (roughly 10cm) and even withstand the rigors of inter-dimensional travel. Their continuing adventures are up to you! ;)

Much like the Powered Bio Suits, these toys will be sold exclusively through Monster Kolor. The initial run of these guys will be a limited "wave 0" release at 8PM EDT, Saturday night, May 30th. Rather than delaying their release even further, I wanted to do this sort of pre-production run of the figures. These older-generation figures have stable, fully-functional joints and work fine overall as action figures, but their hands don't have 100% compatibility with original Micro's. The full hand-swapping functionality described above won't be available until the official "wave 1" release later this summer. Also, existing Micro weapons don't fit as snugly as I'd like in the hands of these older figures. I know these are very minor nit-picks...but if I weren't a damn perfectionist, you wouldn't be getting figures of this quality in the first place! ;) May 30th's "wave 0" release will be discounted to $18 (from the regular retail price of $20) to make up for the hand-compatibility issue.

I really hope you guys like these figures! It definitely stung hearing from fellow Micro collectors who dug the Powered Bio Suit but couldn't afford them. My hope is that these guys will make up for that and allow more folks to get into the game and appreciate how far home-printing has come. Please spread the word and always feel free to let me know what you think! Peace, peace.