Customizer of the Month- July 2007- Thomas Meuleman
Name: Thomas Meuleman

CM: Any Personal Info you are willing to share: (married? Kids? Pets? Occupation? Where from? Other hobbies,/Interests?).

TM: Iím a 31 year old journalist and have a girlfriend Dafne. We bought a house a couple of months ago, but thereís still a lot of work to be done. Weíre in no rush, taking it one step at a time. No kids (yet), but we have one cat called Tiger. Next to collecting and customizing Megos I also collect vintage Batman toys and skulls. Iím also a big horror fan and a Batman 1966 fan. I have a Adam West Batman costume, a Julie Newmar Catwoman outfit and half a Burt Ward Robin outfit. Iím now getting mannequins to dress Ďem in those outfits. Newmar is done, now to find some (cheap) male mannequins. I hope to add Batgirl and Riddler to that collection and I should also be able to get a G.O.O.N. (Penguin hensman) together. Other main villains (Penguin, Joker, Mr. Freeze, ...) are a little harder. I also have several replica props from the TV show like a Batshield, a Batradio, Batarangs, Bookwormís book, False Faceís mask, ... The vintage Batman toys and skulls have been put on hold a bit since Mego and Batman 1966 are pretty much using up all my spending cash.

CM: How did you get started collecting mego?

TM: Sheís probably regretting it already, but Dafne got me started. She knew I was a Batman fan and collected vintage toys, so for my 28th birthday she got me a French carded Batman. I had never seen anything like it before and did some Googling and found the Museum. Going through the galleries I saw what other Batman related figures were available and I just had to have those too. I also noticed Star Trek and monster figures existed, so those were immediately on my want list as well.

CM: What is your favorite original mego figure and line?

TM: Favorite figure: RC Batman, itís the cowl that does it. The painted cowl version isnít nearly as cool as the RC version. Favorite line is a little harder. Iím impressed with the Star Trek line: the likenesses are pretty darn good and Romulan, Andorian and Mugato are way cool. Even tho Mugato is all wrong, I really like the outfit. Pure Mego.

CM: What is, in your opinion, the biggest "hole" in mego's original lines. (what figure or figure line is missing that should have been done).

TM: Seeing how I love the Star Trek line I guess my answer should be obvious: Chekov and Sulu. I canít understand how Mego ďforgotĒ those two, they were just as important as Uhura. Thanks to Doc Mego I have corrected that mistake. Hopefully EMCE Toys will be a huge succes and weíll eventually see rubber head versions. Not so much a hole in the original line, but a couple more Batman villains wouldíve been nice too, like Two Face, Mr. Freeze and Scarecrow. They couldíve reused some of the WOZ Scarecrow parts for that last one. And more monsters, lots more monsters. Iím glad CTVT released a second series. If they could do it surely Mego couldíve done it as well. There are still so many classic horror movies to choose from. And I bet getting licensed was cheaper and easier back then than it is now. It shouldnít be a surprise that my customs all belong to one of these three lines.

CM: What motivated you to start customizing?

TM: Seeing all the cool work from others. People were showing off Star Trek customs, Batman villains, monsters, ... and to be honest I was jealous. I wanted all those figures too, but I knew buying them would be way too expensive, so I decided to give customizing a try.

CM: What was your first custom?

TM: I started several at once, but if I remember correctly the first one I finished was Batman Dead End. Thatís typically me: I had never tried customizing before and in stead of trying just one I immediately started working on several.

CM: How did it come out? (looking back on it now)

TM: Well, it definitely wasnít the best version out there, but for a first time I guess it was OK. I used a Bikin Batman, made a cape, gloves, belt and custom emblem. It did get Sandy Collora to become a member of the Museum and we eventually ended up trading one of his BDE customs for mine. I couldnít give up my very first custom, so I made him another. So, I guess it couldnít have been all that bad. LOL

CM: What have you done/learned that has improved your customizing skills?

TM: Painting eyes. When I started I simply painted a black dot and that was it. After seeing Dave Mcís tutorial from Megocon I got a lot better at it. Still havenít nailed it, but itís definitely an improvement over my first attempts. And learning to sew (well, Iím still learning) has made things easier as well. I sew by hand, canít work a machine, so that takes a little longer. Because of that I tend to put it off, but eventually it has to be done. I guess it would be easier to have all my sewing done for me and I have taken the easy way out, but Iíd like to do most of the work myself. However, I do know my limits, so when somethingís too hard to do, I have someone else do it. Iíd rather have something done by someone else that looks good than do it myself and have it look like crap. And a couple of months ago I sculpted a head for the first time: The Reptile. Thank God she has a hideous snake skinned head, didnít have to be perfect. LOL

CM: What areas of customizing is your strongest points, or favorite things to do?

TM: I donít know if you can call it a strong point, but I have patience (for customs anyway), I donít rush my work. Not anymore anyway. I learned to be patient, which wasnít easy. It can take me months to finish a certain custom simply because I couldnít find the right parts. I also enjoy painting, the more intricate the more I enjoy it. Nothing more fun than adding all the small details and seeing something come alive. Same goes for making costumes. Even tho it was a lot of work I really enjoyed making King Tutís outfit. Adding layer after layer and all the gold detail really was worth it looking at it now.

CM: What resources make it easier for you as a customizer? (is there a source for parts? Information? Etc. that aids you more than anything else?).

TM: Before there werenít as many places you could get parts, nowadays there are so many sources for heads, suits, parts: Doc Mego, Russ, Reproheads, Dave Mc, Brian Leitner, CTVT (Paul and Joe), ... you name it and they keep coming. There are so many sources even someone with no customizing skills can make a work of art. Showing off your work to others is a good way to get advice on what looks good and what could be improved. I know my work has improved because of the advice of other customizers. I would recommend visiting CustoMego first if you have a certain question. With all the how-toís and tutorials there almost every question can be answered. And if you canít find it there just ask on the boards. Youíll get three different ways of doing something for every question.

CM: What is your favorite custom you've done and do you think it's your best work? If not, what do you think is your best work?

TM: Well, most of my customs arenít very original, meaning theyíve been done so many times by others, but I am proud of my Worldís Greatest Authors series. Todd got me started on those when he gave me a custom Edgar Allan Poe. I added Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I considered that line to be finished, but now Iím doubting again... I may add some more after all, havenít decided yet.

But the most fun project for me is Batman 1966. I want to customize every main character and vehicle from that show. Eventually Iíd like to build the Batcave as well, but weíll see... Iíve done 26 now and Iím about half way through. Iíve also done the Batmobile and the Batcycle is half finished. Finding the right heads is getting harder and harder, but I still have some ideas before I hit a brick wall. After that Iím gonna have to rely on the community. Two heads are better than one they say, imagine what a couple of hundred heads can come up with.

Iím especially proud Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Yvonne Craig and Malachi Throne signed their boxes. Those are definitely key pieces in my collection. I think Frankenstein and Wolf Man from my Classic Movie Monsters line are pretty good as well. The heads (from Russ) have a great likeness to the actual character from the movie and with a good paint job the work is half done.

CM: Why do you choose the projects you choose?

TM: Personal interest mostly, but like I said Todd got me started on the Worldís Greatest Authors. Since Iím a horror fan I chose authors from classic horror novels to add to the line. Youíll rarely see me do a custom I donít want for myself. If and when I do itís usually a present for someone.

CM: What are your favorite customs others have done and why?

TM: With all the talent out there itís very hard to choose a favorite custom. First that comes to mind tho is Derekís Scooby Doo line. Those are dead on perfect. I also enjoy Anthonyís obscure Batman villains and heís a master box maker, I think I have over 50 of his boxes, beautiful stuff. Dave Mc and James Bradyís Star Trek customs are also on the ďfavorites from othersĒ list. In fact they inspired me to do some myself. I wasnít around when Dave and James offered their customs for sale, so I had to make Ďem myself. And let me tell you, those guys have some big shoes to fill. Oh, and definitely Matt Jaycoxís monsters. Like with Dave and James he was the reason I started doing monster customs. Alberto Malnati has a very unique style. I have some of his work in my collection and itís much better in person than in the pics. I also start drooling every time I see Thunderbolt, Type3Toys and BlackKnight have started a new thread in Customs. Their attention to detail is mind blowing. Iím forgetting about a dozen (if not more) other skilled customizers, so my apologies to all of them.

CM: What is on your "to do" list in the near future?

TM: Batman 1966, Star Trek and movie monsters. I still have over 20 Batman villains to do, so thatís gonna keep me busy for quite a while. I also have several monsters in the works and there are some Trek aliens on my to do list as well, it never ends. LOL

CM: How do you think customizing affects the mego collecting hobby?

TM: Itís a logical next step to me. There are only so many characters made by Mego and still lots more that couldíve been made itís only natural to want to add more to your collection. CTVT kinda did the same thing when they released the second monster line, but in a much larger scale of course. Some of their lines werenít the best choice, but hey, we got new Megos. And new characters mean new head sculpts and new outfits, which in turn benefits the customizer. And take Doc Mego for instance. He started out making repro parts to help complete your figures and to supply parts to customizers. And now look at what heís doing: heís rereleasing Star Trek Megos. We might even see characters never before released, like Sulu and Chekov. And heís working together with James Brady on a Night of the Living Dead line. Again, new Megos. Customizing has helped Mego grow and hopefully it will continue to do so. I hope kids will love these new lines as much as 30-40 year old guys loved the originals back when they were kids.

CM: Any tips or words of customizing advise to new customizers?

TM: Donít be afraid to try new things. Iíve been doing this for 2,5 years now and Iím still learning. And if something doesnít quite work or look good the first time: donít give up, just try again... and again and again if necessary. But whatever you do, never rush it. I was too impatient in the beginning and usually had to correct some mistakes or touch up the paint because I was in too much of a hurry. Patience is the key. If you have questions: check out CustoMego or ask them on the boards.

CM: Do you sell custom figures or parts? If so, why?

TM: I have given some of my customs as presents to other members and I traded a BDE with Sandy Collora, but to date I have only sold one custom and not so long ago actually. It was on commission, first time for me. I was honored someone wanted to pay for one of my customs. Greatest flattery you can get as a customizer. Since then I got two more requests.

CM: What does your family/friends think of your mego custom work/hobby?

TM: My family has come to expect the weirdest stuff from me, so seeing I started collecting 8Ē action figures was not really a surprise to them. But when I told them I actually made Ďem too... well, they werenít expecting that, especially when they learned I sewed some of the outfits myself. Most people that come to visit me are immediately drawn to my collection and want to know about them. For some a simple explanation is enough, others are really interested in them. When Dafne and I still lived in an apartment she wasnít too happy with having my Megos in the living room, but she does like the figures themselves. Actually, I think she likes my customs more than the originals. She even helps me sometimes with sewing or sculpting small parts and accessories.

TM: Iíd like to thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am now with my customs. Iíve worked together with some of you and I hope to continue working together. But most importantly Iíve made some friends here that no money or rare Mego can replace.

CM: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Thomas!