Customizer of the Month- September 2007- Derek Combs
Name: Derek Combs

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

DC: I am a 40 year-old pastor/minister by day; customizer by night. That means I only work on Sundays and Wednesdays and mess around with action figures the rest of the time! What a life! I have a beautiful wife and 3 very active boys (12, 7, and 3) who love me and my toys very much! (Sometimes I think my boys love my toys more – they argue over who will get what when I pass on). I was born in San Diego, California – GO BOLTS! – and moved to Arkansas after my father retired from a military career with the Marine Corps. I’ve lived on both coasts and everywhere in between. I have collected 1930’s Disney memorabilia in the past, but now concentrate on anything Amazing Spiderman. Before I became a minister, my plans were to become a Disney animator or comic book artist.

CM: How did you get started collecting mego?

DC: It seems I have been a collector my whole life. As an adult, I started out collecting old Mickey Mouse toys, then silver and golden age comic books, sports cards, Captain Action, and finally Mego about 2 years ago. My mother brought out my Amazing Spiderman and Hulk, and the search began.

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

DC: The Circle Suit Spiderman. I cannot get enough of that suit. It haunts my dreams. My favorite line (surprise of surprises) is the Spiderman line (Alter Ego Peter Parker, Spiderman, Green Goblin, and Lizard).

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).

DC: Being the Spiderman fan that I am, I would have to say Spiderman villains. I would have loved to have owned a Doc Ock, Mysterio, or Kraven the Hunter as a kid.

CM: What motivated you to start customizing?

DC: I could not find an Alter Ego Peter Parker for sale. I had one as a kid and like most Megos that kids owned, he went the way of the garage sale. My best option at the time seemed to be to make a Peter Parker until I could buy one.

CM: What was your first custom?

DC: Peter Parker transitioning into Spiderman. I did not want to make a Peter Parker that looked exactly like the Mego Alter Ego. I saw a custom somewhere of Clark Kent transitioning into Superman and was very impressed by it.

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

DC: I think I did okay even though I didn’t have a ghost of an idea of what I was doing. My art background is the only thing that saved me from making a complete mess.

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

DC: Where do I begin? Over the past year I have learned so much from the customizing community. From painting eyes to sewing suits, making material choices to restringing figures, I would not be where I am after a year without all the help from so many people. I began making “mego-esque” and have moved to what many called “flatt style” customs. Believe it or not, I love to make BOTH. I think some figures look better as Mego would have done it and some demand more attention and detail.

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

DC: After doing this for a year, I have come to the conclusion that my imagination is my strongest asset. As an artist, you have to be able to see what you are painting, drawing, inking, etc. in your mind’s eye before you ever put it on canvas or paper. I think the same works with customizing action figures. I visualize what I want in my mind before I ever begin, and I do not settle for anything less in the finished product. I really enjoy painting heads (even though I hate doing the eyes) and sewing suits that I have not done before, as well as making the accessories.

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?).

DC: Customizing action figures begins with the head. A great head translates into a great figure in my opinion. Russ, Dave, Austin, Laurie, and others do the customizing community a GREAT SERVICE by offering fantastic heads! I have about 3 sites that I go to for nuts and bolts information that I need: James Brady’s “megomadhouse” site, Russ Pittman’s “custommego” site, and of course…the customego section here at the Museum. Anything I need to know I find on one of those three sites. Probably the most invaluable information comes from the feedback, private messages, and phone conversations that I have with several veteran customizers this past year.

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?

DC: My favorite custom is the Punisher from Amazing Spiderman #129. There are some great Punisher customs out there, but I wanted to do one that was as accurate to the first appearance as I could. I think I achieved that goal. My best work to date would have to be the Silver Surfer. Of all my customs, I think he looks like something that could be store bought.

CM: Why do you choose the projects you choose?

DC: Three words: Spiderman, Spiderman, Spiderman. Seriously, it’s all about the webslinger and his universe. 95% of the customs I make are Spiderman-related because he is my favorite and always will be. I love my Scooby Doo line as well as anything that is early Marvel (Hulk, X-Men Fantastic Four, etc.), but the Amazing Spiderman universe will always be my top priority. It is what takes me back to my childhood the most.

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

DC: There is so much good work out there, but I guess there are 4 that really stand out to me (primarily because they are spidey villains but also because they are the best I’ve seen of these three characters): Type3Toys’ Mysterio and Hobgoblin, Captain Mego’s Green Goblin, and Ed Nagy’s Kraven the Hunter.

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

DC: More Scooby Doo villains (The Ghost Clown, The Spooky Space Kook, The Ghost of Redbeard, and The Caveman), more Spiderman villains (Kingpin, Green Goblin, Tarantula, Kraven, and Black Cat), Mary Jane Watson (Peter is lonely), a few random Marvel characters, and Kato to finish out my Green Hornet line.

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

DC: I think it keeps it interesting in that customizers are constantly bringing characters to 8” life that Mego never did. And because customizers needs parts/pieces to make these characters, they are always on the prowl for Mego or Mego-like figures to alter/customize into new figures.

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

DC: Picture the finished product before you ever start your work. Look at comic books, comic art, pictures on the internet, characters others have done…and study them. Notice the details, the face, clothing, accessories, etc. Don’t take anything for granted – it will be so worth it when you are finished. Don’t be afraid to try something new. For instance, just because you don’t think you can sew or paint, doesn’t mean you can’t. It just means you haven’t attempted to do so yet. Give it a try. And if you fail, do not be afraid to ask for help and try again. I look back on where I was a year ago and wonder, “would I still be customizing today if I hadn’t tried to do this or that?”

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

DC: My wife thought it was strange at first, but now she gets it. As my work progresses, she critiques me and points out things I could do better or different. My 3 boys LOVE my customs. As I’ve stated, they argue over who is going to get what when I die. I remind them that I’m going to be buried with them in my coffin. The people that I pastor are mixed in their reactions: children and teenagers are amazed at the figures and want me to make them one, while adults usually look at me strange…unless they owned a Mego as a kid!

DC: I want to thank everyone for the help and guidance shown me this last year.  I have learned so much from so many people.  Without that help, I wouldn't have been able to do some of the work I've done.  One of the things I love about the Mego Museum is the sharing of ideas, knowledge, parts, etc that takes place on an almost daily basis.  I really do look forward to what the customizing future holds for all of us.

CM: Thanks for chatting with us Derek!