Antje (dieastra) wrote,

My life with action figures - an interview with dieastra by dieastra

I want to take part in selenic76's Fandom Fest!

So, I basically interviewed myself. This is what happened:

If you don’t mind me asking – how old are you exactly?

I turned 40 last year – why do you ask?

And you are still playing with dolls?!?

Well, yeah. Guess I have kept my inner child, and I love it. I don’t intend to grow up anytime soon, I have way too much fun. And it is action figures, please. There’s a difference. I think my figures might feel offended if you called them dolls!

Tell me more about it. What is so fascinating about them?

They look like the actors! The faces and the clothes are done very well. Well, except that one Captain Jack Harkness figure who comes a bit cross-eyed. And not only mine, everyone was complaining about this. Makes him look a bit daft ;) Setting up scenes with the figures is in a way like fanfiction with pictures. You can make them do pretty much everything you want. Sorry shippers and slashers, taking their clothes off might be a bit difficult, if not impossible, but everything else is fair game. They never complain, they never get tired. They tend to fall over from time to time, which is especially bad if you had put a tea tray into Ianto’s hands and have to pick up the pieces every time...

I also had a few losses already, one Jack O’Neill broke his wrist, and one Jack Harkness has a broken nose from falling down onto the pavement when we were shooting out on location.

What do you mean – one? How many of them do you have?

Here is where it gets interesting. Once the figure bug has bitten you, there is no turning back. They seem to multiply, I should check whether it is an alien virus or something...

For example, Jack Harkness. It started with Doctor Who Jack, in the Air Force uniform he wore in the episode “The Empty Child”, and naturally he brings the empty child in the gas mask with him. John Barrowman said in an interview recently that he had to approve the figure and made them actually use his face instead of just a generic one. I’m glad he did – who would’ve wanted to buy a Jack Harkness that did not look like John Barrowman?

You can get the Torchwood Jack with the light blue shirt and rolled up sleeves (and crossed eyes – ah, never mind). You can get the same figure in the dark blue shirt as a special limited one which therefore is a bit more expensive.
You can also get the Doctor Who Jack with his long grey coat. There are two variants, one comes with the hand of the Doctor in the jar, the other one with the Webley. Of course you understand that I had to buy both, right?

Finally, there is a very rare Jack which comes from a set with other figures, this one is in the dark blue shirt (no coat), but not with rolled up sleeves – instead they are long sleeves and even have the little planes as cuff links. I love and use this one the most, as he has a cut at the upper arm which means he can turn his arms inwards, whereas the Torchwood Jacks can only put them straight forward. Imagine Zombies.

 photo 01-Jacks.jpg

Shall I go on?

Same for the Tenth Doctor figure – he comes in blue and brown suit, with or without glasses, with or without the coat and in combinations of suit with coat and glasses, and also in the red and in the orange space suit, and the orange space suit comes in either clean or dirty... needless to say, I have them all.

 photo 02-Doctors.jpg

You still haven’t said how many exactly you have.

Well, if you insist... At the moment, I have 8 Torchwood figures and 47 Doctor Who figures. I might have to stop collecting now though, as they changed the size for upcoming figures from 5” to 3.5”.

That’s not too much, then?

Do I hear some irony there?
Well, I also have 21 Stargate SG-1 figures and 10 from Stargate: Atlantis, and then there is also Superman & Batman, the Terminator & Indiana Jones, Mulder & Scully, Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the sheep & friends, Shakespeare & van Gogh, and some figures from Primeval, even though I never watched this.

Wait – Shakespeare and van Gogh? Didn’t the Doctor once meet them in an episode? You could try to make a scene from that, maybe when van Gogh signed his Sunflower painting for Amy – you do have an Amy, right?

Hah! I knew it! See? You already are thinking like a real action figure theatre maker. There might be hope for you yet.
And why do you think I bought them in the first place?

Ahem. Never mind. But you must be crazy, buying figures of a series you never watched!

Maybe – but have you seen the cool technical equipment and computer stuff they come with? My Tosh was very happy to use this in her Torchwood Hub!

 photo 03-equipment.jpg

That looks like John Barrowman there on one of the computer screens?!?

That is a leftover from last year, when I set up a little story about the Torchwood team celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee. Watching the TV coverage, Tosh had spotted a man suspiciously looking like Jack Harkness on the first boat from the pageant on the river Thames.

 photo 04a-jubilee1.jpg photo 04b-jubilee2.jpg

Now I understand what you mean with “Action Figure Theatre”. Do you play alone or with friends?

Both. Sometimes I have an idea and already see the whole scene in my head. I also have been inspired by other people’s fanfictions or drabbles. Sometimes I just look through the many miniature things I keep in boxes and drawers. The idea to do the whole Hamlet theatre play with Doctor Who and Torchwood figures came from me finding a little crown. I kept digging and also found a skull, a gun (for shooting Polonius), a sword, a book, a knife and a camera. My fingers were itching to start right away. Problem was, that it already was 2 AM at a workday...

So I decided this was something worth doing properly. First I had to make a Hamlet – by changing a Tenth Doctor figure aka David Tennant. Then I invited a friend, who brought also some of her figures and accessories, and we cast the figures for their roles by their hair color or the clothes they wore. Rose was blond, so she became Gertrude. Mickey was right for playing Horatio, as he had the same skin color, and I guess I don’t need to tell you who played the soldier in the long coat!

But the most fun is when I invite several friends and just put the figures on the table. It’s never long before someone starts to try out what they can do, and some of the most funny pictures have come from this, I remember laughing till my belly hurt. Also the spontaneous comments and one thing leading to the other are sometimes hilarious.

Wait – what do you mean, you made a Hamlet?

It’s called customizing. Thanks to two lovely people – roll my blues in the Stargate fandom and Snow in the John Barrowman fandom – I have taken my first steps into what has become my new obsession. Sometimes I cut things off with a sharp knife – in Hamlet’s case, I had to get rid of the suit jacket and the shirt collar and the tie. I carved down the suit sleeves to bare arms and I added some pieces with a clay called “Milliput” which is used by model builders. It can be easily shaped when soft and after two – three hours it hardens and then can be cut further or painted.

For the Hamlet I also had to change the shoes into naked feet, which took me a while to form.

 photo 05a-Hamlet1.jpg photo 05b-Hamlet2.jpg

 photo 05c-Hamlet3.jpg

Some of the Hamlet pictures we did even ended up in the Shakespeare magazine: (pages 18-21, and a small biography of myself on page 46)

Another figure I recently finished is Owen Harper from the Torchwood team.

 photo 06a-Owen1.jpg

Why didn’t you just buy him?

 photo 06b-Owen2.jpg

I would if I could! Sadly, there never was an official Owen figure. There was supposed to be one, some lucky people already saw the prototype, but then (Beware! Spoilers!) he died and they must have figured (hah!) nobody would buy a figure of a dead character. Whenever I did a picture story with the whole Torchwood team, Owen was missing. I ran out of excuses why he was the only one remaining in the Hub while everyone else was out having fun, so I just broke down and made him.

I apologise, I have forgotten who had originally the idea to use a Toby figure from the episode “The Impossible Planet”. Paint one of the famous Owen t-shirts onto him and add the white coat from Doctor Constantine in “The Doctor Dances” and voilá, you have an Owen.

I’m from former Eastern Germany. Back then it was usual to make the things which you couldn’t buy with your own hands. Many were very talented and crafty. I guess this has stayed with me a little. One of the first things I ever did back then were some Wild West figures from a book series by famous German adventure author Karl May. You could not buy any merchandise for it, so I created my own, and used the descriptions in the books. Here are Winnetou and Old Shatterhand:

 photo 07a-WildWest1.jpg photo 07b-WildWest2.jpg photo 07c-WildWest3.jpg

Where do you get all those cute small things I see in your pictures from?

Let me tell you, when you work with miniatures, you start to see the world with different eyes. You scan everything whether it might be useful or not. Of course, there are lots of online shops which sell furniture, food or kitchen items for dollhouses – not for kids to play with but for adults, who decorate dollhouses. Like these:

 photo 08-kitchenstuff.jpg

There is practically nothing from the real world you can’t buy in miniature. Most of those items are handmade by very talented people, and sometimes very expensive. Most are also made for Victorian times and it can be a bit hard to find modern stuff.

So I also look outside the obvious. Attachments of key rings work very well, for example. I once bought two lovely bags which my figures use for travel now. They even have zippers and can be opened and closed. I just removed the keyrings. I have bought more from this seller since, and have shown her pictures of what I do with her things. She loves it. The last time she said that the whole office had wondered what I wanted with this particular item. You know you are famous when your eBay seller wonders what you do with her stuff!

Another time I was looking at my father’s Christmas tree and admiring all those tiny brass instruments hanging on it. Then it hit me: They are the perfect size! So when Christmas was over I asked him to not store them away till next year but let me play with them. And we made a New Year’s Eve big band and orchestra with the “Torchwood” and “Doctor Who” heroes, and also some of their enemies. They played well together for once.

 photo 09a-concert1.jpg photo 09b-concert2.jpg

Sometimes, I also take them outside. If you get the right angle for the camera, it looks as if they are really standing in all those places. I took my Torchwood and Doctor Who figures to Cardiff:

 photo 10a-Cardiff1.jpg photo 10b-Cardiff2.jpg

I took my Stargate SG-1 figures to Vancouver where the series was shot:

 photo 11a-Vancouver1.jpg photo 11b-Vancouver2.jpg

And the Doctor showed me around London:

 photo 12a-London1.jpg photo 12b-London2.jpg photo 12c-London3.jpg

A while later, I showed him my home-city Dresden:

 photo 13a-Dresden1.jpg photo 13b-Dresden2.jpg

(All these are only one or two pictures of complete stories, but I don’t want to spam you so those should be enough as teasers)

Intriguing. I want to see more of this. Do you have a website?

Funny you should ask! I have several links for you. Here are some masterlists which have all the links to the stories:

Torchwood stories:

Doctor Who stories:

John Barrowman stories:

Arrow stories:

Stargate stories:

Customized figures:

If Livejournal doesn’t work for some reason, there is also a copy of each list on Dreamwidth:

I also have set up a Facebook page for them now, where I will upload all pictures in time. You can find it here:

And the figures are on Tumblr:

Finally, you can follow me on Twitter, where I always announce new additions:

So, are you the only one in the world doing these kind of pictures?

Oh no! There are many others. Very different styles and scenes, but we all share the fun. If you are so inclined, here are some more links for you.

A community for lovers of action figure theatre on Livejournal – it is multifandom and very varied: action_tales

I also recently found this great page called “Adventures Of The Guys”. It is about all the different characters the actor Ben Browder has played in movies and TV series. The way Beth is setting up the figures makes them look like real people – small people in a big world and it’s very funny. Here is a link to all the albums with lots of pictures:

I also have seen pictures of people who built a miniature Torchwood Hub, a Hobbit hole or the complete apartment of Doctor House. The Torchwood Hub can be looked at here: or, if you prefer to leave a comment, here:

And that would be the link to the House apartment:

Some of those people have become close friends of mine. So you see, there really isn’t anything you cannot do.

Do John Barrowman and David Tennant actually know about these?

Last year I showed David Tennant the Hamlet figure and gave him an album with the figure pictures, but sadly there was not much time to talk about it as it was a busy convention. Next time I’ll see him, I’ll ask how he liked it!

I was also lucky enough to show some of my work to John Barrowman and anyone who knows him knows he loves action figures (he also has a big collection). So he was quite amazed and wanted a copy of the album. His sister Carole even re-tweeted a link to a picture story where I let my figures read a tiny version of the book “Hollow Earth” they have written together.

And when she said she’d loved to have an action figure of herself I thought: ‘Why not?’ And so I created Carole Barrowman:

 photo 14-Carole.jpg

The totally overwhelming finale to this story is that a few weeks later, when John and Carole were guests at the American TV show “The Morning Blend”, they showed a picture of it and talked about me for a few seconds. I was totally surprised as I certainly hadn’t expected that.

This link leads right to the moment, it’s at 06:55 in this video:

 photo 15-TheMorningBlend.jpg

And back in March, when she was over here for the book signing of “Bone Quill”, I took the opportunity to give her her figure:

 photo 16-CaroleampI.jpg

Awesome. I think this is a great way to end the interview. Thank you so much for your time!

No, thank you. It was a pleasure to talk about my hobby. I invite everyone to try it out as well, and if you do, please show me your pictures! I always love to see the work of others.

This article has also been posted here:
Tags: action figures, carole barrowman, john barrowman, meme, picspam

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