Introduce yourself and let readers know where they can see your work.
Hello, fellow Legionnaires! I’m Joe Vasapollo from New Jersey. You might have seen my work featured during both G-Con webcasts and in person at the very first LegionsCon. While I’m active in many Mythic Legions and other action figure collector groups, you can see a majority of my work on the Mythic Legions Cabal Facebook group.
How long have you been customizing action figures?
I’ve been at it for about 23 years. My first (that wasn’t a GI Joe or LEGO mini-figure) was a Nightwing made from a Robin from the “Batman and Robin” film toy line. I sculpted hair, boots and gloves, and painted it black and blue. I was happy enough with the results that I no longer waited for companies to make what I wanted, I just made it myself.
What got you into Mythic Legions?
I remember seeing articles featuring prototypes and mock-ups of the toy line on various collector sites. Being a huge nerd for anything sword and sorcery, it was the kind of line that I’d been wanting since I was a young child. Plus, it was made by the masterminds behind MOTU 200X which only helped to pique my interest. I missed the Kickstarter somehow, and bought my first figure, Gorgo Aetherblade, on eBay for $38 loose/complete shipped! I was impressed with the designs and potential for customizing within the line itself, I was HOOKED. After that, I bought from every in-stock sale, pre-order, and Kickstarter after.
Do you have what you would call a signature custom, or any favorite customs you have done?
I would say my first ML custom, a simple repaint of the bronze dwarf Legion builder, is my favorite (shown below). It’s another “Black & Blue Special” that I have a habit of churning out. It’s a great example of how a little bit of color can make a huge difference on a great canvas. And it looks really good standing next to Ragna Stormforger in the case. Soon, I began using parts from other toy lines, modifying them to work on the bucks as if they were made for them. Chopping and swapping has become a sort of meditation since, sometimes replacing sleep.
What are your favorite kinds of mythic legions customs to do?
That’s a tough one, we love them all! But if I’m going by the numbers, barbarians have taken up most of my time. Parts from other toy lines complement the character type very well. A lot of wrestling figures make terrific brutal warriors for obvious reasons, just add some weapons and armor. Orcs and Dwarves come in at a close second and third. Third party part makers have given us some incredible options to play with and they only amplify the already stellar designs produced by the Horsemen.
Do you have any “wish list” character types or races that you would like to see from Mythic Legions, and which you would love to be able to work with as a customizer?
I would love to see some GARGOYLES. The Stan Winston line of “Extreme Gargoyles” was a favorite of mine way back, the concepts were both classic and intense, and I’d like to see the direction 4H would go with them.
A lot of the body parts already exist in the current inventory to make it happen; bare body, orc bare hands and feet, wings, shoulders and tails, with the exception of heads. They could come up with some really wild designs considering what they’ve done with the demons and animal hybrids so far, it’s sort of the same wheelhouse. But to make them different from what we have seen before, maybe get a rough stone like texture paint on them compared to the smooth applications we’re used to seeing now, throw some cracks in there, too. It could be they’re own special feature like flocking was to vintage Masters of the Universe figures. Even if we only got one in the Deluxe builder style with multiple heads and tail’s with sets of wings (feathered AND bat styles), I would be ecstatic! Don’t even need weapons, it could be all body parts and some armor options.
Also, wizards, warlocks and sorceress’s in the 2.0 body styles would be really fun to work with. You could stretch then pretty far, one for each element, a good and bad per race or faction. They would be a good gateway for new spell FX accessories and soft good robes, as well.
What kinds of tools do you use your customs work, including paints and brushes?
I am still using my father’s paintbrushes from when he worked on model car kits. He kept them in terrific condition and I have since added some of my own to the collection. I do not follow any particular brand, I simply use or purchase the type I need for whatever I’m doing.
As for paint, I use DecoArt, FolkArt, Tamiya Color, and Apple Barrel acrylic paints that you can find at most craft stores, nothing fancy. However, I’ve seen what some people have done with some higher end names like Vallejo, so I may be trying them myself soon.
I have a plethora of X-Acto knives for chopping and trimming parts, and a Dremel tool to persuade parts to get along well. A Dremel tool is a terrific investment and allows you to get details you couldn’t with blades and heavier powered drills.
What would people be surprised to learn about your customizing or collecting hobby?
I’m very lucky to have been raised by creative parents. I would watch my father build custom replica model Automobiles for people that would reflect every detail of their ride from the interior colors, wheel and tire style, down to the real license plate state and number. He would have to hunt down multiple parts from other kits and brands to bring it all together (sound familiar?) I didn’t care for cars much, but I loved watching his process, and he encouraged and guided me early on to use his techniques on my figures. He spent his last night on earth at a hobby show showing off his work and selling his parts to fellow creators.
My mother bakes and crochets, she taught me the importance of color, texture and patterns. Her cakes were as much a treat for the eyes as they were for the tongue.
Working in technical theatre and events for 19 years taught me how to use tools and materials to make concept reality in any scale. You need to make the audience believe everything they see is real, if only for a moment. And it helps if it’s done in style.
When I’m not working on Legions, I am building Legos with my son and modifying other action figure lines, mostly comic and movie related.
Any tips or suggestions for Mythic fans looking to start customizing?
Start small. You don’t need to paint every inch of the figure and have 12 different parts from third parties and other toy lines to make something incredible. A lot of what you need exists within the Mythic line already.
Buy what you like in pre-orders so you don’t miss out on parts for your project. Do you like the body, but not the head? Get it anyway and swap it out later, look at the figures for the parts, not just the character.
Once you're comfortable with that, dig in your toy box and see what else fits with the line. There’s tons of stuff from 1983 to now that works perfectly.
Don’t worry about what others will think of your work, make what makes you happy! We all have different skill levels and you’re not always going to get it right the first time, and that’s OK. Do your best, it doesn’t have to BE the he best. Trying not to suck can take a lot of practice, but that is part of the fun. Do you want to make your favorite sports mascot into an epic warrior with the teams colors? Run with it.
If you like what someone else did and you want to try it, go for it. Ask them for suggestions, a ton of creators in this comunity are super friendly and would be happy to share the details. This particular community thrives on creativity and tends to play well together.
Third party parts come in all different styles and qualities. Make sure you have an understanding of the basic use of these parts like cleaning before painting, warming the item and trimming edges before attaching or swapping. Not everything they make is plug and play, and you don’t want to find out the hard (and expensive) way of the work needed to make them work.
Final question – who is your favorite non-customized Mythic Legions figure?
So many great figures, it changes by the glance for me. But if I think about which is the most important, I would say the Deluxe Barbarian Legion Builder. It was at the start of it all and truly expressed the potential for customization in the line with a load of parts and great color choices. He’s got the look for both good and evil, it’s whatever you want it to be. Either way, you want him on your side!
Published on 08.18.20