An interview with figure painter and customizer, Melissa Somerville, 1/2 of LadyTank Studios

Customizing Corner: Melissa Somerville of LadyTank Studios

'Artist Melissa Somerville

Introduce yourself and let readers know where they can see your work.

Greeting and salutations everyone!  I am Melissa Somerville aka the Tank from LadyTank Studios.  Right now, you can see the things I create in the Facebook group The Cabal, @ladytank_studios on Instagram (slowly adding in my backlog), and once we get that up and running.

How long have you been customizing action figures?

Since I was a kid!  I grew up playing with all sorts of action figures.  They would cross into each other’s universes and when they would break?  Part swap!  I realized then I didn’t have to wait until they broke, I could just part swap then and there. 

I picked up a paintbrush about 9 years ago when I was a stay-at-home mom after my daughter was born. I had gotten a rather expensive figure, and the factory paint apps were atrocious.  I fixed it up and came to the realization I had a knack for paint matching.  After that I was doing a lot of repetitive repaints of 3.75’s and amiibo for friends and on commission in different communities – a lifeless machine at that point.  I had found a 3.75 figure line I REALLY enjoyed customizing for, but the community and company were too toxic.  I revisited my first Mythic Legions figure and decided there had to be a community.  I went searching and hi, nice to meet you!

What got you into Mythic Legions?

The Masters of the Universe tributes hands down.  I fell in love with Cowarros and Purrrplor right away.  I’ve always loved creatures, mounts, non-human characters so very much.  I thought it was an amazing way to see He-Man and Skeletor's mounts as humanoid.  It also wasn’t so bad that their alternative heads were orcs.  I didn’t pull the trigger though, I just looked. 

I have been a long-time fan, mutual social media “banterer”, and painter of all things Melita Curphy aka MissMonster.  She had posted on her channels about contributing to the 4HM’s Equaddron figure.  Went to look and yeah never bought a figure so fast in all my life!  I also had ordered the She-Ra tribute figure, Dorina Onoris, earlier because Big Bad Toy Store had Cowarros and Purrrplor in stock and thought getting all three at once was a perfect way to start getting what had attracted me to begin with!

  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville

Do you have what you would call a signature custom, or any favorite customs you have done?

I have no clue if I have a signature Mythic Legions custom, but I do have favorites!

I think my first favorite is my Orc Shaman.  I broke out of my shell with that piece.  I had tried new techniques and proved to myself I could paint in something other than a cell-shaded style that had been predominant with my previous stint as a machine.  It was a first for me in looking at parts (the 3D printed ones I had sourced) and using some of them in different ways then what they were printed for.  I found I really like doing that.  Pushing limits on parts and intended uses.

My next favorite would be my 4-Armed Demon.  I had an idea in my head but by the time I finished it wasn’t the same figure anymore.  I love it when a custom takes hold of you and when you finally put down your brush, you end up with something completely different then what you went in wanting to do.  That custom consumed me.  I finished in a day using all the tricks in the book to get paint to dry faster so I could move on to the next step!

But my utmost favorite is the white Krampus I made.  I can’t begin to express how much that one means to me without getting extremely sappy and over emotional.  I have two more planned and yes, I’ll will be continuing the story attached to the first white one.

  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville

What are your favorite kinds of Mythic Legions customs to do?

Almost anything that isn’t human.  I always get funny looks when I give that answer. When I look around me every day, in the mirror, etc all I see are humans.  It gets boring for me.  So, working on creating characters that don’t always have a human face is one I’ll jump on instantly.  I suppose a tenuous exception to that is a battle worn or heavily tattooed human.

But I think Ogre scale is by far my favorite to customize.   They are the right scale to see and appreciate EVERYTHING.  Some of the heads/parts created by the 3D sculptors are beyond amazing, so full of detail, and so full of life.  I feel like I can do justice to those sculpts at ogre scale.  Breathe life into them.  Do I want an ogre scale Krampus?  Yes…. yes, I very much do.

  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville

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?

You shouldn’t have asked me that question lol. Should I apologize for my answer ahead of time?

Top of the list is a female character that isn’t what floods the market now.  That’s right!  I want to see a Tank!  A female character that has muscles, that has scars, that breaks out of the ‘half naked skinny’ stereotype that’s out there.  It’s why I’ve fallen SO IN LOVE with The 4 Horsemen’s Vorgga from their upcoming Cosmic Legions line.  I totally started crying when she was revealed.  It was such an amazing moment.  I’d love to see that body type in Mythics – hands down.  Especially in ogre size.  Make her an orc, a human, a female minotaur, cyclops – anything, everything!

Other than that, probably more creatures, or mounts.  I love things with hooves, horns, tails, fur, and spikes!  Or bruiser types.  Okay I need to move onto the next question lol.

  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville

What kinds of tools do you use your customs work, including paints and brushes?

I use quite a few things because I normally have so many things going on at once. 

  • Dry erase board – to keep track of deadlines, what step I’m on with a particular custom, and what’s left to do.  I work on too many things now to be able to keep track of every project running!
  • Baker’s rack – they hold baking trays that I keep all my custom parts on when working on that custom.  I can keep it all organized.  Want to work on a particular custom? Pull out the tray and pick up where you left off!  I’ve made sure the baking sheets were steel and able to be used with magnets, so I altered my tools that hold heads, parts, to be used with the tray – no more moving if you bump into the rack!
  • Storage drawers – to keep all my parts and pieces in order.  If I need an ogre sized part? I know it’s drawer 2, if I need 6” armor it’s drawer 1, and if I need body parts then it’s drawer 3.  Of course, each drawer is more organized inside or that would drive me barmy.
  • Foam lined toolboxes – to hold all my 3d printed parts so they don’t get busted, scratched, etc.
  • Acrylic displays – to hold my 2oz paint bottles.
  • Paint storage cases – tons of these as I’m always needing to be mobile with my paints.  These hold all my 18ml eyedropper bottles of paint.
  • Paint – I think I’m the odd customizer out on this choice.  I’m an Army Painter girl both in their warpaints and airbrush sets. I love how they feel, how they work, and they fit my style of doing things. 
  • Primer – again I’m the odd customizer out.  I use Army Painter in all different colors and when I need to filler primer.
  • Sealant – can you guess what I’m going to say? HA!  You thought Army Painter again!  Well, you would have been correct, but I have fallen in love with a new sealant.  But I have used in the past Krylon ColorMAXX Clear Flat Crystal Clear and Army Painter Anti-Shine (does amazing things for metallics)
  • Brushes – I have a mirage of those as I am a brush customizer.  Right?  Odd one out again.  I only use my airbrush on INSANELY large surfaces.  I use brushes of varying sizes, tips, and sable/synthetic bristles.  I use different dry brush brushes and I’ve used run on the mill make-up brushes for it as well.
  • Compartment boxes – I put all my tiny tools in there that might need for customs.  Extra razor blades, tacks, blue tack, paper clips, an assortment of glues, broom bristles, bells, string, etc.
  • Heat gun – pulling apart figures if I don’t soak them in hot water.
  • Glue gun – since I make cuffs on all my customs.  I don’t use blue tack.
  • Alligator clips and base – to hold all my parts to paint, seal, etc.

What would people be surprised to learn about your customizing or collecting hobby?

Maybe that it’s not just me in the customizing part?  I am merely but one part of LadyTank Studios.  My wife is the Lady of LadyTank.  A lot of the finished results you see on my projects are a result of back-and-forth ideas, discussions, and her giving me the confidence to try new techniques.  I do a lot of video game console/handheld modding and customizing as well, especially with everything before the current consoles/handhelds we have now.

For collecting? I don’t just collect Mythic Legions and action figures.  I love collecting video games, trading cards, comics, art prints, and alcohol bottles/cans. I’m a hardcore Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Spawn, and Aliens/Predators collector.  I also collect some Masters of the Universe, X-Men, Transformers, Thundercats, DragonBall Z, and anything else out there that catches my eye.  Even with lines I love, if the sculpt/paint apps don’t look appealing to me, I won’t collect them. 

  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville

Any tips or suggestions for Mythic fans looking to start customizing?

There are a ton of videos out there showing you the skills you wish to learn and try. There are tons of places to ask questions and get answers.  But I think the one thing that gets lost in getting your supplies, getting your ideas, and practicing your skills is: don’t be afraid.  I feel like in this hobby/profession we can easily fall into a very dangerous trap.  “My stuff doesn’t look as good as so and so’s”.  Doesn’t matter.  Create for YOU.  Create what inspires YOU. 

I’ll say something I wish I had heard when I was first starting.  “I see YOU. I recognize YOUR skills, creativity, and passion.”  I do.  I respect and applaud YOU for taking the scariest step in customizing: simply trying.  It’s grasping your first inspiration and finding the nerve for your first paint stroke, blast of the airbrush, carving away clay (physically and/or digitally), or picking up the heat gun to take your figure apart to swap parts that says so much about you.  We all customize for different reasons and whatever gives you that inspiration to TRY?  There isn’t anything better than that. So, keep trying if you find you like it. Hold on to what inspires you. Love and respect YOUR journey into this passion you are starting to explore.  You can have the best tools, the best paints, the best teachers but it means nothing at the end of the day if YOU aren’t fueling those things with your own creativity, passion, and ideas.

Final question - who is your favorite non-customized Mythic Legions figure?

I immediately blurted out Krampus but then realized he isn’t Mythic Legions.  He is Figura Obscura.  I’d have to say Attlus and if I think too much about it, I’ll end up breaking down who’s my favorite from every race, gender, creature LOL.

  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville
  • The customs of Melissa Somerville

Published on 03.15.22

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