Friday, February 27, 2009

Chronolillogy I: Average Joe

As I get older, I get more reflective.

I don’t mean that I develop a shiny surface like a T-1000 Terminator, I mean that I think a lot more about the past. Reflecting on the past is in some ways an attempt to actually remember the subtle details of things, because the farther away stuff gets in your rear-view mirror the more cloudy and out of focus those things become. Sucks to get older, that's a fact.

When I was younger, in my teens and into my twenties, I kept a notebook journal. Yeah, it's pretty cheesy and sometimes VERY weird to read some of that stuff, to see just how obsessed I was over the stupidest shit imaginable...and yet I am extremely glad I have those scribblings, if for no other reason than the fact that I don't worry about remembering that era since I have all of it written down. Leaves lots of room for OTHER memories. I call that the Henry Jones Philosophy of Sentimentality.

So when I was thinking about my career the other day, where it's headed, where it's been, I got to thinking that a lot of the blogs I wrote for Palisades and even after that are certainly helpful in remembering how it all went down. But there is no cohesive timeline, no sort of point-to-point chronology of what I did in my career.

Since blogging is nothing more than an online journal of sorts, I am going to try to create a chronology here, which I can add to as I go along and have time. This is an overview, not a detailed look at any one particular product and its production or something like that. It's part retrospective, part online portfolio.

Of course the beauty of Blogger is that it e-mails me a copy of each blog every day, which gets auto-archived into a folder on my hard drive and eventually backed up. I don’t have nearly that comprehensive of a storage system for the stuff I did at Palisades, which is mostly gone with just photos remaining.

So with any beginning let's start at the beginning, my very first job in the toy/collectibles industry. It wasn't a real job, per se, but a freelance gig. I was living in the basement of a friends' house in Columbus, Ohio, no job, very little in the way of actual paying freelance comic book work (my first career choice), and not a lot in the way of a life.

One day I answered a newspaper ad that was seeking a comic book style artist for a project. While I had only some limited success in the field of comics at the time (in other words I was starving), I answered the ad and an interview/portfolio review was scheduled.

I found myself at the offices of a little group of folks called The Resaurus Company, Inc., which we all refer to as ReSaurus since the other is too wordy. I met with their VP who was in charge of the product development side of things. After the interview, I met Jay Borman for the first time and some of the other people who worked there. I can't remember if Steve and Chris and Tony were there yet, but I think at least one or two of them might have been. All of them were on staff by the time I was hired there later. (I freelanced for about a year on stuff and met them all during that time, just not sure who was there on that first, fateful day other than Jay.)

Actually, I found out later that ReSaurus, the name, was born from a book that the owners, Doug and Mike, had put together. It was a resource for Dinosaurs, and they shortened that to ReSaurus. Nifty, huh?

So I met with Mike, their VP. He wanted a handful of character designs for something they were working on. I have no idea what the project was really for, I just don't remember to be frank (Hi, Frank!), but I think it was from something they wanted to pursue as a comic book/toy line, at least that's how it was sold to me. It was some kind of alternate reality thing called 'Average Joe'. I did a few illustrations and got paid for them, that's all I know, and at the time I needed the cash so that was all I really cared about.

Even looking at these drawings, I don’t know for sure what the story behind these guys is/was. I was given some descriptions of what they wanted, went home and started drawing. But if you judge by the names they gave me for the characters, you get some sense of the play on words thing they were going for in their designs.

There was Coptaur...


...Litigator...


...Intimidator Sam...


...Richard Cranium...


...Sigmund Droid...


...and Average Joe with Rage (Get it..aveRAGE? How punny Hey, I didn’t come up with this shit).


Then there was an image they asked for of all of the characters on one sheet. I hate this one, but will post it. Never even loaded this into my deviantART page, that's how much I hate this piece.


The drawings overall, as a group, turned out OK, if they have nothing else going for them they allowed me to work on my inking and coloring skills, which I rarely did, which had I decided to do for nothing on a couple of the pieces in an effort to impress my benefactor. All he asked for was pencils.

But the best aspect of actually getting this gig, my very first paying gig for a toy company, was the fact that it led to my involvement on an actual action figure, Duke Nukem, which I'll go over in the next Chronolillogy installment.

Hail to the king, baby!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Throwing Crap at the Wall

I hate to be the one to break the illusion, but I have a confession to make. I don't often write these on the day they go up. I can't. The main reason is that I have a job to do during the week, and since someone is paying me to do that, I feel a little weird writing a blog all day. So as you read this, which I think is really going to be Thursday or Friday, it is actually, for me, Sunday. Sunday evening as a matter of fact.

So why, oh why, you ask...are you writing a blog entry on a Sunday night? I was forced to, by Hugh Jackman. Wolverine is hosting the Academy Awards and OH MY GOD does it stink on ice. It gives me the heeby jeebies to watch him up there, doing some song and dance routine...I know he is a Broadway guy, but unless he's ramming ten inches of Adamantium into some thug's solar plexus I ain't interested.

Remember that Wall Plaque that we (at Palisades) put out a while back that had a coiled up Alien on it? I thought it was pretty nifty, in fact even though it was one of the weakest sellers of our Alien stuff I actually think it was only due to the fact that we had been doing Alien stuff for a while, and we'd sort of come to the end of the line. To me though, it was Jonesy's pajamas...


A while later, we decided to try something in the same kind of category, a wall hanging, this time using the Predator part of our Alien and Predator license. There was a piece sculpted, I do not remember by whom, but it was never able to be worked out to anybody's satisfaction. The decision was finally made to bail on it...things were going pretty badly by that time for the company and wasting any effort and money on a piece that was SO far from being complete and cool and, most of all, sellable, was foolish.

All I ever saw of it was a set of photographs sent in by the sculptor, and here they are below.



I know for a fact these were NEVER shown outside the Palisades offices, like on our site or anything, frankly it was too fuckin' embarrassing. It was NOT one of our finest hours. Though in theory? Cool idea...just poorly executed. Hey, can't win 'em all!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Geek-Box 360

I'm a gamer.

There...I said it.

Add another notch to my geek belt, I don’t care. Now while I am a gamer I am not a hardcore gamer. Although tell my wife that...she would disagree, she believes that I love my X-Box 360 more than her. Well...if I had to CHOOSE one, I guess I'd choose my wife. BUT I WOULDN'T BE HAPPY ABOUT IT.

Lately I have been hip-deep in the LEGO Trilogy, consisting of Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Batman. I used to play a lot of games that were more violent and scary, but I play them less often now because it is so hard to play those kinds of games while the kids are awake, but when the kids go to bed it's dark and then I get scared. I can be a huge pussy when it comes to my irrational fear of the imminent attack of zombies.

If you are a member of X-Box Live and ever want to beat the crap out of me (I suck) or to play a co-op game (I would prefer this), my gamertag is residentlilly2. Why the 2? Cause I screwed up and have a freebie silver membership as residentlilly and I didn’t feel like trying to talk to some guy in India for three hours to fix the issue and have that gamertag canceled. X-Box customer service is a fuggin' JOKE.

Check it out...


That's me, or a facsimile of me, rather. It's my avatar, something you customize to make look sort of like you. That's easy for me. Bald, chunky, glasses and goatee are VERY easy to simulate electronically. You know, they really need a way to get a better image on your X-Box account. The avatar does all kinds of cool things on X-Box Live, but you can't access that stuff on your computer. So sad.

EDIT: Since these are written out of sequence and maybe even several days or a week ago or so I should point out that I have no news regarding Bennett and probably will not for a while. We took him to the doctor and it was exactly what I thought. Doctor has no idea. And now? The tests begin. He is being scheduled for an EEG. If that reveals nothing it is a night spent in the hospital hooked up to some gizmo. GREAT. This is not going to be a fun ride for the boy, or for us.

It's taking its toll on my sleep and my dreams though, which means there is really no respite no matter what time of day it is. Joy.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bad Daddy

When Carter Lilly was born in 2004, I stressed over everything. He coughed? I worried about it. He fell? I cringed and checked all over for bruising and broken bones. He seemed tired? I was concerned that he had a 'condition'. He lined his toys up in a row? Clearly he was autistic.

That's the nature of the first born...they get the brunt of your own self-doubt and insecurity about being a parent. I mean...who the hell nominated ME to be a parent and role model and take care of a little kid? I still eat shit that falls on the floor, I stay up too late, watch too much TV...who am I to tell this kid he can't do these things when the time comes? And when it comes to fear over the well-being of the first born, fuggedaboudit...it consumes you. Well, me...maybe not you.

Then, along comes Bennett last year. He coughs? No reaction. He falls? Pick him up till he stops crying. He seems tired? Put him in his crib. And though he doesn't line up his toys yet since he doesn’t actually PLAY with a lot of toys right now, I am sure when he does I will just smile and not think there is something wrong with him.

At least...I think so. Something is happening that might be changing that whole cavalier attitude generally reserved for the second born. There are moments...and it can be under any circumstances, where he will just stand there, his stare becomes a little vacant, and he sort of has a mini-convulsion. His body lurches just slightly and his arms jerk. It's subtle, really subtle, almost like a hiccup.

Except they ain't hiccups.

Happened last week a couple of times, and he had been given a shot of some junk that kids get, some immunization, and we thought that maybe he was chillin' from a mild grade fever that kids get from that shit. Wrote it off. Didn't see it for a few days. Saw it again. Managed to think quickly and get about 2 or 3 of these 'body stutters' on digital video disc. That's what I decided to call them. It's weird though... his face shows NO emotion during these episodes, almost like he is just not even there. And he is a very emotive baby in every other circumstance. He belly laughs, he cries loud, very expressive.

So then...nothing for days. So again, we didn't think much of it. Does that make us shitty parents? Am I a...holy crap...a Bad Daddy? I don't know...it is easy to freak out over something your kid does, and it is just as easy to NOT freak out when they do something that you just can't explain. They sometimes will do things that you just can't get your head around. Hell, even Carter will do something odder than Hell...and he is four and a half.

Then, it happened again over this past weekend. Jen and I ultimately decided that yeah, we actually WERE really freaked out and worried about it, though we were trying not to let the other THINK we were freaked out and worried. Amazing what a married couple will do to not worry the other, even hiding the truth.

So we are taking him today to have his doctor check under the hood. I'm skeptical, because I just don’t see how someone can look at him and see what is wrong without witnessing one of these 'episodes'. The only thing I can be sure of is that I'm worried about it, more than I thought I was, more than I previously admitted to Jen that I was. It's likely he is having some kind of seizure, and that is some scary shit, the scariest aspect of it is that I don't want to see him go through his life with any kind of built-in disadvantage.

The tide has certainly turned...now we pay a hell of a lot more attention to every little thing he does, just like we did when Carter was born. I hate irony.




Monday, February 23, 2009

My Muggs Are Mightier Than Yours

OK, so admittedly, aside from my wife and kids, I ain't got no life.

Over the weekend, said wife and kids were out of town, and what was I doing? Going through dozens of data DVD's looking for some junk, consolidating them into a main hard drive, cleaning, playing some LEGO Star Wars on the X-Box, and in case I wasn't geeking it up enough? Taking photos of some of the useless (but OH so awesome) junk I actually spent money on in the last couple of weeks.

Oh Mighty Muggs, you are so...MIGHTY. For anyone who doesn't know, Mighty Muggs are Hasbro's entry into the world of Designer Figures. It's where they (a manufacturing company or person) take basically a single sculpted figure and use it over and over again only changing up the paints and, occasionally, a sculpted bit or two. Designer figs have been around a long time, but it was Dunny that really sent what was an extreme niche industry into overdrive.

First up, two Star Wars Mighty Muggs that were Previews exclusives, Admiral Ackbar and the dreaded Shadow Trooper. Mucho thanks to Michael for helping me get these and allowing me my sweet friggin' time to pay up.


Then, a set I got off of Hasbro.com, the first wave of G.I. JOE Mighty Muggs. Their cool, but I am WAY more looking forward to Baroness and Destro.


Then a pair I picked up last week at the new ToysRUs that opened up not too far from me. I take Carter there once a month as part of a Father/Son day when we do something together on a weekend without Jennifer or Bennett...I think though that it is also a treat for ME. This pair of MM's from The Punisher were a TRU exclusive.


And lastly, the set I was hoping would be in stock when I steered the Lillymobile into the parking lot of the local Target. Oh yes, the latest Target exclusive wave of Star Wars MM's. Though I don’t really get why there was a Cody there (which I did not get) since he came out a LONG time ago, I happily picked up the rest.


That Biggs is a gas...I think we all need to start a concerted movement to bring back the porn moustache from the 70's.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Land of the LOST

Holy crap, I love LOST.

Maybe the greatest show in the history of television? I don't know about shit like that. I don't actually CARE about shit like that. But it is definitely one of KEN'S most favorite shows in the history of television. I'm sitting there last night, watching a DVR'd version of this week's episode and in less than 1 minute they had yet again taken my LOST perceptions and thrown them on their ear.

See I, like many others probably, believed that the whole season would be a quest to get back on the island. Instead what do they do? They show up on the island in mid season with a ton of questions about how they each ended up deciding to return from a place they sacrificed so much to leave. Now they get to answer those questions for the rest of the season. Did Ben actually kill Penny? That's a theory that is floating around. Did Charlie visit Hurley again and tell him where to go get his guitar? What the hell did Kate actually DO with Aaron? Who is the hottie with Sayid? And so on and so on.

Tell you what, the scene with Jack putting his father's shoes on Locke was one of the most amazing pieces of writing in the history of the show for it's combined subtlety and it's directness. It really makes you wonder doesn’t it? Jack was originally killed by the Smoke Monster in the pilot episode and Kate was to be the leader of the Losties. The network wanted them to keep Jack, and I can’t imagine the show being where it is without him.

For shits and giggles, I am tossing up some of my favorite images from LOST that have one way or another found their way to my hard drive.











Hey wait, these pics are all of Evangeline Lilly who plays Kate Austen!!! Sorry about that. But what the hell, she is a FANTASTIC reason to watch the show as well as all of your other reasons. Hey...if I married Evangeline Lilly she wouldn't have to change her last name. How FREAKIN' cool is that?!? Of course, in a LOST scenario, she would actually end up being my daughter from the future or some crazy shit like that. Damn you paradoxical crap! Damn you to Hell!!!

Anyway, I was so motivated by all that is LOST last night that I decided to go ahead and take the pics I promised of the LOST Kubricks I recently picked up. I say recently which is to say within the past few months. I still am on the hunt for the chase figures, one of which is Desmond but I don't know who the other is.

This first shot is of the whole set of the main release of the line. They typically do a six figure series with 2-3 chase figures.



This next shot is of a special edition they released, done in another format they have been doing a lot more of lately, a Kubrick in a 2-pack with a themed Be@rbrick. I'm not all that into Be@rbricks, and sometimes their companion Be@rbrick figure in these packs is cool, sometimes it is just weird. This one falls into the weird category.



I mean, a shiny bear with a LOST logo? LAME. Should have been all white, ala a polar bear, with a Dharma collar on or a DHARMA logo on it. C'mon Medicom, let's try a little harder to come up with some ideas, 'k?

I just wish this wasn't it for the LOST Kubricks...this display is gonna be EXTREMELY naked without all the other beloved characters.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Re: Re-

Life is full of 'Re-'.

Re-run, re-make, re-do, re-condition, re-tread, re-peat, re-gurgitation and on and on and on. When I started to do this all-new Blogzilly, I had originally decided not to do any repeats of stuff I had done in the old Grey Matters blog, or on the Palisades Daily Bit blog or Made in China blogs. As I found myself this week listening to Yaki the Tickler and the first appearance of Crazy Alice on a full week of classic re-runs of The Howard Stern Show, I came to a conclusion.

Repeats are GOOD.

They let the people that put shit out for consumption time for a break, and the consumer of said shit gets to look at something perhaps long forgotten or only vaguely remembered or even see something that they remember vividly and want to experience in a different way. It also allows a chance for people who were NOT following the old stuff to see it for the first time.

Everybody wins with a repeat.

Back during the Made in China days of the Palisades blog, one of the features we did was something called 'It's Evolution, Baby!'. This would showcase one product or item and show it in its various stages of growth as it moved through the production process. (The title actually came from a Pearl Jam song I really dug.)

Since I am working on some new things in that vein, I pulled up some of the old ones and was looking through them and found that the one below was never re-run on Grey Matters, the Creatus Maximus blog, so I'm gonna re-run it here...an evolution ditty on the Muppet Labs Playset.

Anyway, on to the repeat...

Starting Point
When first going over the reference we were sent, and while looking at the show, the decision was made that if we followed the show precisely we may end up with an un-cool Playset. I mean, it worked on a shoestring budget TV show, but most of the Lab stuff was fairly plain in the show itself as you can see in some of the reference shots. We decided to use a version of the Labs from the Muppet 3-D ride for our guide (which I have no pics of actually saved), and used that as our starting point.





First Concepts
A lot of the time, stuff gets the full on drawing treatment from me. In this case, the design actually started as a really, really, really rough sketch on a piece of stationary during a meeting. Yeah…I often seem to drift off during meetings. I also worked up a quick rough of Bunsen & Beaker while trying to figure out how the joints and all that would work. We worried about the likeness issues later; this was a down and dirty sketch of how the figure might work.




Enter Industrial Zoo
Shawn Knapp from Industrial Zoo took the Lab sketch a step further and worked with me to come up with a basic rough so that they could figure out what the basic shapes and designs would look like. He also worked up a nifty drawing of the Gorilla Detector, a piece from the Avery Schreiber episode that I wanted to include as a nod to the hardcore fans.





Sculpts Take Shape
Kathy Jeffers started to sculpt the Beaker and Shawn proceeded with the Labs. Check out the Beaker rough and the Lab rough. Note how Shawn used some foam shapes that he would replace with sculpted pieces as the Lab took shape. It helped to do it that way to make sure everything would function.




Finished Sculpture
They both completed their final sculptures, we got them approved and then we were good to go to get them prototyped and painted.




Painted Prototype
Plan-B molded and cast the Playset, while Kathy provided a casting of Beaker. Then Plan-B turned in a painted piece. There were a lot of limitations because I planned to do a lot of work on the Lab in China, like adding the clear parts, but Plan-B turned in a terrific job despite the limitations.



You Might Not Know
That the Lab Playset was going to ship with the Series One figures, but while I was in China I discovered to my horror that the tooling factory that had been assigned Beaker had MUTILATED the poor guy. He was so FUBAR that there was no choice but to delay the Playset while the figure was re-tooled elsewhere. We showed this on our Bit already, but it is worth a second look. Check out the Mutant Beaker next to the REAL Beaker. What a difference! It’s things like this that make those month long trips to China for me worthwhile.



Test Shot
While we were waiting for Beaker to be fixed, we went through a few rounds of tweaking the Playset. Check out the very bad factory photo of the test shot.



And Here It Is
Final product, as it will look after you open up the package and set up your display. A lot of work went into this piece, and to say it is a labor of love for us here at Palisades would be selling it short. Everyone in the company worked hard on this one, and it really shows.



See Ya Tomorrow,
Ken
Product Development


That was WEIRD...know what I mean? In retrospect, I think the process showcase was weaker than some of the others, I might have been pressed for time or something.

The thing I really hate about these repeats though is my style of writing, I sound really juvenile and odd. My guess is because I had to be very careful since it was not 'MY' blog, it was a company blog, so I had to be a bit cute and soft, I couldn't yell out 'FUCK!!!' if I felt like it.

Don't kid yourself...the F-word is universally appreciated. ;)


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blockmen

There isn't a geek on the planet, myself included, who isn't psyched for the new Watchmen movie. But...oh my God, how freaking cool are THESE?


Buddy on a message board I host pointed them out to us today. I am SO there when these Kubricks come out, as I am with pretty much every Kubrick set that gets released/announced. I mean, those that I can find obviously. I still have never seen the latest TRU Japan exclusive Star Wars boxed set for anything less than one testicle and my first born on eBay. Which blows the big chunky kind of poo because it has a Hoth Snowtrooper that otherwise I can't get. It's shocking to me how hard this set is to find.


But while Kubricks are elusive and maddening, Minimates are bountiful and happy. Lots of awesome new Minimates announced out of Toy Fair 2009, like Ghostbusters and Terminator 2, and I just picked up a set from Silence of the Lambs. (Like I said in an earlier blog...I am patient, I wait for a price that suits me. This set has been out for a while, but it's new TO ME. Don't like it? Tough titties.)

In the set, you get four Minimates (a standard configuration of late, though sometimes you get 5, it varies). Though with this one I say you get four and a half, since one of the figures actually is workable as two figures, depending on how you display it.

You get Buffalo Bill, the skin-collecting, weenie-twixt-legs pushing weirdo from the film, one of the only men Jodie Foster has actually ever been after. (And yet he pushes his man-meat between his thighs and wants to wear chick-skin and be a woman? Hmmm...I never got the lesbionic overtones there.)


And of course you get the aforementioned 'single Mom', Jodie Foster, playing the rookie FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling. She comes with a nifty notebook. That thing at her side is a pair of night vision goggles that Bill wears in the finale as a fashion statement.


Ah, Hannibal, dear Hannibal. You get two and a half versions of the fava beans eatin', Chianti slurpin' PSYCHO-therapist. This one, I guess you would call his Asylum Fatigues version...


...which is carrying a liver with a bite out of it. That accessory did not come with the set, I lifted it from a Donnie Pfaster PALz figure from the Palisades X-Files PALz line.

But wait...there's more! You also get the orange Prisoner Transfer version from midway through the film.


But like I said before, one of the figures was sort of a figure and a half, and this orange jump-suited Lecter features the parts to convert it to what I like to call the "Toughened Your Nipples, Didn't It?" Variant. Yeah, I'll go with that.


Love the mask and hand truck, and of course the straight-jacket. This will probably be the way that I display the TYNDI Variant, with Clarice, even though they never appeared this way in the film together.


I'm a rebel what can I say?