The header of his website says it all; "Painter, Sculptor, Designer, and Photographer of Action Figures and More." The more part would probably include; "Hobbiest, Professional, and All Around Fanatic of Toys...And, A Great Guy Too"
Kyle Robinson is a name that you may not recognize, but if you've ever read ToyFare magazine, or visited Comic-Con between 2008-2009, you've probably seen his work and not even known it.
His creative work goes beyond some of the things we've seen your average customizer do, and hands down, his tutorials are some of the best for people attempting to get into the hobby of customising.
Kyle was not only kind enough to chat with us about his work, but also create the logo which sits at the top of this very website!
THE TOY BOX: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. Your custom work is fantastic! We love the logo you've done for our site.
KYLE ROBINSON: Thanks, the pleasure is mine.
THE TOY BOX: Take us back in time. When did you first start customizing, and when did you make the transition from hobbyist to professional customizer?
KYLE ROBINSON: Oh man, I can probably pin point my first "thing" I could call a custom, back to my elementary school days. When I was very young (1991-1993ish) I remember seeing the original homemade heroes section ran in Wizard (pre Toy-Fair Magazine) and it inspired me to "do something" with my original Toybiz X-men toys. At that point all I would do is break them into pieces and glue them back together wrong (imagine Spider-Man with Wolverine arms). My friends loved them and used to buy them from me. Then for about 10 years I did nothing with figures, until I was sick of trying to find a Deadpool, then I made my own. Little did I know that the next 5 years after that first Deadpool, I would come to make many, many more.
THE TOY BOX: As a featured customizing sculptor and writer for Toyfare magazine you’re somewhat of a celebrity to the action figure world. How did all of that get started?
KYLE ROBINSON: My first appearance in Toyfare Magazine was just the Home made heroes section. All you have to do there is send emails to the right people until they use one of your attached images. It wasn't till later on that Toyfare contacted me for actual payroll work. At that point, my pal and fellow customizer John Mallamas (AKA Jin Saotome) was their go to guy for a while. John was busy once when Toyfare needed him so he sent them my way, after that first time working with them we sort of built a great relationship.
THE TOY BOX: Not only are you a prominent “face” in Toyfare, but you’ve also been fairly active in events such as San Diego Comic-Con. Can you tell us about some of your experiences with that?
KYLE ROBINSON: Funny how that works, I have done work for companies for multiple years for Comic-Con, yet I have never physically been to Comic-Con.
THE TOY BOX: You did an amazing paint job on the series 2 prototypes for the Indie Spotlight line from Shocker Toys which were showcased at Comic-Con 2008. How did your relationship with the company come about?
KYLE ROBINSON: Thanks, I wish I had more time on them. The guys just emailed me out of the blue and we started chatting ideas back and forth. It was all very, very fast. I probably had 2 days to do all 5 of the figures and still have time to ship them to San Diego in time. They had the figures shipped to me directly from the factory in India or something, it was pretty stressful. The company is small. They couldn't afford to pay me well so they offered up half trade in the form of figures once they came out. To this day I have never seen a final factory release. I guess I should have got it in writing. Regardless, they are solid dudes and I hope to hear from them again some day.
THE TOY BOX: Speaking of Indie Spotlight series 2, can you share information as to what happened to it? It was slated for release in 2009, than pushed back to 2010, and to date still has not bee released.
KYLE ROBINSON: Your guess is as good as mine. I would still love to get my hands on them, but I guess I got as close as anyone could, holding the prototypes at least.
THE TOY BOX: You’ve also done some work with Mezco as their chosen representative at San Diego Comic Con. Can you tell us about that?
KYLE ROBINSON: Comic-Con 2009 went much smoother. Mezco toys contacted me out of the blue to take part in an art show to launch their new Mez-Its, urban vinyl style, figure line. This one was a surprise, and I was so exited I begged them to let me do 2 of them so I could make a Jay and Silent Bob set. The Jay Mez-It had a talking box implant in his back which had a bunch of classic catchphrases. Later that week Kevin Smith took to his twitter page to talk about them, he posted a link that crashed my website for half a day, it was awesome. That Jay and Bob set was one of the most fun things I have gotten to do, being chosen along side of such great artist (including one of my long time favorite painters Ed Wires) was also an honor.
THE TOY BOX: Let’s talk about your website. Something that really stands out on it is your tutorial guide - It’s one of the best we’ve ever seen to help people get started. You share a lot of in depth steps to help people customize their own figures, but at the same time mention that there are some things you will not be showing (such as painting techniques) until a more advanced tutorial. Is that advanced tutorial still in the works?
KYLE ROBINSON: I like to help out as much as I can, providing tutorials just seems like a natural thing in our community. One thing about the customizing community you wont see anywhere else is the willingness to share recipes and what other artist might hold onto as "secrets". As for the advanced tutorials, it's really hard to try to explain things like painting techniques in text form with still imagery. One day I hope to have time to do some top notch video tutorials.
THE TOY BOX: We noticed you have a link to your Ebay auctions page, but we’re not seeing a whole lot of customizing activity there. Is this something you have ceased doing?
KYLE ROBINSON: I have never really been heavy on the eBay side of things. Once in a while I would post a fun auction for a personal project I just had to get out of my system, but for the most part, 90% of my work has always been commissioned to ship directly to the customer.
THE TOY BOX: You don’t appear to be currently offering commission figures. Is this something you plan on picking up in the future?
KYLE ROBINSON: Customizing was my full time job from 2005-2010. 5 years of my life dedicated to sleepless nights and haunting commission work. I finished college in 2010 and decided to take a break from full time customizing, and customizing in general. I have a bad habit of turning passionate hobbies into income, and 5 years later I realized I needed a break so I could learn to love it as much I did when I started. What actually happened is that I did it all over again under a new name using a new medium. In 2009 I launched Thretris which is my screen name and artist name for creating custom 8-bit gaming consoles catering to an underground niche of musicians who use them to make 8-bit music know as "chiptune." After a quick Google search of Thretris you will see that in the same vein as KR customs, Thretris reached notoriety in the 8-bit scene equal to or greater than that of my action figures. Thretris Custom Gameboys consoles can be seen in the hands of most of the great Chipmusicians, and in the pages of gaming magazines alike.
THE TOY BOX: You’ve done a considerable amount of customizing, but seem to focus mainly on Marvel Comic characters. Is it safe to assume that this is your main area of expertise? Or is it because you enjoy Marvel Comics over all the others? Or is it something else completely?
KYLE ROBINSON: It's something else completely. If you look at my body of work, and remember what I said earlier about 90% of my customs being commissioned by customers, then you will notice a trend. The customers are the ones who want to see marvel, I’m just there to fill in the gaps in there collection. The other 10% of customs that I get to choose always end up being either anime or video game related. Most of my favorite works are from fighting games.
THE TOY BOX: So…Super Bat Lantern. He was a character you created for a contest (which you won first place in) which melded Superman, Batman and Green Lantern together. How on Earth did you come up with that? P.S. We love his back story!
KYLE ROBINSON: HA, HA, thanks. I was feeling inspired that day I guess. The plot just seemed like something that would actually happen in the DC universe. They're always doing crossovers so I figured I would just mix the most awesome dudes together. How could you not love him?
THE TOY BOX: Please tell us that you took the concept of Super Bat Lantern to DC Comics and that they said, “Yes, we’ll get right on that.”
KYLE ROBINSON: I wish, man. They would probably just laugh at me, than steal the idea years later. I hope they steal it. I wouldn’t care.
THE TOY BOX: Have you designed and/or created any other original concept characters into custom figures?
KYLE ROBINSON: In another contest I made a male version of Psylocke. To this day he is one of my favorite customs. He would fit right in any Capcom fighting game. Theres also tons of original character commissions on my site from indy comic creators, MMORPG gamers, and simply creative collectors from all over the world. Some of them only have ideas in there head and just let me have at it. That’s always really fun.
THE TOY BOX: One of our favorite pieces on your site isn’t an action figure at all. It’s the custom Punisher Van and Bike. Do you have any plans to make any more vehicles?
KYLE ROBINSON: I hear that more than you would think (and I was almost bummed I lost my Turtle Van). I would love to make more vehicles. It would just need to be something that jumps out at me like that van did.
THE TOY BOX: People who visit your website might get the sense that it has been abandoned due to the lack of updates. This would be because it appears that you have actually moved to a Facebook page. Is Facebook more beneficial than a standard website, and has this become your main source for posting updates and photos?
KYLE ROBINSON: AH! That might have been true a few days ago but I just spent the whole weekend updating my site with new images, and also revamping the "news" layout. The blog is now gone and has been replaced within the main page with Facebook and Twitter. This seems to be a much more effective and interactive way for me to keep fans up to date and engaged. Fans already seem to be enjoying it more than the old "KR BUGLE" section. I’ve been slowing making my way back into the forums and keeping everyone updated. So head over to my updated home page and see how fan friendly the news section is now. IT'S ALIVE!!
THE TOY BOX: You’ve accomplished so much in the world of customizing action figures. Where do you go from here?
KYLE ROBINSON: That’s kind of what Thretris was for. It was fun to start from the ground up with a different community. I will always be trying to outdo myself with my customs and I hope to get KR customs running smoothly again, and go back to keeping it a hobby I can enjoy. I think it will show in my future work, and fans will have something they can enjoy even more.
THE TOY BOX: Thank you for taking the time for chatting with us. We look forward to following your future customizing endeavors.
KYLE ROBINSON: Thank you, this was fun. Keep in touch.
All photographs and logos used in this article are the property of Kyle Robinson Customs. Used with permission.
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