Art 200 Spotlight


The very recent influx of high quality and highly creative custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figures has cause the Art section to be reconfigured. It has also warranted more and more coverage.

The University of M.U.S.C.L.E. has always strived to maintain objectivity. Absolute objectivity is incredibly difficult when reviewing figures, especially custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, that are so spectacular that they should be considered art. Acknowledging that issue, every attempt will be made to list the numerous positive attributes in addition to the few potential negative traits.

Halfbad Toys' Yama-Bito Custom M.U.S.C.L.E. Figures


Custom #141

The first grouping of figures, the Yama-Bito, comes from Adam at HalfBad Toyz (www.halfbadtoyz.com). These figures are inspired by Yama-Bito, mythical mountain creatures from Japan’s folklore. Nine figures were created, but only six of the figures were purchased. These figures were designed to be one-of-a-kind pieces. They all use M.U.S.C.L.E. figures as their core, however each figure has been altered significantly. These figures would likely be referred to as kit-bashed. This label would be a great disservice to the quality and creativity of the figures.

The #141 based figure has had his head and left arm replaced. The replacement head and arm choices are brilliant. While both are animalistic they do not simply match. The lobster-like claw is a synergistic match to the Beast-Man-like head. There is also a practical aspect that can’t be overlooked – the figure stands up perfectly. The addition of the claw visually suggests that the figure should tip over due to the weight of the claw. This weighting issue was likely resolved by the stance of the figure. There is a slight step forward, almost as if the figure is lunging forward.

Custom #68

The #68 based figure has also had his head replaced (seemingly by a #214 head) and a sword added to his right hand. The scale of the sword could be a polarizing issue. Some people might consider it too large and some might consider it perfect given the robustness of the figure. When inspected in-person the latter certainly seems more accurate.

Custom #60

The #60 based figure could be described as a classic “head swap” by collectors and customizers. However, the simplicity of the term devalues the creative choice that was made. The #60 figure has an odd body proportion. A simple “head swap” could have resulted in the figure looking very unbalanced. The head could have been too big or too small. Even if the right scale had been selected it may not have complemented the odd body type and gesture. The head that was added is brilliant. It creates a very mythological feeling figure. This troll/dwarf-like character feels natural. It also has the right amount of ambiguity that allows the viewer to assign either a hero or villain role to the figure.

Custom #177

The #177 based figure has had his right hand replaced, plus a sword. The left arm has also been replaced from the forearm down (with #19’s left arm). There has also been a piece of shoulder armor added to the left arm. The naturally aggressive look of #177 makes the addition of these armaments feel very natural.

Custom #176

The #176 based figure appears to be the only figure in the group that did not lose a piece. Instead there have been two additions to this figure. The first is a piece of shoulder armor for the right arm. The second is an axe added to the left hand. While the changes could be considered moderate, the results are certainly significant. Sadly, the angle of the ax in relation to the figure does not allow for a picture that fully represents the attractiveness and quality. This figure is a prime example of the old custom figure axiom, “It looks even better in person!”

Custom #27

The last figure in the group is a figure based on #27. The head has been replaced and a sword has been added to the lowest right arm. Once again, seemingly simple changes have created a profound change. The new head creates a haunting figure. The new head dead eyes and screaming mouth create a figure that becomes wide open to interpretation. The figure could be angry or suffering. This positive ambiguity is not only a strength as a piece of art, but also as a toy.

Overall the Yama-Bito figures are stunning. There are only two potential downsides: (1) the exclusivity; and (2) the paint. These figures are so fantastic that they should be in every M.U.S.C.L.E. collector’s possession. Not only are they attractive figures, their construction is absolutely perfect. Most importantly these figures feel as if they should be part of the original M.U.S.C.L.E. release of figures. They retain the fun and appropriateness of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures, although they are probably at the limit of acceptable violence or aggression for M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.

The other downside is the paint. Some of the figures felt a bit sticky or tacky. While this isn’t a problem for display it does make them prone to having things stick to them, as evidence by the material on the #68 based figure’s knees.

Wolf Voigt's Custom He-Man M.U.S.C.L.E. Figures

The second grouping of figures, the He-Man customs, comes from Wolf Voigt (from SolarColorDust.com). These figures took the heads of He-Man and Skeletor from the vintage Mattel Masters of the Universe figures and placed them on M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.

Non-He-Man collectors might initially balk at the idea of custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figures with Masters of the Universe heads. They may believe the combination only appeals to He-Man and M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors. This assumption should be considered false. The combination is interesting for a couple of reasons.

Originally M.U.S.C.L.E. was only seen as a flanker brand to Mattel’s He-Man toys. The role of the flanker brand was to simple retain market share without eroding the core brand. Most simply stated, Mattel wanted kids to buy He-Man. If they weren’t going to buy He-Man, then they wanted kids to buy M.U.S.C.L.E. instead of anything else. M.U.S.C.L.E. may have also borrowed some packaging from the original He-Man line of toys. This combination finally puts M.U.S.C.L.E. and He-Man on an equal level. It represents a combination of two vastly different and important Mattel brands.

'He-Man'

The heads of He-Man and Skeletor are not perfectly scaled. For many custom figures this would be a negative attribute. However, in this situation in is very much part of the appeal. It injects fun and levity into the project, instead of trying to perfectly recreate a small He-Man or Skeletor.

'Skeletor'

The He-Man is cast in an attractive deep red. It really helps to highlight the sculpting of the He-Man head. The figure is also thermochromic (changes color when heated). The details and results of this process will not be shared in this review. Instead, the “Color Changing He-Man” will be part of the new feature – Dr. M.U.S.C.L.E..

The Skeletor is equally attractive. However, the translucent sky blue makes it more difficult to appreciate the details of the figure. In this instance the translucent sky blue is a negative attribute.

The last grouping of figures were cast by Alec (Muscle Things) but created by Tyler (from Namu Niku) and a relatively unknown named halfaway.

Before the individual figures are examined, the unique material of the figures needs to be acknowledged. The vast majority of custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figures are cast in a very hard, almost brittle resin. The feel of these resin figures is unique and distinctive from the original M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Alec’s castings do not result in that same resin feel. His figures have a texture and quality to them that is very reminiscent of the original M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. Many collectors, and rightfully so, get concerned that too perfect of a match could allow counterfeit Class A and/or Alpha and Beta figures to enter the marketplace. While the castings are very similar, they are still wholly unique. They also lack the distinct M.U.S.C.L.E. plastic odor. Knowledgeable collectors will appreciate the texture, but never be fooled by it.

Transforming Sunshine

The first figure is the “Transforming Sunshine.” This figure was designed and constructed by “halfaway” and cast by Alec. The base of the figure is the popular #195 (the “Sunshine” is the name of the character from the original Kinnikuman series). In the series Sunshine was able to transform into different shapes. This figure captures him transforming out of the #195 shape.

What makes this figure special is that the arms of another Sunshine figure were not simply glued to the #195 figure. There is a well sculpted divot which has bricks extending out. This small detail is crucial to the figure. It is that single detail that makes it special.

Custom Tortle

The second figure is the “Custom Tortle.” Again, the figure was designed and constructed by “halfaway” and cast by Alec. This figure uses #204 as the base. The original flipper arms have been removed and two new arms have been inserted. This change might be considered simple by some collectors – objectively, it is simple. However, the exquisite choice of arms and precision construction make it seem like a 100% authentic M.U.S.C.L.E. figure.

Micro Sunshine

The third figure is the “Micro Sunshine.” This figure was designed and constructed by Tyler and cast by Alec. If this figure is viewed without larger castings from Alec it is easy to overlook. The texture and quality construction is not as easily obvious. When viewed independently it is also easy to overlook the scaling. When the figure is viewed next to the original #107, the attractiveness of the figure becomes more evident. The head-to-body ratio found the perfect balance. Had the custom figure been bigger or smaller the charm of its size would have been lost.

#107 and
Micro Comparison

The last figure is the custom “Bird Claw.” This is another “halfaway”/Alec creation. A #153 has been reshaped as if it is giving the “middle finger.” The construction and execution are beyond reproach. However, there is one negative aspect – which may be an exclusively personal viewpoint. Because the figure is making an obscene gesture it would have never stood the chance to be included in the original M.U.S.C.L.E. figure collection.

Bird Claw

The very best custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figures are the ones that appear as if they could have originally sprung from a 4-, 10-, or 28-pack. When a figure becomes too violent, obscene, or collector focused it loses much of the original charm of M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.

Of course, this perspective may not be shared. As the M.U.S.C.L.E. community is made up almost entirely of adults, some collectors may prefer more adult-focused figures. Perhaps a better pulse of the community can be gauged when the custom “Bird Claw” is given away as the prize for the upcoming UofM contest.

Regardless, all of the custom figures that were examined showcase the stunning influx of talented artists working on custom M.U.S.C.L.E. figures. If collectors hope to see a continued surge new figures, then it is important to support these artists through purchases. All of the figures that were showcased were purchased at a price point between $10 and $15 per figure. If you are interested in purchasing figures from these artists, they can be contacted through:

Halfbad Toyz Online Store
Wolf Voigt’s website SolarColorDust.com
Message Alec (Muscle Things) at LittleRubberGuys.com

The Marty Hansen and Jason Frailey collaboration, Clawshine, was not reviewed, but be sure to check-out their amazing M.U.S.C.L.E. custom which can be purchased through:

Marty’s blog

Marty and Jason's Clawshine Figures
Picture from TGB Customs Blog


If you have any questions or comments, then please feel free to contact the University of M.U.S.C.L.E..

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  1. #1 by Ramenking on March 22nd, 2011

    These are very cool, I wish I could have bought a set when they were in stock. But I missed out, they still look great. My favorite has to be custom #60.

    And that transforming Sunshine is pure awesomeness.

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