INTERVIEW: Toy Customizer Chris Diaz

Welcome back to another edition of our Toy Customizer Spotlight here on MTV Geek! Today we’re chatting it up with Chris “Hunter” Diaz, of Hunter Knight Customs, about cars, toys, and the pursuit of action figure freedom here in the good ol’ United States.

MTV Geek!: So Chris, how’d you get started doing action figure customs?

Chris Diaz: It all began in my native Peru, back in the 80’s the government didn’t allowed any imports, and the few authentic toys you could find were highly expensive and had to be smuggled. Some local companies were granted licenses but the toys were awful. To that extent, I didn’t have as many toys as I wanted so I had to learn to make my own.

Then, 25 years later I was living in the USA, when I found out that customizing was a big form of art; so, I started again, commercially this time, since 2006.

Geek!: The 80s were our action figure renaissance so that’s a damn shame for Peruvians. Glad you made it here to the USA; where toys run rampant!

What were some of the first 2006 customs you did? Were there any particular toy lines that you worked from the most?

C.D.: Yeah, (laughing) it has improved now, Peru even has a free trade agreement with the USA, so things are much better than when I was a kid.

I started basically with JLU. The show was very popular by that time and there were plenty of characters to be made. It was the perfect line to begin with since most of them had minimal sculpt and simple paint job apps. When my skill improved, I went to try other lines like Marvel Legends, star wars G.I.Joe, etc. My very first Legends are the stuff of nightmares! (laughing)

Geek!: Yeah, that seems to be everyone’s comments when asked about their first ML customs.

What’s been your favorite custom figure so far; the one you’re most proud of?

C.D.: Oh man, that is like asking a parent who is his favorite son! I’m proud of many: Marvel Legends Jean Grey, Jubilee, My Mortal Kombat line (inspired by the amazing work started by my friend Joe Amaro of Jazzwares Inc.). Of my Masters of the Universe Classics: Shadow Weaver and Force Captain Adora, although the concept for them was designed by Emiliano Santalucia, in his “MOTUC visions” album at the org [that’s He-Man.org — Ed]. I just saw the drawings and made them in toy form with some additions of mine. Emiliano really liked them when he saw the pictures.

Geek!: What’s your general technique when it comes to starting a new figure? Is it from seeing something new in a comic or do you get ideas when looking at a figure? In other words, what gets you going?

C.D.: I get ideas from all over the web, Facebook, Deviant Art, even Youtube. Depending on the line or the type of request, I do a general pre-viz. I’m old school, and still draw with pen on paper. I then choose a base figure and parts that suit the design and tooling, then I sculpt it. Customizing is a passion and (in my case) also my profession. The fun part is that you never stop learning. Just like wine, you get better with time…hey that rhymed! (laughter)

Geek!: What are your “go to” supplies when it comes to sculpting and paint work on a figure?

C.D.: Apoxie sculpt is a must customizers. Its a 2 part compound that you mix together and, depending on the type and brand, cures rock hard or soft and pliable and is quite good for sanding. There are several brands and types that I use depending on the need. Its a bit expensive but if you want good results you have to invest in good materials.

As for paints, I prefer flat acrylic paints. I use glossy ones only to do a certain effect like leather boots, blood, or Black Cat’s costume. I do not use enamels, cause they never dry well on plastic and contrary to what others think, I do not use sealant on any of my figures.

Geek!: Have you had any recent customs that took a turn for the worse, or that have just frustrated you to no end?

C.D.: Yeah, recently I had this customer who wanted a figure made of his own created comic book character. He sent me a low res picture where it seemed really easy to do. We agreed on the price, but along the way he started to change several things, add accessories, & swap parts (different thighs, arms, etc.). Once it was sculpted he decided that he didn’t like his own drawing and wanted me to re-design it! When that was done, the paint scheme was another dilemma! I painted it according to the original concept; but, then he decided he didn’t like the concept he drew, and THAT is when I drew the line! Something so simple that should have been made in a week and a half, ended up being a one month nightmare… I was so frustrated that when I finished it, I didn’t record a video for it as I usually do for all of my figures. I just wanted it off of my table.

Another one was a Queen Marlena 200X style I was working on (Yes I love the 2002 He-Man cartoon, and for me, is NOT retired), I spent several weeks sculpting her and one day when she was finally finished I had to be someplace else so I told my friend to, “Please, basecoat the queen figure in white. The mix is ready in the spraygun.” I also customize real cars, and on those days both workshops were in the same place; so, she grabbed the spraygun for cars and “enameled” the queen in Lamborghini lime green! Even though it was just a quick pass, the figure was ruined. Car paint and soft plastic don’t match; however, out of that mishap my Transformers movie line was born and in car mode, all of those guys are painted with real car paint! (laughter)

As for the Queen, she was “totaled”. I tried to remove the paint but it ended up destroying the sculpt and all, so she is in a landfill somewhere…

Geek!: Speaking of your car customizing, you’ve built a vehicle that a lot of readers have probably seen. Why don’t you tell us a little about that?

C.D.: Oh sure, I’ve always been into cars. I worked on graphics and customizing interiors as a freelancer. I always liked the “Furious” movie and wanted to have a car from it, so I researched the internet, the book written by Eddie Paul, and I built it by myself (I wanted the Supra but it was too expensive!)

I was ready to start the serious engine work, when a production scout for the movie Sex Drive, saw it at my friend’s body shop and asked me if I was interested. I was afraid that since a similar car had previously appeared in the “Furious” movie, there were going to be some complications, but the transportation people told me that it was not going to be a problem (Sean Anders, the director had never seen the “Furious” movie and no one bothered to tell him) at the end there were minor complications but everything came out good and it shows there (sans the “Furious” banner)

They also commissioned me with a partial replica or “mock up” car used for the Taco shoot which I delivered in less than 2 days, plus other gigs like graphics repairs, consulting etc. We broke 2 sets bodykits during the production and other stuff lol!

With my experience as a former Communications Science student from Peru, it was awesome to be on the set of a Hollywood movie and get to meet the cast and crew. It was a humbling experience I will never forget. Even one of the actresses invited me to her Bash in Daytona, and the car was showcased in the entrance of the club. I no longer race with it since is now an official movie prop. Summit was kind enough to issue me an authenticity letter in case I want to sell it. The spray paint that fell on the queen was the leftover used on the Eclipse…go figure!

Geek!: Any customs in the pipeline that people should be excited about?

C.D.: Oh man sure! I have received tons of e-mails about my Mortal Kombat figures; and yes, there are Cyrax, Sektor and all the mortal bots coming, plus some females! I guess people like those because the videos always end with a fatality lol! On the Marvel Universe front, there is Stan “The Man” Lee and countless others. For transformers: a War For Cybertron style Galvatron, while on MOTUC…let’s say that certain “King” needs his Queen..and no its not Randor. (laughter)

Geek!: We’re guessing you mean King Grayskull and that, my friend, is awesome! What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you and see more of your customs?

C.D.: Yes, you are right!

You can visit my website at www.hunterknightonline.com, my twitter account: http://twitter.com/hunterknight1, and my youtube channel www.youtube.com/hunterknight4 I upload videos there every weekend. You can contact me via either one for commissions. Also, check out my store at www.vipcollector.com for the latest hard to find collectibles with free shipping in the USA.

Geek!: Thanks Chris, great talking with you! We look forward to seeing all the sweet new videos of your customs.

C.D.: Thanks!

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