Tag Archives: Custom Action Figures

Miguel Tavarez—Master of Miniaturization—Creates Astonishingly Realistic (1:6 Scale) Diorama of U.S. Army’s 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) Paratroopers in Action

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Bring it On— In a stunning display of 1:6 scale artistry, customizer Miguel Tavares has recreated a battle scene from the Korean War featuring two figures from the U.S. Army’s 2nd Ranger Inf. Co. (Airborne). This closeup of the Master Sergeant reveals he has been authentically detailed with correct unit insignia and helmet emblems produced by Patches of Pride. (Photo: Miguel Tavares) Click to enlarge.

Expert Modeler Depicts Soldiers of “Forgotten War’s” All-Black, All-Ranger Regiment

Welcome to 2017, 1:6 Scalers!

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Immortalized on the Cover—UK hobby industry magazine, Military Modelling (vol. 41, issue no. 1) celebrates the skills of master modeler, Miguel Tavarez, by splashing his work (deservedly so) on the front cover of its most recent issue. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Military Modelling)

It’s a brand-new year and the guys and gals at The Joe Report felt like kicking things off with a BIG photo-story about a new, rising talent among the 1:6 scale customizing community—Miguel Tavarez. Tavares is a master modeler and 1:6 customizer of the highest degree, and in recognition of his superlative skills, the UK hobby magazine Military Modelling recently published an article about his work, even going so far as to feature a photo of his new (2-figure) paratrooper diorama on the publication’s cover.

The remarkable diorama in question depicts two African-American U.S. Army paratroopers of the 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) during the Korean War. They’ve just completed a jump and one soldier appears to have suffered a hard landing or been otherwise wounded. His Master Sergeant has rushed to his side, all the while gazing grimly skyward as he watches other Rangers still descending.

This 1:6 scale masterwork is both wonderful and inspirational to behold. Action figure customizers and diorama builders around the world would probably pay good money just to take a 1 hour class from this talented artisan. If fact, we felt Miguel’s Ranger dio achievement was so important, that it was worthy of further mention and praise beyond just the pages of a UK hobby magazine. Therefore, despite any repetition, we’ve wholeheartedly chosen to share it here, too—on The Joe Report!

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A Bad Time for a Sprain— What a superb choice of headsculpt! This figure’s excellent facial expression perfectly captures so much emotion at once. The frustration, pain, and yes, even anger, at being hurt before even getting to fire a shot, must surely be a severe disappointment to this Ranger. After training for months, making dozens of practice jumps, and going through everything required to become a U.S. Army Ranger, to be sidelined and/or hobbled like must be quite a blow. Let’s hope this brave paratrooper’s leg is only sprained and not broken. Go, Rangers! Go, ARMY! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez) Click to enlarge.

 Details Do Make the Difference

When you study Miguel’s custom figures, you quickly discover that he is zealously devoted to both military accuracy and authenticity, as well as the execution of professional, almost extreme modeling detail. Take a (very close) look at those hands (the fingernails!), the figure’s wrinkled and “weathered” uniforms, their weaponry, equipment, and even the stones and grass on the ground cover beneath their feet—it’s all been magnificently painted and otherwise realistically executed. HISTORY—has been brought back to life in three dimensions: visibly, tactilely—and in miniature!

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As Real as it Gets— The mind boggles looking at the reality of this ground cover. Make special note of Miguel’s careful selection of the grass and tiny white flowers. Where other customizers would choose or create plantlife that is oversized, Tavarez has ensured that even the tiny flowers are correctly scaled to match his diorama. Un-freakin’ believable! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez) Click to enlarge.

It’s Okay to Seek Outside Help

Tavarez has also taken the trouble (and expense) to commission custom waterslide decals and cloth patches from renowned miniatures manufacturer, Patches of Pride. All of their tiny products are carefully researched and recreated from scratch, so their inclusion helped to elevate this unique diorama to undisputed “masterpiece” status. Custom works of such high caliber are truly rare, and this one solidifies Miguel’s well-deserved reputation as a master modeler of 1:6 scale.
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Let’s Get a Move On, Ranger!— Staying out in the open for too long after a combat jump can be an invitation to disaster, as this Master Sergeant clearly knows. This side view of their combined poses demonstrates that there is a clear sense of urgency and peril to their situation. Just LOOK at all the amazing detail! The patches, helmet emblems, ammo bandolier, boots…WOW! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez)

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Miguel describes the inspiration behind his 2-figure Ranger diorama:

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Cheers, Customizers!— Miguel Tavarez raises a cold one in toast and tribute to other members of the 1:6 scale community in this exclusive photo taken for readers of The Joe Report. His outstanding customs are providing inspiration to thousands of fellow kitbashers around the world. (Photo: Miguel Tavarez)

“This diorama is about two African-American Rangers during the Korean War. The Korean War is often referred to as “ the forgotten war” because of the lack of public attention it received both during and after the war, and in relation to the global scale of World War II, which preceded it, and the subsequent angst of the Vietnam War, which succeeded it. After finishing my last 1/6th dio, I was looking for a new project to do, and so I decided to read up on the Korean conflict and see if I could find a subject to recreate within my own little 1/6th scale kitbashing ‘world’.

I came across a book on a very fascinating unit of a segregated, all-black elite Ranger company that had fought with distinction during the first 2 years of the “Forgotten War” in Korea. I had previously done a WWII 761st African-American tanker before, so I became keen on creating something that would also honor this all-black Ranger company—the 2nd Ranger Infantry Co. (Airborne).”

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Don’t Forget the Base— Yes, you can simply set your figures on a table, but the creation and use of a custom base beneath their feet helps add geographical texture and context, as well as increasing the realism of your tabletop diorama scene. Beautiful! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez) Click to enlarge.

“As I mentioned before, they were an African-American unit at a time when the U.S. military was slowly being integrated after years of racial segregation. President Truman’s executive order 9981 in 1948 changed that. But the reality was that the desegregation policy was yet to come into full compliance. Segregation was still being practiced right into the Korean War.

White high-ranking officers who did not support desegregation would funnel the colored troops into units such as the 2nd Ranger Co. in the first several years of the war. But 1950s racial issues aside, the ‘Buffalo Rangers,’ as they were known, gave a good account of themselves in the Korean War until their deactivation in 1951.”

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Remembering and Honoring Our Heroes (in 1:6 Scale)— This 3/4 front view shows off the entirety of Miguel’s amazing custom diorama and reveals that he included an actual Ranger pin down in the bottom righthand corner. Congratulations on a great job, Miguel! (Photo: Miguel Tavarez) Click to enlarge.

These “Buffalo Rangers” participated in “Operation Tomahawk” on March 23rd 1951. This operation was historic for two reasons; one, it would be the first time a Ranger unit participated in an Airborne combat jump. Secondly and more importantly, it would be the first combat jump for black troops in the U.S. military. Attached to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team (its parent unit), it would make this historic jump in ‘Operation Tomahawk’ into North Korean and Chinese-held territory!” —Miguel Tavarez

Bottom Line: Miguel’s work is AWESOME. That’s the bottom line. Our sincerest thanks go out to Mr. Tavarez for sharing these photos of his work and for the exclusive account of his inspiration for this piece. As of the date of this article, you could still buy a copy of the issue of UK’s Military Modelling magazine featuring Miguel’s amazing work HERE.

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Father Memorializes His Son (KIA in Afghanistan) By Creating One-of-a-Kind, Custom Action Figure

Remembering a beloved Son, Father and Hero—On April 3, 2011, 1st Lt Robert F. Welch III, US Army 1st ID (shown above), was killed by enemy forces while fighting in Afghanistan. (Photo: co.collin.tx.us)

I received word recently from a longtime acquaintance, Bob Welch, that an article had been written about him and his creation of a very special 1:6 scale custom action figure; one that he’d created to honor his son, Robert Welch III, who’d been killed while fighting in Afghanistan. Welch wrote:

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Robert (Bob) Welch II (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

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“Hello Mark, Long time no correspondence. I wanted to forward a December 21st article regarding my son and a 1/6 figure I built honoring him after his death in Afghanistan in 2011. I have tried to figure out ways to send the article but the easiest way seems to be to send the web link to you from the DMN website.  Hopefully you can patch in and read it. I am not trying to blow my own horn or anything, but thought you would appreciate the article since your marvelous work appears on the figures in nametags, unit patches, and such. Thanks for all you do and keep up the good work.” —Robert F. Welch II, LTC USA RET

Marc Ramirez, Reporter, Dallas Morning News (Photo: DMN)

Marc Ramirez, Reporter, The Dallas Morning News (Photo: DMN)

If you’re unaware of its particulars, Bob’s story was first reported in The Dallas Morning News (DMN) newspaper and has since been widely shared around the internet. It was written by renowned, award-winning DMN staff reporter, Marc Ramirez and featured superb accompanying photographs by G.J. McCarthy. For those who missed it (and the steps Bob took in creating his custom figure), we present snippets of that marvelous 1:6 scale-related article below (edited for length). We’ve intentionally left out the emotional core of the story, feeling that it was better read and absorbed in its entirety, as Ramirez intended. To appreciate the real impact of what the Welch family went through and how Bob coped with his son’s death, we recommend that you revisit the original, complete and unedited article over on the DMN’s website HERE. As for the figure itself, Ramirez’s story reveals the following:

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“About half of his (Welch’s) collection is in his workshop, with the rest in storage or on display in area museums. While many are Hasbro products, others were made by Welch himself; part of G.I. Joe’s spawn is a secondary market catering to military buffs eager to depict more specific action figures.

Bob Welch's work station will look familiar to any customizer of 1:6 scale GIjOE or other action figures. Heads come off, uniforms are detailed and other minute changes are made until everything looks PERFECT! (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

Bob Welch’s work station will look familiar to any customizer of 1:6 scale GIjOE action figures. Heads are customized, uniforms are detailed and all sorts of changes are added or subtracted. (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

The table in Welch’s workshop is dotted with plastic heads and bodies and tools like pliers and cutting knives. As one of the legions of G.I. Joe-inspired hobbyists who custom-make their own action figures, he’s often at work here, even creating characters for the Texana Living History Association’s education programs. Custom crafters often start with the head, because that’s crucial: The likeness has to be believable. Sculptors and artists may be brought in. Then comes the uniform. It might come from an existing action figure, or be cobbled from several, or be personally crafted from fabric or other materials. The same goes for the weapons and other accessories.

Welch utilized photos (like this) of his son in uniform while researching the specifics of his custom action figure. The final results show an AMAZING likeness. (Photo: Bob Welch)

Welch utilized photos (such as this one) of his son’s uniform and gear while researching specifics for his custom action figure. The final results reflect an AMAZING likeness. (Photo: Bob Welch)

A supporting industry has grown to meet the demand for special items. Some companies, for example, make rarer military figures — say, a Special Forces unit of the U.S. Coast Guard — or gear like canteens, grenades or rifle magazines. Replicating Robby’s gear wasn’t a problem. And while one-sixth-scale MultiCam uniforms weren’t common, Welch finally tracked some down on the Internet. For more than six months, Welch strived to replicate every detail right down to Robby’s patches and nametag. Each one was a step toward healing.”

OutSTANDING! This closeup of Bob Welch's superb custom figure of his son, Robert Welch III, reveals the careful selection and matching of appropriate uniform pieces, custom patches and realistic accessories reflecting the actual items worn and utilized by Welch while fighting in Afghanistan. AMAZING! (Photo:

This closeup of Bob Welch’s superb custom figure of his son, Robert Welch III, reveals the careful selection and matching of appropriate uniform pieces, custom patches from Patches of Pride and 1:6 scale accessories matching the items worn and utilized by Welch when fighting in Afghanistan. AMAZING! (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

“Hardest of all would be Robby’s winning likeness. Nothing seemed to match. But one day, in one of his online catalogs, Welch came across a figure with his son’s signature smile. The eyes weren’t his, but the soldiers often wore sunglasses; that little touch would do the trick.

Welch places the custom figure he created of his son on the highest shelf, in between a custom figure of himself and his own father. Simply WONDERFUL! (Photo:  Welch displays the custom figure of his son on the highest shelf, in-between a custom figure of himself and his own father. Simply WONDERFUL! (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

Welch displays the custom figure of his son on the highest shelf, in-between a figure of himself and his own father. Simply WONDERFUL! (Photo: G.J. McCarthy)

Welch has since taken the figure to G.I. Joe shows. It’s a way of showing people that these things don’t have to just come from a box. They can come from the heart. Welch’s wife eventually persuaded him to also create custom figures of himself and his father in military uniform; they flank Robby’s figure on a treasured hallway shelf.”

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Bob Welch for sharing this information with us and to Mark Ramirez and G.J. McCarthy of the Dallas Morning News for all the wonderful work they did on Welch’s article (which ends with the following quote from Welch and a note about his son’s funeral):

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It helped me work through the grief. I wanted to make it as much like him as possible. It was very therapeutic for me to sit there and feel like I was doing something to honor him.”

“Robby’s funeral in Richardson had been filled to double capacity, with a five-mile procession of cars. Those who approached his casket might have noticed, along with the Texas flag and Dallas Cowboys pennant within, the small figure tucked into a crevice of Robby’s arm. Duke. His beloved G.I. Joe.”

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