Originally published April 27, 2006, at GJSentinel.com.
• “MOLE MAN BIG HEAD”
• Produced by Earthbound Studios.
• Designed and sculpted by Mike Falcigno.
• Scale according to Mike: Technically the Big Head line is 2/3 scale, basically very close to 1/1 scale but people sometimes think they are 1/1 because if you take a 7-foot monster’s head and make it 2/3 scale it is still the size of an average human head, hence the confusion.
• Material: Resin.
• Price: $150 plus shipping.
• Kit pictured painted by Steve Parke.
Occasionally, some garage-kit fan will visit one of the various Internet forums available and ask the assorted members: What’s the appeal of a bust? This question inevitably leads to a bunch of sophomoric jokes about women and bosoms; I don’t have the stats to prove it, but I suspect at least 75 percent of the people who build these kinds of kits are male, and like most guys we’ll take any opportunity to discuss female anatomy with a level of sophistication that rivals Beavis and Butt-Head.
Then genuine explanations get thrown around. Busts are distinct from the full-figure kits and have their own unique appeal. Since busts generally don’t go much beyond head and shoulders, the scale is larger and the facial expressions more interesting. Busts are more “artsy”. They use up less space on the shelf. The smaller ones don’t take long to complete. And so on.
However, I think most of us get the appeal of the Big Head busts from Earthbound Studios. First, the sculptures are simply fantastic. Second, they’re big, and that’s important to guys. You don’t appreciate just how big until you actually see one right in front of you. Third, the subject matter (most of them are B-movie monsters). Fourth, they’re offered by Mark Brokaw’s Earthbound Studios, which means you’ll get a first-rate kit for a fair price. The sculptor of this week’s Mole Man, Mike Falcigno (pronounced “fal-cig-no”), said $150 for the Big Head busts is an “incredible value” for their size and quality, and he’s right.
I traded e-mails with Mike recently to find out a little more about him and his work. He’s a 31-year-old resident of Milford, Conn., produces garage kits under the name TerrorForm Design, and has been with his girlfriend, Erin, for five years. Mike is talented enough to make his living as a full-time 3D/2D artist and he writes a weekly home video column called“Digital Creep” for the Fairfield County Weekly.
In addition to the Mole Man bust, Mike’s 3D work includes another Big Head, “The Fiend Without a Face”; a piano-key deluxe base for Forbidden Zone’s“Phantom of the Paradise” and an upcoming 1/4 scale bust of Peter Lorre for Forbidden Zone.
Mike’s works for TerrorForm include a popular 1/3 scale “Abominable Doctor Phibes” bust (picture below), a “Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell” bust, a life-sized “Invader from Mars” Martian wall plaque under his Creature Cranium series and a bust of infamous dead punk rock icon G.G Allin.
Mike creates life-sized monster figures through commission. “I am currently finishing a life-sized Karloff Mummy for a client that had me do all the Universal classic monsters,” he said. He also takes on the occasional film effects job.
The “2D” part of Mike’s career is “a lot of ink and paint work. Mostly character design, graphic work, tattoo design and commissioned illustrations.”
A Q&A WITH MIKE FALCIGNO
Mike: Actually the Mole Person was sculpted entirely with the Aves Apoxie line of products. A hard foam
understructure was used as a base and worked up to its finished stage with Apoxie Sculpt and a few areas in Apoxie Clay. The claw was sculpted in the same manner.
For the sand areas of the base I used Aves ClayShay over a hard foam understructure and used more Apoxie Sculpt to render the rocky terrain and mushrooms.
It’s really incredible stuff, the detail you can push into the material is astounding and the fact that it cures without baking makes for a “crack”-free project. I did find it very strange at first because of the working time involved, but with a little messing around I worked out a method for sculpting with it in no time.
RtB: How long did it take you to sculpt this?
Mike: Well, if I kept a time sheet next to all my sculpts I would probably slip into a depression because of how long some take compared to the pay rate, but for the Mole Person I would roughly guess over 100 hours from start to finish, this includes the base.
RtB: From what I’ve seen of your articles in Amazing Figure Modeler, you do a lot of sculpting to enhance the kits you build and paint. Have you always done this with your model kits, or it something you started doing after time?
Mike: I was into sculpting before model kits so it’s just a natural tendency of mine to want something that’s more a one- of-a-kind piece. Granted, when someone paints a kit it’s the only one like it, but adding or augmenting an existing design makes the finished piece even more personal.
RtB: How long have you been involved with model kits in general and garage kits in particular?
Mike: Building models goes back to my preteen years, probably 6 or 7 years old. I used to build them too at my grandmother’s house every Sunday (in between making monsters with Play-Doh). Various family members could be swayed into buying me kits if I promised to finish them.
My earliest figure models included AMT’s Bigfoot, Aurora monsters, Monogram’s Allosaurus and ankylosaurus and anything else that would have appealed to a my warped little-kid sensibilities.
I got into garage kits when I came across an issue of Model and Toy Collector when I was about 13 and from that point I would save months of paper route money just to blow it on a garage kit, then start the process all over again. Billiken’s Creature, Horizon’s Mole Man, Tsukuda’s Metaluna Mutant, Screamin’s Freddy and some Lunar/Dimensional Design kits were my first garage-kit figures.
RtB: What model kits drew you to the hobby as a sculptor?
Mike: I ended up pursuing special effects makeup for many years (through and after college), which caused me to devote far less time to figure kits.
A few years ago I came across some of William Paquet’s stuff online (“Plague of the Zombies,” etc). I was blown away by the quality of his work and tracked down his phone number. After a few lengthy phone calls, we ended up having a lot in common and started hanging out in person.
William is an immensely talented and giving person, I would have to cite him as the catalyst for me getting back into the hobby as a sculptor. The days spent in William’s studio inspired me to start sculpting smaller-scale pieces and I eventually had my first work produced by Mark Brokaw of Earthbound Studios.
RtB: What do you buy and build these days? And do you build as much as you buy, or do the kits accumulate faster than you can build them?
Mike: Amid my personal workload, I don’t have time to paint much in the way of kits. Writing for AFM and AVM (Amazing Vehicular Modeler) enables me to paint a piece every few months which is nice.
Recently, I started collecting the built-up work of artists who I feel are the industry’s best painters in hopes of building a diverse cross-section of museum-quality statues. I am always running out of space so I only buy sculptures that I truly love.
RtB: Who are your sculpting “heroes”?
Mike: This is a very tough question because I’ll never be able to name them all. I am heavily inspired by various types of artists. From the brush paintings of Basil Gogos, James Bama, Jack Davis, Ghastly Graham Ingles, Frank Frazetta , Rainer Engel and a slew of others to musicians, writers and kit painters.
As far as sculptors go, William Paquet, Andy Bergholtz, Barsom, Mark Newman, Tony Cipriano, Takeya, Oniki, Jeff Yagher, Stuart Jackson, Jordu Schnell, John Pinkerton, Mike Elizade, David Grant, Thomas Kuntz, Dave Grasso, Miles Teves,Tony McVey, Ray Harryhausen, Mark VanTine, Thomas Keubler, Rick Baker, Mike Hill, Mitch Devane, Gabe Perna, Casey Love, Mike Petryzack and Gabriel Marquez all immediately come to mind.
There are plenty of names that escape me and some I’m not yet aware of but all the people listed above have created some truly beautiful works of art.
At the risk of putting readers to sleep, I should move onto the next question.
RtB: Is anyone else in your family involved with the hobby?
Mike: My younger brother Mark is a hardcore Hot Rod/Lead Sled builder. He works on real cars along with scale car models, which in itself is an artform.
RtB: As a home-video columnist, what would you say about the 1956 movie “The Mole People” (upon which this bust is based) to persuade someone like me, who’s never seen it, to put it in his Netflix queue?
Mike: “The Mole People” is a textbook example of great ’50s-era entertainment rising from a pool of cinematic cheese! You’ve got hilarious opening exposition presented by a melodramatic “scientist”, a bunch of square-jawed adventurers (one of whom is actually Ward Cleaver from “Leave it to Beaver” fame!!) delving into the bowels of the Earth, a beautiful girl in peril, a race of subterranean albinos who enslave bizarre mutant beings that eventually run amok, putting the humans in a perpetual state of terror.
Did I leave out the ear-screeching musical score, cardboard props and hammy acting? Oh yeah, and the Mole People can’t stand sunlight and live off giant mushrooms!! Oh, the simpler times … before morons like Stephen Sommers had to ruin everything great about monster movies!
Unfortunately, the film isn’t available on DVD so you’ll have to seek out a bootleg or old crappy VHS copy.
RtB: What are your favorite movies?
Mike: Again with the impossible questions!! Here’s a partial list:
The silent horror films all monster fans like (“Nosferatu,” “Häxan,” “Caligari,” etc), the classic Universal stuff, anything with Peter Cushing, Chistopher Lee, and the rest of the wonderful Hammer Horror players.
I love “Big Trouble in Little China,” “American Werewolf in London,” the Romero “Dead” films, the “Blind Dead” series, good Fulci flicks, Argento films, crazy Asian horror and weird s— like “The Calamari Wrestler.”
“Creepshow” No. 1 is awesome, I like my kaiju served with lots of rubble and beginning with the letter G Godzilla, Gamera, Gargantuans, etc.), I can watch B-monster flicks till my eyes dry out (“Fiend Without a Face,” “Black Scorpion,” “I Married a Monster from Outer Space,” etc).
Have you seen “OldBoy?” That movie is friggin’ amazing!!! “Hellboy,” “Devil’s Backbone,” “Blade 2,” “Mimic” and anything else Del Toro makes in the future is fine by me.
“Ichi the Killer” – you’ll feel dirty watching that one.
“Fearless Vampire Killers,” “Fright Night” and lest I forget the granddaddy of in yo’ face balls-out horror – Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”
If I’m in the mood for brain eating it’s “Return of the Living Dead.” “Alien,” “Fight Club” and “Halloween” also rule!!
VINCENT PRICE films are … well … Pricelessly good fun.
As for remakes. “The Thing” and “The Blob” rock and if I want to feel sick I’ll throw in anything directed by German auteur Jörg Buttgereit (“Nekromantik,” etc).
So you see, Todd, I’m a movie geek. I love the stuff. All the pictures I rattled off don’t come close to all my favorites (here’s another one I just though of – “Blade Runner”! And another – “Time Bandits,” which then leads me to “Brazil” and “Fear and Loathing.” This is madness!!). Besides, yer only reading a horror film chain of thought.
I also really enjoy comedies, animation (NOT MANGA except “Akira” and “Blood”), ’70s grindhouse sleazoid pictures, crime thrillers, and s— – even a few dramas. Let’s move on to the next question.
But first I must recommend John Carpenter’s segment of the “Masters of Horror” series: “Cigarette Burns.” It stars Udo Kier and it’s sweet!
RtB: What media and snacks do you have on hand while you’re working? Do you watch DVDs, perhaps, or drink caffeinated beverages? What’s the environment like? Where is your workroom?
Mike: I like to drink strong iced coffee by the quart and smoke Camel Lights by the carton. The latter I really should quit but I’m a weak little slave to the nasty things and I lack the willpower to stop at this point in time.
The studio environment is wall-to-wall stuff. All the things I love surrounding me in one studio, which is set in a basement location, kinda like a modern-day dungeon but minus a cauldron of boiling oil and any real corpses.
I can’t watch movies while working and prefer music, mostly soundtracks to films or bands that I like.
RtB: You recently became a moderator for the AFM Forum, in part I think because David Fisher couldn’t monitor it closely enough and things sometimes got out of hand. Do you get aggravated by the politics and occasionally strange behavior you encounter among others involved with the hobby? Do you have any problem keeping yourself separate from the battles that arise?
Mike: Wow, that’s a touchy question. I’ll answer it but expect vague generalities because I don’t care enough to argue with any of the paranoid people that repeatedly assume the worst with no valid reason.
Fisher is an artistic genius. The guy single-handedly lays out an entire magazine, his work ethic is inspiring to say the least. David and Terry Webb have managed to build the only figure magazine still in existence owned by the same people there from its inception. Therefore, the dedication to producing the highest-quality magazine possible keeps both of them from moderating the forum full time.
For the record, the AFM Forum was never intended to branch so far out into the hobby but as a place for readers to share tips and ask questions about things pertaining to AFM and kits in general. Where everyone connected to the forum was happy to see it take off without any heavy promotion, the unfortunate reality of the Internet is that select diabolical idiots troll all the forums online with trouble stirring on their minds.
Terry is too busy with the business side of AFM and David is always up to his ears with art duties, so I joined as a moderator in an effort to take up some of the slack.
As for the politics and strange behavior of some kit guys, it’s like any other business. Basically, —holes exist in all walks of life. These “bottom feeders” are annoying but they do serve a purpose, namely, they make all the good people look even better in comparison.
You’ll find that most people in the hobby that are artistically talented (sculptors, painters, mold makers and promoters) or have a TRUE love for the subject and the art form. Producers, dealers and writers are for the most part great people.
Every so often an egomaniac/ bitter human being/deranged lunatic decides to lash out against someone they perceive to be an enemy and arguments inevitably insue. I (like most) don’t have time for this and would rather be doing something constructive but at times it’s unavoidable.
The important thing to remember is that these weak little goons won’t last very long. Everyone has the ability to change for the better and ignore those that have nothing positive to offer.
Mike: My first article was for issue 28 (The “Denizens of the Deep” issue). I may have written some kit reviews prior to No. 28 but I’m not sure. It’s all a blur at this point!
RtB: What do you think was more important to Terry Webb and David Fisher when you got involved with the magazine, your ability as a model-builder or your talent as a writer?
Mike: I’d have to say that both factors played equal importance. AFM is an incredible publication to write for.
David and Terry are both genuinely nice guys and the magazine has always had an open-door policy. I had talked with Terry in the past and when we met in person and hit it off, he asked if I would be interested in writing for them.
The AFM staff are, for the most part, working professionals outside the hobby so the work we do with kits is fueled by a desire to take great sculptures and created finished works of art. I have always had the feeling that if any of our writers needed a hand with a project they could call a fellow staff member and find it.
Thanks for taking an interest in my work, Todd, it’s really been a pleasure talking with you.