For a lot of us, the concept of setting aside childish things just because we’ve grown up is alien. We want that child inside us to be there forever. For others, those “childish things” are naturally woven into the adults we become. I think Bobby Horne is one of those guys.
Bobby is almost 43 years old, all grown up and lives in mid-Tennessee. He has been married for 21 years to the “beautiful and understanding” Jennifer. Their three kids are Kirstie, 17, William, 12, and Endora, 6.[caption id="attachment_876" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="Bobby Horne, center, gives Bob Burns, left, a customized Mego while Dr. Gangrene watches."][/caption]
He works as a graphic designer, “anything from sign work, computer graphics to woodworking. Years ago, I worked in a cabinet shop and never got the sawdust outta my blood.” Sort of like resin model kits, he said. “Once you start, you never really stop.”
Bobby is about two years younger than I, so I think we grew up enjoying some of the same stuff: G.I. Joe, Big Jim, that kind of thing. Maybe he read some of the same comics I did, and was just as thrilled when the Mego figures of comic characters (both Marvel and DC!) were introduced.
Today, through his Academy Art & Design, Bobby offers customized Megos, decals and plenty more. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q&A WITH BOBBY HORNE
Resin the Barbarian: What’s your own personal “toy story”? Megos seem to be your particular interest. Do you remember when you became a fan, and what figure first got your attention?
Bobby: My toy story goes as this: I can remember back when I was 5 years old and getting my first Mego figure. It was a removable mask Batman. This was the greatest thing I had ever saw. This ended up being a truly loved toy. It didn’t survive over the years; only parts of it.
Here’s a link for people that don’t know what Megos are: www.Megomuseum.com/
RtB: How did your interest in Megos, Big Jims, etc., translate from childhood into adulthood? Do you still have the toys you collected way back when, or did you go in search of it all again?
Bobby: A lot of my toys (Megos, Big Jim, Micronauts and comics) remain in my collection to this day. I guess I never really grew up. But when I discovered eBay in the ’90s, like many others, I began to add to my collection.
I always looked at the custom Mego stuff. These were the figures that Mego never made. Back then, there were only a few really good customizers that could get big money. I noticed a lot of extremely poor customs sold really well. I thought to myself ” I know I can do better”.
So, I started building a few custom Megos and they sold pretty good. But I wanted to add something more to my custom work. At this point in time, I had just got out of college and entered the sign business with a Fast Signs in Nashville, Tenn. I wanted to combine my work with my hobby. So, I started producing small decal sets. These were cut in vinyl. Instead of a waterslide or paper decal, now I could offer to the public something a little better.
The vinyl I use is six-year exterior grade. So, I knew this would hold up for hobbyists like me. I spent about three years perfecting my custom work. Everything including the artwork, box designs, molding and casting heads/parts, the right kinds of paper and glues.
There was some information on the net at that time, but a lot of trial and error was done. But that’s how you learn a craft or trade. It takes time. Fast-forward about 10 years or so. I noticed A LOT of people building and selling custom Megos. So, I decided to branch out into other toy lines. Like Big Jim, G.I. Joe, Six Million Dollar Man, Evel Knievel and few others. This allowed me to reach thousands of other toy collectors. They ALL needed replacement decals for their collections. I was happy to help them out.
RtB: Have you figured out how to keep Megos together? Every one I ever owned fell apart within a few weeks. String holding on the arms and legs? Silly. My dad always did his best to put them back together with rubber bands or wire, but they never moved as well as they should have.
Bobby: Megos are pretty easy to restring. Of course, I say that AFTER I’ve restrung several hundred. When I was a kid, I didn’t have a clue either. Check the above link and browse around.
RtB: When did you start doing decals? What was your inspiration, what came first?
Bobby: I started in the mid-’90s. My first set was 1/25 Batmobile decals and some Mego custom sets. They both came about the same time.
RtB: What tools do you use to create the decals? I’m curious about specific information here. What software do you use to do the decals? Are they scans or illustrations or what? Do you print them all at home or have them done elsewhere? Do you do the cards? Wrap them up in plastic yourself? Are they done on demand, or do you have a supply on hand?
Bobby: I design everything in the computer with CorelDraw. It’s the only program I use. I have different printers that I use. Mostly higher end, wide format. I use these for the better print quality and the fact that when I print a box, it’s in one piece. I don’t use an off-the-shelf, cheap printer that only prints 8.5 inches wide. Those are OK, but you have to cut and paste the box parts together by hand. That takes time and the quality is lower, IMHO.
I have two plotters that I use. A small one to do one-color cuts. Like cutting the star for Captain America in white. The other one is a big VersaCam. These print with UV inks and die-cut the vinyl. Machines like this start at 10 grand and go up from there.
I use these types of plotters and printers to provide the very best product that I can. I want people to get quality for their hard-earned cash. But also I keep my pricing pretty low. I’ve been doing this for so long now, I know how to price accordingly.
I do keep a supply of decals cut, ready to ship. That’s because it’s cheaper to run a couple sets that to run one set.
RtB: What decals do you now have available, and how much do they cost?
Bobby: I have the following: custom Mego/superheroes, Big Jim, G.I. Joe/Action Man, Six Million Dollar Man, Evel Knievel, Polar Lights Batboat/Batcycle and a few others. Ninety percent of my sets start at $7. I don’t have a website, but anyone can e-mail me for details.
RtB: How about the customized Megos, such as the ones your pictures show of Dr. Gangrene and Bob Burns? Do you do all that work yourself?
I’m pretty ignorant here. Do you sculpt new heads for the figures or customize existing ones? What are they made of? Do you sew costumes, build the boxes, all that? Molding and casting?
Bobby: I do a lot of the work with my custom Megos. I do all of the box art, printing and building. The outfits are usually purchased from Doc Mego and
I rework them as needed. This could include a simple restich to tighten the suits or just using a lab coat to dress a figure. I’m not the greatest sculptor, so I find a head that’s pretty close to what I’m shooting for and rework it. The Dr. Gangrene head started out as a resin cast of the Mego Dr. McCoy.[caption id="attachment_866" align="alignright" width="208" caption="Bobby Horne's custom Megos of Bob Burns and Tracy the Gorilla, the character Burns portrayed in the 1975 Saturday morning children's show "The Ghost Busters"."][/caption]
Now the Bob Burns and Tracy figures were a little different. I reworked some parts to make Bob. But Tracy is a 100 percent build. I sculpted the head, made a resin cast and built the body and suit. Bob was very pleased and that’s reward enough for me.
RtB: Do you have a particular interest in any specific Mego character or line of characters, or do you view them all as potential customizing material?
Bobby: I’ve always thought it was “open season” on all of the Mego characters. Several years ago, a customer asked me to build him some Spider-Man villains and secondary characters. When it was all said and done I sold him over 75 different customs with boxes. I also built him several Spider-Man villain resin kits. He was a VERY good customer.
RtB: You shared pictures of banners and signs made for CultTVMan and Resin Realities. Is that something you do a lot?
Bobby: Yeah, I still do a lot of sign work. Whatever the customer wants, I try to take care of him.
Steve/CultTVMan has been a real good customer over the years. Bless him. John/Resin Realites is like a brother. I’ve made A LOT of good friends over the years in the garage kit world. Some of the best people I’ve ever met and 99 percent of the time we only get to see each other once a year at WonderFest.
People like Dave Fisher, Terry Webb, Paul Schiola (another brother), John Tucky, Saul Alvarez, The Brothers in Resin, George Stephenson, Jesse/ResinPimps, Scott & Jane, Bob Burns, Tom Parker, the list goes on and on. If I’ve left anyone out, please don’t hate me.
RtB: I was at WonderFest in 2005 and saw part of your presentation to Bob Burns. Do you do that kind of thing often? Can you tell me more about what happened that day, and any other such events?
Bobby: I was contacted by Dr. Gangrene to see if I could produce something for Bob’s birthday. I had been working with Dr. Gangrene, producing his Mego figures, for a while. That got the ball rolling.
If I can do this sort of thing, I will. It’s a lot of work, but when I see the shock in someone’s eyes and hear the grateful tone of their “thank yous”, it’s more than worth it to me. I have to thank Dr. Gangrene for allowing me to be part of his act. It allowed me to get a little closer to Bob Burns, whom I’ve admired for a long time.
I produced a custom figure of George Lindsey as Goober from “The Andy Griffth Show”. I gave it to him at a small show a couple years ago. He stated,” Oh my God. Where did you buy this?” After I told him that I produce these type of figures and it was a gift to him as a sorta thank you for all of the years of enjoyment he had given my family, he just about broke down. In the pic, he let me wear his hat. Just too cool! George is a class act.
RtB: Have you seen Dr. Gangrene’s video with the Mego you gave him?
Bobby: Yeah, he sent me a link a while back. Fun STUFF. The Doc and his Nurse are good people. I love them both. His show at WonderFest really captures the “feel” of the old-time horror hosts. It’s really the same as when we were kids, except we’re all grown-up and have money to spend.
RtB: You produced a neat resin blank kit. Is that still available? Also, have you produced other model kits? I see a Den kit on eBay right now produced by Academy Art & Design, looks like your logo on the box.
Bobby: I still produce the MR. Blank kit. It was sculpted by Mikey B. A true master of of the male form. The Den kit is mine too. I sculpted the base, loincloth and added a MR. Blank kit. Pretty simple, but it works.
It’s not a model kit, but I did produce a bust add-on for female Mego bodies. It was sculpted by Chris Elizardo/ScultorForHire. He did a great job for me.
RtB: What are you working on now?[caption id="attachment_880" align="alignleft" width="203" caption="Bob Horne produces this MR. Blank resin model, sculpted by Mikey B."][/caption]
Bobby: Wow. I have so many things that I want to produce. I’ve been working on a new resin-cast Mego body. Something that is a step above the standard body. A LOT more heroic looking. This is something that I will sell to other customizers.
I’m currently doing a lot of G.I. Joe/Action Man decals. I hope to add a CNC router to my shop the first of the year. My plan is to offer custom wood working to home builders. Something different, unique and affordable.
RtB: Anything else you’d like to add?
Bobby: It’s strange when I read back over everything. I’ve produced a lot of stuff over the years. It’s mostly been to help pay my bills. But I can look back at a few items that I worked on just for myself or close friends. Some of my custom Megos in my personal collection are based on Golden Age comics.
One year for Christmas I built the GEOmetric Mummy bust for my wife. The Universal Mummy is her favorite monster. I’ve built several custom Megos/kits for one of my best friends. But in the end, it’s about your family and friends. It don’t get any better than that.
A little unknown fact about me: I do most of the cooking and baking around the house. I can whip up a mean supper any night of the week. But my wife makes the best pies in the world.