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It was the late 80s/early 90s. I was aged in the single digits. Through my brother, I discovered comic books. However, as you can imagine, I was rarely allowed to borrow big brother’s comics. I read them anyway (he wasn’t home all the time).

Sometime later, I bought my first comic at a bookstore called Kroch’s and Bertano’s, Chicago’s then biggest bookstore. I bought an X-Men issue with my own money. In the issue, Gambit was a recent addition to the X-Men roster — the team battled with the Shi’ar Empire. I soon became consumed with comics.

The problem was, at the time, there were absolutely zero X-Men toys, let alone any Marvel ones. (Quite a switch, compared to today.) What did I do? I made my own!

We all have something we are proud of that we made when we were kids. Our first masterpieces, if you will. This one is my first.

My tools included:

  • Single pair of Swan embroidery scissors (the fine tip allows for miniature work)
  • Super & Elmer’s glue
  • My parent’s junk drawer, which was full of all sorts of random odd-and-ends
  • Construction paper, oddly enough bought when I was even younger
  • My mother’s cross stitch thread, which had a wide variety of colors for hair on the figures
  • Any other crafty item kids have
  • Of course, a large collection of Lego minifigs, most of which were the first Lego space series. (For the most part, the figures were pretty beat up. They were my sibling’s figures many years before me. Before I was born, actually.)

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I’ll start with my best, which happens to be the last one I ever made: Gambit. This is his classic, original costume. Complete with bow-staff and playing cards.

I used a razor blade to cut slots in his hands to hold cards, on both hands. Inside the trench coat is a pocket for all the cards. Unfortunately, only one card remains.

I put noses on most of the figures. I felt they looked silly without them. On this one, the bottom of the nose has a tiny black triangle I glued on it. No idea how I did that with my hands — I suppose because they were so much smaller then.

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Here is a shot of all the figures I made — with the Swan scissors I used on them all. One note: I recall I made the Magneto, Cyclops, and Colossus on the same day, it took all day of constant work. Sometime after that day I made the Gambit.

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Magneto was unique because he was the only one with a removable helmet. He had white cross stitch thread for hair (and eyebrows?). The round parts of the neck collar were supposed to be domes, not cylinders, I just couldn’t find anything that would work.

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Cyclops at one point had a removable visor, revealing red eyes. However, they always broke when I played with them all, so it was permanently glued on.

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Colossus is a figure wrapped in metallic tape I found in that junk drawer. Worked out well!

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As popular back then as now, Wolverine! I made two Wolverines. One with the brown/yellow costume, and the classic yellow/black/blue costume. With Wolverine, I felt he needed a more aggressive or action looking stance. Regular fig stance was just not his character.

What I did was break the legs off the leg posts, removed the leg posts, and connected the legs with a rubber band, but at a wide stance. This way, I could show off Wolverine’s boot flare, too.

All the Wolverine claws are made of metal. I suppose one of my earliest metal working project. This metal was cut from cans. I shaped the claws to match the way they were drawn with the outfits.

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Forge in the classic X-Men uniform. I’m not quite sure why I made this one. I think my goal was to create all the X-Men in their classic blue and yellow costumes.

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Hawkeye was another wide stance character. I thought it looked better. He’s wearing the classic black and purple costume. I made a quiver, arrows, and a bow too. I cut a slot out of one hand to hold the arrows. I only had a few Hawkeye solo comics from my brother, but I never followed his exploits outside the solo run.

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I was obsessed with Green Goblin for a while. I think it was the gadgetry of the character. Made his own bombs, glider, other weapons. This was the first character I made with a wide stance. Mainly so he could stand on a glider and look cool. I made a bag for the character so he could hold pumpkin-bombs and other throwing weapons.

I opened up one hand and placed tape in the base. This way he could “hold” the pumpkins. However, after 20+ years, the tape doesn’t hold.

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Of course, Spiderman! This one was easy. All hand drawn on red paper.

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Venom was my next Spiderman villain obsession. So, I had to make a Venom. I went with the later version of Venom with the huge jaw, from the Jim Lee run. The jaw is all paper, with popsicle stick splintered wood for teeth. A red rubber-band tongue worked out well.

I believe I made claw fingers too, but they were mushed down over time.

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Vega from Street Fighter was my favorite character. With this figure I did something new: I slimmed the figure down since Vega was tall and skinny. I took the body and sawed off the sides with a steak knife. I would saw about 0.125″-0.25″ off each side. Then, I used rubber bands to hold the arms and legs in place, which also made the character quite flexible.

He has a claw hand, of course, and a removable face mask. Again, his hair is from the cross stitch thread.

And now, the ones I am not that proud of, but I still kept.

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Nightcrawler was one my favorite X-Men for a long time, so I wanted this one to be good… it didn’t exactly turn out that way. Costume wise, he was OK. The feet were three-toed like in the comic. I used white rubber bands for toes and blue rubber band for the tail, but the head was never right.

I used blue paper for the skin, made a nose, elf-like ears, and black hair, but it was just not right in my eyes and I could never fix it either.

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Banshee in the classic X-Men uniform. It was very simple, with yellow hair.

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Archangel was popular at the time. He had a paper based uniform with a terrible face, but I liked the tin-foil wings.

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Carnage was a natural choice to make after Venom. However, I could never get the symbiote to look like carnage. Also, the face left a bit to be desired.

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Here’s the White Spy from Spy vs Spy, which was more of an experiment. I didn’t like it, so I never made the counterpart.

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Sabertooth! Because my Wolverines needed a natural enemy. This was another character that I felt I could never make it look cool at all. The original Sabertooth costume was a hard one to make. The claws were not cool.

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Iceman. I couldn’t make him look like ice. He was one of the first I made.

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Human torch, which was just not good. I needed one of his hands for a different endeavor, I see.

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Beetlejuice was another early experiment in making my own figs. I never liked it. Another hand stolen too, I see.

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Finally, Fantastic Four’s the Thing. Oh boy … what a great idea: use real rocks from my driveway. I thought I could fit them all together to make it look authentic, but shape fitting was elusive. His face was hidden, and the body was too big for the arms, so I extended it. In the end I abandoned the idea as well as making the Fantastic Four all together. X-Men were way cooler.

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Those are my childhood masterpieces, in my opinion. If I was going to continue, my next project was going to be black & white Marx Brothers, more X-Men, including the female members, and Lego versions of my parents. I kind of wish the younger me would have made those … would have been interesting to see.

Ahead of the game by 25 years or so. Only as of a year or two ago did Lego start making superhero-based figures.

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That’s what I made when I was young!