For as long as I can remember I`ve had a ton of action figures. I have some pre-action figure memories from my early childhood when I owned more stuffed animals than anything else but even stuffed animals are really just cuddly action figures. Doug and I owned almost every single G.I. Joe figure and vehicle produced in the first few years of the brand, almost every wrestler, a crap-load of Transformers and He-Men, and a ton of other random odds and ends. You`d think that would be enough to keep us occupied well into puberty, but it wasn`t. We always wanted action figures of things for which no action figures existed. Our favourite hockey players, Marvel Universe characters, and even Ninja Turtles did not have toys available back when Doug and I first decided we wanted them.
To compensate Doug and I would make our own toys, usually a paper-doll type of deal to tide us over until a sensible toy company got around to making real toys of these properties. In all those cases toy companies did eventually follow our lead. The Ninja Turtle figures hit store shelves soon after and there have been tons of Marvel toy lines that have come and gone since those days, even hockey players were eventually rendered in action figure form. There were a few instances where we were well aware that these paper dolls were as good as it was gonna get. Doug and I created our own comic books as kids and when we made “figures” of those characters we had no delusions of ever owning fully articulated real figures of these characters. We had stacks of paper doll representations of homemade creations like Lynx, Pulsar, Landslide and Life Source. Over the years I continued to create new characters and continued to try to find new ways to make action figures of those characters. In my junior high woodworking class I created crude action figures of my characters Ollie and Pressure Flip from my comic book about skateboarding dogs called the Boarder Brigade. I had my mom sew me a stuffed plush version of my character Sonic. I created Sonic before I had ever even heard of the blue hedgehog who bears the same moniker. My sonic was a crooked cop who moonlighted as a vigilante super-hero with sound based powers.
In High School I created the comic series Costello Island about a tropical island filled with wacked out perverted animals. The early issues are a little embarrassing to read and show others but to this day Costello Island remains one of my creations that I’m most proud of. The cast of characters was excessive, the story and art were relatively simple, and the humour was juvenile to say the least but despite all that I think I created some really endearing characters and some truly funny situations. The main character of the book was Charlie the Camel. Charlie didn’t have a blatant gimmick in the same way that some of the lesser characters did, he was just dumb. Like a Homer Simpson on 4 legs. Charlie was perpetually smiling, even if he was in the middle of a warzone with a bone protruding from his leg. He was totally oblivious to his surroundings. To counter Charlie’s absent mindedness I gave him a best friend able to steer him in the right direction. Chiliwac the ant seemed a good choice. When conceiving the book Chiliwac was one of the few characters I doodled who didn’t have an obvious flaw, he was just a cute ant. I paired him with Charlie because he could sit atop Charlie’s head or back and easily be squeezed into any shot of Charlie, even the close ups.
The pair were rarely apart in the book. Chiliwac was a straight man who called things like he saw them. I don’t recall where the name came from, I think I just looked at a map and chose it at random. The design was pretty basic, 3 balls made up his segmented body then I slapped on some googly eyes and a few lines for legs and antennae. When the urge came to create 3D representations of my Costello Island characters Chiliwac seemed like an obvious choice to attempt based on his simple design and prominence in the series. I purchased a variety of Femo colors and attempted to shape the characters in the bakable clay. Though Costello island was usually drawn in black and white I always knew Chiliwac was a red ant so red was an easy choice for the body with a pair of white balls for the eyes. I actually think he turned out great. Sometimes rendering 2D characters in a 3D medium just doesn’t look right but I think Chiliwac translated quite well into the third dimension. I ended up making about 10 femo figures of Costello characters. Some of them turned out better than others, Chiliwac being one of the best due to his simple design. I couldn’t make a Charlie as he would’ve been too big so the “action figure line” consists mostly of the smaller characters. These figures have been stored in a tin in the closet for more than a decade and time has been rough on them. Some are cracked or broken, the details drawn in marker such as pupils on the eyes have faded and some of them have warped. Chiliwac’s legs for example have curled up under his body over the years. Maybe I’ll take another stab at making these sometime but what I really hope is that these characters might actually be introduced to the world one day and maybe then I’ll have a chance to produce actual figurines of the characters. Cross your fingers for me. I give Chiliwac a very biased 7 out of 10.