Last time we talked to Con, a fan up in the far north of Australia. This time we head back down south to talk to Michael, one of the true Kings of Customization in Australia and a helluva nice guy a few years ago I got the pleasure of meeting!
Oh, and don’t forget to check at the bottom of this post for your chance to be a future interviewee on www.bigangrytrev.com!
Real name or what friends call you?
Michael. Mick to my family (literally only blood relatives call me this).
State you live in?
I’m a community nurse, that is, I deliver nursing care to people in their homes.
Your dream job?
41, or as I like to think of it, old enough to know better.
Married, 2 teenage step-kids, 2 boys of my own, 3 & 5 years old.
Any websites/blogs/picture/social sites?
My customising work is at Facebook.com/MsToyCustoms. Twitter @michaelfouche. Working on a Twitter and Instagram profile for my customs work. I had a writing blog (a considerable body of work to which I have not added for some time) at michaelfouche.blogspot.com.au. It was/is little more than an exercise in writing and not much use to anyone, to be honest. There’s a couple of TF based pieces in there if you want to dig a bit. I keep promising myself and my editor that I’ll write more, but it hasn’t happened yet.
What other (non-toy) interests do you have?
I love writing and I’m a (very amateur) singer and musician. I used to love illustration, too, but haven’t adequate skill to pursue it as fervently or productively as I would like. Dyed-in-the-wool Western Bulldogs (AFL) supporter*. Obsessively follow politics, which intrigues and disgusts me in equal measure. I enjoy cooking but my fussy family means I don’t get to stretch those muscles nearly as much as I’d like.
*All TF fans should be Essendon supporters – our mascot is a Bomber Jet!
What type of music/movies/TV/books do you enjoy?
I’m a huge music fan, pretty eclectic tastes. I have all my most favourite music on my phone – about 3,300 songs. I love to read but struggle to find time. Got 3 books going (on and off) at the moment. I devour podcasts, if I’m doing anything like housework or gardening or driving I usually have one on. Love movies, all kinds, my favourite being The Incredibles. I have little time or patience for most TV, but my favourite show of all time that I could watch over and over and over again would be The West Wing.
Do you collect anything besides Transformers?
TFs are definitely my first love, but a part of my heart belongs to Masters of the Universe and Lego.
How would you rate yourself on a C scale? With C1 being ‘Junker not worth it even for parts’ to C10 being ‘Perfection’.
C6? Could do with a pretty good reno, but there’s bits that will never ever be mint. An argument could be made for flawed straight off the factory floor due to poor QC.
How would you rate how sexually attracted you are to Trev? With 1 being ‘Very’ to 10 being ‘I make my wife dress up in a Trev costume whenever we make love’.
Are you kidding? I met my wife after she won first prize in a Trev look-alike competition*. Where else would one go to find a suitable partner? Can you think of somewhere better? Well? Go on. I’ll wait.
*I was in that competition – I came fourth
Transformers Allegiance, if you had one?
Your Techspec motto if you had one?
The one listed in my high school yearbook remains apt: “What are we talking about again?”. I’m perpetually distracted.
Which special ability of any Transformers character would you want to have for yourself?
Skywarp’s teleportation. There’s no ability that tops it, not even close.
Fan/Collector since (year)?
I collected as a boy, ’84 & ’85 mostly, then lost interest as a teen and gave all my (beautifully kept) TF collection to a younger step-brother who destroyed them (the snotty little brat that he was!). I’ve regretted that desperately ever since. Recommenced collecting in 2007, at the onset of the Bay films.
What drew you to Transformers, making you become a fan/collector? Back in the day, I was the perfect age at the birth of the brand – about 7-8 years old. I used to watch the G1 cartoon from the very first episode on The Early Bird Show with Marty Monster.
More recently, around ’07, my wife bought me one – a Movieverse voyager Ironhide. I bought my second one, she bought the 3rd, and we were off to the races.
Do you think you will collect Transformers until you die?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and don’t have an answer. It’s certainly possible I’ll reach a stop point, but I haven’t got there yet. To me, toys are about joy. Who wants to stop having joy?
Were your family/parents supportive of collecting toys or did you have to hide your passion from them and friends?
Not really an issue, although my wife has facetiously asked me on a couple of occasions “Haven’t you got them all yet?”. She also reminds me that I really am out of space to display my collection, and I have more space than many do.
Any creative endeavours with Transformers (drawing, writing, customising, etc)?
No. Nope. Nada. Never. Wouldn’t dream of it. Why do you ask? Ridiculous notion…
…Actually, come to think of it, it’s suddenly coming to me, I do rather enjoy customising Transformers*
*To understand the depth of this smart-arseary, check out the pics in the Questions from other fans section
Favourite series/era/year, and why?
G1 (for the nostalgic reasons above) but I absolutely do not begrudge fans of any other era. If things (brands like Transformers) don’t evolve and open themselves up for reinterpretation, they die. Simple. Not all of it is my cup of tea, but I’d rather it exists for the enjoyment of others so that the brand lives on.
Least favourite series/era/year, and why?
I’m pretty cold for The Unicron Trilogy. I’m really ambivalent towards the Bay-verse stuff, because I feel it is deliberately disrespectful at its core (in so many ways, but not in the sense of “Michael Bay raped my childhood!”, which is utter nonsense). On the other hand, it is also responsible for reigniting my passion for all things TFs. My biggest TF confession is that I’ve never seen a single episode of Beast Wars* (even though I believe many people who say it’s some of the best TF fiction ever). One day.
*There is a monkey that talks and a wasp that explodes a lot – that’s the main jist of it.
Collect any comics (which ones)?
I have a bunch of the newer IDW stuff that I got cheap via a Humble Bundle, but haven’t had the time to read it yet. I own a few thousand comic books (mostly Marvel circa 1990-2005 or thereabouts) in a cupboard. I still collect and read Kurt Busiek’s Astro City via TPBs.
Favourite Comic issue/story, and why?
Target 2006, from the old UK Transformer comics (also foolishly disposed of when I was younger. I swear if I met a younger version of me I’d fully smack some sense into myself). It seemed like the *perfect* sequel to the ’86 animated movie, all edge-of-your-seat excitement.
Favourite Cartoon episode/story, and why?
The animated ’86 movie was more or less a feature length episode of the G1 cartoon, so I’ll say that one. Still the best TF movie ever!
Favourite Character, and why?
I always had an affinity for G1 Hound. Gentle, softly spoken, but unlike most of the Autobots of his time, he’s a military vehicle (as opposed to a sports car of a truck or a sedan or something). There’s an interesting dichotomy there. Also love the Protectobots.
Approx TFs toy collection count (or give a range like 200s, 300s, etc)?
Sealed collector or out-of-packaging collector?
How much do you think you’ve spent on your collecting habit?
I try not to. I am lucky in that due to my customising and commissions work, I have earned enough to effectively pay for my collecting for the last 2 years. No impact on the family budget means the good lady wife is (relatively) happy.
Any rare/expensive figures in your collection?
Not really. Not that kind of collector I guess.
First Transformers toy?
Can’t fully remember. I think it might have a G1 minibot, Brawn springs to mind.
One toy you most want?
At the moment, it’s an MP11ND Dirge. Ordered from PC (so yeah, flying pigs anyone?), and now it’s at a price that I can’t justify spending on what is basically the 328th repaint/remould of MP11.
The centrepiece/favourite toy in your collection at the moment (and why)?
MP10 will be exceeding difficult to surpass in my eyes. It’s so damned beautiful a toy.
Favourite toy in your early years of collecting (if it was more than 10 years ago)?
G1 Defensor (because I hunted for him over several weeks and got him piece at a time) or G1 Hound (for reasons above).
Worst toy(s) ever in your opinion?
DOTM HA Thunderhead. Not only an idiotic toy, but my hatred of it also comes from a sense of self-loathing in that I also bought the recolour of it in Crosshairs, during a fit of anal-retentive completionism.
Toy that was most disappointing when you got them?
A recent disappointment of staggering proportions was POTP Starscream. The robot mode is insanely out of proportion, the jet mode doesn’t tab together at all neatly, his stickers are bad quality and uniformly poorly applied, and worst of all, I can’t get the SS head to fold away in torso mode (so it looks like he’s giving birth to himself… eeeeewwwwww). Feels like a first draft that was accidentally released before it was ready for public consumption.
Thoughts on gimmick and non-convertable Transformers toys?
Mildly worthwhile, if only as cute curios. But they have to be charming to work.
Thoughts on unlicensed fan-project figures/accessories?
Cautiously accepting, in limited circumstances. That’s probably a much longer discussion than what there is time or space for here. I am a huge fan, and I mean massive, of Reprolabels (via Toyhax.com) as enhancements to toys in my collection.
Thoughts on the Transformers Brand over the last five years?
If you’d told me 6 years ago we’d have this many modern Headmasters (ahem, sorry, Titan Masters) toys, Trypticon, Fort Max, so many extraordinary G1-inspired Masterpiece toys, I’d say you were dreaming. We are so damned lucky, spoiled for choice really. The Bay-verse is limping to an inevitable death, which was somewhat predictable, but going out with a bang toy-wise, with the Studio series. Overall, I’m optimistic that the brand is in good shape.
Which single TFs toy should every fan own?
MP10 Optimus Prime. Easy choice.
QUESTIONS FROM FELLOW FANS:
Big Angry Trev: I really enjoyed going to see TF4 in Gold Class with you a few years ago. It has been announced that the current Movieverse will end with this year’s Bumblebee movie and there will be a reboot in a few year’s time. What would you like to see in the reboot to make it something that truly does the Transformers justice?
That meet was a highlight for me too! It was the first time I went to see a Transformers film with a passionate TF fan*
*And one that looks like your wife apparently
I don’t think it needs to slavishly adhere to any previous versions of the fiction (as I said before, re-imagining and re-interpretation keeps the brand fresh, and every iteration is someone’s first). Having said that, the single biggest factor that first exploded TFs as a brand and secured it’s place in popular culture, in my view, was the introduction of individualistic personalities, characteristics, and abilities for each character. It elevated them from mere toys with a gimmick to something far more weighty, that really captures the imagination. Spectacle is an absolute necessity, but without character and story, the spectacle is empty and can only be maintained for a limited time – and I would argue that Michael Bay has stretched the public’s patience with respect to the movies as long as is possible, possibly to the next movie’s detriment (the Bumblebee stand alone and even beyond).
Focus on giving us an amazing and gripping story, filled with intriguing characters (robot characters for the love of Pete!) that we can care about and let the spectacle take care of itself.
Dallas: You are clearly very good at customising. I would consider myself a dabbler at best. I’ve done 2 of the Botcon Custom classes, and I’ve got to say they don’t come close to the level of complexity you constantly apply.
Therein lies a tale. I feel like I’m asking for even more indulgence than I’ve already been given thus far in this interview, but here it is:
I started dabbling, and my first efforts were utterly abysmal because I essentially had little clue what I was doing. The first complete TF figure I did was a ROTF Brawn (see attached pic). I went out and bought another afterwards and did it again, so I could correct mistakes I made the first time, which were plentiful. The thing that kept me going was curiousity, a desire to improve and a bone-headed willingness to royally screw things up in order to get better. There’s a writer’s saying that you need to write out a million bad words before you get to any of the good ones. Put differently, you have to wade through a river of excrement (of bad customs) in order to get to clean waters (of good customs). With TF customs, I’ve been prepared to make ten year’s worth of mistakes in order to get at a level I’m almost happy with. That takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, frustrations and money.
Man alive, that really sounds really self important. Sorry.
Have you done one of the Botcon classes, if so were you disappointed?
I’ve never done a Botcon customising class, but I did enrol in a series of online customising classes by a famous and extremely talented customiser. After the first one I had learned all I was going to learn from that individual, but I enrolled in another 6 of his classes in order to make a combining Defensor (this was before Combiner Wars). He did the first few classes but then essentially lost interest in completing the others. He strung everyone (including me) along with false promises until it was too late to be able to initiate chargebacks and has disappeared from the TF customising scene owing me and a heap of other participants hundreds of dollars each. His name is mud now, and rightly so. Screw that guy.
I did get some early advice from a friend that was into Warhammer and the like, but other than that it was online tutorials and YouTube videos (of which there is a metric crap-tonne). One of the best places I found in the early days as a learning resource was http://h<a href=”http://www.jinsaoto…ustoys.com</a> (provided you are happy checking out that content despite that particular creator’s past controversies…). From there, the best teacher I had was experience, doing and failing, doing and failing, again and again, with a little less failing each time.
Trent: As a customiser, what sort of things tickle your interest? You seem to have enjoyed the custom you completed for me a few years ago and have expressed interest in my next one but there would no doubt be concepts that you aren’t keen on based on either the design or the work involved.
Simply put, I am intrigued by anything that pushes me creatively. Each and every custom HAS TO be better than the last one. HAS TO. Another confession: the last 2 commissions I’ve accepted and completed required me to perform techniques and skills I did not yet possess at the time of the request. Some stupid bravado there, perhaps, but fortune favours the brave (or the stupid, you decide) and now I have new skills I can employ next time. If I stagnate, I’ll look for something else to put my hand to.
There are some requests I get that I am not particularly keen on, but one can always say no. I’ve not traditionally been good at that, but I’m learning. I can find benefit and interest in every project regardless of my feelings about its value, and there isn’t a project I’ve done that I haven’t enjoyed to a degree. The love of customising is in the doing, not the end product. Not to say that that the final result isn’t important, but it’s not the be all and end all, for me anyway.
(And just quietly, I’m looking forward to your next project as I don’t quite yet know how I’m going to make it special. But it will be special.)
What’s your all time favourite custom that you’ve completed and why?
I’d have to say the Metrotitan custom (from a Generations Metroplex). That was tough and long and it changed tracks on me a couple of times before ending up as it did. I think the length of time it took to complete was the thing that has made it stand out for me. I was supremely pleased when it ended up in the hands of an Aussie collector.
If the question had been “what is your favourite custom work”, the answer is always “the next one”. It sounds trite, but I swear it’s true.
Raf: As a parent, would you like your children to follow your passion for transformers? And as a follow up, how did you start breaking them in so to speak?
While I would love my kids to carry on my passion for TFs, I am learning from older, wiser and more experienced parents to find a way into their hearts by loving the things they love rather than trying to make them love what I love. They do often like to come into my man-child cave and play with my toys though. A good many of these answers were typed with my three-year-old on my lap playing with “my” stuff, asking me about my Minicon deskbots and swapping the hair between Lego Mr Incredible and Lego Marty McFly. He told me later that it was the best part of his day. It may well have been mine too.
The boys do, from time to time, like to play with my TFs – I have a small collection of deluxe figures (mostly from the recent RID line) that I keep especially for such purposes so they’ll leave my more expensive or precious ones alone, but they are usually pretty gentle with them anyway. I have also bought them a few TFs from time to time, like from the Rescuebots line (awesome cartoon by the way! Especially good to watch with the little ones).
The Gambler: Do you have other creative endeavors outside of customising Transformers?
I really feel an innate need to be creative and have a constant creative outlet, like a shark that sinks if it stops swimming. I enjoy music, illustration (but not for a while now), customising other toy lines (such as MOTU – I have a killer MOTU idea that uses the Shattered Glass concept from TFs but haven’t had the time to really get stuck into it as deeply as I would like). And of course writing, although again I haven’t written as much as I have answering these questions for some time. I suspect writing will be my ongoing creative outlet of choice one day.
Raymo: I think some of your creations are amazing, the crossover He-Man Prime Transformers was such a great concept and well executed, has someone ever come up with a concept and your first thought is….are you high? Or do you think nope I’m gonna have a crack and give it time?
Not really. Occasionally, a commissioner might make creative decisions I may not be in total agreement with, but in the end, the figure is going to sit in their collection, so they get the ultimate say. Sometimes, I get a really cool idea and float it with them, and rarely do commissioners say no if the idea is good enough.
Sometimes people see something I’ve done and ask “can I get you to do one of those for me?”. It’s not out of the question (I have made multiples of things before) but usually I want to move on to something new, not just rehash the same old stuff, even though I’m reasonably confident I can always do the second one better than the first.
The He-Man idea (and the figures involved) were such a no-brainer for me, I’m stunned nobody thought of the idea sooner (that I am aware of).
Speaking of, do you want to see more He-Man/TF crossovers? I have all the base figures for series 2 and 3… (16 more characters planned).
Which leads me to my next question, do you get complete timewasters in the custom world?
Most people I have encountered make an enquiry and when I respond they either say thanks but no thanks (ie the quoted price might be too high for them) or I don’t hear back. Time wasters haven’t been a big issue for me. There was this one guy (not anyone associated with this forum) who, every 6 months or so, says he’s desperate for me to do a particular project for him. Each time I’ve said yes, he stops communicating and it doesn’t happen. Then, after a little while, he comes back with the same request. We’ve been at this particular tennis match about 3 or 4 years now.
Lastly, when are you going to clean up your house?
Fair question. For those following at home, I have 2 kids under 5 and my house can be appropriately described as “lived in”. My youngest is 3, so I expect the house to be tidy around January.
I am reliably informed (like, I’m sure it was on the internet somewhere) that brainy people have messy desks. That’s truth man.
Kevin: If someone were to create a movie about your life, what would it be about and who will be playing the lead characters?
I’m not very sporty and have a distinct lack of co-ordination. There’s even a way of falling over my mates have named after me (“The Fouché Flop”, trademark, copyright). Put that together with the fact that I have a good face for radio, and I can’t think of anyone better to portray me than a Mr. Bean-era Rowan Atkinson. Safe to say it would be a comedy of errors involving misunderstandings, tomfoolery and pratfalls.
Got any other questions for Michael? Pop them in the comments section below and I’m sure he will do his best to answer them!
All the answers to the crossword below can be found in the interview above. Be the first to put the answers in the comments section and it will be YOU appearing in a future fan interview!
1. A Transformers Custom
2. What his family calls him
3. A beloved 80’s cartoon
1. His first name
2. A MOTU Custom
3. Claims to be an amateur
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