I accidentally found Sillof’s custom figures when I was googling for Batman toys. I noticed the figures on his site didn’t look familiar. Upon doing further investigation, I found out that all the figures were created by him.
What I love about Sillof’s work is the little details he puts into each figure. For example, the Victorian Era Aquaman. Sillof gave him a scuba diver outfit. But instead of wearing it on the ocean, he thought Aquaman should be wearing it on land because he has lived most of his life in the ocean. There’s a reason for Sillof’s designs and that’s what makes them unique.
I wanted to know the man behind the toys so I contacted Siloff and asked him about his wonderful creations.
NERDSociety(NS): Plenty of your toys are designed in the Victorian era, what attracts you to it?
Sillof(S) I have a multiple degrees in History and related fields. The Victorian Era has always been a favorite era of mine to study and enjoy.
NS: Have you tried using historic victorian figures and turned them into superheroes?
S: The thought had crossed my mind, but it always came off a little to “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (love the comic – hate the movie).
NS: Does your fantasy in creating these styles in the toy world manifest into real world fashion?
S: If you mean do I dress up or make costumes. The answer is NO. I started off making replica props, my dad was a machinist and it was something we did together. But I have never done anything full scale.
Although some people have made costumes based off my designs, with my approval, and appeared cons and festivals – which is flattering.
NS: What’s your favorite steampunk/victorian movie?
S: I am not a fan of Steampunk movies per say, or even books for that matter. I love the aesthetic and feel of the era. I am a huge movie fan and teach a class on film.
I love films by Guilermo Del Toro and Terry Gilliam which have similar visual elements. As for Victorian Era films – I love Sherlock Holmes movies like “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”, “7% Solution” and “Murder By Decree”. I like “From Hell”, “The Prestige” and “The Great Train Robbery” … I could go on and on.
NS: Your figures are very detailed and they’re similar to their original counterpart. You can tell right away it’s the same Star Wars and comic book characters but in a different universe. Does anyone help you out with the designs?
S: No, it is all me. I used to spend time adhering to the traditional looks of characters. But, over time I found that creating my own designs was much more rewarding and added an additional creative step or two that I love. I put a lot of thought in the right balance of keeping them recognizable and also doing something new that is my own.
I love this line, Steam Wars!
NS: Also can you tell us the process behind the design?
S: Google search is a helpful resource from time to time. But most of it comes from my knowledge of history and any film production design that may have leaked into my subconscious. Really I just go for what I think looks/feels right. I just think a lot about what to keep, what feel I want to evoke, and how to marry the two.
I don’t really sketch anything, my drawing skills are limited and I have never taken any art classes. I actually have an excel spreadsheet full of ideas and concepts but it is just lists of words.
NS: How long does it take to create one line from start to finish?
S: Before I had my daughter I could really crank stuff out. Now I primarily work when she and my wife go to bed .I t really just depends on how fired up I am on the idea. I am generally working on 3-4 lines at a time, with anywhere from 20-30 figures in some stage of creation.
Some are in planning, some are in gathering the pieces (or fodder), some are in sculpting, some are in painting, and some are in detailing, some are waiting to be photographed, and others are waiting to get released on my site or a contest.
NS: What about the dioramas?
S: I actually enjoy making dioramas the most. It is closest to my passion of production design and model making for movies. Making dioramas have taken me the most places and given me the most opportunities as well. The Cantina took under a week and Jabba’s Palace was about the same. I made most of the other star wars dioramas in couple of days. I don’t make as many as I like, as they are large and I have no where to display them. Although I did just make a nice one of Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum for a contest at Figurerealm.com (it won 1st place) – but it only took 2 days.
I am working on 2 dioramas that are going to be 2 of my best, but I am keeping them under wraps for now. There is only 1 other Star Wars diorama I have planned and that is the Carbon Freezing Chamber.
Star Wars Diorama
NS: What’s the favorite figure you’ve created?
S: It is hard to narrow it down but I love the Steampunk Iron Man, the Steam Wars Boba Fett, 3PO, R2, & Vader, Gaslight Green Lantern, Superman, & Aquaman. There are a few more but I am not allowed to reveal them due to rules from contests and websites there are going to be in.
NS: Have you ever thought of making it as your career, like doing commissions instead of having a regular job?
S: My dream job is to work on movies. I generally don’t like commissions at this point because I barely have time to get my ideas done, let alone mess with what someone else wants. I do this as a creative outlet and have never sold a piece. But, I actually plan on selling a ton of figures on Ebay this summer and we will see how that goes. I am only selling to make room; most of the figures are in boxes.
Punisher – Western style
NS: Besides making figures, what else do you like to do on your spare time?
S: I spend time with my wife and daughter. Hang out with friends. I go to a lot of movies. I helped form a production company and we make movies. I read books and comics. Right now I am in the process of a new creative outlet, but I have to wait to discuss it, it is too early.
NS: Are you a nerd?
S: I don’t play video games and read as many comics as I used too. But I still buy a few games a year and there are a few comic titles that are still on the pull-list.
NS: What’s your advice to customizers that are just starting out?
S: I would say just do what makes you happy. I have been doing this for 15-20 years. I never get tired of it, because I am just doing for my own enjoyment. I see a lot of customizers come and go, I think they get burned out because it becomes a job, not a hobby, and they are doing for the money. I have turned down more then a couple jobs in related fields because I think it would have just become laborious.
NS: It seems like you’re a big George Lucas fan since you’ve a lot of impressive replicas from Star Wars and Indiana Jones, what did you think of Indiana Jones 4 and the Star Wars prequel?
S: I enjoyed Crystal Skull, but not on any level approaching the originals. I was a Star Wars prequel apologist for years. I have come to grips with the fact that they are fun and have some neat ideas, and great moments.
But they just are as great, for me, as the originals. I realize I saw them with 30 year old eyes not the eyes of a 7 years old like I did when I was kid and I still watch the Clone Wars cartoon every week on Cartoon Network.
NS: You made a Leonidas figure 2 years before the movie 300 came out. Add a cape and it would’ve been a Leonidas figure from the movie. How did you feel when you first saw the Spartans in 300?
S: I am a history teacher, and have always loved the ancient world, and that battle in particular. I have read all of Frank Miller’s work and love it. Daredevil is my favorite character. I love the graphic novel.
The historian in me cringed when I realized my students were going to think that the film was historically accurate for decades to come. The geek in me loved seeing it. The guy in me enjoyed it on a visceral action movie level. The filmmaker in me appreciated Snyder’s flare for visuals and faithfulness and respect for the material, as I did with the Watchmen this weekend.
It will never be as good as the original; it is like looking a picture of the Pieta…Good, but not the same.
NS: Thanks for taking your time for the interview!
S: It’s my pleasure, thanks for the interview.
Thanks again to Sillof for the interview. Be sure to check out his site, sillof.com for more pictures of his great figures. If you want some of his figures, better save up your money because he’ll be selling some of them soon to make room for his new creations.