Hello everyone, today we will be talking to a well known figure in the Star Wars custom action figure community. We sat down with Justin Cook aka Chewie, from Yakface.com and several others Star wars collecting websites. Many of you may have seen him on these sites, however, you may not know much about him. He shared some insight about his Star Wars fandom with the fan community, his customizing works and even a little about his family’s relationship with the Galaxy far far away. We were honored to be able to sit down and speak with him.
FMIPodcasting: Hello justin, thanks for joining us for some Q&A here on FMIPodcasting. I wanted to start off our session by letting our readers get to know little more about your current position at Yakface.com. Could please you give us a description of your duties there?
Justin: Sure, and thanks for the interview!
I started visiting Yakface back in 1996, and I’ve been a member of the Yakface team since 2006. My primary duties are promoting the customizing hobby, managing the Yakfinities Customizing Challenges, keeping an eye on the forums, and posting newsworthy articles when I can. I also get a bit opinionated at times about how Hasbro handles their Star Wars line, and share those thoughts too. 😉
FMIPodcasting: I’ve been a visitor to Yakface.com for a while and really like the community there, it helped rekindle my fandom a few years ago for the galaxy far far away, which brings me to my next question. When or how did you enter your Star Wars fandom?
Justin: Yes, it’s a great community!
I loved Star Wars as a kid, but my true passion for it began in 1995 with POTF2 (Hasbro’s Power of the Force 2 toy line) . I used to make “movies” with my GI JOE toys in the 1980s, and wanted to make a movie of “A New Hope” in 1995/1996 using figures, etc., which got me into customizing and making dioramas.
I created some very amateur 20-30 minute takes on “A New Hope” during that timeframe, and really got sucked into the hobby, mostly as a diorama builder and customizer – which eventually led to photonovels (my true passion).
FMIPodcasting: Were those early movies what got you into collecting Star Wars figures in the first place, and were they what gave you the idea to start setting up dioramas?
Justin: It really came into being as part of the joy of trying to make my own little “films” – and to me, figures set up in dioramas are so much more interesting than toys in the package or standing on a shelf. I feel that dioramas bring them to life.
FMIPodcasting: I’ve had a great time reading some of the forum discussions over at Yakface.com and especially love the Creations and Diorama area section in particular. Recently, I found out you were the creator of The Enloe Trials photo novel. I loved the great story telling as well as detailed scenes, in this photo novel. Can you tell me what made you decide to start The Enloe Trials project?
Justin: Well, I always have had a hidden desire to “direct films” so this is my silly way of doing that. I thought it would be fun to create a fan fiction character and “tell his story” – which is what Rykrof Enloe is all about. The first chapter came out in 2004, and I made 17 chapters calld “The Enloe Chronicles” that take place in the prequel era- but in 2006/2007, I looked back on the quality and wanted to do better, so I redid those first 17 chapters, then continued it for a while until I got to Chapter 32 – which was a good stopping point.
I took a year or so off, then started “The Enloe Trials” which is in the OT era and is currently up to 9 chapters (including prologue).
For reference, www.photonovelliance.com houses these for me too!
FMIPodcasting: I’d love to know what kind of material you like craft in. Like when you create a character, what types of paints do you prefer to work with? Do you prefer traditional brushes or an airbrush when creating your sets and characters?
Justin: I use mostly Testors acrylics now, but I still mix in some Apple Barrel and Delta Ceramcoat – all acrylics. I prefer brushes… airbrushes are cool to work with but I have only done that sparingly with a few dioramas.
FMIPodcasting: As a more recent fan of your sets and photo novels I was astounded at the craftsmanship. Have you ever think of adding fiber optics into your sets?
Justin: No, I wouldn’t have a clue how to do that! 🙂
FMIPodcasting: As as photo novelist you have an eye for the backgrounds and details. Back in early 2013 you posted a thread at Yakface.com regarding Matthew Albanese’s “Strang Worlds” exquisite diorama/backgrounds blog. http://www.yakfaceforums.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=7154
I was stunned at what I saw, did you draw any inspiration from nature as those did and have you always had an eye for scene set up and storytelling?
Justin: That work was amazing. I used it for some inspiration in my current series in creating custom painted backdrops. The backdrops have really helped bring life to my stories… and I also have used Bob Ross for inspiration with those backdrops. I really try and limit “digital effects” in my photonovels, because it’s just not the same to me. I like knowing you can reach and touch the toys/dioramas/etc. Kind of like why I love the original Star Wars films so much more than the prequels. I think you lose a lot when relying on so much on CGI.
FMIPodcasting: I understand you put work out there in more places then just Yakface.com, do you have any other sites where your work is posted you’d like to let our readers know about?
Justin: Mostly The Photonovel Alliance – I rarely visit other forums lately just because I’m pretty busy with work and my kids. I do share my stuff Imperialshipyards.net – We Strive To Excel! though, and also at Rebelscum.com: Home Page from time to time… also, A Star Wars Toys & Collectibles Resource; News, Photos and Reviews for Collectors – JediTempleArchives.com has shared my photonovels too! All great sites.
The Photonovel Library THE ENLOE TRIALS by Chewie ERA OF DARKNESS by Jodo WILL OF THE FORCE by clonecrazy INDIANA JONES AND THE MAYAN …
A galaxy of information on Star Wars toys, action figures, statues, prop replicas, books, games, comics, miniatures, cards, and other collectibles. Rebelscum covers…
Jedi Temple Archives is a Star Wars collecting database featuring current Star Wars news on action figures, books, statues, mini busts, games, miniatures, trading cards…
FMIPodcasting: There are some that like to know the people behind the customs, so we’d like to ask you a little about your background. Like where do you hail from?
Justin: I live in the St. Louis area (always have).
FMIPodcasting: In your area, are there many Star Wars related events, or cons with Star Wars related materials near you?
Justin: Not really, but there is a nice toy collector show called ToyMan Show – A St. Louis area show for collectible toys, games, action figures, trading cards, comic books, memorabilia, and more. that I go to a few times each year.
FMIPodcasting: Other then Yakface.com have do you get involved with any other StarWars organizations?
Justin: No, I have not, other than being active in some forums.
FMIPodcasting: Do you have any family that likes the StarWars fandom as much as yourself?
Justin: Ha ha, no. My son is 8 years old – he does like it some, but he’s more into GI JOE, Lego and Lord of the Rings. He likes Star Wars Rebels, but is critical of their articulation. Also, my 3 year old daughter loves C-3PO and plays with him and her My Little Pony toys, ha ha.
FMIPodcasting: Sounds awesome! Does your professional career ever influence your current projects or fandom of the galaxy far far away?
Justin: Yes! It gets in the way. 😉
FMIPodcasting: (Mine as well lol) Other then SW fandom, forum moderation, and amazing photo novels for other fans to read, what other types of hobbies or past times do you enjoy?
Justin: I am a huge baseball fan (St. Louis Cardinals) and also love the NFL. I enjoy fantasy sports quite a bit. But my main focus really is my family, which I’m very blessed to have. My wonderful wife and amazing kids are the joys of my life.
FMIPodcasting: Nice! I’m a huge Cincinnati Reds fan myself and I agree family is what matters 🙂
Well, we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today, and I hope we can some have future conversations about our favorite galaxy, far, far away.
To READERS: If you’re a fan of YAK_CHEWIE’s feel free to click the links above to visit one of the sites and support his work on The Enloe Trials and/or other forums and projects he’s associated with!