Some people are born with a clear idea of what they want to do with their lives and some don’t discover their true calling until later in life, like self-taught artist Mike Thain a.k.a. “The Toy Butcher”. With no formal training or artistic discipline, Thain taught himself through online painting tutorials and sheer trial and error.
A lifelong fan of action figures, Thain would play and collect with 12-inch tall G.I Joes, Fisher Price Adventure People and those classic Mego figures. As he grew older, he moved onto more adult action figures like Marvel Legends, Movie Maniacs and more. Through them, he discovered possibilities in molded plastic, painted collectibles.
Thain’s first foray began almost 20 years ago, when he discovered an online community based around the revival of 12 inch military figures ((DML, BBI et al). “I found a sculptor and his partner who were selling, quite reasonably, resin head casts of familiar movie actors.” he says. “I sent a money order and received 4headsculpts for $45 shipped. When they arrived, they were white so I embarked on a journey to learn how to paint them in a realistic fashion. Clothing, at this point was mostly purchased on eBay as I was not much of a tailor”
Jumping ahead a decade or so when sculptors are now more popular than ever and prices reflect that popularity. After Thain retired from his job with the Ford Motor Company, he didn’t have extra income to spend on head sculpts that now cost $100 or more. This forced him into a situation where he would need to get the creative fuels running by leaning heavily on his imagination in order to satisfy his need to continue to breathe new life into his 12 inch action figure creations. Mike continued to create original characters such as “Cowboy Samurai Biker” or “The Sea Anomaly’, but as time went on he decided to tackle more horror-themed characters.
“I started leaning on my love of horror movies and creature features which grew from watching shows like the Ghoul, Sir Graves Ghastley and Houlihan and Big Chuck as a child on Fridays and Saturdays,” he says. “It also helped that my wife liked my original creations much more than my collection of TV and Movie figures.”
When Thain started exhibiting his art, it was very “high concept” and pricey 12 inch figures, but as time went on and he attended comic and horror conventions, he would look for a cheaper way of getting his creations made by incorporating smaller and cheaper pieces in his art. Alas “The Toy Butcher” is awakened. Thain would live up to his alias by surrendering various pop culture figures to his vicious imagination (Disney headed Stormtroopers, Toy Story characters with Facehuggers on them, All the Toy Story characters killed by Sid, Zombie McFarlane hockey and baseball players, etc).
“I have had pieces come together fairly quickly like my zombie hockey players or some of my Toy Story pieces only take an afternoon,” says Thain. “But others like my God, Guns, and Country (a piece for which I won first place and Peoples’ Choice awards in The Walkerville Artists’ Co-op’s Revitalized sculpture contest) took 2 weeks because I was watching a lot of CNN and every night I would go to bed thinking it was finished and then I would get up in the morning, see some new outrage, and decide to add some more parts.”
A master of fabrication, Thain incorporates old action figures, old toys and found bits into his art pieces. His talent for cutting things apart and gluing them back together in new and startling ways, but still maintaining a factory feel and look is quite a skill to behold. Sculpting, molding, casting and even sewing are now added to the Toy Butcher’s artistic resume (although he does not enjoy making the same piece over and over).
Keep an eye on your toy chests and be sure not to lose your favorite action figure, for if you do The Toy Butcher is waiting, watching and ready to put his skills to work! Discover more from Mike Thain “The Toy Butcher” on his Facebook page and keep a lookout for the most cool table of devilish creations at conventions in the near future, especially the 3rd Annual Spooky Flea Market- Saturday, June 15, 2019 at 10 AM – 5 PM at Rue Morgue Manor
1411 Dufferin Street, Toronto, Ontario(Hosted by Andrea Subissati and Rue Morgue).