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Giants in Combat

The images look real, but by looking more closely you can see that they are dolls. What are action figures?

State-of-the-art dolls are called action figures. They recreate a number of characters of different kinds, but in terms of size, those with a 1/6 scale are the ones which have achieved a level of detail that makes them the most valued among enthusiasts and collectors. These figures are 30 cm high, representing a real average height of 1.8 m.

They remind a lot of us of the Madelman or Action Man we had when we were little. How does a children’s toy evolve to become a collector’s item?

In the last twenty years, those of us who were children in the 70s have seen how two great passions that went on to mark our childhood and youth have come together: playing with dolls and making models. As a result of this connection, we get a hyper-realist doll: the action figure, which tries to replicate reality to its size. 

With many more points of articulation, the action figure can naturally take on almost any position, its most visible parts (head and hands) have such realistic features that they look like they should be in a wax museum sculpture (some can move their eyes and fingers, have hair, etc.); it offers perfection, detail and historical precision to clothes (shirts with buttons and buttonholes), accessories (with a pistol, the firing pin can be moved, the chamber loaded, the magazine where you can see the first bullet can be inserted and removed, etc.) and to the materials used for them (the same pistol can be made of metal with wood butts).

The accessories and complements of figures are delicate because the size makes it possible to reproduce the smallest details. This, as well as its price, is why we insist that it’s not a children’s item. The target audience of these figures are children of the past (40-50 years) who no longer have as much time as they did before. When we take an action figure out of the box, its finish is excellent and it doesn’t need touched up before going straight to the display cabinet. If we spend some time on repairs or “customizations”, we will get better results and the figure in our collection will be shinier.

And if we want to rediscover this world, what possibilities can we come across today?

The range of possibilities is huge. We have figures from all eras: Ancient, Medieval, Napoleonic, American Civil War, World Wars, Vietnam, contemporary wars, etc. With a wide variety of themes: samurais, gladiators, monsters, famous characters, superheroes, sexy girls, etc. The brands tend to be different according to their speciality.

Figures from the Second World War stand out because there are so many of them, among which the German ones win hand down (in number and variety).  The action figure generally represents a person who really existed or exists. They have a first name, surname and true story behind them.

We can repeatedly come across the same person who has been in various scenes, equipped with what they were carrying at any time (in the desert, the mountain, in summer or winter, wearing something new or worn-out, etc.). While seeking perfection, this same person also undergoes personal development, and their last version is always the most real.

That rings a bell. What similarities would you highlight with recreation in Airsoft?

There are many similarities, mainly because these are adventure games that have reached a level of perfection that was previously unthinkable. Enthusiasts of both are big kids who won’t give up on losing this thread that links them to their childhood, and whose memory they jealously keep with love. The connection between dolls and action figures is the same as that between Airsoft and when we used to play guns as kids. Now the abundance of materials tries to make up for the lack of imagination, but playing is ultimately the most important thing.

But we’ve come to speak to you, to know a bit more about you, so tell us: who is Oscar Aguado?

Graduate in Fine Arts, specialising in design and with 56 years under my belt, I’ve always had the creative desire to represent imaginary worlds full of adventures, combat and exploits. My profession as a designer has led me to constantly create dummies, prototypes and scale models.

The passion I have for history has made it easier for me to use this skill to recreate reliable settings, particularly in the context of the Second World War.

And how did you start with action figures?

At the age of 33 I came across my first acquisition: Hans Leiter, an action figure that represented a German NCO in Operation Barbarossa. I was always left wanting that wooden mannequin that artists use to study positions and proportions, so when I saw this figure so well done and its postural possibilities, I had no doubts about buying it. And after Hans came his friends. And some enemies.

We are really impressed after seeing everything that you have. You might have lost count but if not, could you tell us what your collection is made up of?

The collection has been growing for the last twenty-three years and most of the 139 figures that make it up are of the same brand: Dragon.

There is also a considerable amount of accessory material: canons, vehicles, buildings, animals, etc. This is the most expensive and takes up even more space.

Now, as if that weren’t enough, you then published a book. Where did the idea come from?

Sector 6 emerged from my imagination as part of a game. Photographing Hans with different positions and in various angles always made me feel like a war reporter. The success lay in these photos being so good that they could be confused with real life.

From individual photos I started to form a story, a photo comic, in which an artistic and another technical script had to be written. At one time it seemed like the game was close to becoming successful comics. The idea of the book came about as a format in which this whole variety of stories could be collected.

But it had to be given a twist to make the publication more attractive and varied. The inspiration came at the hands of the Second World War propaganda magazines, more specifically Signal, one of the sources where I studied the photos that I’d use for my own creation.

I’d made up my mind, the action figures were going to bring out their own propaganda magazine, where the Second World War would be rewritten from a new perspective. They would be the main characters and the ones who’d tell the story, while attaching great importance to the magazine graphics.

How did you put it together?

Sector 6 has a main section as a kind of special, independent and detailed report (a photo comic), surrounded by other reports, articles and adventures that cover all kinds of themes. News that is true, made-up or a mixture of both, told in a propaganda tone which for us, is pretty out of place, but which the figures take really seriously. This difference means that all themes are dealt with using surreal and ironic humour.

As a book intended to be a real propaganda magazine, Sector 6 includes the design of adverts for the same products that the figures use. There is another section on model-making (DIYSector) which can help us with our own creations.

But let’s go back to the start: what led you to do it?

After many years of working in my free time, I suffered the crisis and joined the ranks of unemployment. 

As the book had come on a lot, I made the decision to finish it so as to edit, distribute and sell it. 

All on my own as the whole book is created by yours truly: texts, scripts, layout, design, photos (and what goes in them), etc. This decision was taken in the knowledge that it would be an original, exclusive and quality product.

We know that not everyone understands the humour in the book and that it might be misinterpreted by some people. What other problems have you come across?

Not everyone is ready to read this book because they might not connect with the spirit of the game, or get confused and think fiction is real. Sector 6 is fantasy and doesn’t have any complexes, but it’s true that deep down it does criticise one reality: the same propaganda. That of yesterday and that of today.

Before saying goodbye, could you please explain how anyone who wants to get hold of the book, after reading this interview, can do so?

On the website: www.sector6.es we have the information you need to purchase the book and also to enjoy its extensive content.

Thanks very much, Oscar. We’ll keep an eye on you and hope to read about you again soon in our magazine.