Exclusive Interview with Carl BouMansour – Artist “Boutros77″

Star Wars action figures are awesome! More than just movie toys; they have been a staple in toy aisles for decades, become pop culture icons and are credited for jump-starting the collectability of action figure toys the world over. We here at From 4-LOM to Zuckuss appreciate what Lucasfilm, Kenner and Hasbro have created so much so that we have dedicated ourselves to covering all things Star Wars action figure related and that’s where you come in!
 We are seeking out those who share our passion, to share their thoughts and memories of playing with and collecting those amazing little figures from a galaxy far, far away.

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4LOMKUSS: So Carl we instantly became entranced with your work upon discovering it via a Tweet from official Star Wars blogger/historian Tim Veekhoven.  Of course, it goes without saying that with our website being Star Wars action figure focused we have since become huge fans of yours.  Now for those readers who are not familiar with your work, could you take some time and tell us a little about it and yourself?

Carl: Firstly, thank you for your interest in my work & thanks to Mr. Veekhoven for sharing it with your audience. About me… there’s a question I always hate. The basics are I was born into a world saturated with Star Wars, so my benslove for it was kind of a given. I trained as an illustrator, but went on to make a living as a fine artist (mostly figurative work).

I guess the dioramas really kicked off when I sold a piece from my collection on ebay and requests for more and other designs came in. Some of them I just couldn’t resist doing for my own collection and as you can see from my flickr gallery, what was a modest collection now nearly covers the whole OT (and of course there’s just enough Indy as well) and most of my studio.

4LOMKUSS: Today Star Wars truly saturates just about every aspect of retail and media out there but what was it like for your growing up?  What was your particular saturation?  Action figures, models, movies, comic books, etc.?

Carl: I see what you mean. In that sense we are much more saturated today. There may have been less SW merchandise/media out there, but it seemed to have a tighter grip on the broad social consciousness. Back then, we just couldn’t get enough of it and were clamoring for more.

For me, it was the action figures that really stirred my imagination and let me get lost in the amazing world that the films had introduced us to. I’d like to say my first memory of Star Wars was the opening shot of the Star Destroyer (truth is, I was 1 yr. old and slept through it on my uncle’s lap). In fact, my first memory is my older brother
falconenthusiastically talking me through the story with the aide of the monthly poster magazines. They got pretty worn out, but I still have a few of them. The other clear memory is of the blue framed bubble gum cards, and my neighbor convincing me it would be a good idea to tape them to the spokes of my bike. In hindsight, he was very wrong.

4LOMKUSS: It was truly an amazing time when Star Wars, in the early 80’s, captivated all of society with its story of a farm boy destined for greatness.  Now when would you say you realized you had serious artistic talents?  And did your Topps cards, posters and action figures play any role in discovering them?

Carl: I guess it was at age 6 when I started at a new school that the reaction of my new friends tipped me off to my talent. As far back as I can remember I enjoyed drawing. I don’t think any particular type of Star Wars merchandise influenced the development of that love, so much as the stories did. Drawing was my way of storytelling. I can clearly recall making sprawling dog fights that would move from one sheet of paper to the next. Me and my brother would tell our fantasy stories of the continuing adventures of Han and Luke. As the story expanded, so too would the drawing. I think a health dose of sibling rivalry (along with the shared interest) drove the development of both our artistic talents.

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4LOMKUSS: How great it must have been to share your passion and talents with your sibling!  Did this shared passion for Star Wars follow your brother as well into adulthood, as yours did with diorama building? Did you begin building your amazingly detailed dios when the figures returned to store shelves in the mid 90’s or did you begin more recently?

Carl: When the figures first hit the stores again in the 90’s, I only got a handful of main characters. As nice as it was to see them on the shelves again, I wasn’t totally enamored with the superhero styling. But I did like the cardboard pop up displays of the Cantina and Jabba’s Palace. I thought they were perfect for my vintage collection. It was when the CommTech figures of Han and Greedo were released that I thought it might be nice to do a little booth for them. jabbaHowever it wasn’t until the release of the 2004 Vintage Collection ANH Han that I finally got round to making a display booth, using off cuts & left-over framing materials that I had in the studio.

Absolutely, it was (and still is) a joy to share interests with my brother. He’s certainly kept up his interest in visual art. He’s now a freelance commercial photographer. He also still has a passion for Star Wars. In fact, he was lucky enough to work as an extra on Episodes 1 & 2. Jealous as I was, it was great to get the reports from set (mostly the NabooPalace) at the end of every day. He was also kind (and bold) enough to get me George Lucas’ autograph on his last day filming, which happened to be my birthday.

4LOMKUSS: In looking at your incredible flickr gallery, it’s clear you have a passion for the Original Trilogy as well as our favorite archaeologist.  So the immediate question that comes to mind is what are your thoughts on the Prequel Trilogy and do you see yourself working on Prequel dios in the future?indy

Carl: I have mixed feelings towards the prequels. The Star Wars excitement and hype during the build up to TPM was a real joy. It took a few viewings of the film for me to accept that, despite some magic moments, I found the film a little dull. AOTC I just thought was weak in almost every aspect. Finally, ROTS I was able to enjoy as a science fiction film in its own right, but was mad about what the PT as a whole had done to characters such as Yoda, Boba Fett (no longer mysterious) and a few others.

What I am grateful to the Prequels for (and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) is maintaining interest enough to keep my favorite characters on the shelves in plastic form. As for Prequel dios, with so many varied sets/environments in the PT, they don’t seem to carry the same weight as the OT environments. Perhaps it’s also to do with the fact that many of them never were “made” in the fist place. So far I’ve only done two PT based dios. Both were for commission. I’d happily do more but I don’t have any immediate plans for my own collection.

4LOMKUSS: You make some really good points about the environments in the Prequels. They were much more expansive than in the Original Trilogy being that they were computer generated, which in turn makes them less intimate and more difficult to recreate.  But if there is one person we would put up to the task, you sir, would be him.  Now if you are ready, its time to face the 4LOMKUSS in a round of rapid-fire questions that we call:

~ The 4LOMKUSS Unleashed ~

Figures: For play or display? Play within display

Your first Star Wars action figure? Princess Leia & R2-D2 (from early bird set, I was 2, so older brother took choice cuts)

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Worth more to you: Big or Little head Han Solo? Little head

Your Star Wars “Holy Grail”? My original, now lost vinyl cape Jawa. Like the Grail, even if it were found, how could you really know that was the true cape?

Vintage Yakface: Have it, Want it, Pass on it! Want it

I would sell my entire “diorama” collection for: A fair price

Best vintage figure? Bespin Luke

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Better girlfriend: Leia or Padme? Leia

Number of figures you have? Too lazy to count, 500?

Episode _____ is the best!  V

Vlix: Have it, Want it, Who the hell is that! Who the Hell

Would rather be: Han or Luke? Han

Which lost accessory do you miss the most? Jawa’s vinyl cape

Most desired yet-to-be-made figure? N/A

Favorite Star Wars quote? I Know.

Fight to the death winner: Rancor Keeper or Cantina Bartender? Bartender

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4-LOM stands for: 4-LOM stands for no late payments.

Who tastes better: Admiral Ackbar or Gamorrean Guard?

Plan on collecting Sequel Trilogy toys? Not planning, but open.Gamorrean Guard

Coolest vintage creature: Wampa, Tauntaun, Trash Monster? Tauntaun

Star Wars Rebels, will you: Watch it live, wait for Blu-ray, Probably skip it? Wait

Favorite collecting memory? I got the Vintage Snowspeeder, & my brother got the AT-AT at Christmas with snow in the back Garden.

One wish for Star Wars Episode VII? That I get to work on it.

~ Final Question ~

4LOMKUSS:  “Fans of Force Figures” or “F oFFs” for short is a pathetic name for this interview.  Do you have any better suggestions?

Carl: “Fans of Displaying the Force”?

4LOMKUSS:  Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.  Before the twin suns of Tatooine set on this conversation, what would be the best way fans and collectors could contact you for potential commissions and/or to find out more about your work? Do you have anything upcoming you would like to plug?

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Carl: Well, as the twin suns set, I’d like to thank you for your interest in my work. If any of your readers would like to commission a piece, I can be contacted through the email address found on my Boutros77 profile page here. I hate to think of it as a plug, but next up are some modular extensions to Jabba’s main hall. Then it’s onto a modular Death Star. Thanks again for your interest in my work.

4LOMKUSS:  No, thank you Carl for being a great sport and sharing your amazing work with us.  It’s been really great hearing your dioramas and your thoughts about growing up with the OT and the passion you still have for Star Wars today. We hope to see more of your work again in the future; perhaps if Episode VII is really good?  But until then, May the Figures be with you!

Carl: May the Force be with you.

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