My first custom Minimate was the insane sentient robot Ultron (seen above). I finished him in March 2004, almost 9 years ago. However I was not the first person to start customizing Minimates – not by a long shot! Almost as soon as the first Minimates were released, people got out their paints and their sculpting clay and started making new creations. Unfortunately most photos of early Minimate customs have been lost due to the original Art Asylum message board going under without any back-ups made. I was able to dig up some early photos and information, and our readers might be able to add some additional links and thoughts in the comments.
Without the AA boards, the first real mention of custom Minimates can be found on the Toy News International (TNI) message boards and blog. They began hinting about a TNI Custom Minimate Contest in August 2003, and the contest began in September 2003. The original post is still live on their web site. The winning entries were:
I love how these customs were made almost a decade ago! The next thing I could find was a contest hosted by Art Asylum itself in November 2003. The contest details can still be seen courtesy of the Internet Way Back Machine here, but there are no images to be found. The voting page is here, and by looking at the image titles you can kind of tell which characters were made. I tried searching for these images, but I couldn’t turn up any results. I did get a hold one one contest entrant, who said this about his entry:
“Mine was a plain’ ol small minimate painted red and slapped onto an NES cart. I don’t know – I was strange back then. I don’t have any images, and I doubt that it survived, but I recall most of the Minimates being not-yet-existing characters.”
EDIT: I was able to contact one of the original submitters! Mooslug made the following Superman and Batman Minimates in 2003, and entered Batman into the AA contest. He said, “IIRC Batman is made from a Wave 2 Venom body with Wave 1 Daredevil’s cowl and belt. Superman is an Ultimate Cyclops body/belt, and Bruce Banner head/hair.”
MINI-MYTE created this Power Man and Iron Fist set in October 2003, only a few months before the official set was unveiled:
He has several other customs that were completed in late 2003 on this page. I remember using his Black Panther and Beast pics as references when I made my own. And 10 years later, Wasp still has not been made in that costume!
OAFE has a page of custom Minimate recipes that was created in March 2004, and has been updated a few times over the years, as the figures featured towards the end of the article were not available at that early date. But the first few photos are definitely 2004 customs.
April 2004 saw the unveiling of Iron Cow’s amazing line of custom Minimates in CustomCon 10. These are still online here, and feature several rock musicians and a few “online heroes”, including Iron Cow himself:
March 2004 was also the first time custom Minimates were shown in Toy Fair Magazine #80, and Matt Cauley’s customs were shown in the May 2004 issue. By this time, there were tons of customizers posting new Minimate customs on the AA boards almost every day. It was around this time that I posted my Ultron custom. Among others, I followed up with Lizard in April 2004, Kraven in July 2004, and a Green Goblin Glider in September 2004:
People on the AA boards were trading parts, sharing tips, and taking commission orders for the first time. Some artists started making their own Minimate designs prior to customizing them, like these ones from TENIME_art in June 2004:
By September 2004, 7 full waves of Marvel Minimates had been released, along with several box sets and exclusives. People started making “quick customs” using only parts swapping, as there were already hundreds of unique parts by this time. Lurch compiled extensive lists of these quick customs for anyone to try. At this early stage some people were already experimenting with decals and stickers, and incorporating parts from LEGO and other toy lines.
From late 2004 onwards, there are too many links and images to share, as customizing Minimates became a common practice for collectors. Contests were held, skills were refined, and talented customizers from other toy lines started to try their hand at Minimates. However there are a few key custom Minimate milestones that have occurred since late 2004:
- In 2005, Danny started featuring custom Minimates right here on Minimates Central
- In June 2006, the Minimate Multiverse rose from the ashes of the AA boards, and you can view all customs posted there since 2006 (assuming the photo links still work)
- The summer of 2007 saw the beginning of Charitymates, an annual event at the Multiverse where customizers create unique custom Minimates that are auctioned off for charity.
- In October 2008, the Minimate Factory opened its doors, offering Minimate customizing tips, custom tool reviews, printable decals, and more.
- In May 2009, Ivan started a blog called Minimate Labs, which features digital Minimate customs and creations.
- In February 2011, Bob Harris created Bob’s Astonishing Minimate Finds, a blog that features impressive customs on a semi-regular basis.
I hope you enjoyed this look back at Minimate customizing. Thanks for reading!
Written by Luke Porter