The following is an interview with craftsman Jason Berning regarding BigJ Customs and his work in creating custom Funko Pop! figures for customers around the world. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Berning about the inspiration behind his business, his creative process in designing and building new Pop! figures, his upcoming convention plans, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about BigJ Customs, and what inspired you to create your own line of customized Funko Pop! figures?
Jason Berning: BigJ Customs started in 2016 shortly after I started collecting Funko Pop!s. I was inspired to start customizing them myself after seeing some amazing custom Pop!s posted in the Funko fan groups I had joined. Personally, I have always been a huge fan of Batman, specifically, the Flashpoint versions of him and the Joker, which led me to the first full-on custom I attempted, which was the Flashpoint version of the Joker. Let’s just say she was not my best work. Shortly after that, I decided I wanted a Pop! from another property that Funko had not yet created Pop!s for: The Blacklist – which ended up being my first big hit with other collectors. I started with just one version of the main character, Raymond Reddington, but after so many Blacklist fans requested more and more characters, I ended up creating a total of 5 of the show’s characters with 3 different variations of the Reddington Pop!. After that, it all snowballed to where we are now.
BD: I can only imagine that making customized figures is a time-intensive and arduous process! How would you describe your creative process of accepting new orders, as well as designing and producing the figures and decorative boxes?
JB: My creative process has many steps. It normally starts in Photoshop by making a rough concept of the potential project to help myself and my customer visualize what the finished product will look like. The next major step is the disassembly, cleaning, and alteration of the parts needed for each custom Pop! before they are ready for primer. After each part has been primed and has time to dry, I start the most time-consuming step of my process: the painting. Each custom gets a minimum of 3-4 coats of Citadel brand paint which is a high-quality paint used mainly for tabletop miniature games like Warhammer 40k and, depending on the complexity of the design ,the painting process can take up to 8 hours per Pop!. Then, once I have the finished custom Pop!, I start the process of designing and printing my own custom boxes to match each Pop!. For commissioned pieces, I use the details provided by the customer to design a box specifically how they want it to look, down to the smallest detail.
BD: Do you ever create your own original figures, and what have been some of your favorite figures to create?
JB: I do create a lot of custom Pop!s that are based on characters that Funko has yet to make. For example, I have done a few Dragonball characters such as Bardock and two versions of Cooler that Funko does not produce versions of. I also have done things like Batduck, a Batman/Daffy duck hybrid, but I don’t think you could call any of those my original characters. Some of them I was the first one to create custom Pop! versions.
By far, the favorite figures I have created would be the many Batman customs I have made. Things like Batduck, Flashpoint Batgirl, and my battle-damaged Batman from Batman V Superman would top that list, but I am also very proud of all of the amazing personalized Funko Pop!s I have made for others.
BD: What do you feel has made Funko Pop! figures such a popular phenomenon in geek culture?
JB: I feel that Funko Pop!s have been so popular due to the fact that there is a Pop! for almost everything, and for the ones they don’t make, that’s where people like me come in. I have had so many people come to me for customs from their favorite shows and movies that have never collected a Pop! before but just want an affordable toy version of that one character they love. I feel Funko Pop!s will be around for as long as there are fanbases to crave cool collectibles from their favorite properties.
BD: Can you give us the inside scoop on any upcoming figures that you are creating, and are there any other projects that you currently have in the works?
JB: Right now, I have a few ideas floating around for some new Dragonball-related Pop!s. I have had a lot of requests for the legendary Super Saiyan Broly in the past few months, and I think that would be an interesting project to work on. I am also making some personalized pops for two celebrity guests at this year’s Fantasticon in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio, but I’m keeping them a surprise until the convention this March. You will have to follow my social media or visit me at Fantasticon this March to see who it is. Finally, there might be a certain teenage, female superhero that I am very excited to have the opportunity to make a Pop! of . . . more details on that to come later, as well.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about BigJ Customs?
JB: The best way to contact me is on my Etsy page or any of my social media pages:
On the off chance you don’t have access to any of those, you can email me at Bigjpoppal (at) gmail (dot) com.
I will also be attending Fantasticon 2018 in Toledo, Ohio, on March 10th and 11th for the second year in a row! If you happen to be in the Toledo area this March, you can find me at Table A18 in the Artist Ally section.