Category Archives: People

LEGO fandom is a worldwide phenomenon, a vast community. Whether you consider yourself an AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO), ALE (Adult LEGO Enthusiast), some other crazy acronym, a parent of a young builder, or even just a casual fan who appreciates all the amazing models LEGO builders create, there’s more to LEGO than just the models themselves. Here at The Brothers Brick, we bring you the stories behind the models, with interviews, builder profiles, and more.

10 years of The Brothers Brick – a brief history [News]

Ten years ago today, I came home from work, opened my computer, and set up a personal blog I called “Dunechaser’s Blocklog.” That blog would eventually become The Brothers Brick.

A lot has changed in the past ten years — with my own involvement in the LEGO hobby, with this blog, and with the LEGO fan community more broadly. But today I’m going to share my experience here on The Brothers Brick.

I started the blog mainly as a journal of my own LEGO models, and my first true post was a write-up of minifig anatomy that included one of the minifigs I’d built recently — the character Cloud from Final Fantasy VII in the form he takes in Kingdom Hearts. I still quite like the fig today.

Cloud

Nobody at the time was paying much attention to minifigs, to the point that many of the minifigs I saw in other peoples’ creations were pretty boring. So, even though I enjoyed building larger models as much as the next builder, I decided to focus what I posted on my blog on minifigs. Within a couple of months, I began featuring the minifig-oriented work of other builders. One of my first posts exclusively focused on the work of another builder was — not surprisingly — about the talented builder Michael Jasper.

Summertime by Michael Jasper on Brickshelf

Soon, I was featuring the work of Japanese builders like Moko. I was born and raised in Japan, and I could read the blogs, forums, and other community interactions of a thriving Japanese LEGO builder community, so I started a separate blog called “Pan-Pacific Bricks” to highlight the work of Japanese builders and provide a bit more context for the work showing up on sites like Brickshelf.

Then I started getting comments. I had a couple of readers! In February 2006, Boing Boing picked up my “Blocklog” post about my Aztec gods, and traffic shot through the roof! A few of those thousands of people stuck around, and my readership grew.

Meanwhile, I was very active on LEGO fan forums like Classic-Castle Forums (C-C) and From Bricks to Bothans (FBTB), where I’d become friends with people whose online names were crazy things like “Plums Deify,” “porschecm2,” and “floodllama.”

As I expanded from my own minifigs to other people’s minifigs, LEGO models by Japanese builders, and then ultimately anything I liked, I realized I needed help. I contacted “floodllama” and asked him if he’d like to join “Dunechaser’s Blocklog.” Fortunately, he did, and in May 2006, I welcomed Josh Wedin to the blog. With another contributor on the team, even the name of the blog didn’t make any sense, so Josh and I decided to hold a contest for people to suggest a new name.

We ran the contest for a couple of weeks (our first of many) and we chose “The Brothers Brick” from more than a hundred suggestions. The winning suggestion came from C-C member “Peppermint Pig.” Josh and I chose the name because we liked the storytelling allusion to the Brothers Grimm and the fact that it accurately represented a couple of guys with a LEGO blog.

Since I invited Josh in May 2006 and we changed our name a few weeks later, our roster has included 20 people — among them a doctor, a lawyer, two university physicists, two Canadians, an Australian, a Swede, a Dutchman, and Keith Goldman.

At BrickCon 2014 last year, eight of us got together for a photo (courtesy Justin Pratt).

IMG_1210

Left to right: Andrew (me), Josh (the original TBB minion), Caylin, Chris, Iain (always a blur of activity), Carter, Nannan, and Simon

By late 2006, we were outgrowing Google’s free Blogpsot service, and we decided to move The Brothers Brick (and Pan-Pacific Bricks) to our own website. Brothers-Brick.com launched in December. We’ve made some improvements and changes to the site since then, but all the pieces were in place for the “TBB” that you all know today.

Along the way, the lives of our contributors have evolved — children born, degrees finished, new jobs, new careers, new responsibilities… Contributors have joined and left as real life responsibilities, interest in blogging about LEGO, and even interest in LEGO itself have waxed and waned. My life has been no different. Ten years years ago, I was a writer working for a small software company. Today, I’m the director of the planning and design group for a rapidly growing software company, and I even founded the company’s Seattle office, which now employs nearly 30 people. Obviously, that leaves much less time for LEGO and for TBB than working as a writer did 10 years ago. (Other contributors have had similar real-life journeys, and I have to admit that TBB hasn’t been getting the attention our readership deserves for the last year or two — something I’m hoping to change with some fairly significant changes soon.)

My own interest in LEGO has also changed. Gone are the days of pulling out small trays of minifig parts and whipping together a batch of figs to quickly photograph the next weekend for posting to Brickshelf and sharing on C-C or FBTB. I started attending BrickCon with Josh in 2006, and BrickCon 2015 will be my 14th LEGO event or convention. Each year, I try to up my game and build something bigger, better, and hopefully both. A couple of times, I’ve been rather surprised to receive an award — as my large Stalingrad diorama did at BrickCon last year, full of custom vehicles and minifigs.

Stalingrad: Operation Uranus

I’m sad to admit that I haven’t built anything of my own since BrickCon last year, though I’m looking forward to carving out some time for our Battle of Bricksburg American Civil War collaboration (more details soon).

Me!Ten years is a long time for a little LEGO blog — many have come and gone while we’ve plugged away featuring all the wonderful models built by LEGO builders all over the world. I’m not sure what the next decade will bring, but I’m looking forward to making that journey with all of you out there, both the hundreds of thousands of you who read our blog each month to see the work of the talented builders we feature, as well as all of my fellow builders themselves. Thank you.

So, what has your LEGO experience been over the past ten years? What are some of your favorite TBB memories? Share away in the comments!

Epic Rap Battles of History embraces the brick for divine face-off

For its Season 4 bout between the Greek god Zeus and the Norse god Thor, the hugely popular YouTube channel Epic Rap Battles of History turned to Forrest Whaley and his team of stop-motion animators to give it the LEGO treatment. And the result is hilarious! Make sure to check out the entertaining behind the scenes video too.

[WARNING: Some profanity]

Ask a Lemur – Acronyms, LEGO User Groups and TBB Contributors!

Greetings and Salutations, Dear Readers!

Ask a Lemur

Another week has flown by and I am so excited to be able to talk with you again! I am still getting used all the holidays they celebrate here at TBB. American Thanksgiving was this week. The jet was kept pretty busy flying all the contributors back to their homes in time for the holiday.

I’ve been told that TBB celebrates major holidays from all over the world. They say it’s part of the job and someone has to do it. It’s nice to see them relax since they work so hard.

I was pretty excited about all these holidays but apparently lemur interns aren’t eligible to use the jet. Someone has to stay here to water the plants. Nannan was nice enough to move his collection of carnivorous plants into the hallway outside his office so that I could feed them there. I said that he didn’t need to do that, I was fine just caring for them in his office. He must not have heard me because he just locked his door and ran off to board the jet.

Oh, I don’t have to worry about the plants in Mr. Dan’s office either. He is the head of the legal department and is pretty busy all year dealing with the lawsuits. No holidays for him. Besides, his plants are all dead anyway.

On to your questions from last week!

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Game of Death

Ieyasu has recreated legendary Martial Artist Bruce Lee in his iconic yellow track suit, as seen in his final movie, Game of Death. The builder doesn’t mention it in their description but I think was built to honor the fact that today is Bruce Lee’s 74th birthday. I really appreciate the posability of this figure. That, and the fact that the builder has included a backdrop that compliments the build without being distracting, puts this creation on the top shelf.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee

Ask a Lemur – Illegal Builds, Fan Conventions and Kids Online

Hello again, Dear Readers!

Ask a Lemur

It’s the TBB Intern Lemur, here to answer your questions and do what I can to give you some insight into LEGO, the fan community and TBB! Give me a minute to catch my breath. I’ve been cleaning the bottom of the pool here in the TBB compound. It’s way easier to do when they let me drain it, but Carter was getting in his laps and Caylin said it needed cleaned immediately. They don’t call her the ‘Goddess’ for nothing! When she says “jump”, you jump. Even if it’s into the deep end. She was right though. It did need cleaning. The weekend pool parties get kind of nuts around here. I’m mostly done, except I’m not sure how to get Iain’s boat up off the bottom.

Oh, that reminds me. I was right about last week. I got a serious talking-to about mentioning a certain other person’s personal water-craft. Won’t make that mistake again. Anyway, I’m taking a break now, down in Ralph’s basement lab. He doesn’t take much notice of me so the lab is a good place to get away for awhile. Especially when I’m trying to answer your questions. There are some scary things going on down here, but I just pull a blanket over my head and try not to listen to the maniacal laughter. It’s all good, as long as you don’t taste anything while you are down here. That was another mistake I won’t make again.

So, on to your questions. Boy, there were some good ones this week!

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Lest we forget

Several members of the LEGO fan community have built tributes to the Veterans of their Armed Forces and we would like to take a moment to recognize those veterans today. While today is set aside as the official day that many nations thank the men and women who have served, The Brothers Brick would like to thank all of our readers and their families who have sacrificed to serve their countries. Thank you for your service. Your sacrifice cannot be repaid.

Our own Simon Liu has built a tribute with poppies at two different scales.

Lest We Forget.

Nick Sweetman has built a lovely cascade of poppies in honor of Armistice Day.

We Will Remember Them

Tyler Sky has built a tribute featuring Snoopy and Woodstock. For those who don’t know, Charles Schulz was a veteran and regularly honored Veteran’s Day and Armistice Day in his Peanuts comic strip. Quite a touching tribute.

Lest We Forget

Out of respect for those who have served, please keep political debate out of the comments. Comments trolling or bashing those of differing political persuasions will be deleted. This is meant to be a time of remembrance and respect. Please honor that.

Ask a Lemur – Our new intern answers all your questions and more!

LemurColor
Greetings, Dear Readers!  Allow me to introduce myself.  I am The Brothers Brick’s intern and I have been given the honor of answering the tasty mail that you send to us.

I am a green-tailed lemur from the island of Madagascar and am very happy to be working in the TBB compound.  This “mailbag” feature is my own invention.  I got the idea after noticing that the lovely paper that I was given for lunch had messages on it.  When I asked Master Andrew about them, he said they were from our readers and that I could eat them.  The messages that is, not the readers.  He said the other contributors were too busy to deal with the mail, but that I was free to do as I pleased as long as the coffee was fresh and his Bugatti Veyron was washed.

I plan to answer a few questions each week.  In this first post I will answer some common questions we have received.  If you have questions that you would like me to answer, either serious or silly, real or imagined, please ask. Here we go!

Will you sell me the models featured on The Brothers Brick?

Unfortunately, no.  With few exceptions, they are one-of-a-kind creations and are not owned by The Brothers Brick.  You can always contact the builder, via whatever website they are using to host their pictures, and see if they are interested in selling their work. We do not sell contributors at this time either. Please stop asking about Simon. We are keeping him.

What is an AFOL?

AFOL is an acronym that stands for Adult Fan of LEGO.  It is a broad term that applies to anyone over 18 years old who is a fan of the LEGO company and/or its products.  Similar terms are ALE (Adult LEGO enthusiast), AFFOL (Adult Female Fan of LEGO), TFOL (Teen Fan of LEGO), KFOL (Kid Fan of LEGO).  There are many kinds of AFOLs including those who build their own creations, those who collect sets, those who customize LEGO elements, etc. It also can stand for Adult Fan Of the Lemur.

Are the contributors of The Brothers Brick actually brothers?

No.  One of us is a sister.

Thank you for your time and messages! Please leave any new questions in the comments below. Josh is having one of his ‘episodes’ and won’t come out of his office. Once he recovers, I will ask him to create me an email address.

Steampunk LEGO by Guy Himber [Review]

As holiday season approachs, No Starch Press is kicking into high gear with a slew of new titles for LEGO fans. Their latest offering is Steampunk LEGO by well-known LEGO builder, innovator and steampunk enthusiast Guy Himber. This 200 page compilation features the work of over 90 individual builders, and includes just about every notable LEGO steampunk creation of the past five years.

Physically, the book has a definite steampunk feel about it. Its blue and gold hard cover sports a full-color dust jacket (shown here) and all the pages have a high quality satin finish that enhances the sumptuous graphic design. The material is presented in the form an ornate Victorian scrapbook, complete with notelets and other trinkets mounted atop a variety of textured vintage backgrounds.

A cornucopia of building styles are covered here. And while the majority are mini-fig oriented, microscale and life-size builds are reasonably well represented. Entries are 1 or 2 to a page, and organized into logical chapters focusing on different categories such as trains, vehicles, automatons, weapons, sea vessels, airships and even floating rocks. There is also a pleasant ‘interlude’ in the center, showcasing Guy’s memorable Cabinet of Curiosities collaborative project.

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Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark by Mike Doyle [Review]

It’s been barely a year since No Starch Press released Beautiful LEGO, a coffee table book packed with carefully curated images of LEGO creations, conceived and organized by New Jersey graphic designer and LEGO builder Mike Doyle.

Unlike many of their other LEGO themed titles, which are targeted squarely at the AFOL community, the book had the potential to appeal to almost anyone with a passing interest in LEGO (ie. almost anyone on the planet). It soon started showing up on the shelves of regular book stores, and has since become one of their best sellers. So the rumors of a sequel came as no surprise…

Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark replays that winning formula, with some interesting twists. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s weightier: this version is about 50 pages longer and sports a proper hard cover. Some folks will be pleased to hear about that change, although as a coffee table book, I kinda find this one harder to handle.

Mike has also cut back heavily on builder interviews (just 4 this time round, compared to 9 in the first book). I’m sure some AFOLs will see that as a loss, but I think it makes sense for a work like this to focus on the images first and foremost. For those curious to learn more about specific builders, every image is labeled, and the Contributor index contains all the necessary URLs.

Then there’s the subtitle, “Dark”. With this book, Mike applied what he calls a “thematic filter” to the curation process, targeting specific classes of build. It’s a bold move, but gives this sequel a much stronger identity than merely “hello, here are some more great builds”. Admittedly “dark” is a rather broad theme with many possible interpretations, but I think it still pays off. The builds range from the serious, the creepy, the political, the darkly humorous, and even just darkly colored.

As for the individual builds and images, Mike delivers again with another 300 pages of gorgiously photographed creations, from over a hundred different builders, that will be appreciated by both AFOL and non-AFOL alike. Everything is organized into chapters such as “Creepy Crawlers”, “Skin and Bones” or “Future Shock”. And a wide variety of building styles and categories are covered.

To achieve a harmonious effect, some of the models were specially reworked or reshot by their creators, and Mike also re-tuned some of the images too (for example, applying neutral backgrounds). The overall effect is definitely moodier than the first book – and that means it’s literally darker. The builds in this tome also skew to the more complex/detailed end of the scale than in the first one. So you’re gonna want to read this one under a decent light!

For the sequel, Mike also chose to include a small selection of digital creations. This is definitely a controversial decision, which Mike acknowledges and explains in his Preface. But the digital creations are clearly annotated as such, wherever they appear.

Like its predecessor, Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark is a beautiful object, that shines a flattering (low wattage) spotlight on the LEGO building community, and in a way that makes that world accessible to the general public. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoyed the first book. And I really hope this becomes a series of books. If it does, I cannot wait to see what theme Mike decides to cover next!

Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark goes on sale everywhere November 20th, and will retail for USD $39.95.

“Bricks of the Mouse Guard” project launched on Kickstarter

2015 may well be the year of Mouse Guard, as it celebrates it’s 10th anniversary and – as we previously mentioned here – Seattle’s own ArchLUG will be unveiling a big collaborative Mouse Guard display at Emerald City Comic Con in March. Of course you can expect some pretty amazing architecture in this display. But how are they going to recreate the Mouse Guard characters, you might ask? Simple, with Bricks of the Mouse Guard, that’s how! And you can get in on the action too.

Following on from his wildly successful Munchkin Bricks project, Guy Himber of Crazy Bricks has just launched a new project to bring you Mouse Guard themed LEGO accessories.

Backers have the opportunity to receive a set of mouse heads in various colors, and a set of matching accessories (including a flagon that looks like a must-have for almost any Castle enthusiast). And as you might imagine, there are all kinds of stretch goals that will unlock additional items in additional colors, and even a fully equipped custom Mouse Guard mini-fig with pad-printed torso. Other goodies include BrickArms crates, printed bricks and even original artwork by Mouse Guard’s creator for top-tier backers.

Rewards start at $19, and the project will be accepting pledges for the next 32 days, so back it today!

President Obama interviewed regarding his LEGO obsession

Contributor Iain Heath was able to sit down with President Barack Obama during TBB’s monthly junket to Washington DC. The President himself requested the interview citing a desire to “come out of the sorting bin” in regards to his Adult Fan of LEGO status. He also wanted to make it clear that the First Lady, Michelle Obama, supported him in this decision. We look forward to covering the Commander-in-Chief’s involvement in the LEGO fan community and hope to highlight some of his creations here in the near future.

UPDATE: The original video has been partially censored to comply with some half-baked legal threats made by the organizers of an event that had been mentioned in it. Some people apparently have no sense of humor, and dealing with such people is too boring and tedious to be worth the trouble, so the video was edited to shut them up. As the old saying goes… THE SQUEAKY WHEEL GETS THE OIL.