As dawn broke across Ukraine on February 24th this year, the Russian Federation launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine. In my day job, I’ve been working with software development teams in Ukraine for nearly 15 years, mainly in Kharkiv, barely 30 miles (less than 50 km) from the Russian border. In the first hours of the invasion, I messaged an old group-chat from my previous job saying, “Stay safe, my friends.” My former colleagues began waking up to air raid sirens, rocket attacks, and fighter jets roaring over their heads, and I watched their online status turn from yellow to green as they began sending brief replies saying they were safe so far.
Brickmania “Ghost of Kyiv” custom Mig-29 fighter jet kit
Through colleagues like these in Kharkiv, Odesa, and the capital Kyiv, as well as ex-pats here in the US, I’ve grown to love the Ukrainian people and their independent spirit. Ukrainians have been fighting for freedom and democracy ever since declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. That fight became much more visceral in 2014, when a democratic “Revolution of Dignity” overthrew a corrupt, oligarchic and pro-Russian government. Russia’s Vladimir Putin immediately responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimea region and began a proxy war to take over the industrial Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. This led not just to atrocities like the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 that year, but an ongoing Russia-backed insurgency against the democratic government in Kiev — for many in Ukraine, the Russian invasion began in 2014, not on February 24, 2022. But since February, through the Russian army’s mass killings of civilians in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, and elsewhere; ethnic cleansing of over 2 million Ukrainians to Russia; and ongoing indiscriminate rocket attacks and air raids against civilian targets like schools and shopping centers throughout Ukraine today, the full-scale invasion this year has proven that Russia intends to commit terrorism and ultimately genocide against the nation of Ukraine and its people. In the 5 months since the Russian invasion, most of my old team relocated to western Ukraine, though nobody in the country is safe from Russian rocket attacks and bombing. Some staff from my old company chose to stay behind in Kharkiv, and at least one has even laid down his life defending his city and his nation.
Read more about how the LEGO fan community has stepped up to help Ukraine
While we’ve been sharing Black Friday offers from both Amazon and LEGO, do also check out offers from LEGO related small businesses that make this community a little more diverse in options around specialised themed sets and minifigures.
Click to see details of the specials
Last November, we reviewed the Brickmania F-4C Phantom II Jet custom kit, and designer Cody Osell is back again with the massive 1033 F-14 Tomcat Supersonic Air Superiority Interceptor. The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is one of the most iconic Cold War jet fighters, featured in movies like Top Gun and The Final Countdown. The Brickmania kit includes 1,607 LEGO pieces and two custom-printed minifigures with accessories. We’ll also be taking a look at the NAS Miramar Action Pack add-on that includes four more custom minifigures.
Read our full review of the Brickmania F-14 Tomcat after the jump
We recently reviewed the new Brickmania F-4C Phantom II fighter kit, but the Brickmania team has also just restocked the massive B-17G WWII Heavy Bomber custom kit, their largest LEGO aircraft kit produced to date. This custom kit of the legendary “Flying Fortress” is built from 3,074 LEGO pieces and includes 10 custom-printed minifigures.
Read our hands-on review of the Brickmania Flying Fortress
We’ve featured custom LEGO kits by Brickmania many times over the years, but Dan Siskind‘s small business has grown considerably since the last time we reviewed one of the company’s kits. Most notably, Dan himself is no longer the sole or even primary designer — great LEGO builders like Cody Osell now contribute many of the custom designs to the company’s products. While Dan is best known for tanks, Cody has designed most of Brickmania’s airplane models, including the F-4C Phantom II we’ll be reviewing today.
Read our hands-on review of the Brickmania F-4C Phantom custom LEGO kit
It’s been a few years since we’ve posted a LEGO holiday gift guide, so we’re a bit overdue for a refresh. While the LEGO builder in your life will always appreciate more brick to add to their infinitely expanding collection, thoughtful gift-givers might want to consider these other LEGO-related options, including many under $20.
Custom LEGO minifigs & custom building kits
We’re big fans of Citizen Brick, Brickmania, BrickArms, and Chris McVeigh here at TBB. Each of these companies and individuals creates unique, innovative LEGO-themed products that LEGO is unlikely to ever produce themselves but that fit seamlessly with our existing LEGO collections.
Case in point, LEGO will probably never make The X-Files or Breaking Bad minifigures, but our friends at Citizen Brick have produced “Eks Files” and “Lab Partners” minifigs that match the quality of official LEGO minifigs. With custom pad printing on nearly every element, CB minifigs generally run about $15 each.
While the rest of us toil away at day jobs and try to squeeze in a bit of LEGO building in the evenings and weekends, Dan Siskind runs Brickmania full time, continuing to lead his company’s LEGO design team even while he brings on other great designers. Dan’s latest personal design project has been a full-size minifig-scale version of John F. Kennedy’s World War II torpedo boat, PT-109. Dan’s model includes over 4,000 pieces and measures 27 inches (over 68 cm) long, with a crew of thirteen custom-printed minifigures.
See more of JFK’s PT-109 in LEGO
Welcome aboard Daniel Siskind‘s X-Craft Mini Sub for adventure under the high seas. The captain salutes from the forward top hatch, grabbing a breath of fresh air after months of stale air tinged with the sweet smell of submariner sweat. Waves crash over the bow as the submarine slices through the turbulent seas (a large trove of translucent white and blue studs). With the British Naval Ensign flying proudly astern, the silent hunter of the deep will slip back into the depths and continue to patrol the oceans.
Inside, the belly of the beast also features working hatches in the bulkheads, periscope and various crew stations.
Like most of Dan’s work, copies of this model are for sale through his company Brickmania, which recently produced our own Senior Contributor Ralph’s Antarctic LC-130 aircraft. The X-Craft Submarine will set you back $445, and new kits often sell out quickly.
Did you see the LEGO LC-130 Hercules we sent to Antartica at the end of last year? Did you want your own rocket-powered ski-plane? Over the last couple of months, TBB’s own Ralph Savelsberg worked with Dan Siskind and his team at Brickmania to turn Ralph’s model of this iconic aircraft into a custom LEGO kit you can buy.
Ralph is awesome, Brickmania is awesome, science is awesome, airplanes are awesome — we couldn’t be happier that one of our team’s designs is being turned into a Brickmania kit!
Learn more about this unique LEGO kit
If you’d prefer to support smaller LEGO-focused businesses rather than just gorging on massive LEGO discounts on Amazon.com, there are plenty of other ways you can begin your holiday LEGO shopping.
Our friends at Brickmania have been hard at work designing and releasing a bunch of really cool custom kits, including Dan Siskind’s excellent new Mark V tank from World War I (micro-review: I’ve built it and I love it!). All World War I kits are on sale throughout the month of November, and shipping is free now through the end of Monday the 28th.
The mischievous elves at Citizen Brick have just released a number of cool minifig sets, which all make it quite easy to reach the $75 threshold and score this cool tin of Xmas swag.
See more custom LEGO sales & deals
Daniel Siskind, creator of many advanced military scale models, has revealed his latest Mi-24 helicopter. Just look at this beauty!
There are so many awesome features of this helicopter, but the best of all is its perfectly balanced design. No matter which part you’re examining, every single piece, slope, or tile was meticulously chosen and placed. Canopies of rather peculiar shape work perfectly for the Mi-24’s cockpits, while a smooth row of tan and dark-green slopes along the body of the helicopter is aesthetically pleasing. Of course, the presentation wouldn’t be complete without a close-up shot of the rocket launchers — a perfect use of the most common of LEGO parts.
And yes, this particular LEGO model — unlike nearly everything else we feature here on The Brothers Brick — is available for sale, from Brickmania (at least until it sells out).
It’s been a couple of years since I’ve reviewed the custom LEGO kits designed by Dan Siskind of Brickmania. Back in 2013, I reviewed the Dodge WC54 Ambulance, and writing those reviews really got me started in building World War II models seriously. In the meantime, Dan and his team have continued to release new custom kits, on a near-weekly cadence. One of Dan’s recent Brickmania releases is the M3A1 Scout Car, produced by the White Motor Company between 1940 and 1944. The vehicle served throughout WW2, and its basic design served as the basis of the iconic M3 Half-track.
Like some of the custom kits I reviewed back in 2013, the M3A1 Scout Car is a WW2 vehicle I also built back in 2014, so I’ll be comparing Dan’s version with my own.
Click through to read the full review