Giving robots his magic touch

Local celebrity magician J C Sum has morethan just a few tricks up his sleeve.

When he's not performing as illusionist with "Magic Babe" Ning Cai, he customises figurines of his favourite character from the Transformers franchise, Autobot leader Optimus Prime.

He will have his customised Optimus figurine - from a model kit provided by US toy company Hasbro - displayed at the upcoming Transformers Cybertron Con 2012.

Sum's figurine, dubbed Slayer, will be on display from now till Wednesday at the Transformers Re-Imagined zone, beside the Cybertronian Base display and the Takara Tomy booth.

Other local celebrities who will have their customised figurines on display include film-maker Eric Khoo, fashion show director Daniel Boeyand music duo Jack and Rai.

Sum, 35, told The New Paper: "When it comes to both magic and customising figurines, I have to create something original with plenty of attention to detail.

"I ask myself, how can it be done in a unique and entertaining way?

"There's no value in putting out a magic act that has been done before - and the same goes for customising my figurines."

Explaining how he painstakingly depicted "battle damage" on his figurine, Sum said: "The 'bullet holes' on Slayer were created using a soldering iron to make the punctures, followed by some very intricate paintwork.

"I used a base of flat black paint before adding on a coat of titanium silver paint and then a coat of dark metallic grey paint to simulate a realistic-looking 'bullet hole'."

Sum laboured on Slayer for almost 40 hours over three days, creating a 100 per cent custom paint job, complete with realistic damage and customised accessories like Slayer's sword.

He said: "Yes, I managed some shut-eye! Each coat of paint needed time to dry, so I could rest.

"Slayer represents a more subtle and refined level of battle damage from my previous work. It retains more of Optimus' original vibrant colours while still sporting realistic damage."

Sum's passion for customising Optimus figurines began in 2007.

Source of inspiration

"Like many boys, I was attracted to...the leadership values Optimus espoused," he said.

"I wanted to create a personalised version of Optimus, and since I have my own workshop at home for my magic work, it was very convenient to begin my customisation."

Another customised figurine he is particularly proud of is his Power Up Optimus Prime, which is based on the depiction of the robot in the second Transformers film Revenge Of The Fallen in 2009.

"Power Up's battle armour, which was constructed from the remains of (the Transformer) Jetfire, was 'battle damaged' using a rotary power tool," he said.

"I used a different paint combination on Power Up to achieve a weathered, scarred effect because Jetfire was depicted as an ageing character (in Revenge Of The Fallen)."

Sum added that after he posted a picture of Power Up on his blog in January last year, he received a bid of US$2,500 (S$3,100) from an overseas bidder.

"I'd consider parting with it for the right price," he said. Right now, he values Power Up at more than US$3,000.

Admitting that such a hobby can be demanding, he said: "I can spend an entire week working on a figurine, from morning to night. My friends and my family often wonder where I've disappeared to!

"After I finish one, I tell myself that's the last one and I'll never do it again.

"But as you can see from my collection (of 15 customised Optimus Prime figurines), that's never the case!"


What: Transformers Cybertron Con 2012

Where: Compass Ballroom, Resorts World Sentosa Convention Centre

When: March 12 and 13 (10am-9pm) and March 14 (10am-6pm)

Tickets: $12 (day pass) and $68 (VIP four-day pass). Visit or for more information.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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