Okay, Digital Beatdown is shall be--my thanks to everyone who took the time to cast their vote and comment on the implementation of the theme (helps me to see aspects/concerns that might never occur to me otherwise). Here are your choices for the February 1st Custom Contest (only vote for one):
#1 Art Alive
Reproduce any 2-dimensional piece of artwork as closely as you can in 3-dimensional customized toy form. You could do comic books, movie posters, paintings, music album covers, etc. (and, no, you can't use your own artwork, it has to be somebody else's design that you bring to life). Depending on what you choose to replicate, this might entail diorama-type elements and multiple figures or it could be something much more simplistic.
#2 Articulation Junkie
Create the most articulated figure you possibly can, all while trying to make the joints as unobtrusive as possible. Whatever you make should have a joint count in the double digits. You can't just slap a coat of paint on a super-articulated base figure and submit it "as-is", you have to improve on its range of motion in some fashion (i.e., if your base figure had 18 points of articulation, you must add at least one more joint to it). If you're not any good at constructing new joints, you can simply swap out parts from a better articulated figure in order to achieve this goal.
#3 I Love the 70s/80s/90s/00s
(If you pick this one, then also post which decade you want, but, note that you can't pick the 2010s, because the current decade obviously isn't finished yet.) I'm pretty much just stealing a page out of VH1's playbook here. Customs based on anything from the decade in question would be legal: toys, actors/actresses, athletes, musicians, video games, comic books, etc. You have to make your custom look like he/she/it does during that time period (i.e., if it was I Love The 90s, you'd have to make Mary Kate & Ashley Olson customs as kids, not the adults they are now.) If 80s was the decade picked, then I'd probably call it "80s Style II", as it'd pretty much be a repeat of that previous contest. If this is the contest theme that gets the most votes, but there isn't a clear winner as far as what decade it should be, then I'll make a tie-breaker decision.
Make any pirate character, real or fictional. Human pirates, zombie pirates, space pirates, it's all good, matey! Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Pirates of The Carribean, Pirates of Darkwater, Pirates of The Galaxseas, ThunderCats Berserkers, etc. You could also give non-pirate characters a buccaneer makeover (i.e., the Dread Pirate Deadpool).
#5 Specific Character*
(*Actual contest name dependent on whomever is picked.)
A contest dedicated to a single character (if you vote for this option, then also post your top three picks for the character that you'd like to see as the focus). You can make any existing version of the selected character, or reinterpret them however you see fit with an original design. If there's no clear majority as far as who the focus should be (i.e., if five people voted for this one but each picked completely different characters), then I'll choose one of them from the pool of nominees. While you can nominate any character, try to keep in mind whether or not your fellow Figure Realm members might, or might not, be interested in your choice (a well-known character, with a number of different looks, would probably work better than an obscure one).
#6 Three Choices
Basically, there would be three lists of generic objects/concepts, and you have to pick one item from each of those three lists and then somehow incorporate them into your custom (however you do that is completely up to your own creativity, for example, if you picked "sword", you might give your character a sword accessory, put a sword tattoo or emblem somewhere on their body, make a Transformer whose alt mode is a sword, etc., it doesn't matter how you do it, just as long as the item/concept is somehow represented in or on your figure). Think of it as kind of like a 3-dimensional version of Mad-Libs. If you pick this one, feel free to also suggest some categories/items for said lists (remember to keep them generic though, so that they can be broadly applied to many characters, in other words, "helmet" is good, "Stormtrooper helmet" is too specific). Some of the possible categories I was considering include "accessories", "action features" (swappable limbs, spring-loaded projectiles, glow-in-the-dark, etc.), "shapes", "colors", "techniques" (flocking, dry-brushing, magnets, etc.), "genres" (western, sci-fi, horror, etc.), but if you've got something better, I'd like to hear it.