IN THIS ISSUE: Cover by SourBones
TOY MAKING GUIDE
KOZIK & KIDROBOT
I HEART GUTS
CLUTTER 10 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE
4TH ANNUAL DESIGNER TOY AWARDS
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ÂŠ2014 Lunartik Ltd. All rights Reserved | Plastik Surgery Workshop Guide | Lunartik.com/plastiksurgery
Illustration of Frank Kozik by SourBones
So is it strange for Frank Kozik to have a corporate job? No, because I don't have a corporate job, dude. So you don't see this as a corporate job? It's not a job. I didn't interview, it's not really structured that way. We have a team here, we all know each other, we've all been working together for a while now… some people here I've worked with for seven years. So it's not like a weird job, it's all odd, it's not like that at all. It's more like my thing and their thing has finally come together the way I always wanted it to. I guess the perception is that Kidrobot is this large company… It's not really set up that way… [Steve Elmes, Kidrobot's Marketing Director, interjects:] People refer to us as a corporation, like we're Google, but it's kinda funny to talk about Kidrobot as a corporation. We're a pretty small team. Large is relative; within a space we're a well-known and recognized brand, to many a leader in the industry, and if that makes us a corporation, I guess we're a corporation. You know, I have a corporation too. I've had a corporation for twenty years, but just because you have a legal standing doesn't mean it has to work according to certain rigid rules internally. And you know me, I'm not about that anyways. I wouldn't be here if that was the deal. Is this going to be a full-time, hands on position or a consultancy? It's more the former, but I've been doing stuff remotely for twenty years, through — you know — these awesome things called computers and telephones. Every job I do I talk to dudes on three continents at the same time. Like, I will be spending a lot of physical time here in Boulder [Colorado, where Kidrobot's headquarters is located] every month, but I will remain based in San Francisco. Are you going to stop being a curmudgeon and start being cute because you work for Kidrobot? (Laughs) I'm always cute, baby, you know that! (Laughs) Are you going to start smiling and acting cute or can we expect the same ol' Frank, the one that we love?
This just in… Frank Kozik has been named the Creative Director of Kidrobot! In light of recent events - namely the brand becoming part of the NECA company family - the longterm potential for Kidrobot seemed brighter than ever, but where would this newfound financial freedom take the company? A true bedrock of the Western designer toy movement, with its line-up of archetypal figures, it seems every fan wants to know where Kozik is hoping to steer the future of Kidrobot. 12 | Clutter 23
I'm not going to change what I do, it's just that I'm playing the game on a higher level now. We have real backing here! Here's the situation, people are worried — I've read every single thing that people have posted on the forum and the internet in the last few days — so here's the deal: Kidrobot will remain autonomous. It is not being absorbed into a mega corporation, we have the full logistical, manufacturing, and financial support of a really big company, but that company itself is not a traditional corporation. It's a company is owned by a guy, who is a really smart guy, who happens to be in love with collecting toys and other interesting things, and understands what Kidrobot was, what it is, and what it should be. There are no managers or knobs coming in, no, no, no… This is like if me and you were sitting down and going, "hey, we can do whatever we want to now, what are we going to do." That's the
Plastic Phoenix: Frank Kozik, Kidrobot's New Creative Director situation. It's a really good situation, but — since we live in the real world — Kidrobot will be run properly and profitably. So, based on what you just said, what should Kidrobot be? Kidrobot should be the leader in the art toy scene. Kidrobot should be working with artists to make really great things, cool things, fun things, interesting, new things. Kidrobot should be part of the community; it should support the community, it should work with the community. It should be the top of everything, it should be what it always kinda coulda been and has been at times. Something for everyone to have a focus around that creates good things for everybody. It's like you guys, right, with the Designer Toy Awards (DTAs). You stepped up with the DTAs, and you've really made something special happen there, that gives people a sense of higher purpose. Kidrobot should do that for art-driven objects. That's why I want to be here, I want to make these things and I want to see these things happen. We want to do this. That's fantastic. It's kind of amazing news for the industry, so I congratulate you on pulling that off. The people here at Kidrobot worked really hard under super brutal conditions to get to this point. They saw it through and they made it happen. I made my decision a long time ago to stick with them, because I knew it would end well. And this is so much better than the scenarios that I'd considered before that it's unreal. The partnership with NECA, like, is a really… even though they're all licensed action figures, but they are the kings of that. What they have, dude, is total clout with manufacturing and licensing and they can make so many things easier. And they are willing to let us do our thing but give us the support. So, basically, somebody just gave us a really rad race car. You know what I'm saying? It's a really rad situation. Was your relationship as the new creative director in the works before the purchase? Did Kidrobot approach you or did you approach them? I've always had a very close relationship with Kidrobot since the first day it opened doors, right. There's been periods where I worked super closely with them, there's been periods where I didn't work so closely with them, but I always sorta wanted a
bigger role within Kidrobot dating back to 2006. The more we talked about, the more it made sense. Me coming onboard made things possible for them, them bring me onboard made things possible for me, so it's a real good team partnership kinda thing. I've always wanted to do this, because it's always made sense for me personally, for the genre in general, and for Kidrobot. It is about art within a community that we want to expand and working together makes total sense to me. And it's going to make my life a whole lot fuckin' easier, I tell you what. I am not going to be frustrated anymore, and that's a really great payoff. I can get people to make the things I've always wanted to see them make. And I will be able to help the community that's been really great to me. Everybody wins, nobody loses here. That's the main thing and that's a really great situation. How's this going to affect your store and your personal release schedule? In the short run I'll be a little bit busy, so I might not be pumping out as many hand-painted editions in the next couple of months but overall it's not going to affect my other things. I'm still going to do what I do, there's no limitations on me there. I've worked with Kidrobot x amount of hours a week anyway for the last ten years and that's just going to go up a little bit. It's not an entirely new situation. So you'll be like Gordon Ramsay, where you're like sitting atop your organization? No, I mean, I'm being a real creative director. We're going to hire a full creative staff, so I'm not going to be sitting here doing the spreadsheets and all that kind of stuff. But I'm not going to be daily wandering around pointing at things either. I'm really interested in this stuff, you know, so what I'm going to use this opportunity to do work with a lot of new artists that I think are really great. I really want to do this correctly. Amateur hour is over. There is going to be a focus on new voices in the industry and not a reliance on the old guard? Completely. Everybody has gotten too complacent, including myself. What you're going to see now is us doing a lot of stuff with outside artists, but a lot of those artists no one's ever heard of before, they just happen to be really fucking good. A lot of them happen to be people that I've
seen a custom by online and thought, "why isn't this a production piece?" You've asked yourself that question a million times in the past, right? Well, now, those are going to be production pieces, because it's not about the status of the artist or if he's my buddy… it's about his design being fucking rad. If it makes sense to make it, if people are going to love it, it's going to get made. Will there still be a broad price point spectrum of releases, like the blind boxes up to the Kidrobot Black? Yes. All the core price points will still be there. And I'm actually thinking about adding another size and price point to take advantage of Japanese vinyl. So, we'll see… Can you say more about that? We need a category of item that allows small retailers to have really limited runs in unique colorways with unique packaging, and I think sofubi is the way to do that. That's good for everybody too… it's good for the collectors, it's good for the specialty retailers, it's good for us. So actually produced in Japan? Yea, not China fake, but actual made in Japan vinyl. I'm already doing that with all my stuff anyways, so why not give that a shot too. But that's just a wild idea, not official policy. I have some ideas for new stuff that makes sense, that no one's really done. [Elmes interjects:] I think it's important to temper all this, we're in a marathon now and not a sprint race. You know how long it takes to produce anything in vinyl and the truth is that some changes are beginning now, getting product in the pipeline flowing again, things of that nature. We'll be focusing on our website. Currently our website is not a great experience, but the backing of a company like NECA allows us to layer on their IT department to make the shopping experience great and include things like international shipping options. All the basic things that people have been asking for years, that's what you'll see quickly. The product flow, it'll be six months, twelve months, eighteen months, that's when you'll see the changes there. Basically, you know, in my creative director role, I'm not imposing any limits. I want to give back to the community, I want to make the experience for fans better at conventions and stuff. We're going to invite
people into the party. We're going to do more personal outreach kinda stuff. That's my way of dealing with this and that's going to expand more for Kidrobot. We want Kidrobot to be a good experience for the fans of the stuff. Is there going to be some direction from Kidrobot into homewares? It's something we've heard rumored for a while… It's definitely something that's been talked about a lot and I think it would make a lot of sense, we make these really nice sculptural objects, they should have a second use in the home. They should be made in other materials. That's certainly a program that we're going to totally investigate and remain open to. Everybody here has good ideas about that. We're going to keep doing the best vinyl toys we can, but there are no limits… there's room for those too, I think. So the focus won't be strictly on toys now, it will remain multi-tiered? The core focus is going to be on artcentered toys, but there's always room for other things that are associated with them if it makes sense. We're not going to make a set of dishes and not make a toy, we're going to do both if it makes sense. When do you think we can expect to see some of the new releases from Kidrobot? Oh, I'm hoping that you're going to see brand new stuff that's not already in the pipeline by next spring, [San Diego] ComicCon at the latest. I've already triaged some existing stuff and brought some new stuff to the table, we've already started some new stuff but it takes six to eight months to get stuff made, if it goes really well. Right now, like Steve said, we've already cleaned some clogs in the pipes, some stuff that was going to get made, I decided we're not going to make it. Other stuff that was passed on, was actually pretty cool and we're going to make it. I've brought some new things to the table. On the backside, I'm reaching out to artists… of course, can't name any names. That process has already started. All the problems have been fixed. All the shit that was broken has been fixed. We're ready to roll, so now we start rolling. It's all in place, now we move forward.
For more information on Kidrobot, please visit: www.kidrobot.com Clutter 23 | 13
I Heart Guts founder Wendy Bryan with the Humongous Heart Plush — I Got The Beat!
Barbara Pavone Wendy Bryan There are few things in life that will bring you as much joy as cuddling up to an adorable spleen plush or surprising your bestie with an anatomically correct colon plush — trust me. Luckily, I Heart Guts offers an entire range of goodies devoted to our internal organs, so you don’t have to take my word for it! We caught up with founder Wendy Bryan to talk about how she got her start, the marvelous thymus gland, and all things guts. Today, I Heart Guts is perhaps best known for its widely beloved range of organ plush toys, but it all
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started with a mere sketch back in 2000, “the result of a drunk drawing session in a bar — more a weird conceptual art project that combined my love for anatomy and kawaii character design than a master plan to make plush organs,” remembers the creator and organ aficionado. The drawings were too good to be pushed aside, so they made their way onto stickers, buttons, and T-shirts, hitting the online world in 2005, but it wasn't until two years later that the first I Heart Guts plush was born.
A selection of I Heart Guts plushes, including Womb Service!, I Got The Beat!, Smells Like Spleen Spirit!, and When Urine Love!
“The idea for making the guts into toys came from a guy who wanted a plush kidney to replace the real one his donor brother had given him,” explains Bryan. “And when a store buyer in Silverlake saw my handmade heart plush prototype and said, 'I want to sell that,' I figured we needed to mass produce organs as toys.”
biggest surprise. Art and creativity come easily to me; the details of manufacturing and importing, not so much. I also learned that making mistakes and learning from them is probably still cheaper than going to business school. I’m a big fan of learning by screwing up.”
“I ultimately decided to make plush because it seemed more interactive. A collectible vinyl item just sits on the shelf, but you can punch or hug a stuffed uterus if you want to,” she laughs.
For the Love of Guts
“I was working as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator and I Heart Guts was my odd little side project for years before it became a full-on operation,” she continues. “Not until we made the leap into plush did it start to take over my life, so I was dealing with freelance clients during the day and shipping organs at night.” Bryan didn't expect to sell out of their first run of hearts in just four months — “I was surprised. And pleased. And then freaked out!” — but there was an even bigger shock in store: “That I could run a business at all was the
“I love the way our customers add magic to our plush because of what they are going through with their own bodies – the toy becomes an object that helps them laugh in the face of illness. Every gut and gland we make has its own little special fan club,” says Bryan. “Of course the heart is big because of love, but the colon has fans because of Crohn’s disease, there’s a half-million gallbladder removals a year, and the diabetics love the pancreas.” Choosing a personal favorite is no easy feat, considering how much time (and love) she’s put into creating each one, but after a moment of reflection Bryan settles on the heart “since that character really started the whole thing”.
The Rectum Plush — Bringing Up The Rear!
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A selection of I Heart Guts plushes
She also admits to having a special fondness for the uterus, even if it did spark one of the wildest experiences in I Heart Guts history. “Having our first uterus plush recalled was pretty crazy,” she says. “Toy testing laws changed right after we had made a run of brains, gallbladders, pancreases, and uteri, and ironically the uterus was the only one to be deemed unsafe for children. We had to recall the toy from stores, and ask anyone who had ever bought the uterus if they wanted to keep it or exchange it for another organ - pretty much everyone wanted to keep her. On the bright side, it made news of the weird all over the world and really put I Heart Guts on the map as a result, so I learned that some bad things can actually be good.” Not surprisingly, she’s also learned a thing or two about the human body along the way. What’s the most interesting fact she can impress us with? “Everyone thinks we are controlled by our brain, but we are actually controlled by a gland inside our brain called the hypothalamus that connects the nervous and endocrine systems and is responsible for hunger, sex, emotion, fear, etc. How cool is that?”
The Road Ahead “There’s a thymus lab in Japan that orders lapel pins from us and really wants a plush version, so even though most people don’t care about the marvelous thymus gland — it’s part of your immune system that makes T cells — someday we will make a plush one just to satisfy our friends in Japan,” says Bryan, looking to the future. Not to mention there’s also the constant temptation to diversify and grow the I Heart Guts family. “I’ve hand sewn black lungs for galleries and we did a limited edition black heart a few years back. We get many requests for all sorts of body parts — bones, muscles, etc. — that we would love to make. A sad liver would be awesome!” Other than that, Bryan has “been working very slowly on the 100 Hearts Project, a collection of 100 custom made hearts that I hope to show someday; I’ve completed about 25 of them. I also have a shipping container en route from China filled with plush rectums and a bunch of other guts that I’m pretty excited about. I wish I could be a fly on the wall during the customs review for that one!”
For more information on I Heart Guts, please visit: www.iheartguts.com 18 | Clutter 23
Looking back over the last ten years, my memories are full of fun and craziness. From insane parties at Kidrobot to 6am bar crawls in New York CIty, it all brings a smile to my face and I'm so happy that I got to share that with some of best friends. For me, Clutter is more than just a magazine, it's a story of friendships. Ten years ago, when myself and Nick Carroll finished our degrees in Graphic Design at Coventry University (UK), I suggested starting a designer toy magazine. We put everything we had into it, and begged and borrowed the rest. It was pretty scary. We threw all we had into a dream of making a passion into our careers. While you can hardly call this a profitable venture,
over the years we have been so lucky to meet the people we have and support some of the most talented people in the world. We started with a simple aim: to help spread the word of designer toys. Along the way, we became more than just collectors and fans, we became a family. There are so many people to thanks for their love and support along the way, waaaay to many to name check hereâ€Ś Thank you to everyone who supported us in getting this far and who continue to support us into the future, including you reading this. Here's to the next ten years of craziness!!! Miranda O'Brien
SEPTEMBER Clutter founded
DECEMBER DPMHI store opening & meeting Michael Lau interview
DECEMBER Issue 01 DECEMBER Original website launched
JULY adFunture London exhibition, Clutter as a sponsor
FEBRUARY Issue 02
FEBRUARY New York Toy Fair
JUNE Monsterism vs. Pain, a DJ battle battle between Pete Fowler & James Jarvis, co-presented by Clutter
MAY Issue 03
JULY Meeting Futura at DPMHI/Maharishi
JUNE Issue 04
SEPTEMBER Issue 05
OCTOBER FIGUREPUNK's RainPunk released in Clutter exclusive pink colorway
DECEMBER 2000AD exhibition
DECEMBER Issue 06
NOVEMBER Clutter: Special Edition box set released by Toy2R
AUGUST Venus Fly Trap 2.5" Qee, designed by Clutter, released as a Clutter exclusive
FEBRUARY Monster Mash cards released, with one designed by Clutter
APRIL Issue 07
MARCH Non-Permanent, the first Secret Wars (later Secret Walls), occurred with Clutter as a sponsor
FEBRUARY New York Comic Con
APRIL Action Man 40/40 exhibition, co-curated by Clutter
AUGUST Issue 08
MARCH Dalek at Richard Goodall Gallery in Manchester
DECEMBER Issue 09
JUNE New website
JULY James Jarvis' King Ken released in Clutter exclusive pink colorway
MARCH Munny Shot Bristol
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JUNE Issue 10
MAY The Toy Mafia founded by Clutter with Nicole "The Baroness" East, Huck Gee, Jeremy Madl, Chad Phillips, Geoff Whitehouse and Sket One
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SEPTEMBER Pirate 3" Dunny, designed by Clutter, released as part of Series 5
DECEMBER ATP with MAD & Sket One MAY Thunderdog in the UK
APRIL New York Comic Con
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MAY ATP with Michael Michael Motorcycle
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MAY ATP with Kathie Olivas & Brandt Peters
OCTOBER ATP Halloween
SEPTEMBER Tara McPherson signing
2009 APRIL New York Comic Con
JANUARY Little Tourist 3" Dunny, designed by Clutter, released as part of Ye Olde English Series
APRIL Issue 14
JANUARY Interviewed at the launch of the Dunny series at Selfridges in London MARCH Tristan Eaton's Billy Bananas released in Clutter exclusive pink colorway
MAY ATP with Pete Fowler
JUNE Miranda's leaving party
JULY Miranda moves to America, Clutter's main office relocates with her
FEBRUARY Yoyamart's I <3 Qee
AUGUST Issue 15
OCTOBER NYCC Clutter Booth NOVEMBER Issue 16 JULY 1st Annual Designer Toy Awards, held during SDCC
FEBRUARY Clutter's main office relocates to Beacon NY
FEBRUARY Frank Kozik's Gipper Reagan Bust released in Clutter exclusive Pink colorway
2012 JULY Issue 17
OCTOBER NYCC Clutter Booth
OCTOBER 2nd Annual Designer Toy Awards, held during NYCC
NOVEMBER Clutter opens Gallery Space with first exhibition, co-curated with Brutherford
FEBRUARY MF Gallery
MARCH Clutter Gallery Kaiju Show
AUGUST Issue 18
APRIL Cotton Candy Machine
APRIL Toy Mafia first event
MAY Triplikid Groper released in Clutter exclusive Pink
OCTOBER NYCC Edition 1
JUNE Clutter Gallery Ron English
OCTOBER Beast Brothers calaveritas released in Clutter exclusive pink
DECEMBER Issue 19
OCTOBER NYCC Clutter Booth
OCTOBER 3rd Annual Designer Toy Awards, held during NYCC.
2014 MARCH Issue 20
JUNE Issue 21
JULY SDCC Special
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DECEMBER Issue 23
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BATHED IN LIGHT NICK CURTIS FUNKO
There is a je ne sais quoi quality to vintage Japanese vinyl, something beyond the slightly over-sized heads, blocky body frames, and simple articulation level. There's a feel to these pieces that defies proper categorization, but it's this uniquely undefinable element that Funko has been able to recapture, like lightning in a bottle. When one hears the name Funko, probably the most popular image it evokes is that of the company's cute, licensed character driven Pop! Vinyl figures, but in the last
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year they've made major headway into reinventing the classic Japanese figure. Titled the Hikari line, Funko are modernizing vintage Japanese vinyl for a contemporary audience, using such iconic characters to American audiences as Batman, Spider-man, Skeletor, Optimus Prime, and even Frankenstein's Monster. We had the opportunity to discuss this new endeavor with Funko's Creative Director, Sean Wilkinson, in an attempt to find out what the future holds.
Left to right: Metal Mix Leonardo, Michelangelo (Nickelodeon Edition), Mean & Green Raphael, and Metallic Donatello
Burnt Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
What exactly is Funko's Hikari line? I mean to say, when you're creating a new Hikari release, what are the requirements for it be part of the line? The Hikari line is inspired by the '60s and '70s Japanese vinyl know as sofubi or kaiju. This distinctively soft vinyl was originally mass-produced in Japan and mostly featured outrageous Japanese monsters and robots. These colorful retro Japanese toys started as cheap poly bagged figures widely available throughout asia and import stores in the U.S., though the last decade has seen them become highly collectable among toy enthusiasts and collectors, driving up prices for some of the harder to find figures. Kaiju figures featured many popular Japanese monster movie characters of all shapes and sizes, but had never widely been applied to American movie and comic book characters until Funko came along. Brian Mariotti, Funko's owner,
is an avid collector of sofubi figures and had the idea of applying this look to our wide range of entertainment licenses. I developed the classic Hikari stance and proportions based on past sofubi examples and simplified many of the features to give each figure a streamlined, stylized look that could fit comfortably next to a vintage Japanese vinyl figure. Of course, monsters and robots still make the best Hikari figures, but we are always looking to expand the possibilities of this fun new-old toy category. Hikari is the Japanese word for 'light.' Why was this chosen as the name for the line? These beautiful figures are usually translucent and often glitter is added to the vinyl to create an illuminated figure that comes alive when they are bathed in light.Â
What has been the reaction, overall, to the Hikari line? Are you happy with the response? We are thrilled here, there has been such a positive reaction to our Hikari line. It's always rewarding to find that the toy fan base out there parallels our own love of these nostalgia based toy lines and is eager and happy to collect some or all of these amazing toys that we put so much effort and thought into. Our growing team of talented fanboy â€” and girl â€” artists continue to strive to capture the nuance and detail that each figure deserves. On the production side of things, what sets the Hikari figures apart from all of Funko's other releases? The mold process for Hikari is called slush molding. It's a very specialized technique for which we brought in experts from Japan to work with our
factories to train them how to work with these molds and how to paint the many amazing deco[rative] styles that Hikari figures are know for. No other Funko product is made using this molding process, and not many other companies out there are manufacturing using this kind of vinyl. They really do stand out from the wide variety of art vinyls out there. The packaging denotes "Japanese vinyl" on them. Is the vinyl being processed in Japan and produced in China? The artist/expert we brought in to advise and train our factory on this technique is from Japan, [although] all manufacturing is in China. I've heard a rumor that Hiddy [Hideaki Kinoshita, owner of Secret Base] is overseeing your Hikari line's production overseas. Is this true?
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Left to right: Ice Freeze Batman, Premium Blaze Spider-Man, and Havoc Skeletor
Left to right: Battle Ready Bumblebee, Battle Ready Optimus Prime, Platinum Grey Skull Frankenstein, Groot, and Apocalyse Creature From The Black Lagoon
Yes, he is the man overseeing the Hikari line and training the painters at our factory. Is there a reason the Hikari figures are limited, in numbered editions, rather than being more mass-produced? The production process for these is very time consuming and much of the paint deco is quite complex. The "waste" in the molding process is high for these figures as it is a real skill to pull these from the mold with consistent quality and appeal. This can drive the cost up along with the time spent in painting. Part of the overall approach to these is a decidedly nonmass market vibe with limited numbers. Sometimes we will create as many as ten different color variants for each character. These aren't really intended as a "collect them all" line but more as a special, limited edition piece of art. They are an ideal figure to create exclusives for some of our favorite customers and this in turn creates a demand and an excitement among collectors. What a wonderful array of characters 28 | Clutter 23
you've already re-created in the Hikari line! With such an amazing breadth of licenses to choose from, why has Funko selected the ones they have so far to get the Hikari treatment? Some are driven by the popularity of a certain license — Batman, Star Wars, [Teenage Mutant] Ninja Turtles. Some characters lend themselves well to the classic monster and robot styling of the original sofubi figures. Sometimes we just love a character so much that we convince the boss that we gotta to do it! We've seen a range of Jiangshi — or Chinese hopping vampire — figures from the Hikari line at conventions, but I can't find them anywhere else. Are they a convention exclusive character range? If so, why? These are produced by our manufacturer for the Chinese market. We offer one of the characters – The Sheriff Hopping Ghost — in multiple color ways. This, like our other Hikari, are available only through our online sales, the weekly Hikari Fridays. There are other
Chinese mythology creatures that were produced only for the Chinese market. The company is called Mindstyle; they do have a booth at San Diego ComicCon and may be offering up Hikari next year… Can you tell us what license is next? I think I heard a rumor that Star Wars was upcoming… Yes, Star Wars is coming; a fairly extended line, more than five [figures]. A few favorites and a few unexpected characters. There are several Marvel characters on their way. A Gigantor to add to our classic Japanese licensed line. Plus a few other surprises as we look to expand and finalizing our character wish lists. Any chance to see Freddy — the Funko mascot — done in the Hikari style? Funny you should ask… Freddy WILL be making his Hikari appearance! Look for outrageous color versions to appear at various toy shows and cons in the coming year.
For more information on Funko's Hikari line, please visit:
Nick Curtis Joe Merrill
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THE HARDEST PART OF A TRULY GOOD SECRET IS, OF COURSE, IN NOT TELLING ANYONE. ADD TO THAT THE INSATIABLE CURIOSITY AND SLEUTHING OF KAIJU TOY COLLECTORS, IT'S EASY TO UNDERSTAND WHY JOE MERRILL OF SPLURRT OPTED TO ANNOUNCE HIS NEW SECRETOY PROJECT OPENLY. BUT WHAT IS IT? WHY DOES IT EXIST? AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, WHAT SHALL BE RELEASED THROUGH IT? WHAT EXACTLY IS SECRETOY? IS IT AN ENTIRELY NEW BRAND, OR A SIDEPROJECT OF SPLURRT, OR SOMETHING ELSE? It's a new brand. I wanted a new brand for a new aesthetic, though I promote it through the normal SPLURRT channels so people have an easier time discovering and following it. Originally I wanted to be totally anonymous… That's why it was SECRETOY, because I wanted the creator behind it to be a mystery. But after talking to a few other toy makers, I kind of got talked out of the idea. People were going to eventually figure out it was me, so I just decided to reveal it was me from the beginning and receive the credit. THE FIRST RELEASE UNDER SECRETOY WILL BE THE CINEMA MONSTER. WHAT IS THIS NEW AESTHETIC IT EMBODIES? All the SPLURRT stuff is very much a product of being a child in the '80s and '90s, but I've wanted to do a standard kaiju for awhile. With the Cinema Monster, I wanted to create a more classical monster, a monster that looked like it belonged in the golden age of cinema. It was inspired by Galligantua [from the 1962 film Jack the Giant Killer], BEMON's Two-Headed Giant, and Ray Harryhausen's Cyclops [from the 1958 film The 7th Voyage of Sinbad]. I LOVE HOW YOU DID THE DOUBLE-FACE
AS OPPOSED TO THE TWO HEADS. WHAT CAUSED YOU TO GO IN THAT DIRECTION? WAS IT AT ALL INSPIRED BY SHIGERU ARAI'S NAGNAGNAG FIGURE, THE SIAMESE BORYOKU GENJIN? No, it wasn't inspired by NAGNAGNAG. Like any popular toy, you are aware it is there and that people might think there is a similarity, but the NAGNAGNAG was not an influence. I'm not even sure what inspired it. I definitely did not want to do a two-headed monster, because the BEMON is such an amazing toy, there's no point in even trying to duplicate it. I hope with the three eyes and two noses, even though it lives alongside the BEMON and the Cyclops, it will still come across as a unique creation and toy. HOW BIG IS THE CINEMA MONSTER? The figure is 10½" and, I think at that size, he is big without being so big that he becomes a shelf hog. ANY IDEA ON HOW YOU PLAN TO RELEASE THEM? ONE-OFFS? MICRO EDITIONS? I will offer him through multiple channels — online, store exclusives, cons, and events — like every other toy, though I am going to look to avoid doing a lot of one-offs or micro runs and even blank sales. I'm not saying there will never be one-offs or micros or blanks, just that those aren't my focus. I'm still thinking of the
best way, but I want to begin by just putting out great factory paints that people love. Keep it simple and underwhelming. THE CINEMA MONSTER COMES WITH A COLUMN WEAPON ACCESSORY, RIGHT? ARE YOU THINKING OF DIFFERENT OMAKE THAT MIGHT COME WITH THE PIECE OR WILL IT ALWAYS BE THE COLUMN? I would be open to new omakes, but I wouldn't put any into production if I wasn't doing other new parts, like a new head or new legs. I think a little Roman soldier would be a cool omake too. ARE YOU ALREADY PLANNING FUTURE SECRETOY RELEASES OR IS THE IDENTITY MAINLY FOR THE CINEMA MONSTER'S RELEASE? It's mainly for the Cinema Monster, but I do include the Bone Usir DX — in collaboration with MUTANT VINYL HARDCORE — under the banner as well. The Bone Usir is just very intense, and with the occult symbolism I felt it fit well under SECRETOY as opposed to SPLURRT. I would like to do other standard kaiju under SECRETOY, but that's down the road.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SECRETOY, PLEASE VISIT: SECRETOY.COM Clutter 23 | 31
THE PASSAGE COARSE TOYS
DID YOU SEE THE LIVESTREAM ON
EASIER BY ALL THE WONDERFUL PEOPLE
TWITCH.TV THIS YEAR? THIS YEAR'S
THAT PRESENTED THE AWARDS, AND
DESIGNER TOY AWARDS (DTAS) WERE
THE MUSICAL STYLINGS OF BAAM
BIGGER, BETTER, AND, STRANGELY,
BADA THAT ACCOMPANIED THE ENTIRE
MORE PROFESSIONAL THAN EVER! AFTER
CEREMONY. AS WELL AS DECORA AND
ALL, WE WERE AT THE HAMMERSTEIN
RUBY STINSON, WHO PROVIDED THE
BALLROOM. YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT,
FANTASTIC MUSICAL INTERLUDE. PLUS, OF
THE DTAS WERE AT THE HAMMERSTEIN
COURSE, THERE WOULD BE NO FUN, NO
BALLROOM! WITH OUR FOURTH YEAR
JOY IN AN EVENING LIKE THIS WITHOUT
OF PRODUCING THE CEREMONY, WE
A CONTRIBUTION BY THE SUPER
FINALLY FEEL LIKE WE'RE HITTING OUR
SUCKLORD, WHO GRACED US WITH AN
FULL STRIDE. AND QUITE A BIT OF THAT IS
BEST DIY PLATFORM
THANKS TO THE SUPPORT OF NEW YORK COMIC CON AND REEDPOP, INCLUDING
OUR GOAL HAS ALWAYS BEEN TO SHINE
DESIGNATING OUR CEREMONY AS PART
A LIGHT ON THE BRIGHTEST MEMBERS OF
OF NYCC'S SUPERWEEK.
OUR INDUSTRY, YEAR TO YEAR, AS WELL AS EXPAND THE OVERALL COMMUNITY
BUT AN AWARDS CEREMONY CAN
AND CONNECTIVITY WE ALL FEEL AS PART
ONLY BE AS GOOD AS ITS HOST, SO WE
OF IT. NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE KNOW HOW
MUST EQUALLY THANK JESSE SNYDER.
TALENTED TOY ARTISTS ARE, SOMETHING
SNYDER IS A NEWCOMER TO OUR
THAT WE FEEL MUST BE RECTIFIED. GOING
COMMUNITY, BUT HE TRULY FEELS A
FORWARD, WE HOPE — WITH YOUR HELP
PASSION FOR IT, ONE THAT CAN EASILY
— TO CONTINUE MAKING THIS ANNUAL
BE SEEN IN HIS ROLE FOR THE EVENING.
EVENT THE BEST WE CAN.
SNYDER'S JOB WAS CERTAINLY MADE 34 | Clutter 23
GEEKWOK UME TOYS
BEST MEDIA TIE-IN
ALIEN REACTION FIGURES, SERIES 1
BEST ONLINE TOY STORE
SUPER7 & FUNKO
CUSTOM OF THE YEAR
WOOD PANDALOPE AMANDA VISELL
BEST MINI SERIES
DEVILMAN ARTIST PROJECT SECRETBASE
CUSTOM OF THE YEAR
PAPA SMURF JASON FREENY
BRAND OF THE YEAR
BEST TOY STORE
PLUSH HERMEES GARY HAM & LANA CROOKS
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SMORKIN' LABBIT FRANK KOZIK & BOUNTY HUNTER
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DAVID HORVATH & SUN-MIN KIM
BREAK-THROUGH ARTIST BEST COLLABORATION
TARGET: SELF MEDICATED
THE PASSAGE COARSE TOYS
LUKE CHUEH & JASON FREENY
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
SKINNER & MUTANT VINYL HARDCORE
TOY OF THE YEAR
TOY OF THE YEAR
MCBESS & KIDROBOT
THE PASSAGE Clutter 23 | 37
KIM FUNG WONG Kim Fung Wong's name has become synonymous with Threezero, which Wong founded and was one of the original producers of the Hong Kong designer toy style. Beginning with manufacturing 12" figure special forces uniforms and die cast weapons in 2000, Threezero's easily recognizable gasmask logo — designed by Michael Lau — has been seen on the multitude of collaborations Wong has undertaken. Working with the likes of Lau, Jason Siu, and Elphonso Lam, Threezero was a true pioneer in the 1/6th scale art toy, but has since extended their toy range to include designer vinyl collectibles. Working with Ashley Wood, Wong has pushed the boundaries of the art toy medium under their co-owned guise of ThreeA. In addition to working with Wood on the ThreeA projects, Wong also continued to produce figures for other artists, including Playge's Squadt figures. Then, in 2013, Threezero initiated a reboot of autonomous toy production with a series of licensed products. Showing no sign of relenting his vast production schedule, Wong truly is one of the hidden backbone 'movers & shakers' within the community.
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Images: strongtreeimages.com Clutter 23 | 41
Left to right: Sawzall, Drillzall, Gangreen, and Woody 3" Dunnys
Toy designers often have experience in a related field before jumping into the world of vinyl, resin, and plush, but it’s usually difficult to trace through an artist’s career based purely on his or her toys. This isn’t the case with Travis Cain. Simply by observing his work, a collector acquainted with various artistic disciplines can quickly conclude that Cain is first and foremost a graphic designer; bright colors, bold lines, and simple but striking imagery are the hallmarks of his vinyl work. By breaking down forms to their most essential curves, he creates toys that are cute and pleasing to the eye. At the same time, he creates a consistent visual identity and theme across his toy designs. When the uninitiated ask me what a designer toy is, my simplest response is, “three-dimensional graphic design.” This is most clearly the case with Cain’s characters. He says a lot with a little. While this simplicity makes for visually digestible designs, Cain’s aesthetic diverts the mind from the incongruous depictions of violence and toxic relationships that contrast his characters’ cute charm. This mastery of minimalist design and juxtaposition put Travis Cain’s work up there with designer toys that will be looked back at as classics.
Introduce yourself! Who are you and what do you do? I’m Travis Cain and I am an art director, artist, and father. What’s your background as an artist? You seem to cover a lot of bases. My background is mainly in graphic design, which lead me to illustration, screen printing, and then toy design. How did you get involved with designer toys? Do you remember your first encounter with a vinyl toy? The first vinyl toy I saw that had an impact on me was Doze Green’s Travela. I love Doze’s fine artwork and I thought it was cool that this artist had made this awesome toy, dimensionalizing his artwork. After that, I had wanted to make my own vinyl toys. What are some other favorites and
what do you look for in a design? I guess as a graphic designer, I like toys that are bold and simple. Some of my favorite artists are KAWS, Buff Monster, Jeremyville, McBess, Scott Tolleson, BoyKong, kaNO, ilovedust… all people who are excellent graphic designers and illustrators as well as toy makers. Your first releases were in 2006: the Ribeye and Cheeze Dunnys. That was really early in the Dunny line’s history. What’s the story behind hooking up with Kidrobot so early on? In 2006, Kidrobot and the design firm I worked at, Planet Propaganda, were both in the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial exhibition. Kidrobot invited all of the design firms involved to submit ideas for Dunnys that would be sold as souvenirs in the museum shop. I came up with a bunch of ideas and we submitted them. Kidrobot choose to make Ribeye and Cheeze. I was so Clutter 23 | 43
pumped. Pairing each of them up with a tool that could kill them was actually the genesis of the idea for the BFFs [series from Kidrobot] later on.
Cheeze and Ribeye 3" Dunnys
I've noticed that a lot of your designs are based on food. Is that a hobby of yours that has made its way into your designs? What are some of your favorite foods? I love food! It’s easy to chop, cook, slice and dice food too, so they made good fodder for my “love hurts” idea. Three years later you created the wooden chase Dunnys for the 2009 series, the only production Dunnys to date to be created from wood. How did you come up with the idea and did it take a lot of convincing to have Kidrobot go along with it? Actually, the idea for making a Dunny that looked like it was made out of wood came from the original set of ideas I sent to Kidrobot for the Cooper Hewitt show. When I was asked to participate in the 2009 series, I pulled some of those ideas out and suggested them again. The idea to actually make them out of wood was a suggestion from Joanna Sieghart and Paul Budnitz from Kidrobot. My original thought was to paint on a fake wood grain, like Ribeye and Cheeze had fake meat and cheese details. After several back and forth discussions with people at Kidrobot, we decided to pursue it. They found someone to manufacture them right here in Brooklyn! They were really expensive to make; that’s why so few of them were made.
Left to right: Jimmy + Anthony, Link + Rusty, and Al + The Sharpe Brothers from BFF, Series 1
You had your own blindbox series — the BFF line — released by Kidrobot in 2009 as well, releases for which had two seemingly incompatible objects personified as friends. What was the thought process behind turning the “love hurts” concept into a series of toys? This idea started with Ribeye and Cheeze. The idea of pairing two things up that could be their undoing was funny to me, the idea of cute + violence. I proposed these toys way back in 2006 right after Kidrobot decided to make my Dunnys. I thought I would strike while I had their attention and it worked out! BFF Series 2 came out a few years later. This series added a bunch of new characters and also revised a few from Series 1. For example, Jimi & Anthony were standard vinyl in Series 1 and had a flocked fabric in Series 2. Were there manufacturing restrictions that affected the products in Series 1 that you were able to pull off in Series 2? Because the first series had gone well, Kidrobot wanted to bring back some of the more popular toys, but give them a twist. We had flocking, alternate colorways, and a chase toy: 44 | Clutter 23
Chesterfield + Weezy + Pete, the lungs and cigarette. The BFF series recently got another manufacturing run and hit retail stores again. It seems like the series is really successful. Why do you think these resonate so well with fans? I think they sell well because they are cute little objects. I think they appeal to toy collectors, but also people who aren’t hard core vinyl collectors because they are fun, colorful, and, well,… cute. A lot of your screen printing and graphic designs use bright colors and bold lines. It looks like you were able to translate that into 3D with a lot of the BFF toys. How did you pull that off? Yeah, I love graphics that are minimal but do a lot with just color and a few
Art + Poppy 3" Dunny
details. That was the aesthetic of the BFFs from the start. Fast forward to 2014 and you’ve just revealed FUN GUS, which is both a platform and production toy. Could you give us the timeline and process of the concept and creation of FUN GUS? The idea for FUN GUS actually came from realizing that the word fungus could be split into FUN and GUS. I started sketching ideas for him back in 2009 or 2010. It took me a while of on-again, off-again work to get him to this point. Finding someone who could create the CAD [ComputerAided Design] files and make him look as I had envisioned took a long time as well. It was so cool to finally hold a 3D printed version of FUN GUS in my hands! FUN GUS is your largest design to date. Were there any challenges in transitioning from 3” static minifigures to an 8” articulated toy?
Clockwise, from top left: White DIY, Frank Kozik version, Buff Monster version, Jeremyville Kickstarter exclusive, Buff Monster Kickstarter exclusive, and Jeremyville version FUN GUS figures
I actually started designing FUN GUS as a 3.5" tall figure. My first 3D print of him was that size. But because it was relatively easy and not too expensive, I decided to print one out at 8" tall and loved how he looked at that size. It was much more of a sculpture and more canvas to customize. When I showed the two sizes around to other people, everyone really liked the 8" version as well. FUN GUS reminds me of the classic designs coming out about ten years ago that were more “urban.” Was that intentional? Yes, although I went back a bit farther. The original inspiration for FUN GUS’s design was the cartoon Fat Albert. The characters in that show had exaggerated features and wore crazy clothes. Originally FUN GUS had a pick in his mushroom cap and had a big floppy turtle neck on. The only details of that original direction that remains are the shell toe sneakers. When I was working on earlier versions, I showed them to other artists I admired to get their feedback. When I showed it to Tristan Eaton, he had the idea of making FUN GUS’s features less specific so that he could become a platform toy, which was as great idea. Thanks, Tristan! What’s next for Travis Cain? I am hoping that FUN GUS will eventually be a successful platform toy and that I will be able to ask more of my favorites artists to make FUN GUS their own. I also have ideas for more toys that are in the same theme — nature + urban — as FUN GUS.
Clockwise, from top left: Mac + Josh, Ray + Softee, Sprinkles + Eddie, and Big T + Little C + Barry from BFF, Series 2
For more information on Travis Cain, please visit: artforindustry.com Clutter 23 | 45
Nick Curtis Discordia
Do such concepts as order or chaos actually exist, or are they mere illusions created by our frail human psyches that we try to impose upon the universe? Such is the base tenant of Discordianism, a philosophy that obviously strikes a cord with power duo Starr Mignon and Gavriel Discordia, owners and operators of Discordia Culture Shop and Discordia Merchandising. Mignon and Discordia, artists themselves, proudly produce designer buttons & stickers and regularly fundraise money for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), but it is their mobile Designer Toy vending & education campaigns that will perhaps have the most resonance with Clutter readers.
In addition to all your other projects, both of you — Gavriel Discordia & Starr Mignon — are artists too, Psychological Industries & Pink Nightmare Squad respectively. Do you find that your personal styles, which are very urban/ street art inspired, influences your choices of projects to undertake? Like minds seeking one another and whatnot… Well, we can't front. To be clear, we don't consider ourselves street artists or writers, we refer to ourselves — always — as graphic designers. Not that we don't get up, we have participated in over 20 international sticker art shows globally so far, and trade with everyone who sends us packs. So our stickers are in cities around the world, thanks to the community of traders. So yes, we tend to work with others based on those relationships. Most of our Artist Series releases through Discordia Merchandising come from that realm. As far as we are concerned designer stickers and Designer Toys are two sides of the same coin. So many artists start out with stickers and move into the art toy world. As far as as inspirations go, we would say the long history of political artwork from the Situationists to the Black Panthers to the Zapatistas have had a
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big influence on us and the work we do now through Psychological Industries and Pink Nightmare Squad. Social Justice in all its forms are important to us, it just carries over into everything we do. We started with those labels back in '05 and DKE Toys distributes our sticker packs, which is how we got started in the Designer Toy retail game in the first place. Supporting everyone else's productions by starting Discordia Culture Shop just seemed a lot cooler than working for the man to pay the bills, or selling something we don't believe in just cause it makes a buck. While some people know Discordia strictly as a shop, you do a lot of other activities, like your Artist Series Button Displays. What's inspired you to do artist-based pins? And who chooses the artists? All the Artists are selected based on sticker trades, having goods in our shop, or sometimes we just stumble upon them online and really dig their style or character array. Of course, we welcome anyone reaching out to us as well. So far we have launched [Artist Series Button] Displays from DeadCell84, QiQi a.k.a. Monster Little from Singapore, Join the Much from Spain, Mizna Lens from Japan, and EyeFormation. All are
Starr Mignon with a selection of Discordia Culture Shop's travelling art toy wares
available exclusively to independent retailers through DKE Toys. Is your One Million Buttons For Digital Freedom campaign part of the Artist Series Button Displays or is it a completely different beast? What's the goal of One Million Buttons…? Why fundraise for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)? I'm assuming it is a cause that's important to you, so tell us why! Totally separate project. One Million Buttons For Digital Freedom was born of a burning desire to keep the internet open and free, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation seemed like the best way to assist in the fight. Digital Freedom is what we see as a core issue behind all other movements. Without it, independent media and art will be sidelined by corporate power. Of course we don't see that project as our only aspect of activism, rather everything we do is a form of activism. In a big-box corporate world, being and supporting independent artists is a revolutionary act in itself. Sure we make money in the marketplace; the more, the better to run the ticky-tack slinging bastards out of town. Frankly, we see the Designer Toy world being imitated daily
and that just hurts our souls. We bring the real stuff to the people any way we can. I'm very intrigued about your mobile vending & education campaigns. What exactly do you do? Discordia Culture Shop was a physical store from 2007 to 2011 and will be again one day. We decided that life on the Comic-Con circuit suited us better for now. We stick to an eight state, deep South territory where — as far as we know — there are no Designer Toy stores at all. With so many areas that don't have regular access to stores carrying designer toys, do you find lots of people that have never encountered them in-person before? In general, what's the reaction? It was never our intention to bring Designer Toys before the public for the first time but, yes, for the most part even comic book and anime fandoms [in these areas] have either never heard of Designer Toys or have never been lucky enough to see them in the flesh. What amazes us most is how surprised people are to find out that individual artists create goods without the involvement of some major company or studio making
it happen for them, as though the corporate method is the only way art happens. They seem to think that no artist ever does anything until they are hired to do so. What a sad world that would be if it were true. Independent creators will always come up with better quality, more elaborate goods, and cooler works of art than the corporate world ever will. The only thing I've seen in chain stores that has ever come close to the Designer Toy world is what McFarlane Toys did during the '90s: they proved that action figures are not the only thing that can sell off the big box racks. More and more nonarticulated sculptural objects are hitting the shelves more in the way of Japanese figure models and the like. But no matter what, the underground is where it will always stay real. No chain store wants to get into limited edition art objects with huge price points anyway, so Designer Toys will always stay underground where they belong.
For more information on Discordia Culture Shop and Discordia Merchandising, please visit: discordiacultureshop.com discordiamerchandising.com Clutter 23 | 49
Nick Curtis John Cafiero
Back in the early days of punk music, it was common to see fans at concerts pogoing, a form of 'dance' that involved hopping up and down. So, with the advent of horror-punk, it is so surprising to find the concept of a hopping ghost? Resurrected from the annals of Chinese mythology, these strange vampiric creatures infiltrated the contemporary cultural mind through Asian cinema, but now punk band Osaka Popstar are bringing the iconic image over into the music world. Already known for helping bring his fellow Misfits Records labelmates into the toy world, Osaka Popstar's John Cafiero discusses music, his Devil Dog collaboration with Secret Base, and his sophomore original toy outing, Hopping Ghosts! Who exactly are Osaka Popstar? At its core, Osaka Popstar is essentially me — simply because it transcends into a lot of different mediums including music, art, toys, and animation — and I’m the only constant force within it. It's all derivative of my personalty in one way or another, and things I love, or things that have influenced me in some respect, even if not in an obvious way. So from a musical perspective, who is Osaka Popstar? Musically, Osaka Popstar centers on my vocals and concepts aided and abetted by a variety of talented people in my backing band. My lineup has consistently revolved 52 | Clutter 23
with different guest players. I debuted Osaka Popstar backed by a roster of musicians I'd appropriately called “The American Legends of Punk,” which included members of the Misfits, Black Flag, the Ramones, the Voidoids, and more. But even then, different players would assemble with me to perform on different tracks, for different dynamics. I’ve played guitar and keyboards on some of the tracks, and collaborated with other artists from time to time, like Daniel Johnston, Melora Creager of Rasputina, and JuiceheaD. I've had ongoing involvement — both on a creative and business level — with the Misfits and the Ramones for many years too. What's the current lineup of the band look like?
The new Osaka Popstar lineup I’m working with now includes equally talented musicians that I’m fortunate to have involved, and — again — offering differing dynamics. On drums is Dennis Diken from the Smithereens, Sal Maida from Cracker, Milk & Cookies, and Roxy Music on bass, and Dean Rispler from The Dictators NYC and the the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black on Guitar. We’ve recorded and released some new material already with more soon to come. This lineup appears on the new singles “Hopping Ghosts” and the Xmas-themed “O Holy Night.” A new album is in the works for 2015, and two other tracks we’ve recorded will be released on a forthcoming compilation I’m producing and curating — a very cool project yet to be announced that I'm very excited about.
Moving on to the toy side of things, how did you connect with Secret Base to release the Devil Dog as a vinyl figure? I am a huge toy nerd, and, as you know, we often run in the same circles. The toy world was also a much smaller place when the movement was still developing. I’d initially worked with Secret Base on a Misfits vinyl toy line I produced through Medicom back in 2002, and we'd go on to do several figure collaborations with the band Balzac, who I’d signed to Misfits Records. When I was looking to create the Devil Dog vinyl toys, working with Secret Base made perfect sense. I knew I’d be in good hands, dealing with people who take pride in their work and get what I'm doing. Hirosuke [Nishiyama, from Balzac]
would even help coordinate things between Hiddy [Hideaki Kinoshita, owner of Secret Base] and I. We’re all friends and it was a great way to kick things off.
I was flattered and honored that all of the incredible artists who contributed had helped me realize the vision. Pieces sold to collectors all over the country, and, best of all, we raised over $5,000 for animal rescue with the proceeds from the show. I’d had all the pieces professionally photographed and we have some beautiful shots of the room, along with video archives shot at the exhibition.
Where did the Devil Dog design come from? At the time I recorded the initial tracks for "Wicked World,” the first single on the debut Osaka Popstar album, I came across — and remain a fan of — the work of a photographer named Lara Jo Regan. She'd rescued a really cool, cute, unique, and surreal little dog that she named "Mr. Winkle." He went from near death, starving, injured, and abandoned on the street, to becoming the beloved focus of gorgeous photos with Lara’s love, care, and creativity. It was a photo of Mr. Winkle that initially inspired me to create the Devil Dog, specifically the photo of him on his “magic rug,” which is actually the first image of him that loads on his website if you’re curious to see it. For my own amusement, I added devil horns, a spiked tail, and a pitch fork to him in that photo, and that’s where it all started. In fact, rare early demo mixes of the first few Osaka Popstar tracks that were distributed in small quantities feature that photo treatment on the jewel case. I contacted Lara who graciously gave me her permission to use the image.
I’d planned to follow up with a Devil Dog Art Show book but I've been wrapped up in one project after another since, time flies and I haven’t had a chance to get to it yet… but I still plan to. In the meantime some of the photos are displayed in a section devoted to the exhibit at the Osaka Popstar website. If given the chance, would you do that sort of show again? I’d definitely like to curate another Devil Dog Art Show in the future, maybe do the book in connection with the follow up show. But, if so, I will really have to recruit more help next time! But it's something I’m really proud of and look back on fondly with a great sense of satisfaction. Moving to the present day, you just released your second art toy, the Hopping Ghost. What was the inspiration behind the design? What is a hopping ghost?
Later I developed the concept further and created a mythos for the creatures. For one, Devil Dogs look disarming but can be lethal. They typically travel in packs and change colors depending on their mood and environment. With a change in color, their powers and abilities transform too. When red, their belly glows and they breath fire. They aren’t inherently bad or evil, but like a force of nature, they can be destructive and typically act on pure instinct. When they’re blue, Devil Dogs can create melodies and conjure elements that neutralize some of the mischief they’ve caused. There’s more to it and other influences involved, but those are things I have yet to reveal...
It's my take on the Chinese Hopping Vampire folklore. I interjected my western edge into an Eastern cultural myth. The core design dates back to the first rough sketch I ever drew of him years ago. Even the Hopping Ghosts logo itself is something I initially roughed out in pencil beneath that very first sketch. It was literally as far back as 1996 that I sketched the little guy for the first time. I'd sketched a love interest for him back then too.
Hopping Ghost (Blue Edition)
Well, I won't press you on those influences, then, but what inspired you to have manga artist Mari-chan illustrate the Devil Dog? As the concept grew, I wanted to give the Devil Dogs an animated aesthetic and see them wreak havoc in an animated music video for "Wicked World." I’d seen a short that Mari-chan animated — the Mari-chan theme — by chance one day, and felt this was the right person for the job. I contacted Mari-chan about illustrating the characters and creating an animated music video based on my concepts and art direction. We liked each other’s sensibilities, and collaborated on the resulting work.
and thought would be fun to see what they’d create, so I contacted them. In addition to being a toy nerd, I’m an art junkie. Nearly everyone I approached participated and there are tons of people who’s work I respect and admire that I never even got around to reaching out to. Even so, we had over 100 different artists in the show, some even reaching out to me expressing interest in participating as word spread through the art and toy community. You mentioned the installation of the show? Did you really transform the space?
of love and I was extremely happy with the end result. Suzanne and I loaded unbuilt display cases into our car, which Peter and I carried one by one up a huge flight of steps into the gallery space. The three of us unpacked each piece, then installed and arranged them with care. A few other staff members pitched in to help here and there in the 11th hour with pieces that came in day of the opening, but all in all, it was literally a team you could count on one hand. So you were happy with the finished result?
Back in 2008, there was a Devil Dog Art Show at the Showroom NYC. How much input did you have into that? The Devil Dog Art Show was my baby entirely, start to finish. I conceived of it and nurtured it every step of the way over the course of six months… inception, execution, and installation. My level of input?… you name it. I hand picked, contacted, and invited all of the artists personally, and kept in constant contact with them on through to delivery. Some were friends and colleagues of mine, others were artists whose work I just like
Yes, it was basically a blank canvas when we came in. For the physical installation, it was a skeleton crew of my wife Suzanne and I, and my friend Peter Kato, who is also an artist and toy designer. The three of us turned a completely empty room into the final exhibit. Peter and I climbed ladders and wore respirator masks to spray paint a repeat pattern of 2-color Devil Dogs, using stencils Jovino Bunny made for me, all over—up to the ceiling—on the white gallery walls. This took place over the course of two nights and several spray coats. The exhibition as a whole really was a huge undertaking, but a labor
I was in awe viewing the collective works in one sitting, the pieces were brilliantly inventive and impressive. With the wall decor and custom signage we added, it really completed the theme. I would have loved to have just left it that way and never broke the show down. People really seemed to enjoy it, we had a great and eclectic crowd opening night, and people continued to come and view the exhibition for several weeks. Art enthusiasts from Paper Magazine and the Village Voice congratulated me, expressing how impressed they were with the show, and
These vampires are zombies, of sorts. Rigor mortis has set in so they move by hopping towards you with their arms extended. They can’t see, but they can sense you by your breath. If you want to go unnoticed by a Hopping Ghost, you’ve got to hold your breath. But how long can you hold it…? Long enough?! Oh, so these are like the vampires from Chinese cinema?!? Yes, exactly! I discovered the world of Chinese Ghosts and Vampires through Hong Kong films, my favorites being the Mr. Vampire series. There was a huge boom of films out of Hong Kong that incorporated these legends back in the '80s and '90s, but Mr. Vampire is the grandaddy of them all. It's also the best of the bunch and blew the (coffin) lid off the genre creating a cultural movement. Those films, especially Mr. Vampire, were certainly an inspiration of mine. In fact, in the "Thanks to" credits (a.k.a. “Fangs to”) on the toy packaging, I even give props to Ricky Lau, the director of Mr. Vampire and many of the sequels, and the immortal Lam Ching Ying, who starred in the films. Lam Ching Ying really nailed and encapsulated the hero persona of the Hopping Vampire genre, embodying the one-eyebrow Taoist Priest. He’s been referred to as the Peter Cushing of Asia and appeared in countless great Hong Kong films. I think that era of film in Hong Kong was really beautiful and inventive. Clutter 23 | 53
What made you want to take the design and turn it into a toy? I've wanted to dust him off and revive him as a high-end vinyl figure for a while now. A couple of years ago I revisited the character, fine tuned him, and asked my friend, a talented illustrator and animator named Sam Fout, to render turns based on my front illustration under my art direction. Sam along with Todd Cronin [of Fishtoonz animation] worked with me in creating the animated spot for the figure too. Armed with the multi-angle turns, and a passion to see this through to fruition, I set out to bring my Hopping Ghosts to life, and here they are… You self-released this figure, right? Why make that leap? I was talking to a number of different companies for some time, and really started leaning towards doing it myself. The Devil Dog fit perfectly into the size and format of Secret Base, and for that — and a number of other reasons — it made most sense to me immediately. It also seemed apropos, due to a part of the mythos I have yet to reveal, that my Devil Dog breed initially emanate from Japan. For Hopping Ghosts, I specifically wanted a larger format figure with a different feel. One that, to some extent, beckons the touch of early Bounty Hunter figures, but with a contemporary edge and a unique twist of my own. I have a lot of friends in the industry and one of them suggested I speak with Dov [Kelemer] at DKE Toys for distribution. Dov made a great impression, a straight shooter who's genuinely enthusiastic about his work. Coincidentally DKE distributes a lot of stuff by
many friends of mine, including Ron English, Buff Monster, and Sucklord — all who do great work that I genuinely enjoy, and all of who have done a great job establishing their own identities on their own terms. I had a conversation with Buff when I was on the edge of the fence, leaning more towards doing it myself. He told me about some of his own experiences and reaffirmed my gut instinct, which was that having total hands on control of all facets, something I’m typically used to with most of my other ventures, would prove to be the most effective and satisfying in the end. So while it is self-released, I have distribution through DKE Toys for my Hopping Ghosts figures, and now my Devil Dog figures as well. It's an artist friendly support network that helps to make my toys accessible to retailers interested in carrying them.
What does the scroll on the figure's head say? It's a death blessing, which I call scroll spells in my world of Hopping Ghosts. It's how you stop a Hopping Ghost or a Hopping Vampire from, well, hopping! It's written in a mix of blood and ink on yellow paper or parchment, and when affixed to its forehead, the corpse will freeze, stopping immediately. But if or when the scroll slips off, the corpse immediately resumes its state of reanimation, picking up wherever it left off. Mine wears a scroll spell pinned to his hat mockingly, in an act of rebellion. He is a Hopping Ghost with punk rock sensibilities after all… Is what your scroll spell says on it authentic? Yes, absolutely, it is 100% authentic. A friend of mine has a brother who’s a Taoist priest in
Skel Suit Devil Dog
Hong Kong. When he learned that I was into all of this and designed a vinyl toy, he wrote the death blessing for me personally. It's about as authentic as you can possibly get. The figure was accompanied with an mp3 download of a song by the band. It's a great idea to mingle the two audiences!
Devil Dog Art Show at Showroom Gallery NYC, circa 2008
Thanks, I’m glad you dig it! I thought it would be fun and cool if a song came with the figure, and it felt like great subject matter to bring into the medium. The concept lent itself well, both atmospherically within the music and lyrically. Writing the song gave me a chance to delve deeper into the mythology too. I incorporated relevant references and expanded on some of the lore within the lyrics, which I think — and hope — may even enrich the experience of the figure. You could view it as sort of a metaphorical playlet for the figure to exist in. It's just another example of how I see Osaka Popstar as a multi-media experience: you can enjoy the music on it's own if you prefer, but there’s a multi-dimensional world that revolves around it to explore if you’d like, and vice versa. If you dig the toy and that’s your introduction to Osaka Popstar, great, but if the song opens up another door to something else you enjoy too, even better! Are you planning to do more along these lines? Maybe a special edition with a 7" single?
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Yes, I’m definitely planning to do more stuff like this. In fact, the new Christmas single — a punk cover of the traditional classic carol “O Holy Night” — is something I wanted to record as an extension of the Xmas ornament that’s out now. We have these beautiful, rich, royal blue glass ornaments with glitter star highlights wrapping around the skyline of the Osaka Popstar “Super Hero” single's Xmas variant artwork by Josh Howard [Dead@17]. If you get the ornament, the single comes with it as a free download. But for those who only want the song, the single is also available as a standalone track at iTunes, Amazon, and other digital music providers worldwide. Me, personally, I love the physical medium music always lived in, like traditional vinyl records, which I continue to create. As music has become so widely digested in the digital form, it's made me want to evolve creatively with technology, and find ways to expand on it with more of a human touch. Something tangible you can view or hold in your hand if you’d like, opening a third dimension and taking it a step beyond a file that you download. In the case of Hopping Ghosts, I’m hoping the pairing offers something that seeps into your mind and sparks your imagination too.
For more information on Osaka Popstar and the Hopping Ghosts, please visit:
Josh Kimberg Bwana Spoons
Part wild man, part low brow artist, Bwana is a character in a beautiful movie he is writing moment by moment, and we all love watching it. Hippy, tripped out, kooky, and crazy art is an easy way to describe Bwana’s work, but there is a much deeper channeling going on. His work has a subconscious freedom that most artists aspire to but never attain. Blending an 'I don’t give a fuck' attitude with an obvious love and attention to detail is not easy to pull off, and the mastery it takes to hold to a consistent style in the moment of creative explosion is one of those tricks that only the greats can pull off. Most who try to do so look like they’re half assing it, but Bwana is a pro at doing it. All the mossy, silly, 'goof off'-ness of his work is part of the deeper meaning. It's the entropy half of the equation to the super clean side of all the art making that's going on. It's his willingness to show it to us that makes Bwana's work courageous. Bwig bwam zurp nar Bwana!! How did you first know you were an artist? or wanted to be an artist? I would sit for hours — usually in class — drawing, with crayon, pictures of exploding Star Wars figures. Just layer after layer of rainbow burst Star Wars figure explosions. I think I knew really early on that I wanted to be an artist, but didn't quite know how I would put the pieces together 'til way into adulthood. When I was younger, I always thought I would become an architect or be setting type at a newspaper or something; I just didn't know or understand what might be possible. How did you first get into kaiju? I used to watch Ultraman after school when I was in first grade, and I would sneak out of my room late at night to watch monster movies. After I became a big person, I just gravitated back around to these monsters. My hunt for vintage Microman and my first trip to Japan back in the '90s sealed the deal. What is your process like? Depends on what the project is. Sometimes I have a sketch to work from, sometimes I have just an idea inside my head. If I am doing a painting, I often just go for it since I know I will make mistakes and can fix anything buried in the layers. If it's pen and ink, sometimes I will lay down some pencils first. 56 | Clutter 23
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Nature, old films, characters from my childhood, politics, animals, children's books, my nutty kid. I like to go skateboarding, ride my bike, or go on a longwalk or hike, and just go until some spark hits. Sometimes I will write that down, sometimes I don't want to stop what I am doing and will just hope I remember when I get home. Who are your influences? If you're looking for particular artists that influence, it would have to be Richard Scarry and Shigeru Mizuki. If you put the spirit of both those dudes inside my brain and spit it out after some Earl Grey [tea], it's my art. If only I could make what I see inside my head. Maybe someday I will get there. Do you feel like your art has a particularly Northwestern vibe? I spent my formative years in San Francisco. Twist and a crackload of other greats were all out in the streets there making beautiful wall art. I don't feel like I became "me" as an artist though til I moved to Portland. My very first artshows were less than a year before i moved to Portland, and then things started to loosen up and take off after I got here. Somehow being from San Francisco gave me an edge here to explore and grow. So yes… but no, and both.
A selection of toys by the artist
Do you consider yourself an artist first as a painter and then as a toy maker? Definitely a painter. I have always been a toy nerd, played with toys way too long… and then picked 'em right back up as soon as i was living on my own. Drawing and painting though, especially drawing, were just something I have always done. Are all of your toys inspired from your paintings? No, sometimes the toy comes first. I see what I want to do in my head, and know that I want this character in my head as a toy first, and then I work on some twodimensional work to back it up. Often it's a little bit of both. Can you give me an example of a time when the toy came first? Randall was definitely a case where the idea of the toy was in my head long before there were any paintings of him. I had a hippie bear in my head, I drew him a bunch of times over a couple years before I got to something I really liked. With Teenage Randall, it was just about finding a design that would work well scaled down a bit to fit with Gargamel's Pocket Kaiju series. I imagined what Randall would be like as a youngin'. Kinda bad kid, not evil, just a bit of a fuck up.
Working with Gargamel has been a dream come true. I couldn't ask for better people or sculptors, business buddies and very good friends. On one of my trips to Japan, I got to play in an old playground they played together on when they were kids, and visit some of their other little kid hangouts. Felt pretty neat.
Do you do your own sculpts? If not, who do you normally work with? Usually if it is going to be soft vinyl, I have somebody else sculpt for me. I am doing more sculpting on my own though. just takes me a while and I still suck balls at it. Getting better, though. I work a lot with Gargamel, so they do a pretty good share of the sculpts out there for me. The Suns of Brodarr sculpts and the Tapir and Sloth — from the Graves & Spoons line — are all done by Beth Graves. She is pretty awesome. I love the Sloth, what a great idea. How did that come about? I met Beth Graves at SDCC and I gave her a sloth card that i had made. She said she would like to see a toy of that, so we partnered up. Our plan is to make all the critters that you don't already see lots of toys of… all animal based with a sense or realism and play. We have been going back and forth for a while on what our next beast will be.
How is working with Gargmel? Clutter 23 | 57
Which of your toys do you feel has had the biggest impact on your fans? Well, definitely Sleeping Killer and Steven the Bat have been the most popular, though I think that everything has some type of impact. There are probably only twenty people out there that care about Dolly the Dolphin, but to those 20 people Dolly is everything. Everybody likes something different. I think the Suns of Brodarr brothers â€” and someday sisters â€” have struck a chord with a certain group of peeps. I have already seen more customs of these guys out there in a short period of time than I have of all my other characters combined. Speaking of the Suns of Brodarr, how did your Kickstarter to make Lonny go? It went great. I want to do it again! It was loads of work. Just be yourself and get at least a tiny bit of the capital together
Pocket Killer figures
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yourself. Don't offer a high five for a $10 donation, that's goofy, goober stuff. My biggest mistake was underestimating how much money everything cost, and going the opposite end of the spectrum with the high five thingy, and giving people too much goodies for too cheap a price. To me, your Suns of Brodarr figures feel more like 'toys' and less like characters from paintings. Was that intentional? All the Suns of Brodarr dudes used some vintage action figures as the jump off point.
Who did the sculpts for the Suns of Brodarr collaborations from your Kickstarter? And, in addition to those T9G and Paul Kaiju pieces, are you planning on doing similar collabs with other artists? T9G did the sculpt for Kamisama, and Paul Kaiju did his own sculpt for Quiller as well. And yes, I'm hoping to do Skinner and Koji Harmon [Cometdebris] when I get Drizzz made, so then we will have three body types and eight different head and arm attachments. I'm also working on a collab with Rampage Toys which will be another
two figures, one by Rampage and one by me [that is] also compatible with the rest of the gang. Back when you started out, it seemed like a more innocent time in the world of designer toys. Is now better than back then? Are things evolving in a good way? Oh, I like this one. Everything is both good, bad, and ugly. Change is always good, but creates problems. The early days were good, just because there were still only a handful of artists, especially in the States, that had anything produced. Now everybody and their mom has their own design out there in the world. I have lost a lot of good fans as they have moved on to create their own dreams. I guess after you sink 5, 6, 7 grand, or more into your own vision, it gets harder to scrape up dough to purchase somebody else's art toy or painting. This is a curse for me, but beautiful for the scene. It's what we all
Hand-painted Micro Sleeping Killer figures
want, to fulfill our dreams. Now there are so many amazing creators out there… Designer Con this year was the perfect example of this; so much amazing goods and artist visions under one roof, it was bonkers. Made me feel all the better each time somebody stepped up and grabbed something of mine! Do you feel like you were an innovator of the American neo-kaiju scene? I didn't know that was a category. No, I am not the innovator of American neo-kaiju. Maybe an early player, but if there is a "Papa" of U.S. makers doing kaiju related figures, it's Mr. Biskup. Do you feel like there are cliques in the Kaiju world? How do you navigate it all for yourself? Oh definitely. I just say if the creator is making rad shit, and has a good heart, then i am excited, and don't really worry about whether I have the right t-shirt on or not. Are toys art?
but are their own thing. And I still want a set of Hiro Grim's Petite Henshin Borg dudes… someday. Can you tell us about Grass Hut? Grass Hut was a little website where I sold some of my goods. It evolved into it's own mini movement of artists. I had a shop for seven years, more than half of those with my partner, Scrappers [a.k.a. Justin Morrison]. Together we created and curated our way into a hundred new friends. What is the status of Grass Hut? Hand-painted Teenage Randall figures
Hand-painted Private Hooligan figures
It's still here, sorta ebby and flowy. I think it's in an ebby state right now. Maybe someday it will be flowy. I have always loved to get artists together whether in zines, which ran my life before Grass Hut, or through curating shows. I just get excited about other artist's art, and sometimes so excited that I feel a compulsion to share it with the world. Whether it's for Grass Hut or another venue, I will probably be putting together people and art for the rest of my years. It can not be helped.
Hell, yes, they are. Art you can play with. How did you get started collecting toys? I have mostly stayed with vintage toys and Legos. Once I started making my own toys, though, it broadened my horizons a bit. There are a few makers I am obsessed with, but mostly designer toys just kinda gravitate into my life. What toys do you collect? What toys do you wish you owned?
Since you mentioned zines, which seem like a big love for you, how did you first get into making them? and why do you continue to make zines to this day? I made my first zine in the early '90s, just a little stack of images to try and get some work with skateboard companies. Totally didn't work but I had so much fun making it, I just couldn't stop after that. I really like holding printed books in my hands. What’s next from Bwana?
Old stuff. Weird stuff. Dinosaurs. Animals. Henshin Cyborgs. Microman & Micronauts. Lots of Legos. Gyango from Ultraman. Really dig Cojica Toys, Ilu Ilu, T9G, and my friends works… Gargamel, Martin [Oliveros], Tim [Biskup], Le Merde, Arbito [a.k.a. Jesse Hibert], Paul Kaiju. I just got a really cool old Garamon toy that makes me happy when I look at him. I try not to obsess too much about the next thing I want, though there are these old toy kits I obsess about sometimes which are related to Microman and Robodachi
Playing with toys. More sculptural pieces, more murals, maybe some more shoes and skateboards. More Suns of Brodarr, including a Drizzz Kickstarter, a deep earth mining suit, and a collab piece with Rampage Toys.
For more information on Bwana Spoons, please visit:
Lifesize Sleeping Killer figure
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THE GUIDE TO THE DISARTICULATORS KESHI
So here we are, part three of our whistle-stop tour of the keshi mini figure scene! While we’ll be delving into the world of original contemporary keshi and pocket mini figures in our next article, I’ve decided to continue our 101 guide with something a little different for this issue: this time around taking a rather self-indulgent look at the various rubber mini figures I’ve been fortunate enough to work on as part of The Disarticulators over the past two-and-a-half years. Consisting of a team of three creatives from both sides of the Atlantic — The Amazing Zectron, Bigmantoys, and myself, Tru:Tek — our various releases have spanned the length and breadth of mini figuredom, drawing inspiration from the same sources as the classic keshi lines of the 1980s, including film, video games, comics, cartoons, and, of course, a slew of iconic and obscure toys from the past four decades. Offering a great introduction into the various facets of the original keshi mini figure scene today, we start where it all began in the summer of 2012, with the release of the “Critters Inspired” Mini Figure: Wave 2…
THE "CRITTERS INSPIRED" MINI FIGURE: WAVE 2 While not strictly a Disarticulator release, the hugely popular “Critters Inspired” mini was actually the first figure that all three of the team worked on together. The first ever toy sculpt to come from the magical hands of Zectron, the 1” tall figure was — as its name suggests — greatly influenced by Stephen Herek’s 1986 cult horror flick. Originally seeing an incredibly limited run in a flesh-toned rubber courtesy of Eric Nilla, demand for the little guy soon reached fever-pitch after the first LRG (Little Rubber Guys) forum-only release, with both myself and Bigmantoys given the honor of picking up where Eric left off with a “Wave 2” run in both rubber and resin respectively. While not your typical keshi design — the figure being generally a lot denser and shorter than most — it has still proven to be one of the most successful and long-running Disarticulator figures to date, with various seasonal, exclusive, and made-to-order releases bringing the total number cast to well over 700 now. One of the most commonly requested figures to be brought back from the Disarticulator range, those who have been patiently awaiting a return will be glad to know that it will be making one last appearance as part of the Gory Hole zine release in the new year. Clutter 23 | 61
TBREAK FIGHTERS: HIGEKAMI A personal favorite project of the team, Break Fighters was originally intended to be an ongoing series of figures based on an imaginary early '90s scrolling beat ‘em up of the same name. Kicking things off with an ingenious design and sculpt from Zectron — Higekami “The Master of Beard-Fu” — the follicly-fisted brawler stood at a keshi-friendly 2” tall, coming cast by myself in a multitude of colored rubbers across a number of releases throughout 2013.
TINY TERRORS FROM THE DEEP
The first official figure to come from the collective, Higekami would also set a precedent in terms of how releases would be presented too. Huge fans of the gachapon box art from the '70s, Western cardbacks from the '80s and '90s, and toy packaging in general, our passion filtered through into the various designs we incorporated throughout the figure’s life, including packing inserts, a Super Nintendo-inspired windowed game box, and a mini blister-carded backer. Sadly the only figure in the series to see the light of day in keshi form — Bigmantoys’ follow-up Aboboid only ever receiving a limited run in resin — the series will thankfully be seeing an official reboot in 2015 with an as-yet-unrevealed relative of Higekami himself.
Spawned from Bigmantoys’ childhood love of 1995’s real-time strategy classic X-Com, Tiny Terrors from the Deep (TTFTD) would become the first — and only — release from The Disarticulators to incorporate designs and sculpts from all three of the collective. Directly inspired by three of the computer game’s most terrifying creatures — Lobsterman coming from Zectron, P.A.T from Bigmantoys, and the Bio-Drone from myself — the trio of sub-2.5” tall figures were produced in various rubber colorways throughout 2013, including an “OG” neon blue/pink and a standard flesh-tone. Taking the idea of contextual packaging to another level, the debut TTFTD release saw the figures coming housed in a faux PSone display box, while subsequent versions were treated to a much more durable, play-friendly custom plastic tub. Unfortunately to be left as a one-shot release with no planned follow-ups, the good news is that our next, full three-way collaboration — a mini figure series in conjunction with Unbox Industries — will be making an appearance very soon.
KESH-E-FACE Originally conceived as a crossover figure for my own ongoing custom bootleg line H.U.S.T.L.E, Kesh-E-Face was the team’s mini figure love letter to the hugely influential Masters of the Universe line. Designed and sculpted by Zectron, the oversized 3″ tall keshi blended all our favourite elements of the He-Man/MOTU aesthetic: Man-E-Face’s rotating head, Skeletor’s face, Ram-Man’s shoulders, a chest symbol straight from Mosquitor and Hordak, plus a Trapjaw inspired cybernetic arm, combining them to form one of the most intricate and technical Disarticulator releases to date. The first of our rubber figures to feature any kind of articulation, the half-robot, half-human creation came with a magnetically connected head that could rotate to display three different faces. Seeing a total of five different releases between December 2012 and August 2013, presentation for these remained a little more consistent than before, with Kesh-E-Face receiving a standard MOTUinspired blister backer in a variety of release specific colors during his lifetime. While there is no intention to follow-up the figure at present, there’s a good chance that late 2015 may see the return of the character in an all-new medium…
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DEATHBALL (MOD) While not strictly keshi, The Disarticulators’ various Weird/Madball-style releases have formed an integral part of our rubber line-up over the past year and a half. Kicking the trend off with the Deathball (MoD) back in June 2013, the Zectron-sculpted, 2” diameter figure drew from a number of different influences, including '50s sci-fi, neo-kaiju, and, of course, AmToys’ classic '80s gross-out toy line. Replete with a number of clever design features, including a lenticular skull/cyclops head, exposed brain, and hollowed out eyes, the pièce de résistance came in the form of the figure’s central mechanism… featuring 2 magnetically joined halves that split open to reveal a grotesque, tentacled parasite lurking inside! Produced by myself in a variety of different colorways since its debut at Clutter’s Toy Mafia show — the most recent, and final, being a classic glow-in-the-dark — the Deathball became the first Disarticulator figure to come packed in a simple bag with header card, albeit featuring some amazing collaborative art from Zectron and Ralph Niese.
OOZEBALL Quickly following up the success of the Deathball, the next Disarticulators ball release, the Oozeball, paid tribute to yet another cult classic from our misspent childhoods: the Ooze-It doll. Featuring the same instantly recognisable ‘nub’ design that has been replicated in sofubi by the likes of Longneck and Target Earth, the Oozeball really stood out upon release due to designer/sculptor Zectron’s unique dark twist on the popular subject matter, his hard lines and meticulous curves offering a fresh contrast to the original design. Again coming in at around 2” in diameter, the mini-sized, twopart figure received a number of different colorways following its debut at New York Comic Con (NYCC) last year, it’s popularity also spawning a spin-off Oozeclaw display stand just a couple of months later. Originally intended to be produced in a super-soft rubber to allow for the figure to be filled with slime and squeezed in a similar way to the original Ooze-It — hence the eye and mouth holes — unforeseen problems in production meant that these sadly remained as hard rubber, display-only pieces throughout the figures duration. Fast forward to present day and we’re proud to announce that a wholly more playable, soft vinyl version is waiting to hit the market early next year. Featuring a few new design twists, including a looser, paper-clay like aesthetic and a hidden face on the back-side inspired by Georges Méliès 1902 silent movie, Le Voyage dans la Lune, this slightly larger 3” diameter ball is due to be produced in a super-soft vinyl to replicate the '70s doll’s iconic rubbery feel and, with a few modifications, its iconic oozing function. Having seen an unpainted open pre-order throughout October and November, the first painted release will be ready to go in just a few months time.
ATOMIC UCHUUJIN The latest traditionally styled keshi to come from the Disarticulator camp, the controversial Atomic Uchuujin figure was inspired by a banned Ultra Seven character named Alien S’Pell. Causing an uproar when his particular episode aired due to his likeness to “hibakusha” — survivors of the atomic bomb — the thought provoking character was revived by the Disarticulator team as a poignant reminder of the dangers of nuclear power following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011. Beautifully interpreted by Zectron in an over-sized keshi scale, the 2.5” rubber figure has seen a number of strictly limited releases, including a “gift-only” debut in Japan, plus boxed and blind releases at both ToyCon UK and NYCC earlier this year. Providing the canvas for one of The Disarticulators’ most accomplished colorways to date, the ToyCon UK exclusive “Radiation” variant really pushed integrated play in indieproduced mini figures to a whole new level: featuring a unique spot casting technique with a mix of off-white and UV reactive pigment, the toy’s “radiation burns” appeared to glow pink when exposed to direct sunlight. A feat we’ve unfortunately been unable to replicate in any project since, it nevertheless made for a rather apt gimmick for the ultimate “radioactive” toy.
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Aside from various figures I’ve taken you through already, we’ve also been fortunate enough to work on a number of different collaborations with various artists since our formation too. while we’ll skirt over the various figures that have been put out under my solo “Disart ToyLabs” moniker until a later date — you lucky people! — we will take a look at the four different group collaborations that have graced the art toy scene over the past year and a half.
CUPCAKES IN SPACE FEAT. RAMPAGE TOYS
The one and only off-shoot release from The Disarticulators, this mini series consisted of a modified version of my Bio-Drone figure from Tiny Terrors from the Deep (TTFTD) release, replacing the original brain sculpt with Rampage Toys’ signature Cupcake Luchador mini figure. Produced in a multitude of one-off, mixed part colorways complete with clear plastic domes, the Cupcakes in Space were offered up in limited quantities at both the Tokyo Junkie 5 exhibition and Man-E-Toys' store shortly after the original TTFTD release. Proving to be a huge success, the series soon spawned a follow-up — Gusto in Space — which again replaced the brain, this time around for a reduced, rubberized version of artist Blurble’s debut resin figure, Gusto.
ROTTEN TOMATO BALL FEAT. TRICLOPS
Created alongside UK designers Triclops, the Rotten Tomato marked the third release to join the growing line of Disarticulator rubber balls. Designed by Triclops, sculpted by Zectron and produced in a urethane rubber by myself, the piece was inspired by cult comedy horror flick and subsequent '90s cartoon, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, coming in at whopping 3” in diameter, the biggest selfproduced figure from The Disarticulators to date. Having only seen one official release in rubber at ToyCon UK back in April of this year — coming in a Triclops exclusive “Green Meanie” and a Disarticulator “Rip(p)er Red” — the original sculpt has since been picked up by Rampage Toys and Skull Head Butt, transformed into soft vinyl by the pair and released as Rotten-X, a towering 9” tall “X” body kaiju. Debuting at NYCC in October and having seen a subsequent release at Design Fiesta 40 soon after, the figure is set to return early next year with exclusive runs from both Triclops and The Disarticulators in the pipeline.
FEAT. STRANGER FACTORY Having been given the honor of participating in Stranger Factory’s Conjuring Mischief! 3rd Anniversary Custom Skelve show back in May, we decided to eschew the usual custom figure format and create a whole new version of the gallery’s signature mascot instead. Simply titled the Monster Skelve, the Zectron designed and sculpted keshi takes the classic skeleton design and turns it into something altogether more sinister… adding a pair of ominous horns, a bat headpiece, a statuesque pose, and a stunningly detailed winged cloak for good measure. Produced in both a Stranger Factory inspired orange and a standard flesh-tone rubber for its debut at the show, the jumbo-sized 3.5” tall figure will be making its long awaited reappearance alongside an all-new Stranger Factory × Disart figure early next year.
LEUCOTOMY BALL FEAT. LEUCOTOMY
Collaborating with UK apparel brand Leucotomy, this self-titled signature ball is the latest rubber figure to come from The Disarticulators stables. Designed by Leucotomy owner Gabe Mackenzie and sculpted by Zectron, the 2″ ball — roughly the same scale as the original Oozeball — was inspired by an obscure Manga short story compilation, blending a macabre, exposed flesh design along with elements from Cure’s Thorn Ball Boogieman sofubi to devastating effect. Debuting at NYCC back in October with limited runs of both glow-in-the-dark and flesh-tone colorways up for grabs, marbled runs, customs, and even reduced-scale keyring editions have been planned for the coming months.
So that brings us bang upto-date with the history of Disarticulator keshi so far AND to the conclusion of yet another part in our Keshi 101 guide. As for where we’ll be heading next with The Disarticulators, keshi is still going to be a driving force in our work for quite some time to come. While we have various soft vinyl releases — including the recently unveiled sofubi Oozeball — planned for early 2015, the imminent Unbox Industries mini figure project, reboot of Break Fighters, plus an as-yet-unconfirmed follow-up
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to the Atomic Uchuujin should keep our small, loyal base of fans happy way into the future… Yet another level closer to the hallowed title of keshi guru, you’ll be glad to know that I’ll be returning next issue with even more in-depth coverage of the current mini figure scene, including our very first exclusive interview plus a more comprehensive look at the original contemporary keshi and pocket mini figure scene. Until next time guys, keep it rubbery!
Your indispensable guide into the world of art toys, counter culture, and underground art. Included in the pages of this issue are: a cover...
Published on Dec 10, 2014
Your indispensable guide into the world of art toys, counter culture, and underground art. Included in the pages of this issue are: a cover...