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THREEZERO × KEVIN EASTMAN 22 The Next Mutation Article by Nick Curtis
On The Cover Raphael final color test illustration by Kevin Eastman, 2014
White Face, Red Hands. Article by Nick Curtis
GACHAPONS Gachapon City Article by Barbara Pavone
PAPER + PLASTICK
The Punk in the Plastick Article by Miranda O’Brien
SUPER SECRET FUN CLUB Mail-Order Marvels Article by Nick Curtis
THE MONTHLY DIY
Down the Rabbit Hole Article by Marc DeAngelis
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WHITE FACE, RED HANDS BY NICK CURTIS
“Shikomi” (detail), 2015
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When thinking of famous fictional characters originating from London, England, most minds will probably race towards naming the worldfamous detective Sherlock Holmes or the impoverished orphan Oliver Twist. But none would name an onna-bugeisha - or Japanese warrior woman - as one of those characters to mention; none, that is, aside from fans of artist Liam Scriven - also known as 2petalrose - who is known for creating his resin Maiko figures from his London home base. Being attracted to making designer toys back in the late 2000s, Scriven dedicated himself to the craft before taking a several year hiatus. Upon returning, his muscular Kombat Kings characters were set aside for pieces with a more feminine aesthetic. Obsessively creating detailed accessories for his minimal sculptural works, Scriven’s journey has been a long one - with many interesting twists - and one that we hope will continue for years to come.
“Sakura Maiko” (detail), 2015
Where does the name 2petalrose come from? 2petalrose was originally set up to house artwork by myself and my brother… Toys [from] my side, and paintings and customs from my bro. The Rose part of the name is an ode to our mum, and the 2petal bit… I guess was, or is, us. My bro is now training as a tattoo artist, and I decided to keep the name and brand as its always really been known as a toy thing. What was the first designer toy you ever saw? What made you interested in making your own art toys? I reckon is was probably a Kubrick or Michael Lau piece. My bro bought me this art book, Fusion: Kid vs. Kidult [Gingko Press, 2007], that came with this crazy cool vinyl figure with
glasses and a ray gun… Still one of my favorites. I remember thinking how simple it was, but the design was incredible. I’ve always been a big toy fan and collector, but the idea of designing and making toys wasn’t really there until the discovery of Kidrobot and the DIY platform. They really helped guide me in this direction. That’s quite funny as I don’t associate you with customs, I think of you first appearing in 2009 with your original figure series, the Kombat Kings. I did actually do a few custom Munnys before that release. I was researching some customizing and sculpting tips and stumbled into the resin world. Until that point, I hadn’t really contemplated actually making an original toy, [so] it was a game Clutter 34 | 13
changer. Many, many failed molds and a fair bit of money after, I was set. (Laughs) You released several Kombat Kings before you disappeared for a couple years, only to resurface with the Maiko design. The two a very different in style and look… What caused the radical shift? Honestly, I just thought I’d take a short break and that turned into a few years. I think the time away played a big part in the style shift. The Kombat Kings were my first attempt at an art toy, I’m really proud of that work, but I don’t think I was thinking too much about what direction I wanted to take. The Maiko concept was around for a long time but has already evolved three or four times since the original and will definitely again. Maiko was originally supposed to be a very simple figurine, almost stand like, with the focus on samurai helmet. This was mainly to ease me back into it, but then I decided I’d just go all out. What did you learn from doing the Kombat Kings — both good and bad, technically and creatively — that helped you execute the Maiko so perfectly? I learned a lot. The Kombat Kings became pretty popular and I tried to keep up with demand but, unfortunately, after a few larger releases I was left a little burnt out by it. I’ve subsequently tried to keep release numbers of Maiko down a lot lower to keep both my interest and the people who enjoy my work fresh. Maiko is a lot larger in size than the Kombat Kings, so the techniques used are pretty different. This does allow me to put a lot more detail into them, which was one of the reasons for the size jump. I still get requests to produce some new Kombat Kings. It’s tempting to take the design and revamp slightly with a new vision, probably Kombat Girls the way things are going right?! (Laughs) Probably! Shifting gears slightly, the Maiko figures are loaded with tons of stunning accessories. Do you hand-make 14 | Clutter 34
them, re-purpose from other releases, or a mix of both? Thanks! I’ve always liked figures that come with accessories. It’s funny because a lot of the Maiko accessories are actually on her back… I really need to start releasing them on rotating bases. Or they need to be displayed in the middle of the room! Most of the accessories for Maiko are handmade. I design all the fabrics with patterns I’ve made or traditional imagery and had them printed. This is a cool thing to be able to offer when working on commissions. There are a couple of laser cut pieces on the helmet which I design digitally and have made for me, and a few of the bases are actually old vase stands that I made inserts for.
In hand-making Maiko’s accessories, have you had to learn a lot of new skills to execute them? Are there any new skills you want to learn just to make accessories, like wee little metal-smithing or the sort? (Laughs) Tiny metal-smithing sounds good! I would like to incorporate some woodwork in the future, so maybe I’ll look into mini whittling… I’ve definitely had to try and work out ways to produce what is in my head. Something as simple as attaching an obi to the back of a resin figure had me stumped for a while. I think I tend to over complicate things and often the simple method is the correct one. That’s funny you mention simplicity since I wanted to
Left to right: “Okurimono Maiko,” “Hannya Maiko,” and “Yang Maiko” (from the “Yin & Yang Maiko” set), all 2015
talk about your newest figure, Shikomi. Why make the shift to a mixture of cast resin parts with a mass-produced ball jointed doll? I just wanted to make a figure that was posable. I’m a fan of vinyl, resin, and 1/6th scale figures, and I like to think my newer work sits somewhere between those. I’m definitely going to explore the BJRD (Ball Jointed Resin Doll) some more, maybe with a few other characters, as the opportunity to make something like this has been on my mind for some time. Both the Maiko and Shikomi figures are women attired like a samurai, a traditionally male occupation. Why did you choose to go non-traditional with your designs, especially when so much attention to accurate detail is paid to all the other aspects so painstakingly? There’s definitely a theme happening, isn’t there? (Laughs) I’d love to say it was based on more than I thought it would look cool, but honestly that’s kind of where it started! There was always a question with Maiko — was she a samurai turned geisha or vice versa, which I’m hoping to explore a little more in the future.
Have you done a lot of research into onna-bugeisha (Japanese warrior women) for your figures or do you let your imagination guide you? I’ve done a lot of research into geisha and samurai separately. There are elements that I wanted to get right in each and then I just let it evolve. I wouldn’t mind armoring a Maiko or Shikomi up a little more, though… that might be something you’ll see soon. There’s a very obvious influence of Japanese culture — especially the samurai — on your work. Has this always been of interest to you? What attracts you, as a Londoner, to artistically explore the Japanese? My early love of Japanese art & toys was Gundam and Robotech [based]. I have a massive collection of Gundam kits and various mecha figures. I remember getting a McFarlane Toys’ Mandarin Spawn toy years back which definitely started a love of samurai figures. The first Samurai I made was a custom Kombat King dubbed Suburau for a resin show in the U.S. I think the majority of my work since
that point has been with a similar theme. I’m still figuring out exactly what the attraction to this style and culture is, but, for the most part, I am really enjoying making art that celebrates it. Have you ever had the chance to visit Japan? Or is all your research book based? Not yet. I’ve traveled a lot of Asia but, unfortunately, have yet to visit Japan. What are your plans for the future? Just to carry on creating and keep it fresh. I’m really enjoying this right now and the support from the scene has been amazing. I’ll be exploring my existing figure lines as well as hopefully finding the time to develop some new pieces too. I’ve got a few shows lined up next year customizing other artists toys, something I’ve not done for a while so I’m looking forward to it.
For more information on 2petalrose, please visit: 2petalrose.co.uk Clutter 34 | 15
THE PUNK IN THE PLASTICK BY MIRANDA O’BRIEN
Vinnie Fiorello might just be the busiest man in punk rock. Not only is he one of the founding members (and drummer/ songwriter) of ska-punk band Less Than Jake, but he also owns and operates a record label and toy company (Paper + Plastick, or P+P), AND he writes children’s books in his spare time. More recently he has launched his very own tattoo and store front in Gainesville, Florida, as an extension of the P+P brand. It’s hard to believe that as a dad and touring musician he is able to find any spare time, but the list just keeps growing. Personally, I have been a longtime fan of Less Than Jake. I have seen them live countless times and love the fun spirit that the band generate. They certainly are one of the bands that shaped my youth and listening to their music now brings me back to those 18 | Clutter 34
times in an instant. I first learned about the connection between LTJ and toys at one of those gigs. As part of their merch, they had a Funko Wacky Wobbler head knocker, an exclusive to the European tour that I couldn’t resist. Research led me to Fiorello, and what was at the time his Wunderland War toy line. Adorned with Monkey Assassin and Bad Habits Octopus, Fiorello’s designs, like his music, have a nostalgic fun feel; tongue-incheek, cartoony, and often larger than life. Fiorello’s latest ventures as Paper + Plastick, a full-fledged record label, comic, and toy production company, have seen him team up with DuBose Art and produce resin items here in the USA. Why the switch from Chinese vinyl and Funko to handmade resin? What happened to Wunderland War? And who does win: the Monkeys or the Robots?
You are responsible for breaking some very successful bands — Fall Out Boy, Paramore, etc. — into the mainstream under the label Fueled by Ramen, which you co-founded. What prompted your decision to leave?
Plastick to avoid confusion with what I was trying to do with P+P. I kept the logo on the toys, but anytime I moved forward with an existing character I just put it under P+P. It currently all sits under one umbrella.
I just stopped having the passion for the new crop of bands coming around. The label was heading in a different direction with its partner, Atlantic Records. It was a really tough decision, but I thought the brand would be better off growing the way it was originally meant to.
How involved are you in the toy process? Do you design most the toys yourself?
How is Paper + Plastick different from Fueled by Ramen? P+P is an extension of what I do in Less Than Jake, i.e. the marketing, the merchandising, and production. It solved the issue of not over merchandising LTJ, and also provided that passion again for punk rock music. What happened to Wunderland War? I rolled Wunderland War into Paper +
It all depends on which toy. The early toys started with sketches from myself, and then more talented friends refined the figures to work with the manufacturing. I’ve been fleshing out newer toys on my own and Jonathan DuBose has been pouring variations like a man possessed. How did you meet DuBose? I was given Jonathan DuBose’s contact information from Matt [Walker] at Monster Kolor when I inquired about resin production. When I contacted DuBose, we connected and he became my go-to person for resin pieces. I call him a
magician, and rightfully so. Why did you make the move from Chinese vinyl to resin? The easy answer was that I could do shorter runs in less time. Full production runs from start to finish took up a good part of my year. Pricing never really was a factor since small runs are always more expensive than production pieces. Does the inspiration for toys come from the same place as music? In what ways are designing a toy and writing a song the same? I do believe they both come from the same place; it’s those creative sparks that happens at unexpected times. Those flashes of inspiration, for both toys and music, come from a place where you need to dig down deep and drag it out of yourself. Eventually, those flashes piece themselves together to complete the puzzle. Do you think you can communicate a message as effectively with a toy as
The Hypno Eyes Cult Leader, 2008
The Blue Pop Art Monkey Assassin, 2007
The Valium Depression, 2006
The Zombie Monkey Dictator, 2009
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Mickey Ears Skull, 2014
Plague Skull - Black, 2015
you do with music? It depends on the music or the toy, and it really depends on what you are looking for. Sometimes you just want a song to be fun and entertaining, and sometimes you want to be moved. Both have a time and a place, and I enjoy them equally for different reason. I will say that the way music is delivered now is light years ahead of where it was ten years ago. Now it’s so much easier to discover and listen to music, which is an amazing thing. I think the music industry ebbs and flows stylistically so what may be censored one day may be applauded the next. It’s very confusing, but they call it the music business because when all is said and done it IS a business. What’s the marriage between toys and music for you? The connection essentially is the extension of the band. I remember growing up listening to KISS, and I would buy their merchandise, like toys, which really stuck with me. I really like the idea that fans are about to see all of the ideas associated with 20 | Clutter 34
Candy Apple Skull, 2015
a song or album. Having the songs means something, but through this merchandise fans are now about to invest more into the ideas of who the band is and what their songs mean. When Less Than Jake started to take off we were able to develop ideas about the band by generating interesting merchandise, like toys. So are toys art or novelty? When I first started collecting toys they were a novelty, but there are some toys that I would consider art. It’s really the artistry of the toys that propel me to buy and collect. I look at pieces like I look at a painting in a museum; these are just sculptures in a different medium. However, it would be hard for me to tell someone what is and isn’t art, and where I draw the line between art and pop culture novelty. There’s a very thin line with a lot of gray area. Which toy artists do you follow? Sket One, Ron English, and Kozik are my main follows. I also follow Jason Freeny, Brutherford Industries, 64 Colors, MAD, MCA, and, of course, Funko.
Speaking of which, how did the relationship between Funko and Less Than Jake develop? During a recording session in Los Angeles, I wandered into a store on Universal CityWalk called Sparky’s. I saw a devil wobbler and immediately fell in love with it. I found the address, then the phone number of the company, and I cold called Funko. Mike Becker, who owned the company at the time, called me back and we had a very cool connection right away. Mike was passionate about toys, but also passionate about music. We connected on that level. He mentored me on a lot of toyrelated things, and opened my eyes to producing toys. Now that Funko has exploded with Vinyl Pop!, do you have any plans for future collaborations like their Pezcore Headknocker? Actually, I have a new prototype but it’s not in production yet. It’s called the Candyman and has been in the planning stages for a very long time. I would love to do some Pop!s of Less Than Jake. Any plans to make toys for some of the bands on your label?
Vinne Fiorello (foreground) and the rest of Less Than Jake
Yes! There are two toys, besides the LTJ ones, in production right now: Reel Big Fish and Teenage Bottlerocket. As well as starting toys for the band MXPX. There’s also a few others in discussion right now. How do you balance life in a successful touring band with owning a label, producing toys, writing books, etc.?
What advice would you give an aspiring artists, for both music and toys?
Finally, who wins, the monkeys or robots? The Monkeys always win. Always.
Some people would say to hustle, but I believe a person needs to have the passion and a good idea to start out with. The hustle comes later, and the hard work always has to be there. Passion is contagious, and I’ve found that it’s what people always respond to.
I try not to bite off more than I can handle, but sometimes even well thought out plans and schedules throw you a curveball. Family always comes first, but it’s also good to have a thought out to-do list and some black coffee. You also just opened a new store. Has that always been a dream? WUNDERLAND is the new storefront in Gainesville, Florida. It’s a tattoo shop, a toy store, and a budding gallery space. It’s always been a dream to have a storefront, and bringing the things I love into my hometown. Wunderland’s storefront window
For more information on Paper + Plastick, please visit: paperandplastick.com
THE NEXT MUTATION BY NICK CURTIS
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Kevin Eastman at his IDW Publishing studio with the static clay TMNT model, 2015
Being a child of the ‘80s, I grew up watching what was arguably the best animated television shows: Transformers, G.I. Joe, and, of course, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It wasn’t until years later that I learned the names Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, or saw a copy of the comics they created that spawned the TMNT empire, but they certainly had a huge impact on my childhood. Heck, given the various incarnations that have appeared over the last thirty years, they are probably a fond part of anyone under 40’s formative recollections. While everyone can debate which version of the TMNT characters are the best ones, Eastman himself steps forward with his personal selection: a rendition that has never been seen before outside of the artist’s personal sketchbooks. Welcome to the next mutation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle team, as brought to life by high-end to-scale production house Threezero. What attracted you to work together? What did you think of the other’s work? Were you fans of each other’s work before this project? Kim Fung Wong: When I was working on the license for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ 2014 movie, I thought the re-design of characters was beautiful, especially the four Turtles, however it brought back my memories of the classic designs by Kevin… Kevin Eastman: I have been a HUGE
fan of Threezero’s work for many years, and my personal collection includes quite a few pieces, especially the Ashley Wood editions. I think their work, skill, attention to detail, and overall approach in this marketplace is more like a work of art, a true sculpture, than a collectible figurine. I was very keen to work with them, and reached out through my agents, JEA, to see if we could do something together.
KE: I could not be more pumped to have had this opportunity come together, and the results are even better than I hoped for — and my expectations were VERY high.
KFW: So I asked, “Why don’t we make some classic TMNT by Kevin?”
KE: In many ways, to me, the TMNTs always seem to be evolving. Even
Why did you decide to do completely new versions of the Turtles as opposed to one of the more readily recognizable versions from either the comics or the cartoons?
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though we always make sure the heart and soul of the characters stay the same, the TMNTs we all know and love, but the look of them — over the last thirty-two years — has been interpreted by many different artists, including me, and we always add our own personal touch. I will confess I love all the versions of the TMNTs, but for the Threezero line of figures I set out to do a very personal version, something that no one has seen before, but at the same time this “look” is something I have been toying around with in various sketchbooks and doodles, waiting for the right time to bring them to life. And this Threezero version, a Special Edition if you will, was the chance I was waiting for. KFW: We wanted to realize Kevin’s vision for these characters. KE: I put all of my ideas for the
TMNT look over the past twenty years exclusively into this version. These TMNT figures are much more burly and muscular than previous incarnations. What was the genesis of their design? Was it a collaborative concept or was it completely Kevin’s? KE: What is interesting about this point is, when Peter [Laird] and I first started doing the TMNTs, I was only 21 and still learning about drawing… Still am! (Laughs) And with the early 1984 TMNTs, they had a specific look because that was the best we could draw them at that time. By the time you got to issue 3, 4, 5, and 6, you could see a steady, ongoing change in style – more refined, more muscular, etc. – so when I attacked this series of drawings for Threezero, not only did they let me have complete control
over the look, I took them to the next level I wanted to see them like, and ran with it. KFW: The TMNT figures for this series are Kevin’s concept and design, as you see in his concept sketches. At Threezero, we do our best to capture the 2D design and make it work in the 3D form, so that we can turn Kevin’s creations into cool collectible figures. KE: Threezero and Nickelodeon were super supportive, and let my creativity free. I love this look and am thrilled I got to realize it in this way. How did the distribution of responsibilities for these figures break down? Was Kevin hands on throughout the process? KE: As far as I’m concerned, I am VERY, VERY LUCKY! From day one,
Leonardo final color test illustration by Kevin Eastman, 2014
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Threezero said, “Bring us your vision and we will bring it to life!” If you look at many of the drawings I did, from the first ideas more than two years ago, to the ones I completed before the final sculpting, their artists nailed everything! Every little detail and nuance, they got it 100% spot on, sending me each building block version along the way. KFW: Every step in the process was shared with Kevin for approval before we moved forward to the next step. KE: I could not have asked for a more perfect execution of my artwork in three-dimensional form. Since you are both businessmen and artists, did you find yourselves at odds during this project? Or did you find that similar ground to be something that allowed you to work better together? KFW: We trust in Kevin’s design and business sense, and he knows Threezero’s style and the kind of toys we create.
Work-in-progress on TMNT prototypes, 2015
KE: As mentioned earlier, I was already a HUGE fan of Threezero’s work. I purchased many of their sculptures before I met the creative team and was thrilled about the chance to create something together! I think the middle ground was already there, certainly on the respect level.
KFW: We share a similar respect and determination. KE: It was just a matter of us coming up with the right vision to work on together. I could not be more proud of the process, with such a professional company, and the final result. When you began work on the figures, what was the one element each of you thought was the most important to capture in these pieces? KE: That answer is simple for me: it all comes down to the personality of each character. KFW: The classic spirit of TMNT. KE: These TMNTs have lived inside my head for thirty-two years – I know them inside and out – and with each of my drawings and designs, I wanted to bring out all my personal feelings about each TMNT. Everything I put into each final drawing design was with very careful and specific thought, all built around each TMNT’s personality… body size, body style, front and back shell designs, different skin colorization and patterns, as well as head shape and body armor… Man, what a blast to see these come to life — from my brain to a finished work of art!
Work-in-progress on TMNT prototypes, 2015
Were there any aspects that either or both of you wanted to include that weren’t included? If so, what was it and why didn’t it make the final figure’s form? Clutter 34 | 27
Paint Prototype - Not Final Product
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ANATOMY OF A TURTLE FIGURE Designed by original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, these TMNT figures have been produced in the top-notch quality from Threezero that youâ€™ve come to expect. Each 1/6th scale piece stands 11Â˝ inches tall, made from ABS and PVC plastic with real fabric accoutrements. And, of course, each one is loaded with accessories to complete their design!
Two katana Knife Hand-held blade
Two sai Three daggers Binoculars Army knife Caltrops
Two nunchaku Tonfa with blades Kusarigama Throwing stars
Bo staff Chain weapon Two climbing claws Five throwing spikes Five smoke bombs Three in-bag spikes Per usual, each figure will also have an exclusive bonus item for those purchased directly from threezerostore. com, but what those are remain a surprise for now!
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KE: Great question, and personally I think the problem here was we both wanted to include EVERYTHING! (Laughs) I think from the very start, there were almost too many options of what to include, especially once the final designs were done, so it was more a matter of what is most important to include, that best represents each character. KFW: We had many ideas for accessories, so it was important to balance the best choices with a good price point for our fans. KE: Who knows, maybe we’ll do a special supplement pack down the road to add more cool stuff for each… Even though Threezero figures are heavily articulated and come with accessories, they’ve always felt more like art objects than toys to me. What do you each think? Are these figures going to be more art or more toy?
KE: We’re totally on the same page here, and I’m glad you asked this specifically – because as I mentioned earlier — I DO see these as sculptures, works of art, and not just amazing toys. KFW: Our goal is to create unique collectible figures with an artistic quality and attention to detail higher than the average commercial toys, but we want our art to be interactive with an inviting playability. KE: We have the best of both worlds here, we have an “Amazingly Articulated Work of Art!” The fans, like me, of this kind of pieces are all over the world, and they will be thrilled when they see what we have done with the TMNTs for this set. It WILL be a MUST HAVE for their collection. Will the color of the masks be more in line with the comic (all red), the cartoon (different color for each character), or
something completely new? Why did you decide on the color or colors for these versions that you did? KE: When I did the first color painting of the TMNTs, I did all the bandanas red – both Peter and I could tell them apart – as well as we had the weapons to re-enforce the personalities, so we didn’t think too much about it beyond that. When it came time to do them as animated characters, the companies we worked with asked if we could come up with a stronger way to tell them apart, and actually Peter came up with the different colored bandana concept. Each color was chosen specifically: Mikey would have the “silly” orange color; Raph, the original raging red; Leo, royal blue for our leader; and Don, more of a peaceful purple, monk-like color to reflect his personality. This was the thought process for us here. KFW: Kevin’s original concept art includes the different color bandanas,
Raphael final color test illustration by Kevin Eastman, 2014
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Donatello final color test illustration by Kevin Eastman, 2014
but we have talked about doing red versions also. KE: And that’s what is so exciting about this set: we want to offer both! Will these new versions appear in other media — specifically comics — or are they uniquely for the art collectible market? KE: Man, I hope so! As I mentioned earlier, the look here is based on ideas I have had for many years, and you can find bits and piece of the style here in all the different comic, TV, and film versions, but this is the first and only time you’ve seen them like this. It would be wonderful to see them brought to life in some of our other TMNT projects. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed! After these initial figures of the four turtles, are there plans to re-envision other TMNT characters in a similar style? KE: Where do I start?! (Laughs) There are so many favorites I’d love to see
brought to life in the Threezero team up, but if I had to choose the “one” I would do next it would be Casey Jones! I have some doodles and drawings that would be perfect! If the fans enjoy the first four TMNTs and want to see more, I’d love to jump into drawing my version of Casey to add to the group. Let’s see their response first, and get their input, and we’ll go from there… KFW: Yes, we want to see a successful series of TMNT figures that includes more of Kevin’s cool new designs and hope to see fans excited for this as well. KE: In the meantime, I’ll push Casey to the front of the line. Kevin’s Studio was instrumental in securing Simon Bisley’s Fallen Angel statue, based on the classic cover to Heavy Metal vol. 22 no. 3. Can we expect any more pieces interpreted from the Heavy Metal archives by the two of you?
KE: I personally hope so. KFW: More information soon. (Smiles) KE: I’ve been a big fan and friend of Simon for more than twenty years, and when Threezero wanted to work with Simon — who owns all the rights to his [own] Heavy Metal covers — I was thrilled to help pull the two together, knowing full well how incredible the piece would look! Threezero is a master of capturing the look and style of an artist, and what they did with Simon’s Falling Angel was literally bring his painting, in his awesome style, to life in full threedimensional glory! I can’t wait to have one on display in my studio!
For more information, please visit: Threezero: threezerostore.com Kevin Eastman: kevineastmanstudios.com Clutter 34 | 31
GACHAPON CITY BY BARBARA PAVONE
It’s no secret that Tokyo is a paradise for lovers of vinyl art and collectible toys, but what you might not know is that the greatest novelty treasures aren’t found in shops filled with anime and manga merchandise, but rather in the middle of the street. Welcome to the world of gachapons. These uber popular capsule toy vending machines can be found across all districts of Tokyo and if you walk long enough, you’re bound to stumble upon a whole army of them. Most often perched outside arcades, they’re sometimes also hidden away in unexpected corners of the city. What the heck does ‘gachapon’ mean? It’s a Japanese onomatopoeia comprised of ‘gacha’ — the sound you hear when you turn the crank after inserting your coins — and ‘pon’ — the sound the capsule makes when it drops down. The word itself can be used when referring to both the machine and the toys it holds.
$1 to $5), the figures are always of the highest quality, as they’re considered true collectors’ items. It’s not unusual to see school kids and adults alike spending considerable amounts of time trying their luck with a specific gachapon in the hopes of scoring the figure of their dreams.
Think of it like shopping for blind boxes, but way more fun because you never know what kind of series you’re going to come across. Gachapons are constantly updated and, to remain competitive, each cluster of machines houses a different set of toys.
Although you’ll find plenty of limited edition gachapons featuring popular mascots and characters, yours truly was on the hunt for the most bizarre and unexpected toys around. Think banana birds and sprawled out zoo animals! Now, without further ado, here are my favorite scores from a week-long treasure hunt in Tokyo.
Usually priced between ¥100 and ¥500 (about
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Sexy Banana Peels Brand: Kitan Club (kitan.jp) Price: ¥200 Featuring green, yellow and brown banana peels in various poses, including one laying down on its stomach, kicking its feet up in a flirty - yes, flirty - manner, this six-piece series will ensure you never look at bananas the same way again. Posed correctly, peels really do look quite human, don’t they?
Squatting Dogs Brand: PVC Mascot (ikimu-inu.com) Price: ¥300 Rather than offering a variety of poses or characters, this series features the same dog in his signature squatting pose in eight different colors. Gold was impossible to nail down, but the neon pink hue and bold blue still managed to leave this collector super impressed.
Sleeping Animals Brand: Takara Tomy Arts (takaratomy-arts.co.jp) Price: ¥200 Sleeping, or drunk and passed out — you take your pick. From a seal to a corgi, donkey and raccoon, these animals from the Zoo Zoo Zoo series all have one thing in common: They’re chilling on their backs, snoozing. Not strange at all…
Banana Birds + Corn Birds Brand: EPOCH (epoch.jp) Price: ¥200 Yes, bananas are really trendy in Japan and gachapons incorporating them in one form or another are extremely popular. In this case, it’s tied to another popular gachapon creature - the bird - to create a seven-piece collection featuring the animal coming out of the half-peeled fruit. The two babies were a must-find! Meanwhile, the five-character corn bird set was a close second in the oddities department.
Sushi Cats Brand: Kitan Club (nekozushi.com) Price: ¥400 Located next to a cafe outside the Tsukiji Fish Market, this gachapon really played to its surroundings. Five different cats turned into various pieces of sushi, including one with a lobster on its back, another rocking a pink backpack, and yet another with a little tie — who could resist?
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Bird Ice Cream Cones Brand: Kitan Club (kitan.jp) Price: ¥300
Hamster Dim Sum
More birds! This time around, six different bird heads were perched atop ice cream cones, representing scoops of various flavors, including kiwi, milk and, the elusive double scoop: A raspberrypistachio bird set atop a bananastrawberry one. Yum?
Brand: EPOCH (epoch.jp) Price: ¥200 Whether it be a hamster peeking out from inside a teapot or one hanging out next to a tiny steamed bun in a bamboo steamer, these hamster dim sum gachapons are so cute, it’s guaranteed to induce squeals of glee.
Funassyi x Fuchico on the Cup Hamster Butts Brand: EPOCH (epoch.jp) Price: ¥200 OK, so these toys are not technically just hamster butts, however, the series is all about putting the focus on the little guys’ behinds as they crawl into various objects, including a can, piece of cheese and cat-shaped house. 36 | Clutter 34
Brand: Kitan Club (kitan.jp) Price: ¥500 Everyone’s favorite pear, Funassyi, and the super popular Fuchico on the Cup get up close and personal in this considerably expensive four-piece set that has the cute girl hanging off Funassyi in various poses.
Sushi Girls Brand: Takara Tomy Arts (takaratomy-arts.co.jp) Price: ¥300 If there are two things tourists really seem to love it’s sushi and sexy anime ladies, which makes this gachapon the ultimate combo. From a lil’ lady in her nightgown pulling a shrimp sashimi over her head to one lounging inside an ikura sushi, as if in a bathtub, this six-piece series was, not surprisingly, a hot seller.
Akihabara Gachapon Kaikan (www.akibagacha.com) 3-15-5 Sotokanda,Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo It’s estimated that 500 machines fill this shop in the heart of Akihabara, also nicknamed Akihabara Electric Town. It’s THE district to head to for all things related to video games, anime, manga and computers and although you’ll stumble upon plenty of gachapon machines in the street, nothing compares to Akihabara Gachapon Kaikan. Vending machines are stacked from floor to ceiling and everywhere in between. In fact, this might be the only place complete with a ladder so you can reach all the gachapons at your disposal. Seeing the owner regularly refilling and swapping out series is also a unique experience. And if you happen to run out of ¥100 coins faster than expected, don’t fret! There’s a handy machine that’ll change your bills into coins. See, they’ve thought of everything.
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MAIL-ORDER MARVELS BY NICK CURTIS
I fondly remember the already fading institution of mail-order novelties from the ‘80s, found in the back pages of comic books and specialty magazines. Sea monkeys, x-ray specs, and even laser gun plans, all could be bought through these vintage advertisements. Reclaiming the fun of these mail-order marvels with an update for the digital age, Super Secret Fun Club are dedicated to helping everyone rediscover their sense of childlike wonderment. Focusing on the extraordinary, the peculiar, and the extraordinarily peculiar, these retro feeling collectibles will become “must haves” once they are on your radar. Trust us. So, who are you? Who? Me? Oh, I just work here, oiling the machines and pushing their buttons in the proper sequence. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! (Laughs) Maybe it’s safer to ask what exactly Super Secret Fun Club is? (Laughs) SSFC was created to relive the fun childhood times of yesteryears. My goal is to recreate the excitement and anticipation I felt as a kid during Christmas; I remember staring at the toy section of the Sears catalog for hours on end daydreaming of what would possibly lay beneath the tree that year. Nothing could match the bliss of actually opening my presents and marveling in all their glory, [but] I try to channel this feeling into every SSFC box that ships out. If you love getting surprises in the mail and love collecting limited edition items then join the Super Secret Fun Club today, Mac! 40 | Clutter 34
Wait a second, I thought — in general — that your releases aren’t limited? That you make a certain number and, when you sell out, you make more. All SSFC releases are limited editions to some extent, with the exception of the Starter Kits. Previously, when a release sold out, I would sometimes do a small second run to accommodate the demand of my fan base. As my time has become more and more limited, I have recently announced that the all future SSFC Kid releases will be a signed and numbered limited edition. The editions will be limited to 5 to 25 pieces each. However, I also have a mini-series called They Came From The Attic, which will be an open edition until the last figure is released. I am currently releasing a new figure each month, and I wanted to give people the opportunity to collect the whole series before it gets discontinued. Makes sense to me. Since you just mentioned them, what exactly are the They Came From
GB Kids 4 Pack & The not so Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, both 2015
The Attic releases? That is to say, what makes it different than your SSFC Kids line? They Came From The Attic series is a more realistic depiction of characters compared to the cuteness of the SSFC Kids. Each Attic figure comes in a flesh-toned mini version and a 3.75” full painted version. I really just wanted to experiment with a different stylistic approach. Diverse creations… I get it. Like your Starter Kits, which don’t include a toy, per se, but are blistered carded pieces. Where did the idea for those come from? The Starter Kits stem from the playsets I had as a kid. I remember being a soldier, doctor, and ninja all in the same day with just a little imagination and a few plastic accessories. I combined this childhood mentality with some household accessories and the Starter Kits were created. I was really just hoping to get a laugh with these, but they have become surprisingly popular. I’ve been told they make great party favors and stocking stuffers.
The Blob, 2015
(Laughs) I feel like we jumped into the meat before surveying the whole table. Going back a bit, how did you first get into making minifigures? Was there a specific release you saw that made you say, “Yea, I can do that too!”? I just finished up my first pixelated game for the app store and was thinking about making an action figure of the main character. While researching 8-bit toys, I came across The Amazon by Tyler Ham [HamFX] and instantly knew I had to be a part of this world somehow. After a couple failed attempts at hiring someone else to produce a figure, I decided to give it a go on my own. There was a lot of trial-and-error but, with a lot of research and helpful tips from other toy artists, I was able to create my first mini-figure. That first mini-figure was The Blob, right? What called you to make that piece? There were two main reasons I started with The Blob mini-figure: first, the consumption of Paul by the Blob is
Kuato - mini, 2015
They Live, 2015
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Repo Man, 2015
Urkel Jerk, 2015
a frighteningly rad scene; second, I love anything slime related and thought it was a fun idea to add the little container of Blob with random skeleton parts in it. The card art for The Blob was based on original illustrations by my fiancée and best friend, Little Miss Print. Super Secret Fun Club would not be what it is today without her.
into place as we progressed through the project. Alex is a brilliantly skilled artist and a genuinely nice guy. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity of working with him. I am currently working on a prototype for the next collaboration with Alex, but don’t tell anyone… it’s a secret.
What process do you use to create pieces?
Urkel Jerk was also your first exploration into doing Mego scale figures. Can we expect more in this style from you?
It’s a pretty simplistic process. In general, I already know what figure I want to make and revisit the film the figure is to be based around for detail reference. I try to base the character design around a memorable scene from the film. For example, it’s pretty obvious what scene the “Here’s Johnny!” figure is derived from. So using the inspiration and references from the movie, the figure is then modeled, printed, and hand-painted. I create the artwork and packaging and I try to create a cohesive theme that flows throughout the release with a focus on the details. I do a lot of planning in my head but rarely ever write anything down on paper. That’s surprising as there’s a clean, crisp look to your design aesthetic. I am very meticulous and I tend to anguish over the details of the project until I feel it’s perfect. In general, I work off the premise less is more. Changing gears slightly, you recently collaborated with Alex Pardee on the insanely detailed Urkel Jerk release. How did you find working with another artist on bringing a joint vision to life? Collaborating with Alex on this project was a great experience. I feel like we were on the same page right from the very beginning which empowered us to create an impressive end result. Everything just seemed to fall 42 | Clutter 34
I will absolutely be creating more figures in the Mego style. I just released an Ex-President figure based on a character from the movie Point Break. The figure was a limited edition of only 5 pieces & 2 artist proofs. I have a few other fun ideas using a Mego and mini-figure mashup, which will be available soon. What else does the future hold for you? There’s a whole new line up of SSFC kid figures & Starter Kits that will be released in 2016… Be sure to keep an eye out for DIY vinyl, wax packs, interactive lapel pins, and even a SSFC activity/coloring book. I am also working on a couple other collaborations creating more artistic based pieces. Last but not least I have been working on a fun little project I thought up a while ago. I guess the best way to describe it is a conversation piece and chemistry play set [all-in-one]. I would also like to say there would not be a future for SSFC if it wasn’t for the continued support of my awesomely radical fans. I am truly grateful.
For more information on Super Secret Fun Club, please visit: supersecretfunclub.com
THE MONTHLY DIY:
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE BY MARC DEANGELIS
Last month, we showed you how to promote your finished work. It may seem like that would have been the logical conclusion to this column, but customizing entails a neverending learning process. With every new project comes new mistakes to learn from and new techniques to acquire. So for our final installment in The Monthly DIY, Laura “Loz Boz” Copeland, Sekure D, Jon-Paul Kaiser, The Bots, Rotobox, and WuzOne dole out some sound advice before sending you down the sanding, painting, and sculpting rabbit hole.
When starting out with this hobby, it’s important to know what you’re diving into. “Don’t expect to be amazing right away,” says Loz Boz. “I still have my second Dunny custom I did, and it’s a total piece of shameful shit, but it shows me how far I’ve come every time I gaze upon its grotesque little face.” Similarly, JPK recommends patience in finding your own style. “You won’t find what’s unique about you straight away, but keep on practicing and you will find a way to make it work. This has to be done for the joy of it.” Loz Boz agrees, saying, “Take your time to find your style. Obviously don’t commit the creative crime of bagging someone else’s [style].” The Bots describe how they found their signature aesthetic: “When we first started, we practiced and played around with a ton of different ideas and eventually fell into something that we felt we did best. Ultimately, all that time we spent exploring paid off as it taught us a lot of sculpting techniques that we would have 46 | Clutter 34
probably struggled with otherwise.” And of course, as Sekure D advises, “Don’t expect to get rich by being an artist!” Be prepared for how frustrating this hobby can be and remember to take deep breaths. The Ong brothers of Rotobox point out how much trial and error is involved in customizing. “Expect to be frustrated at times, but be patient and hard working and you will get the job done. We all experience this as we learn along the way.” You may even struggle from platform to platform, as Tony and Jenn Bot explain, “There is a learning curve and each platform will present its own challenge. Just remember that we were all in your shoes once and that asking for help from a fellow customizer is never a bad thing.” Despite the frustrations, you’ll still be looking forward to a new challenge. Or, as WuzOne says, “When you finish your first custom you will be looking forward to painting the following piece.”
Top: Jenn & Tony Bots’ “Sly Guy,” 2010 Bottom: Jenn & Tony Bots’ “Beatbox Bunny,” 2015
Above: WuzOne’s “Obsession Dunnys,” 2008 Right: WuzOne’s “SuShi Dunny,” 2015
There are some certain techniques that will be particularly difficult to master. “Sculpting, sanding, and painting take lots of practice to get right,” say the Rotobox brothers. “Packaging also is very frustrating and very challenging for customs that have lots detailed parts.” Developing a steady hand can take quite a while, too. Sekure D describes that your lines should be straight, evenly weighted, and clean. “Just take your time and breathe slowly,” he advises. Sekure D and Loz Boz are in agreement on what they’d tell their younger selves before starting to customize toys, and in Sekure D’s case, sneakers too. “Get a different job,” he jokes. Loz Boz would tell herself, “Stop! You’re are taking on too much; you need to go to bed earlier.” The Bots would advise
Sekure D’s “Jordan Ballerbots,” 2011 (top) & 2014 (bottom)
Rotobox’s “Garada K7” & “Doublas M2,” 2009
their younger selves “to not get caught up in why or why not other customizers are or appear to be more successful than you. If you make good art and are a good person, a fan base will form and all sorts of opportunities will present themselves.” As for final words of wisdom, Loz Boz recommends testing out new techniques on designated test toys rather than on the custom you’ve been working on for hours. “Nothing will break your heart harder than starting from scratch on something you just ruined seconds from the finish line.” “Make what you like and develop your own style,” advises Sekure D. “Be patient and be strict with your work in regards to quality,” say Rotobox. “Customizing the platform is really only a fraction of the job,” say the Bots. “As commissions begin to roll
Rotobox’s “EVA Celsius,” 2014
in, listening and communicating with the customer is key and is directly where you will begin building a reputable name for yourself. However, don’t be afraid to set limitations to the kind of projects that you are willing to work on. Not everything presented will be something you want to do or may even be capable of doing and that is alright.” And WuzOne puts the finishing touch on this column: “Enjoy and good luck, mates!”
Special thanks go out to all of the experts who have shared their knowledge and any readers who have used this column as a guide to customizing. Don’t be shy; if you’ve been following along, send in photos of your customs to email@example.com and you might have your work featured on our blog!
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