Wondercon 2009 Designer Toys Recap
Wondercon isn’t about toys; it’s about comics: superheroes, Star Wars, cosplayers and comics. Semantics aside, Comic-Con has more toys. That said, ToyCyte scoured Wondercon in San Francisco’s Moscone Center for several hours seeking out the toys. We were happily surprised by who and what we found. Read on for vinyl, plush, plastic and resin–from prototypes without websites all the way to finished convention exclusives. Enjoy the tour.
Conventions are great for putting faces to names. I knew of Ryan Hungerford from his flocked Mad*L, “Tighty Frighty,” in the Me Mad*L show. But I didn’t know he’d been busy working to get his Freak Beast toy out, so now I’ve added another blog to my RSS list. This is the first complete figure I’ve seen “in real life” made by Patch Together, and Ryan spoke highly of the company and process–which lasted about 3 months. The 4.5-inch resin Freak Beast was realized as a result of winning enough votes from the Patch Together community. It produced in an edition of under 100 pieces. It looks like PT is sold out, but Ryan had some on hand at Wondercon for the awesome price of $25 a piece. He said he’d gladly work with Patch on another figure, and we hope he does. Until then, you can get a Freak Beast T-shirt here.
Mr. Toast himself (Dan Goodsell) was kind of off-the-beaten path at Wondercon 2009, downwind from the henchman from Moonraker and away from other edible plush pals like the Peas at the Conduct Happiness table. He looked a little less awake than when we saw him at VTN a few months ago. Keeping it upbeat, Dan showed us his latest book, Kaleidoscope, and some cool original Toast crew interpretations of Watchmen. Dan will also have an upcoming art exhibition with Michael “Putrid Pal” Fleming at Monkeyhouse Toys in Silverlake, opening March 14th.
Michael Fleming was pretty much the spitting image of himself at the Alternative Press Expo a few months ago. Back in November, he’d run out of the puke green colorway of his Putrid Pal figure. [I know this because I picked up the last one there for my collection.] The Putrid Pal was restocked in all his splendor for Wondercon. Michael talked about some of the schematics that hadn’t made it through to production, including a “tattoo-like” colorway. There’s a possibility you may see a hand-drawn version as part of our custoMONDAY series! Michael had a small cluster of tiny paintings for $35 each. Love the mini Putrid Pal! For more of Michael’s art, check out Sights & Sounds, a collaboration with Dan Goodsell at Monkeyhouse Toys opening March 14th.
Ed Acosta, (one third of the Cranky Studios team) was on hand at Wondercon to sign an ample supply of original blue edition vinyl Whaleboy figures. Each 6-inch $40 figure comes with interchangeable face plates–a nice touch for easy customization on a unique toy. Jason saw the original protos for these years ago and has been following them ever since. As the encounter with Ed ignited my interest in the alternate albino and goth colorways of Whaleboy, I took a peek on Evil Bay. Although there’s an albino edition (limited to 100 pieces worldwide) signed and doodled by Patrick Morgan, Ed Acosta and Taesoo Kim for $85, the similarly small goth edition is listed at almost $400. Dang! You can order the standard blue edition for $39.95 right here.
Shotgun Sean was repping at Wondercon for Alex Pardee and the ZEROFRIENDS Collective. Alex was on a lot of people’s minds at the convention, whether for his fine art Watchmen giclee print (shown below, better pic here) or his upcoming Walrus Rider toy. I believe Sean knows what other colorways we’ll be seeing of the figure, but he didn’t even blab after we waterboarded him. While The Secondmen giclee was a NYCC exclusive, Alex wanted to save half the edition of 50 for his hometown Bay Area gang, which we appreciate. (For another Watchmen interpretation, check out Dan Goodsell’s prints here.) The ZEROFRIENDS booth had an original painting, comics, books and lots of cool wearable stuff. A few months ago, I referred to Sean as “quite possibly the nicest guy whose name bears arms,” and I stand by the designation. However, Jason took note of Sean’s resemblance to a certain celebrity depicted in charcoal in the stall across the way. I’ve included the pic at the bottom of this post. No, not Jesus. If you see Shotgun Sean around town, congratulate him on the success of High School Musical. Cheers!
The Brothers Washburn
Well. this was a cool and unexpected collaboration. Although we’ve written about the fine black and white DIY periodical known as Color Ink Book, I was pleasantly surprised to see that MCA contributed some colorful graphics to the project: notably a button pack, huge banner and the cover of issue 2. You can read some words from MCA here at the Color Ink Blog. While Jason Washburn, who, with his wife, sews the plush crayons, was circulating around the con, Adam Washburn (pictured with Meghan Washburn above) told me more about how artists can get involved. Some are contacted directly by the Brothers and others volunteer their outlines. Issue 2 features colorable art by MCA, Jeremy Fish, Skinner, Otter X (I.W.G.), Marco Rached (SPRFKR), Sec 1, Formfieber and Nathan Spoor. If you’re not at Wondercon this weekend, you can pick it up online for $10 here.
Super7 and Leecifer
There was not a ton of designer toys at Wondercon, and if you happened to be of the collecting ilk that enjoys Japanese monster toys, there was only one stall to visit: San Francisco’s own Super7. Glenn and master customizer (and future custoMONDAY alum) Leecifer were representing for the kaiju set with a small array of affordable vinyl figures, shirts and books. The coolest toy was likely lost on the comic-driven crowd, though. In advance of Saturday’s Itokin Park show, the guys had a couple of Super7 colorway and unpainted Himalans. Not sure if these were for sale or just for tease.
The Kaws Dissected issue of Super7 magazine made me think of this past week’s Be@rbrick hype. Glenn said nobody had wandered into their stall inquiring about the brown Be@rbrick’s availability, but Denise from Double Punch, who I ran into, told me she and Omar had fielded a few such inquiries. The answer, folks, is unfortunately no they won’t have them. But she already knew of someone preparing a 1000% Kaws Dissected Be@rbrick for resale on eBay. Let the flipping begin!
Wondercon is many things to many people (case in point: there was a booth advertising a dating service for self-professed geeks), but it wasn’t exactly bursting with art toys. We did our best to find them. Eric Schrecongost’s Nemoids caught our attention. There’s something cute about the diver bots, which also present some options for customization. Perhaps explains the word “nemoid,” which, according to the Urban Dictionary, is a “slang word originating in Mississauga, Canada, that is used to describe any person, animal, act or thing that is thought of as cute.” But probably not. Eric asked us which of the sample colorways seemed the most interesting, and Jason and I both responded to the aged patina Nemoid. Eric hopes to get these produced. Leave a comment here if you get a strong feeling for one of the four Nemoids in particular. Shortly before we left, I saw Eric chatting up Ryan Hungerford, so maybe Patch Together is a consideration for production. We’ll keep following, so here’s hoping there’s more where these came from.
I Heart Guts
There are always a lot of gutsy people at Wondercon, but one might argue that Wendy of I Heart Guts is the gutsiest of all. As an anatomically-obsessed illustrator, Wendy created the line of soft innards in 2005 and has been harvesting them ever since. When you really need to give the gift of gallbladder, I Heart Guts has you covered. The small company recently found themselves in a tough spot when they had to recall their plush uterus when it failed a pull test. The entire lot of other internal organs passed just fine, and while these are adult collectibles, not recommended for kids under 3, the plush uterus found itself getting the virtual equivalent of a hysterectomy. However, attendees at Wondercon 2009 who understand the detachable ova disclaimer can still purchase the now-rare organ, which sat alongside the even rarer black heart. These are really fun plushes, and you can tell I Heart Guts has a good time with them. It’s not all playtime though; the company uses their lighthearted toys to help aid serious medical organizations. Awesome.
Camilla D’Errico was really ballin’ with two tables in the Wondercon 2009 Artist’s Alley. Camilla is seriously one of the nicest artists out there. Her art may stop you in your travels down the alley, but you’ll want to stay to keep chatting with the enthusiastic artist herself. Camilla had a very diverse array of warez on show, but I’ll start with one thing she just seemed the most excited about: Her prototype plush, Kuro, who was brought to life from the pages of her manga, Tanpopo. Camilla had some of the plush protos on hand for pre-orders and to gauge interest. It really looks like he lept off the page: the likeness of the 2D and 3D Kuros is excellent. We gave it a thumbs up.
Camilla also had a new edition of Tanpopo, which was larger in measurement and page-count and contains a plot twist that diverges from the original story. There were several new prints and some clothes and accessories, too. Another item she was stoked about was her new Gelaskin, which didn’t make it to Wondercon, but may be available at next week’s Sweet Surrender show at Gallery1988. Camilla told us that the work she’s doing for that show is “the best ever.” She acknowledged that such a statement is rare to come from an artist, but in this case, she swears it’s true. She wants everyone to come down to the San Francisco opening on Friday, March 6th. She’ll be the extroverted artist with the extremely detailed paintings. Be there.
There were a lot of superheroes and Storm Troopers at Wondercon, but this little Pea was the first toy that really caught my attention. To a child, it’s a cute huggable orb. To a literate adult, it’s a Pea Standing Up. If you can’t see the brilliant simplicity of it, I can’t really explain it to you. For the ladies, they had Pea Sitting Down. For the incontinent, there was Pea The Bed. I spoke with Chris Sonnenburg, a dude with a Disney background and one half of the Conduct Happiness duo responsible for all these Peas. Pea Standing Up originated as just a doodle with a caption and branched out from there into plush, postcards and clothes. Sweet Pea and their pal Broccoli may follow. For now, Chris is content making a toy that functions on levels appealing to both kids and adults. I got one and promptly stuck it on a $1.99 doll stand from Michaels. This is my favorite visual toy gag since Touma’s Pooty. The plush peas are available for $10 all weekend long at Wondercon or slightly more at the Conduct Happiness webshop.
Rotofugi and Squibbles Ink
For art toy fans, the best booth at Wondercon was undeniably Rotofugi, which along with Squibbles Ink, made up for the designer toy deficit in force. On display were the new Ninjatown micro-plush series, a full set of Marshall Mashumaros, Travis Lampe’s Tear Drips and Chris Ryniak’s Lake Eerie Monster. Rotofugi was one of the lone booths that elevated Wondercon with toy exclusives. In this case, a vintage Marshall ($14) and a mono Tear Drip ($18).
Save for chases, which Jason tried unsuccessfully to get out of co-owner, Whitney Kerr, the entire line of Marshalls and Drips were on display. When you see all of Travis Lampe‘s Tear Drips together like that, art comes to the forefront of art toy. The price-point on these is going to reflect the pad-printing process (and therefore be a bit higher than your typical blind-box toy), but hopefully some of the closeup photos below will show you why. Whitney spoke fondly of this project, which is about as “art toy” as art toys get considering one of these drips is actually the 3D incarnation of a painting by Travis that appeared in a 2007 Rotofugi show.
Whitney and I beat around the blind-box bush for a bit before just declaring our different perspectives on the issue. She did give me some good news though. Much like David Horvath’s Uglydoll Action Figures, if you buy an entire case of Tear Drips, you will be guaranteed one of each drip. To me, it feels like a good compromise for blind-box lovers and haters.