Toy Fair is such a monumental event that even after four days of exploration and thousands upon thousands of words of reminiscence, I’ve barely scraped the surface of its presence. So here’s the rest of it, in record time, with what are sure to be grievous omissions which I’ll apologize for later.
Often while traversing the floors of the Javits center, we’d be easily distracted by some other luminous bastion of awesomeness between us and our destination. One such surprise was the Attakus booth, a company based in Montreal which specializes in large-scale statues of Marvel and Star Wars characters, as well as a few smaller statues of the ‘erotic’ and fantasy variety. I’d never seen an Attakus piece in person, since importing things from elsewhere is never a cheap endeavor, but their quality and scale was impressive. We spent quite a lot of time circling their booth, photographing everything, including the awe-inspiring Millennium Falcon replica that was in scale with Hasbro’s 3 3/4” scale figures. Of course, it was only a half-replica, cut down the middle like a spaceship-dollhouse for easy access, but it included every internal and external detail down to the Dejarik Holochess set, with the entire display set up to look like the Rebel escape from the Death Star in A New Hope, complete with the Obi Wan and Darth Vader duel. Reps from neighboring booths were constantly streaming over to take another look inside the Falcon.
We also visited Marvel Toys, formerly ToyBiz, and saw their wonderful Legendary Heroes license. They’ve decided that if they can’t do Marvel characters anymore, and DC has the licenses to their own characters tied up in themselves and Mattel, they’d dip into the quirky third-tier of comics and tap the independent publishers for characters, which they’d then execute in their notable, revolutionary style. The initial lineups include both familiar and unfamiliar characters to me, but the first two waves will continue the popular Build-A-Figure theme. If you collect all six figures, you can build a large, unusually complex seventh figure from the extra parts included – a gimmick that has done very well for them over the past few years in their Marvel Legends line. The first set will include a huge Pitt figure from Image Comics, and the second wave will include a Monkeyman (with one of the figures being his partner, O’Brien). People might recognize Savage Dragon, Judge Dredd and Witchblade among the figures, as well as a Conan the Barbarian, but many of the characters elude even a hardcore geekonerd like me. It’s like the 90′s exploded all up in there, but the figures are at least visually interesting enough to support the line. I’m all about Mike Allred’s Madman, this time.
There’s been some contention between Marvel Toys and Shocker Toys, as both sought to pursue licenses from ‘indie’ publishers and creators at the same time, often butting heads and having contracts slip out from each others’ grasps. Shocker Toys has oft been at odds with the toy world in general, being the very apotheosis of the underdog toymaker, fightin’ his way to the top. Their PR model differs greatly from the tried and true traditions of the toy industry, as Shocker has been revealing their hopes and aspirations, figure sculpts in every stage of completion, and sending out brutally honest (and sometimes emotional) statements to the press. The usual model states that toy companies will only talk about things that are 100% secure properties and only show off near-completed items, but Shocker is more organic in their approach. In laying the process bare before any of his touted products have even hit retail, Shocker Toys’ owner Geoff Beckett has created some discomfort for everyone involved. In meeting with him at Toy Fair though, I found him to be a very amicable guy, enthusiastic to a fault about his work. On display were his own series of Indie Spotlight figures, including Scud : The Disposable Assassin, Shadowhawk, and Katchoo from Strangers in Paradise, as well as an in-progress sculpt of my personal favorite character ever, The Maxx. With any luck, I convinced him to include Maxx’s love interest, Julie, in the first set of figures and a Mr. Gone sometime in the future. While these items still have work to be done on them, it’s a good start to what can be a great companion piece to Marvel Toys’ stuff (especially since Maxx and Pitt once battled / teamed up). Shocker Toys also had their in-progress GWAR figures on display, and discussed their rights to make figures of both Metalocalypse and Venture Brothers figures. If they can pull it off, their licenses have more appeal to me than what Marvel Toys has announced. Time will tell if the figures match up to the hype.
Bif! Bang! Pow! was a complete surprise with their presentation of some purely beautiful Flash Gordon action figures, designed by photorealistic comic artist and Flash Gordon fanatic Alex Ross. Toy Fair marked the debut of this company and their products, well, anywhere, and they blew us away with these perfect figures, their rights to produce any character in the movie for future waves, and their 12” scale Big Lebowski figures. They’re still looking for more support, so if you want to see these Flash Gordon guys, speak out!
And speaking of 12” figures, we encountered the UK-based Product Enterprise also. The first question out of my mouth was about their Space Vixens line, which has been put ‘on hiatus’ for now, I was informed. Choking back tears, we explored the rest of their booth to see a heavy Dr. Who focus, including an awesome 12” figure of the Tom Baker Doctor Who, crazy-ugly scarf and all. In addition to that, they are producing a line of Daleks – or, Dalek-shaped figures as re-painted by a variety of designers, a la Bearbricks and Dunnys – including the urban artist who identifies himself as, coincidentally enough, ‘Dalek’. A desperately needed synergy between art and sci-fi has been reached. Okay, it’s always been there, but no one really talks about it. Character Options had their array of regular 6” Dr. Who figures on display also, representing characters from the newer incarnation of the show.
Finally, we wandered down the ‘urban arts’ / designer section of the Fair before we called it a day and encountered even more items from the growing world of artsy-cute plush things and cute-scary vinyl figures. Most inspiring was UNKL’s booth – a company that recently exploded onto the art toy scene with a staff of only four people, they’re a real inspiration to aspiring toy creators such as myself and my fellow photographer that day. Of course, it inspired talk of ‘let’s quit our jobs!’ and ‘damn the man!’ and ‘let’s go get a sandwich!’ for the rest of the day, but the truth is that they produce some clever little figures (check out their Unipos), and the booth chick was totally cute.
Of course, Toy Fair is only about 5% action figures, but you wouldn’t know it from how I go on about ‘em for the past two weeks. We were stopped by the excited owner of Potty Monkey, a professional pediatric urologist who’d written a book and created a doll to promote good toilet habits. He also offered us a banana, but we declined. That kind of inventive excitement and energy is what makes the fair really come alive. The appearance of the creepy-but-catchy Alien Creole Band bouncing through the main floor and playing music, taking our photos with Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, the life-sized Batman made of Legos, and the display of cleverly animated and assembled wooden kits were only a scant few of the great things that I wish we’d had more time to explore.
But there’s always next year, too.