Tag Archives: art toys

Of Mystery Boxes, Laserpunks, and Kismet…

A few months ago my buddy Ed over at AEIOU & Sometimes Why tipped me off to a mystery box swap that he was planning for this summer.  Basically, he filled a box full of miscellaneous fun stuff (movies, toys, and ephemera) and a host toy (a Dracula Mego figure that also travels around with the box.)  The idea is to send the box out across the country to various folks who sign up who can take whatever they want from the box and then add more before sending it on to the next recipient.  I’ve participated in a couple of fun experiments like this over the last decade (once while hosting Spock and another time hosting King Kong), though this time there would be the added excitement of getting to peruse a box full of free mystery items as well as getting a chance to donate some cool stuff that I’ve had lying around gathering dust that could find much better homes.

The box arrived on my doorstep this past week and my girlfriend Jaime and I had a blast fishing through the box.  There were a handful of items that peaked our interest including a rad Stylophone pocket synthesizer that Jaime has been fawning over, a couple movies and a pack of recent Garbage Pail Kids.  But my eyes lit up when I spotted something in the box that I’ve wanted to get my hands on for awhile but had been putting off because there never seemed to be enough funds to justify.  Tucked underneath a couple Halloween plush dolls and a Mad Libs book was a small package of some really cool independent resin art toys from France called P.U.N.K.S. by Laserpunk Toys!

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I first found out about these little M.A.S.K.-inspired resin art toys back at the end of 2013 on Facebook.  Somehow or another I stumbled upon their FB page and instantly fell in love with the concept, design and execution of these 3″ figures.  I’ve seen a lot of folks making really cool art toys paying homage to the scale and design of the Masters of the Universe, Transformers, M.U.S.C.L.E. and G.I. Joe lines, but I had yet to see anyone tackling the M.A.S.K. aesthetic.

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I spent a good year lusting after these figures while I waited for Laserpunks to finish their fundraising campaign and prep them for sale, but was a little bummed when they were released because they were out of my price range for impulse buys.  They retailed for $40 + international shipping which is completely understandable when you consider they’re independently produced hand crafted resin figures.  That process isn’t cheap, and they even manged to squeeze in 5 points of articulation and accessories, which for resin is difficult.  Still, I put these on the virtual wishlist and shuffled them to the back of my mind.

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So when I saw the package of P.U.N.K.S. in the mystery swap box my heart skipped a beat.  A case of total kismet!  I’m not sure exactly who put these little fellas in the box (though I have a good idea from looking over the list of folks who have signed up to host the swap), but I’m eternally grateful and want to assure them they found a good home and will be displayed along side the handful of M.A.S.K. toys I have here at Branded HQ.

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Hopefully the items that Jaime and I added to the box will find a new home and make someone else do a double take.  If you curious to learn more about the Laserpunk P.U.N.K.S. figures, it looks like they’re still for sale over at their site.  There’s a very fun commercial for the toys as well the definitely evokes that 80s era merchandising feel!

Becoming a Glyos System Addict!

I mentioned recently that I tend not to review much modern stuff that influenced by the 80s era stuff that I loved growing up.  Part of this is because of how I feel about the current 80s regurgitation, but another part is more about spending.  I just don’t buy all that many toys or doodads because the wife and I have no idea where to put this stuff.  We have a bunch of stuff as it is and we hesitate to keep adding to the pile for fear that we’ll become buried in some sort of cool-stuff avalanche.  So when we do pick something up we try to be pretty judicious about what we buy.  Following this train of thought I’ve been limiting a lot of my toy purchases to stuff that is small, literally.  Blind pack Lego minifigs, minimates, the various tiny “Heroes” figures from Hasbro, Hotwheels, etc.  It’s more about display than playability at my age anyway, so why not try to condense the size of a collection with 1.5″ figures instead of the more normal 3.75″-8″ lines.

Then there is the world of independent and small run toys, stuff like vinyl figures from outlets like Kid Robot and a million other indie molders, casters, and painters that work with everything from resin and vinyl to word and PVC.  There’s all sorts of awesome stuff out there, but I’ve kept myself pretty sheltered from it because they’re typically some pretty darn expensive art toys.  I mean if I’m grumbling in the toy aisles of my local Target because G.I. Joe figures are at the crazy inflated price of almost $10 a figure, then you know I won’t be jumping at the chance to pick up independent toys at $40-$100 apiece (not that I don’t want to.)  I’m not saying that there aren’t any cheaper options for these sorts of art toys, I’ve just been hit with sticker-shock so often that I tend to filter them out.

Well, that changed recently after Phillip Reed over at Battlegrip.com spent an entire week looking at a particular independent toy-line.  It’s called the Glyos System and is produced by a group called Onell Design.  I’m not 100% versed in the fiction, but the general idea is that these are a set of futuristic humanoids and robots in space.  The figures range in size from 1.5″ to around 3″ tall and are all comprised of modular pieces of hand painted PVC.  So this system is combining the concept of the action figure with that of a building block set like Lego bricks, that encourages customization…

What really grabbed me at first was the overall design aesthetic of the toys, in particular the color schemes and the odd juxtaposition of simplicity and complex design.  I also loved the design of the various character head sculpts, especially on this little orange guy they call Pheyden (specifically this one is known as the Gears Edge Pheyden.)  The dome shape to the helmet with the skull accents is really cool…

    

I think this design aesthetic is so powerful because it has been expertly culled from all sorts of existing pop culture while retaining a simplicity that completely separates itself from its many influences.  When I look at these figures I can see aspects of films, videogames and cartoons like Robocop, Tron, Alien & Aliens, Metroid, Megaman, Section Z, Robotech (in particular the series three Invid Invasion episodes), Inhumanoids, and the Centurians just to name a few.  At the same time, there isn’t enough of any one of these homages that the Glyos System still feels completely like its own unique design.  That’s a really tough thing to accomplish.

    

There’s also a lot of aspects to these figures that I really dig that are playing off of some of the more modern toy designs like the chibi, or super deformed body design; large hands and feet with slightly disproportionate leg and arm lengths.  Also, I find it very interesting to see this sort of modularity in an action figure line.  Sure, there were a bunch of original Star Wars and He-Man figures that you could pop the heads and arms off of and switch around, but not really since the Micronauts have we seen this sort of concept.  For awhile in the early to mid 2000s there were those Stikfa figures, but their modularity was more about articulation than customization.  I’m sure there are some action figure lines I’m forgetting, but I still think this is a rare concept for the genre.

Though this might be a little greedy and crass, I have to say that what ultimately won me over to buying a bunch of these figures is the really low price point.  There are a handful of older legacy figures in the Onell Design shop that are as low as $4 a piece.  Considering that these are hand cast, assembled and painted, that’s a steal.  Even the newer figures range from $6-$10, which is still more than reasonable when compared to other independent toys.

    

    

What’s also really cool is that this system has infected the indie toy market to such an extent that there are a lot of other people making attachments and figures that are completely interchangeable with the originals.  Onell Design has a sister site called Callgrim that has their own variations on the system that add a whole new level to the collection.  I also love that there are some standard “characters” too; Onell has a couple of main characters, Pheyden and Exellis, Callgrim has their own, The Order (seen below as a standard figure with the robotic blank faceplate) and Callgrim (which has the more hockey mask/skull influenced faceplate.)

    

Callgrim has also taken the modularity to a whole new level by sculpting some of the pieces to be really multi-purpose.  he set I picked up is based around the character called the Warp Dome Terra Mite…

…that figure’s head can be positioned in two ways, one like above that makes it come off as an android sort of robot, or if you twist it around it becomes a variation on the Callgrim faceplate, only a bit more alien.  These head pieces also double for a very cool-looking base piece for a backpack or jet pack…

All in all, though I’m still really new to these toys, I’m becoming addicted to them.  I missed out on the last rollout of figures, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled on the Onell Design and Callgrim blogs for any information on new stuff.  I feel like I’m 8 years-old again!