Tag Archives: Toys

OMFG! Series 2 kickstarter is live!

It’s gonna be a hectic week behind the scenes at Branded this week what with the holiday coming up and some boring day to day stuff.  Posting might be a little light, but I did want to take a second and point out that the Kickstarter campaign for the 2nd series of the OMFG! minifigures has begun

If you’ll remember from a few months ago, I fell in love with this project and it’s been a while as the 2nd series design were voted on, sculpted, and are now ready for production.  This second batch looks pretty darn fun, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the Puke Knight and Shirtle figures in particular.  The below image is a rough of what the back of the packing art should look like (art by Redjarojam from the October Toys forum)…

Below you can get a glimpse of the final sculpts for the five new figures in series 2…

As before, the actual production figures will be available in the standard M.U.S.C.L.E.-influenced flesh colorway, but you can also get your hands on an exclusive black set via Kickstarter.  I’ve already heard rumblings about some other exclusive colorways being considered as exclusives for different online shops, much like we saw with the first series.  The goal that needs to be met in the next 30 odd days is $12,000, but considering it’s already past $3k as I’m typing this I think the funding will be successful…

Branded in the 80s Headquarters, or creating the clubhouse I never had as a kid

I was prompted by Andrew Jones to document my recent room renervations in a conversation on twitter.  If you have a second, check out his site as he has a bunch of cool stuff up there…

A few weeks ago I’d wanted to go through my set of Topps Goonies trading cards (I’d wanted to take a closer look at the card with Sloth having his prosthetics applied for some reason), and had a hell of a time finding them.  Though I’d managed over the years to put my vast collection of sticker cards in binder pages, I had a ton of card sets that were literally laying all over in our second bedroom/office.  After an annoying search I finally found them, and then promptly went out and secured enough trading card pages to put everything I had in binders.  This was the first sign that I’ve been denying my problem with ephemera organizing, and that I needed to do something about it before the wife decided to call TLC and report me to Hoarders.

The second sign was when a friend mentioned that they wanted to see the Branded archive and to get a feel for the real location where this site is more or less broadcast out of.  Though we have a bunch of friends and family that come over to our place, none of them are all that interested in my nostalgic hobbies, so our second room has always been cluttered and a general mess.  The idea that I had some sort of archive for my collection was a little hilarious, at least an organized one.  Though I got a chuckle out of it, pretty soon I had to backtrack and ask myself why I wasn’t more on top of things with the various stuff I’ve been collecting and writing about all these years.  That weekend the wife and I took on the monumental task of sifting through every single piece of paper and plastic in that room (along with the “collection annex stashes” that littered the rest of our place) so that we could get this stuff properly organized.  The first step was tackling the dreaded closet.  That thing was packed floor to ceiling with 10 years worth of stuff, not all of it wanted or needed, and it took the better part of two days to get it all sorted, cleaned, and put into keep, toss and donate piles.  Along the way we found some things that we had completely forgotten we owned like a veritable arsenal of ninja-esque weaponry…

I mean, everyone has a set of batarangs, shuriken, nunchucks, and a couple samurai swords in their closet, right?  Hell, we were a bo-staff and a pair of sai away from outfitting the Ninja Turtles.  Anyway, though it seemed like it took forever, we finally managed to get it all done, and had two carloads of stuff to take over to the Goodwill.

If you’re wondering, yes we kept the weapons.  For one, I’m not sure if you can actually donate them to the Goodwill, and for another, well, you never know when Shredder and the Foot Clan is going to break into your home looking for the secret of the ooze or something.  When all was said and done we’d given away over hundred books, 30lbs of clothes, and a bunch of those white elephant-y gifts that you get from relatives, except they were serious when they handed them to us.  Though we appreciated the thought, we weren’t sure we were ever going to really find a use for the dragon in a glass ball with the strobe light attachment.  Trust me, it sounds way cooler than it actually was.

All of this work left us with a second bedroom that was feeling rather sparse now.  It used to do double duty housing half our library of books as well as our computer and my cartoon collection, but now most of the books were in the other room.  It was neat but sort of sad now…

Pretty much the only stuff on the walls were a couple of framed animation cels and my collection of 25th anniversary G.I. Joe figures.  The wife never uses the computer, so she basically turned the room over to me to do with as I pleased.  Immediately I began scheming, trying to figure out how I could convert the room into the cockpit of an AT-ST from Star Wars so that I could finally live out my dream of the perfect clubhouse I never had as a kid.  By the by, would you call the area in the AT-ST “head” a cockpit?  Anyway, since that was a dream that would never materialize (I don’t have access to the room from above anyway), I decided to instead stick with the idea of a clubhouse and proceeded to figure out a way that I could make this room feel like the 8 year-old me had decorated it.  The first thing I needed was to find the proper wall art!

  

It was hard narrowing it down as far as movie posters went, but I ended up picking a bunch of flicks that meant a lot to me growing up.  Some of these are replicas of posters that adorned my walls as a kid (Tales From the Darkside was one I loved), and others are for flicks that I’ve watched so many times I’ve just about memorized the scripts (UHF and Rad.)  These were all sized to 11×17 so that I could maximize the space by the way.  Not pictured are mini posters for The Lost Boys, The Monster Squad, and the Star Wars trilogy.  I didn’t just want to stick to movie posters though, and I was wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to represent some of these cherished movies from youth.  Then, last week, TL from Flashlights are Something to Eat pointed to a badass miniposter/prop from The Karate Kid featuring the tournament announcement as seen in the Cobra Kai dojo.  A geeky designer had recreated the poster pretty darn well and is offering the digital image of the poster for free on his site.  A quick trip to Kinkos, two bucks and a little white lie about this being a real tournament announcement later and I had my own copy for the Branded HQ wall!

  

I also really wanted to represent the Goonies, but again, not particularly with another poster.  I liked the idea of procuring some replica props from the film when I came across this awesome map on eBay!  Not only does it look great (aside from the Photoshop-y burnt edges), but it was only $10 and I am certainly on a budget with this clubhouse remodel.  Today I even managed to find some pretty authentic looking replicas of the map doubloon and the copper bones key as well.  I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll fit inside the frame I bought for the map…

When attempting to narrow down the number of posters I wanted to hang, there were a lot of runners up that I still really wanted to hang, but just didn’t have the room.  On a recent trip to Target though, I found a solution to this problem in super cheap decent looking 4×6 inch frames.  So another trip to Kinkos, and 4 bucks (plus $6 more for the frames) later I have a bunch of these to put up as well (I posed them with Brad Turner from M.A.S.K. for scale)…

I also framed a few more animation cels, some other original art and a couple prints.  I think I’ve done a pretty good job of capturing most of the nostalgic highlights, from toys and cartoons, to TV, Flims, and even stuff like the Garbage Pail Kids…

  

I even managed to pull in all of my favorite horror and nostalgia DVDs, as well as keeping a small bookcase just for my ridiculous Choose Your Own Adventure-style and novelization paperback collection.  Though I still have a few more odds and ends to frame and hang, I’ve more or less created an official Branded HQ/Clubhouse.  The last thing the room needed, in a “really tying it together” sort of way, was a lamp.  Wouldn’t you know it, Target had this brand new beauty on the shelf this week…

Now I can sit back and write in an environment exclusively designed to keep me Branded in the 80s.  Here’s to hoping I don’t spent all that time with a glazed look on my face just starring at the walls though…

Cartoon Commentary, taking a closer look at King Gorneesh from the Ewoks…

I’ve been on a kick lately going through my collection of ephemera and animation cels looking for my favorite stuff to pull out and frame.  I recently converted our office into the true Branded HQ and archive, and for the first time in 6 years there’s actually stuff on the walls besides action figures.  While sifting through my collection of cartoon cels, I came across this one of Gorneesh, King of the Duloks from the Ewoks cartoon, circa 1985…

I’m a pretty big fan of the design of these bumbling villains in the series.  There’s something about how they visually spar with the shorter, stubbier design of the Ewoks that really works for me. They’re taller, lanky, and much more slimy in appearance, yet they feel like they inhabit the same world I guess, specifically in the cartoon series (I have a hard time imagining them in the live action Star Wars world without them coming off like the Gungans from the prequels.)  Actually, now that I think about it, the Duloks were a sign of things to come in the overall Star Wars universe, design-wise, but I guess I can forgive a lot of their cartooniness when they’re in an actual cartoon.  Hell, there’s an episode of the series where the Duloks big scheme is to steal the fabled Ewok soap so they can take a bath and get rid of their ever present fly infestation!  Maybe it’s hypocritical of me, and I can accept that, though I think there’s a possibility of them being pulled off less like Jar Jar, and more like the characters in say Jabba’s Palace from Jedi if handled by the right creative team.  Hell, the Ewoks don’t come off nearly as cartoon-y in ROTJ as the Gungans so in TPM.

In particular, with King Gorneesh, I love the animal bone armor he was given, and think that the vertebrae headpiece doubling as a Mohawk was a brilliant flourish.  I also love that one of his ears has been scarred, along with his eye; makes the character design seem really imposing, even though he was sort of goofy in the cartoon.

 

I also loved the dark, dank, swamp the Duloks called home.  Again, it’s in drastic contrast to the Ewok’s village in the trees, and reminds me of the Legion of Doom’s hideout in the Super Friends cartoon

 

All in all, whenever I think about the Ewoks series, the first thing that comes to mind is King Gorneesh, as the Duloks were the most striking addition to the mythology that the cartoon introduced.  I remember seeing these Kenner figures on the pegs before I got a chance to see the cartoon and was in awe of a Star Wars villain I’d never been introduced to before.  It’s made the acquisition of the animation cel above one of my favorites too.

Now, if only the animated series would get a proper release on DVD instead of the horrible edit that already exists, I’d be a truly happy Ewoks fan…

The Cannonade, and a contest reminder…

Just wanted to put up a quick update to remind folks that there is still one more day to enter my pop culture Hot Wheels contest!  Contest closes at Midnight tomorrow, 5/31/2012.  Oh, and I broke down and totally bought a vintage 1981 Hot Wheels Cannonade.  This was one of my favorites back in the day…

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Tiny car realization and a CONTEST!

So apparently I collect die-cast vehicles.  If someone had asked me a week ago if I collected Hot Wheels I could have easily said “no” without any hesitation.  There’s no malice in that statement either; it’s not that I dislike these little die-cast metal vehicles.  I just never thought of myself as a connoisseur of the medium I guess.  I know that I had a handful of cars as a kid, but by and large I was an action figure guy and whenever I found myself in a toy store, I was never drawn to that aisle.  I’m not even sure where I came across the handful of cars and trucks I did have, though if I had to bet I’d say they were most likely stocking stuffers.

Over the past couple of years I’ve found myself picking up a Hot Wheels car here and there, mostly due to some awesome pop culture vehicles popping up unexpectedly on the pegs.  I happened to see an Ecto-1 Ghostbusters ambulance one day in Toys ‘R Us and thought to myself, “Neat, wouldn’t it be cool if a few more die-cast cars like this started showing up?!?”  Within six months I was alerted to the fact that the Back to the Future DeLorean was released, and then shortly after the A-Team van.  At that point I was downright craving more miniature pop culture rides, and even though I found myself gravitating to the Hot Wheels section more and more it always seemed like a pretty fruitless endeavor.  There just weren’t enough of these to really keep my interest in continuing the search…

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But then here and there I’d find something that caught my eye.  Whether it was some of the Tron Legacy vehicles, or a retro Hot Wheels Hot Ones release (like Spoiler Sport) that reminded me of a very similar Incredible Hulk-themed version of the car I had as a kid, I couldn’t help myself and before I knew it I was checking out at the register with two or three cars…

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Shortly after Halloween was over last year I stumbled upon a set of Monster Cereal branded cars, which I felt obligated to own as I don’t have any MC merch and this was a fine way of keeping that Halloween-y feeling alive for another week or so.  Honestly though, even at this point I didn’t consider myself a collector of little toy cars.  But after picking up a slightly expensive new Hot Wheels K.I.T.T. (I didn’t want to wait the eternity it seems for this little guy to hit the pegs), and splurging on a few more of the retro Hot Ones cars last week I think I now have to reconsider my stance on collecting.

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I think the final nail in the coffin is that I found myself scouring Hot Wheels wikis and eBay looking for specific cars I had as a kid.  After placing a bid on one of them (keeping my fingers crossed) I think it’s pretty clear that I’ve passed a line of demarcation.  I apparently collect Hot Wheels.

So, in honor of this realization, I thought it would be fun to do a giveaway of some of the extra Hot Wheels pop culture cars I’ve picked up over the last year.  I have two sets to give away, one featuring the 2010 Ecto-1, the 2011 Back to the Future Time Machine, and the 2011 A-Team van, and a second with just has the A-Team van and the BTTF Time Machine.  So what do you have to do to win one of these sets?  Well, you can send me an e-mail with the subject line “Pop Culture Hot Wheels” and list your favorite Hot Wheels toy or experience.  Be sure to include your name and mailing address.  I’ll be picking the winners at Midnight on Thursday, May 31st, 2012.  Good luck!

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**UPDATE**  Consider the giveaway pot sweetened!  I found two 2012 Knight Rider K.I.T.T. Hot Wheels today, so I’m adding one to each prize pack!

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Now, I’m just going to sit back and hope that there will be a Hot Wheels release of some of my other favorite vehicles soon (including the General Lee, Airwolf, and Street Hawk)…

OMFG! voting for series 2, and the new S.L.U.G. minifigs!

Of all the toy projects I’ve come into contact with this past year, OMFG! (Outlandish Mini Figure Guys) has to be one of the coolest.  Not only is it independent and artist driven, but riffs on some of the cool toy lines from the 80s like M.U.S.C.L.E.s, Battle Beasts, and Monster in my Pocket.  I’ve written about series one before, but I wanted to make a note that voting has just begun for the second series.  You can participate by hopping over to the October Toys forums, registering and voting for 5 of the 461 new designs for series 2.

I’m pretty excited to see this project moving forward, so much so that I’ve thrown a couple of my own designs in the ring, Boombox (#55) and Killscreen (#57).  Just saying, my wife would kill for a Boombox figure.  Regardless if you dig my designs, if you have a moment, head on over and check out the other entries.  There’s a whole range of stuff, and there is some really killer ones in there.  I know I’m partial to the Puke Knight (#357), Thatman (#429), and Deadbeet (#144)…

  

Also, to tide us minifig collectors over until the 2nd series of the OMFG! get picked and hopefully produced, Jakks Pacific has just released a line of really neat collectable Zombie Minifigs called S.L.U.G.s (Scary Little Ugly Guys)…

Series one has just been released and so far there are 16 different little zombie figures available (though I’ve heard that there are 99 in the series.)  They come in packs of 3 (where you can see the figures you’re getting), as well as a larger 12-pack that comes in a really cool looking coffin…

    

In order to get all 16 you’ll either have to buy all four different 3 packs and the 12 pack coffin (there are 4 figures only in the 3-packs, and 4 exclusive to the coffin set), or hope you can find someone willing to trade their doubles.  The 3-packs are $4, and the 12-Pack coffin was $10.  As far as the quality of the concepts and sculpts, this set is pretty good.  There are a few duds in the set that either don’t really read as zombies (the boxer), don’t stand well (King Tut) or are kind of boring (again, boxer), but most of the figures are pretty darn fun.  My favorites have to be Rigamortis Lourdes, the cheerleading zombie (with severed head pom poms), Neil Armgone, the zombie astronaut, and the clever homage to Daniel from the Karate Kid, The Corroding Kid (who has had his leg swept but good.)

   

I’m sure these will pop up in a few stores, but right now I’ve only seen them at my local Toys R Us.  Unlike the Trash Pack, all these new minifigs are really doing a great job of riffing on the whole M.U.S.C.L.E. and Monster in my Pocket toy lines.  What a great time to be collecting toys again!

OMFG! is pretty darn rad!

As a kid I completely missed out on the whole M.U.S.C.L.E. men craze as I was concentrating all my playtime and allowance money on Garbage Pail Kids stickers and G.I. Joe & Transformers figures.  It’s not that I wasn’t aware of them, or how cool the little rubber guys looked packaged in their clear trashcans and bright blue blister cards; it’s just that I was spread a bit thin collecting-wise.  “A kid can’t have everything…”, is a statement I heard my mom say a lot at the time.  So I satiated my young mini-figure cravings with Transformers Decoys, Smurfs, figural erasers, and the old Blackstar demon or Trobit.

Years later, after the majority of my toy collecting cravings have more or less subsided, I find that the one thing that I can’t bring myself to stop collecting are little mini-figures.  Whether it’s Hasbro’s mini Heroes lines (aka the Star Wars, Transformers, and G.I. Joe chub figures), vending machine toys (like Little Homies), or Lego Minifigs, I just can’t help myself if I find something particularly cool.  This past June I stumbled across the October Toys OMFG! (Outlandish Mini Figure Guys) project on Kickstarter and I was immediately hooked on the idea.  A bunch of artists and sculptors in the October Toys forum came together to hash out some ideas for a line of mini-figures riffing off of the nostalgia for old toy lines like Battle Beasts, M.U.S.C.L.E.s, and Monster In My Pocket.  Enough folks backed the project for it to be successfully funded, which was cool, but then began the wait for the figures to actually be produced…

I finally received my two initial sets from the Kickstarter project last month, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome!

    

There are five figures in this first series, Multiskull, King Castor, The Phantom Shithouse, Crawdad Kid, and Stroll, all of which have some excellent sculpting and detail work.  Again, though I never had any M.U.S.C.L.E.s growing up, I’ve seen enough of them to know that they weren’t rendered in this much detail.  The main set comes in a “flesh” colored PVC, but there was also a Kickstarter exclusive black set that I picked up as well.  The wife called dibs on King Castor and Stroll, but she doesn’t have any of the nostalgia or fondness for the pink fleshy figures, so black seemed the way to go.

Part of the Kickstarter campaign was the ability to help fund at a high level to secure a thousand minifigs in your very own color-way.  This was a great idea to get other small toy companies and stores in on the fun with the ability to sell exclusive color variants of the figures as an incentive for investing in the project.  There were four groups that chose this option resulting in a few exclusive colors including a mustard yellow (University of Muscle), a lime green (Little Rubber Guys), a true blue (Rotofugi), and a lighter “Glyos” blue (Onell Design).  There was also a sixth exclusive color-way/artist-proof, hot pink, that was split between the artists and sculptors that worked on the project.

Before Christmas, while waiting for the base and Kickstarter sets to be shipped, I noticed that the Onell Design light blue color-way was available for purchase.  Since I was champing at the bit to get my hands on these, I went ahead and splurged on this variant set.  Besides, I thought it would be fun to give a couple of the figures to my nephews for the holiday.  The Onell variants were my first taste of OMFG!, and I had a sneaking suspicion that even after I received the pink and black that it wouldn’t be my last.

Ripping open the light blue set I realized that the variant color-ways that the various companies chose didn’t seem to have too much thought behind them at first blush.  Granted, no one color would easily represent the figures, so this is hardly a complaint, just an observation.  Onell chose the light blue as it’s the first color they used when creating their own toys a while back, but for this set it really doesn’t fit with the design of the actual figures.  King Castor looks the best, as it has a cold icy feel that works decently with stones that make up the figure, and an argument can be made for Stroll being a “yeti” variation, but it’s a little off.  The flesh being an homage to M.U.S.C.L.E.s makes sense, but again it doesn’t really fit any of the figures.  The black exclusives, though cool, are almost too dark to really fully appreciate the detailed sculpting, and I began to wonder why each variant color was chosen.

After receiving the two additional sets from October Toys, it occurred to me that there might be some thought behind these choices after all.  The logo design of the series, the Rolling Stones-esque open mouth and tongue design is comprised of five colors (green teeth, pink tongue, yellow lettering, blue lips, and black outlines and fill in the mouth.)  Could it be that the colors were chosen to reflect the overall scheme of the packaging?  What with the two blues (the lips being offset by the blue of the background) and the two pinks (the tongue and the OMFG banner below the title), all of these colors were present and accounted for.  Could be a coincidence, but I thought it was interesting to point out.

Though I thought I would stop at the three sets, I soon found that I was really loving all the color choices (whether they made design sense or not), and I ended up picking up the green set, as well as the yellow and artist proof exclusive hot pink of the Multiskull figure (which is my favorite of the bunch.)  I even snagged a custom painted version of Multiskull that the artist (Charles Marsh) put up for sale a couple of weeks ago.  I had really wanted a version of the figure in white or grey, the traditional skull colors, and managed to score the NightFright custom which fills this gap in my collection quite nicely.  He even glows in the dark!

All in all I really love these figures and I can’t even being to put into words would cool it’s been to watch this project from design to fruition.  Seeing an independent artistic community come together for a project like this is rare, and seeing it come out so well done is even rarer.  October Toys and their forum are doing the initial prep work on a second series, and submissions for figures ideas are still open until the 29th of this month.  I have a few designs submitted (Boombox, Miss Pucker, and Killscreen), but there are all sorts of cool figures in the forum thread that would make an awesome second series for the OMFG! line.  Can’t wait to see how far the community will take this thing!

He came, he saw, he podcasted, He-Man.

Recently the kind folks over at The Nerd Lunch podcast invited me back on the show to geek out on some more of our favorite topics.  The show features NL alums CT and Jeeg, as well as Paxton from Cavalcade of Awesome, and once again I had a blast!

We spend the episode discussing the classic Masters of the Universe toy line from Mattel.  From our first memories of the toys to how we feel about them almost 30 years later.  If you want to hear me wax nostalgic on MOTU, then head on over to Nerd Lunch and give the episode a listen.  You can also find their show on iTunes.

Some more Halloween-y toys on the pegs…

This past weekend I ended up hitting a few stores around town looking for some new toys that I’d hoped were out on the pegs.  Though I didn’t find what I was looking for (the new wave of Real Ghostbusters Minimates and the new G.I. Joe’s, in particular the Steel Brigade figure which is an updated version of the late 80s customizable mail-away figure), I did find some fun stuff and it was all season appropriate!  Though the new RG figures weren’t out yet, there was a second wave of the Universal Monster minimates that included variations on Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Bride.  I settled on a two pack that featured black and white versions of the monster and Dracula…

Again, I’m not a huge fan of the Minimates design, but I’m always a sucker for any Frankenstein related toys…

I was also looking for the new wave of Lego blind pack minifigs even though this is the first series that doesn’t feature a monster character.  While looking for them I stumbled upon another series of blind pack figures, this time from Playmobil, called Fi?ures.  Though I don’t buy that many Playmobil sets, I do have to admit that their design aesthetic is very interesting.  While Lego is known for their great quality and general wholesome playset themes, Playmobil has always been a little more progressive in their tone and designs.  Where else can you find bearded Hell’s Angel bikers, devils, and a whole series based on zombie pirates?  So I was excited when I saw that there were some crazy figures available in their first series of blind pack figures.  In particular I wanted to get my hands on their Grim Reaper and Executioner figures…

Luckily these figures are large enough, and their accessories specific enough, that you can feel them through the bags, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find the ones you’re looking for.  I did seem a little weird molesting all the bags while a bunch of parents strolled by wondering what I was doing.

    

These Playmobil Fi?ures are kind of strange in that they’ve separated the figures into girls and boys figures, but then again I guess if I were a girl and wanted a princess figure it would suck to continuously get the Grim Reaper instead.  Aside form these two guys above, there is also a Mummy figure and a Witch in the girl’s series that’re pretty cool.  At $3.50 a pop though, they’re a little pricey, so make sure you feel for the figures before you buy (no matter what kinds of looks concerned parents give you…)

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!