Vinyl Art Toys Posts

John “Spanky” Stokes, the Stroll and a New Vinyl Art Database

The world of vinyl art toys is full of weird, wonderful creatures, some of them mass-produced, some limited, and some that are truly one of a kind. Thanks to John “Spanky” Stokes, hobbyDB has an influx of many of these characters, especially from the rare end of the spectrum.

spankystokes stokes

From every direction, Stoke’s studio is full of wonderful, weird creatures.

spankystokes stroll

Stroll, the lovable mascot of Spankystokes.

Stokes runs his own blog, Spankystokes.com, about vinyl art characters, with an emphasis on unusual custom jobs. “The philosophy behind my site, from the very beginning, has been to spread the word about the Designer Toy world,” he said.” To help promote artists who don’t have a voice and to just share how cool and unique all of these amazing creations are!”

While his website is frequently updated with news about cool new items, none of it is cataloged and cross-referenced to make it very searchable. That’s where hobbyDB comes in providing his site with a  handy database. So far the database covers Kidrobot and Superplastic but there are plans to expand it adding eventually every designer Spanky wrote about (which will then also come to hobbyDB!).

spankystokes custom“When I first got into the Designer Toy scene, I started my site as a personal blog and did not post much Designer Toy news on there,” he said. “But as soon as I became more and more fond of the scene I not only started to write about the things I found interesting but also dove into the customizing scene.”

spankystokes dunnyHis interest in such figures stems in part from his own custom work, too. The site’s mascot is Stroll, a cycloptic, furry yeti.  “I created monsters, really furry ones with gnarled teeth and drool. My dad liked the way they looked so much that I guess it crept into his subconscious,” Stokes said. “Dad named him Stroll, a combination of Stokes and Troll. Stroll has been immortalized by Kidrobot in Dunny form.

Stokes started customizing in 2007, going strong until 2014, when his daughter was born. “I really want to get back into it as I crave that creative outlet… but having recently moved, I am waiting to build a new studio so I can have a dedicated space – once again – to get back into the swing of things.” So for the past few years, his blog has been the focus of his hobby.

Luckily, since he had a website for those years, he has a pretty detailed record of his work, straight from the horse’s mouth but without the fog of time. His new database will really enhance his ability to keep it all organized.

spankystokes collectionHis work really revolves around creatures, kinda gruesome for the most part. “I have a lot of fun making those as I can manifest the cool monsters that I have been dreaming about since I was a young child. I always loved fantasy/sci-fi type things growing up, and played my fair share of AD&D along with Magic The Gathering, and on top of that – so many rad comic books and movies have inspired me as well.”

He started customizing with Kidrobot Dunny figures, mostly with decoration. His figures have become more complex and scratch-built ever since. “I start off, most of the time with a base platform… Dunny, Munny, MAD*L and everything in between, then build on top of that with a 2-part epoxy called Magic Sculpt,” he said. “I normally have some type of eyes involved and those are cast glass, so they find their way into the epoxy compound as well. Then I paint using acrylics along with airbrush vinyl paint. Lastly, I cover certain parts of my creations with faux-fur.”

spankystokes stroll variants

Stroll, the cycloptic yeti spokes character of many colors.

More recently, he has worked with resin casting so he can create limited runs of his creations instead of one-off figures. As his daughter gets older (she is five now), it’s likely he will find time and inspiration to get back into his studio and create. And when he does, expect to read about them at spankystokes.com!

As for his nickname, he got it in high school. “My offensive line coach though I looked like Spanky from ‘The Little Rascals’… and from that point forward, it’s followed me through all stages of life,” Stokes laughed. “Thirty-eight years old now… and everyone calls me Spanky.

spankystokes friends

Stokes has made a lot of friends in the vinyl art design world.

After a decade of running a Designer Toy blog and being involved with the scene in general, most artists, (“who I used to fanboy over”) are now his close friends. “I love having pieces by all of them in my collection as it reminds me of the great times we have all had… it’s also awesome to surround yourself with so many fantastic creations – I soak up this stuff like a creative sponge – looking around my office at all the unique creations really brings me joy! 

 

 

Interested in joining forces with hobbyDB to take charge of our collectible destiny? Learn more at our Wefunder profile.

The Joker is IT: Collecting Lovable Clowns in Pop Culture

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

pennywise jokerHey, collectors, do you know what time it is? It’s clown time! (Maniacal laugh). In all seriousness, and clowns are a serious subject, they’re kind of a big deal right now in pop culture. The second IT movie is doing big box office, as is the Clown Prince of Crime, aka Joker.

So with those two lovable jesters going at it (I haven’t seen either movie, so I assume they’re light-hearted comedies), why not look at some other clowns from pop culture. And since this is hobbyDB, we’re focusing on ones with collectibility. Also, Halloween is around the corner, and you might need a costume idea.

pennywise collectibles Stephen King’s original novel IT was actually a middling success with critics, and he even disavowed it to a degree. Pennywise seems innocent enough to the kids at first, which is the scary part. Nonetheless, it made for a scary TV movie adaptation in the early ‘90s and a downright horrifying two-part cinematic remake in the last few years. Both generations are represented in the collectible world.

Not to be outdone, the Joker has pestering Gotham City for so long he has become something of a sympathetic creature. Thanks to the fluidity of the DC timeline, the character has been interpreted numerous ways from relatively benign (Ceasar Romero) to comically psychotic (Jack Nicholson, Mark Hammill) to psychopathic (Heath Ledger) to, well, a tragic and misunderstood figure (Joaquin Phoenix). While the older versions of Joker have been well represented in collectible form, the latest one has not… yet.

joker collectiblesCould it be that the “R” rating of the new movie makes it not as useful for being turned into what are essentially toys such as Funko Pop figures? Well, consider that Ledger’s Joker was anything but kid-friendly (a lot of folks felt The Dark Knight should have come with the same rating) but is well represented in collectibles. Also, there is no shortage of Pennywise merchandise, and both IT movies were for grownups.

It might be that the passage of time was necessary for those two versions to become collectible. Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance has become so iconic that it has passed into the culture in general. And part one of IT came out two years ago, so the critical and box office success suggested collectors wanted more Pennywise.

Even Jared Leto’s much-maligned take on the character was worthy of some Pop love. But Pheonix’s performance has also come with critical acclaim (more so than the movie itself even). And early box office has been no joke. While we wait for the punchline, let’s look at some other pop culture clowns…

Seems Harmless Enough

clown krustyIf you grew up in the ’60s or ’70s in the Chicago area, you were treated to a morning of goofiness from Bozo. Other stations in other markets had weak imitations of him, but WGN Bozo was the real deal.

A younger generation grew up with Krusty the Clown as their makeup intensive morning entertainment. As a part of the Simpsons universe, we get to see him not only behind the scenes but in day-to-day life where he never removes his costume or gets out of character (aside from being a surly, bothered, chain-smoking pile of bitterness).

Even though he’s a throwaway character, The Clown With The Tearaway Face adds a bit of spooky fun to the Nightmare Before Christmas. But not too spooky.

Not to get into the politics or ethics of fast food and consumerism, but Ronald McDonald has been enticing kids into his restaurants for decades. Despite his gentle demeanor, artists and satirists have portrayed him in a scarier form, the weirdest being the heavy metal band Mac Sabbath. Seriously, check them out!

Speaking of Clowns Who Rock…

kiss insane clown posseLove’em or hate ‘em, the boys of Insane Clown Posse put on an intense show and have an even more intense following. Juggalos, their fans, are more invested in the whole circus act than the band itself.

Can we talk about KISS? As much as they wanted to be scary metal gods, their music was more of a loud, hard, pop sound and their mostly monochromatic outfits barely qualified as menacing. Don’t worry, though, we’re laughing with you, not at you.

killer klown funkoClown Schlock

No one would ever pretend Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a cinematic masterpiece. But it was a good, silly, modestly scary time at the cinema, and in the right frame of mind, buckets of fun.

Clown Time is Over

hot wheels clown carFive Nights at Freddy’s walks a weird line between entertainingly good fun and genuinely dark jump scares. In addition to the animatronic band gone awry, the cast includes Fruitpunch Clown who knows how to exploit evil lighting angles to maximum effect.

Regardless of whether clowns give you the giggles or nightmares, there are plenty more collectibles out there we just couldn’t fit in our clown car. Let us know some of your favorites in the comments!

The Loyal Subjects and hobbyDB team up!

Collectibles company The Loyal Subjects is our newest partner to open its kingdom doors and create a Brand Archive

loyal subjects night king

Founded in 2009 by Jonathan Cathey, The Loyal Subjects celebrates a decade of artistically crafting nuanced collectibles in the name of promoting culture, story-telling and, of course, fun.  

We’ll be working together and with TLS community to create a database detailing every TLS item ever produced. It will highlight the brand’s wide variety of licenses — from Aliens to WWE and all your favorite characters between.

loyal subjects slimerIn addition to the Archive, fans will be able to manage their own collection and wishlists, find out the prices of many of TLS’s retired items, showcase their collections to others and buy and sell. In fact adding items from the database to your collection, such as the four-foot fiberglass Raphael (TMNT) or the How to Train Your Dragon’s Human and Dragon bundle, is as easy as the click of a button. Working very closely with the TLS community, hobbyDB will update the database as new items are introduced. If you’re a huge TLS fan and want to get involved, just email us to let us know!

loyal subjects boneshakerAlso included is the newly launched 2019 SDCC exclusives. Among the 18 new convention items are figures dedicated to characters such as the Game of Thrones’ Night King, Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, as well as a commemorative Hot Wheels Bone Shaker.

loyal subjects how to train your dragon

Check out the TLS Archive here and let us know what you think!

loyal subjects stay puft

13 Advertising Spokes Characters Who Aren’t Just for Breakfast

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

We recently looked at collectibles connected to our favorite food mascots (cereal and otherwise), but there are lots of beloved Advertising Spokes Characters for non-edible markets, too.

The granddaddy of all spokes characters has to be Bibendum. You might know him as The Michelin Man (which is actually his official name in the U.S.). Even though he’s French, his name is a Latin approximation of “I drink nails.” Bib has been around since 1894 when tires were white or light gray.

bibendum pep boysAlso from the world of automotive service, Pep Boys decided they needed not one but three spokes brothers. Manny, Moe, and Jack have been around since 1921. They are based on the three company founders, who are not brothers and none of whom are named “Pep.”

A perfect example of target marketing, Bullseye the miniature bull terrier has been the spokes mutt for Target stores since 1999. There have been various stuffies and toys of this mutt, most of them presumably exclusive to those stores. 

bullseye geoffrey snoopyAnother famous store mascot hasn’t fared as well lately. Geoffrey the Giraffe was the spokes mammal for Toys “R” Us stores since their inception and was there til the end when the chain finally went belly up.

Snoopy is really just a cartoon character, but honestly, he’s probably as well known as a spokes pup for, well just about everything, including MetLife Insurance. He isn’t available as a true spokes collectible, but he is represented in countless toys, possibly more than any other comics character in history.

 

reddy kilowatt naugaElectricity shouldn’t be a hard thing to sell. You kind of need it for all sorts of things all day. But in the 1920s, electricity was still not the dominant source of power in U.S. homes, especially in rural areas. In fact, a lot of farmers were downright skeptical of it. Enter Reddy Kilowatt, the “electric utility ambassador.” Fun fact: By the 1970s, Reddy changed his message to one of energy conservation, not consumption. Another fun fact: He was once a member of the Grateful Dead. No, really!

Fake leather shouldn’t be a hard sell, either, but Naugahyde brought out Nauga, a spokes monster made of that very substance. His legacy has endured longer than the material has, and it was pretty indestructible.

alfred e neuman bazooka joeSeveral magazines have had spokes characters from “Cracked” (Sylvester P. Smyth) to “The New Yorker” (Eustace Tilly), but none reigned as supremely stupid as Alfred E. Neuman, spokes idiot for “MAD.” Sadly, “MAD”
is ending its print run soon, perhaps allowing Alfred to really focus on his next bid for the Presidency (one of these years, he has to win, right?)

Gum isn’t food, is it? I mean, you shouldn’t eat it. Did you know that’s how Bazooka Joe ended up losing his eye? Sadly, they never really explain it in the comics printed inside the wrappers. And they don’t ever clarify whether he actually owns a bazooka.

Joe Camel tagamet tommyMedicine isn’t food either, is it? Alka Seltzer is kind of the antidote for food if you think about it. In addition to a memorable jingle and soothing action shots of tablets fizzing, the brand had its own spokes guy, Speedy.

Cigarettes are definitely not food, right? And certainly not for kids. Never mind the Flintstones shilling Winston cigarettes in TV commercials in the early ’60s. Of course, the most egregious spokes dromedary was Joe Camel, who swears he wasn’t trying to lure kids to the cool, rebellious life. The backlash against Joe was so severe that not only were cuddly characters banned for tobacco marketing, pretty much all cigarette advertising and sports sponsorships were forbidden.

The greatest spokes organ of all time has to be the Tagamet Tommy. Yes, he’s an anthropomorphic stomach. Which begs so many questions, like does he have internal organs? We’re going to say “no.” 

Freddy FunkoOf course, a lot of the collectibles seen here are Funko products.  Their company spokes figure Freddy Funko has taken on a life of his own over the last twenty years. He started out as a large scale store display Wobbler, and has since appeared in more costumes than you can keep track of. A character created to sell figures of characters created to sell other things… no wonder King Freddy wears that crown.

What are your favorite non-food spokes characters and mascots? Let us know in the comments!

Dov Kelemer of DKE Toys Brings His Collective Interests to hobbyDB Advisory Council

Dov Kelemer DKE toysDov Kelemer, founder of DKE Toys, is the latest member of the hobbyDB Advisory Council. He comes from a unique perspective as not only a major action figure dealer, but also as a curator of custom and limited edition mashup figures. His creations include one-off mutations of familiar figures with unusual, often bizarre modifications as well as limited edition resin figures.

dke toys tatooine“DKE Toys started with Star Wars collectibles in the early 90s and still deal in them today,” said Dov. The business evolved into the wholesale distribution of designer vinyl toys by 2005. “We were the exclusive distributor for over 500 artists, brands, and designers. We sold the distribution arm of our business in 2016 to Disburst Ltd (www.disburst.com). Now we set up at 3 or 4 shows a year selling limited edition custom resin action figures.”

DKE toys2004 was when Dov considered a shift in his business model. “Star Wars was getting stale,” he said. “There was a lack of imagination and when I started to see vinyl toys made by artists I admired around 2004 it piqued my interest.”

Dov Kelemer Sarah Jo MarksAs a collector, he was fascinated by the Suckadelic line of custom vinyl art toys and action figures. “The Sucklord started the resin action figure medium in 2005 and I started with his first figure. I continue to this day with not only an archive of all of his work but with scores of other artists influenced by him.”

Like many in this industry, his interest started as a young collector. “I have vintage Star Wars figures from 1977. I have very little before that since that’s the genesis of the Star Wars universe.” There is also a creative energy derived from living near Hollywood with Sarah Jo Marks, originally his business partner, now also his wife. “We met in 2001, so she experienced the transformation with me. By 2005 the distribution company began and we got married that same year.”

dke toys vader projectIn addition to distributing and repping custom artists, Dov has several online presences that occupy his spare time and expand the brand. Spoonful of Star Wars and The Vader Project are two of them. Both are art shows that we curated. The Vader Project, in particular, was a way of introducing Star Wars fans to the artists we were working with in the designer toy business. We sent 100 artists 1/1 scale Darth Vader helmet replicas to paint, modify, and mash-up,” he said. “The show toured the world and ended up at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh before being auctioned off at Freemans.”

dke toys bootleg gpkAnother of his interests gets really specific. The Bootleg Garbage Pail Kids Project occupies additional time and headspace in the Dov universe. As someone who appreciates custom and original work, he curates the inventive and creative efforts in this area. “As with Star Wars before, I grew tired of the newer products Topps was putting out,” he said. “There was always more interesting content when artists and creators were just creating without permission and bypassing the licensing and approval processes. These releases tended to be very handmade or homemade and produced in very small quantities for a very short time”

There is also a tendency for art to imitate life and vice versa. Dov notes, “I also find it fascinating to witness and document how pop culture has influenced the actual culture. I love how GPK themes just pop up in life. Right now it seems to be most prevalent in the tattoo scene. I have business cards from tattoo artists in Argentina for example who use GPK themes to promote themselves.”

dke toys star warsdke toys akbarDKE Toys is always up for checking out new artists in vinyl or plastic. If you’re such an artist, he would love to hear from you. “Just get in touch. I respond to all serious emails and phone calls and our info is readily available,” said Dov. DKE is willing to distribute items that are produced in certain quantities. Or, if they are making hand made action figures we evaluate if that was a good fit for a convention release and discuss what works best for us.”

With all this unique experience, Dov Kelemer is a welcome addition to the hobbyDB Advisory Council.