Busy couple of weeks, eh.
Fundays. HQ grand opening. NYCC. Lots of stuff to talk about. But with FB, IG, Reddit and the Forums, I’m pretty sure all of the above has been covered. I could rant about Pennywise chase, I suppose, but I can’t without calling a lot of people stupid. I’ll just leave it at this. It doesn’t look that great, and if they hadn’t cancelled it most of the people clamoring for one would have bitched that it was just a lousy repaint.
Now they can’t wait to spend $150 for one.
See. Can’t do it.
Let’s talk about customs instead. I’ll start.
I like customs. Most of the time. I like well done, creative customs, by which I mean originality, clean paint and sculpting, and likeability. One of my favorite Funko pieces is a custom Van Gogh that I bought from a woman on Etsy. She did a number of these Vinnies and I feel like a schmuck for not remembering her name. The reason I like it so much is that Van Gogh is my favorite painter (one of the few that I acutally like), and that she did it in a very Van Gogh kind of way, showing all the brushstrokes. Per my request, mine has both ears intact. It’s an original piece, done very well. Brilliant.
However, that can’t be said for all customs. Some are clearly done by people trying to do their best and don’t have the skills to do it best. Or even second best. Or at all. I don’t comment on them when they’re posted because most of these tend to be labors of love and I’m not so dickish as to rain on their parades. Others are clearly derivative of pieces the customizer has seen and decide to co-opt. Like the pointless parade of patina pops that used to clog my FB feed, or the Han Solo (and Freddy) in carbonite ‘editions’. I particularly enjoyed one of the carbonites getting upset because someone ‘stole’ his idea. Really, the same idea from the movie that’s been done with Dunnys, Androids, and god knows how many other toys is your concept? Big talk to say somebody owes you for that one. Get over yourself.
I sometimes make my own customs. Mostly headswaps with very little painting or sculpting needed. I do this because I want my work to look like production pieces. Sort of a do it right or not at all mentality. Put that kind of pressure on yourself and pretty soon you’ll be wondering what Stan Lee’s head would look like on Spiderman’s body, too.
(For the record, it looks pretty good and is part of my ‘Creator Dorbz Series’. I’ve done Captain Jack Kirby and Bob Kane Batman as well. Since only a handful of creators are known and recognized, I think I have one more to do and then I’m done. It’ll be a very rare and hard to find series of figures. No boxes though. I doubt I’ll make my money back.)
What I’ve done, I’ve done for me and my own amusement. Like the Star Trek/Star Wars Mashups featuring Captain Ackbar. Some folks thought it was real (a custom press release can do that) and didn’t like it. I thought it was funny. A monkey lawyer named Scopes. Yeah, that’s a joke for anyone that knows their science history. The Dude Stan Lee. Again, it makes me smile (and it bobbles). Ghost Rider Freddy, Grumpkin, Halloween Skull Pez, 13 Stan Lee, and The Pin Monkey. All designed to give me the giggles or give the finger to some fellow collectors who needed to be given the finger. I might not rain on someone’s parade, but I’m not above pissing in their Wheaties.
Speaking of pee Wheaties, I’ve been meaning to rant about customs and custom artists for quite some time. Back in the early days of Pops, when the licensing was far less expansive and the figures were far more generic, it wasn’t uncommon for people to make their own Justice League or X-men and claim that Funko ripped them off when they officially released the same figures. I have always had a problem with that because I use a mirror. Lots of them in fact. Every day, I look into one and see the same thing, me! If I wanted to make a Wolverine I would look at comic books and copy what I see. If I worked at Funko and was told to make a Wolverine, I would look at comic books and copy what I see. In this metaphor, I’m pretty much looking into the same mirror. To make matters worse (or more of the same), I’m working on the same platform, too. Same character + same platform = same figure. It is far more likely for a customizer and a Funko artist to make the same Wolverine than it is for the infinite monkey to bang out Hamlet (A reference to the theory that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will eventually knock out a copy of Shakespeare). Maybe someone’s work did inspire Funko to mock up a figure to pursue a license, but it doesn’t mean they were ripped off (same old, same old). Funko made ‘Saved By the Bell’ Pops, does anyone really think they weren’t going to go after the Power Rangers JUST because of Instagram.
That wasn’t enough to get me to write about customs. It’s too far in the past and you don’t see those claims much since Funko has licensed just about every fandom in the nerd-iverse. No, my inspiration stems from an incident that happened a couple weeks back. Someone asked if anyone would be willing to recreate another artist’s custom and the artist lost his shit. Personally, I think it’s bad form to make a request like that even if no one knows who the made the original. I feel like you’re disrespecting the artist’s work. They created it, you didn’t. You don’t get to have one just because you want one. That’s how real life works. Think about that before you ask someone to copy one for you. Even if they blow a gasket, you’re still in the wrong.
And man, did he blow a gasket. As a creative myself, I can attest to a certain amount of pissiness when it comes to my own work. I can recall a curse-laden diatribe on the inverse proportionality of Christian faith and good taste and how the Vatican’s art collection said everything that needed to be said about the Godlessness of the Catholic Faith. To put this into perspective, this was in response to taking second place in a Halloween door decoration contest in college. Talk about wicked pissy. Most creatives I know are the same way to greater or lesser degrees. Prick us, do we not bleed? Wrong us, do we not call your mother a whore? With that in mind, it was probably a foregone conclusion that a polite ‘Hey, that’s my artwork’, was going to go sideways. As the conversation devolved (which usually happens when the word ‘douche’ gets used), things like intellectual property and copyrights got brought up (hypocrtically) and it just became a huge ‘Bye Felicia’ flame war. Fun read, but all so wrong and unnecessary. It shouldn’t have gotten so ugly. There’s a serious need for maturity in the Funko collecting community.
I believe that customs should be unique. If you have the talent to do them, you should do original work. That means you don’t recreate the work of others, or even yourself. Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. All those patinas from a couple years ago, they were based on original Funko releases. Why people copied them, I still have no idea. Adapting paint apps from other toy lines to Pops…you can try, but can you still argue that it’s original work with a straight face? That is plagiarism. It really is. And forget about recreating convention or retailer exclusives for yourself or others. One – it’s lazy collecting. If you want the exclusive, go earn it. And two – I think that IS an intellectual property thing. Funko, or someone else, made it first, and no matter how easy it was to recreate or how much you made it ‘yours’, you’re copying the work of others. In school, you’d be flunked. In real life, you’re a hack. You’d better be damn careful getting upset when someone asks about the ‘originality’ of your work in these situations because you’re on razor thin ice.
So where am I going with all this? I guess here:
- I don’t really have a point this week. Just random thoughts and a bit of showing off.
- Customs are supposed to be one of a kind (or a very small series). If you’re asking for a custom to be made, be respectful and don’t be surprised if no one wants to copy someone else’s work.
- If you’re going to do customs, do something original. Blaze the trail, don’t follow it.
Remember, this is supposed to be a fun hobby. Don’t piss off the talent. We’ll ruin it for everyone.