Join Us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Add to Circles

Friday, 9 September 2016

STGCC 2016: Getting Jiggy with Jon-Paul Kaiser

The UK-based designer, painter and artist got into the game early as a little person transforming Fisher Price trucks into battle tanks and drawing robots. As a big person, Jon-Paul Kaiser graduated from a model-making course and landed a design job, hopped around a little before an eventful X-box night. Porlzilla recommended Vinylpulse and El Panda (by Muttpop). The idea of making his own toys on such a limited scale was something he never thought possible, and he dived right in, making original resin-cast art toys with Porlzilla, and then onto production figures for Toy2R and Kidrobot.

There can be no mistaking Jon-Paul Kaiser’s work - bold and unapologetically monochromatic with strong distinct graphic black and white lines to create his signature high-contrast striking palette, anchoring and distinguishing himself as the only artist in the art toy world to do so regardless of platforms, customising and unifying them in his style.

This would be his virgin visit to our sunny shores and there’s much to be excited about. The Huck Gee collaboration and convention exclusive Skullhead Samurai showcases the impact and versatility of his aesthetics and this would be the starting point of our interview:

Me: I am actually quite surprised that the debut would be a collaboration and not the OG. Can you take us through how this came to be, and the level of your creative input? I can’t tell much from the press release photographs but are there any Easter eggs? Is the motif on its armour representative of anything?

JPK: Well, I designed the figure a few years back. I'm a massive history and culture geek and samurai have always fascinated me, and I wanted to distill some of the key features that stood out to me, such as the layered armour, the kimono, the helmet and crest - and then twist that down into my own style and form. There are subtle details on there in the form of an engraved pattern in the kimono, which is reflected on the crest as well. These are flowers, part of my interest in these warriors was the juxtaposition between the delicate art and decoration on their instruments of warfare; beautifully engraved swords with sculpted pommels and guards.. and yet they're intended to slice another man open! When speaking to Jake at Pobber who is producing this figure, I asked that rather than have several different colour variations of the same design released, could we invite guest artists to have their take on it. I drew up a list of the artists I'd love to have involved, and without expectation, Huck Gee said he was in! He's long been one of my favourite artists and the subject matter and style of figure suited his aesthetic completely, and his figure looks amazing!
Skullhead Samurai
Me: Without a doubt, Huck Gee's take did not diminish your design. In fact, it was a seamless merge of aesthetics. Now, probing a little deeper. You’re a collector of vintage Star Wars. There’s a lot of pop cultural cross-overs and one in particular seem to be right up your alley. What do you think of Bandai’s Movie Realisation series (Samurai Darth Vadar)? Given your love for all things robots and mecha, have you ever given a thought about mechanising the Skullhead Samurai during the initial conceptualising stages? If you were given free reign, what sort of steampunkery wizardry would you put in? A steam-engine powered propulsion blade?

JPK: Oh, that figure... It kind of makes me angry in a way because it seems so obvious and I didn't think of it! So envious! A mechanised version of the Skullhead hadn't crossed my mind to be honest. I like my mechs clean and a bit retro-futuristic, so it would be lacquered black and chrome number like an old Rolls Royce. One arm would have a set of three arquebuses (like muskets) and the other a steam-powered siege hammer for tearing up buildings. I daydream a lot, especially when I'm walking my dog through the hills and woods near me, it's here that I get most of my ideas, making up narratives... these often have mechs smashing up a fortress or charging through a forest on a distant planet somewhere.

Me: Speaking of woods... In many of your interviews, you mentioned walks in the woods when asked about inspiration. Clearly, sylvan elements are missing from your work so the question is, what kind of woods do you walk in? Is there a favourite spot where you sink into the lush deep shadows and turn on the existential switch? What do you actually do when you take these walks? Are you a fan of the 100 acre woods? Is your creative process mopey?

JPK: Mopey?! Ha ha ha! Oh man, I hope I don't come across that way - that is so far away from where I am as a person! The woods I take walks in a glorious; they're fairly new being on reclaimed mining industry land, but they're lush, green and very large so walking around in them you can go hours without seeing anyone else. I'm usually daydreaming and looking at nature when I'm on these walks.

I also do something called Night Hiking with a couple of friends; one night a week we drive up to the small mountains near us, park up and hike through the hills in the dark. We take head-torches for emergencies but generally walk by the light of the moon. Now that's an amazing experience; the silence is heavy in the air and there's no-one else around, so we chat, have a laugh and can be pretty crude, safe in the knowledge that nobody is going to hear us and be offended!

Me: Well, Singapore only has urban jungles but I'm sure you'll find mega-inspiration in the Super Trees in Gardens by the Bay. You’ve mentioned (on Neil Harvey) that your palette was an economical choice and that the heavily exaggerated shadows and stark contrasts makes your custom stand out in a group show and on (Softoyhobby) that it helps to focus the design, even going as far as claiming that a good design shouldn’t need colours to work. (God clearly isn’t very good when he went at making rainbows.) You make excellent points and a lot of your pieces are dramatically emotive. Why have you not made a fun piece, one that is as retardedly happy as Spongebob? Are your customs an extension of you? Do you wear black all the time?

JPK: Ha ha! I do wear black a lot, but only because it's so stylish! For me, an emotional connection is really important in a piece; it resonates for far longer and tells much more of a story than a figure that is simply 'cute'. Something that is cute has an instant appeal but in my opinion doesn't go as deep or last as long, and therefore additional costume elements or scenery have to be added to expand its story or setting. I think to a degree my customs are an extension of myself, or at least the more introspective part of my character; a search for meaning and a yearning to explore different cultures, histories and stories. Also, I'm not a glum goth or anything! To me there's nothing more important in life than a good laugh. My wife and my closest friends are all incredibly funny people and I'm never happier then when there's a group of us sitting around and the tales and jokes are being told and we're screaming with laughter... even then actually things tend to get quite dark...

Me: I absolutely agree with you that designer or art toys should go deeper than cute. I've always had a preference for toys that have narratives tied to them. Next up is the perennial favourite but with a twist. You’ve probably named everyone in the universe  (in previous interviews), saying that you look up to them or would love to work with them. Even though it’s generous of you to not trample on anyone’s fragile feelings, that’s cheating. You’ll have to narrow it down to one today, one artist in the community that you feel has influenced your work the most significantly.

20' proof of friendship
JPK: This is easy; J*RYU, we made friends at NYCC in 2012 I think, he's had me stay as a guest at his house and we've had many long conversations since; analysing every aspect of the industry, from the community, to the business side of things, creativity, style, tools and convention practices. We bounce ideas around and we're on a very similar wave-length with very similar aims and aspirations, both for ourselves and this community. Jesse is a true mentor and a peer I truly respect, and he helped me change my mind from this being hobby to my own tiny industry.

Me: Ah Jesse Jesse. When he talks shops, he really talks the house down. There’s that time on August 9th 8.01pm when he wrote the Facebook post “We buy the paper clips”. That was an awesome read. Now comparing it with what you had said (admittedly a good 3-4 years before his rant) about the quick cashing-ins by Sucklord copycats and the subsequent watering down of the toy scene with mediocre (at best) products, and how, in recent years, platforms (and licensed products) are becoming the default and companies are no longer as willing to experiment as they once do when the scene was flourishing, how strongly do you want to slap/hug him? For me, the biggest take away is this:  ‘See, art, in and of itself, has never been the problem. It's the business of art that has been the culprit.’ And even though I agree with this and generally, with the point that art is subjective, I cannot help but feel that there are a few truly exceptional pieces out there that can be universally awful and bad. What’s your take on it? Extra redeemable points (for food of the champions - one packet of Singapore Olympic medallist’s favourite food) if you are brutally honest. 

JPK: Now it's getting heavy! Well, of course I want to hug him. His essay was typical of Jesse; looking at something from every angle, not seeing it as a gripe or problem but a variety of challenges that face us as an industry or movement. He then went on to suggest some ideas, solutions and alternatives. To me it was an incredibly positive thing to do and felt like a call to arms, this thing we're part of is wonderful, and we all need to work together on strengthening it. There's been a lot of grumbling lately on social media from a few artists, who are seeing other artists rise to prominence and I think there's a bit of jealousy going on... getting a little too protective over what they see as "their thing" and it's a negativity that is both unnecessary and unproductive. I always try to look for positive solutions; if you feel someone's work is a little too like your own, refine your style even more. Make it so unique and inventive that it becomes impossible to copy. Improve upon yourself and don't use up your energy trying to pull somebody else down.

Me: I know better than to hit a wall so I won't ask about the Arcane Divination production or progress but if you were to create a companion piece, a mage/wizard type, to Skullhead Samurai, would it be a broody necromancer, a grumpy shapeshifting druid, or a smug and annoying pyromancer? How bout a sorceror who has partially given up magical latency for technological augmentation? What exactly is this world that you have envisioned?

JPK: Yeah, there's nothing I could give up now about the Arcane Divination series, except that I have seen all the designs and this series is a game-changer! Ha, the smug and annoying pyromania - that's a bit leading, isn't it?! Druids are totally my thing, and there's a rich history of the druids andtheir associated legends here in Britain. He'd also definitely be grumpy though probably wearing garlands of flowers and herbs. The world I haver is a little like ours, except there's only two huge continents with the different societies spread out across them, divided by mountain ranges, gigantic lakes and forests and sheer distance. In this world, magic and science blend and have almost equal power. Death itself can be overcome by spells and magic runes.
I really love this custom
Me: Since this is a pop cultural convention, I have to ask: Autobots or Decepticons? Star Trek or Star Wars? Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead? Amongst all of these, name a favourite character and why. The boy with no name demands to know. 

JPK: Autobots; they always had the best disguises. Star Wars! Without a doubt, it's been a constant part of my life. Game of Thrones, the other series does the impossible and makes zombies seem dull.

Amongst all of them, or a character for each? I'll give one for each, then decide on a favourite overall. 

Transformers; Grimlock. He was just brilliant; impossibly strong, direct and no nonsense. There was also a storyline in the old Marvel Transformers comics with a shot of him cleaving Megatron in half with his sword.

Star Wars; I always loved the Bounty Hunters from Star Wars; Dengar had really interesting armour and just looked gnarly, but it was Zuckuss who I like the best. He's sort of a sensitive soul who'd kind of spiritual, a calm Force-user who's job it is to hunt down and kill people. He also looks badass!

Game of Thrones; Oh man, there are too many favourites! Cersei, The Mountain, The Hound, Varys, Tyrion... but I have a massive soft spot for Tormund Giantsbane. A bit like bearded Grimlock; strong, really to fight, direct and with a massive sword.. in fact, is he just the ginger equivalent?!

Overall I think Tormund is my absolute favourite and I'd love to meet Kristofer Hivju who plays him.

Me: Any last kind words for fans waiting in Singapore? Any fun teasers or reveals? We need fuel to sustain the winter.

JPK: I can't wait to get there and meet so many people I already know online, and meet new people too. There might be a reveal coming up at the convention... and I'll also have plenty of customs available on my booth, as well as the debut of my original Atmosphere Teletubbies sculpted set. Thanks!

I would certainly want to thank JPK for this most wondrous exchange. It was engaging, and when I met him during the media preview, he was equally stimulating. Singapore, get ready for his monochromatic customs tomorrow!

First posted to Spanky!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

STGCC 2016: RDD speaks to Emma Rios

Had the pleasure to meet up with Emma Rios at yesterday's media preview and watched her bring her surrealistic art to life. But clearly, Red Dot Diva got to her before the preview. Here's the juicy bits, because the 10 min round robin is simply not enough!

STGCC 2016: Artist & Creator Emma Rios Reveals Her Own Memorable Fan Encounters

Every year without fail, STGCC organizer Reed Exhibitions would send out a survey to attendees and guests asking them for their views about different aspects of the year's show. And in every single survey form, Red Dot Diva would request that Reed should invite more female creators as guests.

Red Dot Diva's wish has finally come true as there will be at least four women comic book creators on the guest list in the upcoming STGCC 2016. (Yes, there have been female guests before, but for several years, the male comic book guests far out number the women ones!) 

Spanish graphic book artist and creator Emma Rios will be heading toRed Dot Island together with other stellar female artists - Brooke AllenStephanie Hans and Hwei Lin. Each of these artists have made their mark in the comic book sphere with their enriching and noteworthy creations.

In Emma Rios' case, she has built a solid fan base through the years drawing for comic, ranging from Boom! Studio's "Hexed" series to Marvel's "Dr Strange" with writer Mark Waid. She then worked with high profile writer Kelly Sue Deconnick on "Osborn" and the collaboration continued again with twisted Western-horror folklore "Pretty Deadly", published by Image Comics. Her fluid and wildly imaginative art style lends a kind of unearthly quality to the images, making them seem as if they are about to pop up from a fuzzy dreamscape or bloody nightmare. 

Beyond just providing artwork for books, Emma Rios has also written original stories and designing new worlds, for example in the dystopian tale called "I.D". She has also been working closely with best friend Hwei Lin for fantasy series "Mirror", which was also published by Image Comics. The two ladies will join forces as guests of STGCC 2016, and will be launching the convention-exclusive "Mirror: The Mountain" book during the show.

In the short Q&A below, Red Dot Diva got to know a bit more about Emma Rios and her creative preferences.

Red Dot Diva: Both "Pretty Deadly and "Mirror" are surreal and filled with allegories and symbolism. Is this kind of story-telling a personal preference to you, and who are your favourite authors who write in similar styles?

Emma: Yeah, I think that the comics I enjoy the most are those where you can play a bit of an active role as a reader, without having everything over-explained. Books like Daisuke Igarashii’s "Children of the Sea" or Frederik Peeters’ "Lupus". Or even games like Bloodborne. Immersive experiences where you don´t need exactly to know what’s happening, but whose worlds feel very personal,believable and attractive in a way that makes you want to discover them, making the observer part of the experience in a meta sense, as if they were another character in the story. These kinds of world-building choices always ask for a bit of trust and attention, but normally the rewards are beautiful memories that hopefully stick in your head for a while.

Red Dot Diva: I understand that you and Hwei Lim are best of friends. Has collaborating in the "Mirror" series brought the two of you closer or has it highlighted even more personal differences (which may not necessarily be bad ones!) between the two of you?

Emma: Hwei and I got to know each other through comics thanks to a program called Lingua Comica in 2008, in which a few cartoonists from Asia and Europe were invited and paired to work together to create stories. That year it was celebrated in Japan and having been part of it was one of the best experiences of my life. The work we did back then was a short of 20 pages in which we tried to introduce ourselves to each other before even meeting in person. Having been in touch since then, getting to collaborate again in Mirror brought back that feeling, and definitely took it beyond. Aesthetically, at first sight, probably our styles look rather different but I think our priorities in terms of taste and storytelling are really close. That, and a total respect, trust, and admiration, for what each one does separately is, I think, what allows us to always, or almost, be on the same page. Teamwork means inspiring one another. Trying to surprise your partner as much as possible, and take it one step further each page at a time. Mirror is not Hwei’s, nor mine, it belongs to a mixed persona that comes to life when we think together. 

Red Dot Diva: "Mixed Persona." That's a cool and very organic way to describe the partnership!

Red Dot Diva: Would you be excited if you are given the chance to write for a different media (like TV)? 
Emma: Aside from comics, what attracts me the most as a narrative medium would be video games.

Red Dot Diva: What practical advice would you have for those who are starting out on developing their own creative stories? 

Emma: To never forget to have fun. As a cartoonist I’m always in this point in between the need to express myself through some kind of exhibitionism, and always wanting to hide under the blanket and forget about the world. Comics are tough, they demand so many hours and also to have a lot of security in yourself. But being self conscious and afraid of reactions cannot stop you from doing them.

Red Dot Diva: What's the most memorable fan encounter you've ever had?

Emma: I met Frank Quietly in a small convention called Viñetas desde el Atlántico, that is held in my city, Coruña, on the North West Coast of Spain. This con is very intimate and I’ve known the organization for quite a while so I got to talk with him but never told him I was a cartoonist myself haha. But finally he found out from a friend and apparently he knew some of my work at Marvel. He wrote me a really nice email after returning home, and it was super lovely. Another amazing experience was getting to meet Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I gave him a mini comic and got a pack of cigarettes in return. I still keep the empty box as a precious memory.

Red Dot Diva: Awww. These are sweet stories!

Red Dot Diva: Have you heard much about the fans and comic industry here in Singapore? And what is most exciting to you about your impending trip here as an STGCC guest? 
Emma: I have a couple of friends there, but I’m afraid I don´t know much about Singapore’s comic scene. I’m dying to see a bit of it, and buy as many fanzines and mini comics from local artists as possible. 

So, local creators, you got that direct from Emma Rios. She is eager to meet you and get her hands on your original works! Don't forget to bring a few copies along with you when you head to the convention on 10 to 11 September 2016.

Oh, and another thing. Grab your geek pals and do not miss the "The Women Talk Comics: Make Good Art" panel, held at 3 PM to 4 PM on Sunday, 11 September.

Joining Emma Rios on the main stage will be the other wonderful women artists - Brooke AllenStephanie HansHwei LimSakimichan and Rachta LinRed Dot Diva is certain that the panel will be a lively celebration of diversity and women creators' contribution in comics. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

STGCC 2016 : Notable Phil Noto : All killah no fillah!

Who is Phil Noto? All Killah No Phillah

From his STGCC and his Tumblr page," Your Nice New Outfit", his origins are that he burst onto the covers of Birds of Prey (if you've been reading Birds of Prey since the beginning like me, you'd find his beautiful art reminiscent of movie covers) and its no wonder because he studied illustration at Ringling School of Art and Design (not sure if thats an in-joke) and worked at Walt Disney Animation on numerous movies including, Lion King and Mulan. He started on covers for the Birds of Prey and on to a whole plethora of comics, such as X23, Black Widow, Poe Dameron and much more. He also dabbles in fine art and "large scale gallery paintings and have had solo shows at Bold Hype Galllery NYC, Stranger Factory- Albuquerque, NM ,Secret Headquarters, Los Angeles and Galerie Petits Papiers, Paris." 

i had totally intended to show you some of my favourite covers of his but going through his awesome Tumblr page," Your Nice New Outfit", i decided to showcase some of his pieces from there which are tremendous, especially the ones that he has depicted as his "Hank Pym photo archives" art that resembles vintage photos taken of heroes candidly.

From Phil Noto's Tumblr page 19
From Phil Noto's Tumblr page 21

Bikini Oil on canvas. Phil Noto. 2006

Phil Noto's Tumblr pg 27
Phil Noto : " LEIA SKYWALKER - DARK LORD OF THE SITH - Just a random concept I came up with as opposed to the standard Slave Leia image. That is all :)"

Wonder Woman by Phil Noto


Han Solo cover and Death Star Girl from Phil Noto's tumblr pg 39

Jamie Alexander as X23 by Phil Noto
The Beatles

Amazing art and we hope to see more of the Notable Mr Noto at this year's STGCC 
find out more about him and his art and follow him on twitter, and his Tumblr page," Your Nice New Outfit 

comic weporter 

check out GBA Red Dot Diva and Toys-3tc for all the lowdown on Singapore Toy and Comics Convention!!

Monday, 5 September 2016

STGCC 2016: It's raining Uamou

Sometimes, the vinyl Goddess is kind and decides that droughts are unfriendly and not nice, so she sends a tsunami. Thank you but my purse is already feeling all sorts of funny after the first announcement of SOGNO exclusives and my friends are not prepared to forego Christmas exchange! Seems like there's a major UAMOU conspiracy because right after Martin Hsu announced his customs, featuring Dragonpup on the happy belly, Ayako-san revealed some sweet Halloween UAMOU that will be available at Yamakichi Booth AA34. Argh. That Grim Reaper. Total sucker for anything in outfits :P

Sunday, 4 September 2016

STGCC 2016: Monsterlittle's Dino is screaming for adoption!

Well, Monsterlittle has always slipped under the radar even though many have fallen in love with his kawaii and chibi take on popular characters, like ZootopiaPokemon and Thor Kitty, which is my absolute favourite. His first vinyl kaiju is simply called Dino, first appearing in large resin format at TTF 2014. This is something you throw at any annoying person. Guaranteed to grant you a few moments of peace and quiet. The much lighter mini pastel rainbow Dinos popped up at ToySoul in 2015. But now, with the help of Unbox, it seems like the first vinyl incarnate might be appearing at STGCC, and to make the deal even sweeter, it's a GID! Also, Monsterlittle has just confirmed that there will be four different versions. What exactly does that mean? Different colourways or different castings? *grabs face* There's only one way to find out. Production might be tight but you know you want to stalk Unbox at Booth AA44 or Monsterlittle at Booth AA19!

First posted at Spanky!

STGCC 2016: UMEtoys x Tanavit 23 introduces JEM, the chubby chibi cat

So I totally got a scoop. Jeremy aka Tanavit23, who released a collaborative figure with SekureD last year, will be dropping this chibi cat/wolf figure at STGCC 2016. Sculpted by none other than UMEtoys, "JEM", which you see all over Jeremy's IG, comes in an extremely limited run of 10. Yes. You read that right. 10.

The monochromatic kitties will split two ways, with 5 going to Jeremy/STGCC and 5 to stay with UMEtoys. Despite being a micro-run, there is a chase but no one knows which part of the globe the beat-up half-skull-faced feline is going to hide! Naturally, I would assume these would have to be sold blindbagged. They are pegged at £45 or $80SGD. Convention peeps, stalk out Ozzo Collections Booth AA81 or Flabslab Booth B19 to complete your adoption papers! Thanks Jeremy for the info!

First posted at Spanky!