artist interview : undoboy and super bastard toys

(circa 13.08.06)
Super Bastard Toys has seen quite a fair bit (*understatement*) of promotion across varied respectable online toy entities (VP / VA / P+P), all the while as i was bugging Undoboy for an online interview instead! ~ this blog's first, i might add ... onward :)

TOYSREVIL: tell us about yourself. your "dayjob".

UNDOBOY: my sig's Undoboy and i currently reside in New York, originally from Malaysia. After graduating with a BFA in Graphic Design from the Ringling School of Art and Design in 2005, I spent time as an interactive designer at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami, before becoming an art director at JWT New York. It is very busy to work at a huge advertising agency.

As a child I was obsessed with drawing and crafting. In high school, my love for things creative grew. I listened to rock and electronic music. Those beautiful and crazy CD album covers strengthened my appreciation for design. I grew, my tastes grew and my passion was fueled. I had notebooks filled with doodles, sketches and stupid ideas.

TRE: what/who are your influences? did they influence the concept of SBT?

UDB: I love iconography and character design, with gradients being one of my trademarks. My inspiration comes from everywhere, but I’m particularly influenced by Japanese design, an influence I attribute to growing up with manga and Japanese/Hong Kong pop culture. The Superflat movement has had a very strong impact on my beliefs. I also admire Andy Warhol and love the way he intertwined art and pop culture. Obviously, they have influences on SBT.
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TRE: tell us about the Super Bastard Toy.

UDB: Super-Bastard Box Art Characters consists of 16 unique toys in one set, with 4 unique characters on each face of the box. Collectors have an opportunity to collect all 16 toys/64 characters in the series. Each toy is individually placed in a sealed box (blind assortment). They are produced in a limited edition with only 1000 copies of each toy on the market. Each toy is made with card stock plus matt lamination and stands 4” in height. SBT is sells at a retail price of USD5.95 per toy. They are set to launch in September 2006.

SBT are colorful, highly interactive and fun to play with. Characters include Uncle Sam, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Queen Elizabeth II, Mother Teresa, a mummy, a Japanese wrestler, a cave man, dominatrix and so on. The toys are designed so that you can detach the head or the pants. Once removed, it reveals either a skull or underwear. What makes it exciting isn’t how cool or funny their underwear is, but that collectors can interchange their heads and pants with different bodies. Can a George W. Bush head go with a Saddam Hussein commander suit? How about president Mao wearing a super hot bikini?
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TRE: how did the concept of SBT came about? what inspired you?

UDB: I had the idea in school, and it was always well received. Friends always pushed me to produce it. The idea behind Super-bastard Box Art Characters was inspired by early mix and match books and the Postmodernist movement. Postmodernism asserts the borrowing of art. Postmodern architecture was born from an assemblage of different cultures and design styles. Therefore, no originality exists, especially with the explosion of mass media. Everything becomes a copy of what’s been done before.

In reality, people judge by appearance and first impressions usually last. The way you dress is the way people think you are. When attracted to a political leader, do we really know what happens “behind the scenes”? To me, an identity is variable, like postmodernism. Change the dress or language and an identity changes. This is how SBT was born. By interchanging body parts, the characters become a new figure. At the same time, we get a chance to see through what really lies underneath.

TRE: how did you decide on the execution and presentation of SBT?

UDB: I like taking existing arts or designs to transform them to other forms and make them more interesting. Therefore, SBT contains pop culture, politicians, and unique fashion. Gradient color gives a sense of depth.

At first, I was going to call these toys Superstar. I found the name lost its interest soon after. Super Bastard was next and it stuck. The name conjures up a dirty little dirty image, which I kinda like.

It was planned to launch like 4 toys in a set with clear PVC packaging. So, you can see through the characters and know what you are buying. I changed my mind to pack the toys as blind assortment, since this is more surprises and exciting when collectors buy it.
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TRE: did you produce them yourself? besides DKE distributing them, of coz.

UDB: I did produce them by myself. This is my debuting toy and it is my first time to put myself on business. In fact, I am not good on business at all. There is so much to learn. Anyway, I am happy with the outcome and using DKE as SBT’s distributor.

TRE: was the medium of the final toy a medium of your choice? if so, why?

UDB: Yes. Graphic designers love print stuffs, and i am no exception! Actually I have considered making them in vinyl or wood, but they didn’t look good. This is because Super Bastard is so boxy, and I think the form has to be curvier if I use vinyl or wood. It is fine to use paper for boxy form, because it similar to everyday packaging.

Another reason is that so many vinyl toys nowadays. I have only spotted a couple paper toys on the market, such as Cardboy by Mark James and Shin Tanaka’s paper toys. I want to explore the idea of toy on other medium. Off course, I would love to produce vinyl toy or plush toy in the future.
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TRE: compared to current free downloadable papercraft toys online now, what difference does SBT offer? what sort of experience? playability?

UDB: SBT and free downloadable paper toys are same in terms of material but they are actually very different in terms of value. Everyone can download paper toy everywhere in anytime in front of the computer, but not all the people can own a SBT because they are produce in a limited edition with 1000 copies for each design available.

The value behind SBT isn't only the limited production, but also they are art piece that I create; they are unique, playful and interactive. They contain my style of illustration. I don't think that people have done this kind of toy structure before that you can interchange the head and pant on a box, also can see their underwear, which is fun. Like Cardboy and the paper cut toy we play when we were kid also sell on the market, because they are fun to play with and they have value. Also, they are people that prefer ready made than DIY. This is very subjective.

I personally think that these are art. People buy art posters and postcards while they are also some free posters and postcards on the street. They pay for it because of the appreciation they have for the piece.

TRE: are there any further development of the series planned?

UDB: I am planning to have a couple series for Super-Bastard. Hopefully, second series can come out next year if this series is well received by toy lovers. I also want to set up some shows for SBT by making them on large scale (around 4 feet) if I get some connections with gallery.
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TRE: tell us what you hope for the toy to do, for you and the toy collector.

UDB: Today, my love for design creates conflicts on commercial projects. Commercial job is never that satisfying. Design should be fun, yet the commercial aspect has innate conflicts for an artist. Creativity has the power to simplify life and on some level, bring happiness to both the public and the artist. Whenever I design, I remind myself of that. A project should contain a voice within the work and therefore retains its uniqueness.

And this is where my own line of toys called SBT comes in. SBT should bring some drops of happiness to my family, friends and the toy collector. Hopefully, this is the first step to producing my own fashion label or maybe even more toys in the future.

TRE: thank you for your time and effort for this interview, Undoboy!

UDB: This is my pleasure to be the first interview :) very happy.

TRE: good luck for SBT, yeh? :)


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