On the eve of New York Comic Con, I’m doing a bit of catch-up on a piece that our good friend Jedd sent in several weeks back, during the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention. It’s a great interview with designer toy icon Frank Kozik. Be sure to check out Jedd’s own site, The Movie and Me, for his full coverage of STGCC and much more.
Artist and designer Frank Kozik is known in collectible art circles as the creator of the Labbit, but it also famous as a poster designer who created artwork for bands such as The White Stripes, Pearl Jam, The Beastie Boys and Nirvana. The commercial artwork he has done includes work for Nike, Swatch and MTV. Kozik was in Singapore as a guest of the Singapore Toys, Games and Comics Convention (STGCC) and I got to sit down with him to discuss his work. He was somewhat intimidating and frank and off-the-cuff, giving a detailed description of how Labbit came to be (it involves booty calls) and offering a surprising, piece of advice to aspiring artists.
Jedd Jong: What was the genesis of Labbit; how did you conceptualise that?
Frank Kozik: That’s an interesting story. In the mid-90s, I was going to Japan quite a bit, I was working with the people there. When I went over there for the first time, I was really in Sanrio products, was really into like Hello Kitty and Keroppi and stuff, I thought it was very interesting, the stuff they were doing. I liked how they did the characters, it was like super-perfect. What’s interesting is in Japan then, it was just something for low-class people. These were are sort of like snotty Shinjuku fashion dudes, right? And they’re like “what do you want to do, do you want to do cocaine on top of a mountain?” and I’m like “no, I want to go to Kitty Land!” And they all just thought I was crazy, they were like “what?!” They couldn’t understand, it was such a low thing for them. And I tried to explain it, I said “look, there’s something really interesting here. It’s like super-perfect way to develop a character,” like you got to get beyond who buys it. In the US, it became a really big cult thing.
In case you haven’t had a reason to purchase a new Labbit vinyl in a while… Frank Kozik and KidRobot have provided an excuse: a brand new Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket Raccoon, in 7″ Labbit form! He’s pretty cute in fiery red, plus he has an adjustable faux fur tail to boot!
Kidrobot has got a great sale going on for Cyber Monday. Practically everything is on sale, and started at 60% off in the wee hours. It’ll be 50% off until 2PM PST, and then 40% off until 11PM PST.
My wife’s infatuation with blind boxed figures is starting to rub off on me. I’m a little obsessed with Frank Kozik’s collaboration with Marvel – mini Labbits fashioned after Marvel’s heroes, anti-heroes, and villains. It’s certainly an interesting character selection for the first series. While I was there, I also picked up some Travis Cain BFFs for the missus – those are her current obsession.
While we’re on the subject of designer urban vinyl toys, here’s an update on the Marvel Mini Labbits from artist Frank Kozik that are being produced by Kidrobot. They are being released on September 12th, and will feature an assortment of ten characters in blind boxed packaging, for $9.99 each. I don’t know if Kozik is a big Marvel fan, but his picks for characters are unique enough (read: not just the top 10 Marvel characters) to make me think he is. In addition to miniaturizing Venom and Wolverine, Kozik has included the Red Skull, Loki, Ghost Rider, Doctor Octopus, Doctor Doom, the Punisher, Deadpool, and Galactus in this assortment. Gotta love the villains and anti-heroes!
In addition Kozik will be touring the Kidrobot stores to promote the Kidrobot / Marvel collaboration. If you can’t make it to one of their retail locations, you can still get the Marvel Mini Labbits at Kidrobot – at least after September 12th.
You may remember a few years back, when Hasbro introduced its Marvel Mighty Muggs – this was their attempt to capture some of the high margin designer vinyl market with lower cost licensed figures. The line met with marginal success – Muggs still exist but have gone from Mighty to Mini to Micro.
Marvel is now trying it from another angle – with licensed designer vinyl figures from popular artists. These Venom and Wolverine figures are from graphic artist Frank Kozik – mashups with his Smorkin Labbit – a cartoon character that has been immortalized in a line of vinyl figures. The Marvel Labbit versions of Venom and Wolverine are available at kidrobot, alongside Marvel Munnys of the most popular Marvel characters.
If the $49.99 price tag puts you off these 7-inch Labbits, word is there will be a smaller, blind-boxed line coming soon for $9.99 each. We’ll let you know when we know more.