Cthulhu retro action figures imagine a very different 1980s
Rob Beschizza gets a sneak peak at Warpo's new imemmorial-abysms-of-madness-based line of toys.
Indie toymaker Warpo is crowdfunding a line of 1980s-style articulated action figures of Cthulhu spawn—and other, less terrifying personages from H.P. Lovecraft's mythos.
Each figure in the "Legends of Cthulhu" line is a traditional 3 3/4-inch tall, and will come in classically-styled toy packaging featuring artwork by fantasy legend Ken Kelly. In addition to His noneuclidean majesty, fans of old toys and elder gods can have a Dagon cultist, a fishy "Deep One", and an intrepid professor doomed to lose his mind.
Their kickstarter starts today, but is the end of an eight-month development process--and forty years of love for the Star Wars-style form factor.
"We spent a tremendous amount of effort to make an exciting set of figures, from the character choices to the color palette," said Bryan Katzel, Warpo's president. "We wanted to make sure that Cthulhu was the star… but didn’t steal the show."
One of Warpo's recent projects is Masters of the Alternative Universe, a pastiche of the famous toon-backed range of toys from the early 1980s. To craft their modern designs, Warpo hired Eddy Mosqueda, an artist who worked on Mattel's toy lines.
"Spawn of Cthulhu ended up being my favorite figure," Mosqueda said. "Most of my inspiration from his skull structure came from a small Alien head-looking rock I found in a desert area when I was a kid in the summer of 1967. I still have it to this day....now there will be thousands of them."
Warpo's Eric Lefeber insiste that the "stiffness" of the figures isn't just a retro affectation: it's a design choice that embodies the 1970s and 1980s, and honoring it is an important part of the toys' appeal.
"Take a look at monster-type figures from that time like Hammerhead from Star Wars or Ovion from Battlestar Galactica and you will see a similar posture," said Lefeber. "We feel that these are the kinds of subtle details that naturally evoke nostalgia and hard-core vintage toy collectors will really appreciate."
The Cthulhu spawn figurine is the most identifiable of the lineup, but each had to evoke a distinctively Lovecraftan theme. "While we scrutinized every detail of these individual characters, we also put a lot of thought and effort into how they would work together," said Lefeber. " ... These four characters are archetypes of those found in Lovecraft's stories. That way, no matter what your favorite story, they can represent those characters for you."
The Cultist was given classic design features from the late 1970’s, such as a billowing vinyl cape: "Vintage details like the cape, the simplified robes, and the amazingly creepy face make the cultist such a dynamic and nostalgic figure," said Product developer Tommy Baldwin.
"At first, there was a lot of debate among the team on how to handle his robe and legs," said Lefeber. "Should it be one piece to create a more seamless flowing robe, like Charon from Clash of the Titans? In the end, we felt that the nostalgic memories of posing the vintage Star Wars Sand People and Emperor figures with the big 'chunks of robe legs' was so powerful, that we had to do it that way, even if it caused the robe to look a little odd from the front. Eddy's stellar sculpt does a great job of disguising the cut while still giving us the articulation we wanted."
The Deep One--inspired by the novella Shadow of Innsmouth--was given a slight leg bend to resemble particular classic figurines: "It really harkens back to the menacing henchmen of LJN’s Flash Gordon and Advanced D&D monster figures," said Baldwin.
"From our first discussions of the line, we knew we needed a professor type of character for several reasons," said Lefeber. "But we also thought, 'Who wants a guy in a suit when you can have an octopus-headed monster?' He took a lot of exploration and he evolved more than any of the other characters. But in the end, his figure is one of my favorites. He's a combination of stodgy professor, pulp-hero, and 70's movie leading man. I imagine him battling monsters alongside Peter Cushing in the Hammer Horror films."
Adds artist Mosqueda: "The Professor couldn't be a wimp, he had to be a bad-ass. ... When I thought about the time period, some one like Clark Gable came to mind. He wore clothing like this in several of the movies that he ended up fighting in. The professor was the last figure in the group I worked on. I thought he would be the most difficult to do considering he also had to look like a toy from 1979!"
Ken Kelly provided "the exact look and feel we needed to transport our customers back to 1979," said Katzel. The look centers on an earthy orange pallette, but includes deliberate wear to give the product the appearance of 40-year-old deadstock in good, but imperfect condition. Adds Kelly: "It's unusual to come across such a unique team of people who were so prepared for the assignment they presented to me. I only wish all my clients were this attentive."
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