GEN CON 2014: Warpo's LEGENDS OF CTHULHU
Hot Kickstarter Success Shows Off Prototypes At Gaming Event...
If you’re unfamiliar with it, Gen Con is the “best four days in gaming,” a convention that descends on Indianapolis each summer focusing on role-playing games, miniatures, card games, and every other type of gaming you can imagine (if you want to know more, check out the full coverage over at CritToHit.com). It’s a really cool show, and not least of all because there are always interesting and unique things to find there. This year among all of the various game companies was a standout new toy company that you may be following like we are, Warpo! Comprised of toy experts and enthusiasts Bryan Katzel, Tommy Baldwin, and Eric Lefeber, Warpo came onto the scene earlier this summer with a Kickstarter campaign to produce their first series of toys. Legends of Cthulhu is a unique 3 ¾ inch figure line that takes its inspiration from late 70s/early 80s toys as well as the creatures and characters of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories! At Gen Con I got to learn all about the company and their toys at a panel on Sunday, and we got some great new photos of the prototypes.
Warpo’s goal is to create new, authentically “vintage” toys that are not reissues and don’t add to an existing toy line. Whatever the specific timeframe they choose, their toys should be brand new but indistinguishable from other products from that era with regard to design sensibilities, materials, packaging, etc. They’re accomplishing this by way of their “Method Manufacturing” philosophy that determines the details by starting with selecting an era and scale. Then they research the time period and how toys were designed and made then, from start to finish. It’s truly an artisanal approach to toy making and getting the details right that no one else is doing. So how does Legends of Cthulhu fit into that process?
First off, it’s interesting to note that the Warpo guys did not create the company in order to make Lovecraft toys. But when they were putting together ideas on what to make and, possibly even more importantly, what to make first, they kept coming back to their favorites which included early 1980s toys, the 3 ¾ inch scale, and the horror/fantasy creatures of Lovecraft! The 70s and 80s saw many fantasy-inspired toy lines, but while several other companies are delving into 80s-inspired figures currently there isn’t a whole lot in the way of fantasy. And, while Lovecraft is consistently popular and well-represented in gaming and other products, not so much with action figures. Once Warpo hit on the base concept for Legends of Cthulhu, it was time for research. They started with choosing the right lineup of characters, looking to toy designers from their chosen era and examining the archetypes that made it to shelves. Despite Lovecraft’s stories focusing more on the monsters and gods, Legends would require a “hero” to be authentic, and that’s what led to the more bookish pre-Indiana Jones styled Professor figure. The other figures fell into place with a combination of well-known creatures (Spawn of Cthulhu) and great generic army builders (Deep One, Cultist).
Next came what were probably the most important developments for Legends of Cthulhu, finding the right sculptor and artist for the packaging. In both of these the Warpo guys did an amazing job getting talented artists who worked in the era they’re replicating. Eddy Mosqueda sculpted figures for some of our most beloved toy lines in the 80s like Masters of the Universe and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His work on Legends brought credibility and insight, along with the knowledge and ability to use traditional sculpting and molding methods. Meanwhile, Ken Kelly has painted some incredibly iconic works of art gracing album covers, fantasy books, and toy packages including LJN’s D&D and Micronauts. His painted scenes tell stories, not just show other figures the companies want you to buy.
Even beyond assembling the perfect crew, the Warpo team delved further into every detail of authenticity for these “vintage” figures. They pored over reference materials from toys to miniatures, artwork, role-playing games, cartoons, and more to find the perfect looks and color palettes for their toys. Everything had to be right and recognizable at a glance as coming from the right era, and that’s exactly what you’ll see. For example, the Cultist has great details like a vinyl cape, a slit-robe that forms the legs, and no pupils painted on his eyes; all of these things fit into the time period and evoke nostalgia. Articulation is naturally the classic five point scheme. With every part sculpted by hand you won’t find identical parts mirrored for arms and legs. Hands are slightly oversized to hold the included accessories. Figures are built on a base color with added paint applications, etc.
So how to get the word out about a new toy company replicating methods from the 80s and making figures for collectors? Warpo took the project to Kickstarter with the twin goals of selling toys and building a community of like-minded fans. To do that they worked hard to create the experience of toy buying in the 80s with retro art, typography, graphics, and even really cool bonus items like the coloring book, big plastic cup, iron-on decal shirt, and even a commercial on VHS! As they like to say, “nostalgia is in the details.” Perhaps needless to say at this point, the Kickstarter was highly successful, raising over $130,000, more than double the initial goal of $60,000. The toys are in production now and will be here at the end of the year/beginning of 2015, and at Gen Con we got a good look at the prototypes which were previously on display at San Diego Comic-Con.
So what’s next for Warpo? First off, they’re on track to fulfill their Legends of Cthulhu Kickstarter orders on time, which is going to make a lot of fans really happy. The line will then expand to retail with distribution via Diamond, which is pretty huge considering its humble and recent beginnings. In fact, this will be the first Kickstarter-created toy line for them! Look for the figures to appear in next month’s Diamond catalogue, which you’ll find in any comic book store or online. The Diamond-distributed Legends figures will be the same as what came from the Kickstarter, but the packaging will be different to keep exclusivity to the original backers (as well as their other unique, exclusive items). Up next from Warpo will not be more Cthulhu (just yet), but rather another new action figure line - different subject but same format (80s, 3 ¾ inch scale). They couldn’t spill the beans on what that subject might be, but the line is already in development and we should hear more once Legends is on shelves. Beyond that, they want to work on board games, other types of toys, etc., with the goal to create “things that never had a chance.” Oh, and backers may have noticed that in the Kickstarter Warpo talked about the potential of a 12 inch Cthulhu figure... the guys haven’t forgotten about this and are working to make it a reality! Learn more about Warpo and Legends of Cthulhu at their website warpo.com.
-Words and photos by Scott Rubin
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