MalcolmLittle in "HardlyLand"

Archive for September 2011

Dirty Deeds Square from World War Robot

When you grow older you find that there are few things that really excite you any longer. Being a teenager (and this might extend to being a very young adult) revolves in many ways around becoming a devout follower of something cool. There is some musical artist, author or political movement that just draws you in and begins to define you and your free time. The infatuation is intense and you find yourself a zealot who burns for the next release or happening, just so you can revel in the very thing that makes life worth living. This kinda subsides and slows to an eventual halt when you grow older. Well, it happened to me.

From being a person who constantly discovered new bands and musical genres I find myself becoming more and more nostalgic. I like to listen to albums I loved earlier in life. I keep listening to established favorites, finding it harder to put the work into listening through new tracks and artists. The prospect of sifting through the barrage of posts in Pitchfork’s Forkcast-feed to find something worthwhile is just too much. It’s not that I necessarily have become more snobbish or think “music these days…”, I just find myself more attracted to listening to something I already know, something I can hum along with. If there are any young readers present I can assure you that I know how horrible this sounds. It is the worst kind of lazy convenience.

The zealousness is missed, I can tell you. And it’s not just the fear of being unhip; life can be drab without joy and fervor. I long for that teenage feeling. It has haunted me. Where was that curiosity that defined me so? Well, I finally found something that injected a large dose of much-needed vigor.

The toy company 3A dares you to like them. If you are like me you have probably seen and may have even bought some cool designer toys from Kidrobot or Toy2r. Plastic toys are no longer just for children and the quality of the design and production far outshines what we were used to while growing up. If you go deeper into toy fandom you will find two things, figures in 1/6 size (think Barbie and old 1960’s GI Joe) and robots. Well robots might be one of the first things you’ll find but after a while you find really cool robot toys of intricate design and great articulation. 3A makes these kind of toys.

Weathered and beat up robots 14 inches tall, baby-faced samurais, and zombie-fighting emo kids complete with chucks, hoodie and skinny jeans. They sound enticing just on paper, but take a look for yourself:

WWR: Lunar Armstrong (prototype without decals

Adventure Kartel: Little Shadow

Popbot: Tomorrow Kings

At first I balked at the price tag. Paying 75 dollars for some of Kidrobot’s larger toys was one thing, but 120-225 bucks (or more) was a lot of money to put up for one package, big as they can be. But the character design and detail is exquisite, and fetching.

3A is run by toy creator Kim Fung Wong and artist Ashley Wood. They have taken 1/6 figures and robot toy design to an entirely new level.

Kim Fung Wong had earlier created toys under the moniker ThreeZero (and still does), often with great attention done toward textiles and toy clothes. Ashley Wood is an illustrator, comic creator and painter. He has worked on the comics Automatic Kafka, Zombies Vs Robots and his own creation Popbot and has illustrated for properties like Metal Gear Solid, GI Joe and Silent Hill. He has recently been concentrating on painting (oil-based) and on the designs of the toys for 3A.

Art from World War Robot

My interest started as a curiosity, a peaked interest. I had happened upon 3A while searching for Japanese sci-fi robot model sets. Models have no real weight to them and are way too laborious to assemble. The picture search did however lead me to the Bertie, a robot design by Ashley Wood and made by a company called 3A. The toys were apparently sold out.

The size of the robots 3A produces varies, and the scale can be both 1/6 and 1/12. Even the smallest of them are fully articulated and the weathering of the paint job matches the quality of their larger counterparts.

Finding the fans and collectors’ photo group on Flickr showed off the craftsmanship and it was fun to see the dynamic shots the photographers were able to pull off with the figures. And finally I succumbed when seeing the two N.O.M. commanders on 3A’s blog. They quickly sold out on 3A’s online store and I kinda freaked out. They went fast. 3A has limited resources and their toy runs sold out quickly in those days. Now the more standard figures can be up for as long as 24 hours. I was lucky that the commanders were also being sold through retaliers and I found an eBay shop based in Hong Kong that sold them at a reasonable price. Disaster averted. I realized that I had taken the plunge into high-end designer toys.

3A began with producing Ashley Wood’s own creations and properties. Characters from his comic Popbot figure heavily, plus what you could perhaps classify as his toy lines World War Robot and Adventure Kartel (although books, comic strips and art are included as well).

An ad for the first run of Tomorrow Kings.The setting of the comic book Popbot is difficult to describe but you could say the story revolves around a normal-sized house cat who happens to be a carousing and womanizing popstar. He has basically wronged one too many people and now needs the protection provided by his robot roadie/bodyguard Popbot. The stories also include an army of vengeance-seeking sexbots, cloned super soldiers (called Tomorrow Kings, one of 3A’s more iconic toy figures), giant robots (of course) and a blind yet sharp-shooting cowboy.

World War Robot, or WWR for short, is done as both paintings and toys, with some bits of backstory strewn about. It revolves around a war between a colonized Mars and the homeworld Earth. The Martians are atheistic and the Earth is inhabited by religious fundamentalists, and the war is stoked by the mysterious industrialist and arms dealer Rothchild, who sells weaponry and robots to both sides.

Adventure Kartel depicts a mad scientist who has unleashed a zombie horde upon the world and the band of arrogant heroes who oppose him. The heroes include a dreary emo kid, his ass-kicking on-and-off-again girlfriend, his indie rocking father and the martial artist and suspiciously Christ-like character simply called the Fighting JC.

Adventure Kartel's Fighting JC

In Popbot there are also Tomorrow Queens.

A collection of some of the early toys in the WWR setting.

3A have continued to expand, both in quantity of each release but also in the properties the are now licensed to produce. They have already started to create toys for the myriad of characters of 2000AD comics. Upcoming collaborations include with companies Bandai and Konami for their respective IPs Gundam and Metal Gear Solid.

The packaging is also an impressive part of the toys and Ashley Wood has written, probably only half-jokingly, that he creates toys as an excuse to release the boxes.

Here I have only selected a mere handful of the amazing photos taken by the fans, who call themselves the Legion. More can be found on the ever-growing and popular Flickr group.

'Blanc snow', taken by Lord Korvo featuring the toy Blanc de Plume

'Tomorrow King Oyabun Naga' by Fuuuuuunk

'Euro Bramble' by smokebelch

All the pictures in this post, excluding the three just above, are taken from 3A and Ashley Wood.

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  • MalcolmLittle: Sorry for the late response! You can get ahold of them, they are out there. ;-)
  • Griffiana: Where did you get the cleaned original covers? I'm thinking of printing some copies for myself.
  • Blog 'em up-Jimmy: Haha! In the year 2000 the most famous sport is Space Rainbow Tennis!