Designer Toys 101: Are those action figures Designer Toys?

If you are new to this column, it is truly meant to be read from the beginning to the most recent.
Please start with the first installment, "What are Designer Toys?"

Once in a while you might notice something reported on this site that looks like a bootleg action figure, usually derived from the Golden Age of such releases (the '70s and '80s). Of course, your immediate reaction is probably something like: "What?!? That's a bootleg, not a Designer Toy!" But back when we first started these columns and attempted to define the term "Designer Toy," it should've been obvious it was a rather encompassing term.

So how can a bootleg not be a bootleg but rather a Designer Toy? I'll be honest and say that this is such a tricky realm that I'm not sure I can adequately explain it, but we'll give it a go…

We have three action figures of Stormtroopers from the Star Wars movie franchise here: the completely legit officially released one, a rather poor Polish bootleg, and the Designer Toy version. The officially released one is a mass produced, mass marketed action figure geared towards being sold to people to play with… and while some folks do buy them as collectibles and keep them sealed in their packaging, they are not Designer Toys.

The Polish bootleg is a shody mimic of the official version, made cheaply and mass produced before being packaged and sold as an actual Star Wars figure (or given a thinly veiled series name like Galaxy Empire). There was no attempt at making art here, just trying to turn a quick buck by cashing in on a popular franchise.

Of course, the exact same thing can be said of the Designer Toy: that it was made to turn a quick buck by cashing in on a popular franchise. Obviously, all the was done was a mold made from the original figure and a limited run of those figures cast in pink resin, hand-painted and hand-packaged. Though while it is obviously a Star Wars riff, the term Star Wars is nowhere on the packaging… in fact, it's called the "Gay Empire" figure, turning it into a parody figure of sorts. But even without the parody aspect, it was intended as a piece of art… a completely hand-made pop art piece.

The intent behind the work obviously makes a difference in the perception. Is it art? That's a personal question that only each person can decide for themselves, but thus is the nature of all art.

Next Week: What is a Qee?

Designer toys used in this week's colume (L-R in photo) are:
"Stormtrooper" produced by Kenner, 1977
"Stormtrooper" produced by unknown Polish company, 1990
"Gay Empire (Vintage Edition)" designed & self-produced by Sucklord, 2010

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