Action Figure Activism! Toy lovers for Black Lives Matter.

Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 cuI can’t leave our house to join the Black Lives Matter protests.

Both my husband and I are in high-risk COVID categories, and I had knee surgery that did not go well last year, which means both of us have limited walking capacity now.

Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 beginningSo there was a protest in front of my School for Gifted Youngsters instead.

It started small, with Monica Rambeau, Misty Knight, Bishop and some gay New Mutants and other allies. (You know Rahne and Dani are CANONICALLY GAY NOW, right????) And Northstar married his boyfriend in the X-Men comics!

Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 allies use white skin to protect black protestersHere white allies demonstrate the technique of using white skin to protect black protesters from carceral forces.

I instantly learned that when photographing white protesters using this method, you MUST show the carceral/military/police threat in the picture, or all you have is a picture of white people standing in front of Black people. We all know not to take pictures of protesters where they are identifiable, unless they have given consent or we are documenting police brutality, right???Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 with Ororo

I’m not a good photographer, and toy photography is actually a specialized skill set, as you’ll see in a minute.

I wanted to show air support in the form of our Queen Ororo arriving but I had to hold her with one hand and hit the button on the ipad with my nose! You can see as the protest grows, Non-disabled ciswhite folx with Black partners are protecting disabled queer folx in the vanguard. And the protest has crossed the street ( old comics Pro in-joke re: Marvel/DC).

New Mutants and Moses say Black Lives Matter by Suzanne Forbes June 16Unfortunately, I had trapped X’ian Coy Manh and Professor Xavier in the house by accident before I set up all the figures (which is actually a huge amount of work). There is a historic lack of Asian representation in both Marvel and DC comics; it carries through to the figures.

So Shan, as her friends call her, got a new shoot with some other New Mutants, and the John Boyega Star Wars Black Series figure I bought to make a custom of Moses from Attack the Block.

Action figure Black Lives Matter protest by Suzanne Forbes May 31 2020 2I did my best as a lousy photographer; now for the real art.

Being an action figure photographer requires three things: terrific photography skills, deep understanding of the characters’ history in comics and an amazing action figure and toy prop collection. I only have the good collection and the character knowledge!

Madd Lion Black Lives Matter toy art June 15 2020

Madd Lion Black Lives Matter action figure art, June 15 2020

This is the work of my very favorite action figure photographer, Madd Lion.

Ororo Rising Vanity Fair cover by Madd Lion Dec 2019Madd Lion is a tremendous photography artist, and also a Power Blerd and hardcore oldschool comics and X-fan like me.

He has made powerful images and posts in the last month, as well as hundreds of beautiful toy photographs over the years.

I love this magazine cover with Ororo so much!

And this disability-inclusive image of a blind woman who is happy and loved and successful! Click for a beautiful scene with Alicia Masters and Ben Grimm, and click through for wonderful New York subway moments with Black characters living their lives.

Here is Madd Lion’s facebook as well!

Pete Menocal Hamilton cover homage June 2020

Another great toy photographer is Pete Menocal.

Pete Menocal has been making powerful protest art with action figures in the last month.

Pete Menocal Black Panther punching Red Skull June 2020

Pete Menocal Black Panther punching Red Skull June 2020

This uses both the figures and the cultural weight of their backstories so well.

You know you want to see Black Panther punch Nazis! I highly recommend a visit to Geek Speak and Junk, Menocal’s Youtube channel with TIff Menocal, which features some great how-to dio videos!

Action figures with Berlin George Floyd Memorial by Bryan Konstantine

Action figures with Berlin George Floyd Memorial by Bryan Konstantine

Here is a memorial scene by Bryan Konstantine.

Known as ActionFiguren00b, he used the George Floyd mural by Eme Freethinker in Berlin’s Mauerpark as a background. Stan Lee spoke out against racism in his comics from the start.

Together we rise by Bryan Constantine June 1

Together we rise by Bryan Constantine June 1

And a beautiful, inspirational scene by Konstantine. Toy photography has enormous potential because of the emotional investment fans have in the characters, and this is a great use of it.

Malcom X tribute art by 850sithlordMalcolm X tribute by 850sithlord.

There is also a video with Malcolm X’ “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself” speech here, and a beautiful group protest shot here.

These are just some of the toy art that has been created this month. I am so glad to see members of the community making political art. It’s a big risk.

Politics in the toy collecting/toy photography world are complex.

Angel Salvatore by FaceCustoms aka Stewart Walker-Barnett

Angel Salvatore by FaceCustoms aka Stewart Walker-Barnett

There are so many incredible collectors like ToMeMyScoobies (awesome Buffy/Xmen mashup joke handle) who are proudly gay and proudly inclusive. There are the incredible photographers above. There are customizers like the fantastic FaceCustoms, whose work features representation and diversity.

And then there are also 1:12 collectors who are obsessed with military imagery, the misconstrued and appropriated alt-right/police notion of the Punisher, and some other very imperialist, colonialist shit. Yet all of us are obsessed with collecting, and with finding the coolest figures and accessories.

So sometimes community members with very different values follow each other to see what’s new.

Some custom creators enter the realm of explicit politics by using real politicians’ likenesses. Action Figure Customs makes and sells a gorgeous 1/12 scale Obama head. He also makes a Drump, but it appears to be for use in mockery.

I had to unfollow a figure prop maker who I had actually bought from, because he posted pro-Drump custom orders.

I don’t care if you’re starving, printing Srump propaganda is equivalent to printing Nazi propaganda. And I live in a place where making propaganda for a genocidal terrorist isn’t protected free speech.

Speaking of freedom, let’s end here with this instantly recognizable image of Luke Cage shattering some chains, by Pete Menocal.

Happy Juneteenth! Luke Cage Juneteenth art by Pete Menocal June 19 2020

You can sign Miss Opal Lee’s petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday in the US here.

There is an easy-to-use article on how to support protesters in every city here.

2 thoughts on “Action Figure Activism! Toy lovers for Black Lives Matter.

  1. Pingback: Christopher Street Day in Berlin: miniature rainbow ice cream party collab with Littlest Sweet Shop! -

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