In the summer of 1983 my best friend was an anti-nuke protester. He was hanging out with Dana Beal and the Yippies at the Yippie headquarters at 9 Bleecker St.
This meant that I was hanging out with them too, like a Pulp Fiction Vegetarian. Even though I thought they were mainly creeps who used politics to get close to attractive young people. I was sixteen, and we were drinking and taking drugs there, but nobody cared.
My friend was mostly hanging out to be with a girl, I think, and I wanted to get with her too. One night we had a bananapants threesome there involving jug wine and queening with red wings.
On the second floor loft level of the HQ there was a workstation where the nice artist/illustrator who put together the YIP newsletter, Overthrow, worked.
I wandered over to him one time in the haze of some drunken summer night and he showed me the paste-up he was doing. He was using a swirling checkerboard Zip-A-Tone or LetraSet decal on a pasteup illo of a Cheshire Cat. I was absolutely fascinated as he told me about this old-school – even then – material for print art. You can see his use of it in the cover above!
I did my first print-ready commercial illo, for the YIP newsletter, when I was sixteen, because of this cool guy.
I offered to help, and wound up doing an illo of a homeless guy sitting on the steps of a fancy Village brownstone with a big Christmas wreath on the door.
It was in my usual meticulous Rapidograph style, black and white. I intended to be a book illustrator, fashion illustrator, or some other kind of commercial artist, back then.
I can see the drawing so clearly in my mind, still, but I don’t have a copy. I realize, to my shock, that I could probably find the issue – printed somewhere in the second half of 1983 – online, and buy it and hold it in my hands. Isn’t that weird?
LetraSet and Zip-A-Tone are gone now, of course. Like paste-up and the YIP headquarters. So it goes.
Toy customizers, please note that I was able to preserve full shoulder and waist articulation under the miniature clothing. Use of stretch fabrics and gluing the clothes only to strategic, rigid areas of the figure allow her a full range of posability.
Like most of the toy industry, amazing toy company Mezco (who I love and have supported since their beginnings with Silent Screamers in 2000) has a gender problem. They make dolls, and have from the early days: they make Living Dead Dolls.
They also make action figures, and since 2015, they’ve been combining the two with the 1:12 Collective, a 6″ (DOLLHOUSE) scale line of action figures with cloth clothing. (In action figure parlance, dolly clothes are called “cloth applications”.) They started slow, with a Frank Miller Dark Knight Batman (red flag? more likely the chunky design was an easy pilot project).
Then in 2016 they started releasing a cavalcade of fantastic cloth-costumed takes on the heavy hitters of the Marvel and DC universes, plus Classic Trek! These figures are unreal. They are crazy good. For 2017 they announced even more upcoming licenses and figures. Ghostbusters, Space Ghost, Universal Monsters and more. But there was only one planned female figure announced in 2016 – Harley Quinn.
Once she was announced, I thought we’d see a wave of female figures. In 2017, as the success of the Wonder Woman movie exploded on mainstream media, they announced a 1:12 Wonder Woman. But neither Harley Quinn or WW have shipped yet.
And no other female figures have been announced, despite the release of multiple male Classic Trek figures and Marvel heroes AND villains. *cough*Uhura*cough*Storm*. Know who is expected to ship by December? The Red Skull. Who is the Red Skull? He is a fucking Nazi.
That’s right, 1:12 toy collectors will get a NAZI before Wonder Woman.
As a woman, as a comics fan and former DC comics professional, as a serious lifelong toy collector, I gotta say, the optics are bad.
Do better, Mezco. Do better, toy industry.
Meanwhile, guess I gotta make my own action figures with doll clothes “cloth applications”. Been plunging into male-dominated spaces since I became a graffiti writer in 1980, a hardcore comics fan in 1984 and a comics pro in 1993. Been genderqueering the toy space since the 1970s, when me and my best friend Bradley played with my Dawn Dolls. Not gonna stop, despite Nazis.
See my mini projects that use similar techniques here: