C’mon, admit it…you’re a little bit tired of stormtroopers. Stormtroopers in the water, in the mud, in the sand, in the rain. Stormtroopers blowing up, burying comrades, pointing dramatically off camera. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good trooper shot as much as the next guy and yes, I have a troop, but they are extremely ubiquitous at this point in the history of the toy photo hobby.
In thinking about the state of the hobby and collecting in a broader sense, I wondered why the lowly Stormtrooper enjoyed so much popularity as a subject. Sure they look cool and stand out in their all-white armor, but I think there’s something more to it. Unlike many franchise characters, troopers don’t have set storylines or fixed characteristics – they can be anywhere and do anything – good or bad – and not look out of place. Conversely, unless it’s a parody/concept shot (Pennywise selling balloons to the Carl from Up, for example) it’s hard not to assign certain attributes to franchise characters; Jason is a killer and threatening, Luke is a Jedi and heroic, Deadpool is a trigger-happy smartass.
This is where I think the appeal of characters with no set storylines lies. No one will question the weapon choice, motivations, or settings. You want orcs in space? Go for it. Is your post-apocalyptic warrior also a wizard? Cool!
Recently, there seems to be a surge in the popularity of non-franchise, and predominantly fantasy/sci-fi figures; Ori Toy’s Acid Rain World, Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S., TeccoToys’ forthcoming 1/35th scale mechs, ThreeA’s line of robots and futuristic warriors, JackalX’s 1/6th Ophicuchus : Dawn of the Humanoids line, and Mythic Legions to name a few.
Mythic Legions, from Four Horsemen Studios, in particular, is enjoying some well-deserved success and has captured the attention of a lot of artists in the community, many of whom were well entrenched in figures from Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Anime or other franchises.
These Dungeons & Dragons-inspired characters feature beautiful paintwork and come with a ton of accessories, including head options, weapons, and armor pieces. What’s most fun is that they are completely interchangeable; you can easily pop off and swap out arms, legs, heads, and armor to create your own unique figures. Modding and customizing has become a big part of collecting ML and keeps this unique line even more interesting.
Acid Rain World, a line of fully articulated 1/18th (and smaller 1/28th) figures also has a rapidly growing following and many toy photogs have taken them up. These figures strike a balance between WWII, gas-masked looks and futuristic, post-apocalyptic tech. The scale makes vehicles that won’t take over your apartment a reality, opening up some great possibilities for war-inspired shots.
Another 1/18th line, Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S., is one of the first of the new wave of fantasy figures which, along with Mythic Legions, started on Kickstarter. This collection of classic mythic characters include knights, gladiators, medusas, warriors, skeletons and more. For their size, the detail and paint on these figures is almost unbelievable. They strike a bit more of a grounded D&D-vibe with more muted “realistic” paint schemes than their ML counterparts. They generally come with a bunch of accessories including hand options, something they have over ML. Recently, Boss Fight wrapped up another Kickstarter for a series of horses (and yes, Centaurs!) that should be available for retail purchase next year.
The great thing about these franchise-free figures from a creative perspective is that they come with no well-known, pre-set storylines or character traits and are open to interpretation by both the photographer and their viewership. Yes, dwarves and elves come with some pre-conceived traits, but this isn’t Gimli or Legolas and your black-armored dwarf can be an evil killer, a powerful hero, or just one of an army of dwarves. Slap some add-on wings on him and he can fly. Paint him purple and green and no one can tell you that a dwarf from Belegost wouldn’t be caught dead wearing green (shut up Tolkien nerds!).
For the foreseeable future, nothing is going to slow the Star Wars, Marvel, DC and other franchise juggernauts down much. But it does seem that there is a clamor out there for something different – something we haven’t been seeing all our lives and something that doesn’t require you to have every character in your collection to tell a full photo story. More and more companies are popping up with some well-made and creative figures that are becoming hot properties in their own right.
What do you think? Are you a fan of any of these lines or others? Tempted to jump into one (or more)? Let us know in the comments!
Trevor is a New York-based Creative Director and owner of The Brand Counselors. He has a growing collection of 150ish 1:6th scale stock and custom figures (and more and more Lego sets). Toy photography melds his childhood dreams of comic book illustration and film directing with his design talents and – in his mind – justifies the ridiculous money he spends on these things. When he’s not shooting, he enjoys kayaking, catching up on good TV and building seemingly endless custom figures.
Last modified: December 22, 2018