What follows is my semi rambling blog about my trip to Japan and the Kaiju Comrades 2 art toy show in Tokyo, March 9th-16th, 2010 ….
It’s Friday morning in Japan, and I’m still jet lagged thinking it’s Thursday .. had a weird dream that I lived in Japan .. was just walking around like I’d grown up there … awoke to look at my iPhone, hmmmm, 3am , damn .. back to sleep .. drifted off, suddenly my phone rings (?!) it was 4:30am .. I did not think my phone worked in Japan .. I looked and noticed it was a friend back home calling.. but fearing a huge phone bill did not pick it up ( sorry Jon ! ) fell back asleep … the next time it was 5:30 am .. Ok forget it, I’m up again (!) Today the show is open to the public for the first time and as usual have no idea if anyone will actually show up for this thing …but, over all i felt the show itself looked amazing and the venue was light and bright. Every piece ready to be shown off to the fans !
The line up was not too bad, about 30 folks lined up , including one guy who got there at 4am (!). We did give out numbered tickets and allowed only 5 folks in at a time, an attempt to control any over zealous fans 😉 It fell to me to man the door and make sure only the allotted five came and went, but after a few rounds of that it was impossible to hold them back and at that point the rush for the exclusives was on .. one by one each exclusive sold out ( but we did allow sponsors a few of the exclusives so please check with them ) Once the initial madness was over , the rest of the day was calmer, but sales were steady, including Touma’s custom figure selling for over $2000 USD ! It was one year ago that we did Kaiju Comrades 1 … and I remember fans coming to the show and saying that these American customs were nice, but too expensive 😉 Ah what a difference one year makes .. this time around there was no need to explain why a custom painted toy was a certain price, in fact, several customers traveled a long distance by bullet train, just to secure that certain custom they saw on my blog .. to hear these stories really made me feel good, and also relieved for the artists. The Bekos, life sized, Kaiju suit by Pico Pico was a huge hit, while not for sale it provide a great eye catching display, and perfect picture spot ….here we have left to right, artist Claudia Arcia, Kaiju Korner blogger and Super Fan, Mr Andy (left to right ) Dol Roffo who gave me this very cute, hand knitted plush and artist, Tulip, who actually helped set up the day before, but no one introduced us so I had no idea who she was (!!) ;-P .. one theory was that since there were so many “boys” in this “boys” show they were too scared to talk to her (!!) Ha-ha … the ultimate Kaiju ? .. is a Girl ! Actually both Yo and I agreed that inviting more women artists to participate in a Kaiju show was essential to not only add interest, but to expand upon the usual “boy” only fan base. Tulip’s painting of a crying cute kaiju, sad after destroying another city….sniff, but on a happier note did sell to a lucky fan ! All three of us tried our best to have a conversation.. I think we did anyways ;-P , mostly we apologized for not speaking each others language .. a common thread on this trip for me ;-(.. I could tell both wanted to ask a billion questions and at one point I could see they both were about to have their heads explode, from struggling to come up with simple English words that really did not convey more complex ideas …both artists are good spirited and of course talented.. how they can create such cute or Kawaii 可愛い characters is beyond me … my theory is, it is innate to the Japanese .. and I’m sure one can argue that cute can be found all over the world, but to me, no where can it compete with Japanese cute !!! proving a woman can throw down a tough looking Kaiju, artist Konatsu with this traditional ink wash painting ( yes, it sold fast !) Artist Pepcorin hand made these very creepy figures .. the eyeball floats and moves in its place and if you hit it, it lights up ! ( take that Bob Conge ! ) Pepcorin and I ( or is that Eye !! ) Uamou is probably best known to Kaiju collectors via RealHead, she had an amazing black lighted display, with each of her figures, hand dripped in fluorescent wax .. her homage to Hedorah ! after all this cuteness we have Myself, Andy and LuLuBell Luke … somehow were not so cute, no ? ;-P To Be Continued …
Over the years Mark Nagata has collected thousands of toys and a fair amount of titles. The man behind San Francisco-based Max Toy Company is widely known as: Toy Collector. Illustrator. Magazine Founder/Publisher. Toy Designer. Artist. Author. Husband. Father. But the one description that might fit best is an unofficial one – Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador.
In the Japanese-inspired art and toy area, as well as throughout the larger toy collecting community, Mark is welcomed and recognized for his personal passion and commitment to supporting artists all around the world and the unique works they create. Beginning as a collector in his youth, Mark has had for years a keen eye for great art and a personal interest in collecting that he has spread through a variety of outlets.
Trained at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, Mark honed his skills working for himself and for some of the most notable businesses in the country. As a freelance commercial illustrator, he completed works for such prominent companies as Lucasfilms, DC Comics, Hasbro Toys, IBM, Sony, and numerous advertising and design firms, both national and international. Mark’s colorful style graces over 40 cover paintings for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps book series – Give Yourself Goosebumps.
After hundreds of assignments, Mark made the decision to move in another direction, and that choice has led to whole new career as a successful businessman. For four years, the owner of one of the largest Ultraman toy collections in the world co-published Super 7 Magazine showcasing the finest in Japanese toy collecting.
“I’d been collecting Japanese toys all along and suddenly realized it would be cool to have a magazine of some type devoted to them,” Nagata says.
Mark’s devotion to presenting collectors with a selection of original figures inspired by classic Japanese toys from the 1960s and ‘70s as well as new versions of licensed Japanese characters is at the heart of Max Toy Company. Named for his son, Max Toys specializes in custom and limited editions of “kaiju” (Japanese monsters) toys and artwork. Many of the original toys produced are hand painted by Mark, a tradition that goes back to Japanese toy makers of the past.
“Since our target is the soft vinyl Japanese toy collector, which is a very small niche, our runs of toys can be extremely small,” Mark says. “Runs range from 500 pieces of one toy to just one for a hand-painted, one-of-a-kind custom figure.”
Through Max Toys, Mark has taken great pains to widen the reach of his two passions – toys and art. He played a significant part in the development of the first group kaiju show in the United States. Held at the Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago, Illinois in 2007, the “Toy Karma” Show featured detailed work from artists from Japan, the U.S. and South America. Participants marveled at the custom-painted toys and art on display. “Toy Karma” led to Mark being asked to be one of the artists spotlighted in the “Beyond Ultraman: Seven Artists Explore the Vinyl Frontier” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The October 2007 show, held jointly with the Los Angeles Toy, Doll and Amusement Museum, marked the first time – in a museum setting – that the influence of Japanese toys on California artists was explored. The exhibit featured more than 30 of Mark’s original paintings, toys and a selection of his vintage toy collection.
Mark continued to be at the forefront as interest in Japanese-inspired art and toys expanded in 2008. Prestigious art houses Philips De Pury and Christie’s in New York and London sold Mark’s hand-painted custom kaiju toys in its auctions, spreading this unique art and toy movement into new and uncharted areas of the art world.
In 2009, Mark once again took his love of toys and art overseas this time to a receptive and welcoming audience in Tokyo, Japan. Here, Mark curated the “Kaiju Comrades” Art Show, once again bringing together artists from various aspects of the kaiju toy realm in this first-of-its-kind toy art show. The following year found Mark in Barcelona, Spain co-curating with Emilio Garcia “Kaiju Attack,” the European country’s first kaiju art show.
As the growth of kaiju art and toys increases worldwide, Mark continues in his unofficial role of Kaiju Toy and Art Ambassador. He has written and had his artwork and toy designs included in several books and magazines, both domestic and international. In 2010, Mark served as guest lecturer on kaiju and the toy-making process at the Morikami Museum in Florida. The San Francisco resident and his art can also be spotted in the first volume of the “ToyPunks” DVD and the “Toys R Us” DVD, while the video for the number one song by Owl City “Fireflies” featured Mark’s popular Kaiju Eyezon character. During this same time period, Mark has spearheaded the “Toy Karma 2” and “Kaiju Comrades 2” shows and has plans for future shows both in the U.S. and overseas.
“Max Toys allows me to produce original artwork, new toys and work directly with a lot of talented artists,” Mark says. “Max Toy is a synthesis of toys and art, both life-long passions.”