“Creating Myths, Acting Them Out with Toys” – An interview with Brandon Barker

WorCovers  Attention conservation notice: this guy makes crazy fun toys and comics. I talked to him about bespoke action figures, comics and the pros and cons of nostalgia. (2564 words)

Brandon Barker is the man behind Warlords of Wor, a series of handmade limited-run toys coming out of Barker’s own ManOrMonster? Studios. Warlords of Wor celebrates 1980s fantasy barbarian action figures (think He-Man) right down to their awkward bodybuilder physiques, furry underpants and goofy names.

Figures released so far include the claw-handed Clawbber (“Two-fisted General of Justice!”), the evil scientist-turned-swamp-monster Bog-Nar (“Mutant Muck Menace!”) and the skull-headed albino gorilla Beastor-9 (“Twisted Abomination of Science!”).

In addition to the action figures, Brandon has released 5 minicomics featuring stories about the characters in the toy line. They’re fun little reads, great examples of shortform genre comic writing that pack a lot of plot and character in between action scenes and still leave time for a bunch of playful riffs on childrens’ activity books and the crazy ads you used to see in 1970s comic books.

What makes Warlords of Wor different from other retronostalgic offerings out there is that, while it’s following in the tradition of the toys and comics I loved as a kid (and still love), it never crosses the line into simple pastiche, mere mashup or thinly veiled fan fiction. They’re a great example of using tropes to tell new stories instead of slavishly referencing and remixing characters and stories that are already out there.

L-R: Bog-Nar the Mutant Muck Menace; Clawbber, Two-Fisted General of Justice; Beastor-9, Twisted Abomination of Science

L-R: Bog-Nar the Mutant Muck Menace; Clawbber, Two-Fisted General of Justice; Beastor-9, Twisted Abomination of Science

A little while back I got to swap some emails with Brandon, talking to him about how he got started making his own toys, how he negotiates the pitfalls of nostalgia and how he comes up with such cool and kooky names.

To start with, how did you get into making your own action figures?

I got interested in model kits when I was young, and I’ve always drawn and created in other ways, so building and customizing toys is something that developed very early for me.

“…it just takes a little DIY, punk rock spirit.”

I think the first “custom” toys I made were cyborg army men.  I would take green army men, cut off arms or legs, and glue on pieces of chrome model kit sprues (the plastic “trees” that model kit parts were attached to).  I would also repaint action figures to give them new, mission-specific outfits like night ops, desert camouflage, or arctic gear.

As an adult I decided I wanted to create my own comics and toy lines, so I just started doing it. The materials and resources are out there… it just takes a little DIY, punk rock spirit.

Read more ›

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Posted in comics, i would like to recommend these people's writing, neopulp

Poem Monday Update

So Poem Monday is ticking along nicely, with Oonagh, Essie and I managing most weeks to write something for the blog. In the last month or so we’ve written poems about:

  • Lego witches we didn’t want
  • Chocolate bars
  • Sushi
  • Weedy seadragons
  • Ducks
  • Bears

Our latest poem was an exquisite corpse collaboration between Oonagh and I that I guess is about a dog?

Anyway. Poem Monday. Updated most weeks. Check it out one time why don’t you.

Posted in writing

Published: Masters of the Universe in Love

Over the last 6 weeks I’ve had a series of photos published on the inestimable Instagramazine, an instagram account run by Gemma Mahadeo. The deal with Instagramazine is that it publishes flash fictions that people write in response to photos that they or others have taken.

MOTUiLThe photos I took and the flashfics I wrote to accompany them are of my beloved Masters of the Universe action figure dollies catching a break from the humdrum of fighting and world-conquering and discovering and/or inventing pseudoscientific-cum-mystical weapons for fighting each other or conquering the world or preventing said fights and conquests and just hanging out with that certain special someone for a little while. Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.19.12 am

I had a lot of fun setting up these photos and writing the stories to accompany them. It was a genuinely neopulp experience that captured exactly the way I like to humanise, whimsify and sentimentificate the tropes of fantasy and science fiction.

The photos and stories are all over on Instagramazine, which you can check out even if you don’t have an IG account, using the #mastersoftheuniverseinlove tag. But if you do have an IG, I’d recommend following @ig_ezine. It’s a fun, sweet little account.

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Posted in neopulp, people who are nice enough to publish me, short stories

Published: One Weird Reason to Quit Your Novel Today

I have an “ideas piece” over on Writers Bloc today. It’s about a thing that happened in my brain about a month or two ago where I decided to finally stop writing the novel I’ve been working on for ten years. Here’s an extract:

…it was exciting being a novelist. A real, actual novelist. Good word, that. The kind of word you can say with pride at a dinner party without anticipating the need for clarification or worrying about killing the conversation.

“Novelist” is what people assume you mean when you say “I’m a writer”. Not “poet”. “I’m a writer,” you say. “That’s great,” people reply, putting you on a mental bookshelf next to Tim Winton and Joan London. “A poet, actually,” you might clarify, then clear your throat.

So there I was, a published poet and a published novelist in a world that by and large valued fiction much more highly than poetry. “I love reading,” someone might say to you, and pretty soon odds are you’ll be comparing favourite novelists. Never poets. Unless the person you’re speaking to is a poet, which is lovely, but that doesn’t happen much.

As a result of all this, I stopped thinking of myself as a poet and started thinking of myself as a writer instead.

You can read the rest of “One Weird Reason to Quit Your Novel Today” over at Writers Bloc.

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Posted in people who are nice enough to publish me, poetry, the reason why I am doing this, the writing process

Published: I Was Here

A couple weeks ago I submitted a short story to Chart Collective’s I Was Here project.

The deal was they were asking for anonymously submitted 300-character-max stories about real things that had happened in the Melbourne CBD. 50 stories would get picked and put onto posters that would be stuck up around the city as part of some This Public Life festival of landscape architecture or something.

So this week I was doing a bit of story stalking after being sent an email with a map pinpointing the 50 stories. Since the stories were anonymous nobody was contacted to be told if they got picked or not, so I was checking out the two posters placed in flinders lane, near where my story was set. I found the two posters, one on the notice board at the City Library:

And one in a shop window in the Nicholas Building:

Neither of them were mine, so I figured I hadn’t got in.

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Posted in i would like to recommend these people's writing, people who are nice enough to publish me, short stories

Published: Anti-RomCom Pop Song

This was a while ago but in the interests of full disclosure my anti-romcom poem, “Anti-RomCom Pop Song” came out in Australian Poetry Journal 5.1 back in July. Which was nice.

I wrote the poem after listening to a Wombats album on repeat for a day and discovering that, rather than being the whimsical and charming popsters they came across as when half-listening to them in the radio, they were rather more entitled young men smugly unaware of their male privilege than I’m comfortable with.

Anyway it was great to see it in print, and to be sharing pages with the likes of David McCooey’s meditations on Elvis and Joni Mitchell, Allis Hamilton’s retelling of the Pied Piper story, Chloe Wilson’s plague doctor poem and Jane Frank’s sobering yet forgiving take on middle age and domesticity.

You can buy a copy of APJ5.1 on the Australian Poetry website, or if you prefer you can read it online – the whole damn thing is also on the APJ site free for the taking ( including my contribution, which is here).

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Posted in new poems, people who are nice enough to publish me, poetry

Our New Blog: Poem Monday

For the last few Mondays Oonagh and I have been writing poems together. We pick a topic and then write one poem each, reading them out to the family when we’re done.

Our first poems wereĀ about blue hamburger fish.

You can check them out over at our Poem Monday blog, and stay tuned for more poems every Monday from now on.

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Posted in i would like to recommend these people's writing, lines I wish I'd written, new poems, poems, poetry, writing
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Quelle Grammage!
Interview with @manormonster about his Warlords of Wor comics and toys up on my blog now! Best quote: "Stories connect a person to a toy and make a lasting bond that transcends the often disposable cycle of pop culture mashup." Check the full article at the link in my profile. This one's for @hoardworld. Giddyap! #superman #finfangfoom From now on every robot I see will seem incomplete without a bunny. Afterpherd's  Pie.

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