It is no secret that the Guild has a love of the Golden Age of Comics and it is no secret that we are not alone in this. Just the past year we have highlighted a few of those devoted to the public domain super heroes born during this interesting time in comic book history. One of the companies that focus, but not exclusively, on the Golden Age is CKRTLAB Toys and we had the great honor to speak to Tim Ellis, who runs it.
CKRTLAB Toys, pronounced Secret Lab, started three and a half years ago and went live in March 2014 and is run by Ellis and a partner with two additional partners in the overall operations. Though not a full time occupation Ellis points out that it’s more than a hobby.
“It’s not a full time job yet but it’s more than a hobby” he explains. “It’s a second job. With a hobby you can come and go and your participation is at your leisure. With a side business you have responsibilities every day that need your attention. It’s a blast but it’s definitely more than a hobby.”
Having collected figures since the early 2000’s Ellis was unsatisfied with the selection available on the market.
“As much as I like Kidrobot, Tokidoki, Funk and the like, they never had figures that had a beefy, heroic stance,” he explains. “I wanted to change that. I wanted to create something that had an urban vinyl slant but was a little less cute. So I designed what we call our BIG SHOT figure and that is the base template for all the characters we produce.”
“Vinyl figures are CKRTLAB’s first foray into the toy business,” Ellis explains. “We’re definitely discussing traditional action figures but there are a number of different things to take into consideration. Dies and tooling aren’t cheap. It’s a considerable investment. Plus you’ve got almost every tier of toy manufacturers, from the bottom rung to top shelf playing in that category. It’s amazing the number of options that action figure collectors have in the market right now. When we do take the step toward traditional action figures we’ll want to make sure it has an impact.”
When asked about the choice to create Golden Age Heroes Ellis thinks back to older times.
I became a fan of Golden Age heroes when DC revived Shazam in the 70’s. That opened the door to the early Fawcett stuff and from there I just became more and more interested in the early heroes. I also grew up reading comic strip heroes like Phantom and Flash Gordon and of course other heroes like Doc Savage, Shadow, Green Hornet, John Carter & The Black Bat.” He does iterate that the world of comics may not be the only source material to be turned into figures. “Honestly, I’m such a nerd for heroes from so many different media that CKRTLAB really is open to do figures from comics, pulps, cartoons, movies, whatever.”
To someone just now getting into this world it may seem as if the Golden Age of super heroes are more popular right now, with companies like Fresh Monkey Fiction’s successful Kickstarter, Golden Age Figurines or GBJRTOYS proposed line.
“For me,” Ellis states. “It starts with being a fan of Golden Age Superheroes and just wanting cool product of my favorite characters and hopefully connecting with other Golden Age fans that want cool products, too. Golden Age Guardians is my personal love letter to all the creators from the dawn of comics. Beyond that, the fact that Superheroes have become so mainstream, using public domain superheroes is a great way to venture into the superhero market and not get bogged down with crazy expensive licensing fees.”
“Earlier this year we launched our Silver Age Centurions line based on Silver Age public domain superheroes. We have an ongoing agreement with Valiant so we will be doing a lot of the characters from their library. We’ve also signed on with Captain Canuck and those figures will be coming later this year. Plus, other new releases for 2016 are still in the works.”
Ellis explains the process of making the figures like this;
“It starts with numerous design drafts and once the overall look is determined we create the control art. Control art is the different elevations/ views of the figure [front, side, back, top, bottom] used as a guide to create the sculpt for the mold/ die. That can be a traditional clay or wax sculpt or a 3D sculpting program like ZBrush. That is then given to the factory to begin tooling the mold/ die. The different figure pieces are produced then painted and details pad printed, assembled, packaged and shipped.”
Interest in the figures has been steady and the company is gaining momentum. “We’re currently working on growing our retail exposure,” Ellis says.
Apart from being in a few comic shops, the figures can be found at Big Bad Toy Store and of course www.ckrtlabtoys.com.