Being a 70’s child I was, like many others, a huge Star Wars nut. Especially when it came to the toys, which were like crack to a young child’s mind. There was a certain buzz in scoring a new Star Wars toy and ripping it free from its packaging that couldn’t be matched by anything else (although, being a huge comic nut from a young age, the Super Powers figures offered a similar buzz as well). Everything about the experience was pure bliss. The feeling of holding that new wonderful creation in your hands for the first time, the smell of the freshly unpacked toy, soaking in the details on every level from toy to packaging. Pure innocent joy that fed my own imagination and hunger for creativity in so many wonderful ways. The opening of a new toy regularly resulted in me drawing manically for hours on end, as I often did and still do, but with an extra level of manic artistic energy.
As an adult I’ve rediscovered this joyous experience over the last few years, and it’s all been via the mind-blowing creations of 3A Toys.
ThreeA is a company, spear headed by artist Ashley Wood (Ash) and toy maker Kim (threezero), that has revolutionised the toy market in the last few years. They blur the lines between art and toys in ways that have rarely been seen, and do so with a high level of consistency while constantly pushing the envelope in every possible (and previously thought impossible) direction.
3A officially kicked off with the release of Nom de Plume, a character from the World War Robot (WWR) storyline. Since that release there have have been multiple versions of the character created, each with a different theme. The WWR story has been covered in 2 graphic albums so far, with more coming. One of the things that makes the storyline so intriguing is that it is told across the formats of the books, toys, and toy packaging itself. Every related release contains another piece of the very complex puzzle that is WWR. WWR is also the line that has seen a number of incredible robot toys be released, and these beasts really need to be seen to be believed. Some stand over 14 inches tall, and each individual robot is hand-painted, covered in scuffs and rust, and decorated with the symbols that represent their faction of the war. And despite their size (and weight, the Large Martin robot nearly broke my back when I picked up the package from the post office) they also contain high levels of articulation.
Alongside the de Plume releases there has also been the release of the NOM Commanders, 2 gas mask clad soldiers that bear the likenesses of Ash and Kim (with the releases being named Post Fire and Thrice Naught). These figures came about during an interesting interaction on the 3A forum. One day Ash mentioned it would be fun to make a twin pack of figures based on Kim and himself, the forum members (collectively known as The Legion) jumped at the chance for this to happen, a list was made of people who wanted to grab it, and this snowballed into the eventual release of 4 variations of the NOM Commanders. This represents an element of 3A that makes it so much more fun, the interaction between Ash and The Legion. It’s very rare for an artist to be so heavily and openly involved with their fanbase, and yet on any given day you can see Ash hanging out on the forums chatting with people about art, toys, and more. In this environment he’s also very fond of dropping teasers about upcoming releases that make the anticipation for the future of 3A even more exciting.
Beyond the WWR universe 3A have also released toys based on other Ash properties, such as Popbot and Adventure Kartel (with additional lines being added this year). They’ve also started releasing toys of various characters from the 2000AD line of comics, and in the future we’ll see Spawn, Metal Gear Solid and more. At some stage the 3A Showcase line will also launch, featuring other artists and toy designers such as Jeremy Geddes and Kenny Wong.
The Popbot releases that have taken place so far include Tomorrow Kings, Tomorrow Queens, Popbot, Badbot, and Kitty, with more on the way. For anyone who hasn’t read the Popbot comic I cannot recommend it enough, and the toys released so far have perfectly captured the energy and personality of the characters from the comics.
For me personally the Adventure Kartel line is the most exciting range of 3A toys. While the WWR and Popbot universe capture the essence of Ash’s oil painted artworks, the AK line of toys capture the manic and explosive energy of his ink work (especially in relation to comics). The level of uniqueness and wild imagination contained within the AK world is inspiring, and with 2010 seeing a number of “hero” releases we’ve been told that 2011 will be the year of the AK “villains”. Ash has incorporated one of his long standing creations, Les Mort, into this universe as well, which makes the whole package even better.
3A have also branched out into clothing and publishing. Like the toys themselves these releases have been of a very high quality. And if this attention to detail wasn’t enough to win anyone over they also have one of the coolest customer service teams in the biz. On the 3A forum you will also find a number of moderators who are always around to help people out, be they new or old Legionnaires, and the most prominent of these mods is without question a wonderful gentleman who goes by the name of Gimbat. You will struggle to find anyone who is more passionate about everything Ash and Kim do than Gimbat, constantly sourcing news and information to spread around all corners of the internet. I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with the man since the forums started and am always grateful for the time and effort he puts into spreading the word and keeping everyone as up-to-date as possible with all the 3A-related release information.
Ashley Wood’s art and comics surround me in my studio, as does my ever-expanding family of 3A toys. It all acts as a constant reminder of what art is capable of when the rules are removed. And on those special days when a new package arrives I get that same 70’s buzz when I release the toy from its packaging and hold it in my hands. That wonderful light-headed creative surge that makes me smile like a lunatic and has me rushing to my drawing table full of inspiration and manic artistic energy.
You won’t regret it, believe me!