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The Weird and Wonderful World of Bootleg Star Wars Toys

These definitely aren’t the toys you’re looking for.
January 14, 2016, 7:30pm
Lost in translation, in a galaxy far, far away. Photos courtesy of Karl Baxter

Cheap plastic, shoddy joints, and strange faces aside, Star Wars toys of all shapes and varieties keep consumers coming back to the toy store. Ever since the Kenner toy company first fumbled their initial release of figurines in 1977, Star Wars action figures have captivated kids and collectors. And where there’s a hot product, there are bound to be knock-offs. From extremely rare and bizarre Turkish fakes to the infamous Star Knight featuring Darth Vader as a biker cop, the world of sham figures still calls to collectors. For more insight into this world of fakes, The Creators Project spoke to Karl Baxter, a wholesaler who happened upon a stash of terrible bootlegs, and the pop artist The Sucklord, maker of Star Wars action figure “appropriations.”


The dreaded Dennis. Photo courtesy of Karl Baxter

Karl Baxter, of Wholesale Clearance UK, created waves around the web when he posted a blog detailing a strange shipment of badly translated (and poorly made) Star Wars: Episode I action figures. “I took a gamble on a ‘bulk joblot,'” which Baxter describes as a sort of “lucky dip” of random bulk items. “Normally I’d take a more calculated risk, but I noticed the listing promised Star Wars merchandise, and with The Force Awakens coming up I assumed it would be an easy win.” But the figures are all wrong, and clearly fakes. We asked Baxter what he thinks when wrong. He cites “spelling mistakes and technical errors, while other [errors] are deeper, cultural miscalculations. Part of me likes to think their creators were just trying to avoid legal action… but it also seems apparent that very little care went into their production, so who knows? It’s a mystery, like Stonehenge.”


The character Watto, or… What? Photo courtesy Karl Baxter

But Baxter’s not totally opposed to the idea of these knockoffs. “I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss bootleg merchandise. We’ve been flooded with emails and calls from people desperate to get their hands on these toys, purely for the novelty factor. Unfortunately as they’re such a massive legal hassle, and an even bigger choking hazard, we’re just going to recycle them.”


On the other end of the spectrum, pop artist The Sucklord creates “appropriated” action figures based on classic Star Wars toys. “I’m not necessarily trying to elevate the toys, but what I make is not technically a bootleg. A bootleg is designed purposefully to deceive the customer. The stuff that I do has a different intention, which is to appropriate and reinterpret and repossess the material in a creative or artistic way that does something new and original. It’s more of an appropriation than a bootleg, it’s just more fun to call it a bootleg because it adds a layer of danger and salaciousness to it.”


Vinny Tony's Suck Pizza (2013). Photo courtesy of The Sucklord


Suckdominus with Appropriation Nation (2010). Photo courtesy of The Sucklord

Though he makes highly collectible reinterpretations of figures, he’s not a collector himself. “You don’t get high on your own supply. Being on the other end of it, being someone who’s stuff is collected, none of it seems that precious to me.” But he does speak to the nature of the maker, “Anybody can make a copy of a figure, but why are you making your particular copy of a figure? That’s what makes it, quote-unquote, art.”

Click here to visit The Sucklord's website.


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