While most people consider toys and action figures to be child’s play, two Lafayette entrepreneurs are trying to turn little plastic heroes and villains into a serious business.
Jason Bienvenu and Brandon Gary, known in the independent comic book world for their comic “Dusk,” have begun work on a new venture where they hope to produce ’70s and ’80s style action figures of characters from Bienvenu’s graphic novel “The Kingdom.”
“When I originally created ‘The Kingdom,’ a lot of inspiration was pulled from stuff like ‘He-Man,’ ‘Thundercats’ and ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,’ ” Bienvenu said. “Since I used those as an inspiration, it was kind of a natural segue for them to go from the comics into action figures.”
Bienvenu’s creation, “The Kingdom,” has seen relative success for an independent comic since its first publication in 2012 after a Kickstarter campaign.
The graphic novel is sold primarily online, but is also carried in comic shops and video game stores across the southern Gulf region and sold at conventions that Bienvenu and Gary attend.
“It’s focused on children and younger readers,” Bienvenu said. “It’s got a lot of anthropomorphic characters. It’s an adventure book, but it’s got some humor and scary stuff.”
Spero Studios, the company Bienvenu and Gary founded to encompass their toy-making efforts, comics and any other future entertainment endeavors, is funding its first wave of action figures called “The Animal Warriors of the Kingdom” through a Kickstarter campaign.
Their goal is to raise $52,000 to cover production costs like the metal molds, plastics, packaging and shipping for 12 characters from the comic series. They are offering numerous benefits for backers such as extra figures, weapons and special variants on the figures.
Pre-orders of the figures are also being taken online at bigbadtoystore.com, one of the world’s largest online toy stores.
In the first five hours the campaign raised about $6,000 and now has more than $22,000.
The funding campaign and the action figures were also featured on toy and entertainment websites like Bleeding Cool and Toyark and were also on display in Houston recently at Comicpalooza, Texas’ largest comic and pop culture event.
The toys themselves are painted, ball-joint figures similar to the classic “Star Wars” and “G.I. Joe” figures of the 1980s.
The toy line is even channeling that ’80s feel with a retro-style commercial featuring a boisterous voice-over while highlighting the hero and villain figures.
Bienvenu brought Gary into the project because of their working relationship on “Dusk” and Gary’s past role as a “silent partner” in Bienvenu’s other creative endeavors.
Bienvenu said Gary is a grounding influence.
“I’m so impulsive that I’ll be sending him stuff that we could do like, ‘We can do this,’ ” Bienvenu said. “And then he’ll say, ‘Hold up. Maybe we shouldn’t do this right this second.’ ”
Spero Studios is in talks with other independent comic creators and an independent video game developer to produce toys for other artists. The company also has considered branching in to card games and board games, but they said they plan to focus on the toy line and the Kickstarter campaign first.
“If we’re going to branch things out, we’re going to do what feels best for it,” Gary said.