The expansive uptick in mass production of pop culture is a good thing.
The question was posed one day whilst lamenting the fact that I had been spending all of my money on Funko. Mostly of the Pop! variety. Was it a good thing that companies were going crazy producing pop figures for movies, television, gaming, and anime all across the board? Was this explosion of easily obtained collectible figures going to help fans? Am I happy that large chain stores are carrying these symbols of nerddom?
The mass manufacture of these toys, especially pop figures, has opened up the world of nerd interest. And it doesn’t only benefit casual nerds. Fans that immerse themselves in nerd culture, actively particpiate in fandom, and regularly join the discussion in theorizing are immensely benefited.
They’re reasonably priced. They’re undeniably adorable. They’re easily found in a wide variety of stores both physical and online. They tend to be pretty accurate. Funko’s biggest success has been the creation of availability. Rising to popularity with absurdly simplified, aww-inducing adorable pop! figures that cost a mere $10.00, Funko has excelled by expanding their lines and creating a slew of other collectibles: slightly-tacky-but-fun retro figures, a ‘legacy’ collection of articulated toys, mini figures, blind boxes, super collectible Hikaris, fabrikation plushes, and bobbleheads.
For example, I’m a huge fan of Firefly, but would anyone who looked at my collectible displays only a year ago know it? No! The few models and statues that had been produced were either very difficult to find or extremely costly. Would I have loved to have the full crew of Serenity from the Little Damn Heroes collection? Of course. But that wasn’t financially possible. Thanks to Funko’s line, I was able to buy the entire crew in one go. Now they sit proudly on my shelf, beacons of my Firefly obsession.
Funko has also recently set their sights on another market that is highly beneficial to fans: anime. The ease of accessibility benefits anime fans thrice over, since obtaining official (or hell, even knockoff) figures requires a sound investment and a lot of patience with shipping. More and more anime merchandise is showing up at conventions, true, but most of it is wildly overpriced and sometimes of dubious quality. But ~$10 dollars for a pop figure? Wonderful.
Alongside operating in an extremely affordable sphere of business, Funko has also managed to retain the collector spirit, providing limited runs and creating a product whose rarity and desire rival the carefully articulated and hand painted figmas which have always enjoyed jaw-dropping price tags. Special variations that can only be found at specific events (like Comic-Con) or places (such as Hot Topic) help ensure that Funko is a relevant contender on the collectible scale. The yearly contest to make it into the Funko booth at SDCC is the proof. Now, I have my own issues with the absolute joke that San Diego Comic Con’s Funko booth has become and how they’ve been handling it, but the success is clearly there and Funko is clearly doing something right.
It’s working–for them, and for us. Generally, the pops! with the high price tags and limited availability are highly specialized variants. You may not be able to afford the gruesomely entertaining Headless Ned Stark pop, but you sure can grab up the classic, non-beheaded version of Ned without a problem. This constructs both a platform for avid collectors as well as an open market for casual fans who are simply looking for a memento to sit on the bookshelf.