• Wazi

Bio: Tonezone Toys

Updated: May 19

I was fascinated with color - coded sets of things.

I had a ton of action figures as a kid.

I loved the designs, the colors, pretty much everything that went into making a toy marketable to a child appealed to me in a big way. I was fascinated with color-coded sets of things. Power rangers, TMNT, Stone Protectors, B.C. Bikers, whatever.

I loved to see all the parts of a set or a series together. Seeing all four turtles together just really gave me an accomplished sense of completion.

I never stopped collecting action figures.

As a child, my first action-figure was the original Bossk by Kenner.

My Dad took my me to a comic book shop to pick up some new Batman book he had heard about.

On the floor by the register, there was a huge box of beat to hell Star Wars figures from the original Kenner run. As my brother and I rummaged through this box, only able to recall a small handful of the characters from the movie we’d only seen a few times at that point, I found Bossk. He looked like he was in an X-Wing pilot uniform, but he’s a lizard for some reason?

That was the coolest fucking thing I could think of as a 5-year-old.

The fascination with toys never ended. For the next two decades I collected loose and MOC examples of my favorite figures from the Playmates TMNT line, and loose figures from the Kenner Star Wars line, with some other fun things like the unforgettable Incredible Crash Dummies sprinkled in… and eventually I kind of ran out of stuff to collect. Either I already owned it, it didn’t fit into my desires as a “collector”, or it was just downright too expensive for me to care. That’s when I started diving into instagram, trying to connect with other collectors to see what else I could get into.

The first bootleg I ever saw was a ridiculously cool Boba Fett that was like, rainbow chrome, with a resealable clamshell package, and Japanese font of some sort. All of a sudden, neurons were firing in the gigantic lobe of my brain that contains all the useless crap about toys. What a gigantic world of possibilities.

Screw scrolling through eBay on endless nights without satisfaction. I can make whatever the fuck I want!

Immediately I started internet searching for clues to help me solve the puzzle that would unlock the door to this new and exciting creative outlet. I poured through dozens of toymaking websites, toy customization instructional videos and plenty of how-to’s. I probably had 30 hours of study time in before I even placed the order for my first mold making stuff and resin. I did not dare disturb the big-ballers of the time asking for help or tidbits when I was starting out.

In September 2017, I cranked out a bunch of B-9 ripoffs (the robot from Lost in Space) as a physical edition of an album I wrote for my band, Masters Chambers. I chopped up a B-9 keychain and a 2-1B from Star Wars, added some wire cover shit I yanked out of my brother’s El Camino, and boom, done.

You buy the figure; you get a download code for the album. I would end up giving most of the them away. Oh, and I made so many mistakes. I wasted tons of material and ruined a few articles of clothing. I am proud of the fact that I was able to cast about 20 semi-clear, sparkly, and glowing figures on my first round of attempts, though.

The figure following my initial experiment was probably way out of my league.

I wanted to pay tribute to some of my very favorite bootlegs of all time, Mexican TMNT bootlegs.

I started drawing up plans for “Turtle Hero Squad: Commander”, a hand cast, hand painted figure with a full set of accessories, a hand-sewn cloth cape, and 7 fucking points of magnetic articulation. It is a badass Pokemon X TMNT boot in my opinion. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, but I eventually sold 4 of the original 8 about a year after I made them. I decided not to sell the remaining 4 for personal reasons.

I think I really started to gain some level of recognition when I created the Red Baron action figure from a bunch of GI Joe pieces.

The inaction figure, hand-painted with cloth scarf, rifle, and pizza slice, was served on a pizza box card-back, and had a nutritional contents sticker on the back of the packaging.

Eventually, the US Pizza Museum commissioned one and bought a few of my other pizza-themed pieces for an exhibit.

My Star Wars bootlegs, which include Chewie-Cola, Dank Vader, Pizza Rancor Keeper, and Butt2D2 & Beav-3PO, really made huge waves for me in the last year or two. The NYCC exclusive through DKE (Butt2D2 & Beav-3PO) sold out by noon on the second day. It was a massive success for me, I felt a real sense of affirmation that I was on my destined path. I was making other people smile. That’s really all I ever wanted – to touch the lives of other collectors, people who hold these symbols of pop-culture as dear to their hearts as I do.

I’m currently wrapping up my first comic book, TALES FROM THE ZONE #1, with a fresh wave of 4 figures that each feature peg articulation, a playset, and a vehicle playset. This book will provide a cohesive universe where many of my previous figures will make appearances. At this time, there are 3 issues planned out, with plans to accommodate up to 5 total issues.

People see me at “art-fair” type events around town, and they inevitably always ask disdainfully, “Why?”

To which I will always answer with a resounding, “Why the fuck not?”

A final thought: I am an open door to new toy makers. In the beginning, I was not always met with kindness as I asked other toy artists about their techniques. I did a lot of learning through my mistakes – which I absolutely encourage. I did a lot of learning through just studying materials and techniques, which is necessary. But occasionally we do reach out to others in our community for help, for advice, for a laugh… and I encourage that too. Let us not allow this community to be ripe with the insecurity of gatekeepers who obsess over clout. Keep the finer secrets of your trade, absolutely. I think we all know that no single individual can unlock the secrets of what will make the next Phantom Starkiller by simply asking a fucking question.

I refuse to turn away someone who wants to create art through this medium. I am an open door to new toy makers.

- Tony

You can find my store here

and my instagram here

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