The Suckadelic Era

The designer-toy world's biggest jerkbag thinks you're an asshole for reading this story.

The Sucklab is a Chrystie Street studio, a rectangular prism of paint-splotched toy carnage that was once considered a part of Chinatown but is now, as he qualifies disgustedly, "fucking fancyland." One September Friday afternoon there, surrounded by tiny molds that look like mini Han Solos trapped in carbonite, the Sucklord is wearing a Slob Nation Army T-shirt and amplifying his narcissism. "What was I saying?" he asks after a momentary lapse, then smirks. "Something really brilliant?"

Besides his inflated-ego schtick, the Sucklord, a diminutive guy with a skullet-hawk haircut, is best known for kitbashing: He tears off appendages from vintage action figures, reproduces the parts he wants to reappropriate through resin casting, then reassembles the pieces and reinvents new characters. "I liken this to sampling in a way, where you take little bits and pieces, and you remix," he explains. Unlicensed mixing is how Suckadelic first started in 1998; Morgan spliced together a mix CD of sampled Star Wars dialogue laid over old-school breakbeats, hawked them at comic conventions, and ended up talking about the project on All Things Considered, which to this day, he considers his most highbrow compliment.

"He kept saying, 'George Lucas is going to come after me,'" the Suckmom remembers. "I said, 'You wish!'"

The Gay Empire, a pink series of big-bulged Stormtroopers, is Suckadelic’s best-selling bootlegged figure.
Dustin Fenstermacher
The Gay Empire, a pink series of big-bulged Stormtroopers, is Suckadelic’s best-selling bootlegged figure.
Sucklord's Piss Bart from 2008
Cami D
Sucklord's Piss Bart from 2008

George Lucas never did bother. (Lucas Licensing did not respond to requests for comment.) Fortunate, because Star Wars villains are the primary source material for Sucklord's best-known work. The Sucklord, which is also the name of a signature action-figure character, is a geek-baller antihero who dons an all-gray Boba Fett mask, rocks a caped beryl-blue tracksuit, carries a boombox, and hangs a lightsaber from his belt. This is the costume the Sucklord tends to inhabit by default, sauntering around comic conventions.

The Boba Fett version of Sucklord is also the main character in the schlocky Suckadelic Web series, The Toy Lords of Chinatown, a '70s-sploitation New Jack City spoof in which toys are contraband instead of drugs. "In those videos, there are so many references to kung-fu movies and Japanese samurai films and to cheap toy ads we all saw as kids, and it's mixed in with street culture," says Budnitz, who not only sells Sucklord stuff in Kidrobot but also featured Sucklord pieces in his coffee-table designer-toy book, I Am Plastic, Too. "I think he's a fine artist: He appropriates all this different stuff from pop culture and mashes it together and comes up with something so strange and interesting and self-referential and brilliant."

But what Sucklord has managed to do, while being entirely complicit in the toy world, is to make fun of the fantasies that have inspired his whole career. He prints "You're an Asshole for Buying This" on every Suckadelic product and names characters Spooky Booty, Cosmo Douche, and Space Chump. "Each one of these pieces is handmade," says Dov Kelemer, owner of West Coast DKE Toy Distributors. "The resin that he's poured, that he's designed, and the whole concept of the toy—the whole joke or gag—is that it's a toy that makes fun of all toys." For example, he mocks himself and every other hapless nerd who lived vicariously through sci-fi heroines with Another Bitch You Didn't Get to Fuck, a perfectly proportioned Barbarella-type figure sold backward. When you turn her around, she has the face of Star Wars monster General Grievous.

"His toys, at least to me, aren't that creative," says Toypinionated.com's Matthew Hisey, a San Diego resident with a 700-piece designer-toy collection. "But any inclination I've ever had to buy a piece of his was simply because I wanted to own a piece of his attitude. He is his own marketing machine. Everybody wants to be around him or look at the guy from afar—maybe they're scared to be around him because he's weird—but it's that that makes you want to buy his stuff."

Sucklord's all-time bestseller is the Gay Empire series, a Galactic army of pink Stormtroopers with pronounced bulges that was meant as a hammy rejection of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Sucklord rechristened them Homotroopers, sealed them in a two-color blister pack with a rose-tinged Stormtrooper holding another from behind, and spoofed a complete set of Gay Empire characters on the back (Barney Frank, Peppermint Patty, Bert and Ernie, etc.) Gay Empire Attack!, a mounted series of 40 Homotroopers, was one of two pieces auctioned off for $1,250 at Christie's in June 2008. The other was a Star Wars AT-AT tagged like a delivery truck. (By contrast, in the same auction, a vintage 20-inch Alien doll spun off the 1979 Ridley Scott film, unopened in its original box, sold for $1,000.)

The Gay Empire is what first got the attention of retired rock-poster artist and designer-toy giant Frank Kozik. "Morgan comes off like a clown sometimes, right?" says Kozik recently over cheesecake. "But to me, he's really the purest form of American huckster artist. He's a raconteur, he's a wise guy, he's a P.T. Barnum. He has incredible charisma: He can put on a crappy homemade costume, and he can transform himself into this gigantic figure. I'm real fascinated by what he's doing." In Midtown for a Swatch-Kidrobot collaboration release, the graphic-artist heavyweight continues, unprompted. "He's producing these little crappy handmade objects that seem so wrong and so stupid, but they're actually kind of like super-important. There're infinite onion layers of meaning into his toys." The 800-pound toy-gorilla pauses. "Is this sycophantic enough?" He yells into the recorder, "Fuck you, Morgan; you owe me money!"

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6 comments
Josiepussycat
Josiepussycat

I will never come to this site again because of your shitty intrusive pop ups that cover the content. Fuck you and die.

Cool_Raoul
Cool_Raoul

I like the way KAWS is referred to as a commercial artist and some other guy is identified as a graphic designer or a poster artist.

Usually those cats don't go around fixating on labels but their fans want to anoint them as "artists". The same fans who might criticise people who look only at "fine art" and ignore, say, toys, yet would never look at a painting made pre-1900. Fucking children.

I very much like the phrase "toy community".

It reminds me of something an artist once said, "When the sweepers have done the sweeping they had to do and the toys are home in their beds, sleeping, I can take my time and be creative."

Marco Silva
Marco Silva

IMO this piece should set the standard for artist interviews.

The writer did their homework, rifled through morgan's bedroom, and even visited the suck mama! We get a much richer idea of the Sucklord thx to Camille's digging.

more features like this on the toy community please!

AngryBroomstick
AngryBroomstick

haven't you heard of the wonders of a pop-up ad BLOCKER?

 
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