The Not-so-underground Custom Funko Pop Industry

Funko Pops. The strange little bobble-heads that lack mouths and most other facial features. As their popularity grew, the range of characters grew exponentially. The company focused on major franchises first, such as Star Wars, Marvel, and DC Comics. As the success of the small figures became evident, more series were added to the line, even if it wasn’t a major franchise. Now pretty much any show has at least two or three Funko, and the company has started to add more anime characters to the roster. Recent additions include Kirito and Asuna from Sword Art Online, Maka and Soul from Soul Eater, Yuichiro and Mikaela from Seraph of the End, and a mix of humans and Titans from Attack on Titan. Major, Batou, and the Geisha appeared on the shelves when Ghost in the Shell was announced for this year.

Despite the ever growing number of characters, you’ll always find more characters online. Instagram and Pinterest are two sites that have a pretty decent number of photos of Funko not sold in stores. These are Funko that fans have designed and created themselves. There are a few different reasons to make a custom Funko, and I’ve used most of them.

First is if the character doesn’t exist. Three years ago a friend got me hooked on the webtoon “Soul Cartel.” An action-fantasy series that draws from “Dante’s Inferno,” various religions, and German mythology, it focuses around a young boy that meets Mephisto, arch-devil of combat, also known as the eldest son of Lucifer. They travel to the Underworld, a combination of heaven, hell, and purgatory. The series has no posters, no anime adaptations, no figurines, and barely any fan art. So I decided to make my own Funko of Mephisto and his three siblings: Beelzebub, Mastema, and Asteroth. I took a Funko Pop of Shirtless Joker from Suicide Squad, repainted it, made clothes and his hair out of clay, and then used wings from another figure. A similar process was used for his brothers.

The second reason is to create a new version of a character. The first custom Funko I did was Slave Rapunzel, a combination of Slave Leia from Star Wars and Rapunzel from “Tangled.” Inspired by the cosplay of the character, done by Maid of Might Cosplay, I used the entire figure of Slave Leia and then repainted it and added flowers in the braid. It was simple but fun. The next new version of a character I did was based on the variant version of the fifth issue of “Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys” featuring Harley Quinn as a mermaid. I repainted the body of a Pop of Ariel from Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and the head from the Pop of Roller Derby Harley Quinn.

The third is repair. The Teen Titans Funko Pops were discontinued a few years ago, and have since become extremely rare and consequently very expensive (for a Funko.) I managed to get Beast Boy recently on Ebay for a pretty good price, but it was only because the Pop’s paint was a disaster. The previous owner was a child, and the face had black marks all over it, the hair had green and brown streaks through it, and one eye and eyebrow were almost entirely gone. With several layers of paint, it was back to looking like the character, although the paint shade was paler than the original. Since it was for my personal collection, it was fine. I did the same thing to make the White Raven Funko. In the old Teen Titans series, Raven’s cloak turning white was always part of a major scene, most notably the defeat of her father Trigon. Hot Topic released an exclusive Funko Pop of Raven in her white cloak but it was discontinued not too long after that. The fact that only Hot Topic ever carried it meant the quantity was very limited, and prices skyrocketed. Now a legitimate White Raven sells for around $140, and far more than that on Ebay. Toys R Us seems determined to make every Emoticlone (The alternate colors of Raven) and so it was easy to get an Orange Raven and paint the cloak white.

The fourth and most common reason is to just add some artistic flair to a character. Day of the Dead Disney Princesses are popular customizations, with intricate facial designs. Covering a character in rhinestones is also a popular trend for almost any character, but there seem to be a lot of rhinestone Deadpool’s. It’s Deadpool, though.

There’s also the possibility of making a Funko statue, which is a very long process, at least for me. The variant cover of Marvel’s Civil War #3 features Spider Man in the Iron Spider suit resting on his three metal legs, similar to Doctor Octopus’s, which have Captain America’s shield pinned down under a web. I took the Walgreens exclusive Iron Spider Funko Pop, pulled off the legs, and am currently working on copying the pieces to make longer legs.

- T. Bartella