by Zena Tsarfin
“Welcome home, tastemakers, misfits and rebels,” was the message flashing across the digital billboard at NYC’s inaugural Five Points Festival, held at Pier 36 in downtown Manhattan this past weekend.
And with that, the co-presented effort from Clutter Magazine and Midtown Comics sought to unite the worlds of designer toys, comics, street art and DIY craft by superimposing a whose-who of sculptors and creative artists in a chill environment replete with food trucks and craft beer. Think NYCC’s “The Block” with more room to groove, aimed at folks who revere Supreme more than Superman.
“We needed this,” said artist Peter Kato, known for this miniature bunny figurines. “It’s so nice to have something like this on the East Coast,” he said, referring to Pasadena, CA’s DesignerCon. (“D-Con,” as it is commonly referred to, had a presence at Five Points Festival and supported the convention via social media.)
For those unfamiliar, Clutter’s own helpful glossary defines designer toys as “lowbrow” pop art pieces, “usually intended to be display collectibles rather than emphasize playability.” Essentially, the collectability of the piece depends more on the creator than the character. Typically made in small batches with multitudes of alternative colorways, the results often appear psychedelic — and stature is never indicative of value. The Dunny is probably one of the more ubiquitous models of the genre.
Preceding the two-day convention were Clutter’s 7th Annual Designer Toy Awards held at Webster Hall and hosted by documentarian, Morgan Spurlock.
Five Points was definitely not your typical pop convention. The biggest real-life characters here had names like Sucklord, Killer Acid and Lamour Supreme, who, along with heavy hitters such as Ron English, Tara McPherson, and Tokidoki’s Simone Legno, happily mingled with fans and participated in off-site art battles and mural creations. One of the cooler interactive opportunities came from Ryan Rutherford, who mixed materials and poured molds, creating figurines on site with a portable rotocaster (on which, a sticker read, “This machine kills fascists”).
There was nary a cosplayer – a lone Batman looked a little out of place on Saturday, but a crew known as the Vengeful Justice Buddies and included an impressive Green Arrow and Deathstroke, more than made up for it the following day. And the requisite Harley Quinn costumes pretty much cemented Five Points’ ties to comics’ influence and inspiration.
The most mainstream presence came from DC Collectibles, which previewed the 2018 limited-edition designer PVC figures of the Joker, Batman and Catwoman, as imagined by Nooligan Saulique, Chris Uminga, Sho Murase, respectively, in a non-descript booth. Nearby, Valiant had plenty of free comics giveaways, and the Jack Kirby Museum setup proudly emphasized the creator’s Lower East Side upbringing near the convention’s location.
The lines for signings at the Midtown Comics booth for creators such as Greg Capullo, Dan Slott, Scott Snyder, Mike Hawthorne and Matthew Rosenberg, snaked around quite a bit – but nothing of the hours-long, serpentine scale at a bigger convention.
The Artist Alley section was filled with a slew of recognizable names; Ben Templesmith, Cliff Chiang, Amy Chu, Joe Harris, Amy Reeder and Ivan Brandon, among them. Though some mentioned the area seemed to pull less volume than the toy section, a steady pace of foot traffic was seen passing through and eyeing tables.
To be sure, plenty of vendors left happy. Brian Lew of Super7 remarked that he was impressed by Five Points Festival’s momentum, with it only being in its first year, as well as his booth’s overall sales. Fans, like local toy collector Doug Barnum, noted the comradery of other show-goers and artists, without the claustrophobia of a large-scale con.
It might take a few more go-arounds before Five Points Festival moves to the next level, though I certainly enjoyed myself. In the meantime, those aforementioned tastemakers will continue snickering at this year’s biggest hit, the ubiquitous “Make Vinyl Urban Again” red hats.
Kidrobot showed off their brand-new Andy Warhol collection.
DC Collectibles’ Batman as imagined by Chris Umiga
Ryan Rutherford demonstating with rotocaster.
Frankpool by Steven Cartoccio
The Clutter Designer Toy Award itself
Cat Invaders by Bro Darr
Toy Tokyo’s owner showed off his enviable personal collection.
The Elite Beat Staff is a trained squad of ninja masters.