Rivals, a new line of designer vinyl toys created by Edmond-based designers Chase Layman and James Hugo, features bizarre undersea characters that are geared more to the adult collector than a child's toy box.
“These are not really something you play with,” Layman said. “It's really more of something that you show off.”
The Cog is a steampunk inspired deep sea diver named Theodore P. Stevedore who is packing heat in the form of a ray gun. The Nautilus, also known as Algernon Chiffchaff, is a one-eyed, half-human, half-mollusk character armed with a crossbow.
Layman, 27, and Hugo, 30, created the Rivals concept using their shared love of collectible toys.
The Rivals toys already have attracted an online following. Using the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com, Layman and Hugo have raised more than $29,000 to have the toys manufactured. The Rivals toys now are available for pre-order at Rivalvinyl.com.
According to the Rivals storyline, the Cog and Nautilus characters are locked in a turf war over the rare minerals that lie beneath the underwater villages of Nautilus.
Funded by fans
Layman and Hugo launched the Edmond-based graphic design and branding firm Wheelhouse in August.
Bookshelves at Wheelhouse offices are a testament to the partners' love of toys. Rows of small vinyl figurines ranging from characters from “The Simpsons” to more obscure psychedelic bunny rabbits line the shelves.
“When we started Wheelhouse, we always knew we wanted to make our own product,” Layman said.
Although Layman and Hugo's most recent Kickstarter campaign was a success, netting more than twice the contributions they originally sought, the process of raising money to manufacture the toys has been one of trial and error.
Layman and Hugo's first Kickstarter campaign failed to generate enough funding to get the project off the ground.
“We really didn't have much of a following — we had about 140 friends on Facebook, and that was about it,” Hugo said. “The second time around, we really had a lot of involvement from the community.”
The toys have sparked interest from other vinyl toy collectors and Steampunk fans. Layman and Hugo have even gotten fan art depicting the Rivals characters.
The Rivals characters have about 2,900 likes on Facebook and an additional 3,600 followers on the image-sharing website Instagram.
Working with a manufacturer, Layman and Hugo have created prototypes of the Rivals characters. It cost them about $2,000 to make two toys about as tall as a soda can.
The partners are in the process of working out the kinks in the preliminary product and hope to have the first batch of toys manufactured in China in the next few months.
“There's little things we're still working out, like how the ray gun fits in the Cog's hand,” Hugo said. “We want it to be a quality product.”