SUPER SHOGUN STORMTROOPER
Exclusive Interview with Frank Supiot:|
Who the heck is Super 7?
Both Brian and I are part of the Star Wars generation and can bore you to tears with stories of childhood toys and embarrassing homemade Darth Vader Halloween costumes. Take a strong dose of fandom and mix in Brian's creativity, and suddenly you're always thinking of potential new creations featuring your heroes. When Super7 opened our first retail store in San Francisco, Brian designed a one-of-a-kind, flocked wallpaper featuring graphics of various masked Imperial characters: Darth, Snowtrooper, Fett, and a Stormtrooper. Basically a tribute to the dead guys of the series! [Rebelscum's own] Shane Turgeon, author of The Force In The Flesh book, introduced us to Steve Sansweet, who visited the store and was immediately enamored with the wallpaper. This led to further discussions and Steve introduced us to the staff at Lucas Licensing, and we were only too eager to let loose with our many Star Wars ideas!
It is difficult for any toy to equal the awe generated by being 8 years old and receiving a Super Robot that is almost the same height as yourself. The robot designs were striking and colorful, and the figures were jam-packed with different features: spaceship brains, launching finger and torso missiles, wrist spaceships that fired ninja-stars, and of course, the spring-loaded Rocket Punch! Even a non-robot character such as Godzilla had tiny roller skate wheels on his feet and was given a rocket punch gimmick. Toy fans at any age could tell the aesthetics of these characters was a little different than other US comic book heroes, and making it more obvious was the fact that they had their names printed on their torsos in Japanese! It wasn't until I was an adult that I knew what the torso stickers meant, but at the time, it was just another detail that made the toys exotic and flat-out cool.
As with anything Super7 produces, we want to manufacture the coolest stuff that we personally love, and there are few things we love more than giant robot toys. Brian has dozens of sketches of original robots that he created specifically thinking of developing into Jumbo Machinders.
Somewhere on a parallel earth, the Japanese Jumbo Machinder manufacturers and 1970s Lucasfilm staff members met and agreed to make Star Wars character into "Super Shoguns". We're here to make that alternate earth Christmas morning experience occurs here in our own reality! The Stormtrooper design is probably the most robotic looking non-droid in the series (and I'm sure I'm not the only kid who thought the troopers actually were droids after seeing the original film in 77), so it was a good aesthetic fit for the format. Some of the shapes in the armor would easily be interpreted into the format. It would allow us to have an armored character, that was iconic and badass, and permit us to incorporate cool features, such as the laser blaster. We thought it would be an awesome character to kick off the line.
The biggest challenge was making sure we produced the Trooper using the same materials and manufacturing techniques as the original toys. Almost no figural toys are produced today using polyethylene, and even less are made with a "blow-molding" technique. Yet that tactile feel of the plastic is intrinsic to the Super Shogun experience. It simply wouldn't be the same without it. No company has made a true Jumbo Machinder in this method in over twenty five years, so finding a factory that could authentically produce this type of toy was more difficult than one may imagine. We were constantly given engineering suggestions and asked to consider different materials, but we knew that would betray the entire spirit of the project. Without exaggeration, this toy has been in development for two and a half years!
Next up is a true fan-favorite character, and one we can't wait to see realized in Super Shogun form: the infamous Boba Fett! Fett is going to be quite dynamic, as his costume is incredibly detailed, and?while not giving away too much this early, his armor allows for a couple of cool gimmicks and features!
Jumbo Machinders are a series of Giant Robots and other Japanese sci-fi/superhero characters turned into gigantic, two-foot tall toys that were released throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. The first Jumbo debuted in 1973 based on the extremely popular Mazinger Z (from the family of characters known internationally as Mazinga or Tranzor Z). With its towering size and missile-firing features, the toy was an immediate hit, with over 400,000 units being sold in its first five months in the Japanese market. The Jumbo phenomenon was born.
Other Jumbos soon followed, with the first additions being characters from TV sensations Ultraman and Kamen Rider. The category expanded from originator Popy (a subdivision of Bandai) to other companies such as Nakajima, Clover, Takara, and Takatoku contributing to the line. Although produced by a variety of manufacturers, the toys shared many distinctive characteristics that have come to be associated with Jumbo Machinders
In 1979, the Jumbo Machinders went international with Mattel assembling some of the characters under the umbrella name Shogun Warriors. TheU.S. releases included some of the most famous characters, such as Mazinga, Dragun, Gaiking, Raydeen, Daimos and a resculpted Godzilla. Grendizer was added to the European line due to his overwhelming popularity on European television under the name Goldorak. Many alterations were made to character names, packages, and even the toys themselves in order to make them more acceptable to the local market, but the essential appeal of huge, rocket-punching robots remained unchanged. The Shogun Warriors dominated western popular culture with die-cast metal toys, vehicles, puzzles, tops, and a monthly comic book series published by Marvel Comics. Due to the strong advertising campaign and market presence, most US fans will recognize the "Shogun Warrior" name over the more accurate "Jumbo Machinder" description.
The popularity of Jumbo-sized characters began to wane in the early 80s, with many rumors citing the cause being the difficulty for smaller Japanese homes to store so many enormous toys. Since that time period, no new characters have been produced as Jumbo Machinders, even though the Shogun Warriors line is both fondly remembered and highly sought after today. There is an extremely dedicated fanbase and active secondary market for these super robots. Collectors of vintage Jumbo Machinders can expect to pay at least $1000 for most specimens, and there have even been instances of purchases of $15,000 and $27,000 for the most rare villain character Garada K7. After a twenty five year absence, the format returns with the STAR WARS: STORMTROOPER SUPER SHOGUN.
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