On the heels of Rob’s previous article about the Zombie Boy doll released at this year’s San Diego ComicCon, Robert Tonner, founder of The Tonner Doll Company Inc. graciously answered a few questions for BME.
BME: First, I wanted to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions to share with the readers of BME.com and ModBlog. This is such a unique doll. Where did you first hear about (or see) Rick Genest and what inspired you to create a doll in his likeness?
Robert: Hard to say…I think I became aware of Rick sometime around the Mugler ad campaign and then the Lady Gaga video. I thought the ads were powerful—here you have a beautiful classic tux worn by a guy who was totally tattooed. The images were incredible. I didn’t think when I first saw them that the tattoos on the model were real—it wasn’t until later that I found out that they were. I saw an article about Rick and the campaign.
I have to say I’m from a totally different generation (I remember my mother saying that I should never get a tattoo because I’d never be able to work at a bank!) and although the extent of Rick’s tattoo’s was, to me, a little shocking, I really saw what he’s done as something of a work of art. And art should rattle you.
BME: What was Rick’s reaction when you approached him about making this doll?
Robert: Actually, I’ve never spoken to Rick! I sent him an email and his agent/lawyer got back to me. Seems that Rick thought it was a great idea.
BME: Zombie Boy is unlike other dolls we have seen from Tonner. Did you have any concerns about how this doll would be received?
Robert: I didn’t really worry too much about the reaction of our collectors. I think our group is pretty sophisticated and while they may not want the doll, I’m pretty sure they could see the artistry in what we tried to do. The figure is unlike a lot of what we put out in some ways, but I always felt that we’ve pushed the envelope of collectible dolls and figures.
BME: What process goes into creating a doll with this kind of detail, particularly in duplicating Rick’s tattoos and what can you tell us about the doll itself?
Robert: We used a doll body that we had in stock but we had a head sculpted to Rick’s likeness. I work with one of the best portrait sculptors working today and with Rick’s input I think we got a great likeness and we were able to do it all with photos. We then had Rick’s tats produced in decal (a painstaking process) form and that along with a lot of hand painting created the look. We worked with Rick and his agent on the outfit and the box.
BME: Sneak previews of the doll were published online and the doll itself was an exclusive release at the 2012 San Diego Comic Con. What has the response been from Tonner collectors and those in attendance at the convention?
Robert: I can tell you that no one was on the fence about the figure! Most people loved what we were trying to do and there were a few negative comments but that all comes with the territory. All in all, it was really well received. At Comic Con (where Rick did a personal appearance for us to promote the doll) we sold out of the figures that we had there. It was very positive.
BME: The body modification community has certainly taken notice of this doll, sparking interest from those who might not necessarily be doll collectors. How likely is it that we may see more Tonner dolls with body modifications in the future?
Robert: Actually, Zombie Boy was not our first. We did a line of dolls called “Sinister Circus” and we had a lot of body modification going on. I do see us doing more—if it can be beautiful and well done.
I’d just like to thank Robert Tonner for taking the time to answer a few questions for us and to Joanne who has been so friendly and helpful in setting up this Q&A. Check out some more detailed photos of the doll below.
If you didn’t make it to SDCC, that’s ok! You still have a chance to get your very own Zombie Boy doll as they are set to go on sale Thursday, July 26. You can pick up your own for $159.99 from the Tonner Doll Company. Dolls ship worldwide and each comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by Rick Genest.