A New Freedom man is laboring to give birth to monsters.
Not Hollywood monsters, but honest-to-goodness folk monsters. The sort of monsters with tales travelers shrug off and laugh at while the locals warn and nod and stay in after dark.
The Jersey Devil. Mothman. The Missouri Monster, aka Eastern Bigfoot. Chupacabra.
Meet Todd Broadwater, a 40-year-old toy designer with a serious business plan and a fledgling company.
Legendary Monsters “is the first toy line for Nevermore Toys,” he says in a recent phone interview. The idea for the action figure line came to him several years ago. He put it on hold when he changed careers from toy to video game design, but he couldn't stop hoping he'd find a way to make the dream a reality.
“It wasn't until I found Kickstarter that I realized the potential to get it out to the public,” he says. Kickstarter, one of several online crowdfunding sites, helps artists, designers and inventors of all kinds bring their ideas straight to people who directly fund the projects in exchange for special perks. “People have been genuinely very supportive and very enthusiastic.”
Started early: Broadwater's love for action figures began in childhood, in the years before video games and technology became the all-consuming obsessions of childhood they are today.
“I spent a lot of time playing with action figures,” he says, describing how he and his friends grew up on toys from Star Trek, Star Wars and G.I. Joe. “We would travel in packs and take our toys with us. ... They let me push my imagination and escape into a place that made me happy.”
As he got older, collecting action figures became a hobby that kept him out of trouble, Broadwater says.
His love for toys led him to pick a career path in industrial design and work for the industry on toy lines big and small, including some he'd played with as a child. But there's only so much room for a designer's imagination when the characters are as well-known as Batman or Captain Kirk.
“I liked working on the more open-ended lines with more creative freedom,” he says. “We worked on a reinvention of Micronauts, and that involved a lot of imagination and engineering play for kids, and I really liked that.”
Authenticity: When he went to work on his own toy line, Broadwater knew he wanted to keep that sense of free, creative play while staying true to the folktales.
“People involved in cryptozoology have been really involved (in the toy line's development) and very supportive,” he says. The important question for Broadwater during the initial design phase was “Am I doing these eyewitness accounts justice?”
“I wanted to pay a lot of attention to that,” he says. “It grounds the toys and makes them based on something, and for me that means everything.”
The monsters are designed with both adult collectors and rough-and-tumble child's play in mind. Each will come with a human action figure and a small playset to showcase the spooky encounters described in the eyewitness accounts.
The Jersey Devil, for example, stands amid the fallen trees of the Pine Barrens while an old man swings his lantern and clutches his hunting rifle. Will he make it out alive? In the world of imagination, only the person holding the action figures knows for sure.
Support: Although the lion's share of the work on Legendary Monsters has been Broadwater's, he has also had two strong sources of support. His wife, Tema, a designer, helped with packaging design and illustrations. Jon Coe, a fellow action figure enthusiast and Broadwater's best friend since third grade, has also been working alongside him to get the toy line off the ground.
Having their support “makes all the difference in the world because you invest so much of your time and so much of your heart and soul in something,” Broadwater says.
He'd love to see Legendary Monsters and Nevermore Toys succeed; he has plans for a second series of monsters, as well as specialty toy releases and a new series of horror icons like H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. But it all starts with getting people to fall in love with the strange creatures that might lurk in unexplored corners of the world, deep in its forests and caves where humans rarely travel.
“There's something about holding something physically in your hands that you lose in a digital world,” Broadwater says.
Go looking for monsters with Nevermore Toys, and you'll find the mystery and romance of the unexplored edges of imagination.
Get the toysBuy-in levels for Legendary Monsters start at $1 and range all the way up to $5,000 for a complete set of toys, original drawings, original toy prototypes and more. A set of all four monsters, with their humans and accessories, will run investors $90 plus shipping.
The toys are expected to arrive in buyers' hands around Halloween. To pre-order a set or see all of the available buy-in levels, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/1336904045/legendary-monsters.
Creator Todd Broadwater is working with manufacturers to drop the project's overall Kickstarter goal of reaching $350,000 to cover factory costs, shipping and warehousing, and other production elements.
“The engineering and mold costs alone end up being at least $40,000,” he says, explaining the intricacies of the industry and minimum order numbers factories require to get the work under way.
But no matter what, he says, “I'm going to be putting out the line in some way.”
Learn more about Nevermore Toys at www.nevermoretoys.com.
— Reach Mel Barber at email@example.com.