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Monday, December 6, 2010

Get Your Geek On With Geekscapes!

Okay, while I tend to lean heavily towards the "sex" side of "Sex Nerd", sometimes something comes along that's so nerdy as to be worthy of note on the blog, even if it isn't overtly sexy. This is one of those times.

I was at the NC ComicCon (yes, I'm that much of a nerd) a few weeks ago when something shiny caught my eye (besides a cool dozen issues of the vintage dirty comic book Omaha the Cat Dancer): hanging in a display window outside of one of the booths was the coolest nerdy thing I've seen in a while.

You know that scene in 40 Year Old Virgin (see? I knew I could work sex back into this!) where Steve Carrell freaks out because his girlfriend wants him to sell all of his highly-collectible toys? Well, yes, Virginia, there are nerds out there that are that hardcore about their toys. Indeed, there's a whole subculture of high-end collectible figure collectors out there. You don't have to have won a sci-fi con costume contest to spot a geeky demographic like that. Some of these figures are limited editions and trade for thousands of dollars. Remember that nerdy kid up the street who had every single Star Wars figure, even the elusive and highly-coveted first-edition Boba Fett? Well, he's worth a fortune, now. Only it's not just Star Wars toys: every major entertainment niche has had collectible figures made and traded.

But where to store your treasured figures? Obviously, if you're a serious collector just keeping them in the box is going to feel . . . wrong, somehow. After all, you want to display your prizes proudly, and even if you don't want to play with them and destroy their value, you do want to see them and show them off. But displayed figures get dusty, and can be damaged by harsh UV light, etc. Not to mention accidentally broken when your 4 year old nephew descends on your home and figures out that you have toys he can't touch.

But now you can put your figures on display in their natural environment, thanks to the invention of Geekscapes. Geekscapes are custom-made display cases that can hold as many as six 12" figures (more, if you want it bigger) sealed away from dust and protected from UV light. An internal LED lighting system allows a fully-illuminated display, or optional colored "mood lighting" (like the awesome Cobra Commander throne room I saw at the show). The cases are wall-mounted, meaning you don't have to get a separate piece of furniture to store them on, and decorative glass inserts on the sides allow almost complete 360 degree viewing of your precious figures. The Geekscapes either come plain, or for an additional fee they can be customized into nearly any setting, the price being dependent upon the complexity. With a starting price of $500 and the really nice ones (like the Predator jungle scene) can go for $1200 or more), it might seem a high price to pay; but consider that one of these boxes can protect $3000-$6000 worth of figures and you can see why plenty of collectors would consider this a worthy investment. The level of detail is magnificent!

I got the opportunity to talk to Lance Sawyers at the show, the CEO of 4 Corners Concepts, the company that sells Geekscapes. He started with his own successful framing business, then sought a way to combine his business with his love of comic books and sci-fi. A tall dude with the coolest, nerdiest tattoos on his legs (think superheroes and Star Wars -- this dude is committed!) Lance is a former Sk8r who has been doing this sort of thing for years. Nice guy, on a fundamental level -- he even told me about the time he got to see Carrie Fisher's private tattoo after she wanted to see his extensive ink at a Chicago convention . . . and he claims his tattoos go all the way up. (Dude got felt up by Princess Leia -- how cool is that?) He started a few years ago with GeekBoxes, specialized display cases for rare comic books, and Sk8Boxes, cases for prized skate boards, which saw a tremendous amount of success. Lance had already mastered the art of custom-displaying collections of Sports Memorabilia (big business in the Triangle region he hales from -- home of National Championship-addicted Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill), so moving into something closer to his own interests was natural. Since he collected comics and skated, he went there first.

But last year he realized that there was a large market for custom-made displays for high-end toys, and he started designing his first Geekscape. Each one is different, he says, and he's produced 4 impressive display models which he demonstrated at the NC ComicCon and the Virginia ComicCon, and will be taking to other shows in the near future. Included in his displays are the aforementioned Cobra Commander throne-room (with impressive stained glass windows and Cobra banners fluttering as a poor GI Joe prisoner is about to be decapitated), the lush jungle scene from Predator (his most elaborate and expensive to date), a glorious Geekscape of the recent Dark Knight Batcycle tearing through Gotham by night, an action-oriented GI Joe scene in Afghanistan (complete with desolate landscape and the aire of human desperation). Other projects are already in progress (they can take up to two months to finish, depending on the level of detail), but response has been enthusiastically strong.

"One dude offered me fifteen hundred on the spot, before the show even opened," Lance says, surprised. "I mean, I knew they'd be popular, but . . ."

Lance also makes smaller display boxes for smaller figures, but he doesn't shy away from custom work on a grand scale.
"I got a dude who wants the old Adam West-era Batman scene of Batman and Robin climbing up the side of a building with bat ropes, and someone -- I won't say who -- looking out of the window, just like on the show. But he also wants a custom 'Bat Signal' LED, so that the Bat Signal splashes on the wall above the case. It's going to be tricky, and possibly expensive, but I love the challenge. And there's really no one else servicing this market right now, so if there's a lot of interest, this could become one of my biggest selling products."

Now, if Lance can just do one of the Playboy Mansion . . .


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