Why the Suckathon mattered

If you’re a toy nerd, you were in one of two camps this past Saturday - those that were at Designer Con and those that weren’t. The annual convention, now six years old, has been gathering a quiet but powerful momentum. A mild attempt was made to live-stream last year's DCon. The result was less than satisfying for the stay-at-home fan.

A few days before the 2011 event, however, everyone’s favourite bootlegging toy hustler and F-list reality TV celebrity - the Sucklord - began hinting at something special in the works for Designer Con. The event was dubbed the Suckathon and folks were urged to tune in to Toybreak's live stream from 12 to 5 PST for a live show.

More than a villain
A black curtain, a desk, a half-naked girl, some shabby signage, a couch, some microphones, the Sucklord and a slew of guests... this was all it took to hold my attention for more than five hours. During the Suckathon the Sucklord held court in his usual style and did the two things he is best at when surrounded by a crowd - entertainment and exploitation.

He is fast, sharp, crass, dirty, sensitive, confrontational and can switch gears at the drop of a phrase. All traits that make him endearing on camera. He is also surprisingly disarming. His seemingly heartfelt big-up to DKE’s Sarah Jo (which you can view by clicking on the photo below) choked me up... and I don’t even know these people!

But perhaps most importantly, the Sucklord seems to have an earnest desire to unravel this strange little sub-culture. When waxing Suckadelical he cuts the figure of someone who is trying to better understand toy culture, himself, and his peers. He is willing to not only ask the 'how', but also the all-important ‘why’. 

The beginning of something more
But what transpired on Saturday went way beyond the Sucklord. As the incredible roster of artistic talent hopped on and off the couch, expectation and perception were discarded, replaced by people... just people. We crossed over the merchandise table, beyond the usual transactions of meaning and money between artist and customer - Transactions which tend to happen in a vacuum, conducted by adults who are hard-wired to be outsiders - grown-ups who are often happiest when in their room alone, either making toys or playing with them.

I watched all +/- 5hrs of it. I was completely entranced.  All these artists, (Paul Kaiju, Luke Chueh, Scott Tolleson, Gary Baseman, Doktor A, Chris Ryniak, Brandt Peters, Kathy Olivas, Buff Monster, Sket One , Kano, Ragnar, Leecifer...the list goes on), everyone of them excited and willing to join the Suckadelia. There was also face-time for the critics (Jeremy Brautman and Matt Hissey making an appearance), the super-bloggers (SpankyStokes) and the podcasting artists (Ya' Heard). In fact, the Sucklord sought out anyone who he felt had an impact in the scene, sitting them down for an interview. And that's what made the whole thing so damn compelling.

The Sucklord even spared a few minutes to confront a disgruntled vendor who had lost some family-friendly sales thanks to the Sucklord's big dirty mouth on the microphone. "i'm not familiar with your work," said the vendor, "but if you're artwork is half as brazen as your mouth is, it's gotta be interesting." (Watch their conversation by clicking on the photo below.)

The Suckathon resonated with me the way the Punk movement did (perhaps the ultimate D.I.Y movement). It broke down the walls that separate the artist from audience. It put us in a small room together. And once inside, allowed us to collectively explore the creative experience. There we were, rubbing up against one another all loud and sweaty and together with something shiny, plastic and wonderful in our hands, while some strange lord performed for us from a makeshift stage.
If art is meant to enlighten, stimulate and, perhaps even, effect meaningful change, then the Suckathon experiment was a little D.I.Y masterpiece in itself. The show made me feel less like a fan and more like a person with a decision to make - are you in or out? It’s a pretty powerful idea. You see, it's about more than toys and money. It always has been.

Why this kind of coverage matters
The toy community is a fringe community but it’s also a global one. Many toy enthusiasts may never see the inside of a big convention or be able to visit one of their favourite artist's gallery shows, but they’ll pay massive prices and almost-always ridiculous shipping amounts to own toys created by these people. Bringing outsiders into the fold, streaming global footage for the fans, is an important step in connecting the community. It’s something that should become even more prominent.

During an interview with Gary Baseman conducted by a somewhat star-struck Sucklord (remember those days) back in 2008, Baseman described toy-art as pervasive art (watch him explain it in the video below). The Suckathon was an extension of this idea. It was a pervasive toy culture experience and it may just be the beginning of something much much bigger.

You can watch the whole Suckathon here thanks to the lovely folks at Toybreak and DKE:
First Annual Suckathon Part 1
First Annual Suckathon Part 2
First Annual Suckathon Part 3

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