Lee Burbridge of ‘Big Man Toys‘ outta the United Kingdom produces sculptural works that are technically brilliant, backed up by great concepts and importantly incorporate Lee’s love of theatricality, learnt from his many years spent in the wrestling game – both in Japan and the UK.
Giant tree-monsters, female warriors, imposing sentient buildings, mutant warriors, robots and wrestlers all making up the ‘Big Man Toys’ universe so far.
(Picture below of the Wo-Man figure by ‘Big Man Toys’)
With lots of praise generated by his Wo-Man and TreeGarr pieces, as well as recent contributions to the ‘Mystical Warriors of the Ring‘ series, now is the perfect time to get schooled on Lee Burbridge and ‘Big Man Toys’.
So get to know Lee Burbridge and ‘Big Man Toys’ in the Art Talk below…
Basics/Getting to Know
City, State n Country you’re Repping?
Brighton, East Sussex, UK.
Although if I were to ‘rep’ a city, it’d be hometown, Portsmouth.
(Picture of Mr. ‘Big Man Toys’, below)
Describe a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together Mr. Big Man Toys’ pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, women, school, college, Halloween… ANYTHING man.
* age 10 – pre pubes:
He-man was the first influence. I thought I was him.
I was blonde, had a similar hairstyle, and frequently fought a skinny bully with a skeletal face from the age of 4 – 10. I threw him down a set of stairs and knocked him out with a big rock and he attacked me with a carpet knife and set a pack of Jack Russells on me.
After that, skateboarding, MUSCLE figure swapping with friends in the sun, Garbage Pail Kids the movie, Jackie Chan movies, Flesh Gordon 2, Action Force/ GI Joes, Pro-wrestling on the Sega Master System, the Puppet Master movies, and TMNT.
I bought my first Eastman and Laird comic from Mondo Comics in 1991 at the age of 11 from Dan, the guy who now runs Unbox Industries! My first taste of violent comics and artwork I could really get into. That led to me collecting 2000AD and Punisher.
I found Akira and that changed my life for the worse as I spent a few years where I should have been enjoying myself with girls being a smelly anime nerd.
* age 15 – pube rage:
I got picked on in school due to looking like a fat girl with a nasty pony-tail.
It built character, and I spent ages 12-16 skating by myself, playing video games, reading Robert Crumb comics, going to anime conventions just for the toys, and as soon as I left school, I started lifting weights and getting more and more into music and wrestling.
* age 20 – acceptance of pubes:
I had a good time at university. I studied Japanese, and focused completely on my studies during that time.
I’ve never been officially ‘straight edge’ but saw a lot of people I knew getting their momentum killed with drugs so I just never felt tempted to try them.
I spent a year in Japan with my studies and that was the best.
I lived really near Akihabara and Korakuen hall, the toy and wrestling capitals of the world, and collected all the beautiful Chara-pro wrestling figures on the cheap as pro-wrestling was losing in popularity in Japan to MMA.
(Pictures below of the Nuclearman figure by ‘Big Man Toys’)
“Proof’s in the pudding!”
Danzig, Moistboyz, GG Allin, Type O-Negative, Rollins, Deathstars, Therion, Mortiis, Einsturzende Neubauten, Strawberry Switchblade, Manowar.
Favorite TV show(s)?
Storage Hunters, Walking Dead, Archer, Blakes 7, STNG, Twin Peaks, Sharpe, LEXX, ROME.
Favorite sport(s) + teams?
No sports for me!
Flesh Gordon 2 – really is all you need.
Favorite books and comics?
John Wyndham and Alfred Bester novels, and lots of autobiographies. I’m on the 5th Chopper book right now.
On comics, the Hernandez bros, old TMNT, Geoff Darrow, Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku (like South Park but Japanese), and most stuff on Fantagraphics.
I’ve also been very inspired by my friends Ralph Niese and Pablo Perra and am really trying to have a crack at comics myself.
The ones from the Guyver movies, Flesh Gordon 2, GWAR, and Baltan from Ultraman.
Specifics on Art
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
I suppose anything you do that someone else thinks is interesting to look at is art of some kind.
If it’s good enough to be instantly impressive, as in something you definitely would not have seen elsewhere, then you’ve done a good job.
I live in a city where ‘artist’ means ‘attention seeking and lazy’ so I don’t use the term for myself much.
(Picture below of the header art for the Wo-Man figure by ‘Big Man Toys’, drawn by Lee Burbridge)
When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (toys, drawings, paintings, anything)?
I’m not a master of anything but I suppose I started making toys worth a light about two years ago when I bought my pressure pot.
Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?
Two years ago, as I quit wrestling and wanted to justify my existence.
Any formal art training? Or pivotal moment/influence?
A guy who goes by the name Gold-Dober (micronautshomeworld.blogspot.com), who is a master craftsman and toymaker answered literally hundreds of my mails on casting and moldmaking, as well as inspired me with his own work.
The first piece of resin I saw was a Dungeons and Dragons figure by Marty Hansen and I was determined to have a crack.
Please buy it. I’m not proud.
Favorite ‘other’ artist(s)?
They are mostly my mates, as it’s a scene where you can make mates with people you admire easily.
You are about to see a list of people that make things that are like MOTU, MUSCLE, or Micronauts.
These are not the only people I respect but are the ones I follow for my own collecting purposes: The God Beast, Ben Spencer, Luke and Pablo at ‘Goodlegtoys‘, ‘ManOrMonster‘, Gold Dober, TruTek, Zectron, John Santagada, Ben Mininberg, Eric Nilla, Luke Harris, Zoomoth, Jimmy Rommel, ‘5.5 customs‘, Meadowknight, ‘Rampage Industries‘ and Ralph Niese perpetually blows my brain – he’s far too modest.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
I don’t make enough money to give a hoot about any politics by people who have a hard-on for themselves.
Luckily they are few and far between, and an opposite end of the spectrum to me in terms of their style and ‘scene’.
Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
It reminds me of when I first got into Biohazard (the band) or Suicidal Tendancies. We’re all sick of the same old poseurish crap and want to bring back the flavor to toys and comics, and make something physical and real.
I’ve been helped out by people and try to do the same. It’s very positive and it’s ours!
Lee Burbridge Art Questions
Describe the method of making a ‘Big Man Toys piece? (dot point all o.k.)
– your resin sculptural work?
Wire armature (or built onto an existing figure), then Sculpey, Milliput, and nowadays Castelline, in layers, until i’m happy.
Then I sand and file bits to tidy it, and spray with primer to spot any areas that need more sanding, and protect in the molding process.
(Pictures below of the original sculpt, mold and finished D-Structure resin)
– your drawings and illustrations?
A piece of A4 on a clipboard with pencil, then a standard set of pens.
Sometimes I’ll do something good in ball-pen on a notepad and trace it.
Then it all gets scanned and gimmicked up in GIMP.
What was it like collaborating with John Santagada – Mr. Radioactive Uppercut – on the header art for your TreeGarr creation?
(Picture below of John Santagada’s header art for the TreeGarr figure from ‘Big Man Toys’)
It was great as I really didn’t think I was doing anything that good. I thought Treegarr was selling well because Ben Spencer pimped it, so having John like it enough to do the header art was a huge boost for my confidence.
I now realise Treegarr is the bollocks.
Does your self-directed work all exist in its own ‘universe’? (Yes; I am basically asking if you see your characters all interacting in your head.) …IF so, what do they get up to?
Only with the MWOTR comic. Otherwise, the toys are toys for toys’ sake.
What happened to your old artistic collaborator, Riverside Rambo? Was he consumed by ‘Big Man Toys’ or has he gone rogue in the wild toy factories of China?
Haha! I can’t believe you dug that out! That was before I had any intention of doing toys and selling them. That’s my best mate, who’s done a bit of standup and strongly encouraged me to make ‘Battle Gaze’.
Lee Burbridge Wrestling Questions
What has it been like being a part of the ‘Mystical Warriors of the Ring’ series of toys and comics along with ‘Fantastic Plastic’?
So cool. Literally all my childhood dreams come true. Minifigs and wrestling comics. Kinnikuman brought to my ECW-loving brain and splatted out.
Having Treegarr in there is the cherry on the cake.
Mark Vasquez is a great guy to work with and totally not up himself, despite how well the series is doing.
(Picture of some of Lee’s art for the Mystical Warriors of the Ring series by ‘Fantastic Plastic’)
Please explain to those at home the appeal of we-all-know-it’s-fake-Wrestling such as ECW, WWF etc.
It is true art, even if wrestlers don’t think so themselves.
You tell a story with your body and make crowds of people get totally invested in what you are doing for 20 minutes. Just two of you, and the ref, in a ring.
I respect the intellect and heart of a good wrestler over 70% of people who dub themselves ‘artists’ any day.
I know you have wrestled as well your-self – in Japan as well as the UK. What were the best and worst gimmicks you encountered during your time as a wrestler?
Hmmm, best gimmick might be ‘Senpai’ – a masked Yakuza who fights without taking his hands out of his pockets, and the worst would be a guy I met who wore a shonky Kane mask and had a hardcore match with light chair shots with his mate during the interval in front of 5 confused children.
(Picture below of Mr. Lee Burbridge getting his wrestle on)
Why did you decide to leave the wrestling world?
I was constantly frustrated with myself every time I trained or wrestled, and was losing money all the time on days off work and travel. I think I was alright for how long I did it but I needed to get my life sorted instead of chasing dreams when I quit.
Toys I can do after dinner, before bed…
What are your thoughts on the current state of wrestling?
It’s a shame the money’s not so good, but in terms of the matches etc, I think it gets better all the time.
We’ve got the internet to make it truly international and people are really honing beautiful craft with their mix of styles from all over the world.
WWE’s still ok sometimes. People don’t need to get jacked up on drugs to make a living if they are good.
A lot of the Diva’s are shit but I’m sure there’ve always been eye-candy semi-wrestlers for people to look at.
What are your thoughts on the current status of the art-toy ‘scene’, and why?
I’m quite optimistic. I don’t think it’ll ever be something that MTV gives it’s own reality show to but I really like it.
I mean there are many people, most really, that I have nothing in common with creatively apart from the fact that we make 3D objects.
I hope it develops a real culture though, as a recognised creative medium.
I hope more people see it the way I do “I like comics by this guy, movies by this guy, and toys by this guy”.
Why the decision to make a whole line of toys – your Battle Gaze series – that are not only anatomically correct, but also… Shall we say… ready for action?
(Pictures below of some of the BattleGaze series by ‘Big Man Toys’)
I had re-bought Flesh Gordon II on DVD and if it didn’t have a hard cock stiff dick in it, it didn’t cut the cock-mustard at that time.
No one’s ‘cool’! If you deem yourself ‘cool’, you’re trying to be cool which makes you a dork. We’re all dorks – human and flawed. We’re all just trying to make life more interesting before we run out of decades and pay bills.
Bright colors, vulgar dicks, missing the 80s, all that stuff was Battle-Gaze DNA.
Anyone who thinks less of you for making erect penis action figures isn’t worth knowing.
You D-Structure resin is a great sculpted piece. What is the pieces backstory? – both the sculpt itself, and D-Structure’s origin tale…
Thanks mate! Geof Darrow‘s ‘Big Guy’ comic totally articulated what I like about Japanese buildings.
D-Structure is a manifestation of all the horrible stress you get in an office building with recycled air, passive aggressive colleagues, etc, turned into a monster.
Is the rise of ‘art’ toys an indication of the changing nature of ‘art’? OR just a bunch of nerds with too much $$$ and time?
Like I said – I totally feel it’s like a new manifestation of the original hard-core movement, but with the internet, and people who are a little older.
If you look at how VERY mainstream the world is going. We’ve never had it so good in terms of perceived freedom, but at the same time, people can be so judgemental and boring.
It’s a pocket where we can do whatever we want without anyone knowing enough about it to mess with it.
Goodleg Toys share the same punk rock philosophy as me on this.
(Picture below of the Abo Boid resin by ‘Big Man Toys’)
Favorite toy/figure? (I’ll allow self promotion)
Mine? I’m pretty happy with them all.
My fave toy of any line ever is most probably the Micronauts Mobile Exploration Lab, or a box of MUSCLEs.
(Pictures below of the ‘Micronauts’ Mobile Exploration Lab from 1976, Lee’s favorite toy)
What does your wife/girl/woman/family/man make of the whole perpetual adolescence/Peter-Pan/man-child aspect of toy art + toy collecting?
She respects it’s by choice and not because i’m scared of life. Plus we live in a city where people are immature in much more life affecting ways.
She gets tired of hearing about it and it’s always in her face but she’s supportive.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
Always! Got 3 happening right now!
(Picture below of the TreeGarr sculpt – both normal and mini versions)
Any major projects you want to hype man?
Yep! Got 2 minifig sculpts involved in 2 different all-star minifig collab series, got an amazing sculpt by the guys at Monster Slayer Project (upcoming movie) that i’m producing, and I’ve designed a 5.5 that will have people doing a piss that a good friend near me is going to produce, who you probably already know for his fine body of work.