As kids, we played with toys others created. As adult creators, it seemed natural to continue playing with art toys developed by others and making them our own through our art.
As crafters, we develop scenarios, accessories, and props for the platforms we stumble upon.
As storytellers, we create origin stories for our favorite toys.
As artists, we make our own.
And we developed this space to share our customs.
The first time Roberto saw Glitter Mane was on a trip to the city with his mother. They were rushing to meet his father at the terminal after one of his trips abroad. And suddenly, out of a greasy corner locale, she busted out, bouncing up and down. Shake, shake, shake, left, right, left, long shake, sharp left, and ready to start again!
Her soft skin shone like a purple sun, and her mane cruised the sky like a comet. Roberto had never seen anything that beautiful in his life. Not even his mom!
Rufina yanks him out of his daze. A military wife, through and through, she doesn't have time for no non-sense. Ramiro, the General, would not appreciate it if they didn't arrive on time.
The Sparkling Burrito, a food chain dedicated to the pursuit of the perfect veggie burrito, had resorted to a mascot to appeal to the younger crowd, but Paco Cactus had tanked miserably. Years later, Penny, Big Kahuna's daughter, talked to her daddy about creating a new mascot for his restaurant, and Big Kahuna said yes. How could he say no to his lovely daughter?
And so Glitter Mane stepped from Penny's imagination into regional stardom! She was an immediate success throughout Meowtown and even in Woofchester and Mouseville.
Her signature dance move, the "shake & slide," became all the rage at elementary schools. Every girl wanted to master this move. Every girl and Roberto who memorized it on that first chance encounter (shake, shake, shake, left, right, left, long shake, sharp left, and ready to start again!)
As soon as they walked away, Roberto began trotting down the street, shaking his hips, just as Glitter Mane.
Rufina doesn't notice, but the General does, and he smacks Roberto on the head, hard enough to make him lose his step and fall. It will be the first of many smacks that eventually will turn to violent fists and will culminate in a vicious catfight ten years later in the middle of the night.
For today, the smack is enough for the General who can't help but notice the spring on his son's steps. Every single one of them becomes a paper cut in the General's heart.
Roberto grows up, barely. His frame small, as his voice, which has a delicate timbre that pierces through his dad's stoic façade, almost as much as his larger-than-life personality that his little body can't seem to contain.
He is always moving and has learned to do the shake & slide with every bit of his body. If the family is having dinner, his feet will be shaking and sliding under the table. If walking to church, his left hand will be endlessly moving to Glitter Mane's beat; his right hand will always be holding Rufina's. If alone, his entire body will shake, shine and boast with the infectious routine.
That is, until the General catches him one night, dancing by himself, in the middle of the living room, one night after too many beers with the alley cats. He gets dragged to the middle of the street and stays there, hours after breaking his dad's heart... and his nose.
And so begins Roberto's descent into the alley. The first nights are rough, but he holds his ground and earns his place in the dark corridors of Meowtown.
He dreams in purple and glitter. Every night brings a new dream of stages, makeup, outfits, and dance. His mane and tail are never as colorful as Glitter Mane's, but they are not bad for an alley cat.
His first job at the Sparkling Burrito is washing dishes and dumping out the trash on the graveyard shift, which he gladly does as he shakes & slides the night away.
Rumors are Glitter Mane III is ready to give her hips a break and pass her glittery horn to a new generation.
Meowtown goes into a frenzy. Every girl in town wants to be Glitter Mane. Every girl and Roberto, who can't stop dancing his heart away!
"We want YOU! to be the next Glitter Mane", reads the poster at every Sparkling Burrito location. Roberto knows better. His heart sinks a bit every time he remembers the fine print at the bottom that states KITTIES ONLY, but he continues dancing every day and every night, even in his sleep.
The contest is a fiasco. Penny and Glitter Mane III call it quits without a winner, and Glitter Mane III remains Queen of it all. Weeks later, after a fun night of cheap drinks and bad decisions, Penny and Stacy (Glitter Mane III, forgotten after a flight of strong mead) stop by the original Sparkling.
The contest disaster forgotten, both friends are ready for a cheesy fried Unicorn combo and a couple of aspirins before calling it a night. As they drive through the back alley, they spot a slender figure doing a perfect shake & slide while carrying a couple of trash bags!
It takes a bit of convincing, but in the end, Big Kahuna announces Roberto as Glitter Mane IV. There is the expected backlash after the announcement. Some cats swear they will never set foot on the Sparkling Burrito ever again but become avid users of the Drive-thru late at night.
Fifteen years later, Roberto steps down to give way to Glitter Mane V. In a bittersweet ceremony, he will sport the great mane one last time. Neither Big Kahuna nor the General are there, but he still remembers both of them sitting on the first row, side by side, the first time he came out on the stage.
Common’s beaten shoes resonate loudly every time they hit the hard floor. The poorly lit underground hallway smells of old age, or maybe it's just him, sick and aging him, sweating profusely after unloading the last pallet before the end of his shift.
His hands ache, still unaccustomed to manual labor. Arthritis doesn't help, but one has to eat, hence the graveyard shifts at Azamon, where being overqualified was not an obstacle to becoming an associate.
Tonight, he will walk home again. Thankfully it's just a couple of miles on a summer night. Winter nights were tough, but summer nights are O.K., or so he tells himself every painful step of the way.
The end of the month brings hard choices: gas or groceries, and when things are dire: bus fare or Krinkets, but Krinkets always win.
A wrinkled single burns his back pocket. The anticipation is almost as sweet as the soft chocolate. Nothing gives him more joy than the moment where teeth connect with the sweet confection, and the little plastic critters are revealed.
Common knows everything about them as he had designed every one of them for the past 25 years for GoodSmile Co., perfecting the chocolate ratio around each of his colorful creations, which he treasured as if they were his kids.
Then, the family-owned business went public, and the whirlwind of hedge funds, which culminated in a hostile takeover, began.
For 23 years, Krinkets had captured the imagination of kids and adults alike, and so, Common had carte-blanche to continue bringing them to life.
That was until the consultants were summoned to solve an inexistent problem. Based on a yearlong analysis, they assessed that Krinkets were a company asset that didn't connect with the current consumer (ages 5 to 8) who had evolved into a more fluid and mischievous mindset that required a less structured play pattern to stimulate their cerebral cortex.
And with that, the insightful tweaks, the optimized processes, the disruptive upgrades, and gamechanger departments surfaced around Common’s office.
At first, he didn't mind the observations. Then the observations became directives, and the directives became measurable objectives, and the performance tabulators showed that his productivity had plummeted -0.2354%.
Before the annual board review, upper management reassessed their relationship with Mr. Common and offered him an attractive severance package. Three months of salary (unheard of!) and medical insurance coverage (magnanimous!) for a lifetime of service and millions of dollars in profits.
And so, at 61, he found himself jobless and alone. Kathy had died the year before; the cancer that consumed her had been ravenous and swift. No time to understand what was happening. A visit to immediate care turned into a couple of weeks at the hospital, and then she was gone. Swift and ravenous, just as his severance.
There was never time for kids. Between her students and his creations, they had a youth wealth to last them a lifetime. He was thankful she didn't get to see his decline, for cancer had not only devoured her but their savings.
The first year after his severance transpired between resume optimizations and endless job interviews in which he had to reinvent himself to fulfill every asinine requirement. In the end, he was always overqualified (too old or outside the pay band), incapable of morphing into the specific chimera a particular job required to be a "perfect cultural fit”, and unable to fathom how a junior position requires ten years of experience and how +30 years of experience couldn't get him one of these positions.
The second year was spent between boxes and buzzes from the productivity bracelet reminding him he was taking 0.3 extra seconds between tasks or requiring him to stay an average of 18 minutes at the end of every shift to compensate for all non-work-related movements and unauthorized breaks.
And today, he is staring at the bottom of the machine, where the last Krinkets' awaits him.
Bill, the vending machine guy, had told him this would be the last batch. GoodSmile Co. had discontinued the line to launch Crinketzz right before the Holiday season.
Crinketzz was the result of a creative journey (day before the pitch sketches by the blue-haired intern with the ultra-limited bubble-gum pink power button WacBook Air) that expedited idea-to-market (after byzantine negotiations, Goodsmile Co. transferred all safety and quality responsibilities to newly appointed factories that guaranteed shorter lead times and significant cost reductions) and resulted in the mind-bending revamp of a legacy brand that would resonate with consumers who found their own needs and aspirations represented in this iteration (they reduced the size of the figures, distorted the body/head proportions and added glitter to the plastic).
By Spring of next year, the CPSC will do a national recall of Crinketzz. Three kids will choke with the plastic figures, two of them fatally, the other causing permanent damage to her esophagus.
Common would be dead before that. After a brutal 14 hour Holiday Smash shift (associates enjoy double pay for their continued support to Azamon's commitment to delivering smiles across America “no-matter-what” guarantee), he sits at the bus stop, unaware the next bus won't be there for another five hours and will dose up, his head against the acrylic shack, pondering about early retirement.
They will find him frozen the next morning, but today Common buys the last Krinkets. - It's a heavy one -, he thinks, as he picks it up, ripping the pouch and taking the first bite, hoping to get a gold one.
And for a moment, he is content: With himself, his shrunken life, and the plastic world which has filled the voids of the real one.