Joker’s Wild Customs and Arkham Photography
Joker Wild Customs has with out a doubt set a new standard in the art of making custom pop vinyls, in turn JW Customs has gained a strong following from Funko pop vinyl collectors and non-collectors alike with his ability to create unique and personalised pop vinyls for anyone and for any occasion.
JW Customs goes as far as recreating pop vinyl boxes for his custom pop vinyls creations (pictured below).
The man behind Joker’s Wild Customs is also a professional photographer of which he takes some amazing photos and even recreates scenes with pop vinyls. (pictured below)
We had the chance to do an interview with Jared the artist behind Joker’s Wild Customs and Arkham Photography.
How did you get into your craft?
I have been doing art since I was big enough to pick up a crayon, continued all throughout my school years, but pushed it aside during college because I didn’t really think that I could make a living doing it. I still did some art on the side, but more for my own personal enjoyment. Fast forward to after graduation, when I decided to start working in the family screen printing/embroidery business, handling all of the art work and design. Being 22 and in touch with “today’s youth”, I was able to offer a fresh perspective, giving our designs a younger, more contemporary feel. A couple of years later, I branched off and started my own sign/truck lettering business on the side, which then branched off again into photography and then again into creating customs. With each activity involving creativity, somewhat related, it made it very easy to transition from one medium to another. Though I love everything I do, I feel like I am always learning and I will never be completely satisfied with my work.
How long have you been creating custom POP Vinyls and working with photography?
I have been doing custom Pops for about a year and half now. With every project, I try something new and have come a long way since creating my first custom Pop. Regarding my photography, I started playing around with cameras back in high school, but didn’t really take it seriously until about 4 years ago. I had taken a road trip halfway across the country with my brother and some friends and was inspired to begin documenting my journey. I enjoy photographing buildings, landscapes and take a special interest in all things aged and “forgotten”. I also, obviously, have a lot of fun taking pictures of and creating the scenes for my toy photography as well.
What are your main inspirations/influences when it comes to creating your custom version of POP VINYLS?
Usually, when I sit down and try to come up with ideas for a new custom, once I have a particular character in mind, I’ll browse the Internet for some inspiration. I like to see what kind of variations people have painted, drawn, or created for that character. I never will copy one particular look, but in some way may take little bits and pieces from everything I see. I always try to make my pieces, whether it be a character that has not been actually produced by Funko yet, or just an everyday person that wants one of their significant other, have the look and feel of a production piece, but also that custom feel so that people know it was hand made. My fellow customizers and friends act as inspirations for me. Dan Stevens from Dragonfly Designs was one of the first customizers that I talked to when I first started and he was always nice enough to give me his opinion and help me out if I had any questions, which he still does to this day. We have become good friends and I would like to think we feed off of each other’s ideas and help each other creatively.
What other artistic mediums do you work with besides POP Vinyls and Photography?
Being a graphic designer, I create t-shirt and apparel designs daily, spanning all different applications, ranging from screen printing, embroidery, to sublimation and others. I also do sign and vehicle lettering, so that is somewhat lumped in there. I do sketch/draw occasionally and have painted in the past, but that has taken more of a backseat as I have become busier with custom toys. I don’t know if this would be considered a medium, but just clothing design in general, like Halloween/cosplay costumes. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember and have even attended NYCC dressed up as the Riddler. I’m also not sure if this counts, but I used to do a massive Halloween display at my parents’ house, with people coming from all over just to see what I had put together that year.
Do you have any favourite POP Vinyls in particular at the moment?
If we are talking about production pieces, right now my favorite is the new Ghostbusters line, especially Slimer and Stay Puft. The designs and detail on them are just amazing, espcially Slimer, just an ingenious way of making him have that floating look. Growing up in the 80’s, Ghostbusters was one my favorite movies(I just watched it again a couple weeks ago), so it brings back a lot of great memories.
Any Upcoming pieces we should look out for?
With so many new lines and variants coming out, especially for SDCC, it’s hard to come up with ideas and be one step ahead of Funko and other customisers. I’ve been dying to do a Rambo Pop!, and i’m anxiously awaiting some new lines so I can use their “pieces” for another custom idea. I won’t tell you exactly what it is, but it consists of 4 characters and was a long time running television show, which still airs today in syndication.
As for my photography, I have a couple secret shoots in the works as we speak, but one I am excited for and will tell you about is a Ghostbusters one, where i’m taking them into NYC and taking shots at locations from the movie (just waiting on winston and ecto-1) I am also working on vol 2 of my pop!tography photo book that I had printed last winter. I was lucky enough to meet Brian Mariotti, CEO/Owner of Funko and I hand delivered one to him, and also sent copies to Reis O’Brien and Amos Moldonado, 2 artists at Funko. Crossing my fingers to maybe one day have a picture in their Pop! book.
What is your most requested custom?
I get a ton of requests for custom Batmans, of course, but I also get a lot of people wanting customs of themselves or their significant other. The ones of actual people are the most fun to make, from searching for pieces to use, to deciding what they’re going to wear, all in an effort to make each on unique. When comparing the person to the toy side by side, people always get a kick out of it, and it’s great getting that email from a customer about how happy their friend was when they got their custom. I actually have a custom of myself sitting on top of my computer monitor and people who walk into my office think it’s the funniest thing.
How long does each piece usually take to complete?
Every piece is different, it all really depends on if it is just a repaint, some clay work involved or just something completely custom and one-off. To put a time on it, from start to finish, they can take anywhere from a week, to 3-4 weeks, etc. It all really depends, but at the same time, I hate feeling like i rushed something, so I won’t send something out until I am 100% happy with it. With the customs boxes that I am doing, people don’t mind waiting an extra week or 2, knowing they are getting a one-of-a kind piece that they can’t buy anywhere else.
Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve done? (Rose Wilson and Rouge are incredible)
First off, thank you
You do realize this is a really hard question, right? It’s like asking a parent who their favorite child is. Let me do this, I think the top three that I have done are definitely my Rouge, The Furie from The Warriors, and my new take on the Riddler. But…if I had to pick one, I would say my Rouge. She was a lot of fun to piece together and I literally spent days painting her hair, making sure that each strand color didn’t run into another. I think now I could probably paint one of her with my eyes closed.
What’s your process like? Do you see an existing POP and picture it customized or do you have a custom design in mind and then select the base vinyl?
Yes and no, like I will see new lines coming out and say to myself, hey…why didn’t they make so and so from that movie, or why didn’t they make him wearing this, etc.. Sometimes i’ll just be reading something or watching a movie/tv show and say to myself, I think people would get a real kick out of this character. I try to appeal to not just the newer young collectors, but the older ones who will know who the characters are from movies in the 70’s and 80’s. Once I get an idea in my head, there is no turning back, and i’ll look at my collection and pictures on the internet trying to find the best body base and best head to use. My fiance thinks its hilarious when she comes home from work most nights and there is a line of pops sitting the kitchen counter, ready to be taken apart. I think I have creeped some people out while “pop hunting” when they overheard me say something like, “Ok, I’ll just boil these guys tonight, use his head, his body” etc . Now with Funkos new DIY pieces, all bets are off!
Which aspect of your work do you enjoy more, the custom vinyls or the photography?
Again, a very hard question…it’s like asking, which candy do you like better?
I honestly can’t choose one over the other, they are both so different and I love both so much. Customs are a lot of fun to work on and allow me to be creative, making something that doesn’t exist anywhere, putting my own spin on it, my fingerprint so to speak.
My pop! photography is also a lot of fun, and I feel that sometimes my ideas for photos come from ideas from my customs. For example, i made a Dutch from Predator, and then did a shoot with him and the Predator. My mind is always racing with ideas, constantly scouting locations, trying to replicate a scene from a movie/tv show, etc. I love when someone looks at my picture and says to me, “that looks exactly like that one scene from last season.” I want to make my pop! photos not just pictures of toys, but pictures that people would hang in their office or their home.
Finally we wont keep you too much longer as you are probably really busy, If you could make any custom pop vinyl what would it be and why?
These questions keep getting harder!
Well, there is no debate on this one, if I could make any set of customs, and hopefully one day I will, it would be a line of characters from Jurassic Park. I’ve been in love with the book and movies since they came out, still have some JP toys in my office at work, which some have said looks more like a child’s playroom than an office.
Where can people find you?
Arkham Photography and Jokers Wild on Instagram and Facebook. I also have an Etsy store called —.Arkham Photography
Etsy store: Arkham Photography
Email: [email protected]
JW Customs Facebook: www.facebook.com/JokersWildCustoms
Arkham Photography www.facebook.com/ArkhamPhotography
Instagram: Arkham Photography and Jokers Wild on Instagram