Miniature Mayhem: An Interview with Dave Gonzales, Creator of the Homies Figures
September 2003 | Vol. II - No. 9
Miniature Mayhem: An Interview with
Dave Gonzales, Creator of the Homies
By Jeremy Loudenback
When Dave Gonzales started drawing comic strips for
Lowrider Magazine, he had no idea that his creation, the
characters, would blossom into a multimillion dollar collectible enterprise
spawning new lines of figures, stickers, model kits, books and even a
line of girls’ panties.
While entertaining friends with his zany caricatures of neighborhood
personalities, Gonzales has developed a keen eye for picaresque detail,
which he combines with an irreverent brand of humor to create figures
that pay tribute to the richness of the urban Chicano experience.
The Homies line, now on its sixth series of characters, has built a massive
grass roots following that crosses ethnic, age and gender lines. With
a unique distribution system – the inch-high figures are available in
supermarket vending machines as well as traditional retail outlets for
a dollar or less—Homies have quickly become one of the collecting world’s
hottest properties since premiering in 1998. Gonzales has recently branched
out with three other lines of characters-- Mijos, Hoodrats
and the Palermos – and has tentative plans for licensing
and maybe even a feature-length film.
For loyal collectors worried that the Homies characters will be yet another
limited-edition collector’s item, Gonzales promises, “Homies don’t die…
The 1st Series of
TDmonthly: Dave, what inspired you to create the Homies
characters in the first place?
Dave Gonzales: I liked drawing and cartooning and found
my fellow Lowriders to be good subjects.
TDM: Do you have a Homie patterned after yourself?
DG: “Hollywood” is supposed to be me from back in the
day, but I guess you could say all of the Homies are a part of me, since
I create each and every one of them myself.
TDM: How do you explain the continued success of Homies?
DG: The explosion of the Hispanic market; the love and
success of Hip-Hop and street culture; the current craze for reality entertainment;
good art and good writing.
TDM: Do you think Homies changed the way the toy and
collectible industry looks at urban consumers?
DG: Well, since my Homies surfaced, just about every
major toy company now has an urban line in development. What does that
tell you? I take great pride in being the first at the things I do. I
think that fact will keep me [respected] on a different level with my
collectors. Also, the fact that I am a Homie helps me to keep my art real.
I started drawing Homies for the love of my culture, not because I smelled
TDM: What was the most difficult obstacle you faced
coming from an illustration background and then going into the world of
DG: I tend to want to over-illustrate everything I do
and don’t place enough faith in the art departments of my licensees. My
lack of knowledge when it comes to the variety of software out there has
been a frustration for me also. I am mainly a self-taught artist.
TDM: What was your original goal when you first decided
to make the Homies?
DG: To make my homies and all the other lowriders laugh
when they read my comic strip in Lowrider Magazine. Plus being
an artist in the magazine helped me pick up girls -- that was always a
TDM: How do you think marketing of the Homies has differed
from other types of collectibles?
DG: Most properties start as a movie or television show
and end up as a collectible. We started as a collectible and hope to end
up as a movie or television show.
TDM: Can you describe the astonishing range of the retail
outlets carrying Homies?
DG: Everything from Mexican food markets to urban clothing
stores, from the AM/PM-type market to trendy chain gift stores in the
mall, from tradeshow distributors to eBay, and from large toy stores to
the flea markets.
TDM: Can you tell us about the range of consumers who
purchase Homies? Has this changed since you began creating the figures?
DG: From kindergarten age to grandma and grandpa. guys,
girls, gays, brown, black, yellow, red, white, hip, straight, cholo, goth,
rocker, rapper, redneck, white collar, blue collar and no collar, lowrider,
hot-rodder, skateboarder. That’s the beauty of this thing – it’s part
of American culture.
TDM: How much are you concerned about rip-offs and idea
DG: Happens every time I open a toy or toy trade magazine.
What can I do? My collectors know. If it don’t say Homies, it’s a wannabe.
They stay down for their Homies and recognize the biterz when they see
TDM: Do you have any new Homies on the drawing board
for your next release?
DG: Are you kidding? I have the whole next set of 24
done and another 50 in the back of my head!
TDM: What's in the future for you and for the Homies
DG: Action figures, high-end collectible bobbleheads,
remote control cars, Homegirls soft dolls, even girls panties. That one
is gonna be fun. The big goal is television and eventually, Homies the
Movie. I realize that these may be far-fetched dreams, but who [would
have] imagined that I would have already gotten this far just drawing
to make my Homies laugh?