Miniature Mayhem: An Interview with Dave Gonzales, Creator of the Homies Figures
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September 2003 | Vol. II - No. 9

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Design Inspiration

Miniature Mayhem: An Interview with Dave Gonzales, Creator of the Homies

Dave Gonzales

When Dave Gonzales started drawing comic strips for Lowrider Magazine, he had no idea that his creation, the Homies (ToyShow) 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.

Mijos Figures

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… they multiply.”

The 1st Series of Homies

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 big dollars.

TDM: What was the most difficult obstacle you faced coming from an illustration background and then going into the world of toys?

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 bonus.

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.

Hollywood, Gonzales' Alter Ego

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 theft?

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 them.

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 line?

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?


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