Image credit: ToysREvil
Max Toy Company features unique Kaiju collectible toys designed by Mark Nagata and artists and designers from around the world.
Growing up in California, Mark Nagata was a fan of Disneyland, comic books and classic Japanese television shows, movies and toys. These influences inspired his creativity and spurred his initial interest in drawing and art. Fast-forward to today and not much has changed for this toy designer, painter, illustrator and collector.
Seen by many as the consummate professional, Mark trained at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in the 1980s and went on to a successful career in commercial illustration. He completed works for such prominent companies as Lucasfilm, DC Comics, Hasbro Toys, IBM, Sony, and advertising and design firms, both national and international. Mark’s colorful style graces numerous cover paintings for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps book series – Give Yourself Goosebumps.
But Mark’s heart has always been in the creative process, so in 2005, after co-founding and publishing a toy magazine, he started Max Toy Company, named for his son. Now celebrating its 9th year, Max Toys has stayed true to its founding mission – to specialize in custom and limited editions of “kaiju” (Japanese monsters) toys and artwork. Many of the original toys are hand painted by Mark, a tradition and process that goes back to the Japanese toymakers of the past – supremely talented folks Mark has taken the time to personally visit and acknowledge in his work.
Max Toys allows me to produce original artwork, new toys and work directly with a lot of talented artists.
For years, Mark has befriended fellow artists and toy collecting colleagues assisting them with bringing their shared passion for this enticing and engaging art form to life. He has invited collaborations from young up-and-comers as well as established, well-known industry mainstays with one goal in mind – to create art that illustrates each artist’s personal vision and passion.
Helping to introduce folks from far and wide to the designer toy scene has been part of Mark’s professional and personal mission for years. In 2007, he played a significant role in the development of the first group kaiju show in the United States called “Toy Karma” that featured detailed work from Japanese, American and South American artists. Also in 2007, in another first for this growing art niche, Mark was featured as one of the spotlighted artists in the “Beyond Ultraman: Seven Artists Explore the Vinyl Frontier” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The show marked the first time – in a museum setting – that the influence of Japanese toys on California artists was explored. The exhibit featured Mark’s original paintings, toys and a selection of his vintage toy collection.
In 2010, Mark served as guest lecturer on kaiju and the toy-making process at the Morikami Museum in Florida. Prestigious art houses Philips De Pury and Christie’s in New York and London have sold Mark’s hand-painted custom kaiju toys in its auctions.
Much of Mark’s world-renowned Japanese toy collection – including many from his massive Ultraman collection – was on display in 2013-2014 at San Francisco International Airport museum, SFO. The exhibit, titled “Japanese Toys! From Kokeshi to Kaiju,” showcased the incredible diversity and growth of Japanese toys with many of Mark’s favorite vinyl kaiju figures prominently featured. The exhibit also served as a great introduction to this captivating art form for tens of thousands of bustling travelers to and from Mark’s hometown.
Max Toys is a synthesis of toys and art, both life-long passion
Mark continues to shine a positive light on the art community he has helped grow. Mark coordinated the inclusive and barrier-breaking art show titled “Beauty and the Kaiju.” The event saw the immediately recognizable Max Toy characters reinterpreted by six wonderfully talented Japanese female artists. The result was new takes on old favorites from some fresh faces that kaiju fans welcomed and enjoyed. In fact, several of the participating artists have gone on to successful projects of their own.