I had the chance to interview quite a few people this year. Some were famous. Others weren't. However, most of this year's interviewees had a few things in common. They all created something, be it an event or a piece of art, that is memorable. They aren't being chased by paparazzi, but they have followings. They're cult stars.
Cult Stars, the column, has only been around since October, so most of the people on this list were interviewed before that. All appeared in L.A. Weekly sometime during 2011.
10. Sebastian Masuda
Sebastian Masuda is the fashion designer behind 6%dokidoki, one of several Japanese clothing brands that have made a big impact in L.A. over the past few years. As a designer, he focuses on cute, girlish designs in bold colors like hot pink. He's also an art director and is responsible for the wild look of Japanese singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's viral video “Ponponpon.”
After the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami earlier this year, Masuda rallied together businesses in his shop's Tokyo neighborhood for the Mighty Harajuku fundraising effort. He then came to Los Angeles to help spread the word about the project. Most recently, he re-imagined the work of late illustrator Rune Naito as photographs featuring some of Japan's most popular models. Masuda's latest work is currently available at Rune Boutique, a pop-up shop inside Royal/T.
Tank9 dances to industrial and EBM music, records himself and uploads the results on YouTube. That's not so out of the ordinary. What makes Tank9 different from scores of other people on the video-sharing site is that he has a good sense of humor. He's danced in grocery stores, food courts and even inside the Los Angeles Convention Center for Anime Expo.
After admiring Tank9's work for a couple years, I finally bumped into him while he was working on this year's AX video. His film shoots have become increasingly popular with the convention crowd and, in the process, he's teaching cosplayers how to stomp like they're at an industrial club.
8. Kit Quinn and Tallest Silver
Kit Quinn and Tallest Silver are well known within the cosplay community. In fact, Quinn was the 2010 recipient of Comic Impact's Cosplay Girl of the Year award. While this duo's collection of cosplays is certainly impressive, they upped the ante last summer with their large group cosplay, Gender Bent Justice League. I included them in this year's “Best of the Cons (Part 1)” list, but they deserve another mention here.
With GBJL, Quinn, Silver and friends swapped the genders of Justice League characters. Quinn was Superma'am. Silver was Batma'am. Wonder Man, Power Guy and several others were in the mix. The catch was that the girls remained largely clothed. The guys, on the other hand, were scantily clad by male superhero standards — illustrating the difference between male and female characters in comic books.
7. Shibuya Girls Pop
Last spring, Shibuya Girls Pop, a mostly female Japanese art collective, held their first proper L.A. show inside Meltdown Comic's gallery. Titled “Magical Girls: The Art of Shojo Manga,” the work was inspired by Japanese comics created specifically for girls.
With an opening weekend full of packed events, “Magical Girls” was more than just an introduction to this group of talented artists. It was testament to the fact that there is an audience for girl-friendly comics and that those titles can (and will) go on to inspire more artists.
Read more in “Shibuya Girls Pop: Cute Rebellion.”
6. Kevin Eastman
Kevin Eastman is the co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That alone makes him a cult star. But Eastman has done much more than help conceive of the pop culture icons in a New England studio decades ago.
Eastman has owned legendary fantasy art magazine Heavy Metal since the early 1990s. He has a stack of other projects in the works, too, all of them on display at Meltdown Comics this month in a massive career retrospective. Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of Heavy Metal, Eastman has opened up a pop-up shop inside the comic book institution. Here you can find rare artwork, a studio based on the one where the artist works and, if you show up at just the right time, sometimes Eastman as well.
5. Chocolate Covered Cosplay
The women who comprise Chocolate Covered Cosplay have a message. Dress as whomever you want. You don't have to look like the character. You don't need to be the same size. You don't need to be the same race or ethnicity. You don't need to be the same gender.
CCC formed right before Anime Expo this year. Since their first appearance, they have been hosting panels (and parties) at conventions across Southern California to spread their message of all-inclusive cosplay.
4. Ben Jones
Ben Jones made a name for himself in the '00s as one-third of the art collective Paper Rad. This year, though, he took on another credit: creator of what is perhaps the strangest show to run on Cartoon Network ever. Jones is the mind behind The Problem Solverz, a surreal series revolving around three characters who solve problems.
Based on characters that were originally part of Jones' Paper Rad work, The Problem Solverz takes video game references and neon animation to new levels. Earlier this month, Jones and art director John Pham put some of their show-related art on display at GR2 for the show “The Art of Problem Solving.” You should have been there.
3. Stephanie Sheh
Voice actor Stephanie Sheh has earned oodles of fans from her work in animes like FLCL, Bleach and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. So, when the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, she flew into action.
We Heart Japan is a fundraising organization launched by Sheh and other anime/manga insiders dedicated to raising funds for earthquake and tsunami relief. Their first event, which featured an art show along with auctions and autograph signings, took place about a week after the earthquake. But, We Heart Japan kept going even after the tragedy faded from the headlines. They've hosted several events throughout the year, including a Cowboy Bebop reunion, and have appeared at conventions like Pacific Media Expo.
2. Andrew W.K.
Musician and game show host Andrew W.K. has turned the art of the party into a philosophy. He spreads his message in the clubs where he plays and on Twitter and his live chats with fans. The same could be said for his game show Destroy Build Destroy, where the explosions are as beautiful as the message.
Last spring, photographer Shannon Cottrell and I visited W.K. on the set of Destroy Build Destroy, where he said that the show helps teach its young audience “that anything you build involves destruction.” He added that he loved that the destructions on the set were used “purely for fun, purely for joy.”
“”One of my dreams is that someday every weapon on the face of the earth will be put into this show and only used for entertainment purposes,” said W.K. in our interview. “No killing and shooting, just Hollywood-style special effects.”
1. Patrick Warburton
Partick Warburton is the tall guy that you might recognize from Seinfeld, The Tick and, currently, Rules of Engagement. He has the deep voice that animation fans will immediately recognize from Family Guy and The Venture Bros. He's also the owner of a '69 Dodge Charger, the same car that his character on The Venture Bros. drives, and ardent Pearl Jam fan. But those aren't the reasons why Warburton tops this list.
When I interviewed Warburton several months ago, he brought up the subject of bullying, and his comments were amongst the best that I've heard.
“If we expect kids to not be bullies in school, then the elders in society can't be bullies either.”
Read more in “Four Things to Love About Patrick Warburton.”