Pop Monster in Torrance is a burst of color among the drab faded greys of the surrounding strip mall. There’s a non-descript donut place, a non-descript hair salon, and then suddenly a bright multicolored sign that declares, “ART TOYS.” Its mere presence grabs the attention of passer-bys, pulling curious minds with a gravitational field.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of the art toy, think of it as a confluence of Japanese pop culture, cutting edge cartooning, and urban street art. It’s an ultra-hip, youthful, design-centric take on figures and collectibles that brands like Kidrobot, Kubrick and Tokidoki have built their business on. Normally, one would have to travel north to the crowded Los Angeles hot spots like Giant Robot to get something similar. Its existence in Torrance is therefore not only convenient, but a distinguishing South Bay characteristic for this constantly growing community of hobbyists.
Designer Toy Collector Heaven
In the last decade or so, these vinyl figurines have become popular not just to consumers as collectibles, but to companies as licensing opportunities. Properties like Ninja Turtles, the NBA and even Google Android have all ventured into the art toy collectible market. As a result, it’s no surprise that Pop Monster’s most impressive stock is in this area. There are shelves and cases chock full of these smooth, high quality, soft plastic toys. Labels like Dunny, Fujiwara and Myplasticheart and more are represented.
One of the interesting services they offer to their subculture is a space for collectors to sell their own figures, which is great for blind-box buyers, who roll the dice by buying figures sight unseen. Some shelves serve purely as a display, with no intention to sell, just the desire to show off their passion and taste.
A Wide Array Of Merchandise
Most importantly, Pop Monster has a lot for everyone. If colorful and cute t-shirts are your thing, you’ll be hard pressed to find a table with as many trendy tees. If art & illustration books are your passion, they stock beautiful hardcover street art books and indie art comics that are hard to find in even proper comic book stores. Their selection is small, but their selection is top notch. If you know the name of award-winning New Yorker cover artist Adrian Tomine, or if your favorite publisher is Fantagraphics, the books at Pop Monster are aimed squarely at you.
It’s a bit of a challenge to explain the uniqueness and rarity of a store like Pop Monster and what that means to the area. For a section of the city without a lot of art culture, crowded by big chain establishments, it’s a real bright spot for Torrance. Vinyl art toys are very much a niche subculture, but the appeal of the scene is wide enough that even curious, artistically-inclined shoppers will find much to their tastes.
Are you a collector of anything? Are you interested in designer art toys?
Pop Monster – (310) 325 – 8686
24416 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, CA 90505