It all started with a comic book character named “Is’Nana the Were-Spider” who was responsible for releasing creatures of horror into the world.
The comic book series written by Greg Anderson-Elysee and published by Webway Comics needed a 3-D action figure to bring the character to life.
Viet Huynh, a stand-up comedian from Gainesville, put his background in civil engineering to work and created the figure, “and a network of friends built from there,” said Huynh, 37.
“I ended up getting into the community of independent comic book creators and made action figures out of the two dimensional characters from a comic book,” he said.
A lot of these people have Kickstarters for their project and the figurines became the reward for donating, he said.
“I end up working with people who had huge followings and sometimes I’d make 20 of the same characters.”
For Huynh, the skill is keeping his hands full during a time when stages at restaurants and nightclubs he would normally be performing at sit empty.
“At one point I had a thing called a “disposable income” Huynh joked. He said he used it to collect action figures.
“It got to the point of I was tired of waiting for them to come out with characters I wanted and even some obscure ones,” he said about action figures to match characters he was reading about or seeing on screens.
“I found an online community of members who make their own (characters),” he said. Someone suggested Huynh post his creations online and then people starting paying him to make them.
“From there I started doing conventions,” he said.
In between making complicated action figures that took him about 10 hours and cost between $50-$100 depending on time, Huynh said he needed to add smaller projects to sell in between. That’s when he figured out he could take pill-shaped pens and convert them into characters by sculpting feet, eyes and accessories.
“I started making Minions of everything, you name it,” he said. “I sold a lot at conventions, making them on the spot.”
Then he transitioned to Funko Pops! The characters are made by the company that used to make bobble heads, he said.
“When the Minion sales died down, he found bear figurines and applied the same customizing techniques.
Huynh jokes that he was following that Asian stereotype of the sweatshop.
Huynh grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and went to Clemson University. He worked as an engineer in Atlanta for seven years and picked up the hobby of making toys and then started doing stand-up comedy.
He met his (now) wife, got engaged, moved to Gainesville six years ago where he joined the comedy scene and continued to make action figures.
He uses polymer clay, a two-part compound that has the consistency of clay and hardens upon drying, so no baking or curing required.
His commission for the characters can range from $30 to $50 to $100 for labor and then the additional cost of parts.
Huynh compares himself to the villain in the movie “Toy Story.”
“I’m always scared of being accused of being a serial killer because I literally have boxes of separated dismembered toy parts,” he said with a laugh.
“Most of the time I take parts from something and make them into other things.”
To see more samples of Huynh’s figurines check out his instagram @comedianviet or contact him through his website www.comedianviet.com. He said he can “create anything, they just need to find me.”
This is the first in a series of stories entitled “PLAN B” about how people who usually work in front of crowds are adapting to life offstage because of the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.