Where echolocations and grand slams collide, Bat Boy will be there. Where tasty mosquitoes ride the breeze that carries the rousing chant of “take me out to the ball game,” Bat Boy will be there. Where crackerjacks and bananas mingle on the palate, Bat Boy will be there.
Sixteen years ago, Funko founder Mike Becker and a team of stalwart artists with a passion for hot rod culture, Rat Fink and all things tiki began a new line of character designs that would come to be known as Fantastik Plastik. In the years that followed they released such irreverent, beloved and original characters as Pulpo, Rocko Billy, Chet, Big Al, Wolfgang, Frank Von Viener and Salty delighting collectors and inspiring Funatics.
In late April, Funko announced a revival of the Fantastik Plastik characters reimagined within the Pop! form factor culminating in an announcement than fans would have the opportunity to design an original Fantastik Plastik character. At the time, Funatic Tanner Hedges was a freshman pursuing a degree in Graphic Design at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida and there was no question that he would enter the design contest. Tanner's friends knew it too, immediately tagging him in social media posts announcing the contest.
“I knew right away that I was going to enter and that Bat Boy was going to be my submission. I had actually drawn Bat Boy back in August of last year after Fundays 2018 because I had fallen so in love with the new Fantastik Plastik characters that were revealed at the show,” Tanner said. “I drew Bat Boy back then thinking there was a zero percent chance he could be made but thought it would be fun to make my own character. As soon as I saw the contest and my friends were tagging me in announcement posts on social media, I knew this was my chance.”
Tanner drew inspiration from his favorite Fantastik Plastik characters including Salty, Fin du Chomp, Wolfgang, Pulpo, Dino and Chet. Growing up on the eastern shore of Maryland, Tanner has lived his entire life surrounded by the ocean and developed an affinity for all things related to the sea and the animals that live within it giving Salty, Fin du Chomp and Pulpo a special place in his collection. He took special note of seemingly minute design details including Fin du Chomp's human tooth necklace and the bite missing from his surfboard. Tanner decided to incorporate similar attention to detail in his own Bat Boy design, adding vampire bite marks in his baseball bat and incorporating the color red into Bat Boy's uniform as an allusion to blood.
“What I love about the Fantastik Plastik line is how colorful, creative and just plain out crazy they are,” Tanner explained. “All the characters are so different yet all feel like they belong alongside one another. The fact that they are all Funko originals and designed by some of my biggest inspirations also makes me appreciate them even more.”
Baseball is also an integral part of Tanner's family and identity. He grew up in a house of Yankees fans and cites playing tee-ball and watching baseball games at his grandparents' house among his earliest memories. “My favorite thing about baseball is how simple it appears on the outside but how complex it is the deeper you dive,” Tanner explained. “There's nothing like watching your team down with bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth.”
Originally, Tanner was attracted to Funko products because he belongs to a wide variety of fandoms including Disney, Marvel, Hanna-Barbera and Pokémon. Discovering a world where his favorite characters could stand side by side regardless of fandom was a major revelation. “I loved being able to display Darth Vader, Mickey Mouse, Batman and Iron Man all lined up and them looking like they belong together,” Tanner explained. “I enjoy stylized figures and when there are hundreds of different licenses that all fit together I think they look fantastic on display.” With time, however, Tanner began to appreciate the Funatic community as much as the Funko products. He now cites his Funko family as his favorite part of collecting, and he looks forward to Funko events like Fundays for the opportunity to see the circle of friends he had developed online.
Now Tanner has an additional reason to love Fundays after the 2019 Fundays announcement that his Bat Boy design won the Fantastik Plastik Design Challenge. Funko Senior Environment Designer Robert Schwartz who was part of the original team that designed the first Fantastik Plastik characters said Tanner's design “truly captured the Spastik spirit with Bat Boy, a flawless blend of spooky meets funny, along with our long tradition of armed animals. Is he friend or foe? That all depends on you, amigo. Welcome, Bat Boy, to the gang! Tanner, you hit this one out of the park!”
The well-earned victory has helped fuel Tanner's continued passion for graphic design and confidence in his chosen profession. In fact, the entire experience has helped refine his career goals. “Since around sixth grade my dream was to be a Disney Imagineer, but since I started collecting Funko at the beginning of my freshman year of high school my dream has changed,” he explained. “My dream now is to be part of the amazing art team at Funko. I've still got a ways to go but that is the ultimate goal when I'm through with school.”