Although my girlfriend Karli isn't an old school geek like I am, she's not completely without street cred in the area of fandom. She's a loyal watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, and also follows Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick through social media.
As a result, she took note when Mr. Hardwick and his wife Lydia recently visited the Pacific Northwest and made a stop at the Funko head offices in Everett, Washington. Intrigued to discover the unexpected existence of this nearby geek El Dorado, we decided to pay their storefront location a visit as part of a weekend getaway to Seattle.
It's an overcast Friday morning as we hit the road for the United States - and Everett. A quick breakfast stop at Tim Horton's, and we're headed south.
The rain holds off until we reach the border. In one of those odd bits of happenstance that no one would ever believe in a movie, Madonna's Borderline plays on the radio as we go through US Customs and continue on Interstate 5.
As a non-driver, it's my job to act as navigator when in locations where roaming fees make Apple Maps directions impractical. I guide us to Exit 194 and along Everett Avenue to the centre of the city.
Studying the map, I say, "Turn left and it's along here someplace."
Karli turns the corner and dryly comments, "I think I see it."
Her tone of voice is instantly explained as I look up from the map. Suffice it to say that it's unlikely that anyone will mistake the Funko head offices for Everett's city hall.
What, you ask, is Funko? It's possible that you don't know who I'm talking about, but it would be a surprise to discover that anyone reading this could be completely unfamiliar with Funko's signature Pop! figure line. If you don't own one of these blank-faced three and three quarter inch vinyl collectables yourself, you very likely know someone who does. Since its modest four-character introduction at San Diego Comic-Con in 2010, the Pop! catalogue has expanded to fill virtually every niche in the pop culture market, with more than 3,000 different Pop! figures currently available.
As the Funko website quite accurately points out, everyone is a fan of something. By cleverly going beyond the limitations of genre fandom, Funko has been able to reach a much larger audience with its Pop! actors, musicians and sports figures. After all, why shouldn't people who love the Ramones or Golden Girls* have the same opportunities for collectables as fans of Thor and Wonder Woman?
Their 17,000 foot retail store, which opened in Everett in August of 2017, is a fully featured showcase for the Funko retail line. Different parts of the store are dedicated to particular fandoms - Harry Potter, Star Wars, DC Comics, Marvel, Disney - with life-sized** versions of the Pop! and Adorbz figures decorating each section.
The store is not just about figures. It also offers a full range of Funko-themed t-shirts, backpacks, bags, pencil toppers, key chains, stuffed toys, and all the other bits and pieces of merch that warm a fan's heart - and empty their wallet. The store also features limited edition items that are only available there.
There's also a Pop! Factory section where visitors can build their own Pop! people or monsters from a selection of heads, bodies, hands, and accessories.
Funko's attention to detail is impressive, to the point that the standard Funko brown-paper shopping bag perfectly holds two of the Pop! Figure boxes beside each other. Adding a third box horizontally fills the bag exactly to the top, indicating that Funko has a pretty good idea of what's buttering their bread.
We discover this bit of trivia by, of course, buying some figures. Karli picks up the mixed bag (no pun intended) of Wonder Woman and Joey Ramone. To be honest, I'm actually not in love with the aesthetic of the Pop! figures, but I still end up purchasing a glow-in-the-dark Pop! version of the original Tron from the 1982 movie.
Because, after all, everyone's a fan of something.
P.S. If you want to create a Pop! version of yourself like the one of me at the top of this posting, the Funko website has a Pop! Yourself page.
* Or both, that may be a thing for someone - in fact, Karli may belong on that list.
** If that's the right way to describe it.