Today we’re going to talk about a man named Morgan Phillips, who was born in 1969 but some would say he didn’t truly become himself until he found his alter-ego, The Sucklord. And if you’re not familiar with The Sucklord, here’s your brief primer from the man himself…

I take bits and pieces of other toys, switch the parts around, sculpt pieces, thereby fusing it with an original meaning. And I make my living doing it. It’s kinda like an Andy Warhol thing, it’s like he had soup cans and I had stormtroopers.The Sucklord on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, Season 2 Episode 1 (Bravo, 2011)

There’s a lot of debate if his pieces are art toys or simply bootlegs, a question we’ll definitely come back to, but it wasn’t an overnight process for Phillips to find The Sucklord. In fact, the story really begins during his college years.

The History of The Sucklord

Having focused on a major in art, specifically concentrated on sculpture, Phillips did an independent study during his final year. And what artwork did he create with this freedom? He started making strange characters out of Sculpey, and playsets for them to inhabit.

A Brief History of the Sucklord — Sculpy playset from Boo-Hooray exhibition

Photo: Tom Lichtman, 2011

After graduating, he continued creating these weird Sculpey pieces, which did garner him a blurb in Juxtapoz magazine and small exhibition at a VICE store, but his art career wasn’t proving successful. In the meantime, Phillips was finding notoriety in another way… he started donning a Boba Fett mask, wearing a caped beryl-blue tracksuit, and blasting his tunes on a boombox.
A Brief History of the Sucklord — Sucklord biography photo

Photo: Dustin Fenstermacher for the Village Voice, 2011

Now when I say “his tunes”, I mean “HIS tunes”. Phillips was creating these old-school breakbeats overlaid with Star Wars samples. And this persona really seemed to capture the imaginations of onlookers, so, using the alias Supergenius, Phillips self-released his Star Wars Breakbeats CD in 1998.
While he was finding surprising success with this endeavor, Phillips did continue to evolve his toy making art. But it wasn’t until 2003 that things really started to gel for The Sucklord. His friend and tattoo artist Joseph Ari Aloi, also known as JK5, had an upcoming solo exhibition at ALIFE and he asked Phillips to create some sculptures to support the illustrations. In addition to various one-off works, Phillips undertook learning mold making and resin casting to create 60 uniquely colored versions of Aloi’s INO design in sculptural form.
A Brief History of the Sucklord — JK5's INO

Photo: Bill Dawson, 2015

Bitten with the resin casting bug but lacking the equipment to do more by himself, Phillips decided to use a Queens-based shop to produce a limited edition piece. Modeled after his Hip-Hop Boba Fett costume, and made in action figure form by placing a Jango Fett helmet on a Count Dooku body, this 2004 released Suckadelic piece was Sucklord 66. And thus his alter-ego was truly born.
A Brief History of the Sucklord — Sucklord 66 figure
Finding marginal success with this sculptural self-portrait, The Sucklord went all in. He inherited some money in 2005, which he invested in renting an art studio and buying the equipment he needed to self-produce resin figures. After experimenting with several new designs, The Sucklord ended up debuting his Gay Empire piece, which became a huge hit after Frank Kozik posted about them on the Kidrobot forum.
A Brief History of the Sucklord — Gay Empire figure
The next few years saw The Sucklord rise in fame, attracting the attention of serious art collectors, galleries, and even auction houses. And this all culminated with The Sucklord being on the second season of the reality competition program Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.

My Impressions of The Sucklord’s work

But the question remains, is what The Sucklord creates art or not? Now, I own quite a few pieces created by The Sucklord, but I chose the below-pictured four deliberately, the reasoning for which — I hope — will become clear as we discuss them.
A Brief History of the Sucklord — Four figures being featured
This Autobot Protestor was one of ten that The Sucklord created for his Occupy Cybertron event. Held at New York City’s End of Century boutique in 2011, this was a Transformers-inspired parody of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In fact, attendees — like myself — were invited to wear robot masks and participate, with us depicting the protesting 99 percenters against Sucklord and his cronies’ 1% status.

Then there’s The Sucklord: Master of Ceremonies figure, depicting the man himself in his purple leisure suit. Released at New York Comic Con in 2012, this commemorated The Sucklord hosting the Designer Toy Awards that weekend.
And, from only about a month later, we have the Suckadelic Shit Prize. Available at DesignerCon in Los Angeles, fans had to play spoof carnival games, like Flip the Rat and Turdtoss, to earn SuckBux which could be exchanged for prizes like this one.
Is the common factor clear yet? It’s that I went to all these events. You see, while The Sucklord is usually given accolades as the originator of the bootleg action figure as an art toy concept, I think his artistic contribution is way bigger than that. He’s a performance artist that has found a brilliant way to monetize his performance art. These pieces aren’t necessarily his artwork, they are mementos of his performance art. And, even more impressively, he found a way to make his art meaningful to those that didn’t meet him in person.
 
Back in 2010, The Sucklord started creating a video series titled Toy Lords of Chinatown. A New Jack City-esque parody, this series concentrates on the toys Sucklord creates as contraband, and it introduces viewers to not only the physical figures but the cast of characters Sucklord typically focuses on. It’s a matured example of a classic formula: a kid watches a cartoon and wants the toy versions of those characters to play with. The Sucklord isn’t selling you an art object without context, he’s selling you a souvenir of experiencing his performance art universe.
And this concept brings us to the final piece I have here. Just released in February, this is the Sucklord: Lavender Chrome version 1 (2017). Now, let’s be clear: Sucklord didn’t make these. These pieces are injection molded, just like classic Star Wars action figures, and were made by Chad Herrington’s HasNoTalent brand.
Moreover, Sucklord didn’t sculpt or assemble the master for these. I’m pretty sure, in fact, that Herrington literally made the mold from a mass market Boba Fett figure. Sucklord chose the color these were exclusively produced in for him, and he glued the articulated figure into a fixed form so that it stood up straight in the box and the launching missile accessory didn’t fall out. Plus, of course, the packaging is his design as well.
So what makes these of value beyond simply being cool colored bootlegs? These debuted at a Suck Salon, which are irregularly held events at The Sucklord’s art studio. A strange mixture of pop-up shop and open studio, these events invite you to enter The Sucklord’s realm, to be immersed in the world he’s created.
And even though he wasn’t hosting the event in his villainous persona’s attire, buying a Boba Fett bootleg from Sucklord is still acquiring a strange self-portrait of sorts.
Concerning this newest release, Herrington produced 100 pieces in this color for Sucklord, though this version consisted of an edition of only 30. The remaining 70 will be issued in increasingly more intricate packaging, like silk screened blister packs, plexiglass housings, and — ultimately — a “fine art” piece that involves multiple figures.

For more information on The Sucklord:
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