Lit-up details of Marvel Wow! Pods displays | Source: Wow! Stuff/the Pop Insider

Swipe to Light!

Wow! Stuff is introducing a brand-new way to collect. Give your collection a true glow up with characters from Marvel, DC, Disney Classics, Jurassic World, Fall Guys, and more in hex-shaped Pods that feature built-in UV lights. All of the Pods link can even together for a custom display.

In light of the new product launch (get it?), the Pop Insider chatted with Wow! Stuff Director Jim Wyatt — who worked on the products’ design — about the Pods, what makes them perfect for collectors, and the inspiration behind them.

The Pop Insider: What is your earliest memory of being a fan? What was your biggest fandom as a kid?

Jim Wyatt: Growing up in the UK in the early ‘80s, my exposure to pop culture characters was mostly limited to TV and film. Weekend TV highlights included the live-action Spider-Man series (starring Nicholas Hammond), The Incredible Hulk, and Knight Rider, with summer breaks bringing daily reruns of the Adam West Batman series.

My true love, though, was Star Wars — I loved the imagery, characters, and the world-building and would spend my evenings and weekends devouring any additional content that I could get my hands on and, of course, playing with the toys. As for the toys that I didn’t have, I would build them out of any piece of plastic packaging and cardboard that I could get my hands on. It was an exercise in shipbuilding that would put a Corellian to shame.

Nothing else really got a look in until the Batman movie landed in 1989.

Groot Wow! Pod | Source: Wow! Stuff

PI: So, Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) had a big effect on you. Tell me how that shaped you as both an artist and a fan.

JW: Other than a very well-loved copy of Super Friends 43 that my parents bought for me on a summer vacation, my experience of U.S. comic books was close to nonexistent. Then, Batman hit UK cinemas. The tone of Burton’s movie turned my understanding of superheroes (and movie-making for that matter) on its head. As a result of the film’s success, U.S. comic book titles were suddenly widely available, and I clearly remember buying and reading The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke, and Death in the Family graphic novels all on the same day. Not only was it a revelation in art and storytelling, but also the ubiquity of tie-in merchandise, video games, and books was something I hadn’t even experienced with Star Wars. That was the summer that I realized I wanted to carve out a career for myself as a creator and sent me on this 30+-year thrill ride that still makes me grin like Joker.

PI: What pop culture icon do you most identify with, and why?

JW: It would have to be Kevin Smith. His boundless enthusiasm and love of pop culture, both as a creator and a consumer is incredibly infectious. In an online world that can so quickly turn negative, his ability to stay positive with his fans and toward the work of his peers is both inspirational and life-affirming. Fandom is a better place for having Mr. Smith as a part of it.

PI: At the Pop Insider, our tagline is “Fuel Your Fandom.” What fuels your fandom?

JW: Compelling characters and detailed world-building. When you get the mix of those two things right, it’s imagination rocket fuel! Engage my imagination and you’ve got me hooked. It doesn’t matter what medium, it can be it on a screen, a page or a gameboard, if you can give me characters and a sandbox that are so rich that I can take them on my own adventures when I close my eyes, I’m 7 years old all over again, building a Star Destroyer that runs the length of the living room (Sorry, Mum!).

Wow! Pods | Source: Wow! Stuff

PI: Tell me a little bit about Wow! Pods and what makes them unique from other collectibles on the market?

JW: What I love about Wow! Pods is that there is not just one thing that sets them apart from other collectibles. There are all these little points of difference that, on their own, are great to have, but when they are all combined, they deliver something that stands out from the pack and makes them a real “must-have.” Obviously, the first thing that you are drawn to is that adorable character design and great detail, but zoom out from there, and that character is sitting in its own display case — the “Pod” — that can be connected to other Pods as you build out your collection.

Now add in the interactive, motion-activated, “Swipe to Light” feature that bathes the character with a funky UV light that really makes the character pop on the paint apps. Plus there is a secret pattern on the background of the Pod; each of which is unique to the character and only visible when the Pod’s UV lights are on. It’s a bit of superhero magic when you have a whole wall of characters and then swipe your hand across them all to see them light up one by one (which I find immensely satisfying!).

As an engineer, one of the most rewarding aspects of working on this project day-to-day is rising to the constant challenge to innovate new features and ways for customers to interact with Wow! Pods. I am pleased to say that the team has really risen to that challenge. There are some really fun developments on the horizon as we expand the range over the next couple of years, building on the already rich feature set and making Wow! Pods even more collectible.

Loki Wow! Pod | Source: Wow! Stuff

PI: How important for you was it to design these collectibles to be displayed in a unique way?

JW: The ability to easily display was right at the top of the “must-haves” list while we were conceptualizing Wow! Pods. As a collector, I am all too familiar with the problem of a lack of desktop real estate to accommodate all of my merch and memorabilia. Over the years, I’ve become pretty handy at putting up shelves and assembling Swedish-designed cabinets to display them all, and yet I still find myself having to rotate out pieces on a regular basis to make sure that everything gets an airing. The ability for Pods to connect with each other such that they can be stacked one on top of another directly addresses that. Each Wow! Pod can connect with any other allowing you to build out your collection into a wall of characters. You can even channel your inner interior designer and arrange the Pods into decorative shapes and patterns.

PI: We built the Pop Insider to reach an audience that knows that toys aren’t just for kids — we love ’em too! Talk a little bit about how this was such an important audience to reach when you were designing Wow! Pods.

JW: Over the past couple of decades, the “Superfan” and “Kidult” audiences have grown into a true market force that anyone working in the popular arts ignores at their peril. Geeks and fans are now acknowledged trendsetters and micro-influencers in their social groups. So, when new a product hits the market and is embraced by this community, it has a far greater chance of success. Taking this to heart as we developed Wow! Pods, we aimed to satisfy an audience that is incredibly discerning when it comes to quality, styling, and features while still being playful for younger collectors.

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PI: How did your own love of pop culture influence your designs?

JW: As a fan, I know that the joy I feel watching a Marvel movie or show comes from a very different place to the visceral buzz I get from a Jurassic World marathon. By extension, what fans are looking for in products related to those licenses can vary thematically and stylistically just as much. For that reason, we took the decision to not go down the well-trodden path of adopting a house “cookie-cutter” style. Instead, we opted to make the shape and function of the Pods themselves the unifying design element across the whole range and then identify the stylization that shows off the characters of each brand in their best light.

PI: What fun licenses can fans look forward to from the Wow! Pods collection?

JW: We will be following up on the first and second wave of Marvel Wow! Pods with Jurassic World, Fall Guys, and Sonic the Hedgehog in the spring and summer of next year, along with a third wave of Marvel characters … and that’s just the ones I can talk about. I’m excited to report that there is a whole lot more going on behind the scenes as we continue to work on signing up the licenses that fans tell us they want.

Wow! Pods are available now! Get yours here! 

You can also enter to win the full Marvel line of Wow! Pods — a $299 value — on Instagram, now through Oct. 10.