The latest (and supposedly, final) series of Breaking Bad has people all over the world on the edge of their seats. You know, the one where the dad from Malcolm in the Middle becomes a different kind of Burner, one that cooks meth and blows people up. The Daily Mail reports on the latest trend, “underground Lego” – a not-officially-sanctioned “Bricking Bad Superlab Playset” from Citizen Brick that sells for $250. Click here to buy. They’ve already sold “hundreds” before today’s media storm, making this at least a six-figure art work. The 500-piece Lego playset lets kids (or never-too-old-to-be-a-kid adults) re-create their favorite scenes from the show. Citizen Brick describes their custom-built legos as “perfect for jaded hipsters“.
The sell-out £160 kit, branded ‘SuperLab’, lets any child or adult recreate Walter White’s notorious crystal meth lab.
Complete with protective masks, drug paraphernalia, figurines and a version of the car from the show, infants can even reenact scenes from the series.
The toy looks similar to a classic Lego set, although it is not connected to the Danish company in any way and was made by a separate firm.
The 500-brick set, made by Citizen Brick in the United States, comes complete with figures of the main characters and enables you to build the entire meth lab
The RV used by the characters to rustle up their drugs. Customers are given all the drugs paraphernalia with the kit
Outraged commentators took to Twitter to speak out against the bizarre toy.
Jeff Myers tweeted: ‘Made for children raised by parents who should know better.’
Jacques Gonzales added: ‘Definitely not for kiddies!’
The drama, in its fifth and final series, follows chemistry teacher Walter White on his journey to raise money for his family’s future when he is diagnosed with lung cancer.
The schemer from Albuquerque, played by Bryan Cranston, enlists the help of a former pupil Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul.
A global hit, it is hailed by critics and watched by millions around the world.
Drug boss Gustavo Fring (above) and enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut (right) have been fashioned into figurines
But Lego Group refused to sanction the merchandise, produced by Citizen Brick, because of its ‘adult content’.
Beneath the sold-out item, the Citizen Brick website told customers: ‘Soothe yourself with the Citizen Brick Superlab Playset.
‘Who knows what fun you’ll cook up with this deluxe set, chock full of realistic details, and three exclusive minifigs! Over 500 parts!
‘This set is a product of Citizen Brick, and is not sponsored, authorized or endorsed by the LEGO Group, owners of the registered LEGO(R) trademark.’
Interest in the series is rife among under-age viewers, with one pair of children screening their own version on YouTube last month.
Rather than Class As, the Breaking Bad Jr stars deal in Jelly Beans, and the star suffers from diabetes instead of cancer.
The Wall Street Journal ‘s Speakeasy Column has an interview with the creator of the Superlab, Chicago artist Joe Trupia:
The new toy is not the creation of the Danish toy giant minting money selling bricks worldwide. Instead, it’s the latest product fromJoe Trupia, the Chicago artist who runs a company called Citizen Brick that specializes in making its own creations by buying Legos and then essentially remaking them with the help of a printer.
Citizen Brick is not a newcomer to the industry of companies making their own Lego-like sets. But Trupia’s creations are often edgy, juxtaposing Lego’s strict family-friendly ethos with sometimes-taboo subjects.
His past creations include a mini-figure for Norwegian black metal music fans, the zombie baby accessory and the stoner with a bong (who was codenamed a “Botany Enthusiast”).
Trupia said Citizen Brick tries to stay respectful to the Lego brand. Lego, in turn, says that while it does not endorse and sponsor The Breaking Bad set, it notes that Citizen Brick has complied with its Fair Play policy.
Speakeasy caught up with Trupia, 37, a few weeks after his “Breaking Bad” themed Lego-like “Super Lab” set hit the market last month, and he describes the pace as being “extremely crazy” due to strong demand.
“I set out to make items that I knew Lego would never make but that would still maintain the distinctive Lego aesthetic and production quality,” Tupia said. This is a departure for Citizen Brick, as the firm does not typically do work based on pop culture or licensed characters.
But a “Breaking Bad” meth lab – which looks much like the lab used during a couple of the hit show’s seasons – seemed like a natural fit. Although there is not mention of the words “Breaking Bad” or any of the characters in the show, there is no mistaking what the set resembles.
The Superlab is comprised of more than 500 Lego-like pieces including vats for chemicals and cooking, and even has a security camera that closely resembles the one Gus Fring installed to be able to monitor Walter White’s activities. The set comes with three mini-figurines closely resembling Walter White (“Chemistry Enthusiast”), Gustavo Fring (“Chicken Enthusianst”) and Mike (“World’s Best Grandpa”).
Citizen Brick started selling the Walter White-looking mini-figurine already in January. It only made sense to expand the range.
“In the show, the underground laboratory is this major set piece in the storyline. It felt like another character. It seemed like a great subject for a custom kit.”
Citizen Brick worked through a few versions over several months – streamlining it and making it a more sturdy construction. Anyone who has played with Legos understands the simplicity of the concept, but students of the company appreciates the amount of time that its designers put into creating a theme, such as a “Star Wars” set or a set based on “The Hobbit.”
- The set comes with three mini-figurines closely resembling Walter White (“Chemistry Enthusiast”), Gustavo Fring (“Chicken Enthusianst”) and Mike (“World’s Best Grandpa”).
“The thing about Lego sets is their economy: each part services the overall engineering and the aesthetic design equally,” Trupia said. “That’s the kind of quality we’d like to emulate.”
Citizen Brick uses the same printing method and materials as factory-made Legos, so its items blend seamlessly into authentic sets made by the real company. But unlike some massive toy companies that have made their own Lego-like toys, Trupia doesn’t produce the bricks.
That means he is limited to using pieces he can actually buy from Lego or obtain second hand. Because it is difficult to get large quantities, everything Citizen Brick makes an inherently limited edition.
“We work in small batches, almost like a craft brewery, and are subject to what ingredients are available.”
Citizen Brick made a few hundred “Superlab” sets to start, which it sold to the core collectors who are frequent customers. These were gone within three weeks, but demand is much richer.
“I think as anticipation over the final season of Breaking Bad has increased, requests to make more have poured in. As of right now, we’re taking pre-orders to make more.”
According to Mr. Trupia, “Breaking Bad” fans and hardcore adult Lego fans have responded well to the level of detail in the set. Still, he acknowledges that outside Breaking Bad fans and serious Lego collectors, reactions have been less kind.
“Some people object to the price, and a small minority thinks I’m trying to rally kids to manufacture methamphetamine themselves. The kit itself never mentions drugs, or violence, or specifics of the show directly. You’d have to be a pretty precocious kid to build your own meth lab after playing with our set.”
Mr. Trupia had Lego as a kid, but drifted away from them as a teenager. But then, after his oldest son was old enough to play with them, he rediscovered them. That’s when he started Citizen Brick, which he now runs as a full time occupation with his business partner, two full time employees, two part time employees, and a stable of freelancers who help sort and build kits.
Mr. Trupia got his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and says that pursuing a life as an artist taught him to be entrepreneurial.
“While Citizen Brick is a more conventional commercial business, I do think of it as an extension of a larger art practice.”
Looking for a Breaking Bad-themed gift, but your budget doesn’t quite stretch to $250 for Legos? T-Shirt hell have an amusing selection of customizable t-shirts. Thanks Burner Erika for the tip, oh and thanks also for the “just the tip” Uluru background photo that has underpinned this site since the Dreamtime.