Toys from Death by Toys
Photo: Ryan Segedi

Dan Polydoris regularly refers to his art as “garbage.” And by garbage, he means the retro-style action figures and other novelty items with wry twists that he makes in his Niles home. These resin-cast items, which he sells under the name Death by Toys, throw pointed jabs that resonate with our collective anxiety (like the limited-edition $125 white-lady Karen figure or the $20 packaged air advertised as “100% Genuine Thoughts & Prayers”). The effort dates back eight years, when Polydoris started transforming classic ’80s Star Wars figures into vintage-style Nintendo ones for his own amusement and posted them on his blog. He started hawking edgier items in 2016 — Eli Roth gifted a bloody scalp to Stephen King — and now plays off zeitgeisty themes (his garbage fire figurine is called The Year 2020). “There’s something funny about touching on a super-dark idea, even a tasteless idea, by exploiting it or making a statement about it through a toy,” says Polydoris. His customers seem to agree. Mike Pence’s Head Fly went up for sale 24 hours after the VP debate — and all 50 sold right out.