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Something Fresh and New

Nuthugger looks up at me from her perch at the head of the books and zines table with seductive, playful eyes. Golden delicious and Granny Smith apple greens are juxtaposed like a Jolly Rancher sorbet delight begging to be plucked. Unfortunately for me, this tiny vinyl squirrel figurine, part of an artist series, is sold out. It's a good thing there are so many other delights to feast on at Super7, a peddler of worldwide design culture crouched on Post Street in Japan Town.

Super7 is a must-stop shop for lovers of street art, zines, graphic-design-inspired tees and totes, monsters, Transformers, toy collectors, doll admirers and just about anyone who enjoys visual or tactile stimulation. The brainchild of Mark Nagata, Brian Flynn and Mark Miyake, the store opened in June of 2004 as a spin-off of a quarterly magazine of the same name. When Nagata and Flynn set Super7 Magazine in motion with the inaugural issue in November of 2002, they had not yet crossed paths with future store co-owner and manager Miyake. Miyake learned of the magazine while serving as book buyer for Kinokuniya bookstore in the Japan Center and forged a relationship of mutual respect with Nagata and Flynn.

In the summer of 2003, Super7 shared a table with punkpunk -- a zine produced by Miyake and his girlfriend -- at the Alternative Press Expo. With some time spent in close proximity, the idea for a store took form and came to fruition when Super7 opened its doors to the world a year later.

Each issue of Super7 Magazine coincides with two exclusive, very limited-edition toys. The current issue is monsterrific, with a cover story celebrating fifty years of Godzilla and the Super7 exclusives being a green version of the Uglydoll dubbed Wedgehead ($20) and a Circus Punk plush named Punkzilla ($50). Unfortunately all 100 green Wedgeheads have been snatched up, and it's no mystery why -- his soft fleecy feel renders him ultra-huggable despite being a fanged Cyclops. Punkzilla is even more limited, at 50 pieces.

This is definitely not a place for shoppers who need to "sleep on something" before deciding whether or not to go for it. If you pause too long, that coveted object is sure to be eagerly snatched up by someone else without hesitation. Neo Kaiju is the first original toy series to be offered by Super7 in collaboration with Strangeco, a local toy company that distributes and produces "vinyl" toys. For this series of mini figures, contemporary US artists and designers Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Seonna Hong, Kathy Staico Schorr and Todd Schorr each reimagined a classic Japanese monster (Kaiju) and created an original. Nuthugger and her mates are out of stock but a new shipment is expected soon.

Meanwhile, I can't decide for the life of me between Cheburashka, a plush monkey tucked in a wooden box with fake tangerines, silk-screened pillows from Dora Drimalas' Hybrid Home collection, a little vinyl gas-masked Hazmapo figure, a ninja plush by Mark Giglio's line Fun Fun, or the latest illustrative endeavor from San Francisco dweller and Pixar storyboard artist Enrico Casarosa. Or there is a sweet t-shirt designed by D|cide of Berlin -- one of 100 -- it comes in a silk screened box with a button to rock and a two-color silk screened poster for only 30 bucks!

There are lots of goodies from local artists including Brian Flynn's clothing line Allies of the R:Evolution, attractive laminate Poketo wallets made by a local designer and music from local singer/songwriter Goh Nakamura who is suggested to appeal to fans of Elliott Smith and Elvis Costello. But just as Super7 showcases Bay Area artists, its proprietors also bring objects from all over the world to its customers. Bullmark toys made popular in the 70s from Japanese TV shows such as Godzilla and Ultra-Man are on display and ready-to-roar. Other treats include the infamous Fruits publication with photographs showcasing Japanese street fashion, Relax magazine, and a plethora of comic books and design/art books ranging from graffiti to sneaker design to the Japanese toy craze and Rollbahn notebooks.

What really won me over was Super7's "affordable art" wall decorated with limited-ed screen prints, painting and drawings. I could not resist a Bwana tri-tone featuring two manatees and the mantra “love is power”, especially at $15. After visiting other galleries carrying admittedly drool-worthy pieces for hundreds of dollars, these pieces of art offer comparable aesthetic satisfaction. Super7 also hosts art installations that run four to six weeks that usually kick off with an art opening and artist signing. Past installations have included Gary Basement, Seonna Hong, Tim Biskup, a robot-themed show, and a Godzilla-themed show. Adding yourself to Super7’s mailing list is the best way to stay abreast of all the goings-on and sales you won’t want to miss.

The only complaint I have every time after visiting Super7 is that I want practically everything I set my eyes on. Things are priced economically so that I always leave with an object I could not live without. I found the Bollywood track that opens Ghostworld on a sweet picture disk on one visit, but don’t expect to see it on yours. The upside is that there’s always something fresh and new to glaze over. Don’t sleep!