The Cult of LEGO

(I know LEGO isn’t comics, but ever since I was introduced to the idea of repainting minifigs as comic characters, they’re linked together in my mind.)

This beautiful, colorful coffee table book provides a plethora of examples of how creative people can be with LEGO bricks and other parts. First, we’re introduced to the toy’s history and the idea of Adult Fans of LEGO. Then come sections on LEGO inventions, third-party companies that sell kit add-ons, Greg Hyland‘s AFOLs comic strip, the many minifigs, and reproductions — of buildings, works of art, and movie props.

The book only gets weirder from there, with sections on the use of LEGO in art installations, comics that use minifigs for the art, microscale works, robotics projects, giant creations that use tens of thousands (or even millions) of bricks, and vignettes, the challenge of making one tiny scene that tells a story.

I appreciated the way the book doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, with mentions of how many LEGO kits are male-oriented, the lack of diversity among minifigs (which can be seen to represent the Caucasian male), and the relatively small number of female LEGO fans. This isn’t a happy corporate product celebration but an attempt to tackle, if only briefly, many facets of a beloved toy.

A certain familiarity with the product will be a help. The mentions of BIONICLE, MINDSTORMS, TECHNIC, Belville (for girls, very pink), and other spinoff lines are not accompanied by photos, so those who only know the best-known core products may feel lost. (I did.) After some Googling, I realized that I knew what the Homemaker figures were, because I had some of them as a kid, but I shouldn’t have to reach for the web in such a case. That may be the flip side of not being a licensed work — the inability to use pictures of the standard products.

That leads me to think that this isn’t the book I thought it was, or maybe that I’d like to read another volume, a straightforward history of LEGO and its many products. This one is more for the fans, for those amazed by the many creative and outrageous things created by enthusiasts. The publisher has posted sample pages (and provided this review copy).

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