Solaris Interviews: Haniboi

I am always massivly inspired by creative people doing their thing. That’s why I loved living in London so much! 

Han Lee aka Haniboi always stuck out for me as he was very proficient translating his illustrations and ideas into fun products and prints. So it was really great catching up with him and gaining a little insight into his creative mind…

Hi Han! Please introduce yourself to the amazing readers of this blog… 

Hi amazing readers, my name is Haniboi, I’m an illustrator based in Taiwan! My main work is character design, and I recently created this new character called “Happy Crotch “.

The reason why I started this new character is very simple: I wanted to throw 3 of my favourite things ( drawing, music and sex ) into one pot and see what’s going to happen!

We know each other from our time at Central St Martins. What was the most important lesson you learned studying at such a well known university you think?

Don’t be afraid to try new things! With this attitude in mind I am always looking for new things to learn, and also to enjoy the progress doing it.

You were already using the name Haniboi when I met you, can you elaborate on how to got the name and what it means to you?

I am a childish guy and Han is a such short name! So my flatmate started to called me Haniboi. Personally I love the idea of staying a boy forever: Boys love to have fun, boys can play anywhere and boys are brave! Plus a boy has a simple mind which I really want to keep.

When we hung out in London you already started producing products alongside all the illustration work you did as well. The Haniboi Wallet Tape comes to mind. Was that your first official product?

I’ll say my first ‘official’ product was back when I was in high school and I started to make badges to sell. When I saw my friends loving and wearing my badges I fell in love with the idea of making my own things!

Can you tell us a bit about how you got your first products made?

The badges were an easy project even for a high school boy, I still remember I took my pencil sketch to the badge studio and look at them turned my work into computer. It was the coolest thing ever! I loved the clean line and color blocks! It still influences my style nowadays!

My first mass manufactured product was called Hanitape. It’s a cassette tape looking wallet. 

I started this as a project during my product design course at university. In that time I really wanted to figure out the whole process from designing a product to developing it and putting it on market. But no one could teach me that and college takes money and years to learn ‘design’! 

So I saved 1/4 of the college fee to use the money to made this product and see how long it takes to make this money back.

After that I just keep on learning and doing in the same time. It is not the best way of releasing a product because I made all the mistakes I could make! Lucky for me I had a good feedback from trade shows and order started to come in quickly.

It was a great experience and much cheaper than college!

I really liked the Rock Alphabet you did. Seems to me music has a big influence on your work…

“YES!!! Music is a huge influence” I have been saying it since… forever! At one point I was really tired of myself saying I love music so much without creating my own. It is like to say you love basketball but you never play ball and only watch the NBA on TV!

I really felt like something was missing. So, 2 years ago I started to make my own music. Today’s technology helps you making beats so easily and fast… I couldn’t find any excuse not doing it! 

  via Typefoundry
via Typefoundry

You have quite a couple of tracks now on your own Soundcloud account. Do you see your music as an extension of your design practise or is it an additional thing you do for fun?

At a moment it’s for fun and practice, because it takes time to learn. But I have this plan to make sex music for my character Happy Crotch! I’ll like to do an whole album full of sex tracks: From how you touch yourself to old school candle red wine strawberry sex etc.! To use music to tell that story would be a fun project, so just wait for it… 


We both graduated awhile ago. Any advice you want to give any budding illustrator out there who is just about to leave university?

I can’t give any advice sorry, everything is changing so fast! I don’t even think you should go to university to learn “design” now! To have a big number of followers of your work online is much more important than a diploma or C.V.

In fact… personally I always ask for advice from much younger people that I meet, so… need to pass!

You did quite a couple of screen prints which got sold via known galleries like Nelly Duff. Tell us a little bit about that.

I used to spend a lot of time in London Print Club to make my own prints when I living in London, I love the color in screen print! It suits my style very much. Nelly Duff is a great gallery, I had a nice time working with them.

I wish there would be a screen print studio in Taiwan too!

You moved back to Taiwan after working in London for some time. Was it hard to settle back in? I can imagine the design scene in Taiwan is quite different from London…

The hardest part is you understand them but you don’t agree with them! They like your idea but will not go for it. People are afraid of change, that’s what worries me!

Let’s talk a little bit about the UPUP app you developed. You ended up creating plastic character toys for that as well. Tell us a bit how it all happened.

Dude… it is a long story… here is a short version of it…

UPUP started as my own side project. I put the website online and after 2 days it went viral! After that I started to get a lot of interest for UPUP and we started to license the characters. There are so many stories in between, because the whole process took about 3 years!

You even collaborated with UNIQLO at that point. How do you manage a project once it goes this big? I assume there might have been a lot of legal stuff you needed to sort out?

In Taiwan is once your name is up their people would line up to work with you. The legal stuff is not the problem, my agent took care of it. The big problem is they always asking for the same thing! When working with big companies it’s hard to ask them to listen to you. There would be advertising and PR company in between, so is hard to communicate. I need more experience of working with big company for sure.

Your most recent project is HappyCrotch which is a cute character which is basically… a crotch! How the hell did you come up (no pun intended) with that one?

One thing I love about Happy Crotch is that the name sounds so wrong but yet so funny! 

The reason I created this character is very simple: my crotch isn’t happy! 

I didn’t have sex for a very long time and when I ask my friends for advice just found out that no one’s crotch is happy. We are all living in a fake world full of sexual content to excite our crotch but no one is truly happy with it! I found it very interesting because there can never be just one answer to this issue, because everyone has a different kind of ‘happy’. So Happy Crotch is my way of finding my own answer…

Did you get any flack for creating a toy that talks about masturbation and sexuality this openly?

Not yet… it is still a new character, people still don’t know about it. But I am looking forward to it! I like to hear about different points of view and see some angry people!

At a moment the work I do for Happy Crotch is still very safe, I need to spice it up more! Still working on it…

The packaging and the figures ( there are three colourways now ) look very slick. How did you get them produced?

I worked together with a HK figure studio called “Unbox “ and they are very professional.  Thanks to them my crotch came out very smooth and shiny!

Are you collecting toys? How do you feel about the current character design / urban vinyl scene?

In fact… I don’t collect anything at a moment. It takes too much time and money! I think we are in the best and the worst time of character design, or creation in general. Everyone has a social media account and can be an artist, this is the best thing ever! So many people are doing exciting works, and people can find them on their phone! However, we don’t get excited any more, we can find anything in no time! 

I remember when I was young and saw some new Japanese figures in the toy store: I needed to find out their story myself through hard work! I had to ask around friends, spend time to collect all the information and merchandise. Nowadays an artist has to put out works daily for people to like, it is totally another way around now! Things are very accessible.

I love both, it’s just up to you how you see the scene.

Most designers and illustrators dream about creating their own prints or toys. Is it hard to make your money back once the production cycle is done? Can you give some advice how to approach creating and selling your own products?

Oh, no… I can’t give advice again… but I’ll like to share a lesson I just learned: Spend times on the category you want to do before you started your own project!


If you want to make a toy, spend time on learning how to make it: Ask people who know, follow their fan page, like their photo, get to know more people who are in the scene. Go and meet them face to face! 

In the process you will learn new skills and be able to tell people what you working on. You will build up your own network! Not a media one, a real one with people who will sort things out for you and help you to spread the word! This way you are making friends, creating work and do marketing in the same time. It sounds easy to do, but it takes time! Years maybe, but it feels much more solid.

What can we expect from Haniboi in the future?

I am working on the first music video for Happy Crotch, it is coming soon! 

Any final words of wisdom?

Be honest with your crotch.



Back to the Future: 8-Bit Zombie

People reading this blog should know that I do love my bootleg toys. With mainstream toy companies pumping out merchandise left, right and centre I feel the bootleg / mashup scene still keeps it’s appeal with their limited edition runs, hand finished products and fun references to vintage geekery.

I don’t recall how I came across 8bit Zombie, but I am sure it must have been because I spotted the mighty Thrashor on one of the toy blogs I was frequenting. A skateboarding undead Masters of the Universe toy? Hell yes!

Plus his designs referenced all my favorite toys from the past, mixing skateboard graphics with vintage toy branding. Your Graphic Design career might have been influenced by adoring Dieter Rams, mine was by drooling over the typo and illustrations of GI Joe, MASK and Masters of the Universe toy packaging!

So from then on I stayed a loyal fan and especially loved the great patches and trucker hats with the printed brims. Plus all the goodies 8bz puts into each package he sends out like sweets, stickers and vintage trading cards shows how much this dude loves what he is doing!

I find such self initiated enterprises super inspiring, so it was time to have a little cross-atlantic chit chat with Mr 8bz himself…

Hey! Thanks for doing this interview!

8bz is still shrouded for me in mystery: Can you give some background to how the 8bz empire was created?

A little mystery is always a good thing! Long story short, I started my own screen printing biz about 8 or 9 years ago. The plan was to learn the ropes until I got good enough at printing tees to start selling my own designs on the side. And that’s pretty much how things went.

I knew right off the bat that 80’s pop-culture would be the theme I ran with for my brand. I’ve been obsessed with the 80’s my entire life, so it was a no brainer for me. Luckily, the brand started doing well enough that I was able to focus solely on that. Screen printing was a great experience but I’ve left that behind for the most part so I can give 8BZ my full attention. I feel super lucky to be where I am today and to have the most amazing fans that support what I do.

Can you talk a little about your approach and the first pieces you created?

My approach to most things is pretty simple. I’ve never had a problem with coming up with ideas for things, my brain is ALWAYS going. Although I wasn’t blessed with talent to bring my ideas to life, I’ve always been a very creative person. Many of the concepts I come up with are true “light bulb” moments. But I also spend a good deal of time hammering away at ideas in my head. As previously mentioned, nostalgia is my passion. So there’s no shortage of inspiration there. So for the most part my creative process is exploring subjects and themes I love, while also trying to put my own spin on them.

The very first pieces I created under the “8-bit ZOMBIE” name were hats. Printing under the brim got me a lot of attention in the beginning and was a great way to get my name out there and my foot in the door. I actually did do the art for the first hats myself. It was fun and very satisfying to truly create products, from start to finish, entirely by myself. But I learned fairly quickly that hiring people far more talented than myself, was going to be the way to go.

Making your ideas into product is not easy. What were the challenges you faced starting out?

I’d say one of the hardest things to figure out in the beginning was how to stick to a budget. Especially when you don’t have a way to move merch very quickly. The cost of producing products adds up FAST. It’s really easy for me to get excited about something and just dump a ton of money into a project without thinking about how long it’s going to take me to make that money back. (This is STILL a problem for me, haha) But some of that is almost a necessity.

If you aren’t giving it your all and making the best possible stuff you can make, people aren’t going to take notice of what you’re doing. So, starting out, you kinda have to pay your dues and have to be willing to take hits on stuff until you really get your name out there. It’s not easy to put everything you have into a release, only to see lack-luster sales. It can be a really hard pill to swallow. But sticking with it and riding out the hard times is what separates the successful from the unsuccessful.

You have quite a wide range of pieces, from pins to shirts to toys: How do you come up with product ideas?

As mentioned, I’ve never had a problem coming up with ideas. The cogs in my brain are always turning. It’s one of those “blessing and a curse” type of deals. But in this line of work, it’s most definitely a big advantage. I’ve got more ideas than I can ever possibly use. And I often find the hardest thing for me is deciding which ideas to run with and which ones to leave on the shelf. (Not saying that all of my ideas are good ones, haha.)

I also rely a lot on the insights and opinions of my artist buds. I’ve been lucky to surround myself with some unbelievably talented people, who share the same passions that I do. Brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of them is one of my favorite things.

The artwork and packaging is always so crisp and on point: Are you working with designers or is it all you?

Thank you! For the most part, I reply on my designers to create stuff for me. But I will sometimes work on packaging elements myself. And it’s often a collaboration as well. I can’t illustrate but I’ve been using photoshop for years and years. I do most of the graphic design work for the brand myself. And leave the illustrative work to the pros. I have an almost obsessive eye for detail, so package parodies and stuff like that are always fun projects for me. Recreating vintage packages or ads is always a blast and gives me a little creative outlet.



I am sure you are quite a collector yourself: What rocks your boat?

I collect all things 80’s. Everything and anything. I’m drawn to stuff with big, bold graphics & illustrations. Lunchboxes, TV trays, promotional material, etc. I can’t get enough of that stuff. But I’d say my biggest loves are Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe, Real Ghostbusters, Mr. T, etc. My toy collection consists mainly of those things. I also collect NES games. Nintendo games were one of my first passions and were the first things I began to really collect. (Hence the “8-bit” in “8-bit Zombie”)

What do you think about the current indie toy / mashup scene. Are you guys connected or is everyone just doing their own thing?

I think, for the most part, it’s great. There’s some really amazing indie toys out there. I don’t really keep a close eye on most of it, or travel in any of those circles. But there are people out there making better toys than the big toy companies. It’s pretty amazing. What was once the domain of only the biggest companies in the world, is now being opened up to anyone with the creativity and determination give it a go. I won’t say I’m a big fan of a lot of the “Frankensteining” of figures that goes on in the “bootleg” toy scene.

Cutting the head off of one toy and gluing it onto another isn’t the most creative thing in the world. But there are some really amazing and creative mash-ups being made too. As with most things, it’s easy to tell the difference between the people who put thought, love and care into projects and those who don’t.

What do you think is generally the appeal of 80-90ties franchises compared to the toys we have today?

To me, it’s easy to see that toys of the past are vastly superior to toys today. The artwork, packaging and design of toy lines from the 80’s & 90’s were a thing of beauty. Over-the-top characters. Big, bold, bright packaging. And toy designs that were creative and FUN. All of it catered directly to kids and just oozed imagination and excitement. Compare that with toys on shelves today that are dull and generic looking. Package art that is muddy, uninspired and just plain boring. A good place to really see that contrast is the original TMNT line compared to the current cartoon & movie lines. The original toys were out of control on every level.

Just amazing. The new lines range from mediocre to painfully bad. Sculpts are hit & miss but often just “blah.” The worst part for me is the paint apps. (Or lack thereof) Often so bland and boring. It’s easy to see all the corners that were cut during production. But I think it all probably has to due with the fact that not as many kids play with action figures today.

Toys were IT back in the day. Every kid HAD to have them and it was BIG business. Today, kids attention is split between so many forms of entertainment. I’m sure toys don’t make anywhere near as much money as they used to. But, all that being said, I am seeing a resurgence of better toys lately. I don’t think we’ll ever see those glory days come back but I think companies are realizing that making better toys means making more money.

Any thoughts on the recent movie remakes?

For the most part, I‘m not into remakes, reboots, etc. Most of them are utter garbage and obvious cash-grabs. If the tone, spirit and love isn’t there, it’s just an insult to the original source material and the fans. Not saying there haven’t been any good remakes but it seems like the good ones are few and far between. I’d much rather see movie studios create original content, movies that will be this generations classics, rather than thoughtlessly rehash past classics just to earn a quick buck.

I am amazed they are still new MOTU pieces coming out, with Mattel remaking the whole toy line for the mature collector. What are your thoughts on that. Digging the new pieces or vintage all the way?

Totally love that Mattel is still making MOTU toys! I know there are people who are very critical of the line. But you can’t say that Mattel doesn’t know the worth of their property and isn’t trying hard to please fans. I think they’ve done a great job of paying tribute to the past, while updating and putting a fresh spin on everything. A fine example of how toys should be made and how a toy line should be kept alive.

I’m generally a vintage toy guy and can’t see myself seriously collecting new lines but I do have a He-Man and several of the Skeletors. There will always be a place on my shelves for new versions of those two.

I love the printed brims on the trucker hats. How did you come up with that?

Thanks again! Back when I first started screen printing I had seen some hats with printed brims. My first thoughts was “That’s awesome!” My second thought was “I can do that!” So I tried it out and became pretty obsessed with perfecting the technique. Took a few weeks (Or maybe it was months, hah) but I finally got it down to a science.

They are now the only 8BZ item that I still print myself. I used to do elaborate, multi-color prints but I keep things simple these days. I just don’t have the time to dedicate to printing that I used to. So now it’s just bold, one color prints. And I think that’s the better way to go anyway.

We need to talk Thrashor! Now from the idea, the sculpt all the way to the packaging, this bad boy is killer. Can you talk us through how he came into existence?

Much like a real 80’s character, Thrashor has a pretty interesting, and somewhat strange origin story. It all started with the idea to do a MOTU themed tee. As mentioned, He-Man, Skeletor and the whole MOTU universe is one of my huge loves. But for this project, I wanted to create an original character. And the initial idea was to do a tee design of just an action figure. I took that idea to one of my best artist buds, Matt Skiff. He was just as excited about it as I was. So we started tossing ideas around. A punk/skater vibe was something we were both really excited to play with and that seemed to work really well within the MOTU theme.

But as I researched existing MOTU toys & characters, I realized just how much I loved the packaging too. That’s when I got the idea to incorporate the packaging into the actual tee design. Matt was on board and things took off. The design was a hit and would start us on the path to a whole series of “toy package parody” tees. Matt and I often joked about making Thrashor into a real toy but little did either of us know that in the near future, that very thing would happen!

I was lucky enough to get in touch with the fine folks at Shinbone Creative and they guided Thrashor from a 2D tee design into a real life, 3D toy. It’s one of my favorite 8BZ projects ever and remains one of the things I am most proud of. Being an 80’s kid and an 80’s toy collector, creating my very own action figure was definitely a dream come true.

Will Trashor get buddies in the foreseeable future?

The initial plan was to do that very thing. Seeing as I had a catalog of existing 80’s toy parody characters already built, it seemed like a no-brainer. Little did I know just how time consuming and costly making toys would end up being. Looking back, Thrashor almost feels like a fluke. So many stars aligned at just the right time for that toy to happen. And while it was an absolutely amazing experience, I don’t think I’d say it was a smash success. I’m not sure I have the audience to be able to produce and sell toys regularly.

People loved Thrashor but I don’t think they loved the price tag all that much, haha. Which is understandable. It’s just such a costly thing to get into. But I’m hoping the brand continues to grow in ways that will allow me to return to toys in the future. I’ll never give up on making toys. It’s my favorite thing ever.


A lot of people dream doing their own thing but never get going. Any advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Find your niche and make sure it’s something you are passionate about. I think that’s the biggest key. People start “clothing lines” based on trends or vague ideas. And those are the brands that fold like a house of cards once said trend is no longer cool.  Have a solid idea of what your brand is all about and make sure it’s something unique, and that you love. If you build your brand on a foundation of themes that you are passionate about, everything else will be so much easier. Apart from that, just do it. That’s the hardest part. There will never be a perfect time to start something. You just have to jump in with both feet and go for it. No risk, no reward.

Did you actually finish any NES games using the power glove?

Nope! I didn’t even have one as a kid. And let’s face it, the Power Glove wasn’t the amazing controller it was advertised as. It looks totally rad and was the precursor to a lot of the technology we have today. But it was a lousy controller. I beat all my games with the standard NES game pad. Which, if you think about it, was actually probably the most influential controller ever made. Current video game systems still use that basic layout. (Albeit much more ergonomically designed, haha)

What can we expect from 8bz in the future?

Lots more rad stuff! Plenty of new shirts, more of the off-the-wall accessories you’ve come to expect (And hopefully some you won’t expect!) and I’m crossing my fingers on new toy projects. I’m currently working on my Halloween release and it’s shaping up to be a doozy! Keep your peepers peeled for that. Really excited!

Any shout outs?

Massive thank you to the artists that make my brand so rad and to all the people who support what I do!

Thanks for the interview!

Bonus round:

8bz’s 5 essential weird 80/90 pieces everybody should check out:

1. The Wizard – 1989

Pretty much 8BZ in a nutshell. The absolute height of the Nintendo craze captured on film.

The MOTU Slime Pit – 1987

Masters of the Universe, skulls, slime, what else could you ask for?

  via Strangekidsclub
via Strangekidsclub

The Real Ghostbusters 1986 – 1991

Everyone knows this cartoon but not as many seem to remember how many genuinely creepy characters and moments the series has. A must watch.

My Pet Monster – 1986

A giant, plush, multi-colored monster with bright orange shackles. It’s even more over-the-top than it sounds. One of the craziest and raddest toys of the 80’s.

Goonies II – 1987

One of my favorite 80’s movies, on my favorite 80’s video game system. Win-win! It even features an 8-bit cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.” That alone is worth the price of admission. A total nostalgia overload.


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