Super7 Spotlight: Dora Drimalas / Super7 Owner
Most people know Brian Flynn as the founder and owner of Super7, but it might not be common knowledge that Super7 is a family-owned and operated company that he oversees with his wife Dora Drimalas. We spoke with Dora to get her perspective on the world of Super7.
How did you and Brian get started in design and launch your twin businesses?
Brian and I met in design school in Texas. When we graduated, we both worked at Nike in Oregon for a bit. I worked in Brand Design and Brian worked in many different creative areas within the company — from apparel, to footwear design to environmental design. This was the early days of Nike going Swoosh only and then rolling out its flagship Niketowns. A lot of people don’t know that Brian created LeBron’s first logo and the first Nike LE (Limited Edition) logo. The idea of rare retro collectible shoes was only just starting back then. It was all about ‘dead stock’ in those days.LeBron James with his Brian Flynn-designed logo - 2003. Early Nike days. This was about 1996. You can tell by the Terra Humaras and Air Max.
After that, we made the move to San Francisco which was our ultimate destination. We had always been drawn to the creative culture of San Francisco — art, music and design — it was all here for us. The first company we started after landing here was a graphic design studio named Hybrid Design — which is still going strong. Soon afterwards, Brian started publishing the Super7 Magazine. He was the editor and Hybrid would design it.The Super7 Magazine was published between 2001-2007.
When we were in college, we self-published fanzines, organized art shows and concerts, and made music flyers. We made things ourselves so starting a magazine felt like a very natural thing. We applied all the skills that we developed at Nike and Hybrid Design to Super7. It was design obsessed nerdom mixed with the cultural overlap of punk, heavy metal, art, skate, architecture, furniture, comic books, sci-fi, monsters, movies, and collecting of course.
What was your reaction when Brian said he wanted to make toys?
It didn’t really surprise me. Brian had always collected toys and as designers we’ve always collected objects — for fun and inspiration. It felt like a natural extension of the Super7 Magazine. Brian and I have always designed in many mediums so why not toys! When we make anything, it’s really about the experience, the emotion, and the craftsmanship. It applies to everything we do.Cupco art opening at the Super7 store with the 501st Stormtroopers for security.
Did you and Brian have similar or different design backgrounds before starting your own design studio with Hybrid?
Brian and I have very different creative approaches and styles but we really respect the others point of view. We’ve also been doing it long enough that new things happen together that we couldn’t have done individually. That’s why working with creative teams is great. The work can always evolve and get better. If we didn’t have deadlines I’m not sure that we’d stop.
Since you also continue to work with Hybrid Design, how does the design studio work with Super7's creative team?
Hybrid still takes on larger brand projects for Super7. Last year we redesigned the Super7 website. We also help on campaigns and events like Comic-Con here and there. When we aren’t working with Super7, we work on projects like redesigning Hypebeast Magazine and the Nike SNKRSbox pop up.
Nike SNKRS Box retail experience designed by Hybrid Design.
Having a female owner involved in the day-to-day operation of a toy company like Super7 is not common. Do you have any sense of that?
I do and I don’t. We’ve been running both companies for over 20 years and we get to create our own safe bubble here. I forget that it’s not like that everywhere. One thing I’m proud of is that we print "No Racism / No Sexism / No Homophobia" on all Super7 IP products. We create the world we want to live in.
How do you think your female perspective influences Super7's approach to working with nostalgic and retro properties?
I think what’s great about Super7 is that we interpret certain projects in a more modern way. For example, as comic book nerds, we love stories and great characters. A character can be brave, strong, heroic, and a woman in that order and not needlessly be overly sexualized for the male gaze. The industry has a way to go for sure, but we can make little victories where we can. We also give projects a platform that other toy companies haven’t such as women’s sports figures. I love the ReAction Figures that we’ve designed for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. Little girls and boys deserve to have these awesome athletes to look up to.
What have been some memorable Super7 moments and when did you realize Super7 had become more than a hobby?
I think there were multiple moments when I knew this was more than a hobby. The first was during the beginning of the designer vinyl scene in 2001 when people really wanted to know more about the magazine and why Brian was so obsessed with collecting and documenting that culture. It was obvious that there was a huge community of like minded folks out there that loved collecting these art objects — also known as toys. The next moment was when we opened the first Super7 store on Post Street in San Francisco in 2003.The original Super7 store on Post Street in San Francisco in 2008.
We were both overwhelmed with the community that gathered. There were so many creative people that cared about art, toys, music, and the strange ephemera that surrounds this world. People need to find their people and that’s what the Super7 stores are all about. However, the real moment I knew this was real was about 10 years in and we were sued by Stan Lee because he wanted to work on a comic book called The Super7. We kept that letter on the fridge for years. It clearly didn’t go anywhere!
What has been your favorite recent Super7 release?
I love all my children equally, but if I had to pick a few: All of the Misfits, Descendents, Slayer, Shogun Godzilla in ReAction size, and the Powell-Peralta skate figures. Also, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror and really any glow monster. Our glow-in-the-dark is pretty awesome!
What would you like people to know about Super7?
I often see people get really serious about toys. Don’t get me wrong, obviously we love toys and making them is serious business — from the sculpts, the manufacturing, the craftsmanship, the wonderful illustrations and packaging. However, at the end of the day they are meant to bring joy — even for adults. The things we make are meant to be weird, strange, and wonderful. They remind us of the sense of wonder we had as kids. I’d like people to remember to have fun.
Is there something I didn’t ask you that you would like to add?
One of the things that I love most about Super7 is that it’s a place where people can be themselves. Creativity needs variety and diversity to happen. We are very nerdy and we like it that way.