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Seattle startup You Kick Ass wants to make you a superhero. (Image: You Kick Ass)

Ever wanted to see yourself as a superhero action figure?

A Seattle company is making it possible thanks to two Zcorp 450 full-color 3D printers, a successful Kickstarter campaign and one cofounder’s inside knowledge on what being a superhero is all about.

The company is called You Kick Ass, which gives cofounders and close friends Keri Andrews, Douglas Jordan and Alesia Glidewell some pretty fantastic email addresses.

You Kick Ass cofounder Alesia Glidewell became an action figure when Valve made a collectible of her character from the Portal games.
You Kick Ass co-founder Alesia Glidewell is the model for the hero of the Portal games, Chell.

Glidewell already has a pretty fantastic distinction. She provided the face and body for the hero of Valve Software’s popular Portal game series, Chell.

It was after Valve licensed an official Chell action figure a couple years ago that the three cofounders — friends for over a decade — came up with the idea to build a business around letting anyone create their own action figure.

When Andrews wrote up a business plan for a Washington State University MBA program assignment last fall, tapping into the rush around 3D-printed products in the process, the three decided there was no time to waste.

The first batch of custom superhero sales will close when the funded You Kick Ass Kickstarter campaign — which has raised $39,000 of its $15,000 goal — ends Thursday morning.

Then the big work begins.

A Chinese manufacturer is set to make and ship the figures’ posed superhero bodies, designed by Will Higgins.

You Kick Ass co-founder Keri Andrews quit Microsoft in April to manage the startup full-time. (Photo: Mónica Guzmán)
You Kick Ass co-founder Keri Andrews quit Microsoft in April to manage the startup full-time. (Photo: Mónica Guzmán)

The heroes’ heads are the tricky part.

Andrews is developing the Web app that will let anyone map their face to a 3D-shaped head using just one photo. It’s coming along, but until she’s sure it’s easy for users, she’ll be arranging many of the first customer photos onto the heads herself.

Then it’s the 3D printers’ turn. The company’s two Zcorp printers can each print 40 full-color heads at a time, taking five hours to complete each batch.

Andrews hopes all 650+ Kickstarter superheroes will be shipped by the end of September, each packaged in a collectible box decked out with character illustrations and a short comic about each hero’s super power and origin story — which people can personalize.

If there are no major setbacks, the company will take new orders soon after that.

A custom Web app will let customers turn a photo of their face into a 3D printable head.
A custom Web app will let customers turn a photo of their face into a 3D printable head.

The cofounders tested several concepts and designs before settling on the selection they posted on Kickstarter. People preferred simple poses to weapons. Toys didn’t gel as well as collectibles. And an initial “everyday heroes” theme didn’t resonate like these full-blown comic book fantasies did.

Andrews gets that. For years in the early 2000s, she drove to her Kirkland bartender gig in her “Batmobile” — a white Hyundai Excel she decked out with a huge Batman logo and flames.

Making yourself a superhero goes beyond a humble brag. But the orders haven’t been as narcissistic as you’d think.

Many backers ordered superhero sets — couples or even families, complete with kid-sized figures — as gifts.

Superhero figures come in their own custom box.
Superhero figures come in their own custom box.

One backer said she was ordering a superhero figure of her aunt, who had just beat breast cancer.

Another, who ordered figures for herself and her fiancé, said she’d use them around the cake for her cosplay wedding — and that she and the groom would even dress like their figures for the ceremony.

Andrews hopes to see photos of that.

So far, the response has been positive. Apart from some criticism that the action figures aren’t true action figures — they don’t have “points of articulation,” or ways their limbs move — the idea seems to have found its fans.

“People can get so down on themselves in their everyday lives,” Andrews, 38, said from the company’s small downtown office.

“I think there’s something positive about thinking, ‘What would your super power be?'”

Check out the Kickstarter video below, and the campaign here:

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