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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Mar. 31, 2021 1 month ago

Marc Draven lives in world of pop culture

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Marc Draven’s love for Star Wars, toys and tattoos has led the Gotha resident to a life filled with moments to geek out over.
by: Troy Herring Sports Editor

In Marc Draven’s home in Gotha, there’s a room filled with treasures of a man who has long had a passion for toys and pop culture.

Around the room, there are He-Man figures, Thundercats, GI Joes, wrestling figures, Star Wars toys — the list goes on. If you ask him what his favorite is, he won’t give you a direct answer — it’s like picking your favorite kid, he said.

Like most kids, Draven loved these figures, and through the years, that love never left. It continued to evolve and grow, alongside his love for Star Wars and tattooing.

“I don’t think I ever stopped,” Draven said. “Honestly, it just went from having some as a kid. Then you get to your teenage years and you start blowing things up with firecrackers, because you’re looking at girls more than you’re looking at toys. And then you start seeing things at flea markets for sale and you’re like, ‘Oh, I just blew that thing up last year.’ So I still had stuff left. I couldn’t tell you if any of the toys I have today are toys I had in my preteens.”

What most see as children’s playthings ultimately led to a successful career for Draven. 

And it all started a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …
 

WORLDS COLLIDE

Anyone who is a part of a fandom can recall the specific moment in which they found themselves first enamored with the object of their passion.

For Draven, one of his first memories came in 1980, when he was 7 years old and waiting to watch one of the most popular movies ever made.

“I remember sitting on the floor in a movie theater lobby waiting to get into the next viewing of ‘Empire Strikes Back,’ but it was already packed out, so we couldn’t fit,” Draven said. “We had to wait on the floor until that viewing was over in order to get into the next showing … and I’ve been with it ever since.”

Draven’s passion for Star Wars complements his appreciation for toys, and by the time he was about 16 years old, Draven was going to swap meets and events as he began collecting toys and customizing figures. In fact, his customizations drew the attention of toy-industry giant Hasbro — who utilized his designs in lines of toys just six months after he shared his ideas.

As Draven’s toy collection grew, something else was about to pop into his life that would shape it for years to come. When Draven was about to graduate high school, his father asked him what he wanted as a gift — tattoo equipment, that’s all he wanted, he said.

“He was like, ‘What the hell do you want that for? You’re never going to make money doing that,’” Draven said. “Then here we are, 30-something years later, and we’re doing all right.”

Draven created Ink Fusion Empire in 2007, which specializes in fandom-inspired tattoo designs and carries the motto of, “When the Worlds of Tattooing and Pop Culture Collide.”

Draven brings his tattooing to conventions — including MegaCon in Orlando — and has seen his passions all harmoniously intertwine throughout the years.
 

THE FORCE IS WITH HIM

“My Star Wars knowledge and my tattoo business kind of coincided to where we got the first license to be licensed Lucasfilm tattoo artists, and then I host and direct the event at Star Wars Celebration internationally,” Draven said. “I know it sounds really weird, but it just kind of developed — everything that I was interested in collecting as a kid and then bringing that into the adult world with tattoos. … It’s almost organic the way it matched up.”

For a Star Wars fanatic such as Draven, the deal with Lucasfilm Ltd. — created by Star Wars creator George Lucas — which started 10 years ago was a tremendous moment and has led Draven to travel the world, tattooing Star Wars characters at conventions. 

These were the characters, he said, that he had been drawing since he was a kid. The only word he could find to describe doing this work was “surreal.”

“You get done with a busy day at a show, and it can be quite chaotic, and then you get home and then you get up in the morning and you’re thinking the next day like, ‘None of that makes sense at all — whatsoever,’” Draven said.
 

ALWAYS IN MOTION IS THE FUTURE

Adding to the surreal nature of his deal with Lucasfilm, Draven has also gotten the opportunity to actually tattoo actors who have been involved in the Star Wars universe — including folks like Alan Tudyk (K-2SO in “Rogue One”) and Ray Parks (Darth Maul in “The Phantom Menace”).

“You can’t be nervous when you’re tattooing, but your inner-child is kind of, ‘Oh, this is gonna happen?’” Draven said. “And most times, you don’t let them bother you until after the tattoo is done, and then it’s like, ‘OK, that was kind of cool — this is going on my résumé.’”

As he worked during conventions and grew his name as a tattoo artist, Draven also had the chance to take advantage of his off time by perusing around and buying toys to add to his collection, which led to new opportunities.

In the last few years, Draven has been licensed and created limited-edition action figures of Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee, The Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Ricou Browning and  horror cult icon Robert Englund — who played Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. 

Thinking back on his life so far, everything that has unfolded over the years feels like something from a fever dream — too good to be true in a way.

“It’s absolutely baffling,” Draven said. “If I had said 20 years ago that Stan Lee — the godfather of comics — was going to endorse a tattoo program, nobody would have believed me.

“That we’re going to go to Germany to tattoo for Lucasfilm at Star Wars Celebration: Germany,” Draven said. “You draw Darth Vader as a kid, and now I’m doing it for my adult life. It’s very surreal.”

Troy Herring is the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

See All Articles by Troy

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