In 1996, amid an ever-changing climate in the skateboarding industry, World Industries founder Steve Rocco, working with original World Industries artist Marc McKee, decided to eschew traditional skateboard graphics that partnered a pro's name alongside an edgy or humorous graphic in favor of cartoon-esque characters that would grow to become iconic in the youth skate lexicon: Flameboy and Wet Willy.
As depicted in the 2007 skate documentary, "The Man Who Souled The World," World Industries founder Steve Rocco was at a unique crossroads before the creation of Flameboy and Wet Willy. Prior to the death of friend and Plan B Skateboards founder Mike Ternasky (Ternasky was killed in an auto accident in 1994), Rocco, infamous for his attacks on fellow skate brands, had promised Ternasky to not attack the newly emerging skate brands of the time, including Girl Skateboards. Rather, Ternasky asked Rocco to "think outside the box and beat them in a way that's never been done before."
Rocco took this advice, and focused on the 8-12 year old demographic of skateboarding. "They don't know who pros are and they don't want skulls on their boards," said Rocco in regards to younger audiences. The focus of the World Industries brand turned to McKee's new characters: Flameboy, Wet Willy and Devilman, which adorned complete skateboards, decks, soft goods and even toys.
Within one year of the characters' introductions, World Industries' sales tripled.
Sixteen years later, Flameboy and Wet Willy have endured the ups, downs and distribution changes of the skate industry, and are now preparing for a new challenge. According to World Industries, "the infamous characters that have lived under the World Industries brand for close to two decades on their skateboards will now be heading out on their own."
i.e. distribution, of Costa Mesa, Calif., the owners of World Industries (Rocco sold his stake in the brand in 1998), are launching the Flameboy vs. Wet Willy brand with footwear, skate hard goods, apparel, accessories, toys and other age appropriate products for young boys ages 4-11. The split comes on the eve of the World Industries' 25-year anniversary. And as World begins to celebrate their silver anniversary, their focus will turn to an older age demographic with graphics and products inspired by their roots and heritage as a somewhat irreverent skateboard brand.
"We are really excited for the division and creation of the Flameboy vs. Wet Willy brand. We realize that the characters can and should live on their own. This will allow them to reach a broader audience in a more relevant age range. At the same time, this is giving World Industries the opportunity to focus on an older age group with creativity inspired from our California street heritage and skateboard roots," said R.P. Bess, Director of Marketing at i.e. distribution.
Flameboy and Wet Willy footwear, skate hard goods and more will hit stores in August. In the meantime, the focus of World Industries will shift back to team riders, including Andrew Cannon and Anthony Shetler, and more humorous board graphics such as Cannon's Descendents-inspired "Andrew went to college" deck.