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Homies are a series of two-inch plastic collectible figurines created by David Gonzales and first introduced in 1998. Based on a comic strip that Gonzales created featuring a cast of Chicano characters from Gonzales' life. Homies were initially sold in vending machines mainly located in supermarkets. Homies have become a highly collectible item among fans, and have spawned many imitation toys.
Gonzales began drawing comics while he was in high school. His amateur comic strip was called The Adventures of Chico Loco, and the characters were based on "barrio guys," as Gonzales grew up on the tough streets of a poverty-ridden Mexican-American neighborhood. The main character, based on Gonzales himself, was called "Hollywood." The strip, which later changed its title to The Adventures of Hollywood, was picked up by Lowrider magazine and published monthly. More and more barrio characters from Gonzales' experiences were introduced to the public through the Hollywood strip — these became "Homies."
Gonzales began selling Homies products on beach stands across California. Gonzales drew his humorous characters on T-shirts, which were later sold to customers. He and his wife also sold other types of products related to the Homies.
In 1998, Gonzales released the first set of Homies figures, initially sold in supermarket machines. The first series featured the characters Eight Ball, Smiley, Big Loco, Droopy, Sapo, and Mr. Raza. The toys were widely popular, with the first series selling a million Homies figures in four months.
The figures caused controversy after their initial release as members of the Los Angeles Police Department argued that the "urban, inner-city Latino" figures glorified gang life. Mainstream stores, such as Walmart and Safeway Inc., stopped selling the toys after the LAPD complained. Latino advocacy groups such as the Imagen Foundation also objected to the Homies portrayal of Chicanos as "gang members, undocumented, or drug dealers."
After Gonzales created a story (on the Homies website) for each of the Homies characters, each embodying a positive trait, stores quickly returned the Homies to their shelves. The resulting media coverage of the controversy helped Homies become hugely popular.
According to Gonzales, he has received orders from countries in Europe, South America, and Africa requesting characters representing people from those continents. By 2005, the Homies line featured female characters, as well as characters with Filipino, Japanese, and Puerto Rican backgrounds; there were even "Evil Clown" characters. There have been 12 series of Homies, with more than 200 characters.
The Homies are a group of tightly knit Chicano buddies who grew up in the Mexican-American barrio of "Quien Sabe" ("Who knows?") located in East Los Angeles. The four main Homies are Hollywood (based on creator Gonzales), Smiley, Pelon, and Bobby Loco. (The word "homies" is a popular street term that refers to someone from your hometown or, in a broader sense, anyone that you would acknowledge as your friend. In use in the West Coast Latino community for decades, the word "Homies" has crossed over into the now mainstream Hip-Hop street culture.)
In an inner-city world plagued by poverty, violence, and drugs, the Homies form a strong and binding cultural support system that enables them to overcome the surrounding negativity, allowing for laughter and good times as an antidote to reality. The Homies toy line has been shown to help Latin American adolescents with identifying who they are.
Gonzales has created a background for each Homie to have their own story. He made sure that the Homies were authentic because they were based on Latinos in his community. The following is a list of some of the more notable Homies characters:
- First series:
- Eight Ball — Known for his distinctive low-slung beanie and big smile, he named for the numbers painted on his shoes
- Smiley — based on a childhood friend of creator David Gonzales, Smiley is a mechanic who works at "Homies Hydraulics," he is always broke and borrowing money off the other Homies
- Big Loco — youth gang counselor and arbitrator
- Droopy — slightly stoned background character
- Sapo — huge consumer of Mexican food; unpopular with women
- Mr. Raza — highly educated, with degrees in Chicano Studies and Latin American and Pre-Columbian History
- Subsequent series:
- Hollywood — based on creator David Gonzales, Hollywood is known by his zoot suit and 70s disco hairstyle
- La Gata ("The Cat") — Hollywood's girlfriend, she is loosely based on creator David Gonzales' wife
- Pelon — based on a childhood friend of creator David Gonzales, Pelon ("bald" in Spanish) is named for his bald head. A small-time hustler, Pelon sells stolen merchandise from the back of his 1941 Chevy panel sedan. Smiley's best friend, Pelon is the most stereotypically cholo of the Homies.
- Bobby Loco — based on a childhood friend of creator David Gonzales, he is a bouncer at the "Homie Hot Spot"
- Chuco — short for "Pachuco," a lowriding, zoot suit-wearing Chicano from the 1940s and 50s
- Joker — true to his name, an inveterate clown and jokester
- El Paletero — ice cream vendor who works to bring his grandchildren from Mexico
- Officer Placa — chubby police officer who knows all the Homies by name
- El Padrecito ("the little father") — Franciscan priest in sunglasses, based on creator David Gonzales' brother Robert (who is a priest)
- El Profe — a Master's degree-qualified high school teacher who stays in the barrio to help
- Shady — mother who works as a stripper to support her son
- Willie G — ex-gangster who works as a counsellor, trying to turn children away form crime. Paralyzed form the waist down as the result of gang violence.
Spin-offs and ancillary products
With their rising popularity, the toy branched out to include a line of die-cast cars, among other things. In 2004, the creators of Homies introduced "Los Mijos," intended for a younger audience. They are solely Hispanic and are portrayed as kids, babies, and teens.
In 2007, LATV produced a stop-motion animated show about the figures called The Homies Hip Hop Show. Featuring the voices of Karen Anzoategui, Eduardo Arenas, and Wendy Carrillo, the show went straight to DVD.
Homies depict characters from the barrio, wearing bandanas and baggy pants. Gangsters are usually depicted by wearing these types of clothes and police thought of the Homies promoting gang life.  These 2 inch figures are believed to show a negative image because they perpetuate gross stereotypes. Homies are so close in detail to what a gang member looks like that a district deputy attorney mentioned they were going to use Homies as an example of what not to wear. People who were dressed as such Homies were going to be considered as violating probation. Law Enforcement even pressured retailers at supermarkets to stop selling Homies at the stores because it was considered negative publicity. Gonzales was interviewed a number of times and with each interview he explained that he “did not create Homies to glamorize gang life”. 
Homies are also known to help the community. They have been known to help Latinos with their identies due to the different roles each Homie was given by Gonzales.  The personalities of the Homies may reflect a person which allows that person to identify themselves to that Homie.  This helps Latinos identify themselves in the communities who may be shy or confused about who they are. Another positive way the Homies have influenced society is through Gonzales’s brother, Robert. Robert ended up on the streets and getting into trouble, which led him to jail. He later wanted to turn his life around and asked his family to forgive him.  In 1996, Robert became an online priest helping those looking for a way out of the bad life by using Homies. David Gonzales created Homies that weren’t gang related and started a new era of Homies. Robert suggested a homeboy in a wheelchair that is named Willy G, since Willy G was created the Special Olympics wanted to get involved and promote Willy G for the better.  Soon after the Padrecito (priest) was created, and resembles Robert, he was used to connect and help those looking for a route out of the ghetto.  Homies are now used to help people in the community through “El Padrecito’s Online Church.” This soon created religious figurines such as saints.  Homies have made it easier for society to connect to them and reach for help to getting a better life. 
In popular culture
- Becerra, Hector (18 Dec 2007). "'Homies’ are Where His Art Is". LA Times. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
- Sanchez, George (March 1, 2002). "Toys in the Hood: Tiny Plastic Homies Make Some People Smile and Other Cringe". Mother Jones.
- Wortham, Stanton (1 January 2011). "Homies in the New Latino Diaspora". ScholarlyCommon: 1–28. doi:10.1016/j.langcom.2011.02.007.
- Bir, Sara. "Where the Heart Is: With Homies, gangsta is in the eye of the beholder," Metroactive (Apr. 10, 2003).
- Alonso, Alex. "Homies Figures – The Original Homies," Streetgangs.com (May 12, 2000).
- Napolitano, Jo. "Two-Inch Latino Role Models, for Good or Ill," New York Times (May 1, 2003).
- Fischer, Zane. "Homie Sweet Homie: Sexy urban icons have New Mexico roots," Santa Fe Reporter (February 4, 2009).