10 Questions with > The Four Horsemen

The Four Horsemen are special friends of PGPoA, having opened the site with an interview a year ago and again appearing at the sixmonth mark. As befits their special status, they get to answer ten questions instead of just five (whether this is a privilege or an extra obligation is subject to debate, but I digress).

Once again, the Horsemen have taken time out their extremely busy schedule to collectively answer ten questions from PGPoA.

POE: I believe we’re coming up on the tenth anniversary of Four Horsemen Studios. How much has changed since those early days?

4H: It seems like even though so much has changed, in many ways things are exactly the same. We have a new studio, an extra person around here, and we are definitely doing more work, but at the end of the day we are still just coming in to work and making toys. One of the most amazing things is that here we are ten years later and we are once again working on Masters of the Universe! We consider ourselves to be pretty darn lucky to still be doing what we love.

From your vantage point, has the economic downturn affected the action figure industry in any significant way?

Absolutely. Things have happened so quickly it’s hard to imagine. Overseas tooling costs have skyrocketed, production costs are up, and there are fewer factories willing to do what toy companies require. In the U.S. collectors have less disposable income, which makes their buying more limited and selective. All of these things combined are why fans are seeing more things like shared tooling and smaller scaled figures. One of the things that really saddens us is how much it is hurting the smaller companies and their ability to do original properties and products. One of our biggest challenges in the next few years is to ride this mess out and continue to bring fans some of the only non-licensed figures left out there.

Without getting into too much detail, do you have any insight into why the distribution on DC Universe Classics is so spotty?

This isn’t really something that we have much to do with. It’s a situation that’s frustrating to everybody involved from fans, to Mattel, to us. So much of the power to control this is in the retailer’s hands. This is something that isn’t just seen in the toy industry- it’s across the board, and it’s certainly not just DC Classics that is victim of this. I know the folks we work with at Mattel are passionate about these figures and are constantly struggling to improve the situation.

How does the process of sculpting MOTU Classics differ from that of the 2002 line?

The process involved with MOTU Classics is very different from the 2002 process, but in the end we are still just trying to make the coolest Masters figures that we can. The 2002 line was so much fun to work on and revisit a line we enjoyed so much, but then it was a combination nostalgia and update. With the new line we were able to go back and dig even deeper into the source material, and give the line a much more nostalgic look and feel. Of course, there is still a fair share of updating and accentuating going on, but a more direct connection to the originals. With the classic line we have looked so closely at not just the figures from the original line, but also the packaging art, mini-comics, original concept art and anything else that helped create the Masters of the Universe “experience” we enjoyed as children.

Every sculptor has a few unique idiosyncracies and flourishes that make their work distinguishable. What do you think are the Four Horsemen’s stylistic trademarks?

This is a tough question, and I think maybe the first time that we’ve been asked this one. We think that a person’s style breaks down into to parts. The first is that part of their style is simply the way that things are interpreted through their eyes. They don’t necessarily see it as “style,” it’s just the way that they see things and interpret them into a visual medium. There are also sometimes things that an artist will chose to do purposely as part of their style. It would probably be easier for someone else to tell us what our style is. We always strive to create a look that best fits the project that we are doing and to make it as cool as possible, whether it’s from a comic, a movie, a cartoon, or an original creation. For a while we were heavily associated with angular muscles with the 2002 Masters line, but with so many more projects under our belt since then, people have had a chance to see our diversity.

Do you find you sometimes have to suppress those stylistic instincts, such as when working on a movie-based figure?

As we said, it’s a different approach for every type of project, but something like a movie-based line definitely keeps us in check. There is so little room for interpretation that this is where there is the least amount of room for style if we are doing our jobs right!

When sculpting, do you find there any stylistic overlap between, say, a figure like Scarabus and Skeletor, or Beast-man and Kalibak?

Well, first of all they are all figures that were very fun to sculpt, and of course bad guys are always the coolest. These are all somewhat in the ballpark with each other, though. They all have lots of detail, texture, articulation, and attitude. Working on different lines like these not only keeps things interesting, but the experiences of working one line can directly inform your decisions on the next. A good example is working on a likeness for a movie can really help to keep your head sculpting skills sharp.

Have the production problems you faced with the Ramathorr FANtastic Exclusive been smoothed out for future FE figures?

That’s a loaded question! We had a pretty smooth run on the Timekeeper, but we still feel like we are playing catch-up. We are hoping to really get things jumpstarted and back on track in 2009 for our tenth anniversary. We have so many cool things that we would love to do, but it’s just not as easy as it was even a couple of years ago. Keep your fingers crossed!

Where do you see Four Horsemen Studios ten years from now?

Retired! Well…maybe not. If we are doing the same thing that we are doing now and still getting paid for it we would consider ourselves to be some very lucky people. Our biggest goal beyond continuing what we are doing now, is further push original concepts in the toy world. Properties are continually grown from comics, television, cartoons, movies, books, and the internet. Aside from a few retro toy properties, shouldn’t more be originating in the same industry that in one decade brought us Masters of the Universe, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the Thundercats? It’s an uphill battle, but we will continue to try and do our part. If it doesn’t happen it will still be a lot of fun trying.

Who would win in each fight: Orion vs. He-Man, Skeletor vs. Scarabus, and Cornboy vs. Killer Moth?

The real winner is the lucky individual who actually gets to witness the fights that could break out amongst fanboys trying to figure these out. It could really be considered reckless throwing out these types of scenarios. But at the risk of controversy, always bet on corn.

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