The Annual Interview with the Four Horsemen

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In what has happily become an annual tradition here at PGPoA, the Four Horsemen graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions about DC Universe Classics, Masters of the Universe Classics and their own FANtastic Exclusive figures. Read on to get the latest from Santa’s not-so-little helpers, Chris Dahlberg, Eric Treadaway, Jim Preziosi, and H. Eric “Cornboy” Mayse.

DCUC

Poe Ghostal: Do you fabricate all the accessories for DCUC? When sculpting guns–i.e., Vigilante’s guns–what do you use for references? Are they based on real guns, water guns, paintball guns, or whatever pictures you come across on the Internet? For example, here’s one Poester’s  assessment of Vigilante’s assault rifle: “…looks like an M4 with a 20″ barrel. That handguard seems contrived, as does the magazine.”

vigilante_dcucH. Eric “Cornboy” Mayse: Most of the fabrication on the DC Universe Classics is done by myself and Jim and all of it is done in-house at Four Horsemen Studios. Eric and Chris can and do jump in on some fabrication when the need arises, but they mostly handle the sculptural end of things.

Jim Preziosi: Nearly all of our inspiration for fabricated accessories comes from the comics themselves. When we do come across a weapon or accessory for a DCUC character that’s based in reality, we usually try to use an amalgamation of similar items that would look really cool. So, as your Poester (awesome nickname for your readers by the way) surmised, Vigilante’s rifle is indeed originally based on an M4, but with a few comic/Four Horsemen inspired alterations to keep things in more of a fantasy realm.

GHOSTBUSTERS

PG: You guys have often spoken of your fondness for the original MOTU and Super Powers, in addition other ’80s lines. Do you feel the same nostalgic connection to Ghostbusters? Were (or are) you fans of the cartoon and the Kenner toys?

Chris Dahlberg: We are absolutely fans of the Ghostbusters movies! The first movie came out during Eric’s, Cornboy’s, and my high school years, and it still stands the test of time today as being one of the funniest, coolest movies ever.

Eric Treadaway: Even though we liked the “Real” Ghostbusters figures quite a bit when they were released, we definitely didn’t have quite the same love for them as we did for Masters of the Universe or Superpowers. I think I still have some of them stashed away in my basement somewhere.

Cornboy: That being said, and at the risk of being strung up by Real Ghostbusters fans everywhere, I think that the second incarnation of the Ghostbusters cartoon, Extreme Ghostbusters (unfortunate title – everything had to be “extreme” back then) from the late ’90s is still one of the best cartoons ever!

PG: A movie-accurate Slimer has posed difficulties to sculptors in recent years, due to the scarcity of reference photos and turnarounds and his different appearance in the second movie. How did you approach sculpting him?

Eriegon_6c: We’re actually very fortunate that we have a partner such as Mattel in these instances. Mattel’s such a powerful and respected entity that the guys over there usually seem to be able to get more reference directly from their licensors than most companies are capable of doing. Luckily, through the combination of the reference that Mattel was able to supply to us and the reference that we were able to dig up ourselves, Chris was able to create what we consider is a pretty darned accurate Slimer based on his appearance in the first movie.

Chris: In this case, the Ghostbusters DVD was also an extremely helpful reference tool. The creation of the DVD player is one of the greatest things to ever happen to a sculptor who’s trying to create movie accurate figures and accessories. A definite step up from the jittery, jumping, fuzzy images we use to have to decipher from an overplayed, overused VCR and VHS tape!

MOTUC

PG: How has the process of working on Masters of the Universe Classics differed from that of the 2002 line?

Jim: The most obvious difference is the style of the figures themselves. This type of figure takes a completely different mindset to create, mostly because of the instantly noticeable difference in the proportions between the two lines.

Eric: Also, with the MotU Classics stuff, we seem to be planning each of the characters out much farther in advance because of the necessity to re-use various parts throughout the line. We didn’t put any less thought or planning into the 200X MotU line, but it’s definitely a different thought process.

Cornboy: One of the most fun and at the same time most challenging parts of doing MotU Classics is trying to find that balance between the classic MotU 80’s figures and MotU Classics. We want these to be updated and modern, but still retain the charm and influence that the original toys had. For instance, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve sprinkled a little 200X MotU flavor into the line from time to time. The challenge here is to take that 200X MotU item or style, make it look as if it was originally created during the original 80’s line, and then add just a bit more spice to bring it up to the “MotU Classics” standard. Fun but definitely challenging not to take that aspect of the line too far.

PG: Judging from Man-at-Arm’s bio on his packaging, it looks like Mattel is incorporating some aspects of your original concept for the 2002 MOTU revamp. Are you guys involved at all in the background fiction creation process for MOTUC?

Eric: It was flattering to see that some of our original concept for the 200X MotU line had actually been included into the Man-at-Arms bio, and has now become a part of official MotU history!

Cornboy: Scott Neitlich and the guys over at Mattel have been handling the bios on the cardbacks and they’ve been gracious enough to run them past us to find out if we’ve got any input or changes. We’ve seen LOTS of planned bios, and we like the direction these things are heading. Not only are we tightening up all of the various MotU mythos’ into one cohesive history, but we’re also building on that history and adding new and exciting aspects – the most recent of which is the new little accessory to come with the Scareglow figure that you recently reviewed. That was just a cool little item that Eric and I came up with while working on Scareglow, and then we brainstormed with the guys over at Mattel about incorporating it into MotU history. Trust us when we say that the secrets and complete history of that little item has not yet been revealed. As our pal Matty would say, “Stay tuned!”

tri-klops_origPG: You’ve often said you try to base the design of MOTUC figures on the original cross-sell art whenever possible. Was there any discussion of including Tri-Klops’s more traditional-looking sword as well as the green toy version?

Jim: We actually did consider it, but when we do look at other items to be used as accessories, we try to decide whether there’s enough of a difference between the two items to warrant tooling dollars to do two different versions.

Eric: In this case, we wanted to make sure that the “Classics” Doomseeker was going to be able to be made, so the choice was made to do one version of the sword or the other. The choice then just came down to which version of Tri-Klop’s sword we thought was the coolest looking and exemplified the character best.

FANTASTIC EXCLUSIVE

PG: How exactly will production work out between Scarabus and the Raven–that is, when will they be available, and who will be the SDCC figure next year?

Chris: With prices in China skyrocketing in recent years, we need to reassess the cost of these figures with the factory. What we get back from them will actually end up deciding a lot for us. The economy is so bad right now that we need to not only afford the production costs, but more importantly get the product out at a price that fans can afford. We hope to have some more concrete answers in the near future.

GENERAL

PG: Finally, congratulations on ten years of Four Horsemen Studios. In a decade, you’ve sculpted comic-accurate Ninja Turtles and movie-accurate Ghostbusters, revamped MOTU not once but twice, and created your own popular line of action figures. Given all that, what is there left for the Four Horsemen to conquer–i.e., what would you like to have done by 2019?

Jim: Don’t forget – the whole freakin’ DC Universe!

Cornboy: Woo-hoo! Ten whole years! Who woulda’ think it?!? Yeah we’re very proud of the fact that a decade ago four misfit ex-McFarlane Toys employees were able to step out in a way that had never been done in the toy industry before and are to this day still able to feed our families and keep the lights on by doing something that we’ve always dreamed of doing. We’ve said it many times in the past, and it’s still true to this day – it’s a dream come true for us.

Eric: We started from the very first day of working with Mattel doing Masters of the Universe figures! How awesome is that? I think the four of us easily agree that the most obvious item we’d like to take on within our next decade, and one that we’ve been VERY vocal about, is Thundercats. We’re not sure where that possibility stands right now, but Mattel did announce at Comic Con ‘09 that they’re very interested in the license as well, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Wanna start a campaign for us?

Chris: The worlds’ first line of life-size, completely interactive action figures! How cool would it be to be able to go n actual adventures with your favorite super heroes or action/sci-fi movie characters? That could get ugly though. There are a lot of toy pervs out there. I think I’m working next at least one or two right now…

Cornboy: Obviously we’d like to continue to get more of our own properties produced and get them out there into the hands of toy collectors worldwide, but Mattel’s been keeping us so busy lately that we’re having a tough time doing that. That’s a good thing though, so we really can’t complain about that. We’ve got prototypes for one of our properties, Symbiotech, that have been sitting on our office shelves for quite a few years now. It’s really killing us that we haven’t had either the time or capital to put those things into production.

Eric: Maybe the toy gnomes that sneak into our studio at night could do something about that for us. We’ll have to see if we can capture one…

DCUC

1.) Do you fabricate all the accessories for DCUC? When sculpting
guns–i.e., Vigilante’s guns–what do you use for references? Are they
based on real guns, water guns, paintball guns, or whatever pictures
you come across on the Internet?

For example, here’s one Poester’s somewhat pedantic assessment of
Vigilante’s assault rifle: “…looks like an M4 with a 20″ barrel.
Normally the M4 platform features the telescopic buttstock and 16″
barrel (a carbine and not a rifle), but the parts for and M16 and M4
are almost entirely interchangeable. That handguard seems contrived,
as does the magazine. And trivially, it would appear the sculptor came
from a state that still has an assault weapons ban (CA, MA, etc) as
the front sight base is lacking the bayonet lug.”

GHOSTBUSTERS

2.) You guys have often spoken of your fondness for the original MOTU
and Super Powers, in addition other ’80s lines. Do you feel the same
nostalgic connection to Ghostbusters? Were (or are) you fans of the
cartoon and the Kenner toys?

3.) A movie-accurate Slimer has posed difficulties to sculptors in
recent years, due to the scarcity of reference photos and turnarounds
and his different appearance in the second movie. How did you approach
sculpting him?

MOTUC

4.) How has the process of working on Masters of the Universe Classics
differed from that of the 2002 line?

5.) Judging from Man-at-Arm’s bio on his packaging, it looks like
Mattel is incorporating some aspects of your original concept for the
2002 MOTU revamp. Are you guys involved at all in the background
fiction creation process for MOTUC?

6.) You’ve often said you try to base the design of MOTUC figures on
the original cross-sell art whenever possible. Was there any
discussion of including Tri-Klops’s more traditional-looking sword as
well as the green toy version? (see attached pic)

FE

7.) How exactly will production work out between Scarabus and the
Raven–that is, when will they be available, and who will be the SDCC
figure next year?

GENERAL

8.) Finally, congratulations on ten years of Four Horsemen Studios. In
a decade, you’ve sculpted comic-accurate Ninja Turtles and
movie-accurate Ghostbusters, revamped MOTU not once but twice, and
created your own popular line of action figures. Given all that, what
is there left for the Four Horsemen to conquer–i.e., what would you
like to have done by 2019?

Comments now closed (23)

  • I wonder if the 4HM would show us "what ifs" of their version of the Thundercats. That would be awesome. Thanks for the interview, Poe!

  • Thanks for this Poe – always good to hear from the 4H.

    And to the 4H – All honour and glory to you – DCUC and MOTUC are IT when it comes to action-figures at present…..and that's down to YOU. Thank you.

  • Not wanting to be gloomy, 4H are awesome and everything but please if you are bringing Thundercats back through Mattel or as online exclusives don't bother. It is a crime we have to put up with the crap of getting MOTUC figures and I seriously don't want that with Thundercats…unless you can go into the shop and buy it at a proper retail price (£30 for one action figure is insane), it isn't a proper toyline.

  • Congrats 4H! You guys are like rockstars in the action figure world! The last 10 years have been wild, and I look forward to seeing how your work grows and evolves in the next 10 years! Keep up all the great work! Thunder… THUNDER… THUNDERCATS!!! HOOOOOO!!!

  • I was fortunate enough to meet Eric & Cornboy at SDCC this year, & all I can say is, their immensely deserved success has not gotten to their heads. These guys were as cool & gracious as can be.

    Now let's all just hope & pray that Mattel gets that Thundercats license.

  • this is why i hope the Tcats lands in Mattel's court.

    the 4H have been the sole reason i have bought mattel stuff over the lst decade.

    in fact looking around my office and house i think outside of gi joe and tf everything i have bought over the last 10 years has been done only by them either partly or comepletely.

  • cool interview.

    i like that the four horsemen are such genuine and humble dudes, which makes me feel a little bit better about giving mattel too much money for something that has no real guarantee.

    i do need a life-size robocop to scare my cats and possibly call me a 'creep' when i have been slacking on the dishes

  • Good luck with the gnomes!

    PLEASE Mattel, get on that Thundercats toy license!!! :D

    Great interview, thanks all involved, and thank you Poe for all you do. :)

  • Great stuff. Their sculpts and abilities are really the main reason I jumped on DCUC after enjoying previous works they'd done.

  • its great reading more from the horsemen. its a pity there is so much they aren't allowed to say about what's coming out, because I know they are genuinely excited about most of what they are doing.

    and for the love of all that's holy, someone get them the thundercats license!

  • I agree with Mark-

    Thundercats at retail=I'm all over it.

    Thundercats that cost 30 dollars,on sale for one hour a month=I have absolutely no interest.

    Ghostbusters is one of my favorite movies/toys/cartoons/whatever of all time and I haven't even looked at Mattel's stuff.

    I realise these guys just sculpt the toys (some of the best sculptors of all time btw) and have nothing to do with Mattel's business end,but it's pretty funny reading a quote attributed to one of the MOTUC sculptors saying,"The economy is so bad right now that we need to not only afford the production costs, but more importantly get the product out at a price that fans can afford."

  • Great interview Poe!

    Glad to hear that Cornboy is a fan of Extreme Ghostbusters. Hopefully the EGB's Garrett, Kylie, Roland and Eduardo make it into the new toyline eventually.

  • Poe, luv the new Warduke art AND the interview. Which leads me to petitioning a campaign for not only Thundercats but D&D and Silverhawks!

    As for the Horsemen, I've been following them since their earliest McFarlane days and when they get the time (yeah right)would suggest them publishing a book (with lots of pics of course)of their first ten years. They have really changed their part of the toy industry, opening more doors for much more artistic appreciation. Kudos to them and their future!

  • excellent interview poe… though it does break my heart a bit to hear about fan ex… it kind of sounds to be on hiatus for now. damned i wanted scarabus!!

  • Guys get real ….!!! Retail / Web Exclusive … doesn't matter … if these guys do ThunderCats it will be the best thing since MOTUC!!!

  • @Gerrit127: Actually it does matter.

    Retail= a lot of people happy getting toys at a normal price

    Web exclusives= a handful of people with little do but sit in front of a computer and waste there money paying rip off prices.