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.
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.”
H. 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.
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?
Eric: 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!
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!”
PG: 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.
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.
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…