Poe’s Point > Seriously

In my original plans for this blog, I hoped to be able to offer insight into the action figure industry. I had dreams of insiders dropping me juicy tidbits, behind-the-scenes information, gossip–sort of a Bleeding Cool for the toy industry.

So far, that hasn’t happened. Frankly, I don’t have the contacts for it to happen, plus I have a day job, so I don’t have time to be going to conventions and making contacts and so forth. And apparently I’m not likeable or famous enough for people to just start emailing me tips randomly. Which is fine; I’m OK with me.

Nonetheless, once in a while something industry-related does pop up that seems worth highlighting. In this case, it’s a blog post on Action Figure Insider by Jason Lenzi, a self-described “seasoned television producer” and owner of the Bif Bang Pow toy company.

His post is essentially a lengthy complaint/critique about Michael Crawford’s review of the Tron Legacy Sam Deluxe Sam Flynn figure. Before we go any further, note that MWC gave the toy three out of four stars.

Full disclosure: I did something like this myself, years ago. Obviously my opinion has changed over time, and now I could spend hours writing a lengthy retort, but yo go re of OAFE has already done a better job of that than I could.

But I will pick out a few choice lines. Here’s one:

The online community of nitpickers has harshed my mellow on so much over the years, that half the time I avoid delving too deep on any geek subject, lest some anonymous ‘expert’ take the fun out of what little there is left to get excited about any more.

If you can’t stand the heat of geeky discussion and criticism, then by all means, stay out of the kitchen. (If that’s the case, stay away from these. Better just to avoid the stressors.)

Here’s what I think is the silliest part of the blog post:

What’s my point? I don’t know, maybe that we’re all taking this shit WAY TOO SERIOUSLY?? I think we can all agree when someone gets it horribly wrong in the genre world, whether it’s toys, TV, or film. But when did we start picking on the guys who get it right? Or just not notice when it’s done well? Are those souls ever going to be happy?

Saying anything to the effect of “aren’t you taking this too seriously?” to geeks should have some sort of rule, along the lines of Godwin’s Law, that states the speaker immediately loses whatever credibility he might have had with his audience. Anyone who makes geek-related stuff for a living and makes a statement like that needs to realize they’re making the toy industry equivalent of William Shatner’s infamous SNL appearance (which he has long since redeemed himself for).

Later in the comments, Lenzi backs off a bit:

Like I said, this is just my opinion about too-detailed reviews, not about reviews or review sites across the board. I know how popular MWCtoys is, so they’re obviously doing something right to get such a following. Hope you continue to enjoy what they do, and I’ll continue to pop over for info too!

MWC’s reviews serve as much as advertising for toys as anything else. I guarantee you Bif Bang Pow sells more Venture Bros. toys thanks to the publicity and pretty photos from MWC’s review. If I were MWC, I’d consider deliberately skipping reviewing toys from BBP in the future. Clearly they don’t want the publicity. (I fear MWC is too professional to do that, though–I think he does consider himself as having a certain obligation to the collecting community.)

To be clear, I do understand Lenzi’s consternation (although again, MWC’s review was actually fairly positive, which makes Lenzi’s post seem like a bizarre overreaction). It’s always tough to be someone who creates and sends something out there, only to have it criticized in excruciating detail–or simply dismissed as crap. But it’s an inevitable part of being a creator, and it’s especially part of creating geek-oriented merchandise.

Comments now closed (33)

  • When will this geek-on-geek violence end? It's reminiscent of the dark days of the East-coast collectors vs. West-coast collectors shootings of the mid '90s.

  • I think he's got a point. I used to really, really like coming here because it was a lot different from OAFE, where reviews of toys consisted more of the "reviewers" proselytizing and beating their chests atop soap boxes than telling me anything nice about toys.

    And Poe's still better than that, but every time something Matty comes up it's the same tired complaints over and over again. It's butthurt by numbers. I can't really enjoy the site as much as I used to because of it.

  • I love how half the comments that agree with him begin with something like, "First, I find the act of reviewing toys pretty amusing, and mostly ignore them…" says someone posting on ACTION FIGURE INSIDER.

    So, an adult perusing toy websites, looking at pictures of action figures, and posting comments on a toy website is fine, but reviewing a toy like any other product one would purchase is "silly." Gotcha.

    Double standard snark aside, with Star Wars figures approaching $10 each and Mattel DC figures approaching $20, I appreciate someone pointing out the flaws. It's called making an informed decision. It's one of the reasons buyers can review EVERYTHING Amazon sells, from books and DVDs to auto parts, power tools, and yes, toys.

  • I can see both sides of the story here, but I (as a collector) WANT detailed reviews. I generally like to know if something is screwed up on a figure and 99% of the time my mind is already made up on buying it anyway (Roboto comes to mind).

  • And I have absolutely no ill will toward Jason Lenzi. I will always give him mad props for making Flash Gordon figures, and Flash will ALWAYS have a spot on my shelf.

    It's a damn harsh economic climate, and watching Palisades die and Art Asylum morph into Diamond's minimate and Trek factory was sad. Starting a toy company is very ballsy, and making figs of movies and shows that are at least a generation before many toy buyers' time is ballsy too.

  • I've been taken to task a few times for being "too nice" with my reviews. Generally because, when I review something… I bought it because I liked it. That's not to say I don't complain at times, I've raked several things over the coals.

    Lenzi and the guys over at AFI get very upset when people complain. I'm reminded of that time we were supposed to be okay with Mattel's major QC issues. While I'm all for enjoying the great toys out there, I think some complaints are more than warranted.

    While I don't always agree with Mike on his reviews, taking him to task seems waaay out there. He's probably the most fair guy around. If anything he's a little harder on mass market stuff because he has his hands on so much high market items so often.

    I know another toy creator (who I'll keep unnamed) who has a very active role in the community and has become really unable to listen to criticisms. If you say anything about their products, one of the two heads of the company will call you out, say you are just stirring up trouble and demand that you call them or meet them face to face to discuss it. As if somehow doing it over a forum or a message board makes it less valid?

    The great thing about there being so many sites out there right now with toy coverage is that you get a wide range of opinions. MWCToys doesn't like something, but Poe does, Fwoosh hates it, Infinite Hollywood loves it. Toy companies are getting more coverage than ever and fans are speaking their minds. If a toy gets universally panned by all the critics, guess what? There's probably something wrong with it.

  • If anyone's "butthurt" in this scenario, it's Lenzi. He engaged in a Shocker-style exchange with his critics on the Mego Museum forum when the first photos of his subpar-looking Lost line surfaced a while back. The tone of this little rant is similar. It seems like he's lashing out at critics in general, or trying to head off any potential criticism of his own products, which aren't exactly setting the toy world on fire.

  • Wow. I didn't think I could dislike BBP more after their handling of the LOST & Venture Bros. liscense. I stand corrected.

  • I agree with Lenzi in many ways because some collectors/reviewers are often incredibly too critical. This is suppose to be a fun hobby and so many people just want to grab it by the reigns and force it into submission.

  • So the guy that runs a company that takes much-desired licenses and turns them into toys even most die-hard toy collectors don't want to buy, has some super-hard-on for crappy toys?

    Big fuckin' surprise.

    That douchebag MANGLED Venture Brothers, which is a show that deserves a five-star action figure line.

    At least his whiny self-indulgence there explains why his toys suck so much: The things he likes are 'crap that belongs in the '80s.'

    Whatever. If I didn't already plan to completely ignore the existence of BBP because of their sucky toys, I certainly would be ignoring them now.

  • "THIS IS SERIOUS BIDNESS!"

    Wow… I'm not sure what he's trying to accomplish with this longwinded diatribe, but it comes off as being really amateur. I've been reading MWC reviews for a while now, and I've always thought them to be quite fair & balanced. The stunning images have always been the big draw, and he's even admitted what he's gone there for.

    I find it equally as odd that someone who works in the biz can dismiss reviews. I think sites and blogs that post pictures and their opinions of action figures are the lifeblood the industry. And while I'll admit, there are very few reviews that have actually persuaded me to buy a figure, and even fewer reviewers whose opinions I care about; I still enjoy reading various collectors’ takes and finding out what’s out there.

    Occasionally I do think reviewing action figures is ludicrous, all one needs is a decent picture of the character and you should be able to make up your mind without having someone go on and gush about how great it is, or rant about how the toy company is a soulless entity. But, just as some people collect cars, cameras, stamps, it’s a valid hobby and its our way of coming together to discuss and recognize what’s out there, what’s good, and what’s crap.

  • also, lets not prove him right by calling him names. sure, at first glance i had a few choice come to mind, but thats really beneath what we're about, and only goes to reinforce his point.

  • So, does that mean that BBP officially has surpassed Shocker Toys in terms of "ruining yourself by talking trash to your consumer base"?

  • I haven't actively been reviewing toys that long, and part of the reason I picked such a niche was simply because I felt it was an under-represented group (the under 3 inches scale). So I avoid the 3 3/4ths and 6 inch scales because they're so well covered. But here's the thing, far too often people review things because they buy what they like. I love reading reviewers who buy everything blindly in a single product line. I personally own every single Super Hero Squad figure that's been released. I know the worst figures and I know the best.

    If a reviewer is really picky about the toys (or books or whatever) they buy, that, in a lot of ways, hurts their viewpoint. If a person only bought a handful of Marvel Legends like Juggernaut, Deadpool and Hawkeye, they wouldn't be able to talk about the duds like Elektra and Emma Frost and I strongly believe knowing what does and doesn't work is important.

    In a lot of ways, I'm probably the opposite of Newton Gimmick. I don't want to call him "generous" because I think he often raises valid points. But for me, a lot of toys are average. Hell, most of the stuff in the stores is utter crap. I see a lot of average toys and I make sure to point that out. But when an exceptional figure comes along, I do my best to make sure people know about it. And when I find a horrible set that's obviously a cheap cash in, I'm going to call you out on it.

    Reviews are the opinion of the author, they aren't infallible statements that all should believe. I've been reading OAFE since 2002 and I trust yo go re – not because of his writing style (which I enjoy) but because I usually agree with him. He convinced me to start buying SOTA's Street Fighter figures – hell, he's the single reason I picked up a Masterpiece Optimus Prime all those years ago. I read Poe's stuff because I love how he often weaves stories into his writing and brings me along on a journey.

    To have someone whine about their toys getting "only" three stars is idiotic. I've ripped toys apart for less than that. It's even more amazing when Crawford gave the 3 3/4ths scale figures three stars too and ONE OF THE FIGURES HEADS FELL OFF.

    A figure broke and Crawford still said it was good. Know what? That probably means you had a damn good toy to begin with. When a toy I'm reviewing breaks, I do a lot more to it than just take off half a star.

  • @Reilly: No, because despite whatever faults BPP has had… They actually get stuff to the market. Shocker is at times the toy industry equivalent to a pyramid scheme.

  • Lenzi is right about the action feature being pretty cool. But the gimmick is crammed into what otherwise seems to be a lousy, cheap-looking piece of crap. Crawford's review – as reviews often do – actually made me give the line a second look. (I still pass on it.)

    You're right, Poe — that he reacted this way to a positive review is rather bizarre.

  • oafe was SPOT ON!!!

    I agree with others. Telling people, who are passionate about something, to not be so passionate is crazy.

    considering the guy MUST be passionate about toys himself since he started a company to produce them makes it even more of an odd stance for him to take.

    also, as other have stated I HATE that they have yet to make actual action figures of the Venture Bros.

    I actually bought a couple …horrible… just horrible. Wake me up when we can REAL action figures.

    ALL of this makes me want to NEVER buy anything from Big Bang Pow no matter what they put out.

  • "Saying anything to the effect of “aren’t you taking this too seriously?” to geeks should have some sort of rule…that states the speaker immediately loses whatever credibility he might have had with his audience." -Poe's Law?

  • The Internet has effectively killed the ole' adage "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Internet tough guys and those who can't be bothered to express themselves through properly written words have all but cost me my faith in the human race's ability to communicate through anything beyond four-letter memes. It doesn't make me ROFL.

    So in that sense, I am beginning to lose interest in all kinds of discussion forums, as they seem to empower any schmuck to feel as if his opinion is valid (see: this post)and have created a whole sea of critics who seem to have no further skill set than "I got the toy before you". I am of course discounting people like Poe and Michael Crawford who bring more knowledge than I have about toy manufacturing, packaging, etc., and whose inside knowledge enlighten beyond mere observation.

    Mr. Lenzi could have a point in the end, if his piece hadn't come off as sycophantic and overly enthusiastic about a toy line that I don't find impressive in the least. Yo Go Re's response, though a bit rough, was full of truthy goodness, to which I would have added the importance of good reviews in light of how expensive toy collecting is becoming.

  • Even if the MCW review had been more negative, I don't know why it would cause so much anger in the scope of internet geekery. Isn't every comment section full of so much more bitching and anger?

    The TRON stuff looks kinda cool, but it's true appeal will have to wait until the film is released. If the film is crap, nobody's going to be in love with the toys. I think the review was fair in that it judged it on its own, as a product, with no media or nostalgic influence.

    The TRON figures are probably very cool to some kids, but these reviews are not meant for kids and parents. They're meant for collectors in this day where this hobby has gotten quite expensive and figures don't seemingly appear in our hands by magic every holiday.

  • Being clueless to these goings on until today, I've read around at all the links Poe provided and I just have to laugh at the whole thing.

    First, MWC’s review was far, far nicer than I would’ve been to that toy. I don’t usually do negative reviews because I only have so much money and it’s reserved for toys I like. Right now that’s a lot of Four Horsemen sculpts and a few other things here and there if they’re cool. Thus, those crappy Tron toys (with their admittedly cool light up features!) are safely ensconced at Target where they’ll like stay until Target clearances them after Christmas.

    Second, Mr. Lenzi’s reaction was really overblown. Yes, toys are toys, but they’re also products. I think my biggest problem with Lenzi’s blog entry was putting the word review in quotes. That was rather asinine and insulting. At its core, MWCToys is a product review site and it was most definitely a review (probably more so than any other toy review site). It’s no different than if I needed advice on picking a Phillips over a Hitachi TV or what brand of vacuum cleaner to buy. His supposition that reviewers don’t understand is also insulting, but there was something mocking about those quotes even though they weren’t directed at me.

    Ultimately, I think Poe summed it up best about staying out of the kitchen if you can’t take the heat. Mr. Lenzi can’t do much about Tron Legacy, but if he wants better reviews for BBP merchandise, then he can make better product. That’s the solution, not complaining about not getting a fair shake.

    As for the rest of it, there are some fantastic toy review sites out there (certainly more than just two) and I think it’s great that we have so many voices out there with a wide variety of opinions.

  • I can't imagine someone reacting to customer criticism the way this guy did. Any company that is trying to make something that others are meant to buy should be WELCOMING offered comments that would potentially make their product better. Especially if the product is something like toys, which are non-essentials any way you cut it.

    If I'm going to spend my hard-earned money on some luxury item, I am damned well going to check that item out first and determine if it's worth the money. There's a certain amount of things you can determine from looking at a toy on the shelf, but I'm a sucker for articulation and playability, which isn't as apparent in the package. That's where reviews come in.

    As a salesman, I understand the need to BELIEVE in your product like Mr. Lenzi obviously does, but it needs to be backed by some concrete evidence that it is worth that belief. If someone as passionate about toys as Mr. Crawford says it's not 100%, than you got to believe it's not 100%. Even if us collectors aren't making these toys, the sheer number of products we've seen and played with over the years lends us some credibility. As yo go re says, Lenzi is seems to be basing his assessment of the Tron line on the toys from the 80's, with no experience of where other toy companies have brought the art in the interim. It's like comparing a G1 Optimus Prime toy with the one released during the last movie. While the classic one has it's charm, and I'm sure most of us would be nostalgic over the original, you have to admit that the level of engineering and the effort in the detail of recent toys is far beyond anything released during our childhood.

    If Lenzi really wants to continue making toys and building his market share, then he ought to be thinking about taking some of the comments of that review to heart. Looking at Hasbro and the improvement of some of their lines (Marvel Universe comes to mind), it really does make the product better.

  • You're still good Poe. Remember: Roboto-gate and Prince Adam's sheath-gate. Like Bleeding Cool, the stories write themselves. Rich uses more tabloid-esque and blunt headlines in the stories. Makes them funnier.

    Lenzi's hands are in the Hollywood pot. Then he can go on G4 with all those losers like Kevin Perria (sp?) and Olivia the Munn. Teh Munn I think has left for teh Daily Show. Another fine American institution…

  • there are a couple details about this affair i find laughable:

    he critiques MW for not knowing the industry, then critiques him for breaking down the review into categories that acknowledge the different teams and different qualities of work that go into the production process

    he cites reviewers for being overly negative while criticizing a positive review.

    he embraces how cool HE thinks the toy is while thus rejecting the opinion of MWC… he is himself offering a counter-review. but remember, reviewers aren't to be trusted.

    what i find pitiful though is his lack of perspective. he likes primitive toys, which goes a long way towards explaining his own commercial woes. he doesn't like reviewers but the offers a review himself, one devoid of almost every salient detail one could ask for. lenzi has a right to his opinion, as does everyone else, but his opinion in no way solicits my dollar, so in essence, he's talking to the wind.

    i have argued many times over the virtue of whimsy, that toy should inspire that imagination and that that is the limit of its functionality, so expecting it to make you "happy" is a farcical pursuit. if this tron thing makes lenzi happy, fine. but what he missed was that others might not be so enamored with the feature that is the toys sole redeeming characteristic for it's price point… evidently, lenzi has more money to blow on toys then i do. good for him. i'm a grind buyer, iu have minimal scratch and want it to count. so MWC does me a service… they look at details that i look at when i buy a figure, and discuss those. i've been vocally critical of MWC's reviews before, and mike, kind hearted soul that his is, has even engaged me, a lowly toygeek, in conversation about the toy and his review criteria… that's cool. it didn't change my opinion of the toy, but it certainly spoke volumes as to the character of the reviewer.

    as end consumers, we can speak however we like about the products we're being asked to buy, that's our side of the consumer contract. if you sell me shit, i'm allowed to tank your business by telling other people you sold me shit. if i bought a hotdog at a place and it gave me food poisoning, wouldn't it actually fall under a civic ethical DUTY to tell people i got sick there, even if that was a one-time incident that occurred completely accidently? the answer is YES! it's all well and good to embrace the good, when there's good to be had, and i'm all for being positive, but not at the expense of honesty or objectivity. we as a community, speak and are allowed to speak, freely on our hobby. mr lenzi should consider it an asset to his business that he has such an engaged and educated consumer base to play do… big companies spend MILLIONS of dollars on the kind of market research the various toy communities are GIVING AWAY!

  • Trust me there are far more inane and stupid things to review than toys. And not only do I not get paid for reviews, I don't get free products to review either (I know yo go re sometimes does, but that lucky SOB Michael gets hot toy figures for free from the company)…my point is I write reviews for OAFE because i enjoy sharing my opinions. If you don't appreciate that, don't visit OAFE. And if you're on a website called action figure insider and you consider toy reviewing to be insipid and super duper serial, I don't know what to tell you. In any industry you have product reviewers, many of whom get paid to complain the way toy reviewers do for free. My friend works for a company that sells nothing but cable organizing equipment, and they have paid employees with the title of product reviewer. Toys are luxury items, but so is art, so is film, and those things are reviewed endlessly. Your mileage may vary as to how important they are to you, but surely the act of reviewing a product is understandable in the general scheme of things.

  • @DayRaven

    Excellent points made in your opening, and the rest is all very intelligent and sensible without being harsh at all. Nice one.

    I think the MCW review is positive enough to be a glowing rave if you're a die hard TRON fan who was on the fence.

  • I just think it’s hilarious reading the responses over on AFI, almost universal praise for his opinion when a great deal of the posters on AFI’s boards are some of the most whiny, nitpicking people I’ve ever seen. The best part is on one post when someone takes him to task for attacking an impartial review due to his obvious bias, numerous people, including one troll I had issues with when I posted there, jump all over that guy, tell him to “screw himself” in less polite terms and attack him for not speaking for the collecting community. Umm…..this clown who wrote the post attacked this positive review and acted like his opinion was somehow more correct and the one other people should believe, and these twits on AFI are so fanboy indignant they don’t even realize they’re supporting someone who is doing the same thing they’re railing against. It’s moronic personalities that led me to give up posting there, it’s full of the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guys.

  • I like reviews, it lets people give their opinions and customers info on the product.

    Personally though I can't stand reviewers who are 'FAN BOYS' that give biased reviews and will not say or let a bad thing be said against toys based on the company or scultors who made them.

  • The only thing I can think of is this:

    If you can't stand the heat, then don't throw grease on the goddamned fire.

    Honestly…

  • I can only speak for myself here, and I know this cannot hold true for everyone, but I think reviews are just one small part of the whole aspect that makes us a community which these sites create. Whether it’s the forums over at Fwoosh or blogs like IAT and PGPoA, they're places for us all to converge and have thoughtful discussion. I know this is not always the case, but that is just the nature of things.

    Personally, I read reviews for a variety of reasons, and usually deciding whether or not I want to buy a toy is the last thing that will bring me to read something. I've known of Poe since his days at OAFE, and I've been following along with his blog pretty much since the beginning (side note: PGPoA is going to be celebrating its 3rd Anniversary this December!). It’s safe to say that if Poe writes something, I'm going to read it. Even if it’s a toy I'm not I'm really interested in, I'm still going to read it. I'll take that point further; there are a couple reviewers who for whatever reason get on my nerves. I think they're full of ego and just like to toot their own horn whenever possible, yet I still keep going back and reading their stuff.

    In a couple cases reading reviews has actually given me information about the product I couldn’t find out by looking at the package and ultimately influenced my decision to buy it. Most recently example I can site is the Transformers War for Cybertron Soundwave. I had seen his PR pics and thought he was cool, but decided I did not need yet another Soundwave. It wasn’t until I read a review (or maybe it was a video I saw) that showed me that I could partially transform him to make him look like some sort of a futuristic, alien boombox. That was enough for me to pick it up, but had I not known about it, I most likely would not have bought him.

    At any rate, the reviews do their part to foster a sense of community by everyone getting together, reading the same thing, and then commenting. I think offering up your opinion is one of the great things about the internet; everyone can have a voice. Whether or not they choose to talk about food, film, toys, cars, camera, stamps, politics, sports, is their choice to do so. I think the act of the consumer voicing their opinion is almost an institution in this country. It has itself become a form of entertainment; why else do we have people like Leonard Maltin or Gene Siskel who have made their careers on offering up their opinions?

    On a personal note, I've seen those TRON figures a few times now, and I looked 'em over once more after having read that longwinded diatribe. Maybe I'm just a tad too young to remember Tron back in the '80s, I'm not even sure if I've seen the entire film, I haven’t, at least with adult eyes. I'm looking forward to the new film though, but we don't even know if its any good. The 3.75" figures look awful, no better than the Avatar: The Last Airbender figures. The light-up face gimmick is kinda lame as well. Honestly, I don't think they're all that great, I don’t know what there is to get so excited about. If that’s how he feels great, I feel the same way about “just another Mer-Man”. TRON holds absolutely ZERO nostalgic value for me, but even if I was a kid I don't even know if I could get excited for them.

  • who the heck would actually need to justify and feel in any way bad about sticking it to BBP after the dreck they served up on multiple licenses?

    There is personal taste, which can be debated legitimately, and there is losing it over someone (who was actually pretty mild) not thinking you are the gold plated center of the Universe.

    All Pointless – rather like attempting any superior snark about adults interested in toys around here.

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