I wasn’t quite sure how to memorialize the end of ToyFare. I can’t say it was a surprise; I’ve been hearing rumors of Wizard’s financial troubles for years now, and given the increasing prominence of the Internet as a source for you news, it was less a matter of if and more a matter of when. When I say that, I don’t want to diminish the hard work of the people who made the magazine, especially Justin Aclin, who poured his heart and the contents of a few other organs into every issue (I was thinking his spleen, pervs. Or maybe his liver).
Still, it’s the end of an era. I remember when ToyFare first debuted; I was in college and was just getting back into toy collecting. In those still-nascent days of the Internet, ToyFare was not only a great source for news, it was also fun and funny, as opposed to the more stolid hobby magazines like Tomart’s Action Figure Digest or Lee’s Toy Review. We all loved Twisted Mego Theater, especially back when it was actually Mego Theater and had DC characters–before WB legal asked them to stop, for whatever reason. Wet blankets I guess.
Such politicking was also responsible for the demise of one of my favorite features. As I’ve mentioned before, I loved “Castaway from the Island of Misfit Toys,” a small write-up about some awful toy. Usually it was some sort of bootleg, but after a couple toys by real companies were highlighted, TPTB decided to bring an end to the feature rather than risk future exclusive reveals.
As I’ve detailed on this site before, I applied to work at ToyFare a few times and even went to a few interviews, though I never actually got a job there. However, I did eventually start writing for them as a freelancer in 2005. I remember exactly how I got into it: I noticed an article had been written by Matt Caracappa of X-Entertainment fame, and I thought that if he could write for ToyFare, maybe I could too. I sent a letter to them offering my services and the rest is history.
I wrote about two dozen pieces over the years, from sidebars to cover articles to interviews. I’d forgotten until I was doing the research for this piece that for a stretch in 2006, I was the one writing up ToyFare‘s monthly “What’s In Store” sidebar in the price guide.
It was interesting to watch ToyFare‘s various reinventions over the years. After a while, the price guide started to shrink as the “Incoming” section grew, leading some to grumble ToyFare was becoming a glorified catalog. For a time in the early 2000s, the magazine featured a lot of geek-related articles that weren’t necessarily toy-related, blurring the line between ToyFare and its sister magazine, Wizard. Then there was the era of “The Rag,” where the magazine featured a number of fake news articles (for which I wrote one of my favorite pieces, “Orcs Attack Sims City,” wherein a rogue army of orcs from World of Warcraft wander onto a Sims Online server and conquer the inhabitants). Then there were all those fun visual price guides.
Over the last few years, ToyFare brought the focus back solidly on toys, and one of my favorite features of the last few years have been the retrospective articles highlighting toylines from the 1980s and 1990s. I wrote a few of those, and they were a ton of fun to do, especially the one about Robo Force.
The heyday of the action figure industry was around 1999-2004, so in some ways it’s impressive that ToyFare lasted as long as it did, and remained fairly successful for most of that time (as far as I know, anyway). But I also know that all those toy news websites, and even sites like PGPoA, were hammering in ToyFare‘s coffin nails.
It’s not at all clear to me how Wizard’s new online venture will fare, and what role ToyFare, or toys in general, will have in it. Here’s hoping the best parts of ToyFare survive, not only in whatever the new website brings, but in the continued success of its many contributors. Zach Oat is at TelevisionWithoutPity; Tom Root, Matt Seinrich and Doug Goldstein produce Robot Chicken; Rob Bricken writes Topless Robot; Justin Aclin writes the comics Hero House and S.H.O.O.T. First; and many of the freelance contributors have their own websites and blogs.
So while ToyFare may have made its last fart joke (issue #162, page 24–I checked), its spirit lives on in the creators who made it enjoyable over the years. I want to thank them for over a decade of action figure fun, and to wish all of them the best in their respective endeavors.
Update: Former ToyFare editor and DC Universe wizard Scott Beatty writes in:
Any mention of ToyFare should include Editor-in-Chief Pat McCallum, who was the comedic heart and guiding influence of the magazine. Tom Palmer Jr. too. Tom was there in the beginning and helped to make the magazine a reality. Design Manager Steve Blackwell also, who gave the magazine its distinctive look. And ace photographer Paul Schiraldi, who suffered long days (and sometimes nights) in the Wizard Entertainment warehouse shooting toys, covers, and (of course) every single frame of Twisted Mego Theater in the beginning. Sad also…