ToyFare: In Memoriam (Updated)

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.

ToyFare had its share of scandals, too; remember Pin Pals Burns and Pin Pals Moe? I don’t think Wizard Entertainment ever cleared the murky air around its relationship with ToyWiz.

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…

37 thoughts on “ToyFare: In Memoriam (Updated)”

  1. Truly a sad day.

    I remember buying the first quarterly exclusive in winter of 1996, taking it to school, and getting it taken away for the day because I was laughing too hard at it during reading time.

    I have fond memories of Zach the Malamute. A dog who reviews toys is my kind of dog!

  2. Too bad some folks have lost a fun gig, but I gave up on ToyFare a loooong time ago, based on the distribution of their exclusive figures. I NEVER received an exclusive figure, even though I would mail away for them the day the magazine went on sale.

    I even stopped collecting The Simpsons' line because of them…

  3. The other toy magazines don't even compare, however I did stop buying toyfare for one reason. The fact that it had gotten so thin drove me nuts. I will pay for a magazine, especially ToyFare, but I couldn't justify the cost anymore.

  4. I loved ToyFare and it's sad to hear they'll no longer be around. To all the TF staff: thanks for the laughs and sharing your love of toys! You'll be missed!

  5. RIP Toyfare (and to a lesser extent Wizard).

    I have tons of back issues, as I've been buying it monthly for years. I wish I'd kept my early issues.

    Literally the day this announcement was made I resolved to get a subscription so as to stop wasting so much money.

    Although I don't think TTT was nearly as funny as it used to be, I have very fond memories of some of them. My all-time favorite is the Scream parody with Thor.

    I wonder if the last issues "Resolutions" article, where they actually got tough with some companies, like Mattel, was intended as their swan song.

    Anyways, bring on the Bearriors!

  6. Thanks for the kind words, man. I'd like to apologize for the Monthly Rag, which was a bad idea from the start, and as hard to write as it was to read. And I'm sorry some of the business stuff kept people from enjoying the mag. There were Simpsons toys I never got, either.

  7. Even though I knew this day was fast approaching what with the ease and speed of the internet, I still loved having the hard copy available to look over. Just like I will always take a book over an e-reader. It's a shame the way mankind is going, but hopefully this freed up the staff to maybe try something new that may be even better than ToyFare or Wizard.

  8. To the Toyfare gang:

    Thanks for the laughs, thanks for the memories, and thanks for helping us geeks remember how funny it is to have toys in our lives

    Fare ye well, mateys!

  9. What happened with Pin Pal Burns and Moe? I know I have them, but I think I bought them through the proof of purchase offer on the figures

  10. As another Toyfare freelancer, I feel the need to chime in.

    The outpouring of support for the magazine after this news hit has been nothing short of tremendous.

    I started writing for Toyfare in the summer of 2007 after having contributed and written for Lee's Toy Review since 1997. We had a bit of a falling out over something, and when I attended Star Wars Celebration IV, I met with Matt Senreich and seth Green as they promoted the first Robot Chicken special. I explained to Matt what had happened and he encouraged me to start writing for Toyfare. In the background, Seth egged me on, telling me to "jump ship." It was inevitable it was going to happen after that point.

    The magazine is known for being funny, but I can tell you that all the people I worked with (Zach, Justin, TJ, Kate, Carlos, Adam) were extremely professional and did a great job of keeping the lines of communication open. As a journalist by trade, I tended to be a little stuffy, and they all helped me open myself up a bit in my writing.

    The best part was that when they got gung-ho about retro toy lines, they wanted more than just a review of they toys. They actually had me interviewing the creative forces behind Dino-Riders, Power Lords, She-Ra, Inhumanoids, and Silverhawks. I learned so much from the people I interviewed, and I really think we provided something that you truly couldn't get anywhere else, not even on the internet.

    The great thing is that Toyfare was more than a magazine. It's influence can be scene in Robot Chicken and in the way other toy websites conduct themselves. The magazine might be gone, but its legacy, its geek DNA, that's been imprinted in a generation of collectors.

    Jason, I've never met you, but through freelancing at the magazine together, I felt like I've gotten to correspond with a kindred spirit.

  11. Ummm….call me clueless but I had no idea this was happening and now I've just renewed my subscription. So what's the last issue and do you think they will give refunds?

  12. @Zach Oat: Thanks for dropping by! And personally, while it was odd, I did enjoy the articles I wrote for the Monthly Rag ("Under pressure from the FCC, Hellboy changes name to Heckboy").

    @Ben: Same here, Ben. Though we did have to get past that thing with you telling me to get lost first 😉 (Which I understood at the time.)

    @toyman2581: #163, this month's issue, was the last. I assume they'll refund you, but you know what they say about those who assume…

  13. I am still quite upset about this. I looked forward to reading my ToyFare magazine before any other comic that week.

  14. Wizard (the company) might have been disorganized- OK, even downright shady at times, but I always enjoyed reading ToyFare. The content of the magazine was almost always informative and entertaining. I think its strength was striking the right balance between respecting the hobby (and intelligence of its readers) and not taking itself (or anything else, for that matter) too seriously.

  15. @Zach Oat: It was a great mag and will be sorely missed. Thanks for all the work you did for it.

    @Poe: They haven't charged my card yet so I'm assuming that everything is null and void. Of course, as you say we know all about assuming…. lol

  16. Speaking of Toyfare's most successful progent, "Robot Chicken" is starting to suck now. Too much gore and random violence too little innovative humor. Take on some more interesting social issues (race, politics, maybe) stuff that only you can explore because you're just platying with toys.

    Seth, bring in some new blood please. And keep the fake blood and gore too a minimum or it loses it's effectiveness.

    I heard that Robot Chicken is the best selling TV show DVD series ever. Anybody know if that's true?

  17. @Izdawiz

    That's news to me. It's possible considering the price point vs. $50 sitcom sets.

    I haven't seen many new episodes, but I imagine the reigns and writing have been handed down as the seasoned guys work on that Star Wars sitcom thing. Speaking of which, I still find the Star Wars specials pretty funny. I'm surprised there are still jokes to find in the films after so long. An adult Vader still saying "Wizard!" really got me.

  18. Nice write up Poe!

    The only thing I ever had to complain about was never getting my radio-active Homer. I strongly suspect the Post Office on that one though.

  19. I enjoyed it since day one.

    In the infancy of the internet especially, ToyFare was hilarious and informative reminder that I was not alone in finding toys fun.

  20. @Zach Oat: I think most people recognized the “business stuff” for what it was, and didn’t lay any blame on the creative staff. I know the Shamus shenanigans did not affect how I looked at what the writers and editors put in the pages. It is a shame, though, to have to acknowledge that poor business practices could only have hurt the magazine into which so many people put so much of themselves. I’m sure many of us are left wondering, ‘What if?’

  21. I will miss grabbing a copy at Newbury Comics ( where I would shamelessly drop the " my son has an article in this issue" card), I loved paging through it, laughed at the incredibly clever cartoons, seeing figures that I considered old friends, and those I had no clue existed.

  22. Thanks to all at Toyfare. I probably own the entire run. It really sucks that it won't be around anymore because it became a serious routine / habit in my life. I've never written to the mag or submitted anything, but now I wish I had written them to thank them for the good times.

  23. I was critical of Wizard Press at times, and I haven't regularly purchased Toyfare in years, but I'm still sad to see the magazine go. I was a huge fan, particularly for its first year or two.

    And I'm jealous of everyone who got to contribute, freelance or otherwise. I always considered it something of a dream job. Now my career fantasies will have to completely revolve around Hasbro…

  24. I can't help but see some similarities here between so many of the smaller companies that popped up during the rush and then languished too… the rise of Toyfare almost precisely matches the rise of Todd Toys cum McFarlane Toys. In that time, we've lost great companies like Palisades and many more. The industry itself is undergoing a strange metamorphosis. I think in many ways, a lot of us are getting cut loose in a similar manner. The era of 15 and 20 dollars figures at retail is the era that'll see me walking away too.

    That said, congrats to the Toyfare creative folk who made their own indelible stamp on the industry. Those of you no longer in the spotlight will be missed… and those who continue to create, we look forward to the evolution of your craft.

  25. Been a toyfare reader since the very beginning and never missed an issue. Those original Twisted Toyfare Theaters got me in to collecting Charlee Flatt Megos and eventually other custom figures afterward. Thank you to the staff for all the fond memories.

  26. I really did love Toyfare! That magazine always brought a smile to my face, no matter how many times i re read them or the jokes! I think my fav Twisted Toyfare Theater was when the Marvel Legends tried to take over, and the two Daredevils are fighting in the "Literal Hell's Kitchen" and the one is kicking the refrigerator, and the other is beating up a bag of flower. Every time I read that comic or even think about it, it cracks me up. Thanks Toyfare, I shall miss you. 🙂

  27. I'm sincerely going to miss Toyfare. I used to subscribe but once the magazine started shrinking and bringing in some bizarre sections, I canceled. The weird pseudo-tabloid sections were awful.

    Honestly, I think the magazine lost it's touch once Zach Oat left. It really never recovered once it stopped doing visual price guides (my favorite being the Lord of the Rings) and the regular price guide. Even though I thought the regular price guide was more in support of Toywiz and the secondary market, I loved gloating about the value of a few of my figures.

    Perhaps if Toyfare found a way to remain competitive with the internet. The visual price guides were a great way and I felt that offering articles on older, nostalgic properties would help. In the end, it covered comics and video games more than the topic the magazine was named for.

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