Poe Probes > Reviewing Samples, Part 3: Julius Marx of AFI

This is the third in a series of articles about the practice of toy reviewers being given free samples for review, and whether that represents a problem for readers looking for honest assessments to make purchase decisions. You can find the other articles in the series here.

Today’s piece was written by Julius Marx of ActionFigureInsider.

For me personally I do features rather than reviews on AFI.   There is no shortage of review sites out there, and even more when you include the youtube reviewers.    I don’t value my opinion over anyone elses and I’m not vain enough to think that anyone else cares what I think.  🙂  And I have found in all my years doing this, often times when I get something that I have read a bad review online for, often times I will like the item better than they did.  Different folks like different things.

Why I like to do features:

Most companies still have a “print” mentality where they take one “glamor shot” of a figure for solicitation and marketing.  They don’t yet realize that on the internet you can put up as many pictures as you like.  So, when I get products in for “review” I take a lot of pictures to try and give the most complete look at what folks are getting and then they can make up their own mind if they like it or not.   I try to show them with other fingures in that same line and with other versions of the same character from other companies and other lines.  For me it’s not about being “kind” or “fair” it’s just showing the item, what it comes with and what it does.

If there is something glaringly wrong with a figure or if there’s something I think fans should look out for when opening/handling I will mention those things.  Sometimes in my recaps I’ll mention aspects of note or something that I like.

But I don’t get caught up in “nit-picking” or minutia.  I get that this is a business, and that these are made by real people (with real jobs that they use to put food on the table for their families).  And like in all businesses, compromises happen, decisions have to be made, some time corners have to be cut and 99% when the final product comes out different than the prototype there is a reason.  They can’t always tell the public/fans the reasons, but there was a reason.

So for me, I just try to show fans what they will be getting.  And time permitting I try to have some fun with the pictures and show them in a cool, fun light.  Then I let people make up their own minds.

Like I always say – Your mileage may vary.

Comments now closed (13)

  • see, using the word "features" instead of "reviews" is a big step forward, if one is not in fact setting out to do a review. that's nice.

    i would ask this… when you get samples julius, do you note that up front before the body of the feature is presented? cuz certainly, some of your features are stuff you buy, right?

    as far as minutia goes, what do you consider minutia? as an example, a few years ago when the fantastic exclusive anitherians were released and had joint problems, was that something you noted? (and did you follow up with a new review when the 2.0 versions were released?) or when the NECA kratos figures featured the exploding ankles, was that something you noted?

  • Poe, maybe the first question you should have asked each of these reviewers was how much their websites contribute to their annual income. If these guys are conducting their reviews more for their own participation in the hobby, and not as the primary means of supporting their families, then perhaps people shouldn’t get their panties so bunched. Otherwise please use your critical reading skills.

    • I'm fairly certain none of these people use their websites as their primary income. I know Pixel Dan and MWC don't for sure, and I'm pretty sure no one at AFI does.

    • Yeah not sure I can agree with the primary means of income as the measuring stick. I don't think anyone would deny that all of these people are fans, if not always of the stuff they review, but that doesn't mean they can't essentially become "company shills" at points.

      I mean, the guy on the infomercial telling me how the miracle cure-all saved his life, probably isn't using that as his primary means of income either, but it doesn't mean he wasn't essentially paid for a phony testimonial.

      And I think there is a distinction between being a company shill because you're a fan of their product and love what they've done with their licenses, so you sort of become a fanboy and the other side of that, you're a shill cause the company sends you free stuff.

      Obviously the door swings both ways, though. As has been pointed out. I'm not sure there is a "perfect" answer to this ultimate question.

      • I suppose I have failed to make my point well enough. Ultimately I don't care if a reviewer gets his swag for free, and frankly I'd like to see more of it. I am getting the impression that many of you are opposed to this, as if a reviewer who's shelled out his own money is likely to be too negative toward too many products.

        "Hey folks, just spent another $275 at TRU this week and man, was I screwed again! Tune in next week as the masochism continues; watch me buy more crappola and bandwidth on my own dime to do you a favor."

        I look at this site and Fwoosh and Pixel Dan and rest as fans excited about sharing their reviews of products they are interested in. So I know damned well they will gush about their faves and ignore the rest. I love reading Poe's MOTUC reviews these days for the furrowed brow annoyance he has with the line, and like his Godzilla reviews, though I know they will be mostly positive.

        In the end, instead of conspiratorially gnashing our teeth about the reviewer who's lying to us, can we identify any who have? Maybe that's the real benefit of this exposé: who should we avoid?

        • Have I even reviewed a Godzilla toy yet…? I've been holding off on the S.H.MonsterArts stuff, to savor the anticipation. I did decide to start opening and reviewing them once we move into the new house next month. But I've had at least Godzilla and Mechagodzilla since December…but yes, frankly I hope they're positive because I want those figures to be good. That said, even when I want a figure to be good, I'll admit disappointment when it isn't (see: my upcoming Walmart Marvel Legends 6" Hulk review).

          I wouldn't say there are any reviewers who are lying to us, and that wasn't really what I was going for with this series. But I have a few contributors coming up who have dealt very directly with accusations of lying/misleading in the past, and they will have more to say about it.

          I'm also trying to get at least one (anonymous) interview from the other side of the coin with a toy company rep who provides samples to reviewers, but I'm not sure that will happen.

        • " [A]nd like his Godzilla reviews. . ." I made a booboo and left out a "will" from that sentence. I am predicting positivity, however, from the excitement you've shown in your previews.

  • If we find anyone using their site as primary income, they need to write a book for the rest of us. 😀

    I always appreciate Julius’ features method over at AFi most of all because he does exactly what he says, provides an up close show and tell of a figure. It’s great, particularly when we have the biggest toy companies in the world only releasing tiny, little watermarked thumbnails to sell their product!

    I also appreciate the shout out to the real folks behind the scenes. While I do incessantly nitpick on things that can be better and/or need to be fixed, I try to stay positive & respectful to set the tone of the conversation. Those behind the scenes folks read our sites too and if we’re going to make progress or get things changed or made, we have to approach it the right way.

  • Stuff I've learned so far:

    1. Stop wasting time with reviews, companies don't like words cause they can be mean.

    2. Call your pictures a "feature".

    3. Get free toys.

  • I think it would be fair if the "reviewer" or featurer who recieved the product sample relased whatever info and send it back, and later when posting the story note if that person went out and bought it for its normal release. Of course that would challenge these people from getting freebies and would only upset the chosen establishment but in my head that's what makes sense.

  • “Features”? This guy is kidding right? He then goes on to express how fair and honest and how similar he is to print? Really? What magazine reposts press releases word for word?

    ” I don’t value my opinion over anyone elses and I’m not vain enough to think that anyone else cares what I think.”
    …and you started AFI and writing about your opinions, why, exactly then? If you truely thought this, you wouldnt be so heavy handed on people’s comments or so quick to edit the forums. You wouldn’t post 5 page missives about what you thought fans were being stupid about.

    And most certainly, you would not write “features” expressing your opinion or take glamour shots of toys- because why do that when noone cares about your opinon? 😉

    Using the word “feature” instead of review is just semantics, so that Julius can get away with being dishonest to the reader to continue the freebie train and get a job in the industry.

    Julius, you’ve been looking for a job from these guys for years. We all know your history with Burger King toys and we’ve all heard your desire to work for Mattel numerous times. Go look at AFI and tell me about any “feature” which paints Mattel or any of your other buddies. So what is a “feature” on your site exactly? Advertising? And what “insights” do you provide readers, as an “insider”? Beyond being on various PR email lists and copy-pasting press releases verbatim, and editing the forums and comments so they are criticism-free, i mean.

    So let me make sure I get this right: Since only OAFE, IAT, and MWC do “reviews” only *they* have to be honest, since AFI does “features” it can shill shamelessly and say whatever they want…

    It sounds a lot like the World Weekly News when they say they’re “entertainment” and not “news” – so they can say whatever BS they want to.

    • well carl… love his rant BTW… i look at it like this… i am perfectly fine w/ jules representing himself however he likes in this interview… because i read toy reviews. if he's not doing reviews, i have no reason to go there anymore. there are communities where you don't get censored, and where reviews are the order of the day, rather than features… why not just go there?

      he's trying man, he's being honest about his dishonesty. i give the guy a modicum of credit for that. no one in the industry is going to hire him if his features don't get any hits, right? i don't turn on fox news to get actual reporting… same thing here. not saying in any way that you're not entitled to your opinion, but if you don't like what the guy's about or what he's doing, why keep going there?

      • well thats the problem with blog-news and why this series had to be done by somebody at some point right? People being dishonest and getting away with it. We’re talking superhero toys here, where “truth and justice” has been the point for over 70 years….