This is Part II of a multiple-part interview with Brian “Brian-Man” Stevenson of Spy Monkey Creations, conducted by PGPoA contributor VENENOR, about SMC’s brand-new toy line, the Weaponeers of Monkaa. You can read Part I here. –PG
VENENOR: The suggested builds you’ve posted so far are very cool, especially alongside the characters. One thing with this launch that I really like is the included trading cards. They look really great and differ from what I’ve seen from similar lines that go with the header cards attached to the bags.
BRIAN STEVENSON: A lot times those headers get tossed so we wanted to provide something different with the artwork of these figures. We’re very fortunate to be friends with some amazing artists and illustrators that have different skill sets than we do. Their help and collaboration on this line has really helped the look and feel for these characters.
V: It really takes this line to the next level and helps pack a real pro punch to this launch. The presentation has been great overall with the site and the Prologue.
B: Matt “Iron Cow” Cauley of Iron Cow Productions did the Prologue illustrations. We wanted to go with an old 1920’s-30’s pulp feel, and Matt’s style lent itself perfectly to that. With the card art and posters we wanted some clean, concise art that was very 1980s Transformers-looking stuff with bright colors that would pop. For that, we contacted a concept-artist friend of ours. He does concept art for video games and feature films, stuff like that. He’s done a phenomenal job and all the artwork is modular like the figures so if we need to change colors and do different card art he’s got all the elements separate so he can blow them apart and rebuild them like the figures. It’s pretty awesome.
V: And that’ll be great considering future alternate colorways. Art for those figures can be whipped up quickly to tease fans with upcoming drops.
B: That’s the plan. The Gohlems are basically our army builder characters. We’ve got our good guys and bad guys with their factions but we wanted some generic characters too. We plan to write a stories for some of them as they evolve. The Crystal Gohlem from The Stranger’s Tale was shattered by Brutok, then basically resurrected. He’s evolving and we’re definitely not done with him and other Gohlems that will evolve into their own distinct characters.
With that in mind, we can run all sorts of colors of Gohlems. We can do clear/colorless that we can call Diamond Gohlems, we could do all-flat black that’d be Obsidian Gohlems; there’s plenty story-wise that would allow us a chance to have figures molded in any color. We’re even batting around the idea of glow-in-the-dark red, which kinda looks like raw pink meat when it’s dormant but in the dark it glows so bright, like it’s on fire.
V: Just thinking of a spectrum of clear-colored Gohlems is cool. There’s plenty of colors that Glyos has pushed out there that would be cool to see down the line.
B: Yeah, clear yellow and clear purple are some of our favorites. We really want to hit as many colors when we get the chance. Another we really like is the metallics.
V: The metallic gun metal on the Gearo figures is very vibrant. It’s also great that it’s the same color from the original Cold Steel Armory set.
B: It’s definitely something we wanted to do with the main four characters. Matching the colors from our original Armory adds unity among all our pieces. It also gave us a way to reward those that already had Armory sets. By using those colors, it gave us room to throw in a little variety with the Gohlem colors. If the Gohlems prove popular, we can eventually boost their build potential with Magma and Crystal Armory sets.
A nice thing about the Armory is that the dual colors give them good accents to certain colors. It’s the reason why we incorporated the colors into the figures the way we did. The Cold Steel compliments the smoke glitter color in the Empyrean Armory really well, so it goes great with the red.
Being that it was our first foray, there’s a lot of great buildable parts in the Armory. But what we’re finding is that when building there’s certain parts that are pushed off that don’t get incorporated into new builds. But what’s great is those parts are easy to use as accessories for other figures, like Masters of the Universe, Transformers, ThunderCats, etc.
V: With some of the building I’ve done I can relate to that. Most of the time I don’t use the blades but they definitely get used elsewhere in the hands of other figures. One question I have for a builder like myself: what’s the potential for a small pack like the Close Combat Armory, maybe even a Close Combat Armory version 2, where it has small blades but also some of the extra building bits from the original Armory?
B: We’ve thought about doing something like that. The problem is when shooting the tools we’d have to run everything. If we do that we’d end up with a lot of extra bits, such as the wing blades, that we couldn’t do anything with. We’re also trying to create as small of a carbon footprint as possible, taking into consideration that these are plastic petroleum-based products. It wouldn’t fall in line with what we want for our toy line. The reason we devised the Close Combat set was that after the figures were designed, we had a lot of room left in that tool.
We had gotten requests for smaller blades, especially ones that were more Glyos compatible in regards to scale. Many Masters of the Universe and Transformers collectors sent requests for short blades and pistols to equip their figures with true close combat weapons. There was also a bit of a problem with the Dominar handle from the original Armory. In certain colorways, the Dominar handle was a little too pliable, so it’d begin to droop a little bit because of the weight. It was redesigned and included in the Close Combat set to help eliminate that issue for our fans. If we decided to re-run a previous Armory, we might replace the old handle with this redesigned version.
We just think people will be more apt to buy a figure versus a bag of builder parts. We could literally run all of the tools we have in a single color, like black or white, and call it a builder’s set. We just don’t think it’d move compared to individual figures of characters. Like Poe stated in his review, there are a lot of collectors that like to keep the figures how they were released. It’s a collecting trend we’ve observed and it happens more often than not. Using Lego as an example, they market big plastic buckets containing random bricks with suggested builds on the container. Those usually don’t sell well compared to the cohesive sets that are made to be something specific. The specific build sets tend to be more desirable to people.
Builders will be able to get these figures and build and tear them down and create what comes to mind. Take for instance a few of the builds you posted using the Armory sets. They look beyond the fact that it’s a shield, this is a sword, this is a hammer, etc. Sometimes it takes breaking these things down to show what can really be done with them.
V: I’ve had a blast building with the original Armory and I’m looking forward to the build potential with the Weaponeers. Now regarding the original Armory, and considering the Weaponeers use colors from some of those original sets, which Armory was your biggest seller to date?
B: Cold Steel and Bloodlust have been the most popular. It definitely rang true at Power-Con considering the Cold Steel version of the Close Combat set sold really well. Palidar was also very popular, but Empyreus and Umbreus were the most popular of all the figures at the Con. My personal favorite is Brutok, he did well too. We had a suggested build of the Crystal Gohlem showing his new form after being brought back in the life springs. Due to his role in the Prologue, there were some fans buying two of him so they could keep one like he was at the beginning and another in the reformed build. It was was very cool to see the build received so well.
END PART II – PART II coming soon!