Interview > Monster Artist Extraordinaire Matt Frank

MattFrankArt.com

Matt Frank

Specialty: Drawing monsters
Base of Operations: MattFrank.com. You can find much more of his monstrous artwork here.
History: Matt Frank is based in the Golden Land of Texas. He likes pineapple juice. He also loves to draw monsters and anything else that happens to be very, very cool. His comics work includes IDW’s Godzilla and Transformers: Flash Forward and Bluewater Productions’ Ray Harryhausen Presents: Wrath of the Titans.

What toys did you collect as a kid, and what do you collect now?

When I was but a lad, my room (and our storage space) was practically bursting with toys. I had substantial collections relating to Power Rangers, Transformers, Jurassic Park, War Planets, Mighty Max, Ultraman, and, naturally, Godzilla. Largely this was thanks to my grandmother, God rest her soul, and her predilection towards expressing love via large purchases.

Nowadays, as an adult, I’ve had something of a change of priorities without a loss of motivation. My tastes have been refined, somewhat, in that I’ve trimmed my collecting habits down to mostly Godzilla and Ultraman related swag, with the occasional Transformer, but mostly keeping an eye open for the more interesting or unique toy/figure. For example, I came across a model of Osaka Castle that was quite nicely detailed, and it goes perfectly with my six-inch Bandai Godzilla figures! I also came across a rare Reptilicus figure (an exclusive for the Asian Fantasy Film Expo in 2000) while in New York City, and snagged it for my “rare and cool” shelf. Continue reading “Interview > Monster Artist Extraordinaire Matt Frank”

Interview > Brian-Man of Spy Monkey Creations, Part II

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. Continue reading “Interview > Brian-Man of Spy Monkey Creations, Part II”

Interview > Brian-Man of Spy Monkey Creations, Part I

It was over a year ago when I last spoke with the Spy Monkey crew, and the seeds were being planted for their venture into overseas-produced toys with their original Armory set. Going from their in-house resin weapons to injection-molded PVC weapons with interchangeable parts was just the beginning. On October 1, they released their very first lineup of action figures – the Weaponeers of Monkaa.

I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the toy-forging machines, Brian “Brian-Man” Stevenson. This will be Part I of the conversation with Brian that should give you all more insight into the line and more than a few possibilities going forward. Continue reading “Interview > Brian-Man of Spy Monkey Creations, Part I”

Interview > Phil Reed’s “Transforming Collections”

As reported earlier here, PGPoA Power Pal and all-around gentleman Phil Reed of Battlegrip.com is running a Kickstarter project for a book on third-party Transformers, Transforming Collections. The deadline for the project’s latest stretch goal is September 30. We sat down with Phil (by which I mean I sent him a few questions via email) to find out more about the project. Continue reading “Interview > Phil Reed’s “Transforming Collections””

Interview > Ed Speir IV, Toy Photographer

Ed Speir IV

Specialty: Toy collector and photographer; film collector and watcher
Base of Operations: Located in Jackson, GA. My toy/figure photography can be seen here.
Website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25335276@N02/
History: Long-time collector of toys/figures/statues; a sickness inherited from my father I believe (I would guess my father has one of the largest privately-owned toy collections in the US with 30,000-35,000 individual figures/vehicles/playsets). I am also a huge film and anime fan with over 2,000 DVDs/Blu-Rays in my collection. Married with one daughter.

1.) When did you first start first start taking photos of toys, and why?

I began photographing toys somewhere in 2003-2004 I believe. It all started with the now-extinct Spawn.com forum page. I was an avid collector of anything McFarlane/Spawn-related and decided to start photographing my purchases for the various “new haul” threads on the Spawn.com forum. I had a cheap 3.1 megapixel Kodak camera and started shooting pics of figures just sitting on my desk – no backdrop, special lighting or tripod, etc. to post on the forum. Over time, it slowly evolved into setting up shots in front of black poster board, which then evolved into getting a light tent and lighting, which then evolved into setting up backgrounds and dioramas, etc.

Continue reading “Interview > Ed Speir IV, Toy Photographer”

Interview > Sculptor Jean St. Jean

Even if you’re only a casual action figure collector, chances are you’ve heard of Jean St. Jean – and you’ve almost certainly seen (and probably own) his work. His career has spanned many companies and toy lines, among them Diamond Select’s Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, The Munsters and Universal Monsters, and Marvel Select toy lines; Mezco’s mega-scale Thundercats figures; and DC Collectible’s World of Warcraft. He’s also an all-around cool guy. –PG

Jean St. Jean

Real Name: Jean St. Jean
Specialty: Sculptor / Musician
Base of Operations: Northern New Jersey
Website: http://blackplague1348.deviantart.com/
History: Jean St. Jean is a musician turned sculptor, who began his career in a small upstate NY toy sculpting studio doing mostly preschool toys and dolls. Five years later he joined McFarlane where he spent almost 7 years helping them develop their hyper realistic style, the last 4 years as Sculpting Supervisor. In 2004, he left McFarlane to start his own company, Jean St. Jean Studios offering sculpting, painting and prototyping services working on such licenses as Diamonds Select’s Stargate SG-1, SG Atlantis and Battlestar Galactica lines, Mezco’s Cinema of Fear, DC Direct’s World of Warcraft and Ame-Comi and Amoktime’s Killer Klowns and Day of the Dead lines. His current projects have been the Lion-o and Mumm-Ra for Mezco’s Mega scale Thundercats line, the Munsters 7” Select line and various Universal monsters for DST including the Metaluna Mutant and Phantom of the Opera as well as contributions to the Marvel Select figure series. He has sculpted more than 30 mini-busts for DC Direct including Heroes of the DCU, Blackest Night and various movie properties.

Poe Ghostal: The new Marvel Select Venom looks fantastic. What was the process for sculpting this figure? What was your inspiration for the sculpt, and how do you approach Marvel Select sculpting in general? For example, do you tend to skew toward the work of a particular artist, or do you try to create a blend of elements, or come up with your own design?

Jean St. Jean: As with all of my DST projects they usually evolve out of extended conversations with Chuck Terceira (DSTChuck on his Art Asylum blog). In the case of Venom, he’s been requested for so long we wanted to do something special and get slightly outside of the usual MS formula and create a Venom with multiple custom options rather than one version with a base. As with all of the Select projects I’ve done, I picked up a bunch of the collected story lines and graphic novels and re- familiarized my self with his history to find what I thought were the coolest incarnations of the Eddie Brock Venom. First of I wanted a totally badass terrifying Venom with tons of teeth and a nasty tongue and a transforming Eddie Brock. So the “Lethal Protector “ storyline inspired me for those two heads and a huge pair of nasty claws. Then there’s been a lot of requests for the crazy multi-armed multi-headed version from the “Madness” story line, and I came up with a pretty interesting way to create that Venom. Last but not least I wanted to do an old school Todd McFarlane Venom with a big grin! The trick was all these permutations had to work on the same body; all the heads are interchangeable and there are multiple hand options.

In terms of Marvel Select in general I try to find the best elements of the character, such as the Marvel Select comic version Hawkeye (Disney exclusive DST Avengers), Nightcrawler, or Anti-Venom. Diamond expects me to bring my interpretation and vibe to the Marvel line, so I essentially get to do exactly what think should be done with the sculpt and paint work. They are the one company that actually utilizes me as an art director/ project manager and sculptor, so I particularly value my years of collaboration with them. Continue reading “Interview > Sculptor Jean St. Jean”

Interview > Diamond Select’s Zach Oat on Battle Beasts

One of the most talked-about toy lines of this year is Diamond Select’s Battle Beasts. There’s been a lot of speculation about this line, how it came to be and where it’s going, but the buzz is growing: a new comic book from IDW based on the property is already in stores.

I got in touch with Zach Oat, Marketing Supervisor at Diamond Select Toys, to find out more about what the future holds for Battle Beasts.

1.) Let’s start with the obvious: what led Diamond Select to pick up the Battle Beasts trademark, and were you concerned about the fact that you would not have the rights to the original toy designs?

We were brainstorming new concepts for toy lines, and we started thinking about similar toy lines that had experienced success in the past. Battle Beasts came up, so we did a little research and saw that the trademark was actually available. It’s such a great name, and it went well with our Minimates mini-figures, so we acquired it. The name was what we thought had the most value; we already had a lot of ideas for what we could do with the fighting animals concept, and the original toy line was known more for its gimmicks than for its characters and storylines, so we weren’t too worried about not having the rights to them. Continue reading “Interview > Diamond Select’s Zach Oat on Battle Beasts”

Poe Probes > Reviewing Samples, Part 9: Reader Responses

This is the ninth 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.

In addition to interviewing toy reviewers, I also asked readers what they thought of the practice of reviewing samples. Here’s a sampling of some of their responses. (I tried to get as many quotes as I could; some readers wrote thoughtful but very long pieces that simply couldn’t be broken down into bite-size chunks. If there’s enough interest I’d consider posting them as editorials.)

In reading over all the responses (and I got over thirty of them), I noticed some common themes. On the whole, readers said they did think that reviewers who received samples softened their reviews. However, for the last question, most said this was not a concern for them, because either they were aware of the bias and altered their assessment of the review accordingly; or  because they only cared about the pictures/videos of the toys anyway.

Continue reading “Poe Probes > Reviewing Samples, Part 9: Reader Responses”

Reviewing Samples, Part 8: Josh Bernard of CollectionDX.com

This is the eighth 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 Q&A is with Josh Bernard of CollectionDX.com.

1.) When you receive free samples, do you find an urge to be kinder to the item than you might be? If so, do you find yourself softening a bit, do you try to simply be fair, or do you think you end up trying to be even more objective than usual?

The first thing to realize is there are different kinds of samples with different objectives. Manufacturers send out samples to create hype and generate interest, often before product hits the shelves. Retailers on the other hand send samples purely to drive sales to their store, and to sell that specific product. The difference is that manufacturers often send random things, without little regard to what our site actually covers. Retailers know what sells for them, what good product is, and therefore rarely send items that are not of good quality. After all, their objective is to sell more of that unit.

I think when we were starting out there were some cases where we held back some negative opinions on some items. We’ve struck a nice balance now where if you are constructive with your criticism people tend to respect your opinion. If we just went out and started raging I think we would lose credibility. I tell each of my writers to always write an honest review – but be constructive. Point out both good and bad of each toy, and let the reader decide if it is for them.

We do encourage our writers to pick sample items that they are interested in, so the toy is reviewed through the eyes of proper perspective. With so many “staff” reviewers now, and so many samples coming in, it can be hard to keep track of them and maintain a consistent editorial voice, but we try our best. Continue reading “Reviewing Samples, Part 8: Josh Bernard of CollectionDX.com”