TOYFARE WEEK > 5 Questions with: Jon Gutierrez

JGCodename: Jon Gutierrez
Specialty: Price Guide Editor
Base of Operations: ToyFare magazine
History: After getting a degree in political science/journalism from the University of Connecticut, Jon worked as a newspaper reporter until he realized that covering town meetings wasn’t going to get less boring. He then managed to land a job as ToyFare‘s first dedicated price guide editor, which he’s been ever since. In his spare time, he’s a comedy writer/performer with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, where he’s on the house team T.R.U.C.K.S.

PG: Please describe what you do at ToyFare. Is this the culmination of a lifelong desire to work with toys or the inevitable result of a misspent youth?

I’m the price guide editor, which means in addition to writing for the magazine and Twisted ToyFare Theater, I also determine the prices of every figure in the price guide. I kind of stumbled into ToyFare after getting bored with “normal” journalism–but the obsession I had for toys during my youth makes this my dream job.

PG: Please list the toys in your work area.

Um, it’s a huge pile of different figures, with different limbs sticking out of it like a cartoon fistfight. From my sitting vantage point, I can see a Diamond ST:TNG Q figure, a 3/4 completed Legendary Comic Book Heroes Monkeyman figure and two Superhero Beakers in his (their?) Rocketeer outfits. Their probably my favorite figure overall, at least until someone can come out with a Rocketeer figure I can afford.

PG: What’s the most interesting thing going on in the toy industry today?

For me, it’s getting to buy updated (and better) versions of the figures I had as a kid. I’m grabbing all of the new G.I. Joe 25th Anniversary figures when they come out and I can’t wait for those new NECA classic-style Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to come out.

PG: What’s the best thing about working at ToyFare?

Hanging out with the rest of the staff. We’re all good friends that just happen to get together every day and put out a magazine together. It’s a wonderful environment to work in.

PG: What’s your fondest toy-related holiday memory?

It’s not quite a holiday related memory, but my favorite toy memory is my Dad coming home and giving me my first Star Wars figure. It was the classic Tatooine-outfit Luke, of course, and I remember him explaining that it was a little version of that guy in the Star Wars movie. I think it took me a while to understand–I was four or so–but I still love that he went by the store and picked one up for me just because he thought I might like it.

TOYFARE WEEK > 5 Questions with: Jairo Leon

Codename: Jairo Leon
Base of Operations: ToyFare Magazine
History: Shrouded in mystery/not submitted.

PG: Please describe what you do at ToyFare. Is this the culmination of a lifelong desire to work with toys or the inevitable result of a misspent youth?

I’m a graphic designer. I layout the magazine and help put together Twisted Toyfare Theater. I like toys and I like designing, so you put the two together and you get ToyFare. It’s the ideal job for both of the things that I like.

PG: Please list the toys in your work area.

On my desk you’ll find a couple of Marvel Legends like Juggernaut (my favorite), Hulk. Abomination, Spidey and a few others from the ‘build-a-figure lines.’ I also have a few Japanese figures from Guyver, Fullmetal Alchemist and Dragon Ball Z.

PG: What’s the most interesting thing going on in the toy industry today?

One of my favorite current trends is how video games are getting their own toy lines. I love when a really good video game gets a figure made from it. Like the Bioshock Big Daddy figure that came with the special edition game. The God of War figures are really cool (although they have weak ankles) and so are the Assassin’s Creed figures. The upcoming Gears of War toys are definitely on my toys-to-buy list.

PG: What’s the best thing about working at ToyFare?

There’s always something cool in the process of being made or about to be released and as the designer, I get a sneak peek at early prototypes and final versions of the product.

PG: What’s your fondest toy-related holiday memory?

When I was a kid I got a full-size Voltron. As a kid, you really get a kick out of building lions into a robot.

TOYFARE WEEK > 5 Questions with: Justin Aclin

tttspidey2.jpgCodename: Justin Aclin, a.k.a. Willy Wampa on the Wizard Universe Message Board
Specialty: Senior Editor (Note – this title has absolutely nothing to do with seniority)
Base of Operations: ToyFare magazine
History: Justin Aclin is:
1. The youngest member of the ToyFare staff
2. The first one to get married
3. The only one with a kid
4. The one with the most prodigious facial hair

PG: Please describe what you do at ToyFare. Is this the culmination of a lifelong desire to work with toys or the inevitable result of a misspent youth?

I’ve always loved toys (there’s a great picture of three-year-old me proudly holding up a Skeletor figure), but I’m not a guy who lives and breathes toys 24/7. I’m a mega-comic fan and I’ve been reading Wizard since issue #10, so I immediately started reading ToyFare when it started up slightly over 10 years ago. I immediately became a big fan. I would always make my non-comic fan college friends read Twisted ToyFare Theatre, and they always thought it was hysterical. I remember entering a “Make your own Big Shots” contest way back in the day. So I guess you could say my dream was to work with ToyFare more than it was to work with toys. Of course, working with toys is really awesome, too.

As for what I do at ToyFare, Editor Zach Oat and I do most of the nitty-gritty editorial stuff for the magazine-editing features, writing word balloons, keeping in touch with toy companies to find out what they’ve got coming up, etc. Additionally, I’m one of the head writers of Twisted ToyFare Theatre, which is far and away the most fun part of the job. If I can just plug for a second, hardcore ToyFare fans should definitely pick up the Twisted ToyFare Theatre 10th Anniversary Collection. It’s got some great old strips in there, but we worked our asses off on the new material, too.

PG: Please list the toys in your work area.

Oh, man…that’s a mouthful. I’ll give some highlights, from right to left on my desk. There’s our custom Naked Jonathan Frakes figure, the star of several back-page strips that we’ve inflicted on our readers, as customized by Mr. Joe Amaro. Then there’s the crown jewel of my collection – my custom Justin Aclin MiniMate by Matt “Iron-Cow” Cauley. Now that Matt designs MiniMates professionally, I choose to think of this as an official MiniMate (several of which litter my desk).

I’ve got a bunch of DC Direct and Marvel figures (comic fan, as I mentioned), and the Hyper Guardian from Xevoz, the toy line I wish existed today more than any other toy line. Then there are some new Toynami Futurama figures (including our exclusive Blue Zoidberg), a couple of Final Fantasy Figures and a Hordak mini-statue by the Four Horsemen.

Bringing up the rear isn’t a toy at all – it’s a cool demonic axe, as designed by an old family friend, Paul Ehlers. Check it out here.

PG: What’s the most interesting thing going on in the toy industry today?

I think the coolest thing happening in the industry is the new trend that there is no cult movie too small to become action figures. Three years ago, who would have thought we’d be seeing toys for The Big Lebowski, Goonies and The Princess Bride.

Of course there’s a cost to that kind of coolness, and for me it’s the lack of really compelling original concepts on the toy shelves. I mentioned Xevoz before – for me they really captured the spirit and inventiveness of those ’80s original properties. He-Man, when you think about it, is really crazy. You’ve got barbarians and robots and cowboys and bird people, all mixed up together. Xevoz captured that same spirit for me, and the customizability just kicked it up to the next level. I’d love to see somebody else step up to the plate like that and create a property that could become a cartoon or a comic, instead of the other way around. The Four Horsemen have a lot of great ideas they’ve been exploring through their FANtastic Exclusive, and part of me wishes they were mass-market lines instead of the very limited exclusives they are.

PG: What’s the best thing about working at ToyFare?

It’s got to be a tie between the extremely nice and funny guys I work with every day, and the insane knowledge that it’s my job to check out the coolest new toys, then write jokes about them. It still feels surreal. Tied into that is doing Twisted ToyFare, of course. That really has been a dream come true.

It also gives me a great platform to plug my very first real comic book, Hero House, set to be published next year by Arcana Comics. Keep an eye out for it and get ready to bug your local retailer.

Man, I’m the king of plugs.

PG: What’s your fondest toy-related holiday memory?

I’ve got a terrible memory, so there’s nothing that sticks out especially in my mind from my childhood. Just in general, there being eight nights of Chanukah, the best nights were always the ones where my mom handed me a gift-wrapped present that clearly had a blister bubble. That was the tell-tale sign it was going to be awesome.

TOYFARE WEEK > 5 Questions with: Adam Tracey

adam3.jpgCodename: Adam Tracey
Specialty: Managing Editor
Base of Operations: ToyFare magazine
History: Born and raised in the swamps of Louisiana and the French Quarter of New Orleans, Adam Tracey has no stomach. Instead, he has an iron box connected to his throat that is capable of processing all manner of seemingly inedible things, such as “mud bugs” and swamp-raised alligator. In the winter, Adam uses Tabasco sauce to keep warm. In the summer, he uses it to cool off. From age three to age seven, Adam’s parents lead him to believe that he was named after Prince Adam of Masters of the Universe fame, even though MOTU wasn’t released until after Adam was born. Afterward, they told him he was named after Battlestar Galactica’s Commander Adama. The original BSG came out in 1978, before Adam was born, so that one stuck.

PG: Please describe what you do at ToyFare. Is this the culmination of a lifelong desire to work with toys or the inevitable result of a misspent youth?

My job as managing editor is to oversee all schedules and timetables for the magazine. I also initially outline features and assign them out to freelance writers, making sure that they’re getting in touch with sources, doing research and turning in their stories on time. I also make sure that everything that’s time-sensitive to the magazine-such as when certain meetings are held or when a new “Twisted ToyFare Theatre” idea needs to be outlined-is done so that other things aren’t pushed off deadline. I also liaise with other departments to help things run more smoothly. I also have to use the word “liaise” at least once a week; it’s in my contract.

I’d say this is most definitely the result of a misspent youth. I have always loved toys, cartoons and sci-fi, but in college I thought I wanted to be an artsy-fartsy novelist or English professor. Y’know, read good books over and over and teach young co-eds why they’re good books? Turns out I just wanted to work someplace where both my anal-retentive attention to detail and my useless knowledge of pop culture could be put to good use. Where else does my ability to recite History of the World, Part 1 from start to finish come in handy? Not at some stuffy publishing house, that’s for sure.

PG: Please list the toys in your work area.

  • 2007 SDCC-exclusive NECA/Four Horsemen Classic Colors He-Man Mini-Statue, with ’80s Power Sword! (Thanks, Zach!)
  • The new Futurama Series 1 Zoidberg by Toynami
  • New Futurama Series 1 Fry by Toynami
  • Rocket USA’s die-cast “heavy metal” Bender (he’s heavy metal ’cause he’s actually metal and, therefore, heavy)
  • The ToyFare-exclusive Blue “Universe 1” Zoidberg by Toynami (with a Farnsworth Parabox that I made from his packaging!)
  • Toynami’s SDCC-exclusive “Mating Season” Zoidberg (with the head-fin)
  • Toy Biz Marvel Legends Hulkbuster Iron Man (Thanks, Zach!)
  • A Halo 2 Master Chief mini-figure
  • A Halo 2 Master Chief Kubrick
  • And Revoltech’s gorgeous Optimus Prime (a.k.a. Convoy) and Megatron figures! Megs is taunting Prime with the little Matrix of Leadership that Optimus comes with. Maybe tomorrow Prime will roundhouse-kick Megs in his big, fat, metal face!

PG: What’s the most interesting thing going on in the toy industry today?

I’d say the industry’s acknowledgement of and the resurgence of the “retro” toys of our youth is the most exciting thing happening. Diamond Select Toys is releasing Star Trek figures in the old cloth-costumed Mego style, and I think they’re using Mego’s original molds! And Hasbro is taking their 3.75-inch figures and giving them more articulation, better sculpting and just making them cooler to play with all around. Sure, they’re doing cool things with their newer Sigma 6-style figures, but they’ve really invested a lot in their more classic-style figures, and I think it’s paying off.

PG: What’s the best thing about working at ToyFare?

The people I work with-Editor Zach Oat, Senior Editor Justin Aclin, Price Guide Editor Jon Gutierrez and Designer Jairo Leon-constantly keep me in stitches! I have such a great time at work with these guys. (Be sure to ask Zach to do his impression of the Gingerbread Man from Shrek! ) And they’re professionals as well as a really great bunch of guys. The amount of creativity in that office could fill…something large and clever!

PG: What’s your fondest toy-related holiday memory?

When I was, like, four or five years old I got the MOTU Castle Grayskull playset for Xmas (pronounced “ex-miss” like in Futurama). I’d already collected so many of the MOTU toys and vehicles, and this playset “really brought the room together.” Y’know that home video on the Internet of the kid completely freaking out and losing his shit when he got a Nintendo? (The one that BMW modified for their a marketing campaign?) Yeah, that was me that Xmas. To a “T.”

My cousin Mark-who’s my age and had a complete set of Silverhawks figures and vehicles-got the Snake Mountain playset a year later, and he and I would get together to play “Masters of the Universe” and battle each other for dominance over Eternia! I was so into He-Man back then (and still am!). It was a real blow to my childhood when the ‘rents revealed that I, in fact, was not named after Prince Adam. I guess Commander Adama’s a cool namesake, especially since he never wore as much pink as Prince Adam.

TOYFARE WEEK > 5 Questions with: Zach Oat

zoat.jpgCodename: Zach Oat
Specialty: Editor
Base of Operations: ToyFare magazine
History: Zach Oat grew up in the affluent suburbs of Rhode Island, where he was only allowed to play with wooden blocks and watch public television. But when his father fell in with some of the local Hasbro employees, Zach quickly became proficient in all G.I. Joe small arms, with a secondary specialty in Transformers repairs and modifications. He even considered it as a career, until he discovered girls.

While attending St. Cyr military academy, where he majored in studio art, he rediscovered toys, particularly the cheap Marvel figures available in the local Kay Bee. Upon graduation, he immediately returned to Rhode Island and signed up with a small toy company to finish his training. Three months later he was drafted by Wizard Entertainment, where he rose through the ranks to command their crack ToyFare squad.

“You can’t find guys like Zach on Craig’s List – you have to grow them in special tanks, pumping nutrients, oxygen and the latest assortment of Marvel Legends in through a tube. He’s got a handshake like a dead fish and he leaves wet spots on all the furniture.”

PG: Please describe what you do at ToyFare. Is this the culmination of a lifelong desire to work with toys or the inevitable result of a misspent youth?

I head up the ToyFare magazine team, planning future issues and making sure all of our features and departments live up to our high ToyFare standards. I work with Justin on Incoming, Jon on Price Guide, Jake on FanFare, Dylan on photography, Jairo on design, everybody on Twisted ToyFare, and Adam on planning and scheduling. I proofread and/or fact-check everything we print, I photograph a lot of special events like Toy Fair and I’m also responsible for all C.O.P.S. coverage in the magazine.

Working here is a happy accident. I applied for an internship and didn’t get it my junior year, but I scored a job interview shortly after I graduated. I had conveniently worked as a copy editor at a couple of small papers before and during college, I’d gotten back into toys while at college, and I’d interned at a toy company right out of school, so it was kind of perfect. I started out as a copy editor, but it was so much fun working here that I just stuck it out, and eight years later here I am.

PG: Please list the toys in your work area.

Custom Metalocalypse Dr. Roxxo Mego-style figure by Alex Kropinak
Bif Bang Pow!’s Talking Big Lebowski Bobblehead
DC Direct’s WildCATs Voodoo Statue (signed by Tim Bruckner)
DC Direct’s Infinite Crisis Wonder Woman
Diamond Select Toys’ Marvel Goblin Queen Statue
Diamond Select Toys’ Talking “Wrath of Khan” Enterprise
Mattel’s DC Superheroes Steel, Clayface and Parasite
McFarlane Toys’ Blair Monster from The Thing (Wilford Brimley)
McFarlane Toys’ Elizabeth Bathory
The Four Horsemen/NECA’s Full-Size Skeletor Statue
Mattel’s vintage Skeletor in vintage Roton
Toy2R’s Classic Bad Boy 8-inch Qee
Toy Biz’s Superhero Showdown Namor with Hammerhead Shark
Customized Cowboy Snake Eyes (riding shark)
Cards Inc.’s Golden Compass Sam Elliott figure (riding shark)
Bandai’s Big O figure
Eight wind-up dancing squirrels

PG: What’s the most interesting thing going on in the toy industry today?

Toys I want getting made? Everyone is jumping on the return of Indiana Jones, ending a long toy drought, and we’re also getting Goonies toys, Metalocalypse toys, Heroes toys, Princess Bride toys, Conan the Barbarian toys, Labyrinth toys, Shaun of the Dead toys, Wrath of Khan toys…it’s like I’m living in a dream.

PG: What’s the best thing about working at ToyFare?

I genuinely like the people I work with (Jon and I have known each other for fifteen years), and most of our meetings involve us sitting around trying to make each other laugh – and it’s entirely work-related. Also, I get to see toys well before they come out, which is both good and bad, in that I want to buy a lot of them.

PG: What’s your fondest toy-related holiday memory?

I can’t remember the last time someone got me a toy for the holidays. I must have gotten a Transformer or Joe vehicle for Christmas in my childhood but I can’t remember which ones, for the life of me. And I never had anything bigger than Optimus Prime or the Amphibious Personnel Carrier – no Flagg or Trypticon or anything like that. I had half of Devastator, and my brother had the other half. Nobody has bought me a toy in years – they assume I have everything. I don’t!

5 Questions with: yo go re of OAFE

yo go reCodename: yo go re
Specialty: Toy reviewing
Base of Operations: Online Action Figure Entertainment (OAFE)
Did you know? All the “facts” you’ve heard about Chuck Norris? They’re actually about yo go re. He just knew Chuck’s feelings would be hurt if no one was talking about him.

PG: What is the first action figure you remember owning?

It barely counts as an action figure, what with only two points of articulation, but the first figure I have a distinct memory of owning is Ram-Man. Or maybe Trap-Jaw.

PG: What’s your favorite review among those you’ve written for OAFE?

I don’t really have one. I’m of the Ron Popeil school of creativity: I just set it and forget it. My favorite is whichever one last helped someone to make a decision. Which is a crap answer, so I’ll say Ultron, because it provoked a response from Jesse Falcon.

PG: What’s the most interesting thing going on in the action figure industry today?

Despite the horrendous delays they faced in 2007, the Four Horsemen’s FANtastic Exclusive is awesome. Fan-directed toys? That’s wicked awesome! Of course, that may just be because so far everything I’ve voted for has won. And did you see the article in ToyFare about how the Seventh Kingdom is becoming its own real line? Even better!

PG: Spill it: what the heck does “yo go re” mean?

It’s the Fukawi Indian word for “small totemic carving.” And you can tell that to the Marines! [Note: yo go re is full of crap. –PG]

PG: What’s your fondest toy-related holiday memory?

Probably Santa Claus giving me the last Constructicon I needed to complete the G1 Devastator. And I don’t mean that in an abstract way: a guy dressed as Santa actually came to the house to give all us kids presents one year, and the one I got was Long Haul. Of course, I didn’t have the rest of the Constructicons with me, so I still had to wait a few days to build the big guy, but that was still a hell of a sense of accomplishment for a little kid.

5 Questions with: Red Kryptonite

RKCodename: Red Kryptonite
Base of Operations: Cambridge, Mass.
History: Red Kryptonite was raised by ewoks. Consequently, she is able to make elaborate patio furniture from sticks and twine, and is furry and adorable. When she grew to be three times as tall as her parents, they decided she was actually a wookiee. [She’s also the creator of all the art on this site. –PG]

PG: What was your favorite toy line growing up?

RK: Gotta be the Kenner Star Wars toys, with their tiny extending light sabers (please ignore how filthy that sounds) and their vinyl cloaks. You could own the entire, to-scale world. I had Chief Chirpa and Wicket; the ewok village; various cantina and Jabba-palace creatures; a 3PO whose arms and legs kept falling off, no matter how many times I glued him back together; Leia as bounty hunter; Lando as spy; several Vaders (lost one behind the couch but found him again); a vintage black-vested Han and a Chewie. On Sunday evenings they would take sides on the dining room table, and my dad and I would wage epic battles that were really just an excuse for us to chuck action figures at each other and make Wilhelm screams when they slid off the edge.

PG: Did the industry divide between “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys” bother you?

RK: No. My parents never pressured stereotypical “female” toys on me or made me feel weird that I didn’t care about baby dolls who cried and wet themselves. (I still don’t get it; how is that fun?) I was more a cute animal/dinosaur/movie tie-in action figure enthusiast, and the ‘rents were happy to encourage that.

I had no interest in Barbie–other than her bitchin’ remote control convertible, which I *did* receive for Christmas one year–so they had no interest in forcing her on me. The only Barbie I ever owned spent the majority of her life trussed up and held for ransom inside a Hess truck.

PG: What’s your favorite Christmas television special?

RK: There are two things I adore most in this world (for the purposes of answering this question) and they are: stop-motion animation and puppets. In the former category, “Rudolph” wins, not by a nose, but by a cowboy on an ostrich. Of the latter, I choose the Jim Henson, not-technically-Muppetverse “The Christmas Toy,” which, despite predating “Toy Story” by many years, is about the secret lives of well-loved toybox denizens threatened by a new, flashier toy with a personality disorder. As an added twist, if a human in “The Christmas Toy” catches a toy moving of its own volition, that toy becomes inert forever. I was never the same after I realized my own potential as a toykiller.

PG: What’s your favorite toy-related Christmas memory?

RK: Probably the year my parents got a toy: a Casio keyboard, complete with pre-recorded backing beats like ‘rumba,’ ‘waltz’, and the amazing ‘demo’ button, which played a five-minute synth symphony of funk.

PG: In your opinion, what are the top five movie Santa Clauses and why?

RK: In no particular order:

Stabby Santa, “Hot Fuzz”

–Peter Jackson, in a half-second cameo, stabbing Simon Pegg through the hand. Brilliant.

St. Nicholas, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”

–I love the idea of St. Nick outfitting children for hand-to-hand combat.

Santa, Rankin-Bass’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

–Because he’s such a dick. I like my Santas salty.

Ed Asner, “Elf”

–Casting that is too perfect to attempt to convey with mere words.

Dan Akyroyd, “Trading Places”

–The most awesomely pathetic moment ever committed to film. Reminds me every time what the holidays are all about, and how lucky I am not to be destitute, filthy, and the pawn of rich old white dudes. (Watch it now. Video NSFW for language and graphic depictions of Dan Akroyd under severe emotional distress.)

5 Questions with: Paul of Toy Bender

Codename: Paul
Base of Operations: www.toybender.com
History: Paul is a responsible corporate drone by day and a toy collecting writer at night.

I’ve only recently started reading Paul’s blog, Toy Bender, but it’s quickly become one of my must-reads. With a candid style and thoughtful insight on many toy-related topics, Paul was one of my inspirations in creating this site. One of the site’s most fun regular features are the Toy Ads that Time Forgot.

PG: How long have you been collecting toys?

Paul: I’ve been officially collecting toys since the Star Wars Bend-ems in the early 90s when I was in my early teens. I had a few toys I kept in packages before that (therefore separating them from toys I played with), but the Bend-ems crossed the line over into the world of collecting as I had stopped playing with toys by then. By the way, you might be wondering why in the hell I was buying Bend-ems in the first place. I was so desperate for new Star Wars figures and it was all that was being made at the time that was even close. I personally owe the ghost of Kenner my first born child.

PG: What made you decide to create a blog about toys?

Paul: Technically, I did not create a blog about toys. A while back I thought that I wanted to expand my writing and spread my thoughts across the world like that virus that makes you poop blood. I saw on a writers’ forum a post about the launch of the blogging network 451 Press. I checked out the categories they had at the time and out of all the things that I could write ten posts a week about (the old minimum back then), toy collecting was it. I sent in my application and I took the helm of Toy Bender and the Internet has never been the same…or something.

PG: How would you describe Toy Bender?

Paul: Toy Bender is my thoughts on the newest toys that I think are great. The beauty of the site is that I feel as if I’m a bit outside of the normal toy collecting world, so I don’t offer a standard point of view, which I feel makes Toy Bender more accessible then an obsessive fan site. It’s also a fun interactive place for collectors who want a different perspective than a straight toy news site will offer.

PG: What’s the best toy you ever received as a holiday gift?

Paul: Now that’s a tough question, since my parents were pretty damn good at getting me a lot of great stuff for both birthdays and Christmas. I think it would a be a dead even tie. Power Master Optimus Prime because he was a super sweet gift I got one year and I didn’t even know he existed before I got him. The Ewok Village playset was also equally awesome because I received it from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer who obviously brings the best gifts for those who give him some recognition. Suck it, Santa!

PG: What’s the worst toy commercial you’ve ever seen?

Paul: By far it would have to be the ad for the Swing Wing. You can’t get any worse than the Swing Wing mainly because it’s a vomit inducingly bad idea that was sold like it was the most fun thing of all time. If you want overall bad production values though, there’s this local ad featuring a little girl who raps about this toy store that makes you want to tear your ears out and jam sharp objects in your ears. Hell, I’d even go so far to say that any commercial that uses rap is the worst toy commercial ever.

10 Questions With: The Four Horsemen

The Four HorsemenCodename: The Four Horsemen
Base of Operations: The Garden State
History: The origins of Four Horsemen Toy Design Studios can be traced back to the four partner’s days of working together in the trenches of McFarlane Toys. Eric Treadaway, Jim Preziosi, H. Eric ‘Cornboy’ Mayse, and Chris Dahlberg discovered early on that their various abilities worked well together, and they tried to make sure that each new project that came their way became a collaborative effort between them. After working together at McFarlane Toys for a few years, they realized that the toys that they were having to design and create were moving in a somewhat different direction than they had anticipated. It was during this time that one of them jokingly said that they’d ‘eventually ride off like four horsemen into May the sunset’ to start their own toy design company.

Action figures have been around since that first G.I. Joe in 1964, but until recently it was unusual for the public to be familiar with anyone involved in the process of creating those figures–particularly the sculptors. But that began to change in the 1990s when Todd McFarlane revolutionized the industry with his incredibly detailed action figures. With the added emphasis on high-quality sculpting came a newfound collector appreciation wholesale jerseys for the skills involved and the designers and sculptors who put so much effort into the

No one has done more for the cause than the Four Horsemen. In the 1990s, the amazing work of the sculptors at McFarlane Toys won them many fans–even if those fans didn’t know who they were. About seven years ago, four of those sculptors–Eric “Cornboy” Mayse, Chris Dahlberg, Jim Peliozi and Eric Treadaway–decided to leave McFarlane and strike out on their own, creating the Four Horsemen design studio and quickly striking up a deal with industry giant Mattel to bring back one of the company’s most famous toy lines, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (MOTU). Featuring distinctive high-quality sculpting and unique character designs, the MOTU revamp made celebrities out of the Horsemen, thanks largely to Mattel’s strong public support for the team.

Since then, the Horsemen’s talents have been on display in figures for Toy Biz (now Marvel Toys), NECA, and of course, their own FANtastic Exclusive–an innovative Web project in which the Horsemen ask action figure fans to help design of a brand-new, original action figure to be sold at the following year’s conventions. Fans get to vote on every step of the process, from character selection to scale, to articulation and accessories. It’s an ambitious project, and its continued success (it’s now in its third year) may represent the next small step–or giant leap–for the action figure industry.

I’m very happy to call the Horsemen friends of mine. Not best friends, but not mere acquaintances, either. I mean, if I ran into one of them on the street–once I’d explained who I was–we could stop and have a conversation. And not an awkward one, but a genuine exchange of ideas. Or maybe we’d just grab a beer.

Anyway, the Horsemen have very kindly granted PoA an interview for our second-ever blog post. Read on to get an insight into how the Horsemen design toys, what their favorite Christmas presents were, and even who Santa’s favorite superhero is.

Poe Ghostal: Do you do any sort of research before you begin to sculpt a figure? For instance, what inspired the detailing on the DCSH Batman’s gloves and boots?The best Batman action figure ever made

ERIC TREADAWAY: We absolutely do. When we started on that version of Batman, the guys over at DC were really encouraging us to push things a little more than we normally had. One of the things that was mentioned was to take some cues from the latest Batman movie in the way that his costume had a very “super heroic” feel while still being tied very much to the real world. From there we decided to take a slightly more utility/military approach with certain aspects of the costume. This carried over into portions of the Batgirl costumes as well.

JIM PREZIOSI: For those in particular, we searched out reference for both the boots and the gloves, and then upgraded them somewhat to make them seem a little more futuristic. We have lots of books and magazines around the studio that we keep on hand for reference, but a lot of reference that we use now comes from the internet. We really wonder how we got by before the World Wide Web.

PG: When you sculpt a figure that is using some reused or retooled parts, do you just sculpt the torso, or arms, or whatever the new parts are, or do you also use the reused parts as a base?

CHRIS DAHLBERG:
During the sculpting process we combine castings of the parts that will be retooled with any newly sculpted parts there may be. When we send the tooling patterns over to Mattel, we only send them the newly sculpted parts. They’ll already have the steel tooling made up for the pre-existing parts.

PG: Regarding DC Superheroes: Some of the figures in this line (in the early Batman/DCSH days, at least) seem inspired, design-wise, by their DC animated counterparts (e.g., the first Supergirl release, Clayface, Mr. Freeze). Other characters are clearly based on 【水野朝陽】「誰にも言っちゃダメよ…」甥の性処理懇願に…授乳手コキ&優しい騎乗位でオマンコに出させてくれました their 1980s Super Powers look (Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Crime Stopper Batman). Do you usually try to select the most “toyetic” version of a character, the most classically iconic, or both?

Superman's underwearJP: A little of both actually. We like to find what we consider to be the most iconic version of the character, and then see if there’s a way to blend in the best aspects of other versions of that character from throughout the wholesale NBA jerseys character’s history. Whether those aspects are from movies, comics, cartoons, previously made toys, underroos, whatever helps us to create the coolest figure we can make. Then we try to add a little of our own flair into the character. Luckily, both Mattel and DC have really encouraged us to do just that, rather than seeing it as a negative thing.

PG: We know you guys wholesale nba jerseys were fans of the original Masters of the Universe line. Were you also big fans of Super Powers and Secret Wars? How does it feel to be sculpting classic heroes like Batman and Superman?

Eric “Cornboy” Mayse (CB): I really liked both Super Powers and Secret Wars. I still have the Secret Wars Iron Man floating around somewhere, and I have quite a few of the (very well used) Super Powers to figures as well. Still don’t have Shazam Shazam!(Captain Marvel) though…. Working on Superman, Batman and all of the other DC SuperHeroes is like a dream come true for us. Being big comic and toy geeks as kids (and even now), there’s no cooler job we could have.

ET:
Exactly. When we learned we were going to be working on Masters of the Universe for Mattel, our thoughts were, “How could it get any better than this? There’s no way.” Now we’re working on a whole universe of other iconic characters in the DC Universe, and we’ve been proven wrong. It got better. Besides Masters of the Universe, Super Powers was one of my favorite toy lines as a kid, and to get the chance to go back and re-do many of the characters that were done in that line is an honor.

PG: Let’s talk about Wayne Barlowe’s Power Lords series. Some of you have mentioned your love of this line in the past. How much did it inspire some of the lines in the Fantastic Exclusive concept?

Power LordsET:
Power Lords is one of my favorite lines of all time! I feel like it was underrated as well as way ahead of its time. The designs were so strange and so well designed, I think they were just over people’s head at that time. If there were adult collectors then like there are now, it might have been a different story. As far as influence, I would say that Power Lords has some impact on every line that I design. Not so much the specific look, but the idea of making a line with such a diverse group of differently shaped and sized characters with designs that range from the “normal” looking to the bizarre. The line more specifically influenced the alien line that was in the previous two years of FANtastic Exclusive. I always loved the fact that the Power Lords, along with many of Barlowe’s designs, actually looked so alien rather than like humans in costumes.

PG: The production on the Ramathorr exclusive had a few problems. What have you learned from the experience, in regard to future Fantastic Exclusives?

CB: Wow. We’re still dealing with issues that we ran into with the production of Ramathorr. When we first started producing our own action figures, beginning with Commander Argus and later Xetheus: Champion of Mynothecea, the production process went really smoothly. Of course there were a few hiccups here and there, but for the most part we were wondering what the big deal was. We’d heard so many horror stories, but hadn’t experienced any of that ourselves. People told us that we had been pretty lucky. Well, our Ramathorrluck almost ran out during the production of Ramathorr. From the beginning there were pricing issues, then when we received the product it didn’t meet our expectations so we talked the factory into going back into production to repair the problems. We were then told there would be a delay in our production because larger companies Points were pressuring them to get their stuff done first. The most recent problem was that the factory we were using decided they were shutting all production down permanently before our production was finished and we might lose all of the steel molds that we’d already paid thousands of dollars for. It became a nightmare.

JP: Luckily, a friend of ours was over there working at the time. Between his efforts and a lot of help from the guys over at NECA we were able to retrieve our molds from the closed factory and move them to another factory to begin production anew. So, the good news is we got our molds into a new factory and are starting production again. The bad news is that we’ve lost the money we paid to the closed factory so far, and we’ll probably have to pay most of the money a second time to the new factory in order to do the new production run. The worst part is that we just have to sit back and let it happen, because there’s not really all that much we can do about it.

PG: Do any of you collect the holiday-themed toy lines, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman?

ET: Somewhat. The Rudolph figures that were released a few years ago were really nice, and the “Year Without a Santa Claus” figures that NECA did a while back were fantastic. The Heat Miser and Snow Miser figures are awesome.

PG: Here’s one for the kiddies out there: how closely do you work with Santa around the holidays? What’s he like?Santa Claus

JP: Santa’s pretty cool with us. When we originally started the company he didn’t come around much because we’d all somehow made it on his “naughty” list. We think Todd McFarlane might’ve had something to do with that. But then after he found out that we’d sculpted two different Batgirls for Mattels’ DC SuperHeroes line he immediately switched us over to the “nice” list. In case you didn’t know, Santa’s a HUGE Batgirl fan. He drops in every week for Taco Bell Friday now. Want us to put in a good word for you?

PG: This one is for all four of you: what’s the best toy you ever received on the holidays?

Damn dirty apeCB: Mego Planet of the Apes figures and treehouse. Out of all of the PotA figures, the Ape Soldier was the one I wanted most. Even if I didn’t get all of the others that I wanted, if I only got the Ape Soldier I would be happy. After opening all of the presents I got, there was no Ape Soldier. I was bummed out. Then my Dad asked me how I liked the motorcycle model kit Santa had brought me. I had no idea why Santa would have brought me the exact same model kit that my older brother had bought just a couple of weeks before. Dad, being sneaky and pretty damned mean had hidden the Ape Soldier in that model kit box. I was pretty happy after I realized what he’d done.

BartenderJP: I had a pretty unusual toy. It was a metal bartender whose nose would light up and smoke would roll out of his ears as he was making you a drink. It was a pretty unusual toy for a kid, but at the time I didn’t look at it the way someone would see it today. I just thought it was a really cool toy with an awesome action feature. I recently found a couple online and started collecting them again. There are a lot more variations of that toy than I thought there were.

CD: Underwear. You play with what you want to, I’ll play with what I want to.

ET: That would be a toss up between the Shogun Warriors Gaiking and the 18″ Alien action figure. The 18″ Alien figure might have a slight advantage because my Dad swore up and down that Santa would never bring me such a violent toy. I was pretty overjoyed when I opened it up on Christmas morning. Apparently Santa hadn’t seen the movie yet.

PG: To elaborate on something Cornboy mentioned on TheFwoosh.com, which one of you is the best at sculpting gorilla crotches?

Ape crotchCB: Oh that’s an easy one! The Fifth Horseman: Shane Dittsworth! He normally handles all of the molding and casting duties around here for us, but when it comes to sculpting gorilla crotches…stand back! We just hand the crotch in question off to him, and gather around in stunned awe at his crotch detailing prowess! It’s simply mesmerizing to see in action.


So there you have it. The Four Horsemen: No one sculpts a better gorilla crotch.

I’d like to thank the Horsemen again for taking time out of their extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions. From what they’ve told me, 2008 is going to be one heck of a busy year for them, with all sorts of secret projects–and of course, their annual FANtastic Exclusive!