I recently had the pleasure of talking first hand with the three-headed weapon-making machine known as Spy Monkey Creations, Inc.
Team members Jeremy Sung, Brian Stevenson and Bill Murphy are the minds behind some of the coolest custom-produced weapons and accessory packs for action figure collectors today. And as a fellow collector it’s always a bonus when you can find top-notch items that compliment your figures perfectly. From energy-based accessories to swords and shields, Team SMC has amped up many of our action figure arsenals and have made playing, er, posing that much cooler.
Be sure to check out their store if you haven’t already to pick up some of their current available stock.
Now enough of my rambling, let’s get to the interview!
VENENOR: Thanks guys for your time to conduct this interview. I appreciate your willingness to let me pick your brains for a few. Now, you guys have been hard at work for awhile but things started taking off in ’09 with the release of the Master Blade of the Empyrean. If I’m not mistaken that was your initial “fantasy” based item which was then followed by the Witching Axe of Ruination. Things have steamrolled since then with the release of several weapons, a few website exclusives and now the first deluxe item (Chalybeous).
What is Team SMCâ€™s response to the continued success of your custom made items? How do you plan to handle the demand?
Jeremy: I’m always amazed by the strong response to our items!Â Â The hand made stuff has done far better than I would have imagined. Going forward we’re going to to do more “Deluxe Series” items, similar to Chalybeous. Not necessarily similar in size and price, but similar in that there will be pre-made runs prepared ahead of time to speed up the order and shipping process. Ultimately the goal will be to shift away from open stock items and have stock prepared in advance to speed up the fulfillment process.
Brian: This has been a lot of fun for me. Like Jeremy, I’m amazed at the positive response and overwhelming support we’ve received from the collecting community. I get a real kick out of looking at the various toy boards and seeing all the creativity in use and display of the weapons we create. I’ve taken a larger role lately in helping Jeremy with clean-up, paint, and assembly so he can focus more on casting the quantities required to meet our growing demand. For the longest time he was doing the lion’s share of the work. I’ve been having a blast.
Bill: I have to say I was shocked. When Jeremy pitched me the idea, I had some reservations because of the retail price. But fans realize that we are producing hand crafted items and have really supported us. I for one could not be happier.
V: Well definitely easy to support your products simply by how great they look and hold up. I, along with many fans, appreciate the work you guys are putting in. Speaking of your products, have you guys set out a goal or approximate number of items you expect to release this year?
Jeremy: We don’t have a set number but will aim for a bi-monthly schedule.
V: Will the bi-monthly schedule include blind bag items this year??
Jeremy: It could potentially include partner exclusives and blind bags.
V: Thatâ€™s awesome. Itâ€™s been very cool to see the different color combos of the blind bag items. Some of which Iâ€™d try and petition to you guys that they’d be great as legit product releases. Now so far we’ve seen plenty of focus on the 6-7 inch â€œFantasyâ€ scale. Will this scale continue to be the main focus for this yearâ€™s releases?
Jeremy:Â As far as accessories go, the 7″ scale is likely to be our main focus for 2011.
Brian: Yeah, we’ve got so many ideas for the 6-7″ fantasy scale. I’m constantly sketching out new items for the upcoming year. Some of the things I’d like to attempt are armor, laser rifles/pistols, a different type of shield and a war hammer in a smaller scale. Lots of ideas, just working out the R&D to make sure they’ll hold up in resin.
V: Well I canâ€™t lie, the â€œFantasy scaleâ€ is my personal favorite so you wonâ€™t hear me fuss whatsoever. But, like most collectors, I dabble in other scales. Is there any chance that weâ€™ll see any items made in the smaller 3 Â¾ inch scale for figures like GI Joe or Marvel Universe?
Jeremy: It’s unlikely we’ll do accessories for lines smaller than 7″. The resin we use makes very small accessories difficult to create durably.
V: With that said will you still be producing more expansion packs for the Glyos system figures?
Brian: I’ve just recently been getting into Glyos myself. It’s so much fun as a toy and the versatility for customization in great. I’m excited to work on developing more stuff to work with that system.
Bill: I have to agree with the guys, I think the stuff that Matt is doing over at Onell Design is the future of where non-mass market action figures are headed. I’m looking forward to producing more items that work with that system as well.
V: Iâ€™m very excited to see your future Glyos-based releases. With the expansion packs you guys have it makes the Glyos figures that much more customizable than they already are. Now, Team SMC has created energy-based accessories and fantasy-based weapons. Are there any plans for â€œmilitaryâ€-based weapons of any kind?
Jeremy:Â “Military”-based weapons are probably not something we’ll tackle. I feel that the military category is pretty well represented in various toylines that already include a lot of accessories.
Bill:Â Yeah, as much as I’d love to see some â€œMilitaryâ€ based weapons, there are lot of those out there already. I think if we figured out something truly unique we might go down that road, but for now that’s the appeal of the fantasy-based accessories, we can be very creative and that has strong appeal.
V: Very True. The possibilities are virtually limitless with the “fantasy” theme and its current appeal is at a high. But there’s plenty of toylines out currently thatâ€™re going strong. Some have even spawned their own spin-off lines. Of these current toylines that’re out which are your favorites? Also, what past toylines are you a big fan of?
Jeremy: Needless to say I’m a big fan of 1980’s toy properties. But I’m also a big fan of Japanese toys. I love Bandai’s S.H. Figuarts and Ultra-Act lines. Traditionally I feel that the U.S. is better at straight action figures than Japan, but these lines are starting to really even the playing field. I never expected to get fully articulated Ultra Monsters like Gomora or Eleking!
Brian: I’m another product of the 80s. He-Man, Transformers, Super Powers, Blackstar, M.A.S.K., Bravestarr, ThunderCats, Voltron, TMNT. So it’s not hard to guess what I’m into nowadays and which lines I collect. I’m also pretty character-specific in some of the stuff I collect. My display room has entire sections dedicated to my favorite characters like Superman, Iron-Man, Ghost Rider, Plastic Man and MOTU’s Rio-Blast and Clawful. I collect anything in figure form of these that I can get my hands on. I’ve also always loved buildable toys. Lego, Erector, Tinker Toys, etc. I’ve always had a few sets of those lying around. I loved the Stickfas & Xevoz stuff. My newest fascination has been the Glyos ystem toys and the 4H’s Outer Space Men.
Bill: Personally I’m into G.I. Joe, Star Wars and Superhero stuff, but that’s the nice thing about the SMC team, between the 3 of us we’re into just about everything.
V: Awesome choices all around. Now with the sheer coolness of the SMC weapons you guys definitely don’t seem like strangers to customizing. You and I both know that sometimes us fans have to take the bull by the horns and make figures of characters that needing the “figure treatment” or an even updated treatment. Are there any character from any existing media (comics, movies, etc.) that you would like to customize yourself or create a custom weapon/accessory for??
Jeremy:Â Production for Spy Monkey Creations has seriously eaten into my toy customizing time. The closest thing to customizing I’ve been doing is custom builds using the Glyos System toys. If some free time pops up I’d probably work on some custom heads and paint jobs for some Gobons. Matt’s recent “Renegades” Custom Corps 1.4 Drop has made me fall in love with that chunky robot all over again!
Brian: My work shop is overrun by numerous ‘in progress’ custom extravaganzas. During the Sigma 6 days I snatched up as many of those as I could get my hands on. I love those type of big, durable, hefty action figures. And as a toy line Sigma 6 was awesome. Jeremy made me this killer Hal Jordan GL out of a Duke for my birthday one year and I said, “he needs to have Barry & Ollie to hang out with”. I made those guys and got carried away. So, my ambition with that was to create a whole lot of the DCU (mostly heroes) using Sigma 6 figures as my bases. I’ve finished alot of them and need to start posting them somewhere. I’ve got Flash, Aquaman, Batman & Robin, Apache Chief, John Stewart, Nightwing, Martian Manhunter, Metamorpho, Superman, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Kilowog, Plastic Man and a few others all finished and about 25 others planned. I’ll probably wrap them all up about the time my 1st born starts college. I’m also making the Classic and Modern Versions of the Freedom Fighters in DCUC scale and a few of my favorite He-Man Filmation characters for MOTUC.
Bill:Â Like Brian my custom bin is full of “In Progress” figures. I have Marvel Legends Baron Blood that I’m hoping to finish in the new year. The nice thing about all of us being in the same city is that we have “custom days” every few months where we all get together for a long day of customizing. This is really great for me as I’m the weakest guy in the group, so those guys really help me out.
V: Well guys, I appreciate your time and insightful answers and I wish you guys continued success with the awesome output from Spy Monkey Creations, Inc. Also, congrats on yet another SMC sellout with the recent re-release of Chalybeous: The Hammer of War. I’m looking forward to see what you guys have up your sleeves for the year of the year and so on.