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SDCC 2007 – Four Horsemen, Part 1

Fwoosh staffers SamuRon and VanillaBlue were fortunate enough to sit down with toy sculpting superstars Eric "Cornboy" Mayse and Chris Dahlberg, half of the Four Horsemen Design Studio, at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con. Cornboy and Chris talked shop, their future relationship with Mattel and DC as well as a myriad of other topics (including some exciting surprises).

Read on for part one of the multi-part interview to find out all the exciting news straight from the Horses’ mouths…


Fwoosh: Guys, thanks for sitting down with us today. To get started, can we just have a quick introduction for the fans reading at home?

Cornboy: My name is Eric "Cornboy" Mayse and I am one of the fabricators of the Four Horsemen Toy design.

Chris Dahlberg: I am Chris Dahlberg and I am one of the sculptors.

Fwoosh: Well, again, thank for chatting with us. I suppose we will address the big DC news first. With the expansion of the license, people are already abuzz and are making comparisons of the newly announced DC Universe Classics to Marvel Legends in terms of character selection and articulation. Is that the direction you hope this line will go in?

CB: Well, absolutely. You know, even a few years ago when Mattel had us doing the [2003] Batman stuff, our whole purpose with that was to eventually work it into the whole DC Universe. Finally, and it took a couple of years with Mattel working with DC/Warner Brothers, were finally able to put it all together. So, like we were saying at the meeting (Mattel panel) earlier, we now have over 3000 characters to work with, so they flung the doors wide open for us. We are going to be able to do characters like Shazam who was kind of off limits before. Characters like the Blue Beetle and the Question are still somewhat questionable but they [Mattel] are going to work as hard as they can to get them included as well. So, we are pretty excited. This is something that we have been looking forward to for a long time and we were discussing all of this with Mattel for a long time.

Fwoosh: So what was it that finally made the deal happen?

CB: You know, Mattel has actually been going back and forth with DC and Warners with this for a few years now and it all had to do with, and I am not entirely sure since I was not in on those meetings, but money is an obvious factor because you have to pay for licenses. Mattel had to make sure that the money they were paying for this license was going to be worth it to be able to make that money back in sales. So they discovered by trial and error with the Batman and DC Superheroes stuff that they think they can go ahead and make a go at it, especially doing it with the whole build-a-figure model. Also, with us working with Mattel on character selection and what not we felt this was going to a successful avenue to pursue.

Fwoosh: Well, all of the figures from the, as of January, newly branded DC Universe Classics look amazing, some really exciting stuff right of the gate.

CD: Glad you like them.

Fwoosh: So as far as the creative process, character selection, era, etcetera goes,Batman how much input do you have with the decision of what the final version of each character will be? In other words, how much do you guys put into each character versus what Mattel gives you?

CD: Well, we work back and forth. They pretty much give us a list of characters that they are going to want to do and I think that between me and Eric [Treadaway] we bounce ideas back and forth with which characters and figures will work best with the line. As far as the designing of them goes, we try to capture the overall essence of the character rather than an extremely specific version of the character.

Fwoosh: One thing that I have personally noticed is that you guys have been great about giving us figures with the classic feel of the character, but with some modern design sensibilities.

CB: Yeah, DC is really encouraging us to do that as well. Like we were saying, they give us this big list of characters, and we go in and do a brainstorm session with DC. We sit down and kind of pick and choose the characters that we like and then DC says "here are the style guides, and these are what we want you to go by, but we want you to give the "Four Horsemen" sensibilites and give your take on it". They have been very open to our ideas and decisions on these things. There have been some editorial decisions here and there when we have come up with a line that have switched a couple of characters here and there, but for the most part they are really letting us run wild, letting us have fun with it.

CD: We seem to work really well with the guys over at DC because we seem to be on the same page with them on a lot of this stuff. Like CB was saying, there have been some minor changes here and there but the designs have remained pretty much as exactly as they are.

Fwoosh: So have you increased the amount of collaboration with the DC guys?

CB: Yeah, actually we have been collaborating quite a bit with them from the beginning. Every time DC and Mattel would go back and forth with the characters, we would make the figures and then take them in ourselves for approval and discussions on them, and at that time we would discuss the possibilities of what the next wave could be. That would happen once every couple of months. Well now we’re going in twice a month to have brainstorms with DC and and have little minor approval meetings and things like that. So yeah, we are working a lot more hand in hand with DC and Mattel.

Fwoosh: So when you guys get ready to work on certain characters after a wave has been lock down, how do you guys decide, between the four of you, on who does what with any given character? Is there any scheme to it or is just "I want to do him and him" and everyone gets to pick something that they really want to work on?

CB: Chris and Eric are the two main figural sculptors and they usually have a rochambeau match to decide which ones they want. No, I mean it usually comes out that Eric says "you know what, I am really interested in this character" and Chris goes "I really like this guy" and it all just kind of falls into place. They really don’t have any argument about it, then Jim [Preziosi] and I pick up the pieces.

CD: I don’t think we have ever had an argument about it. Simply because, when there is one character that you want to do, there is another one that is just as cool.

Fwoosh: Okay then, thus far, what is you favorite thing that you have personally worked on?

CD: I would have to say the new Metamorpho Build-a-figure. I wasn’t sure about it when I first started working on it. But then when we got the paint on it and I put it in a neat pose I thought it was pretty cool. Then when I saw it on the screen today I thought that "wow, this really looks good". I am really happy with the positive reaction people are having to it.

Fwoosh: So was it the plan from the get go to have all the longer arm and leg extensions to be snap on?

CD: Yeah, we wanted people to have the choice of displaying him with or without all the power attachments.

Fwoosh: That is a very nice, and very appreciated touch and something that I am sure collectors will be happy with. He really does look great.

metamorphoCD: Well, we figured since he is Metamorpho and he can change into all of these different things, the more options, the better.

CB: It also lends itself well to the whole build a figure concept too. Even though Metamorpho is not a big character per se, he has large snap-on pieces that justify him as a build-a-figure. It also allows for more attachments because of he were simply a single carded figure, all the attachments just would not cost out.

Fwoosh: How about for characters that you have not done yet? What is your dream character to work on?

CB: Captain Marvel. I mean, I know I have said that a million times but he really is my all time favorite DC Universe character and I just want a shot at working on him so bad. I want to see him done in the DC Universe Classics style. And we are also really into the Jack Kirby Fourth World characters, the New Gods and stuff.

Fwoosh: Excellent.

CB: So we are really pushing for a lot of that stuff. I know that there are a lot of fans at Mattel of the Jack Kirby stuff too so hopefully, from the way talks are going, that stuff is going to happen. We going to see a lot more than just Orion.

CD: I really don’t have a real favorite. I mean as soon as a line comes through I like to pick a character that looks cool and would be fun to work on.

Fwoosh: Has there been, or is there a character out there that you know of that would present a real professional challenge to you? Something that would really allow you press the limit and flex your sculpting/design chops?

CB: We don’t like challenges, we like the easy stuff (laughs).

CD: No, seriously they all end up being a challenge. CB and Eric have just as vast of knowledge of the DC Universe as anybody and they usually know who they want to do. But for me it isn’t about "here is a specific character and I want to do it" it more along the lines of what would be fun to work on. And I can go to them for information and little things to put into the design. We go back and forth and collaborate on what each figure should ultimately look like.

Stay tuned for part two when we discuss more of the DC Universe Classics, from both a creative and technical aspect. Coming soon!


DC Universe Classics Image Gallery: 


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