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SDCC2008 – Four Horsemen Interview – Part 3

We are back with Horsemen Eric, Chris and Cornboy talking all things DC and Masters of the Universe. Read on to see us torture them by making them pick their favorite DCUC figure so far, hear the philosophy behind Masters of the Universe Classics and Ron shamelessly push for a Jitsu figure- AGAIN!

Fwoosh: Speaking of teams, one thing that is very important to a lot of fans is completing teams in a consistent manner. The Satellite Era JLA, for example, is chugging along right now- with Barry showing up in series seven, the team is, I think, over halfway done. So, for example, if you were to get a real start on maybe the JSA, and I know we have just seen Atom Smasher, do you have a preference for them? Golden Age? Seventies? More modern? Do you see going the variant route to cover as many bases as possible?

Cornboy: Well the way we approach every one of these figures is, we first look to see- and say in the instance of a character like Dr. Mid-Nite or Dr. Fate or someone, for those that you have both modern and Golden Age where all we have to do is switch out a few pieces and you have got both versions, we try to plan for all of that. That is kind of the way we want to approach all of that, we want to try to find characters that we can do both modern and classic version with just a few parts that switch out. Not only does it make it a great variant but it is very palatable to Mattel to do multiple characters if you only have a few parts to change out.

Eric Treadaway: And as a big collector myself I always hate it when you finally get that character that you have been waiting for and it is not the version that you wanted and it may never happen again. Of course that is going to happen sometimes in every line but in any of these cases if we can do both we will. Just like with what happened with the Firestorm figure and the Red Tornado figure- well, the Red Tornado didn’t happen, but that was the intention so you don’t even have to choose. If Firestorm is you favorite character but you like the Ronnie version, you don’t just get stuck with the modern version if you want the classic.

Fwoosh: That is reassuring to hear as there are all kinds of collectors out there.

Chris Dahlberg: Yeah, exactly. It is nice when you can make as many people happy as you can with the available outlets.

Fwoosh: A new outlet will certainly be, is that going to be a place they are going to explore to get us characters that might be REAL challenges at retail? I mean, we are seeing Killer Moth in the first year, but there might be some cases in the future.

CB: Well, they seem to be pretty open to just about anyone, and I am not sure if we can really speak truthfully for Mattel on that, but from what we have talked to them about- yeah. They want to release two-packs through the site and they want use it as a way for collectors- like you just said- to get characters that might not be a retail viable option.

ET: A great example of that, is that at retail there is no way you would have ever put Lobo on the shelf.

CB: Nope.

ET: But they found a way to do it. Of course some people were complaining because it was the San Diego exclusive and it does suck for some people, not to belittle it, but they are going to try to put it on the website too which is nice. What I want people to remember is that sometimes they are trying to get stuff out and it could not happen at all. So sometimes it is the difference between an exclusive or just not getting made and I think that the website is going to be another great venue for them to do stuff like that. It may not even be from the standpoint of the subject matter or the nature of the character, or something edgy, it might something where a character might not fit in a normal package or it might be too small to seem like a ten dollar figure at retail or whatever. I do think it is going to open up a lot of doors.

*Joshua Jackson walks past and is much taller in person.

ET: Man, that guy is really tall!

CB: Yeah he is really tall and Hayden is really short.

ET: I would have never thought he was that tall. I always thought he was this little short kid on the show. [laughs]

CB: This is an awesome place to hang out!

Fwoosh: We’ll do it again next year!

ET: Set the date!

Fwoosh: So, we know you guys are busy and we want to get to Masters of the Universe a bit, but so far, of the characters that you can talk about, who has been your favorite DC character that you have done?

CB: You don’t even have to ask me! Captain Marvel. Hands down.

ET: This is always my issue, I can never bring it down to one. I would say robot Brainiac is one, Darkseid, Man-bat and Kalibak.

Fwoosh: Pick your favorite child!

ET: I know! It is too hard!

CB: Kalibak runs a very close second for me as well.

ET: That is always my problem- people ask that about Masters too and it’s the same thing.

Fwoosh: Chris?

CD: Oh man, unfortunately, and you will hate this answer but my favorite of the ones that I have done I can’t really mention yet.

CB: Uh-oh, we are on the record!

CD: Yeah, I can’t say, but uh, you have mentioned it.

Fwoosh: We have mentioned it? Well, okay, it’s good that we are recording this!

CD: Yeah! [laughs]

Fwoosh: So then, the last of the big projects that you guys are now doing is the Masters of the Universe Classics. How did it get started? Was it the He-Man figure you brought last year that started it all up again?

CB: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah.

ET: All of this, and with the Con going on right now, it is just a beautiful thing because it is a year later. We knew the Staction line was dying and that was very depressing but it felt right to just try and get something going with Mattel again. Really, it just grew out of one day I was sitting looking at a classic figure and though "what would happen if you just took these proportions and straightened them out and put articulation in it?" Then everybody got on board and we put something together and they liked it and decided to put He-Man in the case last year just for fun and to see what fans thought. The stars just aligned and off we went.

CD: None of that was really supposed to happen, you know? We were in a meeting and then they showed it and it got a huge reaction and that was that.

Fwoosh: What do you think about the execution being strictly through the website? Is that the way to go?

CB: With this line? At least initially, absolutely. It is going to guarantee that the fans who want it are going to be able to get it and they are not going to have to drive around and spend all of that expensive gas hitting all of the brick and mortar stores. Eventually we hope that it is going to be popular enough that we are going to be able to go ahead and have it start hitting the Wal-Marts and Targets and Toys R Us stores down the line. I think that right now this is just the smallest starting point of a new venture for Mattel that I think is going to be very successful.

ET: And with Masters again, you are rebuilding at this point. Without the entertainment behind it which, normally you need at retail, it is a great way to start it off and get things done at a modest enough level where fans will be happy but you aren’t trying to mega launch like the last time because now you don’t have to rely on the kids. With kids, who knows? We know collectors love Masters of the Universe so giving them a classic approach, making it available not only to domestic but also international, which is a great thing because there are so many international Masters fans, to me it seems like a great way to start this thing off.

Fwoosh: With the classic influence and even with the part reuse and how it is being sold through the website, it seems like the system is built in so perfectly for this. Almost like you can just pick who is next and jump right in- how far out are you guys working on this?

ET: I don’t know if you saw but they put out two more in the case.

Fwoosh: I saw He-Man and Beastman.

ET: Zodak and Mer-Man are out now too.

Fwoosh: Oh, they put out Mer-Man? He is my all-time favorite Masters character so I was thrilled to see him.

CB: This has been a really good convention for you!

Fwoosh: Ha! No arguments there.

CB: One of the coolest things about the characters too is that I am sure that when everyone saw the classic Mer-Man head and the more modern Mer-Man head I am sure they all thought they would have to chase a variant but both of those heads come in the same package. You are going to be able to switch them out however you want.

Fwoosh: That is a great idea, chasing a website-exclusive variant seems a little daunting so this is the way to go. What about the females?

CB: Oh, you have to do females.

ET: There are female Masters characters so they will come.

CB: And in She-Ra! They have already said they want us to do Princess of Power, they want us to do classic Masters, we are going to take some of the modern Masters creations and kind of do them in this classic style which is kind of cool.

Fwoosh: Retro-fitting!

CB: Oh yeah, I love the idea of doing that, I think it is fantastic.

ET: I mean again, going back to the team of people that are at Mattel now, that is a big part of why this thing is working because these people are huge fans of this stuff. Some of them I think are even younger than us, you know? They ARE the target audience right now. So things are happening efficiently and things are happening FAST. It doesn’t feel like it is moving through the corporate machine, people see stuff and they get excited and then everyone makes it happen. To have shown that prototype this time last year and then have that Greyskull figure out there now, that is a really good turn around.

CB: As I am sure you guys know, we have been working with Mattel for awhile now and we have been extremely happy with everything we have done with them so far, but I don’t think there is this much excitement amongst and between us and them about all of the properties we are doing right now. Like Eric was saying, everything just happens so quickly now that the excitement that is generated just moves right through the process to get things done. It is a great way to work.

Fwoosh: With the end of the 200x line and then the stopping of the Stactions, was the stylistic change something of a rejuvenation for Masters or has it always just been through the roof?

ET: Well we were to the point that the line had been revamped and we had run through well over half of the major characters and it wasn’t selling well, even in the staction format so something new needed to happen. It needed a shot in the arm and you I don’t think it would have been right to go ahead and do something new again. You needed to go back and give collectors exactly what they wanted, especially with the talk of the movie happening. You know that when the movie happens it is going to be a brand new animal all together so it is time to go back and give the fans what they have always wanted. It is almost like comfort food, it’s comfort figures!

Fwoosh: I like that term!

ET: With these I think people get that warm and fuzzy feeling so I think the timing will work well because we can get these figures out and when it is time for the movie people are usually more open to something new at that point, when they know they will have their classic figures too. Everything just seems to be gelling the right way.

Fwoosh: It is exciting to see it back. When I had heard the news I was excited but as SDCC got closer and closer the excitement about the possible characters we might see got higher and higher, and we are going to see Skeletor soon too. The excitement from the panel was amazing so you can tell people are excited.

CB: Yeah, we are living in a bit of a bubble right now. None of us brought laptops so no one really has internet access so we haven’t been able to what the fans are saying about any of this stuff unless someone goes to the boards and then tells us. Seems like people are digging it though.

Fwoosh: Yeah, I have seen a little bit of the online reaction so far, the alternate Mer-Man head is a big success. For the people that loved the old figure but then looked at art from the card back or mini-comics and saw him portrayed in a different style, that is very pleasing- you can pick and choose.

CB: That is exactly why it was done.

ET: I will tell you, man, when you look at that Mer-Man figure, when you get to really look at- like side by side with the old figure’s package- that is something now, when I was a kid I was so disappointed. So I have looked at the picture on that package so many times that when you look at this new figure it is mark for mark as close as I could get it. The flippers on the armor piece go up on one side and down on the other, there is an asymmetrical bump on one side that is not on the other.

Fwoosh: Wow.

ET: I took it very literally because the chance probably isn’t going to come along again.

Fwoosh (Ron, AGAIN!): Jitsu!

CB: Oh man, yeah!

ET: I really think that EVERYBODY is going to get a turn and Jitsu was pretty early on so he is certainly in the upper tier. Plus, he is one that is easy- you don’t have to make a lot of new parts for him. I am sure that will encourage an early release too. Actually, one of the guys that we work with is a huge Jitsu fan so you know we always have someone close to our ear whispering for him. 

Well, we have come to the end of part three, can you believe that we still have more for you? Check back soon for the finale where we will drop the gloves for a character possibility free for all!

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