Exclusive interview with Super7's Frank Supiot on the new Jumbo Machinder...
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Come Saturday, May 29th, two pop culture phenomenons collide with the debut of Super7's Star Wars STORMTROOPER Super Shogun. To find out more about this figure of galactic proportions we went to Frank Supiot, Super7's Director of Licensing. Read on for an exclusive first look at the Stormtrooper's slick retro-inspired packaging, details on its construction, and plans for future Super7 Star Wars collectibles...
FIGURES.COM: Super7 is well known for their original vinyl kaiju creations. What prompted Super7 to pursue Star Wars, a large licensed property?
FRANK SUPIOT: It probably is the same story as anyone reading this: We grew up with Star Wars as an enormous part of our lives. Super7 owner Brian Flynn has a massive collection of Star Wars toys, designer Josh Herbolsheimer is a total maniac, and I still have every last one of my Kenner figures/vehicles from my youth. Aside from just being a spectator, we wanted to play the game and contribute to the Star Wars universe in a way that no one else had ever conceived.
The concept of combining two 70's icons - Star Wars and Jumbo Machinders - is brilliant. How did the idea come about and how receptive was Lucasfilm?
When we built our retail store in San Francisco's Japantown, Brian created an original flocked wallpaper design featuring some of the iconic villains of the Star Wars series. To cut the story down to size, the wallpaper caught the eye of Steve Sansweet, which led to our company being introduced to the Lucas Licensing staff. Brian then bombarded Lucasfilm with a number of product ideas, some which were not feasible due to competing licensing agreements already in place, and some which may become actual products in the future, but the first one approved and making its way to market is the Super Shogun. To be honest, there are some at LFL that were initially unaware of the Jumbo Machinder format, but they seemed to connect with our passion and trust our vision for the project.
Super7 began life as a toy magazine dedicated to the obscure oddities of the Japanese toy world – be it kaiju sofubi, mecha chogokin, or robotic Jumbo Machinders. We live and breathe (likely toxic) vintage Japanese toys. The mashup was generally born from the idea of daydreaming "if Star Wars were a Japanese originated property, what kind of toys would companies have made?" With the Jumbo Machinder/Shogun Warriors oversized figure format being the rage of the '70s , unquestionably there would have been Star Wars Jumbos on Tokyo toy store shelves in 1978 (hey, the flick was released a year later in Japan).
The even more obvious answer is just what toys we were playing with when we were 8 years old - if it wasn't Star Wars, it was Shogun Warriors. Our idea was like jamming chocolate into peanut butter, but with an extra dose of awesome.
What was your favorite Jumbo Machinder? I loved my Great Mazinger with firing finger rockets...
I'm going to cop out and go with the purely emotional answer: DRAGUN (aka Getter Robo G: "Getter Dragon" in Japan). Dragun has a spaceship on his arm that shoots ninja stars, spinning buzzsaw blades, and throws axes! He was the same primary colors as Spider-Man, and had a superhero cape! I'll put those features up against any other Jumbo, but the reality is... Dragun was the first Shogun Warrior that I owned back in 1979, so that attachment is hard to overcome. I took it to show-and-tell (do they still do that?) when I was in second grade, for God's sake.
Your beloved Great Mazinga (aka "Great Mazinger") was the second character I owned, and like my aforementioned Kenner Star Wars figs... I still have both today! Although it isn't technically a vintage toy, I'm also quite partial to the UNIFIVE GARADA K7 toy that was released a decade ago, once again due to emotional reasons: I designed the "old school" green exclusive variant of the toy, making it the first Jumbo I had a small part in creating.
How similiar is the Stormtrooper Super Shogun to the original Jumbo Machinders? Same rugged polyethylene construction?
We have taken every step possible to produce an authentic Jumbo Machinder, even driving some people crazy with our obsession to be true to the original toys. There is so much more to a Jumbo than just making the figure "really tall". We were given many suggestions as alternative manufacturing methods and materials, all of which would have made the process easier and less costly, but we disregarded them all, and stuck with the original methods. Some collectors will wince reading this, but we disassembled multiple vintage Jumbos in attempts to reverse engineer the figures and fully understand the construction.
Aside from the obvious character license, what sets the Stormtrooper Super Shogun apart from the original Jumbo Machinders?
Before even getting to the production stage, we set ourselves on the path of faithful recreation by having the master prototype sculpted by a Japanese manufacturer: Kotobukiya. The body is blow-molded polyethylene, and this process is somewhat outdated for toy making and took us a long time to find a factory that was able to use the technique, and even longer to find one that could do so to our satisfaction. Like the originals, the head is rotocast vinyl, and ours also has vinyl hands. Aside from the materials, we hit all of the other requisite points – 24" tall, wheels on the feet, character name sticker on the torso, and a Rocket-Punch!
Since paint does not adhere to polyethylene, the classic Jumbos had many details on the body formed by the application of stickers. Any collector will tell you that these stickers do not exactly stand the test of time, so we wanted to avoid that problem. The black "undersuit" details of the Trooper's armor are neither paint nor sticker: they are thin layers of polished rubber, which adds not only the color, but also a bit of "wetsuit" texture. Speaking of stickers, the torso stickers are included in the package, but they are NOT pre-applied; this is an option for our Stormtrooper. With this toy appealing to so many different collectors, we figured not all would want the torso sticker permanently affixed.
NOTE: Final STAR WARS logo will be metallic foil and not white.
The Stormtrooper Super Shogun packaging is quite impressive. Please tell us more about it. (Who designed it, influence, etc)
The package is designed by Flynn and we created many different rough concepts before arriving at our final design. We looked at old Kenner packages, Mattel Shogun Warrior packages, Popy packages. Like the toy itself we want to fuse the Super Robot and Star Wars aesthetics, and also drop in a dose of pure Super7 along the way. In the end, our biggest influence was where it all began – with the original Machinder boxes from Popy (pictured below).
Rather than use the "Kenner-esque" Star Wars logo, we drew inspiration from the Japanese theatrical one-sheet posters, and adapted the stacked pyramid style logo. It has a wonderfully retro quality about it, and really sets the package apart from other items you will see lining the shelves. The staff at Lucasfilm were really fantastic and supportive, as our box does not fit into any style guide or existing branding concepts, and they really let us run wild!
Being hardcore collectors ourselves, we know that the package can be almost as interesting as the toy itself, so we added many little touches to the box to make it a really special release. The STAR WARS logo is metallic foil stamped, and the box contains a faux "licensing sticker," ala many Japanese toys. Some of the styles of text will seem familiar to vintage collectors, and we even added a very awesome proof of purchase icon! Lots of callbacks and Easter eggs throughout!
Can collectors expect more Star Wars Super Shoguns from Super7 in the future? A Boba Fett with rocket firing backpack would be awesome...
We even went so far as to make the cardboard shipping carton an interesting graphic design (pictured above). It is one-color silhouette style, evoking the feeling of the brown packages used for the vintage Jumbo Machinder Villain series.
Many are sure to ask what the Japanese text on the left hand side translates to in English: "May the Force be with you".
Any plans to incorporate Star Wars in other Super7 projects, such as stylized vinyl figures?
So far the Stormtrooper has been amazingly well received, and preorders were higher than anticipated! It isn't too often you hear news like that in today's toy market, but we've been really grateful for the support we've received so far. The Stormtrooper is planned to be the first in a series, and as long as everything goes well, we will announce our next release once the 'Trooper is in the hands of the fans.
The Stormtrooper is only the beginning for Super7 X Lucasfilm, but it would be premature to announce new categories at this point.
Star Wars aside, has Super7 considered combining any other nostalgic properties with the Super Shogun format? A classic Battlestar Galactica Cylon comes to mind...
Who would win in a fight: The Stormtrooper Super Shogun or your favorite Jumbo Machinder, Dragun?
We have a number of properties – both serious and fantasy wishlist – that we would love to realize as Super Shoguns. Aside from our own internal speculations, we were pleasantly surprised to be approached by more than one licensor asking us to make their characters in the format! Some of these are actually further along than just being on wishlists, but again, we'll have to play silent for the time being! Any character suggestions, such as Cylons, can be emailed to email@example.com.
Even taking into account the notoriously bad aim of a Stormtrooper, this battle would be no contest at all. Stormtrooper Super Shogun all the way. Despite all of Dragun's accessories, he still cannot overcome the might of a Rocket-Punch with the power of the Force behind it! It is an unbeatable combination. I'm pretty certain there are numerous scientific studies that support this.
Super7's Star Wars STORMTROOPER Super Shogun is scheduled for release Saturday May 29th priced at $299. Visit STARWARS.SUPER7STORE.COM for complete ordering details.
Frank Supiot, Super7's Director of Licensing