Exclusive interview with David Vonner, Jerry Jivoin and Dwight Stall.
San Diego Comic-Con coverage brought to you by Collectibles Insurance, Big Bad Toy Store, Sekaido, and Monkey Depot.
We caught up with the Hasbro Marvel brand team at San Diego Comic-Con this year and had an extensive Q&A regarding the Marvel Universe and Marvel Legends toy lines. We had the privilege of speaking to David Vonner and Jerry Jivoin regarding Marvel Universe and Dwight Stall about Marvel Legends.
MARVEL UNIVERSE Q&A
Figures.com: Why is it that with the Marvel Universe toy line you don't reveal upcoming figures more often like you do with GI Joe or Star Wars?
Jerry Jivoin: As far as the strategy with revealing the figures, the reason we don't reveal the whole year ahead of time is because we like to feed out the information through different media outlets such as websites or magazines for exclusive reveals throughout the year. This way we can keep fans engaged and eager to see what's next. Here we've got everything for the rest of the year 2010 and we are also sneak-peeking wave 1 and 2 for 2011 as well. There will also be cases in which last-minute changes need to be made and we not be able to release a specific figure when it was originally intended to come out that is why we like to reveal one wave at a time.David Vonner: One of the reasons we do that is because Universe, in terms of scale in the line, is not as large as Star Wars. They have a lot of stuff they can unveil and with Universe when we started it we didn't want to unload all this information and then have nothing to stagger it with. Another reason is because we kind of like to keep fans guessing what's next. Back in the day when I was a kid you had to wait to see the Sears catalog to see what was coming out in Christmas until the fall. So that's another reason and with the movie stuff we can’t talk about obviously. We try to stagger the information but not release too much at the same time.
Figures.com: So you basically prefer to reveal product at large venues such as Toy Fair and Comic-Con?
Figures.com: Have you considered developing a checklist later on down the road to help fans keep track of all the figures and possibly reveal some new ones along the way?David: Those are the venues that guys are checking the sites and there's so much traffic that they shut down forums. Plus there is a large media presence there, and the thing is, even when Legends started with Toy Biz, there were no promotions for it. When we make announcements in such places like this, it's just the right place for it to happen. Marvel is becoming a media empire now with the comics, movies and cartoons. We want the toys to be on the same level as well so when we make announcements about Universe or Legends in venues like this it really broadens the scope of Marvel.
Jerry: We are definitely working on a checklist. There are a lot great checklists that fans have created on different websites and we want to create our own checklist on our website. We want fans to know what figures and variants are out there and we want to do something where they can print out and you can go to the store and look for those figures.
Figures.com: Why is that figures such as the A.I.M. Soldier have so much new tooling and better articulation while other more popular characters have less articulation?
Jerry: We have all the tools from the last few years and we re-use some of the tooling but we try to upgrade the poseability on figures as often as possible. However, we have limitations in terns of production runs so because of that sometimes the older bodies have to get used but we are definitely bringing in new ones as well. We’re definitely trying to improve that as we go to make some of the A-list characters include the articulation that everybody wants them to have.Figures.com: Will the Gigantic Battle Packs continue and will they remain exclusive to Wal-Mart stores?David: Well, it's a constant thought process and with the A.I.M. Soldier that body was actually made for Starlord which we will eventually do. We need to be aware of what we are going to use the tooling for so if we say we are going to develop a specific character there will be some resistance but if the figure is an army-builder, we can really get some decent sales from that and then also use it for other characters such as the upcoming Ghost Rider. With the A.I.M. Soldier he is part of the mutant wave and if you read the Hammer file there's a reason why they are in that wave they are capturing mutants and doing all sorts of experiments and stuff on them. So that's why I was like, lets get the A.I.M. soldier in there so that way we have that new body out there so now we can do the Ghost Rider, the Starlord and other Guardians of the Galaxy with it.
With Archangel, what I wanted to do was have the wings so we had to compensate the cost for developing those and a new upper torso to accommodate them and use an existing body with him. To me, having the detailed wings as seen in statues and the comics, was a main priority for the figure. We don't necessarily have to make a brand new body but we can add new joints to make them more poseable.
We are constantly trying to re-imagine, re-invigorate the line and make it better. In regards to articulation where it was when we first started with the modern Iron-Man and classic Punisher in comparison to Juggernaut and the Comic-Con exclusive Captain America it leaps and bounds! I think we have made significant leaps and I am always looking at ways to upgrade the articulation but we have to be smart about the cost and the manufacturing.
Figures.com: Is there any chance that we may see alter-ego packs in the future, for example a Peter Parker/Spider-man, Eddie Brock/Venom or Norman Osborn/Green Goblin?Jerry: Yeah, they will continue and we are actually showcasing the new Ben Foster Giant Man with Thor Clone and Frost Giant with Loki at the show. These sets will be available at Wal-Mart in spring 2011.
Jerry: That’s actually a really cool idea and that's been kicked around a little bit because it would be cool to have the character in their normal street clothes form and if they have a secret identity, with their superhero costume. We're not developing anything yet, but it is definitely something we've talked about as a 2-pack especially with Steve Rodgers/Captain America, Peter Parker/Spider-man. This is something that we can definitely look at in the near future.David: That's one of the great things about Marvel like with Bruce Banner, Betty Ross, Rick Jones and Hank Pym. Henry Pym is a regular guy that has done crazy stuff to himself but he's a man basically. He wasn't bitten by a radioactive hamster (laughs). I had actually pitched a similar concept for this year's Comic-Con exclusive but we went with Galactus instead. We know that there are a lot important civilians like Rick Jones and if we do something like that, Rick Jones would be the first.
Figures.com: It's definitely going to be difficult to outdo this year's Galactus exclusive, which is one of the most amazing SDCC exclusives ever.
Figures.com: Have you considered implementing the build-a-figure program into the Marvel Universe toy line?David: Again, I got some ideas that you just have no idea. Some stuff is so large that it will never happen but there is some great stuff in the pipeline. He is really cool and fans like it. I think it took a while for fans to wrap their mind around the fact that he was 19". Most people thought he was the same size as the Marvel Legends build-a-figure but he is not. (Editor's Note: The new Marvel Universe Sentinels were revealed by David and crew during the Marvel Toys panel).
Jerry: We have kicked that idea around as far as putting the build-a-figure program into 3 ¾. We haven't done it yet because we have been doing our larger characters through other programs such as Gigantic Battles and the electronic Galactus. This is not to say that we are not going to do it. We are definitely considering it and need to figure out what will be the right time to launch that and we also what to make sure we can keep the price of the figures down for the fans and so it is less expensive to buy. It's definitely a good idea and something that we may be doing in the future.
MARVEL LEGENDS Q&A
Figures.com: What is going to happen with the remaining Marvel Legends prototypes that did not make the cut in last year's fan poll?
Figures.com: Have you considered approaching the Marvel Legend line in the way Mattel is handling their monthly Masters of the Universe Classics figures for collectors on their website?Dwight Stall: That’s a very good question. A lot of the figures we revealed at last year's Comic-Con have been locked up in the Hasbro vault. That's not to say that they are forgotten by any means. Jerry and I are always meeting up and discussing how we can make Legends meaningful and to figure out what is the right way to get them back in the populace for all consumers.
With the fantastic opportunities of Marvel pumping out these wonderful movies year in and year out it's making the awareness of the odd characters we showed last year more relevant to the universe. For instance, next year we got Cap and Thor coming. Some of the relevant characters, like Winter Soldier and Black Widow, are being done this year. Based upon the heat we get from the new movies, we can probably bring some of those characters back in to the mix. (Editor's Note: Marvel Legends will officially return in 2012 as was announced at the Hasbro Marvel Toy Panel at Comic-Con.)
Dwight: Yeah, Mattel is doing a great job with their collector brands. It's something that we have struggled with in the past year. Mattel has shown us that there is a strong market for collector-based figures creeping up into the $15-$20 price range and that's a lot of money this day and age. We want to make sure we are giving fans the right figures for that price.
As far as how we get the figures to the fans we have kicked around some ideas like offering them as Hasbrotoyshop.com and we have actually met their team to figure things out. We are still developing sculpts, brand new ones that you guys haven't seen. We want to set a new standard with Legends. If we are going to charge a premium for the figures we want it to be worth the premium. The 2-packs that we are releasing this year are very strong toward what we want Legends to be. Lots of premium deco, good level of articulation and fantastic sculpts. Whether these come out in 2-packs, single packs build-a-figure packs I don't know.
Figures.com: Are there plans for another Marvel Legends fan poll?
Figures.com: Are there any plans to release 6" figures of Captain America and Thor from the upcoming movies, and if so, will they be distributed through mass retail or exclusive to a particular store chain?Dwight: We loved last year's and everyone that has come to the booth have been very, very happy with what they have seen as far as the new 2-packs are concerned. There will always be extreme critics but the people that did not like the figures last year are now saying that this is pretty good. So if we have gone that far in the last year we are very positive about continuing to gauge fan interest for this line.
Figures.com: What do you think of Alter Ego Packs in the Marvel Legends line? Obviously, it would be more likely in 3 ¾ scale because of cost. Would you ever consider such a concept for Legends like a Spider-man in his outfit with interchangeable heads, accessories similar to the Stan Lee SDCC exclusive from a few years back?Dwight: Well, we don't know just yet. We are looking at that and there was some fantastic Iron Man figures this year based on the Iron Man 2 movie and they have been doing very, very well. The figures were designed by Jason from the Iron Man team and they some the most amazing 6" figures I have ever seen. The War Machine hands-down is one of the best 6" Marvel figures ever made. So yeah, were looking at it. We would love to do it we just have to find the right items to get out there. Dave is working on Thor and I'm working on Captain America and I know both of us would love to get some of those characters out there in 6" as well as some classics as well. I want to see it so hopefully we can figure out a way to get it done.
Dwight: I think that is a very interesting concept. I think that would have a perfect home in the venues of the Comic-Con world. I don't know if it would be the right idea for a main all-account type item because I don't know if it would have the mass populace appeal to warrant the cost for all the additional parts would result in an achievable price point for mass retail but as a Comic-Con exclusive or even any store exclusive in general, that would be very interesting concept.
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Special thanks to David Vonner, Jerry Jivoin and Dwight Stall for making time for this interview!
- Jorge Pelaez