The Captain returns to Action (figures)! One on one with Round 2 and CAE.
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This fall, Captain Action returns to toy stores to entertain old and new fans alike. Originally conceived way back in 1966 by the Ideal Toy Company, Captain Action sparked the imagination of a generation with the ability to assume many different identities. The 12-inch many-in-one hero was awesome on his own accord, decked out in his sleek blue and black uniform and armed with a futuristic lightning sword and ray gun. However, the real fun began when fans collected the other costumes and accessories (each sold separately, of course) to transform Captain Action into a true man of action: other amazing heroes. And not just any generic hero. These were renown licensed heroes, such as Captain America, Buck Rogers and The Lone Ranger! It was like owning several remarkable toys in one.
Now, 40 years later, Captain Action is back, and this time he's bringing with him an old friend: Marvel Comics.
To discover more about Captain Action's exciting return, we went to the two companies responsible: Round 2 (licensee for Captain Action) and Captain Action Enterprises (main licensor). Read on as Michael Murphy - Round 2's Creative Director, Joe Ahearn - CAE's Product Development, and Ed Catto - CAE's Licensing Agent, shed light on our burning Captain Action questions...
FIGURES.COM: Tell us a little about your background with Captain Action and how Round 2 and Captain Action Enterprises came about renewing the property this year.
Joe Ahearn (CAE): I've had a pretty long history with the Captain. I brokered the idea to Playing Mantis in the late '90s and was hired as a product consultant to the line. Subsequently I was able to get the rights to Captain Action when they became available, and joined forces with Ed who was already a friend from the online Captain Action Collectors chat group, and thus Captain Action Enterprises was born.Michael Murphy (R2): Tom Lowe, owner of Round 2, LLC, has been able to acquire key licenses to help expand and grow his company. When he started Playing Mantis, he helped relaunch many key properties from the 60’s and 70’s like Johnny Lightning, Polar Lights (echoing Aroura Model Kits), and was looking for other properties he had when he was a kid. Captain Action was one of those toys he remembered. He Launched the line and it ran for many years with Playing Mantis. During this time Joe was brought on as a consultant due to his vast knowledge of all things Captain Action. When Tom started up Round 2, he recalled what was done during the Playing Mantis days and began investigating Captain Action once again. That’s when he contacted Joe Ahearn, who at this point acquired the Captain Action mark.
What excites you the most about bringing Captain Action back in 2011?
Joe Ahearn (CAE): I think the thing that excites us most about bringing CA back to action figures this year is being able to do it in a big way with great character uniform sets from Marvel which Round 2 are really knocking out of the park. Further, we are also excited to be able to offer Captain Action at your local Toys"R"Us as well as through the specialty collectors market.There has been a huge resurgence of retro toys in recent years., with Mego-style figures, and now Captain Action, "new" again. Why now?Michael Murphy (R2): Knowing that the one key thing that was needed to get Captain Action off the ground again was to get the right licenses. Tom Lowe has been able to acquire several key licenses to help expand and grow the company. (Take a look at the 1960's Batmobiles - model kits & slot cars, Star Trek model kits, Rat Fink diecast cars and many many more.) Banding that experience and clout, Tom was able to acquire the license for Marvel Comics characters. This is absolutely huge news. Being able to tap into the vast array of characters in the Marvel Universe will be a great help to get Captain Action back into the minds of the masses.
Ed Catto (CAE): It's simple: Fans want good toys. Collectors, and casual toy buyers, are attracted to good ideas. Toys like Captain Action are built on a strong core idea and that always attracts people. We're finding that retro aspect attracts long-time fans, but many times they want to share the toy with their kids. And new fans are either saying simply "that looks cool" or "that looks cool and it's also cool there is a history behind it!" I think calling Captain Action "timeless" might be an oversell, but he does seem to have one foot in "retro-land" and the other in the current world of today.Michael Murphy (R2): I have two theories, both are pure speculation on my part. First, with the current economy, people like to think back to happier times. To many, that's thinking of their childhood. Captain Action, Mego, Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, all hold a special place in the heart of consumers.
Second, take a look at the route Hollywood has taken. Reiterating things have come before. Products that have a proven track record and brand equity have a better chance of getting into the marketplace.
Captain Action obviously means a lot to all of you. Did you grow up with Captain Action as a kid and what is it about the character that appeals to you so much?
Joe Ahearn (CAE): I did grow up with Captain Action as a kid. Ed did as well. He was my favorite childhood toy. I discovered him in the Summer of 1967 at age 5 while visiting an older cousin. He had everything that had been released up to that point. I was already a super hero nut watching the Adam West Batman TV show, the George Reeves Adventures of Superman reruns, and of course all the Saturday morning super hero shows from DC and Marvel, not to mention favorites from Hanna-Barbera as well like Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Birdman & Mightor. After seeing an action figure I could make into different super heroes, I was hooked! I had to have one! I was rewarded with Captain Action that Christmas as well as a couple of uniform sets - Batman, The Lone Ranger and Captain America.A lot has changed in the 40 years since Captain Action first played with the Marvel license. What kind of challenges did you face in getting Marvel back onboard?Michael Murphy (R2): Captain Action was a bit before my time. I grew up with 3 ¾" G.I.Joe and Masters of the Universe. But I was able to work with the good Captain briefly towards the end of his run with Playing Mantis. I worked with Bob Plant, also of Playing Mantis, to develop the product when the retro approach was launched. This was when the costume sets were sold as true costume sets (figure sold separately!) and Captain Action was back in the "shoe box" packaging.
Joe Ahearn (CAE): Well, the main challenge was to see if a license to produce Marvel hero uniforms was available and then to convince Marvel the timing was right for a reintroduction. We first approached Toys"R"Us with the whole concept and they were sold on it right away. All of the excitement we have built for the character over the last few years in an ongoing comic book series, a coffee table book from Twomorrow's Publishing, a Collector's Statue from Sideshow and several other very successful collectible projects put us over the top.Michael Murphy (R2): It's tough to get an audience with Marvel, but with Round 2's track record and the excitement building from Captain Action Enterprises activities a deal was struck.
Marvel characters already announced for Captain Action include a string of heavy hitters, including Captain America, Spider-Man, Thor, Loki, The Red Skull and Iron Man. Which of these was the most fun to work on and who would you love to work on next?
Ed Catto (CAE): For each of these figures we've set high fan-focused standards for ourselves. It's a tight collaboration between us and the brilliant designers at Round 2. It's important to us that each of these look authentic. For Captain America and Thor – that means they must be spot-on Kirby creations. For Spidey - we've opted towards the classic Romita look. The accessories have been a lot of fun too. We're especially proud of the fact that Round 2 will be including Captain America's original triangular shield in their deluxe costume set.
And we've been very particular about what is being used for packaging artwork too. For the main figure, Captain Action, we've recruited comics great Joe Jusko. He's not only a great talent, but a big fan too. And for each of the Marvel characters' packaging we've been very particular about the images that Round 2 is using. Each had to have the right pose, and the right penciller and inker.
As a kid, I never had a Spider-Man Captain Action outfit. I made my own using paint and my dad's old T-shirts for material. So for me, seeing what Round 2 is doing to create this new Spider-Man outfit is probably the most fun. (And overdue!)
For our next ones? Well, don't forget Hawkeye. He's always been a favorite and we're so excited that Round 2 is including him as part of their "Assemble an Avenger" insert. Each deluxe costume set will have a part of Hawkeye's costume. Fans who purchase the first 6 deluxe sets will have the complete Hawkeye uniform!
But, as to your question of what's next, we're working closely with Round 2 to figure it out and getting some great suggestions. Should we stay in the Avengers family of characters? Or should we branch out to the X-Men, or the FF? Or is it time to focus on Daredevil? We'd love input. And, of course, the Marvel Universe has such great heroines too.
For villains we'd like to get some fan suggestions - but Magneto is probably on the short list.In addition to numerous Marvel characters, the original 1960's Captain Action could also assume the identity of Batman. Any plans to add DC Comics to the new Captain Action mix?Michael Murphy (R2): The initial sets (Captain Action, Spider-Man and Captain America) were designed by Round 2's previous Creative Director, Bob Plant. He's done a fantastic job in creating great accessories and contents. Without his vision, this line may not be shaping up to be as great as it is. I am lucky to complete his vision and must say that Captain America is my favorite. It has the classic Kirby likeness for his Cap mask and in the Deluxe set, he will come with a Kirbyesque Steve Rogers mask. He also has the vintage triangle shield and belt satchels. It's great to see him completely assembled!
Joe Ahearn (CAE): We have had some discussions with DC and would absolutely love to add them back into the Captain Action fold. We are big fans of DC and Marvel both. It would certainly be great to also be able to offer the fans uniform sets of their favorite DC heroes. Beyond that, we're eager to expand and present other great characters that make sense for the line. There are so many options with this type of product.Any other original properties planned for Captain Action's return? Buck Rogers? Flash Gordon? Lone Ranger?Michael Murphy (R2): Tom Lowe is really invested in this line and is looking at various other properties that would work with this line. At this point we are still in the discussion stages with these brands, so we are not at liberty to say more. But when we are able to say something, it will be big news indeed!
Ed Catto (CAE): You know, as we plan, we're careful to strike a balance of looking into the characters' history, and also looking ahead. We love those characters and costume sets too. Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon were two of my favorites. I never could find the Lone Ranger costume, but I did have two Tonto outfits. (Go figure!)
Not to tease, but, regarding the comic adventures, we have a big announcement coming up that might lead to some very cool adventures with all of those characters you mention (and more, like the Green Hornet). Stay tuned!Michael Murphy (R2): At this point, we're going to see how the fans receive the Marvel line and use that to gauge when we may come out with other iterations of the 60's Captain Action line. As noted in the previous question we are currently looking at other properties for the Captain to transform into. It's just a matter of time and primarily consumer interest!
Toy making technology has come a long way since the '60s. What, if any, changes or advancements have you made to the new Captain Action in terms of sculpting and articulation?
Joe Ahearn (CAE): That's a great question and something that Round 2 is taking very seriously. We all felt that it was time to give Captain Action a bit of a makeover, and we believe that Round 2 has done just that while keeping the essence of the classic character very evident. Round 2 has done a new head sculpt, giving Captain Action a more heroic expression and it has received nothing but high praise on the new design from even the most critical of collectors.
Further, they have upgraded the body style increasing his original pose-ability beyond the originally marketed 1001 positions! The torso now bends in the middle and they have added the feature of pop off hands to accommodate different hand styles for CA as well as specific pop on gloved hands contained in the uniform sets. The way the head joins the neck is more realistically done as well. Overall, the designers at Round 2 made sure to keep the body as close as we could to the original figure in stature. The old uniform sets will certainly fit on the new figure.The pop culture event known as San Diego Comic-Con is rapidly approaching. What kind of presence will Captain Action have at the event? Will there be any kind of show exclusives?Michael Murphy (R2): In addition to Joe's comments, we've also strived to keep the packs full of great accessories! These accessories are true to the character. The Deluxe Spider-Man Set includes his belt with a tiny detachable camera so Peter can sell more pictures to the Daily Bugle. He also has his individual web shooters and four gloves giving differing hand gestures.
Round 2 has spent a lot of time developing the figure to bring it up and beyond today's standards for 1/6th scale figures. It has the double elbow and knee joints, multiple hands for the figures, and even ball jointed wrist! Truly, this figure surpasses the 1001 poses the original figure claimed!
Ed Catto (CAE): Captain Action will be at San Diego Comic-Con – we're going to be showing off the prototypes from Round 2! Diamond has graciously offered to showcase them at their booth (#2401), so we’ll get maximum exposure.
New York Comic Con, in October, works perfectly to coincide with the actual release of the figures. They'll be on sale there at several venues. And we are looking at a special show exclusive to be on sale at our Captain Action Enterprises booth. We don't have the details nailed down yet, but we can pull it off, this will be very evocative of part the 60's toy experience.Thank you so much for updating our readers on this timeless toy. Anything else we can expect when Captain Action makes his big comeback this fall?Michael Murphy (R2): Captain Action Enterprises has done a great job in promoting this brand and the furthering of his adventures. The San Diego Comic-Con is a perfect venue to launch the initial public viewing of this line of figures. As Joe mentioned, we are working closely with CAE to develop an exclusive in time for New York Comic Con! If all goes well, it will be a door busting item!
Joe Ahearn (CAE): We've got a lot of surprises up our sleeve! As mentioned, Diamond will be exhibiting the deluxe prototypes at their booth at San Diego Comic-Con later this month and we will be premiering finalized product at the Captain Action Enterprises booth at New York Comic Con in early October! Of course we'll also be giving you fans ongoing sneak peeks at our newly revamped website at www.CaptainAction.com and on our Facebook page too! Stay tuned! The action's just beginning!Michael Murphy (R2): Look for Captain Action sets at Toys"R"Us. The Captain Action figure there will include an exclusive Captain Action comic. Also look for the deluxe versions of the characters and costume sets at specialty and comic shops everywhere! The Captain has returned to Action (figures)!
A very special "Thank You" to Joe Ahearn at Captain Action Enterprises for making this interview possible! Extra thanks to Ed Catto and Michael Murphy of Round 2 for taking time out to answer our questions. Keep the "Action" alive!
Interview by Jeff Saylor
Images Courtesy of Round 2/ CAE