Tagged: Hasbro

Ed Catto: Play Nice in the Toybox

He never made a comic. He never created a TV show. He never even went to a comic convention. But his impact on Geek Media was profound.

Without him, toy store aisles would be very different. Without him, comic shops would be very different. Without him, licensing deals would not be where they are today. And if he didn’t do what he did, millions of children would have had very different childhoods.

Last week, the news broke that the creator of Captain Action and GI Joe, Stan Weston, had died.

Creating GI Joe – and creating a category

Stan’s biggest idea was to create what would become the action figure category. He had this idea to transform the 12” Barbie Fashion Dolls into a something for boys. Just as the 1960s Barbie could transform, via a simple costume change, from a fashion model to a teacher to a nurse, he envisioned a soldier who could shift from an infantry man to a Navy diver to a fighter pilot.

At that time, the idea to create a Barbie Doll for boys was a radical one. Boys might play with soldiers, but never dolls. In the sixties, I remember my grandfather, who’s approval meant the world to me, get confused about his grandsons playing with dolls. We tried to explain how off-base he was, but someone from his generation just couldn’t wrap his head around it.

It was a big deal. And with a series of comic book ads drawn by Irv Novick, GI Joe became the next big thing for a generation of young boys

Captain Action

Captain Action was Stan’s “next idea” after GI Joe. While GI Joe could change from a soldier into a frogman, or an astronaut, Captain Action could change into different superheroes. And the amazing thing was, Captain Action could change into different heroes who were owned by different corporations. He could change into Marvel Comics heroes like Captain America or Sgt. Fury. He could change into King Features heroes like The Phantom or Flash Gordon. He could even change into the NPP characters, owned today by Warner Bros’ DC Comics.

Paul Gulacy is the only artist to draw covers for both GI Joe and Capt. Action.

He explained to me that it was “easy.” They’d just hop into NYC cabs, have a meeting, ask the secretary to type up the contract and a carbon copy and they’d be all set to go.

It was simple idea that wasn’t capitalized upon before this. Kids would mix-and-match the toys in their toy box for creative play. Why couldn’t they mix-and-match the toys in one particular toy line too?

Contrasting those Mad Men days with the complexity of finalizing deals now makes today’s licensing executives want to cry. No lawyers. No emails. No conference calls. No style guides. Just a firm handshake, a focus and a little personal integrity.

Stan Weston wasn’t a one-trick pony. He did a lot of other things that become the favorite things of a lot of people. He was involved in ventures that included everything from Nintendo to Thundercats to Farrah Fawcett.

Passing the Torch

When my business partner, Joe Ahearn, and I acquired the Captain Action property, I had the opportunity to speak with Stan. He was everything you’d want him to be. He was gracious, and confident and so very encouraging. His whole attitude towards our acquisition of Captain Action was, “Wonderful! You boys have fun with that! Make some money and have some fun!”

I had an idea that Stan should be a guest of honor at New York Comic Con. I think it would have been fantastic for fans and especially for Stan. Sadly, at that point, he was living in France and was reluctant to add more travel to his schedule. In retrospect, perhaps I should have pushed harder.

But like so many of the iconic comic creators, or a guy like Chuck Berry, Stan would not reap the financial rewards of his category-creating ideas. He’d take a run at re-negotiating/re-litigating with Hasbro, the company that grew out of the little toy company started by the Hassenfeld Brothers. Hasbro had grown into the behemoth it is today based upon, in no small part, the success of Stan’s ideas. But those agreements aren’t public knowledge and it’s unclear where it all ended up.

Weston, and his heirs will have to just take pride in the worldwide industry established, innumerable jobs created and countless hours of fun resulting from a few great Stan Weston ideas.

Ed Catto: Playing Your Cards Right…in Your Local Comic Shop

Two weekends ago, I had a lot of fun at three comic shops. I’ve been to many comic shops in my day, but during these recent visits I did something new. Ostensibly, I made the rounds to Boost My Local Comic Stores (you may have read about #BoostYourLCS in last week’s column), but the real reason I visited them was to experience my first “pre-release party.”

The newest iteration of the long-running Magic: The Gathering was about to be released, so comics and cards stores nationwide hosted a series of pre-release events, as is the custom. Fans get a chance to open a sealed deck of the newest iteration, called Aether Revolt, and then play a series of card games against fellow fans also opening up their new decks.

Magic: The Gathering, as you might know, is a strategy-based card game that’s wrapped in an intricate and fascinating mythology. Aether Revolt is the newest wrinkle to the ongoing story, as the people of a mystical land called Kaladesh are called to revolt against violent oppressors of the Consulate and take back their city of Ghirapur.

Seems like the political climate in the real world, now that I think about it.

Like a movie premiere, these events start at midnight and are filled with excitement and anticipation. I’m sure the wee-hour events were a lot of fun, but I opted for a pre-release party that started at 9 AM Saturday. There were actually lots of options from which to choose. The midnight events went all through the night, and then more were scheduled, and well-attended, all day Saturday and Sunday.

This was a fun crowd to hang with, as these fans are both collectors and strategists. They love the game and love the gamesmanship that comes from a competitive card game. In fact, every player is part of a nationwide network that the parent company, Hasbro, has created, and gets their own DCI number and ID card.

I got mine too!

There was a nice mix of fans. Old and young. Male and female. Super-social and more reserved. Everyone there, except for me – I’m the novice – knew his or her stuff and was ready to compete.

As players choose a small set of cards from a seemingly endless supply of cards, there are strategies for assembling the optimum line-up of cards. And the law of supply and demand has led to an incredibly intricate secondary market. Comics and Cards stores buy and sell cards both locally and nationwide. So beyond the playing of the games, the focused task of acquiring and managing one’s collection can be an enjoyable and profitable experience.

The painting for the art of the Magic mythology is what really impresses me. Magic: The Gathering provides a fantastic outlet for top notch fantasy artists and for fans to enjoy the artwork in an accessible format. It’s all a clever mix of classic fantasy elements mashed up with witty and whimsical characters. And some of the painterly landscapes make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a Tolkien novel. Check out a few of the painting of the newest release, Aether Revolt.

Since “Boosting Your Local Comic Store” is where we started, I should also note how much these comic shops benefit from card games like Magic: The Gathering. One retailer told me that card sales have recently accounted for an astonishing portion of his total revenue since he started augmenting his local sales with online sales. That’s pretty incredible, and I’m pretty supportive of anything that helps Geek Culture Retailers.


Emily S. Whitten: Entertainment Earth GOTG Action Figure Review

553e4fa12bfb3Yesterday in the mail I was excited to receive Entertainment Earth’s exclusive Guardians of the Galaxy action figure set by Hasbro. As you may have noted from previous columns, I’m a big fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie and have always liked what I’ve seen of the team in the comics as well, so I was super-excited to get such a cool item!

There are some times when a picture is worth a thousand words, so most of my review is best seen in my video unboxing of the set and here on my Instagram where I’ve got individual photos of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot. But here I will say that I was very impressed with the detail, articulation, and accessories (particularly baby Groot and the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube!) of this set. I really love both the design and detail.

This is definitely a quality set of figures with fun accessories and cool comic-book-accurate designs for any fan of Guardians of the Galaxy. I recommend you check out my video for my full review, and then pick up a set for yourself!

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Tweeks: MLP Cutie Mark Crusaders DVD

My-Little-Pony-5Attention Bronies: My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic: Adventures of the Cutie Mark Crusaders was released on DVD this week.  As you know, a pony’s cutie mark shows their special talent on their flank for all to see, but what if you’re a pony who hasn’t figured out how you are unique yet?  Cutie Marks are the quest for the Cutie Mark Crusaders and this DVD features them in 5 episodes (well, really truly only 4 because “Pinkie Pride” is about Pinkie Pie’s party planning showdown with a pony called Cheese Sandwich, voiced by Weird Al), plus bonus features like coloring pages, a sing-a-long and digital wallpaper.  All the details are in this week’s video…as well as our true feelings about Scootaloo and Rainbow Dash.

Tweeks: MLP Spooktacular Pony Tales Ushers in Halloween

chicken_pie_by_keinzantezuken-d4dj64iNow that it’s officially autumn, we’re ready to jump right into Halloween.  Thankfully, Shout! Factory has just released Spooktacular Pony Tales, a collection of six My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episodes (along with extras like pumpkin stencils & a sing-a-long!) to help us ease into probably the best holiday ever!  Of course, we’d watch Pinkie Pie in a chicken costume any time of year.

Tweeks: We Love “Littlest Pet Shop”

tumblr_n2p7f779H81qa10uwo1_500There is so much to love about Littlest Pet Shop!  Not only are they just about the cutest little toys ever with their big eyes, and bobbly heads, but they also have a cartoon series on Hub that Maddy is obsessed with.  And now they also have a comic book series thanks to IDW!  Oh and did we mention Blythe Baxter’s perfect hair and a pair of diabolically evil twins?  Watch our review & then ask yourself, as we do often, why there isn’t a Brony-like following (yet) for LPS.