By Ben Chabala
This past weekend at Wizard World Philly toy guru and Marvel's Director of Merchandising, Jesse Falcon, was inducted into the ToyFare Hall of Fame! How awesome is that?
Nominated for his work on the Marvel Legends toy line, Jesse was nice enough to spare some time for Marvel.com and answer some questions about the award, his past work, upcoming projects and what it means to join the hallowed ranks of industry giants like the Four Horsemen and Transformers.
Marvel.com: So in the Hall of Fame materials regarding your work, ToyFare mentions "Marvel Legends" and your close association to the line, how'd you get involved with it?
I had worked for Toy Biz [Marvel's sister company] for about 15 years and in the middle of that I had actually made some contacts [across industries]. We were the first company to license Lara Croft [of "Tomb Raider" video game fame] as a toy, and it did really well.
So, we started to go out and look for other video game properties. We got Capcom in Marvel vs. Street Fighter and the Street Fighter line and Resident Evil.
Toy Biz started to grow and I had an opportunity to move from product development to licensing acquisitions. My job specifically would be to go out and identify brands and properties that we thought we could make good toys out of and bring them onboard.
I did that for a few years and one thing that I was working on was "Lord of the Rings." I grew up in England and the curriculum had Tolkien in it. I fell in love with LOTR when I was a kid. So the opportunity to work on the product was overwhelming and I asked to get back into product development.
We [Toy Biz] were also working, at the same time, on "Spider-Man"—because both films came out in 2001. [My boss had asked me] to develop a new line of Spider-Man figures that were based just solely on the comics.
At the time, we had done everything in five-inch scale and we had been doing that for years and everybody loved it. But there were two or three big companies that were making really high quality twelve-inch action figures. They were military figures from different genres and eras like S.W. A. T. or the Civil War. You could actually cock the gun back and it had a separate clip and really crazy detail for something so small.
I had a few of those. When I took the clothes off, I started to look at the joints of the body and it reminded me a lot of the classic artist models. But this plastic body that was underneath was way more detailed and way better engineered.
I started looking at this and I looked at the gun. If you could make a gun that you can cock and clip then why couldn't you take all this articulation from the twelve-inch figure and put it into this six-inch body? That was the basic idea for the Spider-Man line. It was called "Spider-Man Classics."
The other thing we did to up the ante was put a comic book reproduction in the package so the comic book served as the packaging. We also created a base for the figure to stand on.
For Spider-Man, I thought it would be really cool if we gave him a base, but rather than have this figure stand on it—we would put a little I hole in the back and place it on the wall with a pin. Because with Spider-Man you see him on the wall most of the time.
So those three things, the super articulated figure, the packaging being the comic book, and the wall display mount—that became the formula that we used for the Spider-Man line.
They disappeared from stores. The line did really, really well.
We decided to open up the concept to the entire Marvel Universe. We called it "Marvel Legends" and we found a little sweet spot.
Marvel.com: What are some of your favorite toy projects from over all of these years?
"Legends" obviously was a big thing. It was awesome. "The Lord of the Rings" was a huge thing for me because I got to go to New Zealand for about a month while they were making movies and that was just incredible. I've got a cool picture of me and a couple of Uruk-hai in my office. But the fact that I had the opportunity to have that adventure, that makes up some of my fondest memories while working for this company.
Marvel.com: Is there one project you've always wanted to get done with Marvel Legends? If so what is it?
Honestly, I would love to tell you there was one thing I would like to get done with "Marvel Legends," but, actually, I would want to go back and do the whole line all over again and make it a little different, 'cause hindsight is 20/20.
Marvel.com: What does being elected to the ToyFare Hall of Fame mean to you?
I'm really not very good with compliments and this is the ultimate compliment. It was very strange and also super humbling. Like I said, I'm very bad with compliments.
Marvel.com: The award itself is pretty damn cool looking. What did you think about it?
It's awesome. If you didn't see last year's [designed and built by Tim Bruckner], it was the basic same design—a tin toy spaceship taking off. When Clay Moore and the Four Horsemen [inductees to the ToyFare Hall of Fame last year] found out that Tim Buckner, and Randy Bowen and I were going to get inducted this year, they wanted to design the award and make it similar but different. So they made a similar design but there's a bunch of planets around it. Now the tin toy is not the actual spaceship but the pilot of the spaceship. It's really cool. I hope that's actually a tradition that continues—that whoever is inducted next year, there's some uniqueness [to the award].
Marvel.com: What are you working on right now?
Well, for "Marvel Legends," we're working on showing a whole bunch of new figures off at San Diego Comic-Con and we're going to make a new series of twin packs. What's going to happen is that the fans are going to be able to select from the prototypes that we bring out there. They'll be able to select one half of the characters available in this next assortment of twin packs and then we'll get together with Hasbro and fill out the rest of the packs. Those will be offered in 2010.
Marvel.com: Over the years, we're sure you've worked with some pretty special people. Anyone you want to thank now that you're a Hall of Famer?
I think that Joann Mclaughlin is the most important because if it wasn't for her creating an atmosphere for myself and people like Damon Nee [Marvel's Director, Merchandising] and Jason Mattern [former Marvel/Toy Biz product developer] to work in, we wouldn't have had the freedom, creativity, flexibility and responsibility to grow and learn. I feel like having had that experience under her guidance was probably the greatest experience anybody could have.
All images courtesy of http://comicfigs.net/
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