By Jim Beard
When you see Diamond Select Toys' latest exclusive, top-of-the-line action figures, you may do a double-take. Costumes torn, bones exposed, parts missing…but it's all good; they're the Marvel Zombies.
A comic book phenomenon like Marvel Zombies, reprinted multiple times and still going strong, deserves quality spin-offs. Fans of the decaying, flesh-eating Marvel Universe demand more and more in their insatiable appetite for all things Zombie. In steps Diamond Select, delivering your favorite shambling superheroes in lovingly grotesque three dimensions.
Marvel Zombies is, of course, the Comic Series That Will Not Die. Originally released as a five-issue mini-series in 2006, the story of an alternate universe where all the Marvel heroes have either become undead zombies--or their food--took the industry by storm. Now in untold quantities of reprints, Marvel Zombies has spawned terrifying new offspring like the new MARVEL ZOMBIES/ARMY OF DARKNESS crossover mini-series and the just-released prequel one-shot, MARVEL ZOMBIES: DEAD DAYS.
The new Marvel Zombies action figure line consists of three characters: Spider-Man, Colonel America and the Hulk. Released to comic and specialty shops once a month beginning in May '07, each figure includes a sickly cool Marvel Zombies-themed base. The toys are a joint project between Diamond Select (production), Marvel Toys (design) and Dig Deep Entertainment (sculpting).
Your pals at Marvel.com couldn't resist the urge to dig a bit deeper into these strangely fascinating action figures and reveal the origins of their existence. Over a series of three articles, we'll get to the heart of the matter and find out how the Marvel Zombies made their way into plastic and onto your shelves.
First up is Michael Leavey, Marketing Supervisor for Diamond Select Toys, to talk about where it all begins:
Part 1: Conception and Design
MARVEL.COM: Michael, where did the original idea to do Marvel Zombies action figures originate?
Diamond Select Toys tries to do as much product as we can that ties in to current happenings in Marvel books with our resin and Marvel Select lines, so when we saw how well the Marvel Zombies limited series sold it seemed a natural choice.
MARVEL.COM: With such a sprawling story and a multitude of players, how did you zero in on the three characters that will be made, Spider-Man, Colonel America and the Hulk?
The entire part of the story that revolved around the Silver Surfer seemed to lend itself perfectly to a tight mini-line of figures.
MARVEL.COM: Was the line designed all at the same time or was it more of a "one at a time" thing?
Because of the Silver Surfer bases (the bases [each] link together and have parts of the poor, doomed Silver Surfer in them), we had to come up with the design for all three figures at once.
MARVEL.COM: The bases are a great theme to connect the figures in the line. So, how was Spider-Man chosen as the first release?
Spidey is the anchor to the Marvel Universe and one of the main players in the limited series. He was a natural selection to anchor the new line of figures.
MARVEL.COM: Scale has become a very important aspect to many action figure collectors and aficionados. How was the scale of the Marvel Zombies toys arrived upon? And the price point?
The 7" scale of the Marvel Select line was established prior to the release of the Marvel Legends 6" scale line. The Marvel Select line, as part of our agreement with Marvel, has a set price point at about $20. It is sold to specialty retailers (Suncoast, Spencers Gift, etc..) and comic shops only, and is generally viewed as more of a collectors line than the 6" Marvel Legends.
As you can see with the Zombies releases, the Marvel Select line is known for accessories/bases as well as detailed sculpts that you may not find with a $7 action figure. That, along with the fact that we do characters (like the Zombies, the Watcher...) that may not be in a mass market line, gears us more towards collectors.
MARVEL.COM: Okay, so once you have the idea and the character selection, what's the next step to get these bad boys into plastic and onto the shelves?
We work closely with Marvel Toys on development of the Marvel Select line, so Damon Nee at Marvel Toys had some Zombie design work done that we then sent to Hong Kong to Digger at Dig Deep Entertainment to review.
MARVEL.COM: So, control art or turnarounds are produced at this point? Did you have Marvel Zombies artist Sean Phillips involved?
Yes, figure design was the first step and that was taken care of by the designers at Marvel Toys, not the artist that worked on the series.
MARVEL.COM: Now, Our Heroes get pretty ragged in the mini-series, and no punches are pulled with the depictions of their zombification. Would you say that the action figures are grossed-up or grossed-down from the story itself? How did you pick a level of decomposition to go with?
Marvel Zombies fans can judge for themselves, but we don't feel like we've cheapened out on the gore. With anything we do, we use the actual comic as the ultimate reference and try to stay true to that.
MARVEL.COM: The designs for the characters are then approved by Marvel Comics themselves?
Since we at Diamond Select work with Marvel Toys in development of the Marvel Select line, they take care of all the approvals related to [the] line.
MARVEL.COM: In looking at the Spider-Man Zombie figure, do you see it as not only an item that Marvel Zombies fans will want but also a must-have for Spidey fans in general?
Oh, sure, and fans of fun figures as well as fans of the new series. The comic seemed to appeal to a very wide range of people and we expect the figure[s] will as well.
MARVEL.COM: To wrap up the design process, these are not simply sculptures but true action figures with articulation; how do you balance articulation with design/artistry?
The Marvel Select line always puts look before articulation, but we do try to include as much movement as we can.
MARVEL.COM: Thanks for talking with us, Michael!
Look for Part 2: Sculpting, in the coming weeks, loaded with tons of images of Colonel America--sculpts, up-close head sculpt images, design sheets and concept art. For more on the Marvel Zombies comics and all things Zombie-related, check out the Marvel Zombies Visual Guide
Here are two more images of the Marvel Zombies Spider-Man sculpt for the road!