There are very few toy lines that can claim to have been a house hold name for over forty years. GI Joe is one of those select few. Starting out as a 12” man of action, in 1982 Hasbro reinvented the GI Joe franchise by adding a cast of characters and an enemy to the mythos. A generation of children were captivated by the epic battle of GI Joe vs. Cobra: The Enemy and things were never the same again. In the past several years, the GI Joe: A Real American Hero franchise has come into it’s own. Fans have had a re-launched toy line and new comic series from Devil’s Due Publishing to collect. There have also been a steady flow of higher end licensed collectibles available to fans over the past few years. There have been reprints of the Marvel comic series, a limited line of collectibles from Palisades Marketing and a series of high quality products available from Diamond Select. Joining the family of GI Joe license holders this year is a relatively new company that promises to bring the GI Joe universe to life in cast resin: Puzzle Production / First 4 Figures.
Puzzle Productions, Ltd was founded in 2002 with the goal of producing high quality licensed products. Puzzle Productions’ products are marketed and sold under the First 4 Figures banner. Puzzle Productions and First 4 Figures currently hold licenses to such properties as World Wresting Entertainment, Magic: The Gathering, Doom: The Movie and Transformers. Their newest acquisition is the GI Joe license. I recently had the pleasure to correspond with Alex Davis, Director of First 4 Figures, Ltd via email and discuss the company’s involvement with the GI Joe license. What follows is the question and answer session that was conducted. There has been no editing of content.
What has been First4Figure's most successful license so far?
We are quite new to the industry, having really only started last year. We recently acquired Transformers, Doom and GI Joe, to add to our license portfolio which included WWE and Magic the Gathering. Currently, our most successful license would be Magic the Gathering.
What led First4Figures to seek and acquire the GI Joe license?
GI Joe is a fantastic property, with a great following, great product support, and such a colourful universe. From a business point of view, there are lots of great characters to choose from so there will always be something to do! Also, the GI Joe license is the third license that we have been awarded from Hasbro, so we were very familiar with the license process. From a fan point of view... GI Joe rules! Who wouldn’t want it?
The First4Figures website says that the statues will be based upon artwork by Devil's Due Publishing. Is First4Figures looking at bringing comic panels to life in 3D or using the Devil's Due designs as a basis for the statues?
There will be a variation. Where it is possible to turn a comic cover into a statue, then we would explore that route. Otherwise, we would use the designs and come up with our own pose.
Besides the 9" statues already mentioned on First4Figure's website, there are mentions of busts and dioramas. Can you give us any insight into what is being planned? What types of sizes of GI Joe can fans expect for these future offerings?
Yes, we will be bringing out a multitude of different products, such as VS dioramas, where the various characters will be pitted against each other in dynamic poses. We are actually putting the final sculpting touches on the first in the series. You can expect to have enough of a variation in the products planned. We also have a surprise up our sleeve. All will be revealed in the coming months.
For the statues, First4Figures has chosen the 9" scale. How was that size decided on?
A lot of elements went into that decision. We came to the conclusion that we could produce a decent sized figure at 9” and still keep the SRP down. However, it doesn’t mean that 9” will be the only scale we’ll do. We may bring out bigger pieces which cater for the higher end collectors. Similarly for pieces in a smaller scale. We are very flexible at this point. Three years is a long enough time to explore the possibility of different lines in different scales.
Will the future busts and dioramas also be based upon Devil's Due's artwork or is there any plans to branch out into the other appearances of GI Joe such as the Marvel comic, the Sunbow cartoon series or even the last few years of toy designs?
We will definitely be branching out into different styles. Whilst we think the Devils Due artwork is brilliant, we do recognise that it is not for everyone. You can expect every previous GI Joe incarnation to get a resin treatment of some kind.
Can you tell us a little bit about the people at First4Figures working on the GI Joe license right now? Are any of them familiar with the franchise from child hood or are they just discovering the GI Joe myths for the first time now?
Yeah, GI Joe was part of my childhood. I’ve got the TV series on DVD and read the Marvel comics when they were available. I actually have a direct involvement with this line, with me overseeing all designs. Our in-house sculptors have a nostalgic link to the license too. There are a few in the company who are just discovering the GI Joe myth, who when they see the statue designs, think the characters look very cool. “Who’s that guy wearing black and holding a sword. He looks sweet (Snake Eyes)” and “that guy has a really cool shiny head! (Destro)”. All in all, most of us are very familiar with the GI Joe franchise.
What material does First4Figures predominantly use for their products? Will the GI Joe license see mostly the same elements used? What production techniques are likely to be used?
We will predominately be using resin for the GI Joe license. However, if there are some parts of the sculpt that needs different materials, such as metal for weapons, we would use them.
What GI Joe characters are First4Figures interested in doing initially for their product line? Is there a list of what characters the company would eventually like to produce or are any characters open?
All the major characters will be made at some time, as part of the different lines. We have a good idea who will be coming up in the first 18 months for which we have the license. We are open to the idea that should their be a demand for a lesser known character, we would make it but perhaps at a smaller production run.
What do you see the major thrust of the GI Joe license at First 4 Figures being? Statues, busts or dioramas?
We expect that each of the product lines will have its own attraction. There are collectors who prefer busts over statues, collectors who prefer the more dynamic poses possible in a VS diorama, and collectors who prefer single statues. We hope that we can cater to all tastes.
One of the hardest parts of holding the GI Joe license is the competition for the money from fans. There is an active toy line and a comic line. How does First4Figures plan to compete for their share of the GI Joe fan's income?
By making great products!
Would First4Figures consider products similar to staticon figures? Figures and objects that would not be toys but would be in scale to the GI Joe action figure line?
Certainly a possibility. We have a good time frame so we will have the opportunity to explore all sorts of product lines.
What is the length of time that First4Figures has secured the GI Joe license from Hasbro for?
Our license is for three years.
What is your hope for the tenure of the GI Joe license at First4Figures?
We’ll see where we are in three years time, and if we haven’t managed to get everything we would like to get done in that time, we would look into renewing the license.
I would like to add that we are very receptive to fan opinion. They nothing is more important. As a result, we will be running polls on our site where the fans will be able to vote for their favourite characters to be made into future products. It would probably start with a character choice of 5, with a poll running for about two to three weeks. Once a character has been chosen, we would run a competition, inviting all the GI Joe fan artists to draw a picture of the chosen character. Once all the art has been submitted, we would choose the top 5 and run a poll again for a winner (with prizes for the winner). We would then go on to make the figure. As I mentioned before, fan feedback and opinion is very important to us, so if there is anyone who has any suggestions or comments on our GI Joe plans, you can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to thank Mr. Davis for taking time to answer our questions and for bringing First 4 Figures into the family of GI Joe licenses. I personally look forward to seeing the products that are in store for GI Joe fans. For more information on First 4 Figures and Puzzle Productions, please check out their website at http://www.first4figures.com.