Mr. Nostalgia Interviews the Retropreneur’s of Captain Action Enterprises…

My first introduction to Captain Action was in December of 2012 when my wife and I were in Toys R Us and as I walked down the boy’s aisle I saw two boxes of Thor costumes for a doll that said on it Captain Action.  The first Thor was beardless, the second a Walt Simonson-era bearded Thor.  “Cool,” I said to myself as I checked them out.  Next to them was a doll of Captain Action himself and suddenly I knew what the costumes of the hero’s were for.  My next introduction wasn’t until this past September when, at a different Toys R Us with my sister, I came across a Captain Action Loki costume for Captain Action’s enemy Dr. Evil.  OK, now I had to find out what this was all about.  I went home that night, and looking up Captain Action, was led to the official site of Captain Action and all was revealed.  As I read through the site I thought to myself that this was something that Toy-Lines should be covering.  It was my responsibility as a toy blogger (because with great power comes that) to see if I could get an interview with Joe Ahearn and Ed Catto regarding the Captain.  I sent them an email and they both were gracious enough to take time out of their daily routine to be interviewed.  I’d like to thank them both in advance for doing so.

TL: Were you always a Captain Action fan growing up? How old were you when you discovered Captain Action and how old were you when you stopped playing with him?  When did you rediscover your interest in him?

EC: Both Joe and I were both fans growing up. For me, Captain Action was part of that “Best Christmas Ever” type memory. As a kid whose head exploded in the throes of 1960’s Bat-mania, Captain Action was a gateway into the wider world of other superheroes and comics.

JA: I was almost 5 when I discovered Captain Action, while visiting an older cousin who already had a large collection. That Christmas it was under my tree!  I played with him on and off till I was about 11, and then rediscovered him in the early 90’s as a collector.

TL: What was it like to work for Playing Mantis and help bring back Captain Action? Did you always want to bring him back to the extent that you did or was that more of something that just happened?

JA: It’s funny…my cousin who introduced me to Captain Action as mentioned above and I used to kid around saying they really should bring him back, but it never really came into focus until I began re-collecting and saw that Hasbro was beginning to reproduce original GI JOE figures and sets, and that got me thinking seriously about Captain Action. To make a long story short, after some trial an error and discovering what Playing Mantis was currently doing by bringing back Johnny Lightning die-cast cars which had a similar experience to Captain Action, I approached them about bringing back Captain Action and after about a year of market research, and several follow ups from me, they decided to take the ball and run with it and hired me as a product consultant to the line.

TL: What did you feel when they offered you the license of ownership?  Did you have any sense of doubt that maybe you wouldn’t know what to do with it or did you feel that it was meant to be and you could go above and beyond what previously had been done with the character? And how does it feel to be the owner of one of your childhood heroes?

EC: When Joe and I assumed the mantle of ownership, we were met with much skepticism. But as long-time toy geeks and passionate comic fans, we knew there was just so much potential with Captain Action. I recently spoke with Stan Weston, the man who created GI JOE and Captain Action, and he seemed happy that the torch was passed and wished us luck – with his blessings. That was a very cool moment. But when we see some kid fascinated by the Captain Action his mom or dad just bought him at a convention, we can’t help but think, maybe that kid will be running this company in 25 years.

JA: I was excited when the license came into our hands because I always felt we could do more with it than what had previously been done.  Ed and I decided early on that we were not going to try to simply remake CA toys, but rather build a Captain Action brand and a Captain Action universe on multiple platforms. And to answer your other question we are pretty proud to be the owner of a toy that meant so much to us as kids.

TL: Did you have to pay an expensive fee for the license or was it more of them looking to get rid of it?

EC: We can’t get into the specifics, but suffice it to say that we’ve worked so very, very hard these last seven years to make the Captain Action rebirth an “overnight success. Quite frankly, Joe and I joke that if we had known how much work it would demand, we probably wouldn’t have done it!

TL: How did you two meet and form Captain Action Enterprises?

EC: Joe and I were both members of a Captain Action collector group. We were working in metro NY and got together one night after work to swap stories.

TL: Do you sell the figures out of other stores?  With toy stores like Child’s World and K.B. Toy Stores now gone, do you sell them at Wal-Mart or Target or just Toys R Us? Is it strictly a Toys R Us exclusive and if so how did that come about?

EC: For our first year, we produced an exclusive version of the line for Toys R Us and we produced a deluxe version for everyone else.  For this next wave of costume sets and figures, we’ll be producing just one version. The good news is this will make the whole so affordable – just $19.99 for costume sets and $19.99 for figures too, if you can believe it.  And the Iron Man and Wolverine costume sets, while not “deluxe sets”, will include the last two costume elements for our Hawkeye “Assemble-an-Avenger” promotion.

TL: What made you start the costume license with Marvel?

EC: We actually had more contacts with WB/DC so we thought it would all start there. But the Marvel folks jumped up to bat quickly and they have been great to work with. And it’s been such a blast to create costume sets for old favorites like Spider-man and Captain America and new sets for characters like Thor, Loki and Hawkeye. And the new Wolverine and Iron Man costume sets are just great.

TL: How does it work getting a license with Marvel for the character and costume? Do you have to go through Disney since they own Marvel or do you deal with Marvel directly?

EC: We work with their licensing folks and they’ve been fantastic.

TL: How has Marvel been to your ideas? Have they ever said no to any or recommended any themselves as to what characters to do next?

EC: The Marvel folks have been encouraging and supportive. They’ve also been incredibly helpful with certain costume elements, and are eager to share and collaborate on ideas in order to make it all work best.

TL: The Marvel characters and costumes are just wonderful, are there any plans for more to come?

EC: Next up we have Iron man and Wolverine, and we’ll be finishing the Hawkeye costume with this wave too.  At NYCC, we’ll be asking fans to vote for the next characters we’ll be tackling, so we’re eager to hear if fans are excited for costume sets of characters like Cyclops from the X-men, Daredevil, Nick Fury (as Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.), or Dr. Doom or others.

TL: I thought the Loki villain suit was just a wonderful idea for Dr. Evil. Are there any more Marvel villains coming like the Green Goblin or Red Skull?

EC: Absolutely. We were really proud of the Loki costume set. Also on our short list is Dr. Doom (as mentioned) and Magneto. We’re big Marvel fans so we’d love to eventually even get to bad guys like Mysterio and Baron Zemo!

TL: Are the Captain America and Spider-man suites still available?

EC: We still have some of the deluxe sets, but they are going fast. We’re totally sold out of the basic versions, and our Cover Classic Captain America – featuring the Golden Age Captain America is totally sold out. In fact, I need to get a couple of extras for my own collection from eBay!

TL: The Avengers Assemble Hawkeye was such a great and clever idea. Whose was it and how did you decide on Hawkeye to be the character to assemble?

EC: As big Marvel fans, we love the Avengers and Hawkeye was one of those characters, before the movie anyways, that we thought the general public would never embrace him. I remember back when I was in college, and Roger Stern was writing the Avengers and living in my town. I got to know him and he was, and is, a great guy. He’s always bringing back Hawkeye back to the team, and he’d always say, “He’s a butthead, but he’s our butthead.” And even today, with this great new series by Matt Fraction and David Aja, Hawkeye’s so much fun.

JA: The idea itself to do the build a character was a collaborative effort between us and Round 2. We wanted to make the line more collectible and give the fans a cool reward for collecting the series, and also be able to offer an extra character who at the time (before the movies) as Ed mentioned was not well known publicly.

TL: Any plans for an Action Boy figure maybe with a young Bucky Barnes costume to go along with Captain Action’s Captain America costume?

EC: We love Action Boy and are eager to re-introduce him to the new line-up, but we’re going to focus on Lady Action next.  Realistically, she gives us a much wider range of possibilities.

TL: Who is Captain Action and what is his origin? What is his mission? Does he have a secret identity?

EC: Captain Action is the super spy mystery man of many identities who’s had origins as a toy, and in a couple of prior comic book series. Small elements of the past have been taken to account while taking Captain Action to a whole new level in our brand new comic book mini-series from Dynamite Comics—Codename: Action.

TL: What is Dr. Evil’s origin? (With that brain of his he reminds me of the Meta-luna Monster.)

EC: Isn’t he great? Dr. Evil shares the same history as Captain Action, but is also reinvented with a whole new twist in Codename: Action! And BTW, if you can’t find a copy in your local shop, it’s available on ComiXology too.

TL: Can you explain to those who are new to Captain Action what his weapons are?

JA: Traditionally, Captain Action’s weapons were his lightning sword and laser ray gun, and he also had his multi-terrain vehicle the Silver Streak, but the greatest weapon of all has always been his master of disguise element—the ability to transform into other people or other heroes.

TL: I enjoyed your history of Captain Action on your site. Can you tell us where you plan on taking the Captain in the future?

JA: Where aren’t we going to take him! We plan to continue building the Captain Action brand in as many diverse directions as we can. We’ve gotten off to a pretty good start with collectibles, toys, comics and apparel and are currently working on marketing an animated series.

TL: How is the cartoon coming along? Did you cast your voice talent yet?

JA: The Animated Series is in the marketing and development stage.  We’ve pulled together a short promo just recently and for that we went to veteran Voice Actor, Captain Action fan and all around great guy Wally Wingert to provide the voice of Captain Action.

TL: Will new toys be based off the cartoon that is being made and if so, will you g for the same size as the current Captain Action or will you make them smaller, like 3.75 inches like the current Hobbit toys?

JA: Well, like all other cartoon series, once we get up and running we’d love to do toys and other products based on the show, but what form that will be in is too early to say.

TL: Any plans for a Captain Action live action movie? If so, who would you cast as Captain Action?

JA: Not at present but we would of course LOVE to see that happen at some point as well. If so, who would we cast as Captain Action? Well, there are a lot of great choices out there, but the one person we’ve talked about the most would be Mad Men actor Jon Hamm. He’s got that classic leading man swagger that would be perfect for Captain Action.

TL: How are the comics selling?

JA: Issue 1 of Codename: Action just hit the shelves the first week in September and Dynamite just announced it was a sellout! The book has gotten rave reviews thanks to the great storytelling of Chris Roberson, art by Jonathan Lau and some great cover art by Jae Lee, Francesco Francavilla, Art Baltazar, and Joe Jusko to name a few.

TL: Will there be other Captain Action suites like the Captain Action Polar Suit?

JA: We’ve got a few things on the drawing board like a Scuba outfit, Ninja outfit, Secret Spy Mission outfit and several others. Our new Codename Action Figure coming out in a couple of weeks takes Captain Action’s uniform up a few notches by enhancing the black parts with a pleather material giving it a more structured look.

TL: Will you ever do a Lone Ranger and Tonto or even The Phantom costume like in the original line?

JA: While we do love these characters they both have been done by Ideal and Playing Mantis, but you never know. If it makes sense to do them, we certainly wouldn’t shy away from it. Currently we’re focused on bringing the fans these great Marvel characters and in 2014 we’ll also be doing our first DC characters as well! Our next Wave will include Superman, Batman and The Joker!

TL: Who is Savage Beauty and how does she tie into the Captain Action universe?

EC: Savage Beauty is our take on the classic Jungle Girl comic theme, but with many elements of this genre that needed updating. Savage Beauty is the story of two step-sisters, Livvy and Lacy Rae, who’ve just graduated from UCLA and make an unusual choice for their first job out of school! But we’re glad they did, as they find themselves working for the mysterious Mr. Eden on special assignments in Sub-Saharan Africa.

TL: Who are the Zeroids and how do they tie into the Captain Action universe?

JA: The Zeroids are the original Robots from Space! They were a classic toy of the 60’s and 70’s who like Captain Action we are priming for a reboot. Thus far we put out a 2 issue mini-series with Moonstone Books which gave the Zeroids a whole new origin, but we’ve got a lot more planned.

TL: Have either the Zeroids or Savage Beauty ever had a cross-over with Captain Action?

JA: Not as yet, but we’re sure it’s coming!

TL: I’m really impressed with the amount of items for sale on your website and really like the black t-shirt with the Captain Action logo. Do you have more plans for merchandise like this?

JA: We’re always looking for new ways to expand the brand. Currently we have a number of different apparel choices in our on line shop, as well as a number of other cool products. We’ve also licensed out to Graffiti Designs who sells t-shirts with our classic logo, and more recently to Titan merchandise that’s had great success with selling t-shirts with a distressed Captain Action logo, and they just debuted a hoodie currently on sale with this same design.

TL: How do you work a full time day job and then find time and the energy to run Captain Action Enterprises?

JA: It’s not easy let us tell you but we manage.  We’re poster boys for burning the midnight oil! They say if you love what you’re doing you never work a day in your life and that’s how we feel about Captain Action Enterprises. Although we have our struggles like any other business, we love what we are doing and what we are building.

TL: What is the average day-in-the-life for you at Captain Action Enterprises? When do you start working and when do you finish? Are you ever truly finished or are ideas always brewing in your minds as to what to do next?

JA: Like any other home grown business it’s 24 – 7 to a degree. We are constantly multi-tasking, going from one project to the next and managing several simultaneously, plus at the same time not resting on our laurels but rather always looking for new ways to grow.

TL: How does it feel to see that final product once you see it there on the shelves? From start to finish, I would imagine at times it can be quite stressful, but when finally finished is it a sense of relief or accomplishment that you feel when you walk into a Toys R Us and see him sitting on the shelves?

JA: You hit the nail right on the head.  That’s exactly how it is.  There’s a lot of time and effort and of course occasional frustration that goes into every project, but it’s very rewarding when it all finally comes together and you see it on the shelf and are holding it in your hands.

TL: I’m sure there has to be some frustrating times, but in the end, are you glad you made the decision to create Captain Action Enterprises and could you see yourself not doing this?

JA: Well when we first told people we were doing this a lot of people thought we were crazy. We thought maybe we were too, but once we got the ball rolling we knew we made the right choice, struggles and all.  As for not doing this, well we both enjoy it so much I think it would be hard to imagine not doing it. We look forward to finding new ways to fuel the longevity of the brand.

TL: What has the fan reaction been to bringing the Captain back?

JA: The fan reaction has been extremely positive. Currently the fans are loving the new toy line and as mentioned they are latching on quickly to our new comic book series.  We greatly appreciate all the fan support we’ve gotten over these years and the support of a lot of great professionals as well. It’s been very rewarding to see a lot of new fans who never had a Captain Action toy or read a Captain Action comic jump on board and tell us how much they like what we are doing.

TL: I’d like to thank you both for the time you took to answer these questions and wish you the best of luck with all of your future Captain Action plans.

JA & EC: Thank you so much for speaking with us as well.  It’s been a pleasure. We’re gonna keep the Action coming!

(Ed Catto (left) and Joe Ahearn (right) of Team Action)

 

For those of you who enjoyed this interview and would like to learn more about Captain Action, I urge you to check out their wonderful website that can be found at www.captainaction.com.

Mr. Nostalgia and the Toy-Lines Crew.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *