People have used action figures to tell their own stories for decades, but now Tim Seeley and some talented friends are doing it with comic books and their own imaginary toylines.
Seeley, an abashed Masters of the Universe die-hard, brings his love of toys and comics together in the anthology OGN Tim Seeley's Action Figure Collection Volume 1 coming out this week.
Newsarama spoke with Seeley about his love for the toys of the 80’s and why he wanted to put this all together.
Newsarama: Okay, Tim, what exactly is this Action Figure Collection really all about? I’m guessing something to do with action figures?
Tim Seeley: [Laughs] Right, exactly. The whole name of the project is Tim Seeley’s Action Figure Collection Volume 1. Essentially it’s about how the best thing about comics is that you can come up with these crazy and colorful ideas and get them into people’s hands very quickly and that’s kind of what this was.
This has stories about characters I created when I was a little kid and my Colt Noble stories, which is an homage to 80’s cartoons, mixed with 80’s teen sex comedies and it contains over the top, strange, experimental comics for the sake of comics.
Nrama: You and your brother, Steve, have worked on Master of the Universe books before and we’ve talked in the past about our mutual MOTU love, but what other action figures did you collect as a kid?
Seeley: We grew up in that era where there was a new cartoon and toy line every week. Not all of them were meant for success, but in our house, they were at least worth checking out. Some of the things we liked best were some of the ones that weren’t that successful. There was just one line for Visionaries or Warrior Beasts or whatever. They didn’t exactly have to have a cool story, but we were excited about how cool the toys looked and how fun they were. I think in a lot of ways it’s something I’ve missed about comics. As a kid I liked finding new things and just diving into them. I could just enjoy one comic at a time and they didn’t need a huge marketing campaign behind them or a movie pitch or a cartoon and could just exist and be pure fun.
With this, I hope I can bring something like that back.
Nrama: Aside from yourself, who do we have contributing to this?
Seeley: So, one of the points was this thing was if I had control and was paying for the whole thing I wanted to hire artists I really like and wanted to work with. In my head, when I think about comics I see Sophie Campbell’s art so I reached out to her. Jim Terry, who is my studio mate, I had him as well as Sean Dove, who is another studio mate. So I just wanted to go back and make comics the way I used to do across the table with my brother, just everybody jamming and having a good time and I hope that good times translates to that page.
Nrama: When you were putting it together, did you have a certain direction or did you let your creators have carte blanche? I guess I’m saying did you go in asking “can you do an analog for X” or such?
Seeley: Yeah, I think part of this was just reaching back into these ideas that were heavily inspired by or obvious knock offs of things, but as long as they presented it as a new idea and new version of whatever, that was good enough for me. I love when comics have a message, have the potential to get political, but what I wanted to say here is that “this is fun and comics are awesome”. That is the guiding principle of this. It doesn’t have to be a dissection of the medium. It’s something a 13-year-old can enjoy or a 40-year-old as long as they’re a kid at heart.
Nrama: Would you consider doing something like this again? I mean, you named it volume 1 so will there be a volume 2?
Seeley: I mean, it was almost therapeutic to do this book and the stuff in there was what I used to counter the stuff I was working on that I found difficult. This would be a little break from working on Revival and it was good to just disappear and work on something like this. It was good to just do these eight-page stories and you’re in and out. Then I’d have to go back and work on Revival or figure out how to make this plot point in Grayson work.
This was just going back to that pure comics for comics sake mentality. It was a low pressure gig so yeah, I’d love to do something like this again. If it’s successful, I’d do a whole new book with some of the popular characters from this one and visit all sorts of genre, but having a centralized idea that this is a comic I made because I love comics.
Nrama: Look at some of these designs, did you custom make your own figures of these characters?
Seeley: I made figures of the Deathstar Divas and Dracula Man. I had a friend by the name of Michael Barker who is in the Chicago area who sculpted and casted those toys and I painted them up. It was something I always wanted to do and we just did it. It was the best part of the collecting toys of just busting them out and finding out their stories.
Nrama: Looking at these designs in Action Figure Collection and some of the designs for some characters in MOTU, why do you think designers stepped away from a lot of these aesthetics?
Seeley: I know there’s tendency to overcomplicate things and try to convince us that the medium is as serious as film. But look at these designs, there’s this elegant perfection to the original Snake Eyes obviously that’s an almost perfect design and pretty much impossible to beat that visor. Wait, that’s actually the second Snake Eyes, not the original.
For Masters of the Universe, there are so many great ones. Yesterday I was admiring Zodac, which is a weird helmet and red chestplate but he looks so great. I get that he’s some weird alien cop guy, but it’s the everything about him that is so great. Looking at Thundercats, I think Cheetara is a crazy good design, but if I keep going in my head there’s going to be so many more. So when you change them or update them needlessly, you miss the whole point of their simplicity, you know? Some things are just never going to be topped simply because they were designed to be just toys.
Nrama: What do you think it is about these kind of toys that still resonates with fans to this day? I mean, you have Super 7 taking control of the MOTU license and Hasbro releasing their Revolution sets at Comic-Con International: San Diego this year. Is it simply nostalgia or is it something more?
Seeley: Oh man, I think there’s a lot of reasons, but the toys that are often made into comic book characters are designed purely to just be a cool toy. All they have to do is look cool. I mean, in comics that true too, right? As long as it looks great on paper, it doesn’t really matter how practical it would be in real life. On film, a lot of the times it all has to look practical, and that can be a drag and that’s why a lot of the toys from movies look so boring. Because they’re based on something that has to be real.
I think the designs remain relevant because they were designed to be so iconic. The more complex the world gets, I think there’s always a desire to escape to a simple story of a good guy fighting a bad guy. I go back and forth on this. I think the today, people are having a difficult time enjoying things that are simple. You look at our entertainment and something like Game of Thrones, with so many characters and sometimes the good guy and bad guy are the same person. So I think there’s always going to be the appeal to some universal simplicity.