Brock Otterbacher Talks About Mondo’s Figure Future and TMNT Love
In recent months, commemorative poster-creating powerhouse Mondo has expanded its reach to more realms of film-inspired memorabilia. While the Austin-based company has been pumping out vinyl soundtracks, VHS re-releases and clothing options, to name a few, Mondo has only just begun dipping its toes into the figure and statue game. However, this year at San Diego Comic-Con, Mondo made a big splash, offering early looks at a variety of new comic and movie-based pieces inspired by some of the most iconic characters and creators of our generation.
We spoke with Mondo's Creative Director of Toys and Collectibles, Brock Otterbacher, about the company's fresh slate of offerings, and how he hoped to stand out in an ever-crowding market. With new items based on Hellboy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the way, Mondo is clearly setting the bar high for itself. Factor in the wealth of artists and creatives at Mondo's disposal, and you have a company that seems poised to make a major dent in the collectible space (and wallets) in 2015 and beyond.
ComicsAlliance: One of the big pieces on display here at the show is the Phantom City Creative Godzilla statue. It's based on artwork from the poster Mondo did for the 2014 film. What was the process of turning that piece of art into the statue you have here?
Brock Otterbacher: We're doing a lot of original stuff; stuff that's stylized and based on some of our art work. To me this was the most obvious one to start with because I always thought the image was so striking. What we did, with the permission of Justin at Phantom City, is we hired designer to do some full visual renderings of what it would look like in 3D. The designer added a lot more visual detail than even the poster has. If you go back and look at that piece, the poster version is just a lot of big shapes, but this is a lot of tiny elements.
Once we had that done, I hired Philip Ramirez from Ramirez Studios, who's a veteran of the toy industry, and he and his partner just killed this thing over the past month. It's going to be gray because it's rubble, but I didn't want it just to be gray because that's boring. I wanted it to have the under-light of the red to come in an sort of imitate the background color of the original poster, but also to make it look as if there were fires burning beneath him.
CA: You guys had been teasing the Madballs reveal, and showed off some pins that were on sale here at the show, but you're also doing recreations of the classic toys. Are these going to be more in the collectible vein, or are you revisiting the old style for Madballs?
BO: We're looking at soft vinyls, so it will retain a lot more detail while still being soft. I know everyone wants it to be squishy, but that's just not feasible to do. The old foam didn't hold paint well and it would crack over time, but the vinyls will work much better. This wave is definitely a test, and we'll see about doing more Madballs and perhaps other kinds of balls from other properties of our own design. Hopefully we'll get to explore that world, and I definitely have more Madballs I want to do, but I have some other things I want to do in the same style when that makes sense.
CA: Another surprising piece debuting at the show is this Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim. We've gotten a few Scott figures over they years, but nothing really spotlighting Ramona. I see you are calling it a figure, so will it be fully-articulated like these 1/6 scale pieces, or more limited like the First Turtle Mondo's putting out?
BO: Ramona will be limited articulation, but will have rotation in her neck, her hands will rotate, and you'll be able to pull out her right hand to swap on in that can hold her hammer instead of the bat. The Mondo exclusive version will feature Scott Pilgrim in her purse, but you can interchange it with her normal bag, too. Both will come with the alternate hands and weapons though. We are going to look at variants for her down the line for other purposes, so there will be lots of t-shirt and hair treatments. The great thing about Ramona Flowers, and why I like doing this figure, is she changes her style a lot, and we can really play with that.
CA: Could we maybe see her in a Mondo t-shirt down the line?
BO: I'm thinking Death Waltz [Mondo's record label]; that's more her style, anyway.
CA: You've already shown off the First Hellboy statue, but premiering here at the show is the new Baby Hellboy 1/6 scale figure. How did this figure come about?
BO: Last year we showed off the Mousers as sort of a preview for our 1/6 scale line, and I don't think a lot of people knew what that meant at the time. Now we have the Turtles out, and you have an idea of what we're doing. So when you see Baby Hellboy, what do you think that means for other possibilities? We wanted to start with a small little buddy, which was fun to create.
We actually had to design his whole face because there was never really one look for Baby Hellboy in the comics. There's that one image of him in the photograph with the soldiers from World War II, and it's not very clear. Even Mike Mignola himself wanted to play with it, and we had many different iterations of it before finally getting to this one. Mignola had ideas but when he does a drawing, he doesn't want that drawing imitated exactly as is for a figure. There's a little bit of interpretation that needs to be done with that. What I finally did was have one of my friends, Joe Allard, draw a bunch of heads. We went through those and revised and mixed them up, and once we had one we liked, we took it to Mike.
Once he approved we took it to sculpt, and got it as it is now. The Mondo exclusive version will come with a little Crown of the Apocalypse, but that's pretty much it. There won't be any alternate paint apps.
CA: When it comes to the runs of your figures, should we expect these all to be limited? How are you planning on distributing these collectibles?
BO: There usually won't be a set amount of figures in the run, but with the exclusives, we will limit that like we have with Iron Giant and the First Hellboy. With the regular versions, it will be limited in the sense that we'll only be making these pieces once.
CA: The star of the display here is the full range of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mondo is doing in 1/6 scale. Obviously this is the start of a larger plan, but why was it important to kick things off with the Turtles?
BO: This is like a dream come true for me because this is really taking all my favorite pieces of the Turtles, in terms of the aesthetic; so for me it's taking that and mixing in some of the fun from the animated series. I get to be really, really nerdy about the accessories and stuff we're including. Like the little starfish-looking guy here is from Michelangelo's solo issue in 1985, from the last page of the issue. He's a little orphan alien. That's how nerdy I'm able to get with this stuff. With Donatello, we've got this arm-cannon from his solo issue where he meets a character that's basically Jack Kirby. He draws Donatello this blaster to help him defeat these monsters.
I have a field day with the Turtles, and I'm doing exactly what I wanted to do. I'm happy people are stoked, and that they're embracing these versions, which are my favorite incarnation. If you have them all displayed with the red bandanas, it's like, how do you tell them apart? Well, we made all their skins different shades of green, and that's all based off the original Playmates figures. There's not a lot of fabric with the Turtles, but we're planning on expanding to Casey Jones, Shredder and the Foot Clan in the next wave, those will have fabric.
CA: You can see these are going to have plenty of articulation, but is that something that will be a hallmark of the 1/6 line, or will it vary license by license?
BO: This is our first out the gate of this style, when we get to something like the Masters of the Universe style, it'll be a little more realistic, but still super-articulated. I'm bringing a lot of the Japanese-style articulation to it, which is something I really like. This is just the start, and I can't wait to talk about where we're going after MotU in a few months. I think we're making a unique statement on 1/6 scale figures, and they're going to be a lot less expensive than other stuff on the market right now.