Just a few short years ago, the creative team at Toy Biz decided to undertake a project that would eventually become what we now know as the Famous Covers line. Leading that charge has been Product Designer, Tom McCormack. Although he started out as an industrial designer, he found his way into the magical world of toys and is now the team leader on the Famous Covers project.
"Many of the product managers at Toy Biz grew up collecting the Mego World's
Greatest Super Heroes action figures. We saw a great opportunity to
re-introduce a larger size, super-poseable figures with real fabric clothing to
please the thousands of collectors who could no longer buy these classics. We
also used today's technology to improve the look and poseability of these
figures" says McCormack of the line's origin.
Designing a new line of this scope took some planning. Toy Biz already employs a number of talented sculptors for work on their smaller scale figures. Using this core of talent, they have put them to work in developing sculpts for the Famous Covers figures. So how are these characters brought to life?
"Characters are selected through the results of several meetings with our group
of designers who are huge Marvel fans. Materials are then sourced and body
types are chosen for particular characters. Reference is collected on character
appearance. It is then decided which costume is used. Head sculptors are
provided with an array of visuals to help them choose a facial expression that
typifies the particular character" says McCormick of the design process.
Many fans have wondered why the packages proclaim the Famous Covers figures to be 8 inches tall when in fact they are closer to 9 inches tall. Rumors have circulated that Toy Biz requested an 8-inch armature for the original Famous Covers figures, but that when that armature was sculpted over, the figure came out to be closer to 9 inches in height.
"I'm not sure where this rumor came from, but it's really not true. We simply played around with the scale until we came up with the optimal size to create both the figure and the cloth costumes. We had believed them to be closer to 8" when we did this, but as you say they may be closer to 9". Either way, we still think they are the best scale for the designs" says McCormack.
Although the concept may appear simple, there were many challenges to be overcome. Not the least of these was (and is) designing and manufacturing real cloth costumes that stay true to the character.
"Because a figure is so small, we have to be very careful with the types of
materials we use otherwise costumes can end up looking extremely bulky and
unsightly" says McCormack.
Certain characters have presented even greater challenges. For example, the second series Dr. Doom featured a full suit of armor made of a flexible, rubbery material. Many fans were disappointed with the lack of poseability in the figure. McCormack and his team were determined to make improvements. These improvements are evident in the forthcoming Iron Man figure.
"After listening to the collectors comments concerning Dr. Doom we decided to use
a spandex jumpsuit and placed injection molded torso and pelvis pieces. These
molded pieces clip together trapping the figure inside. This allows for
articulation in the knees, wrists, ankles and pelvis. We try our best to listen
the the fans" says McCormick of the upcoming Iron Man figure.
Fan demand for these figures has been extremely high. This demand allowed Toy Biz to come up with an additional body type to extend the range of characters possible within the line. The new body type will make its debut with the Hulk figure in the next assortment of Famous Covers.
Toy Biz has wasted no time employing this new body type. One possible upcoming assortment could contain Man Thing, the Beast, and the Thing all using this larger style body if appropriate. However, this assortment has some fans worried as it seems to stray a bit from the stengths of the concept the line was founded on.
"Nothing is set is stone. We are experimenting with new materials to see
if we can do justice to each of these characters. If we find that this is
not possible, we will then substitute these characters with new ones" confided McCormack.