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PCHOF’18 Heats Up with Inductee Howard Chan of Hot Toys

howard chan hot toys

howard chan hot toysWhen looking at a photograph of a Hot Toys figure, one can’t help but think they’re looking a photo of the actual subject. The level of detail and the realism of the textures and surfaces are astonishing to see.

For bringing that kind of realism to the collectible business, Howard Chan, founder of Hot Toys, is a 2018 inductee of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

Known mostly for their large (1/6 scale, roughly a foot tall) superhero figures, Hot Toys extends to other parts of pop culture and entertainment as well. Characters from Star Wars, Back to the Future, and RoboCop are among other well-known movies that have been immortalized by the company.

Chan got his start as a screenwriter for the Hong Kong based television station TVB. He decided to open an action figure shop in Hong Kong in the late ’90s, called, interestingly, Cool Toys. There were numerous large-scale figures available at the time, but they were more toylike in look and detail. Chan wanted to make something more.

howard chan hot toys

His first sculptures were of Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt, George Lucas, and Neo from the Matrix. These were not officially endorsed, small quantity offerings, but the success convinced him to up his game. “It was a huge hurdle… we were trying to get licenses through Hong Kong agents, and the agents asked ‘what are action figures?’” he said.

In 2000, he produced the first of his series of military figures, an F-14 Tomcat pilot. By creating a “generic” character, licensing issues weren’t a factor, and he was able to build his reputation quickly before stepping back into pop culture figures.

howard chan hot toysWith the world of action figures now paying attention, Chan was able to latch onto the Star Wars train and produce figures from those movies. He also took the innovative step of teaming up with Sideshow Collectibles to produce exclusive figures for that prominent distributor. The tandem proved powerful, and Marvel, DC and others were now queuing up to do business with Hot Toys as well.

No artistic detail or business detail for a Hot Toys offering escapes his eye. To this day, even as the head of the company, he insists that every single new figure goes through his rigorous processes.

PCHOF’18 Pokemon Catches on at Pop Culture Hall of Fame

pokemon lead

pchof pokemon ash pikachu“Gotta catch ‘em all” has been the rallying cry for Pokemon fans for almost a quarter century. Pokemon launched with an immediate bang in 1995 as a joint venture by Nintendo, Game Freak and Creatures, and hasn’t slowed down since.

For its enduring popularity and innovation, Pokemon is a 2018 inductee in the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

Most of the monsters are based on real creatures, or plants or mash-ups of more than one, and run through the anime filter. Pikachu, a round, yellow mouse-like critter emerged as the central star along with Ash, the human trainer and constant companion. From there hundreds and hundreds of others have come along including Charizard, Tangela, and Mewtwo, each with varying powers, capabilities and personalities.

The Pokémon empire spans cartoons and toys as well as video and virtual games. The most popular and enduring part of the “Pocket Monster” universe is the card game, which has been in circulation since the mid-1990s. When considered as a “media franchise” including cartoons, games, toys, t-shirts, and all other merchandising, Pokemon is the largest grossing entertainment property in the world (sorry, Marvel!)

pokemon characters

The game would be fun enough on its own, but the cartoons add an important element to the action. The various Pokemon cartoons create a visceral image of what’s supposedly happening in the card game, giving literal voices to the characters and showing much more action than one might guess from reading and flipping cards. Listen to kids playing the game, adding sound effects and voices to the gameplay, and it all makes sense.

pchof kid pokemon

Continuous updates to the card game help keep it fresh for younger fans. The ever-expanding game is also a boon to the collecting world. By continually updating and adding to the universe, it ensures that even the oldest fans, who played the earliest versions, have a reason to stay interested. “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” literally translates to merchandising. 2016, Niantic and The Pokémon Company released the Pokemon Go virtual game, putting the hunt for Pocket Monsters into the context of the real world. The initial hype of the game saw millions of people all over the world running around staring not at their mobile devices, but into an augmented reality full of creatures only they could see. The game started off with such popularity that even after it tapered off to what would be considered normal levels in interest, it was still immensely popular.

A live action Detective Pikachu movie is in the works, suggesting that the popularity of Pokemon is far from over. It might just be starting to catch on.

Inducting Daniel Pickett as Action Figure Insider into the Hall

daniel pickett action figure insider

daniel pickett action figure insiderDaniel Pickett probably knows a lot more than you do about action figures, but he doesn’t act like it. Except he writes about them for a living, which is a cool way to use that knowledge. His website is the realization of a childhood passion and grown-up ambition.

For his promotional efforts in the world of action figures, Daniel Pickett is being inducted into the Pop Culture Hall of Fame for 2018.

Like any kid growing up in the 1970s, he was in the right age range for some of the most iconic and influential toys every produced. In particular, he loved the Mego World’s Greatest Super Heroes figures, collecting and playing with them. In the late ’90s, however, he was still hooked on them, still collecting them. But he was frustrated by a lack of good information and a way for other enthusiasts to reach each other. So he started writing a weekly online column for fun. 

daniel pickett action figure insider

Realizing the tremendous readership of his early efforts, he decided to start his own website devoted exclusively to action figure news and review. So he and his friend Jason “ToyOtter” Geyer created in 2004 and the rest was history. “Everything you could want is there: advice, people to talk to, people with questions and answers,” Pickett says. “Between the galleries and the message boards, it’s not hanging out alone in your mom’s basement.”

daniel pickett action figure insider

The expertise of the writing, along with the attendant connections to toy business insiders soon made the website the go-to place for news about action figs, vinyl art toys, and other related collectibles, with other industry sites consulting them for information. In the last couple of years, he has also served as marketing manager of Gentle Giant Studios, makers of fine action figures and toys. He is also a regular at Toy Fairs and conventions, sought out by collectors as much as the latest “convention exclusive limited edition chase” figure.

daniel pickett action figure insider

Pickett also cohosts the podcast “The Geeks Shall Inherit” with Jason Lenzi. It’s a discussion that dips much deeper into geek culture than the website, covering music, TV, and other things to, well, geek out about.

Daniel Pickett is proof that it’s okay to let your hobbies take over a significant part of your life, especially when it becomes your career. For that, he’s a 2018 inductee in the Hall.

PCHOF’18 Marty Abrams, Mego’s Man of Action, Joins Hall

mego dc figures

mego marty abramsIn a world of hyperrealistic, high-end collectible figures, it’s nice to remember when a company like Mego was cranking out toys meant to be played with. In the 1970s, Mego figures were everywhere: playgrounds, playrooms, and sandboxes around the world.

For his vision in changing a small toy distribution company into a massively popular toy brand, Marty Abrams is being inducted into the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

Mego was founded in 1954 by D. David and Madeline Abrams as an importer of inexpensive dime store toys. Changing economics forced them to rethink their business model, and in 1971, their son Marty, fresh out of college, became company president. He came up with the idea of producing inexpensive action figures, most of them sharing the same body molds, in the likeness of popular comics figures.

mego ad

The first new Mego figures were of the DC SuperFriends, as well as playsets and vehicles to go along with them. Simple and sturdy, the 8-inch tall figures were lightning in a bottle for the company. The massive success gave Mego the capital and the credibility to secure licenses for Star Trek, Wizard of Oz, and Planet of the Apes, all leading to even bigger success. In fact, the Planet of the Apes characters were among the very first movie tie-in merchandising of its kind.

The 8 inch figures gave way to another smaller success: Micronauts, tiny translucent robot/astronaut figures, which sparked a toy revolution on a whole new scale. Mego came out with their own new character, Action Jackson, who competed with G.I.Joe for a few years.

Unfortunately, in 1977, Mego passed on the opportunity to create the toys and figures for a new movie called Star Wars. Kenner snapped up that license, and their 3-3/4 inch figure size became the new favorite toy standard. Despite new TV figures with CHiPs, Dukes of Hazzard, and The Greatest America Hero, Mego would fall by the wayside in the early 1980s.

mego planet of the apes figures

Marty has continued working in the toy industry over the years, but the popularity of his old company never went away, and he has become a fixture at Mego Conventions. He attempted to retire recently, but history and nostalgia came calling. The sheer enjoyability and durability of those early Mego figures have kept them popular among collectors. Earlier this year, Marty Abrams was able to capitalize on the nostalgia factor and create a new line of Mego toys to be introduced at the San Diego Comic Con. Similar in size and structure, fans old and new instantly bonded with them again.

PCHOF’18 Alex Ross Illustrates Seriousness of Pop Culture

Alex Ross DC

To call Alex Ross a cartoonist is unfair. Instead of putting bright, flat colors between black lines, his illustrations are more like formal paintings. The museum-like quality of his art raises his superhero subjects to almost royal status.

For his image-altering comics work, Alex Ross is being inducted into the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

Initially a commercial storyboard artist out of school, he was tapped to illustrate a series of Terminator comics for Now Comics. His first work for Marvel came just a couple years later with the 1994 miniseries Marvels. His biggest breakthrough was his work with Kurt Busiek on Astro City. Ross “only” did the covers and the character designs, but his stylings are so influential and powerful that even with other artists handling the inside pages, it feels like he owns the entire project.

His best-known work might be his DC superheroes comics. He rendered Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and others in a classic, friendly, familiar fashion with outfits straight out of the SuperFriends cartoons but with a much more serious edge. Readers felt like these characters grew and matured in real life as a result.

Because of the increasingly lengthy process of his detailed art, he rarely works on interior pages, focusing on covers, character design, and plot and pacing. His work has also served as the basis for various high-end action figures and statues.

Ross’ style has been compared to Norman Rockwell and Andrew Loomis (he admits they were early influences). By applying that kind of natural looking light and realism to comic stories, he revolutionized the genre. His ability to make superheroes seem so real has also landed him gigs as character and set designer for various movies including the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films and M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. He even created an official poster for the 2002 Academy Awards, showing the Oscar statuette in an unmistakably Batman pose.

Alex Ross marvel

For years, Comics Buyer’s Guide handed out a “Favorite Painter” award for the comics industry, but eventually retired the designation as Ross kept winning it year after year. The Pop Culture Hall of Fame is happy to hand him another honor.

PCHOF’18 Tintin Brings Worldwide Appeal to Pop Culture Hall of Fame

Long before Indiana Jones or James Bond, another globetrotting adventurer enthralled millions of fans around the world. Tintin, a young Belgian news reporter, travelled high and low in comic strips and then comic books starting in 1929.

For his worldwide (and otherworldly) appeal, Tintin is a 2018 inductee of the Pop Culture Hall of Fame.

First appearing in 1929, Tintin was the main character of two dozen graphic novel style books. They initially were written in French, but over the years have been translated to over 70 languages. While well known in the United States, the comics’ popularity in Europe was and remains off the charts. Over 40 years after the final original book, Tintin continues a cultural comic force overseas.

While the adventures are fantastical, they never stray into silly, sticking to a fairly realistic representation of the 2oth Century. Hergé was a stickler for detail in his characters and their surroundings, endlessly researching locations around the world to be drawn in very real style. He was well known for his automotive stylings, using very specific makes and models that helped set the location and era of his tales. Every single object, location, and character is drawn with very real proportions aside from peoples’ heads and faces, which were far more stylized and comical.

Even his fantastic, futuristic two volume “Destination Moon” was rooted in a certain plausible realism of the time. The red and white checkered rocket ship is almost as iconic as any of the characters. In addition to the publications, countless toys, action figures, and model cars (and rockets!) have been produced representing Tintin, Captain Haddock, Snowy and the rest of the cast.

Tintin was the subject of a Steven Speilberg movie in 2011, combining major plots of three of Hergé’s comics. The motion capture film mixed realistically proportioned surroundings with stylized character faces in a lively homage to the original style. Crazy stunt pieces, an intricate plot and childlike wonder made it the perfect vehicle for Spielberg.

Georges Remi derived his pen name after his initials “RG” which in French sounded like “Hergé.” Today, the Hergé Museum, in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, celebrates his life and his work. The PCHOF is doing the same.