MEZCO TOYZ -Mike Drake Interview (write-up by Mark Lebetkin)

 Long Island City, NY. Peter Griffin, spherical star of the animated TV series “Family Guy,” looks uneasily at the bloody, machete-wielding slasher Jason Voorhees slumped over the cartoon hero’s arm. Joining them are the late rapper Biggie Smalls, a pallid, recently exhumed cheerleader, and Mike Drake, 40, the cheerful director of special projects at Mezco Toyz.

 

“We’re not looking to do Barbie or My Little Pony,” says Drake.

Mezco released the newest batch of its Living Dead Dolls series two weeks ago in time for Halloween, and they are selling at a clip. The theme of this fall’s collection is Halloween. The dolls carry miniature jack-o-lanterns and wear Halloween costumes that reveal such details as bloody eye sockets when the masks are removed.

Mezco Toyz, brainchild of company president and former clothing designer Michael “Mez” Markowitz, sells toys “built by fans for fans,” in Drake’s words. Their products include action-figures licensed for film and TV-only ones they enjoy like “Heroes,” “Hellboy” and “South Park”-and their own lines like the Living Dead Doll series (ages 15 and up), which darkly parodies the cherubic forms of more child-appropriate dolls. They are packaged in coffins and come with “death certificates.”

Mezco’s design philosophy is simple, says Drake: attention to detail.

Mezco is among only a few toymakers that command the art-house niche of the action-figure market because of their meticulous sculpting and “articulation,” an industry term referring to the realism of the toy’s joints. Articulation is important to Mezco: they design their toys to be played with.

 

Drake takes an Abe Sapien figure off the shelf, swivels its legs and bends its knees and elbows into a realistic swimming pose. Sapien is a part-fish character in the “Hellboy” series.

“To be as big as a Hasbro or Mattel is not our goal,” says Drake. But Mezco is certainly doing well for itself in the action-figure industry, which is valued at a billion dollars a year according to the Toy Industry Association. After relocating last November from Manhattan to a spacious Long Island City loft, their new office sports a pool table, a poker table, and a living room nook, complete with two white suede couches, a flat-screen TV, multiple video game systems, a large DVD collection and more than one edition of Scrabble, one of which sits recently used on the coffee table. Mezco’s eight employees sometimes conclude a day’s work with in-house karaoke.

Drake likens Mezco’s place in the toy industry to oddball films like 1999’s “Being John Malkovich,” which was widely released by a major studio despite its niche appeal. Mezco is carried by Toys”R”Us, Spencer Gifts, and Hot Topic along with the expected comic shops that collectors frequent. Drake was not allowed to give numbers, but said Mezco sells millions of toys annually thanks to merchandising deals with popular shows like “Heroes.”

 

Typical Mezco buyers are collectors and diehard toy enthusiasts who often pre-order items over the Internet to the tune of 50,000 to 100,000 units before product release, says Drake.

But come October, more casual buyers come looking for the quirky, macabre figures that are Mezco’s specialty. It is now, he says, that Mezco’s horror-themed toys start appearing on office desks and on the tops of TVs as seasonal decoration.

Matt Desiderio, manager of the popular Manhattan comic and hobby store Forbidden Planet, is himself a fan of Mezco. The store’s long Broadway window front has a seasonal display of zombie-themed books and cotton cobwebs, but the real attractions are the Living Dead Dolls and Mezco’s richly detailed Cinema of Fear line featuring figures from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th.”

Desiderio said Mezco would get that window no matter what-he can’t wait for the next Cinema of Fear series-but the Halloween theme is a bonus this year, especially for attracting passing tourists.

But these display samples of the Living Dead Dolls are just about all the store has left, he said-they are almost sold out.

Thanks to Mark Lebetkin for the Interview.

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~ by consolecreatures on November 2, 2008.

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