As was previously reported by a very dubious source, this week marks the Wooden Anniversary of Action Figure Insider. (No really, it’s wooden! Look it up! Jason Lenzi told me! Seriously!). To celebrate this wonderous occasion, we (yeah, that damn Lenzi again…taking all the credit for himself) thought we’d do something different with our blog privileges, and interview co-founders Daniel "JuliusMarx" Pickett and Jason "ToyOtter" Geyer. I picked Jason because he was the one guy left after Lenzi chose Daniel.
Dammit! I mean, awesome! Actually, Jason and I go back a good 15 years or more, and I consider him a good friend. The "home away from home" that Dan and he have created here at AFi is someplace I’ll always be.
I tried asking the tough, probing questions that the discerning readers of AFi wanted to be asked. Actually, I used the same questions that Lenzi came up with for Dan…they really made sense to my lazy disposition. Anyway, a very very Happy 5th Anniversary to Action Figure Insider! Here’s to the next 5 years being even better! Now…on to Mister Jason Geyer!
So tell me about your life of collecting. Where and when did it start?
He had been writing the premier column for another website, and after having been there for so many years was thinking about starting his own place where he could be freer to focus on what he wanted to without worrying about the other aspects of the site. I had designed the logo for his existing column (as I did for others there, as well) and so I agreed to make him a new one for his new venture, whenever that might happen. Unfortunately, while we were discussing possibilities the other site locked him out, and so I got mad at the shoddy way they treated him I ended up designing and implementing the entire site within a week. Not a fun time. I still thought of it entirely as Daniel’s site, though, and thought that that was the end of my involvement.
However, being around Daniel and seeing his unbridled enthusiasm for the world of toys really rekindled that same feeling in me, and I found myself being more and more involved, to the point that when we started discussing a refresh of the site and the look Daniel begin deferring much of the design decisions to me. If you ask him, I’m sure he’ll tell you he considered me a partner from day one, it just took a while for me to come around.
From that point on we’ve added other partners and bloggers, and have built up (in my mind) the best toy community on the web.
In five short years, you seem to have become one of the spots for toy news. How does that make you feel?
Both good and disappointed. Good that we have a really fantastic community, and that is is still very open and easy to become a part of for anyone who loves toys. Disappointed in that it could be so, so much bigger than it is. The reality is that we’re all in middle age now, and have demanding jobs and a lot of responsibilities outside of that, so we can only devote so much time to the site to keep it going at the level we want (heck, I’m trying to do these answers in between working on logos during my lunch hour). If we had the time, though, I have no doubt AFi would be the best fan destination online based on the talent involved. The fact that we ARE at the top of the class, so to speak, is due mainly to Daniel’s unceasing efforts in keeping the news and content fresh and Peter "Vader" Go’s unbelievable technical brilliance in keeping us not only running smoothly but also makes sure everything under the hood is the latest and greatest, all in service of delivering the best possibly experience to our community. Everything we do here is done in an effort to streamline and maximize functionality, not to just add layers of crap to wade through to get to more ads, and lots of bells and whistles that may look neat but serve no purpose.
The other thing I have to call out is that we get such great news/scoops/etc. all because of Daniel. *Everybody* talks to him, and they do it not because they are trying to bribe him or use the site in some way, but because he is friends with all of them. There is nothing fake about him, and people become his friends as soon as they meet him, because his passion is genuine and he’s an amazingly smart guy (who is very interesting in his own right) who wants to know about them and their work, not just use them for 10 minutes to get a scoop or a soundbite. I am amazingly lucky to have him as a partner, because he raises the level of my work, and I get to bask in a bit of the reflected glow of his hard work. I’m treated much better
as a member of AFi at cons than I ever was before, and that’s all Daniel. Plus, he’s a very good friend to me personally; we have always been on the same page for pretty much everything as far as the site is concerned. I don’t think we’ve ever had an argument in the decade that I’ve known him! I don’t care too much about what people say about AFi, or me at all, but I do get very angry when the bitter ones attack Daniel because of who he knows when they don’t know him at all. It’s totally undeserved. Grrr!
How you think the toy world has changed in the past five years?
Oil prices up, toy prices up, merchants out of business, companies out of business, much less opportunity all the way around. I need a very long blog to articulate my thoughts about the dark days for toys that we are deep into right now. I’m not sure if it’s going to get better.
Do you feel sites like AFi have a certain amount of influence in the industry, ala ‘Ain’t it Cool News’, etc.?
Yes, but only a very small amount. The reality is that the toy process is such a big ship that to turn it around takes a huge amount of will AND a massive lead time. Even when mistakes are caught or new info comes to light, it’s often way too late to do anything about it. So the majority of the things that should be influenced by having these kind of sites don’t really impact the actual day to day running of the toy lines. Where the influence does come in is in the broad strokes, like keeping JLU as a minor collector line, or going after the master DC license for DCUC, or bringing back MOTU online. Or even in the really, really obscure characters getting made for Star Wars. But in general, the industry is such a secretive, labyrinthine behemoth that the influence is more indirect and influences trends more than specific events. I think the sites do influence individuals to become involved where they might not have, and help peel the curtain back on what is still a fairly mysterious process to most folks. Where the influenece has been most felt is just in the very nature of the relationship now; when I was at RTM toy companies treated us as fans only, and it took a long time to get them to see the online world as legitimate press. Now many of them have their own online staff and presence to cater to fans, and that is due largely to the toy sites.
I think DCUC in general is a huge surprise, to say nothing of the willingness to fight to get Super Powers represented in that. That KB Toys went out of business. That Hasbro managed to kill Indiana Jones in one year, or Mattel managed to kill Dark Knight in one year. That Marvel decided to get out of the toy business entirely!
What would you like to see more of in the toy world? Less of? (Without offending any of your buddies!)
I wish I could write a lot more in detail on these, but I’m outta time! But I have to call out our awesome "staff" which is all volunteer (like all of us!): Peter Go, who really turned this site into what it is, and did in a few weeks what I couldn’t figure out how to do in a year of trying to learn the code. Peter enables me to not worry about what is possible when figuring out new features or ways to make AFi better. Ryan (Superfly), Dan (CantinaDan), Erik (Superfriend), Jim, Jeff, and Mike for keeping the forums clean, contributing more to our success than they probably realize, and being good friends who got each other’s backs. All of our bloggers, who further enlighten me with their viewpoints and info that I otherwise wouldn’t know….and Abby, for her totally awesome videos that help AFi raise the bar for the other toy sites. And thank you, Chip, for all you’ve done to further cement AFi as THE Super Powers authority (more on that later, folks!) and being a welcome link back to my RTM days when toy collecting was fun!
Jason "ToyOtter" Geyer – April 2010
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