Movin' on up...
Once upon a time, there were no internet toy pages. At the dawn of the modern collector movement (circa 1992), the major online outlet for toy collectors was USENET, which was a vast catch-all virtual conference room filled with collectors from across the spectrum. With the advent of the World Wide Web, that spectrum fractured into specialized destinations, catering to narrow focused collections. In 1995, the only online resources that were worth glancing at were Randy Matthews' incredible Action Figure Webpage (now sadly defunct), Gus Lopez's Star Wars Collector's Archive, and Eric Myers' fledgling Raving Toy Maniac ancillary page to the Rec.Toys.Misc newsgroup. I had been a part of the USENET community for a couple of years as a fairly active member. It had taken me years to find out the "hidden secrets" behind the toy lines I collected, Specifically the Super Powers Collection. Then one day it hit me: why not put up an archive based on all of the info I had been gathering over the years while collecting action figures? The idea was just so crazy it had to work.
And so, my toy archives page was born, eventually encompassing sections featuring multiple figure lines. It was about this time that I actually left academia with my degree and headed into the real world seeking work. My travels led me to Houston, TX in 1997 where coincidently the aforementioned Mr. Myers resided. It didn't take long for us to see the wisdom in merging our respective pages (and adding new sections like news, forums, and features) to form the new RTM page that is known far and wide today. Increasingly though, with the amazing growth of the internet and toy collecting craze, it became harder and harder to keep up the amount of work needed to remain the #1 resource for toy collectors both online and off. What had started as a hobby had become a job in itself.
So when the opportunity came to make toys for a living, it quickly became obvious that I could not do both. It came to pass that in late 1998 I reluctantly cut back my workload on RTM, leaving it in the totally capable hands of EGM, Jeff Cope, Jim McCaslin and Mike Fichera. In the meantime, I worked on promotions for some small independent films such as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Tarzan. When RTM was sold to ReSaurus Toys (now defunct) I was against it, but having been out of the daily operations for so long I didn't feel right protesting the sale and standing in the way of those still working on the site, who were enthusiastic about the new direction it had taken. It didn't take too long to see my fears were justified, as RTM slowly lost much of the luster we had worked so hard to build.
Still, even if I wanted to I no longer had the same time or energy to put into a website that I did in the 90s. But just like back in 1994, I felt like something was missing. I gradually realized that although my "real job" designing toys was artistically fulfilling, I missed having a forum for views that were my own, in addition to sharing what knowledge that I could to the online community. And so, in 2000, ToyOtter.com was born. Unfortunately the old energy never quite returned. Oh, that first year I did do some big updates, and from time to time I'd write a new article or update an archive. But without others egging me on it never seemed imperative to have regular additions. I paid for the server myself and ran no ads, so lots of traffic or hardly any traffic was all the same to me. I found myself looking forward more to writing guest articles for RTM than my own page. RTM by ths point was in the very capable hands of Bobbi Boyd and Rob Rooney, two friends who have also been around since the glorious USENET days. With their hard work they've restored RTM's central role in the online toy community.
In the past few years there have been other changes. I've been collecting less and less and following the industry less than I had the previous decade. Partly because I'm still doing toy design as my "real job" the industry is less fascinating than it was and writing about it sometimes feels more like bringing work home and less like a hobby. In fact, most of my collection has been boxed away for the past two years, following a move to Los Angeles. Updating ToyOtter took the form of a chore, even though some projects like the Super Powers one were fun. And the majority of my updates were becoming rants about imperfections in current toys, rather than celebrating the reasons I started collecting in the first place. While RTM will always hold a special place in my heart, there is very little of me there that has existed since the Resaurus sale. The Resaurus redesign removed nearly all of my goofy design work that I felt made the site fun and unique. And while I enjoyed having ToyOtter, without consistent updates the traffic has become a steady trickle of fans who use it as a resource while the general collector audience at large tends to miss what updates I do make. And when I have a giant bombshell like the Super Powers 4th wave find, it goes unnoticed until another website is notified. So when my good buddy Julius Marx remarked at lunch one day that he was thinking about starting his own webpage...
So here I am. I've probably been more involved than I should have been in helping design and build Action Figure Insider, but rest assured that this is 100% Julius's page. I'm just going to be an occasional contributor. Julius does let me indulge my "goofy designs", to which I'm grateful. And while I'll still keep an objective eye you won't find any rants here, either. Well, maybe a little bit in the forums from time to time. ToyOtter will still exist, at least for the next year as I've already paid for the server until then. In the meantime I've moved the gem of my page, the Super Powers Archive, over here where it can benefit from increased exposure and fans can more easily find this resource. Over time, more of my archives may show up here and some defunct ones might be brought back to life. And some brand new ones might even sprout fresh from this fertile soil. Be assured that my archives will remain mine, and that Otter touch will stay in evidence in everything I create for AFI.
So that's the scoop, kids. No one is happier than I am that Julius M. took the plunge and started this site. I hope it can live up to everyone's expectations, but I think we've got the right guy at the helm to make sure that it does. One last thing: for awhile the site might seem to be a bit unfinished while we find our feet. We didn't plan to launch it quite so soon, so what you see is mainly the result of one long sleepless weekend. I'm sure any mistakes and typos will get cleaned up as time goes on. Thanks for your patience.
Come on back, y'hear? -The ToyOtter
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