The Action Figure Poster
February 18, 2009

It isn’t everyday designers get total creative freedom with a project. So when our ally in the industry, O’Neil Printing, contacted us and four other studios about designing a commemorative poster series for their 100th anniversary I saw an opportunity! During our first informal brain storming session I suggested: "Lets just do something fun, like design it using 100 action figures." Well, Creative Director Steve and Senior Designer Kevin both have an appreciation for little plastic people so it wasn’t too hard of a sell.

Usually the concept comes first and execution follows. But having decided on "100 action figures" we had to reverse engineer the concept. As we got one of our copy writers involved I started the casting process. One parameter became clear early: no bad guys. I was able to get a fairly diverse mixture from my modest collection and then varied the texture a bit with the small budget allotted to the project. Once the talent was chosen I got going with the photo shoot. We probably photographed 125 figures all together just so that we’d have some options once we started laying the poster out.




Just for fun we decided that our beloved print rep, Lucy (who was going to be retiring,) should find herself in the character line up. One customized Polly Pocket later and Lucy was ready for a place in the poster.







It took a few rounds but we finally decided on a headline: One of the Good Guys. And the tag line: O’Neil Printing, 100 years of coming to the rescue.  Composing 100 action figures of all shapes, sizes, and genres was a bit challenging. Kevin said the layout process was similar to "putting together a puzzle." And we had a few friendly disagreements about which characters would be big and which ones would be smaller. (I fought tooth and nail for Shipwreck.) The only rigid design element all the posters in the series had to have in common was the information at the bottom along with the 100th Anniversary logo shield. We decided to slide a figure behind that logo and manipulate it a bit so that it looked like the character’s chest emblem. In other words, Captain Atom became Captain O’Neil.

Enough jibber jabber. Here’s what we ended up with:


Since O’Neil was running this on their 8 color press we got to incorporate some varnishes and metallic inks which gives some of the design elements a nice shimmer when viewed from different angles. I had a chance to chat with the two pressmen during the press check. They said a few of them had gotten together and were able to identify about half of the characters on the poster. Not bad! One mentioned he had gone to the McFarlane store the previous weekend when Todd was there to get a few of his comics autographed.


Not long after we got going on the project Steve decided it’d be cool to make some kind of a companion booklet that explained a little bit about each of the characters. O’Neil agreed to produce it if we designed it. Well, let me tell ya . . . I thought it was a good idea until it came down to writing the little 2 or 3 sentence bios for each of the characters. Anything times 100 turns into a hefty undertaking. Yes, I knew the basics about all 100 figures on the poster, but I had to be certain about the facts which meant a fair amount of time researching. Plus, I wanted each bio to focus on the heroic qualities of the character. Although putting this booklet together took longer than expected the final result is pretty sweet.

Some examples of the character bio’s:

Crocodile Hunter
Steve Irwin
Considering himself a "Wildlife Warrior," Irwin’s mission in life was to save the world’s endangered species. He was a dedicated conservationist and promoted environmentalism in his unique way. If crocs are the bad guys then Steve’s our hero. Crikey!

Captain Marvel
DC Comics
When young Billy Batson utters the name "Shazam," he is struck by a magic lightning bolt and transformed into the superhero Captain Marvel. With powers on par with Superman, he is called by some "The World’s Mightiest Mortal." By his foes: "The Big Red Cheese!"



Hopefully O’Neil Printing will get such good feedback on this poster that they decide to do a sequel for their 101st anniversary. ‘Cause I’d really like to do another one with all the bad guys!


Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.





  • Chip Cataldo says:

    Insanely cool! What an awesome idea, and flawlessly executed. I want one!!! 🙂



  • Danny CantinaDan says:

    Thanks, Chip. I do have a few extras. PM me.

  • Mark Layton says:

    Fabulous poster – and blog! Definitely one of my favourites – very impressed with the design / theme!


  • stcardinal says:

    Wow, that’s way cool! I like it.

  • xrmc20 says:

    Cool stuff! Your blogs are great!

  • texgnome1 says:

    Wow – fantastic job to all involved. What a cool idea, and great execution. And great choices on the characters used. Nice balance.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    Outstanding project and a grand idea, Dan.! Makes a person proud to be a collector when reading stories like these. Congratulations!

  • CaseyB says:

    I love it! It is great, and the booklet sounds great!

  • Love it, Dan! Not only am I impressed that you were able to get the idea off the ground, but the execution is flawless. I’d buy that if I saw it in a store tomorrow.

  • Hourman says:

    Great poster BUT not room for even one World’s Greatest Superheroes Mego figure? =(

  • Jim Abell says:

    In a word… WOW! Great job!

  • Danny Cantina-Dan says:

    Hourman – good call. I sold all my 8″ MEGO’s a couple years ago. I tried to make up for it by throwing a couple Comic Action Heroes in.

    Honestly, though, if I had it to do again it’d probably be a different 100 figures. You don’t know how many times I was like: “Oh, dang, why didn’t I put in So-and-So?!”

    Thanks for all the positive feedback folks!

  • Wildcard says:

    Hey Dan, that’s beautiful. As a designer myself, I’d love one of those as well!

  • H-Balm says:

    What a fun little (not so little on your end) project!

    It must have been a real blast throwing ideas around with others. Oh, how we take these little toys so seriously!

    Thanks for the post!

  • Curious Joe says:

    Very cool, but how did you get the rights to using all those characters on an advertising poster?

  • admin says:

    It’s an internal piece, not for resale. I imagine only vendors will actually get a copy.

    This is a common practice; just the other day I used U2’s “Beautiful Day” in a 2 minute promo, because no one would see it outside of our team.

  • Gmamon says:

    Its really cool and all but I cant believe there isn’t a DC Universe Classic.

  • Danny CantinaDan says:

    Gmamon- this project was actually completed before DCUC. One poster was sent out per quarter last year and we were the last. So the poster has actually been done for a while! But, yes, there are plenty of worth figures not represented.

  • CornboyMayse says:

    That’s freakin’ awesome, Dan! Now how do I purchase one to hang in our studio?


  • Tristan says:

    Nicely done, love the ADVENTURE PEOPLE ASTRONAUT in the lower right corner. If there is a way I can purchase the poster and booklet, please lmk, I find it incredibly cool and what’s even more fun is the fact that I have a good amount of those figures. You guys did a great job, I like the customized Polly Pocket for your friend Lucy. If you can’t, I totally understand. Cool article.

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