Indie Toy Showcase
Bobby Vala & Action Force
I’ve loved toys since I was a kid, I even have hopes of having my own toy line one day. I watch a lot of toy related channels like; MMPR Toys with Bruno Mia and Jerry, Pixel Dan, and of course Toy Galaxy. Dan from Toy Galaxy uploaded a video showing off prototypes from a new line of figures, and instantly I was like, I want to play with these.
The figures are a part of Bobby Vala’s new ACTION FORCE -- 1:12 (6″) Scale Military Action Figures. You can find the Campaign for them on Kickstarter here (the campaign ends in 10 days!!). I thought this would be a really fun, new, and exciting project to cover, so I reached out to Bobby for an interview. Sure enough he agreed and it was awesome! I hope you all enjoy this as much as I did. Also please, if you like what you see, do visit the campaign site and if like these truly awesome, absolutely premium figures, grab a few for yourself, or your kids. Who am I kidding, we know who is playing with these. If you want to see more you can check out the Valaverse Instagram as well as the main site here.
John: Bobby, thank you for agreeing to chat with me!It’s awesome to have you be a part of our first Indie Toy Showcase. I’m sure it’s going to be a great pleasure, not just for myself but our readers. Today we will be talking about your line of Action Force Action Figures, which is now being crowd funded on Kickstarter.
Bobby: The pleasure is all mine. I’m really psyched about reaching out to the readers of Bleeding Fool!
John: From what I have been able to gather, you worked a lot of years at Hasbro and later became the Senior Product Designer. Some of the product lines you worked on were G.I. Joe and Marvel Legends.
Bobby: Yup, that’s correct. I spent over 6 years at Hasbro working on pretty much every line under the Marvel brand as well as a great deal of time on Legends. I only did a few things for G.I. Joe but I felt that they were very impactful. I also spent some time at a few other big toy companies.
John: It’s pretty likely that, not just I, but a lot of our readers have either collected, played with, or have kids that still play with your figures. How does that feel?
Bobby: It’s really cool. Sometimes I’ll bring my son to one of his friend’s house and they will have several of the products I worked on. Also going through Target and Walmart seeing my figures on the shelf never gets old.
John: Before we jump into Valaverse and Action Force, could you tell us a bit more about yourself? You’ve got some experience with this kind of thing, don’t you?
Bobby: Hmmm…Lets see…I’ve been playing hockey since I was about 10 years old and to this day I still love that first step on the ice. Besides collecting toys, I’m also a big fan of Bourbon. It’s also no secret that I’m a HUGE Steel Brigade fan. It’s my all time favorite G.I. Joe and I’ve been told I have the largest collection of them. So getting Steel Brigade into the Action Force line was a dream come true.
John: I know that, before you got into toy design, you initially wanted to go into comics, going as far as studying sequential arts and doing a lot of freelance work. Could you tell us a bit about that experience?
Bobby: To this day I would still love to be working in the comics industry. It is a really tough business though. After I graduated art school I did the typical grind going to conventions showing off my portfolio. I got a few small indy jobs but then I got into toy design. In the end it was better getting into toys since there were less hours and better pay.
John: After your encounter with Hasbro, you then had to go back to school to study Toy Design. Did the experience you gained from studying and working in sequential arts help you with toy design?
Bobby: I think so. Having the ability to draw and understand human proportions was a huge help with action figures. What’s interesting is that there are a lot of designers at Hasbro that can’t draw and they will pay a freelancer. I wish I could’ve done all of the drawing on every item I worked on but there were just too many to get done so I had to use outside help. The good ones I kept for myself and all of the Action Force designs were done by me.
John: Have you done any more work on comics since working at Hasbro?
Bobby: Nope, sadly. Well actually, some of the comic like character art on the website was done by me.
John: Let’s get into Valaverse and Action Force. I actually learned about the campaign from a video that Dan from Toy Galaxy uploaded showing some of the prototypes and they blew me away. Then I dug into the campaign and saw this is your second attempt at the launch.
Bobby: Unfortunately, the first Kickstarter this year did fail. However, I’m much happier with this campaign and I learned a lot from the first run. Getting the toy influencers on board was an idea I had early on, so I knew it was very important to get Robo from The Fwoosh, Shartimusprime and Dan involved. They do great reviews and they have a huge fanbase.
John: In my research I was looking for an Acton Force Comic Book and found an old run of British G.I. Joe Comics of the same name. Were you aware of that run prior to picking a name for the figures?
Bobby: I sure was. Action Force were basically G.I. Joes in the UK. I’ve always been a fan of the vintage Action Force line and felt it had a great nostalgic following. When I learned that the trademark was abandoned, I applied for it and got it. I like to think of this new Action Force as a reboot of the original.
John: Since our focus here at Bleeding Fool is movies, tv, games, comics, and mostly indie comics -- and knowing that in the 70’s and 80’s toy companies often used Comic Books to sell the toys, sometimes selling the books and toys together. I’ve also seen the preview of the webcomic on your Instagram, which we will link to. Is there now, or will there be a physical Acton Force Comic available?
Bobby: Yes, I plan on offering the comic as a web view at first and then have print copies available.
John: Awesome! From what I’ve been able to see of the toys, they are fantastic. I want to grab a set, and it appears as if the timing could not be better. From looking at some of the designs, it appears you’ve pulled from your own creative well and pools of knowledge. What other things have severed as a source of inspiration when working on Action Force?
Bobby: I wanted to keep the line pretty grounded but still make each character have a unique feel just like Joes from the 80’s. I have tons of reference for real world military gear but I also put some salt and pepper on it to give my own flavor.
John: I love toys, even hope to have my own line one day, so I’m constantly looking at what’s out there. I feel as the last time it was this good to be a toy collector or enthusiast, was probably in the 80’s. Would you agree?
Bobby: I dunno. The 80’s were great to be a kid having toys. Toys back then weren’t meant to be a collector’s item. They just evolved into that. Same with the 90’s. I was a child of both the 80’s and 90’s so I think I had it best. Now we have modern toys that are made specifically for collecting. There are so many items available to collectors now. It’s great to have the variety but also bad on the wallet.
John: There are a lot of great lines out there like Hasbro’s Lighting Collection, I love what NECA is doing with TMNT. I think my favorite line right now is Funko’s Savage World, with their throwback to the classic He-Man Figures. And of course, the amazing crew from Super7 do some amazing work. With all of that going on, how did you manage to make your Action Force Figures Stand Out? Because they really do stand out.
Bobby: Thanks, I’m glad you think so. That was my plan. I knew there was a gap in the collector market for 6” military. I’m kind of the first to play in this sandbox so it could’ve gone either way. I’m really happy the reception has been mostly positive.
John: Can you tell us a bit about how some of the story and characters were conceptualized.
Bobby: The story was really hard to develop. I can design toys but I’m not the greatest writer. The first draft had a lot of flaws so I brought in some well-known writers to help out and they’ve done an amazing job. As I said before, I wanted the line to be grounded so I took from current aspects of what’s going on in the country. The last thing I wanted was for the story to be political so I basically placed it well after a big event so it can evolve into its own history.
John: Can you tell us a bit about how you brought some of the toys from concept to fabrication and manufacturing, also are you currently in need of any beta testers?
Bobby: Hahaha I get that a lot. The designing part came really naturally. I knew the construction and articulation, so it was about coming up with cool characters. I get my influence from lots of things including movies. You can probably look at all of my figures and pick out some parts of them from other influences.
John: What are some of the toys you remember playing with as a kid?
Bobby: G.I. Joe was and has always been my favorite toy line. I was also a big Batman fan as a kid. I had the Kenner Dark Knight line and the Animated Series line. I also loved Exo Squad and other small movies lines through the 90’s.
John: What are some of the first comics you remember reading, and what are some of the ones that have made the biggest impact on you.
Bobby: My dad was the one who got me into comics. As I said, I loved Batman but never really read the comics. I got into Batman from the 89 movie. Not sure how I got them but the first Batman comics I ever had were Shadow of the Bat 1-4 which was a really awesome story about Batman being admitted into Arkham. From there, my dad got me into the Death of Superman trend, and I was hooked. He would pick up comics for me every Wednesday and I had them all. I got out of comics when I was in high school but then I got back in before I went to art school and that was a really good time. Astro City and Long Halloween are to this day my all-time favorite books. I read Long Halloween every year.
John: Who are some of the creators, toy, comic, or otherwise who have inspired you the most and how has their work affected the work you do?
Bobby: Oh wow this is a tough one. Dan Jurgens was my first favorite comic artist and I actually got to know him as I got older. Tim Sale, Lee Bermejo, Joe Quesada, Mark Bagley, Brent Anderson, Michael Turner, there are so many amazing artists that I followed over the years. Being part of the G.I. Joe community has allowed me to get to know a lot of the original creators. I’m proud to say that Ron Rudat is a friend of mine and what he did to create the G.I. Joe characters has had a huge influence on my work.
John: Whenever we have someone of your caliber on, I like to ask if you have any words of encouragement of advice for anyone who might be trying to get into comics or toy design?
Bobby: Honestly, a lot of it is luck, being at the right place at the right time. I’d like to think my work is leagues better than Rob Leifeld but he is doing pro work and I am not. He was there at the right time and got the right people to look at his stuff. Even with toy design, I fell into without really looking for it. However, hard work does pay off. I had my goal set on Hasbro when I went back to school and I succeeded in that. I’d say definitely ask a lot of questions. If you meet someone from the industry and you are trying to break in, pick their brain for everything you can. Be a sponge and soak up knowledge. When I was an intern at Hasbro I would bother the older guys like crazy. I’m sure I was annoying to them but it made me much better.
John: What are your hopes for Action Force and for the future?
Bobby: I really want to see Action Force become a line with longevity. I have plans to keep it going for a long time. This isn’t just a flash in the pan for me. I’ve put my heart and soul into this and I’m going to keep doing it until the people don’t want it.
John: Is there anything else you want to share with us before we sign off?
Bobby: I’ve said from the start that it’s easy to get in touch with me. If you have a question, want to pick my brain, just reach out. If you are on the fence about Action Force, let me sell you on it. I’m here so feel free to send me a message.
John: Thank you once again for being a part of the first Indie Toy Showcase, we wish you the best of luck on this and all future campaigns, and I can’t wait to grab up my own set on kickstarter.
Bobby: No thank you for having me. I’d also like to thank everyone who has supported Action Force and has pledge on the Kickstarter. Thank you in advance to those who have not pledged yet but will before the end.