08 Dec, 2015
I remember the first time that I saw a HOT TOYS figure and I thought that surely this was just one made for charity or some important cause. There was no way that this work of art could be available for regular collectors like me to actually purchase, right? But it was true. I had seen the future of toys back in 2004 at San Diego Comic Con and this was going to change the playing field for what was quickly becoming known as the “high end collectible figure.” As I stood there admiring this piece, it was as if I had just been dropped off by Doc Brown & Marty McFly in a time traveling DeLorean. I was witnessing the future of toys and the future looked incredibly bright.
Cut to 2015 and HOT TOYS has become synonymous with excellence in the high end collectible market. These are not just figures, these are miniaturized versions of our favorite comic book, movie, & television characters. It is rare that anyone walks away from a special purchase and says, “worth every penny” but HOT TOYS has completely changed that for me. You will even start to feel silly for spending $200 on a MARVEL LEGENDS Deadpool from the early 2000’s when you could have nabbed a HOT TOY instead. Sure that ML Deadpool is a nice figure and consistently collects a nice chunk of change on the secondary market but we’re talking about HOT TOYS here. It’s as if the toy business is Major League Baseball and steroids are legal! That is how to tell the difference between a regular figure and a HOT TOYS figure, and how the game is changing. And to think it all started with a generic military fighter-pilot figure before the company had any big time licenses. There is one man that stands above this empire who is determined to change the collecting world one brilliantly realized figure at a time. So cool and inspiring is this man in the endless pages I have read about him and his business model, he actually deserves the epic James Bond introduction. The master craftsman and visionary behind the HOT TOYS empire is named Chan, Howard Chan. (I tried to add him on LinkedIn but haven’t heard back. I’ll keep you all posted on that.)
Like Midtown Comics & Action Figure Junkies (AFJ), Mr. Chan has built his business and thriving career on one thing: passion. A former screenwriter and lifetime collector, Mr. Chan believed that there was a niche market for Figure Junkies that wanted a quality larger scale action figure with a ridiculous attention to detail. He believed that if the Mount Everest high standards of his vision could be met, then he would have a winner and it would only be a matter of time before the hardcore Figure Junkies and the big time licenses would come running. In 1998, Chan opened a small shop selling collectibles and decided to hedge all of his bets (and his savings) and took a year to create a super high-end and realistic fighter pilot in a 1:6 large scale figure at his own expense. So obsessed with detail, rumors abound in the industry that Chan spent three days in the factory without leaving, perfecting the walkie talkie accessory that came with the piece. With a limited run of 5000 pieces, Chan’s little shop sold out of every last figure faster than you can say Barry Allen. HOT TOYS was born but Chan’s unwavering high standards would never dip and his mission for the new company was to never sacrifice quality. EVERY HOT TOY figure produced is hand sculpted to keep those high standards from ever faltering. If you think that Chan was able to acquire all of the amazing licenses for the HOT TOYS produced today, you would be sorely mistaken.
Howard dealt with a great deal of rejection the same way non-believers did not think a Times Square flagship comic book store would work in the late 90’s when comic book movies and TV shows were a joke. The McFarlane era was pretty much over, fans wanted Liefeld’s head on a platter and the last Batman movie had the Caped Crusader & the Boy Wonder with rubber nipples. It was a dark time folks, believe me. Same thing with AFJ when a friend threw down a gauntlet in 2013 telling me I could never make a career out of my favorite hobby and that no one would want a place to talk action figures 24 hours a day on multiple social media platforms. Chan fought through the naysayers and “no thank you’s” until he landed the Aliens vs. Predator franchise which launched the Movie Masterpiece Series. By 2009, HOT TOYS had already become huge in his home country and Oscar winning director James Cameron took notice, giving Chan the license for his blockbuster Avatar. Thank God it was Avatar and not Titanic.
From then on, the “whale licenses” like MARVEL and STAR WARS have fallen into place recognizing that Chan’s uncompromising vision is the future of action figures. Junkies crave a hyper-realistic figure with a boatload of accessories and interchangeable parts and they have the disposable income to spend. Believe me, I see it every day all across the AFJ-Verse as Junkies are armed and ready with full PayPal accounts to drop some major cash. Collectors want their own personal Batcave’s to put their most expensive figures on display that will have non-fanboys and girls alike dropping their jaws when they see iconic characters of both their youth and the tentpole movie they saw last week. They may not be collectors, but they will be amazed just like the rest of us.
SIDESHOW COLLECTIBLES is the exclusive distributor of HOT TOYS here in the States and they have taken full advantage of having the gold standard in high end collectibles help grow their own business. Chan is the first to admit that everyone wants to take down the big dog and knows that the more HOT TOYS improves, so will the competition. Midtown Comics realizes that and AFJ has tried to follow the iconic NYC franchise’s example by taking it one step at a time and personalizing the experience to each new customer and member. I am constantly messaged on Action Figure Junkies by new collectors asking what a good line to collect that is both affordable and has what they are looking for in an action figure. Be it excellent likenesses or points of articulation, there is something for everyone out there in 2015. When someone asks me, “What is the best action figure I can buy that is considered ‘high end,'” their is only one answer–HOT TOYS. And Midtown Comics has the whole lot for you to purchase this holiday season or to just go and admire at one of their three locations in Manhattan. If you think you have to pay top dollar for a HOT TOYS piece, Midtown Comics will prove you wrong as they know that not everyone of their customers can swing $300 every other week. That is why they have major discounts for major Action Figure Junkies every day of the year.
If you were one of the millions to see Avengers: Age of Ultron earlier this year, Midtown has a whole bunch of the characters from the mega-sequel to quench your appetite for the filet mignon of toys. If you have the cash, my highest recommendation goes to the gargantuan HOT TOYS HULKBUSTER which at $758 is the Mona Lisa of the line but where else can you find it for almost 10% off with some dealers trying to gouge you for a cool thousand? This figure is so epic that it comes with a Midtown Comics employee to personally wax and polish it for you weekly, Biff Tannen style. If ever there was a HOT TOYS piece that I would point to as the top of the food chain, the HULKBUSTER would be it! Not in that kind of mood? How about taking home the Maximoff twins in the form of QUICKSILVER & SCARLET WITCH? These will run you less than $200 and are two of my personal favorites and will be the closest you will ever get Elizabeth Olsen in your room.
The breakout character from Joss Whedon’s film was no doubt VISION which is one I have had my eye on for some time now. You can advance order that piece right here and help actor Paul Bettany continue to have the best year of his life. Although he is married to Jennifer Connelly so everyday is probably pretty awesome. Just to give you guys an idea of what actually comes with a HOT TOY, here is what’s in the box for VISION:
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
The Vision Sixth Scale Collectible Figure specially features:
- Authentic and detailed likeness of Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Newly developed head sculpt with movie-accurate facial features, detailed skin texture, and the Mind Stone
- Specially applied metallic red-violet skin tone to reflect Vision’s distinctive appearance
- Approximately 31.5 cm tall
- Body with over 30 points of articulation
- Eight (8) pieces of interchangeable palms including:
- – One (1) pair of fists
- – One (1) pair of relaxed palms
- – One (1) pair of open palms
- – One (1) pair of palms for holding Mjölnir
- Each head sculpt is specially hand-painted
- One (1) teal colored full body suit with texture and red-violet colored highlights
- One (1) yellow colored cape with patterns and red-violet highlights
- One (1) pair of red-violet and gold colored gauntlets
- One (1) pair of red-violet and gold colored boots
- One (1) Mjölnir
- Specially-designed figure stand with Vision nameplate and the movie logo
So as you can see you are not just getting an amazing work of art, you are getting a whole slew of insanely detailed accessories that will make you the envy of all your collector friends. Howard Chan does not cheap out on the extras, in fact, it is almost as if he likes to one up himself with each new HOT TOYS entry! If you are gearing up for that tiny independent film that hits later this month called THE FORCE AWAKENS, Midtown has you covered with Advance Orders for all the big characters from the upcoming STAR WARS sequel. My favorite has to be the new KYLO REN which is just a drop over $200 with all of the bells and whistles that you would expect. And the set that won HOT TOYS the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association “Best Licensee of the Year” for their amazing work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an unbelievable two-pack of figures with too many extras to list here! It can be yours for just $339.99, averaging out to just $170 per figure. Another incredible gift is the Batman Returns Michael Keaton Batman that is so lifelike, you’ll think you can also use the figure to shoot scenes for Mr. Mom 2, the sequel that never was.
The Howard Chan secret to success is not a new one but one that has been reinvented for the 21st Century when fans want things now or sooner. Here is someone that had a passion and a vision that if we make a figure that is so painstakingly detailed, the collectors will eventually follow and pony up whatever it costs. I have even seen some collectors use HOT TOYS merchandise as commodities of sorts where they buy one and sell it a year later for twice the price. You know that you are changing the industry when TOYS R US creates a special “collectibles section” on their bustling website. Also, you will see a lot of the higher end figures that are not really for kids are now labeled, “Adult Toy Collector.” It takes a lot to get that goofy TOYS R US Geoffrey the Giraffe’s attention but Howard Chan has done it. My personal favorite is the Back to the Future Marty McFly which I am hoping Mr. Chan sends me for Hanukkah. Now if they would just make Chevy Chase’s Fletch and Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley from Beverly Hills Cop, my life would be complete. By the way I paid for my last HOT TOYS figure with Mr. Underhill’s American Express card, want the number?
It is absolutely necessary to be perusing Midtown Comics website for your first HOT TOYS purchase and become a card carrying member of the Midtown Army. If you are visiting NYC for the holidays, forget Broadway and stop in to one of Midtown’s three locations and say hello. To discuss all things HOT TOYS and other figures as well, be sure to become an official Action Figure Junkie by visiting our site or our wildly popular Facebook community. Happy Holidays!
The views expressed herein are solely those of the writer, and not Midtown Comics. Additionally, Midtown Comics makes no representations as to the accuracy of any of the information expressed herein.