An interview with the designer — and a look to the Bat-future.
As I noted recently, I was stunned by Funko’s new 3.75-inch Batman ’66 line that they showed off at Toy Fair. (Click here and here.) It’s early days but this series has the potential to be the definitive collection of Batman TV action figures.
Like you, I wanted to know more. Not just what figures were coming but exactly what kind of undertaking this was, what talent was being brought to bear to satisfy the wishes of a fandom that stretches back 51 years now.
So here we begin a new, recurring series of features that will lift the veil on this line, giving EXCLUSIVE insights and teases about what’s ahead, similar to what we’ve been doing with Diamond Select Toys’ series of statues and busts over here.
To start with, here’s Reis O’Brien, the line’s designer and a fellow Gotham traveler. Up next will be sculptor Shelley Rappleye. That’s just the start. We’ve got much more to come.
To keep up to date, check out the FUNKO BATMAN ’66 INDEX, our ongoing clearinghouse of features. Click here.
Dan Greenfield: Tell us a little about your connection to the Batman TV show. Are you a fan or was this just another gig for you?
Reis O’Brien: I’ve been a fan of the 1966 Batman TV show since I was 3 years old when I first saw it at a babysitter’s house. They would rerun two episodes in a row at 3:00 in the afternoon and it was probably the best way to keep me quiet and still for an hour. That show was my first introduction to Batman, and superheroes in general, for that matter. It was the dawn of my geekiness. I remember one Christmas getting a Batman TV show View-Master set and being amazed that I could see him any time I wanted.
Dan: Turning flesh and blood people into 3.75-inch figures is not simple. Tell us about your process and use of source material. As an example, tell us about the Eli Wallach Mr. Freeze, which is striking at this scale.
Reis: For action figures, at least these types of action figures, it’s not just about scale. To us, just shrinking down a perfectly on-model human figure isn’t enough. There are certain adjustments that need to be made to make it aesthetically pleasing. Yes, it’s a figure of a person, but it’s also got to feel like a toy, you know? So maybe the hands or feet or head are just ever so slightly exaggerated, or details may get a little streamlined or simplified.
For this series, we had to rely on what images we could find on the web, which luckily, there’s plenty of. The Eli Wallach Mr. Freeze was a little tricky, because it really took some digging to make absolutely sure that his costume was the same as worn by Otto Preminger, which would enable us to make an affordable chase figure.
Dan: Of all the figures in the first wave, which was your favorite to design?
Reis: I didn’t really have to do too much designing on this series, since Shelley dove right in and designed right at the sculpt stage. All I had to do was sort of guide the project along from a creative standpoint, sort of art directing along the way. But it was fun watching them come to life, so to speak, as Shelley (and Krista Wade, who sculpted the original Batman figure) finished each one.
Dan: What’s the biggest misconception fans have about your work?
Reis: Sometimes, we have to make concessions or decisions that may alter or omit details from our designs, whether that’s from a request of the licensor or maybe something that could cause a production or cost issue. When the collector sees the final product and sees that it’s not exactly as they had expected, sometimes they think it’s because we don’t care or that we’re lazy. Trust me, every decision we make about a toy design is very carefully thought out and if something seems a little amiss, there’s probably a good reason (that was most likely out of our hands) for it. But we always strive to make the most accurate, pleasing and fun toys that we can.
Dan: The devil’s in the details here. The King Tut prototype is superb. Tell us what goes into getting the details just right for a costume that ornate. Also: Tut had different outfits. Why’d you pick this one?
Reis: We went back and forth on his different costumes. We had to take several things into consideration, like which one is the most iconic, which one will translate to 1:18th scale in a pleasing way, which one will our factory be able to produce at the right cost. Once we chose which costume, Shelley really had to cruise around the web trying to find angles and clear shots of it in order to put together a decent amount of reference from which she would work.
Dan: Favorite Batman TV episode. Go.
Reis: From Season 3, it was the first appearance of Batgirl on the show. I used to love it when they’d show her go by on her motorcycle in the credits.
Dan: Give readers a tease about what they can expect in Wave 2.
Reis: Well, there’s a certain trio of villains that haven’t shown up yet. And we’re looking into variants for Batman and Robin, so stayed tuned!
Dan: What one figure are you really looking forward to doing?
Reis: Aunt Harriet. Just kidding!
NEXT BAT-TIME: Sculptor Shelley Rappleye.
For more information on the line, including prices and availability, click here.
For the complete FUNKO BATMAN ’66 INDEX of stories, click here.