I recently sat down with the creator of the Realm of the Underworld toy line, Michael Zolotorow for an interview about his journey in action figure creation. We cover a variety of topics including changes to the line, the success of Wave 1, upcoming figures and potential concepts for the future. I want to thank Micheal for taking the time to speak with us in this Infinite Hollywood exclusive.
1. When we spoke with you back in 2012, Realm of the Underworld was still taking shape (at the time under a different name) and the first figures had not yet rolled out. Since that time, ROTU has launched and appears to be a big success. We here at Infinite Hollywood love the figures and the feedback seems to be pretty good across the board. When the split with your former partners happened, how far did that put ROTU behind and ultimately, did it result in a positive change of direction?
I want to say thank you for the support and kind words my friend. This has been over 3 years in the making, as in 2009, we sought to create a 5 3/4″ retro style action figure series. There have been bumps along the way. We have a great many things planned for the property. The series has been embraced worldwide and we are ready to release Wave Two. Our fans are the reason why Realm Of the Underworld and Zoloworld are in existence today and we are appreciative to all that have followed us through our journey.
2. One of the big changes was a shift in character decos, names and backstories. Personally, I love the more mythological take on things. Was this a necessary change or was it something done to just give the product a different feel?
I am a huge follower of Mythology and combining it with fantasy creates something surprising. The direction of the story can go anywhere, while Individuals can relate to the characters in figure form. Hercules is like the Michael Jordan of the Hero World, in that he is interpreted worldwide to be the most powerful hero to grace the earth. The surprise is where we combine him with our own characters to create a dynamic story. This is the roots of Realm Of The Underworld and was necessary to bring a new level of understanding to the series.
3. As Wave 2 begins to ramp up to enter into the marketplace, is there anything that you would say you’ve learned from Wave 1’s release?
There are a few things that I have addressed from Wave 1 that we will see improved in WAVE 2, not to say they were even remotely a problem. Wave 1 came out fantastic and there were small items that will be changed like the card stock being a bit thicker. The figures will be the same quality from Wave 1. They are built very solid.
4. One of the more interesting concepts you guys have mentioned on Facebook is the potential to add more articulation to the figures via some expansion packs. Is this something that is still in the works and can you detail this a bit more for our readers?
This is still in the works. Our goal was always to expand the line into something “Neo” with forward and backwards compatibility. The Adaptability pack (Arms and Legs) will allow the adventurer to add an extra two inches to the action figure with new style articulation, thus allowing you to display them with modern figures.
5. We’re seeing some great characters who possess the ability to use magic, but you know we’re going to ask… Will we see some traditional style wizards? I’m talking long cloth robes, beards, staffs and such.
Yes, one thing to note is that Acromancer was once a wizard. There will be other wizards as well; what is fantasy without wizards and skeletons?!
6. Warrior beasts for riding and giants have been teased and previewed, but nothing has necessarily been revealed. We keep hearing about a Cyclops and I believe Zeus was mentioned as well. Will we see some of these show up in Wave 3 or will we have to wait a bit more?
The 16” giants and riding beasts are something we are working on as the series progresses. We are hoping to have something revealed at the end of the year. The giants will have interchangeable arms, legs and heads. There will be more information on these soon. These characters are pivotal to the series and will help to define the property as well.
7. Although I didn’t have too much issue with it, one of the drawbacks some people have mentioned is the fact that these figures are painted and not cast in their appropriate colors. Is this something you guys are looking to change as the series goes on, or do you prefer the painted figures?
Because ROTU is extremely scarce and difficult to bring to the market under $25.00, our goal is to keep these cost effective for the majority of modern day collectors. To cast a low number of figures in varying colors would force us to charge over our target price point. I understand there are concerns and we are looking into other methods. Our upcoming series will have two glow in the dark characters. They will be cast in two different colors with spray highlights. I am a glow in the dark fanatic and seeing these two body styles in factory cast illuminating plastic.. well you get the idea!
8. Kry-Sis is a great looking character, but let’s just say that a lot of folks would really like to have him in a perhaps, more Caucasian deco, to better pay homage to another classic character. Is that something that’s planned?
There will be a number of Variants to Kry-Sis as the series develops. He was once a warrior before he fell in battle. Series Two is the “Underworld Warrior” edition. He is a zombie warrior that has risen from darkness to help save the earth from imminent destruction. His decos fit the mythology of the character and will continue to do so as the series progresses.
9. We’re seeing some glow in the dark stuff pop up in Wave 2, is there potential for some translucent figures to show in later waves as well? It seems like a couple of these guys would do really well in that format.
Surely we will have translucent characters. Wave 4 will be the first one we do. Hint: The characters fight in frigid terrain where they face off against a new Archfiend Warrior. Prepare your shelf!
Editor’s Note: Oh my god! This sounds incredible. Could it be translucent blue skeletons? Maybe. I’m hopeful!
10. Realm of the Underworld has a mini-comic upcoming soon. How important is it to have little things like that to help keep this brand alive but with great nostalgic nods?
The Mini comic will help to define the characters to the story. This is something that I personally feel is necessary for the property, while delivering a retroesque vibe. We are also working on a full retail comic series as well.
11. Can you tell us a little big about the upcoming Flexzors and what made you interested in revitalizing the world of playable bendable figures?
Flexzors is a ROTU Subseries of figures based on the characters from the story. The figures will feature a 6 inch soft rubbery body on a insulated wire armature with interchangeable heads. This allows for some crazy poseability. I have always liked bendable action figures, as there are many in my collection. I feel its time Zoloworld brought back this legacy in the hands of todays fantasy collectors. The first Flexzor will be Acromancer (Underworld Edition). As the subseries movies forward, there will be unique heads and accessories that will interchange with your ROTU standard figures.
We have many characters planned with varying retro styles. I am a huge fan of the cloth / vinyl combo on an action figure.
13. How has the reception been from classic MOTU collectors to the ROTU line?
I feel the reception has been great for retro (80s) collectors and new collectors of action figures alike.
14. What would you say to someone who has been watching ROTU from the sidelines, but just hasn’t been pushed over the edge yet to buy any? Is there something that you can say that would essentially get those people off the fence and into the line?
If you are a fan of retro fantasy action figures, this is a must have! These figures are selling very quickly and once they are gone from our warehouse, we will not produce any more characters in the decos you see (Wave 1 / 2 / 3 / ect.) . We will only move forward to the next waves. I feel the series is still in its infancy and the feedback has been tremendous already. We thank all of our supporters!
15. Since you guys are crafting a new story for these characters and obviously getting a lot of influence from old brands like Remco’s warrior barbarian lines, is there any classic movies or TV that also bring in inspiration? The old Hercules movies? Jason and Argonauts?
Of course movies have had an influence, but ever since I was five, I have been creating stories for my figures. Many elements of ROTU are from my childhood adventures. To be honest, the moment I cracked one off the card, it brought back the memories of when I would play with these toys.
16. What has been the best part of creating the Realm of the Underworld line thus far?
I have to break this question in two answers. One of the best parts to creating the series is having a fan base that wants the same as I and enjoys the characters and mythology. Another awesome part of making this series is bringing back my favorite action figure body style and coupling it with an epic story. I am looking at my shelf right now with several Archfiends surrounding Hercules with the Acromancer facing him.
17. What would you say has been the worst part, or perhaps the most challenging part of Realm of the Underworld thus far?
The most challenging part to ROTU is having to work inside the small time windows giving to us for producing the series through the factory.
At the moment, there are no plans for a “build a figure”.
19. What about army builder packs for characters like the skeleton minions?
Yes, we are planning on releasing some army building figures for the future or do a group discount on Archfiends for people who purchased previous waves.
20. Is there anything else that fans need to know and where is the best place to keep up to date on the latest Realm of the Underworld news?
Realm Of The Underworld Wave 2 is on pre-order now with a special 5% discount at UnderworldFigures.com! We are finalizing some details for the series and will be releasing new information shortly. The feedback has been huge! Thanks so much for the support!
We also have an official blog found here: http://underworldfigures.com/blogspot/