We’re honored to share our first interview with Brian Flynn, owner and founder of Super7, following their recent acquisition of the ThunderCats license. The first wave of 7” ThunderCats Ultimates consists of four figures—Lion-O, Mummy Mumm-Ra, Jackalman and Panthro—and became available for preorder in August 2019.
New ThunderCats.Org staff member Sebastiaan, a long-time friend of ours, and the driving force behind the #WeWantMoreThunderCats campaign on Instagram and Facebook, recently interviewed Brian to get exclusive insights into what is going on, what came before, and where this new line of super-articulated collectors action figures is going.
We want to thank Brian for taking the time to answer some burning questions and for living by the Super7 motto: “No one made what we wanted, so we made it ourselves.”
TC.org: You’ve been publically fighting the good fight for over three years to acquire the ThunderCats license, being shut down many times. How did it feel to finally get confirmation that it was a done deal?
BF: I don’t think anybody believed it, really! Even when it was confirmed, we were still waiting for the final papers to get signed. SDCC happened, and we were ready to announce the line, but by then nothing had happened and we couldn’t say anything because we were still waiting for the final go-ahead. It certainly was a tumultuous road to get here, but we’re here now and there’s a lot of cool stuff coming.
TC.org: What made ThunderCats appeal to you when it first aired in the 80s?
BF: When it first came on in America the animation was taken up another level from what was on air before it. It aired the same time as Voltron, and it just had crazy animation; it wasn’t Japanese but animated in a similar way. It was a cool show then, and even though to some it may be a bit cheesy now that we’re older, it’s still a great show.
TC.org: You’ve already made a big impact having a successful line with Masters of the Universe. Did Masters help pave the way for ThunderCats, and what was the journey like getting here from the early days of Super7?
BF: The first thing we did was Alien. Those Reaction Figures had such great success that we started doing more and interesting things. Masters was one of the things we thought we’d try. We got talking to friends we had over at Mattel, and eventually we took over from Matty Collector. Masters was certainly the doorway to ThunderCats. When we planned on taking over Masters of the Universe, we were planning to do ThunderCats as well. The lines were meant to go together at the time, but that didn’t happen then. But we’re here now!
TC.org: Did social media and fans being vocal help Super7 at all gain the license? Did it put pressure on WB or make them notice that the fans really wanted more ThunderCats?
BF: It certainly played a part. There was a guy [ThunderCats.Org forum member “The All American”] who wrote a letter to the president of WB at the time. This had such a great impact that the team at WB actually sat down about ThunderCats. The next moment we received a call from them and got into talks again. We may not have been the first choice, but the licenses like Masters of the Universe, Peanuts and TMNT also added on to our credibility as we continued with more success.
TC.org: When you said you want to offer a comprehensive line of figures, does that mean you plan on going beyond the LJN figures, venture into unproduced prototypes and do characters that never got figures?
BF: I’m hoping to really go deep with the line. Where we ended with MOTU Classics, we were not offering primary or secondary characters, but background characters who had one-off appearances in one panel. It’s very different than when comparing to mass retailers, where usually only the big hitters sell out. But our collectors want everybody. The fan base for ThunderCats is quite similar to Masters’, and these collectors want all of those unique characters. So yes, that is the plan, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t go into all the nooks and crannies.
TC.org: Would you consider including 2011 characters or characters from the comic books like Wilycub and Lynxana?
BF: We’d have to check that we have access to everything. Things like the 2011 cartoon had a different animation studio. We’d have to check if they maintained ownership of the characters’ likeness, etc. Way back when the Masters mini comics came out, the artists were just paid to do the work. There wasn‘t any clarity on who owned the content and there have been a lot of disputes over who actually owns the rights. There are a lot of grey areas. With the older ThunderCats comics, one would have to pay for usage. It may still be the same characters that WB owns, but their likenesses from the comics may be owned by the actual artist. So there is always that to consider.
TC.org: Will each wave of four figures be an all-in purchase as with Masters, or will figures be sold separately like the current set?
BF: Going forward they will all be sold separately. This decision is two-fold. When we started doing Masters, we had to hit certain minimums, but with how things have changed and the more people who know about it, we can now sell these separately. Even with moving to Ultimates and the figures having all of these extra accessories, as well as the new tariff situation coming down, it may be too much for some folks to buy all four. So now you can just buy the ones you want. What we want to avoid is flooding the market. When we place the order, that’s it—there’s not going to be any more made; it’s only the ones we ordered. There won’t be a case of us selling the rest later at a discounted price and having a scenario where people go, “But I paid for it in full! Why can others now get it for cheap?”.
TC.org: You’re restarting Classics as Ultimates with four great figures. It is clear that these were chosen to hook fans back into the line and collect the line without losing out. Will Pumyra and the ThunderKittens be up next, or will they be released further down the line?
BF: I think Pumyra may be in Wave 2 or 3.
TC.org: Talking about Pumyra—she’s currently towering over Lion-O. Will your version of her correct the scale issue? And will she have the boob swivel as with the new Masters females?
BF: Yes, we’re dialing things in and we’ve made some changes to Pumyra, like correcting her height and everything.
TC.org: Wave 1 is expected Spring 2020 and Wave 2 will go on sale in January. Will we be able to see them before then?
BF: Once we collect all orders, it takes four months to make these. There’s an allotment of 90 days to inject, paint and package the figures. Then there’s another 30 days on a boat to get here. We want to focus on what we have available now, and then when the time comes for Wave 2 we’ll talk about it then. In October we have Turtles coming, so we’ll be focusing on that, and in November something else is coming that I can’t reveal just yet. Then in December there will be Conan. We might tease a bit in December before that preorder starts for Wave 2 in January 2020.
TC.org: Will every figure have an extra head now that they are Ultimates? Will these all be growling faces, or can we expect alternate heads like Jaga having a young face and Grune having both his teeth?
BF: We don’t just make extra heads for the sake of it, but rather what’s integral to the character. We’re still making revisions to Lion-O’s second head, and we hope to show off the updated angry face soon.
TC.org: Does fan interaction help when making decisions on changing things?
BF: Yes, it certainly does. In talking to the fans we get a lot of critiques and opinions. We weed those things out to identify which are just people’s personal wishes and which are in fact valid points. Josh [Herbolsheimer] and I look at different things when dealing with a figure. He might see something else that I didn’t notice. Then somebody else might come in and say something like, “You haven’t painted the ankle,” while we were looking at something totally different. So it helps to get all the input to see where we can improve to make the best figure possible.
TC.org: The Four Horsemen’s prototypes for Jaga and Grune were shown last year at PowerCon. The biggest question on everybody’s lips: Will they be part of the next wave or made available down the line?
BF: Right now, 2020 is already planned. We are currently planning 2021 and working on things that we’ll deliver Christmas next year. You’ll get them. They’re coming.
TC.org: Parts reuse is part of the game. Does this mean that we can expect a spirit Jaga, a clear Tygra and a red Lion-O as one off figures and con exclusives? Will they be available to all of us?
BF: If you know me, you know I love all the weird repaints! Just look at all the different versions of Alien we’ve made. As long as people are in with me, we’ll make it. We’re all for it. Red Lion-O is part of the canon so we’ll make those. There may be times that when it’s a special item, like spirit figures, it may not something that everybody wants or feels is necessarily essential. We’ll hold those out for shows and con exclusives. In the case of the Laughing Prince Adam, there was an overwhelming response from the public, and we decided if everybody wants this, we will make it available to them. So everybody had a chance to get him, which made it easier for collectors, too. So, generally, yes, that’s the plan.
TC.org: Snake Mountain is around the corner. Does its success pave the way for ThunderCats vehicles / playsets?
BF: Let me deliver Snake Mountain first, then we can talk about the next thing. This was probably one of the most asked questions after SDCC. “Will you make a Turtle Van, will you do a ThunderTank, will you make this, that?” It’s certainly not that we don’t want to; and we’re not opposed to doing it. We just want to get Snake Mountain to the fans first.
TC.org: During the preorder you revealed a fantastic advert promoting the Ultimates line. Can we expect to see more like these in the future?
BF: Our goal is to do more and more. One of the guys, Orlando, did that clip, and one of our designers, Kyle, did the VO. Orlando came to us and said he wanted to try it. He shot the whole thing by himself, and we loved it. Ads like these are fun things to do and to watch. Even though this took longer than we had hoped, we’ll do more fun stuff like that in general. We want to make it more fun.
TC.org: In the ad, you can’t really see how the Claw Shield attaches to Lion-O. Can you confirm how it will be done?
BF: It will be connected with a peg, which has been updated.
TC.org: Talking about that Claw Shield, you blew us away with the smooth golden version. Was it always the plan to improve? This is clearly listening to what the fans want!
BF: It was deliberate. We wanted to do it and give you that Claw Shield.
TC.org: You also revealed the new packaging. Tell us more.
BF: The packaging is usually the last thing that is submitted and the last thing to get made. We are prototyping at this stage, so there may still be changes at the last minute. It is all affected by how the figures come out. How we arrange the accessories influences the package dimensions, etc. But they’re in now to get signed off.
TC.org: There are tons of awesome new accessories—the Rosenkrantz Medallion ties directly into the character Zaxx from very late in Season 4. Can we expect Zaxx to show up sometime?
BF: I hope so.
TC.org: Will we get the entire Treasure of Thundera?
BF: As long people stay with us, yes. The assumption is to go on with this line for several years, like with Masters.
TC.org: The talented Joe Amaro made superb customs of Snarf, Snarfer and the Berbils. Can we expect to see these characters as part of the Ultimates line, and would these companions count as single figures, pack-ins or 2-packs?
BF: In cases like these, they will probably end up like how we did the Uncle Montork and Dree Elle 2-pack for Club Grayskull.
TC.org: Will you be involved in any way with the new ThunderCats Roar cartoon?
BF: No, we’re not. At the moment, we’re more than happy to make the Classic ThunderCats and give you the toys we all wish we had.
TC.org: Funko announced their second wave of Savage World figures. You wanted to make 5.5″ figures as per another interview. Is there any chance we may see that Mumm-Ra you did?
BF: If you’re talking about seeing it made real, no, not now. We’ve been friends with Funko for many years, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they do more.
TC.org: You’re a collector yourself, collecting skateboards and vinyl. Of all the ThunderCats, who do you think will be the skateboarder and who the vinyl collector?
BF: Well, Wilykit and Wilykat immediately comes to mind with their Spaceboards, but I think Jackalman would be the skateboarder. I’d say that Mumm-Ra, the old mummy version, not the Ever-Living version, is the collector. I can see him like this old man in his home, with all of this stuff lying around that he collects. There’s dust on everything, and he’s saying you can’t touch this or that!
TC.org: On a final note, can we get a set of naked ThunderCats from the pilot episode?
BF: *Laughs out loud* Well that certainly is something to think about. It could be perfect for a con exclusive. It’s, again, one of those items that not everybody would want, but for that type of platform it is perfect.
Founded in 2001, Super7® is the premier pop-culture design house and producer of lifestyle-oriented collectibles, toys and apparel based in San Francisco.
Led by designer Brian Flynn, Super7® has harnessed the graphics, aesthetics and energy of his youthful obsession with science fiction, giant monsters, comic books, punk rock, skateboarding, robots and rebellion to build a unique and innovative business that crosses all categories and is not bound by traditional manufacturing boundaries.
Besides its own branded products, Super7 has also designed, manufactured, and distributed officially licensed programs for Star Wars, Masters of the Universe, the original Alien and Planet of the Apes movies, as well as for music legends Iron Maiden, the Misfits, and King Diamond.
Super7® now brings that same unique aesthetic to its new line, Supersports™ by Super7®, to create a new multi-category line of unique collectibles for sport fans worldwide and lead by its brand-new licensing agreement with Major League Baseball.