I recently had the chance to talk with Marauder John, of Marauder “Gun Runners” about their exciting new World War II action figure Kickstarter. From their beginnings of producing high-quality 3-3/4” scaled weapons and accessories, through their first action figure Kickstarter that introduced the Marauder Task Force, to the recent addition of the Valkyries, collectors have discovered Marauder products can’t be beat when it comes to military action figures. In addition to their great product, Marauder’s unparalleled customer service has helped establish them as a leader in the action figure collectible business. The Kickstarter just went live, so if for some reason you’re on the fence about making your pledge, learn more below about the WWII endeavor from the man himself- Marauder John!
Almon Ellis for Generals Joes- I wanted to ask you a few questions about this new Kickstarter you’ve got going.
Marauder John- You got it, sir!
What is this, the fourth action figure Kickstarter Marauder has done?
Jeepers! Our fourth?!? Let’s see….yeah! This will be our fourth action figure one.
Well, I have been a part of the first three, and obviously they’re all great products, so I’m really looking forward to this one.
Oh, you should see- these sculpts are just outstanding. I mean, when you see them, you look at the canteen- you turn the canteen back, the back part that no one ever sees, that’s against the figure’s body, there are seams on there- it’s just amazing.
Marauder got their start as “gun runners”, producing high-quality 3-3/4” accessories, and then you branched out and produced your own action figure line- Marauder Task Force. This new Kickstarter is introducing something a little different, though. Tell us about the shift in direction you took here.
We started off with the weapons- well, we started off as collectors, OK? We loved to army-build huge armies. But it got to the point, I couldn’t find guns for my figures. I wanted cool guns- I used to love the vintage Snow Serpent version one AK-47. I loved that gun- but that gun started to get expensive to find. $10, $12, $15 for that one little gun- I said well let’s see if I can find a way to make cool guns for my figures. It worked out, and I was able to mass produce. We did series 1, series 2, on down the line.
Then it got to the point where there were fewer and fewer figures out there. I said, well let’s see if we can make some cool figures for our guns. And that’s what led us into the figures. We got a lot of requests for them. People said, “We really like what you did with the guns- how about you do figures?”. So we did the research, and said let’s give it a go! The demand was there- the response from our supporters was overwhelming, and thank God it worked out. So we did the first male, then said, let’s release even more males, and then wanted to get some females out, and released the Valkyries. That worked out, so we said let’s add even more figures. We said, let’s add an exo-suit- a nice, big power suit, with that “Aliens”/modern sci-fi look to it. And how about a sidekick? A dog! A fully-articulated dog! Rather than a little chunk of plastic- here’s one that’s fully articulated with interchangeable heads, and accessory packs with pouches and leashes, muzzles, radar dishes. Then, let’s branch out a little more on the action figure side and bring along contract ops guys. Let’s do like you see on the news- guys with t-shirts and slacks, and the vest on and the hat.
Then, a lot of people talked about figures in suits- well, when you see a figure in a suit- the suit looks really thick, and it doesn’t drape realistically, and it doesn’t bend. Our thing is articulation- our figures are all about articulation. So let’s work with our designers and see if we can get a design where they are able to be articulated and have the suits look realistic on the figure. And they did it!
So that leads us to where we are with the items in production, and over the last year, we’ve been working on this project. Imagine fully-articulated figures, that had a customizable accessory load-out, like we do with our current figures, but in World War II. That would be so great- I’d love to be able to get the backpack and be able to put the bayonet here if I want, or get his belt and put on the canteen, the pistol, and then have different headgear without having to get a completely new figure. You can get one figure and have all of these accessories and make any version of the U.S. Army soldier you want. Well how about any version of the Marine? Or we could do the Japanese. We could do the Germans. We can do the British. We can do the Russians. Now, there aren’t any modular attachment points on the figures themselves, like there are with the current Marauder Task Force figures. It is realistic to how they looked and how they wore their gear in WWII, but you have the belts and the harnesses that have all the modular points. And also you have the gear that we’re making with the WWII figures is compatible with our current figures, and the current stuff will work with the WWII line. So it all works- it’s all part of the same universe.
That was kind of my next question- I know I’ve seen some people a little worried about that- but everything in the WWII line will be interchangeable with the Marauder Task Force line?
Yes. If you want to grab a current Desert Ops guy, and put the Marine flamethrower on him with the belt and harness, it will work. Same thing with the headgear- helmets, hats, all that. That’s very important- just like with real people, because I pick up my winter jacket, and then go put on a summer jacket, and they both should fit. We just said, “Why can’t that work with action figures?”. So that’s what we try to maintain, and the feature that has set us apart- and has really made us- is the modularity, the customization.
There are so many talented customizers out there. They can take this figure, and cut this accessory off this figure and glue it over here, and grab this thing and paint it. I always envied that, and people like Marauder Ruben are just amazing customizers. Kevin Watts- amazing customizer. I can’t do that. But with Marauder Task Force, I can do something to approximate what they do. I can grab a figure, I can put a different set of legs on him, I can grab a vest, a different color helmet, pouches, etc. Now, I have a custom figure. Granted, it’s not as fantastic as these customizers make, but for me, it’s something I was never able to do, and I can now.
That’s exactly what attracted me to them, as well.
When you’re talking about historically accurate pieces, especially World War II, when obviously essentially the whole world was involved, there are not only so many factions that were involved, but also numerous divisions within each faction that wore completely different uniforms. How broad and ambitious are you going with this Kickstarter?
Out of the gate, we have the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marines, the Japanese, the Germans, the British, Russians, and then there are other versions of the British and other versions of the Germans and other versions of the Americans. We looked at it and said, well we could do this from this particular year, and this from this particular battle, but then said that’s a little too detailed for what we want to do. We want to take a more broad approach, but then later on the site, we’ll release a lot of stickers and decals where you can customize these further to how you want them. So you could say, “I want this group to be this particular division, I want this guy to be this particular rank.” So that’s what we’re looking at right now.
We’re concentrating on a WWII release, mid-war. There are some really cool stretch goals where if we reach those, we’ll have more things to add, but it’s a very aggressive campaign. The center target we’re trying to hit is the detail. And there’s some incredible WWII historians- we’re getting emails that are saying, “great job on this, but this needs to be changed”. We’ve done a lot of research- it’s taken over a year to get to this point. We’re not an expert in everything, but we’re trying to get this as right as possible.
I’m sure this line took an amazing amount of research to get right. What did you do to make sure everything was historically accurate?
Well, we just learned something about the Japanese jacket. A very knowledgeable gentleman, a customer, told us something was wrong with the collar. He said, “that’s not correct for that uniform in the mid to late war era”. So we’re looking into possibly changing that. We asked a lot experts, a lot of references, then we bounced the information off of a lot of folks. And if we came across an error, we fixed it. And even now, we’re finding things. You can’t please everyone, and we don’t know what we don’t know. We’re trying to be as accurate as possible, so we appeal to our current customer base, and we want to appeal to people who have never been interested in Marauder, but who like the WWII stuff. The people who are really into WWII have never had a chance to get figures with this detail and with these features. So hopefully they will give us a shot.
So right now are you just focusing on ground troops, or will you have pilots or anything like that?
The number of armies, and uniforms, and styles of soldiers in WWII is almost overwhelming. There’s just so much. So, right out of the gate, it’s just ground troops. It’s armies. We have one Navy guy- a U.S. Navy FMF Corpsman. That’s part of the Marines, but he’s not a Marine- he’s an FMF Corpsman. And I thought it was very important to have him. He comes with a medic bag, a stretcher, he comes with a head bandage. It’s like a hat- you can put it over his head, and however you angle it, you can cover the left eye, cover the right eye. He comes with a sling, comes with a plasma bottle, bandages, a crutch. A crutch isn’t necessarily realistic to being in a battle, but I just thought it would be cool to have an in-scale crutch for a four inch figure. So after you get back from the front lines, he can have a crutch. But anyway, most of them are the armies from the different countries.
One issue that I’m sure you had to put a lot of thought into is exactly how to approach the German/Nazi figures. A lot of people understandably wouldn’t like seeing Adolph Hitler, or SS troopers produced in action figure form.
Well, we just approached as historically accurate figures. We don’t glorify or get into any atrocity that any army did, or what the politics to it was. Get away from that. We said we were going to make the U.S Soldier, the U.S. Marine, the Germans, the Japanese, the Russians- there’s things that happened in history, things that happened on the battlefield, and these are the uniforms that those guys wore. What happened politically, no we didn’t go near there. Now granted, there won’t be any swastikas on the figures, nothing like that, it’s just a military figure. But you can’t have a WWII line without all three, or at least the two major parts of the Axis.
It sounds like there will be a huge amount of figures available. You mentioned the WWII line will still have interchangeable accessories, but won’t have the attachment points like the first MTF figures had. Will the WWII line still be constructed the same, where you can switch the torsos and heads and other parts?
Definitely! It’s the same body platform where you pop them off. I like that waist articulation- because it works with our vest, but I always liked that look, and the movement, much more than the figures with the mid-chest separation. Yeah, you’ll be able to pop off the heads of the WWII guys and put them on the current figures, and back and forth. The hands, the waist, the thighs, all that is the exact same form and size as the current stuff. We did add one new feature- if you look at say, the G.I., he might look like he has a longer torso. No, he has- for lack of a better term, a skirt- that pops on top of the waist section and then you pop the torso onto that, so it looks like a longer jacket, but still maintains the articulation. It’s a soft material- we did the same thing with the Japanese, the German, the Russian. The British didn’t have it, but the German paratrooper, all those had it. And the U.S. Airborne had it.
So going forward, should we expect to see figures of other historical periods?
Well we already have a Vietnam line in the works. We’re flirting with the idea- and it’s in the early stages- of Feudal Japan, with the Samurai, and their armies. I just love that. But there are a lot of things that can be done. If the WWII set is successful- and we’re being very aggressive, we’ve got some huge stretch goals- huge dollar amounts- but if we hit those, we could roll out to a second series, a third series. Like I said, there’s a lot still there.
And will we still see additions to the traditional Marauder Task Force?
Oh yeah. When we started this, some folks said, “How do you start another Kickstarter when you haven’t delivered your last Kickstarter?” You just have to take a step back and see that we have delivered two Kickstarters as promised to our supporters. We have the third Kickstarter with the Exo, the K-9, the Agency Ops and the Contract Ops guys- that’s already in the pipeline. Those tools are being made. Production is underway. So rather than wait for that product to get here and be delivered, and then start this other project, we wouldn’t have these guys until 2020, 2021. So we decided it was better to just keep stuff in the pipeline, and we think that we’ve proven through our track record with customer support and devotion to our supporters that we are here for the long haul. What we said we were going to deliver we have delivered, but now we want to get more stuff to you, but that means we have to start more projects at the same time, but all at varying stages. Our eye is always on the ball, we’re still working with the factory on everything with the Exo and the K-9 and the Contract Ops, but in the meantime, we wanted to get this other one started. And once it gets started, we’re going to start on other projects.
Yeah, I think that’s just a natural result of growth as a company. You have to kind of work in cycles.
Right. Just like the old saying- “Keep moving forward”. You’ve got to. You’ve got to. There are just so many people entering the 1:18 action figure market now, the moment you take a step back or rest, someone else comes up with a great idea that maybe you could have done.
When we first started talking, you touched on how great the design work is on this line. I know in the past you’ve worked with Boss Fight Studios and Troy McKie. Would you want to share who did the design work for the WWII line?
We love Boss Fight Studios. They’re fantastic. But, they’re so popular and so busy with other projects- there are a lot of things we’d love to work with them on, but they just don’t have time right now. They can do it later on down the line, but that comes into what we just talked about. We can’t wait. We can’t wait until they get some open time. They are amazing folks and incredibly talented, but we went with Troy McKie to design these. We worked with Dan Rheaune as our sculptor. Marauder Ruben is our paint-master guy. They’re all just phenomenal and are so skilled. Troy’s designs just put an incredible amount of detail into these.
Yeah, I’ve gotten to know Troy a little bit going to JoeCons- he’s a great guy and does great work.
Oh yeah. And responsive with a quick turnaround. Especially this- I was giving so many changes and requests, and it was not a problem.
I also noticed Ryan Lord has already shared a little sneak-peek on Facebook. He did some illustration work for you on this?
I love Ryan. From the get-go, we did a small run of carded figures that Ryan did the art for. He did the art for our K-9, our Contract Ops, our Exo-Suit. He’s done these amazing Marauder posters. I love his design and his style- it works so nice with the Marauder stuff. So when I came up with this idea, I ambushed him months ago and said “I’d love for you to do a WWII design, I’d like it to be a collage- you know, heads of all these different soldiers in action just there around the MTF WWII logo.” He put it all together and it looks so cool.
While I’m sure fans of the existing MTF line will enjoy the WWII line, this also opens up a lot of new potential fanbases to buy Marauder product. What can we existing fans do to spread the word about this Kickstarter to introduce them to other collectors?
Anything you can think of! As soon as it starts we’re going to hit as many WWII boards, collector boards or sites that we normally don’t think of. Just to let them be aware of it. Especially in Europe, in the UK, in Germany, in Spain- there are a huge number of WWII collectors that aren’t aware of Marauder. But here are some figures that will fit their niche. This is why we pushed as many details as we could into these figures and accessories. If you’re going to swim in the deep end of the pool you better know how to swim well, because these guys will tear you apart. Look at the water bottle on the British guy, or the backpack on the Japanese, or the U.S. Marine flamethrower- we tried to get as true to the real-life version as possible. As for getting them aware of it, that’s the $64,000 question. We looked into buying print ads in some of the magazines that cater to these groups, but the print media works months out. They needed photos of finished things and we just didn’t have those.
So with the WWII Kickstarter about to begin, did you want to give an update on where the last Kickstarter is with the Contract Ops and Exo Suits and everything else?
Yeah, right now the tools are on the way, and we hope to have actual test shots after Chinese New Year. The factory shuts down for several weeks during the event, so we’re figuring in March we’ll get some of the tooling test shots and share those. We’ll keep everyone up to speed on that. Also, we have several new versions of our current MTF figure and Valkyrie figure done, so we should have samples of those to share- different colors, different camo patterns, all that.
Any plans yet to be at the GI Joe Convention in Chatanooga?
Oh yeah. We’ve got the booth purchased, the rooms reserved.
Are you going to have any of these new products there to show off?
We’ll have the paint masters, and should have the tooling test shots from the K-9 and the Exo and those to show. We’ll also have four exclusives for the show itself. Things that have never been released- new versions of our Marauder Task Force and our Valkyries.
Ok, awesome- see you there!