Spider-man: Maximum Vengeance Wave 2
An interview with Don Drake, president of Middleman Toys, by Cool Collecting columnist Andrew Rothery
Andrew: The last time we spoke, at the spring 2000 CustomCon, you were a Special Projects Manager at Hasbro. Now you're the head of your own company, with one of the biggest licenses possible under your control. What happened?
Don: Cold feet, pure and simple. Hasbro spent so much time and effort into snagging a Spider-Man/Avengers toy license from Toy Biz that they knew it had to be a raging success. Then my bosses actually watched an episode of the Avengers cartoon and realized they had to get out of it, but they couldn't lose face by not doing anything.
Andrew: Which means what, exactly?
Don: Which means they gave me access to any superhero molds in the archives and turned me loose, hoping that Maximum Vengeance would fail as spectacularly as the cartoon did, but in such a way as they wouldn't get blamed. Plausible deniability and all that.
Andrew: Right. Okay. But Maximum Vengeance was a major success, wasn't it?
Don: Well, it sold better than anyone thought it would, and in terms of the percentage left gathering dust on the shelves, it did a lot better than something like GI Joe Extreme. Well enough to justify this second batch of figures, at least.
Andrew: And let's talk about the figures. Where's Spider-Man?
Don: Well, we ran into a couple problems with Spidey. Our license allows us to use the likenesses of characters as they appear in the comics, plus or minus a little leeway for available molds, as long as they're not currently appearing in another line. That means Toy Biz still has the character tied up, and without an Unlimited comic, we can't use the most recent cartoon as inspiration.
Andrew: So, what about the characters you were allowed to use? The first wave had some of the biggest names, plus one of the most powerful villians the Avengers ever faced. Wave two has a bunch of second stringers and, might I add, no villains.
Don: Don't say there aren't any villains. We've got the Black Panther, who joined to spy on the team; Triathlon, who was forced on the team to maybe be a spy; Henry Gyrich, who would be happy if all heroes everywhere were to vanish; and the original Human Torch, whose history is so convoluted it might as well be an evil master plan.
Andrew: And Bucky Barnes.
Don: Actually, that's Rick Jones.