The MOTUC Director Commentary is back for another exciting installment! This time we explore the behind the scenes information on the other Enforcer in the mythos -- the no-nonsense MYP anti-hero, Zodak!
Back in 2009, we were still learning the ropes and testing the waters on how big the collector audience was for MOTUC figures. After Stratos figures started selling out much faster than we intended, fans were asking for a subscription of sorts to guarantee their figure.
It was too late for a full year sub but what we did do was put together a four month sub for the final figures of the year. We even offered the option to ship figures each month or hold them until December and ship at once to save on shipping (very few customers took us up on this option which is why we stopped offering it - the logistics involved was a nightmare).
The other big ask from customers was if we could start offering more than one figure per month. While we did not have the tooling available for this, we looked over the line to see if any smart repaints were available. Based on the lineup for 2009, there were two really great candidates for this: Zodak and Green Goddess.
Both characters could potentially be executed with no new tooling as repaints only. BUT we wanted to try to give them something new and at minimum we knew Zodak needed his staff. So working ahead, we tooled Zodak’s staff with Zodac and Green Goddess’ staff with Teela. This allowed us to offer a “second monthly figure” as an experiment (to see if the customer base would support multiple figures per month) while not throwing off our tooling budget.
Logistically, Zodak was quite easy to do. He was a full-on repaint of Zodac from earlier in the year and as part of our goal for MOTUC, doing Zodak and Zodac as separate characters was key for no other reason than that we could sell both as toys – and honestly, if you review both characters’ roles in the mythos, they are very different and, IMHO, clearly worthy of each getting their own figure!
In terms of Zodak specifically, he came out of the 200X Mike Young production animated series. Originally in the vintage line, Zodac (with a C not a K) was a Caucasian character who was a “neutral cosmic enforcer” who roamed the cosmos on a floating chair. This was clearly an influence from the proposed New Gods line that Mattel was working on prior to Masters. (This line never happened, but the influence can be seen in many early MOTU characters like Zodac and Man-E-Faces.)
For the relaunch of MOTU in 2002, Zodac was reimagined as a mystic warrior and in order to provide ethnic diversity to the line he was changed from a Caucasian character to an African American character (yes, I know there is no Africa or America on Eternia, but you know what I mean). Designers also added cool, striking blue tattoos to Zodak and changed the spelling of his name from a C to a K. All of these were great reasons to define Zodac and Zodak as separate characters and to sell them as unique toys.
But the sculpt similarities between both characters made Zodak a perfect choice as a redeco character to test the waters and see if the MOTUC customer base would support a second monthly figure. And by tooling his unique weapon/staff with Zodac we could add a new item without any tooling. Hey, clever us!
From a personal standpoint, Zodak was one of my favorite characters of 2009 and, honestly, the whole line. I never had the vintage Zodac figure but being a HUGE fan of the 200X series (before coming to Mattel) Zodak was one of my favorite characters. He had these great mystical powers and light up tats that glowed when he used his powers to turn an enemy’s weakness on them. He also had a great back story as an Elder of Eternia and an enemy of the Snake Men. I remember paying big bucks to a dealer at a convention for the 2003 Zodak figure, my personal favorite figure in the Mattel 2002-2004 line.
One of the biggest differences between the 2003 figure and the 2009 figure was the removable mask. I would have LOVED to give MOTUC Zodak a second head without his helmet, but as stated, he was designed as a test figure to see if customers would support a second figure. This meant there was no additional tooling available.
With almost all toy lines, early figures are the “victim” of experimentation and getting one’s feet wet. Had Zodak been held back and released as a normal monthly figure down the road, likely he would indeed have gotten a second head (as would perhaps figures like Faker and Wun-Dar that also used repainted heads). But, as with all early figures in a line, he was a test of a concept (second monthly figures) and thus didn’t get the full treatment.
Getting an unmasked head for him is something I really want to do and hopefully in time we can find a way to release this (and reward customers who already have the figure with another display option!). But until that happens, we still have one cool kick-butt Mystic Enforcer.
In addition to his mystic staff that was tooled with Zodac, we also plussed Zodak up with glowing blue tats. This was all Terry Higuchi, the designer. I actually never asked for them to glow and the Horsemen did not design him with glow in the dark tats. Terry actually never even told me he used glow-in-the-dark paint. I only found out when I brought a figure home and was turning the lights off and saw him glowing on my toy shelf. Wow! I flipped out and emailed Terry thanking him for really going the extra mile.
While he may not have gotten the maskless head the 2003 figure had, I still think Zodak kicks so much butt. We were also able to use the great “shared parts” system the Horsemen created to mix and match a bit, giving him He-Ro’s crotch and boots to further differentiate him from the original Zodac release. This really helped both figures stand out, not only on your shelf, but in the lore as well, as clearly two distinct characters.
In the end, Zodak sold just fine and cleared the way for more characters as we worked on our 2010 line. Fan support for MOTUC has been, and still is, unparalleled. If it was not for the support of the fan base, this line would not exist. I’ve seen many collector toy lines come and go in my career, all based on how big the customer base is. The internet can have a very odd effect on toy collecting. It gives everyone a soapbox to express his or her feelings and desires for a figure line. Unfortunately this can often skew things a bit, making a fan base seem louder than it is numerous, with the same few hundred fans posting over and over.
This factor has lead to the demise of many collector lines that felt like the fan base was much stronger. A few very loud fans posting over and over does not always translate to a large enough customer base. But with MOTUC it proved the opposite and there were indeed enough fans, not only to keep the line going, but to actually add more skus to the line, including quarterly figures, beasts, vehicles, weapon paks and more.
Honestly, I wish every line had the fan base MOTUC has. It breaks my heart every time a collector line has to come to an end simply because we cannot sell enough units. You read online posts and it feels like the support should be there (JLU is a great example). But when it comes to actual sales, it just doesn’t add up. The few fans posting over and over online create the perception that there are more actual customers then there really are.
But for MOTUC, the fan base came through. And for me, I am just so glad. Because at the end of the day I am a toy collector and a MOTU fan, too. And I just want more and more figures and toys. I can’t produce these just for me, so it takes a diehard fan base to keep it going. I can’t thank the fans and customers enough. Their support for the line has proven we can expand beyond just one figure a month and Zodak was the first test to see if this was true.
It is always a risk when you try more products for a collector line. And it often backfires, finding out that those posters online were indeed louder than they were numerous. Looking back at how robust the MOTUC line has gotten at this point, boy, am I glad the numbers were there. MOTUC is really becoming the definitive collector line out there. With retail space at a premium and new movie lines and kid lines coming out every year, finding a space for collectors is becoming more of a challenge. As long as fans keep buying figures, we can keep making them. You really do vote for more figures with every purchase and with Zodak’s success as a second monthly figure (and a repaint at that!) the message from fans to Mattel was “more, please.” Happy to deliver!
Until next time!
See what the fans have to say HERE!