Interview with Bif Bang Pow’s Jason Lenzi at SDCC
Jason Lenzi of Bif Bang Pow sits down with Marc Ilagan of the Venture Bros. Blog to discuss the Venture Brothers toyline at San Diego Comic-Con 2010. Jason Lenzi is a seasoned television producer and the ultimate fan everything of pop culture. Lenzi created Bif Bang Pow in 2005, he took a fan’s perspective on bringing stuff to the marketplace, figures that he himself would want to own. Cultivated by comic books, music, movies and more, Bif Bang Pow’s mission is to provide high-quality action figures, toys and collectibles to cult audiences and kids of all ages.
It’s Saturday at San Diego Comic-Con 2010, behind us is a large group of fans who have all lined up the Venture Bros. signing at the Entertainment Earth booth. Jackson Publick & Doc Hammer are signing officially licensed action figures produced by Bif Bang Pow for Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros.
Marc Ilagan: Hi Jason, how are you?
Jason Lenzi: Doing good. A little bit tired. A little worn out, but good.
Marc Ilagan: How has your stay been at Comic-Con?
Jason Lenzi: Very interesting. This has been… I think this is my seventh Comic-Con, maybe fifth as Bif Bang Pow and every year it gets bigger and every year we get more exclusives and licenses. The crowds get bigger and the signings are great. I think this year tops it though. We had to cut the line off already for the Venture stuff. So, it’s been great! It’s been really positive! A lot of cool people coming by and loving what we’ve been doing. You know, it’s been gratifying. I think a lot of people like what we’ve done.
Marc Ilagan: Jason, tell us a little about Bif Bang Pow and how you got started.
Jason Lenzi: Bif Bang Pow was sorta a brainchild of mine. I work in television production in L.A. as writer and producer and I do voice over work; Because all of that is not sometimes year around, I wanted to think up a business that would be an earner while I was doing those things. I thought about different things like a coffee shop or real estate license or whatever; I’ve love toys my whole life and I saw the industry kinda changing, where all these properties that nobody thought of ten — fifteen years ago to make as action figures were happening. It felt like the right time. So I set the company up and I started going after my first couple licenses and Entertainment Earth is the exclusive distributor for everything we do and it’s just sorta grown from there. I made a short list of things I wanted, which was ‘Spaced,’ a British series starring Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson and ‘Big Lebowski’ and ‘Flash Gordon The Movie.’ Spaced never happened but Flash Gordon and Big Lebowski did and that kinda lead to everything else we’ve done, Dexter and Twilight Zone and LOST… sorta a domino effect.
Marc Ilagan: At last year’s convention Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer stated that they were committed to giving fans action figures. Early this year, Bif Bang Pow came out with a press release announcing that the company had acquired the licensing and will be producing a toy line. I understand that Ken Plume was instrumental in that process. Can you tell us how that licensing agreement came about?
Jason Lenzi: As far as how Venture came to be, I was always a fan you know. I go after stuff I am a fan of like Dexter and Twilight Zone. I was always a fan of the Venture Brothers but we kinda had our plate full at the time with Big Lebowski and Flash Gordon, getting that off the ground. Ken Plume gotten in touch with me because he loved that stuff. In our conversations, he asked if I ever considered doing the Venture Brothers — absolutely I have, I just wouldn’t know where to start. Like is it Cartoon Network or is it Adult Swim? He told me sorta friends with the guys and he was on the inside. I told him if you give me the right contacts and we’ll see about getting this going and see what we can do. And it took a long time getting back to me, getting the right information and me, meeting the right people and so on. But it really kicked off a little before last year’s Comic-Con. I started my conversations with Cartoon Network and the time we got here, I met Jackson for the first time and we stood at this booth a year ago and talked about retro figures for the property. That’s what we both thought would be best for the show and wanted to do. Little did I know that he a Doc were mega fans of all the Mego stuff. They collect it, they love it and that’s what they wanted to do from day one.
Marc Ilagan: Fans have been teased online with the first set of action figures, and now at Comic-Con they can finally take them home. In the display case at the Entertainment Earth booth, fans get a sneak peak of new, upcoming figures from the Venture Brothers toy line. Can you talk a little about that?
Jason Lenzi: Yeah! We made our debut. We wanted to make sure that these prototypes were done and approved before we got here; To be able to show a little something extra special as a surprise for the fans. So the next wave of characters is Orpheus, Phantom Limb, Dr. Girlfriend and Hank. And the reactions have been amazing. Fans are just freaking out about it. They’re even better than the one’s we did in the first wave, I think and it’s been great. I mean, our instincts were right about doing it this way and doing the retro thing because these are selling so well that we’re already planning another wave of characters.
Marc Ilagan: So a third wave of Venture Brothers toys?
Jason Lenzi: Well, we’ve got a short list of characters after the Orpheus set, but nobody wants to talk about that just yet. We’ll be keeping that as a surprise. Top secret.
Marc Ilagan: Let’s talk about the construction of these new figures. I love the Orpheus figure, a lot a detail went into his outfit, but I think fans are talking most about the Phantom Limb action figure with transparent arms and legs. As fans of the show, we were always curious how you guys would produce such a figure. Would you create a figure with no limbs? But if you did — then that leads to the question of how that figure would stand on its own? Fans also wondered how as company, you’d market half a figure?
Jason Lenzi: Well, I starting thinking how to do it and I remember a series from Japan and I think it ended up in England, but I think it was called ‘Henshin Cyborg’ in the late 70’s maybe. And the bodies were completely clear, where you could attach different colored limbs or bits of cloth or accessories on to them and make a solid sorta figure. But the plastic was all clear. And that’s what I thought of. They did it back then, why couldn’t we use the same plastic and do with the clear form now? We would see how it works and if it doesn’t work, we would lose the limbs and make a torso on a stand, which could also be kinda funny but that’s what your stuck with. But the fact that he’s got phantom limbs, he actually does have limbs, he can pick things up and do stuff… its really there. So it made more sense to try it that way and it worked! We weren’t sure how it would work but it did and the guys loved it and responded to it right away!
Marc Ilagan: What has it been like working with Jackson Publick & Doc Hammer on the Venture Brothers toy line?
Jason Lenzi: It’s been great to have these collaborations because with the other licenses we have, it’s mainly with the studios or you know some of the creative over there. Every now and again someone behind the scenes would chime in or they’ll actually mention the likeness or make a few passes. But with this, being a two dimensional property that were bringing to 3-D life, It was always gonna have some headaches and details that were gonna have ironed out. But it was great to have these guys collaborate. At the beginning we wanted to have that type of collaboration and partnership. And it hasn’t been just them saying ‘This is what we want, we’re gonna do it’ and us — ‘ok.’ It’s been ‘Here’s what we think, what do you think?’ and its been back and forth. With like the list characters, Hank & Dean to be honest, are of all the characters on the show, they’re not the most interesting in the show. They’re down the list of it and that’s not a slight on the characters, but they are visually what they are. But they have to be made, it’s a part of the line. It would be silly not to do the Venture Brothers and not do the brothers. So we thought we’d split the sets up instead, because eventually everyone’s gonna want get both brothers or the entire sets. But that was something we had to go back and forth on and explain why as toy guys, we thought it was the right thing to do.
Marc Ilagan: You mentioned earlier, that you have a limited number of figures here at the convention. The response has been great! Which figures have sold out?
Jason Lenzi: Yeah! As of today certain figure have sold out. The exclusives, Henchmen 21 & 24 have sold out. They sold out earlier today. But to be fair we could not take our entire supply down here, we have a limited space but we bring down what we thought would be enough for the days, but it just was not enough. It was a steady flow of people buying these figures.
Marc Ilagan: Jason Labowitz gave readers of the Venture Bros. Blog an exclusive look at the bobble head series and packaging. On the back of the Orpheus packaging, is the bobble head line up — eleven in all. Venture fans were surprised to find an Atlantean Dr. Venture bobble head among the mix…
Jason Lenzi: I can’t give you all the answers. I gotta keep some mystery for this show! I can not confirm or deny when that might pop up.
Marc Ilagan: So far we’ve seen the action figures and the bobble heads, what about vehicles?
Jason Lenzi: We really don’t want to give too much away yet. We’re not sure what form that may take. Were not sure how were gonna do it exactly, but we got some ideas. I mean — I’ve got a million ideas for what we can do with the whole show, as far as different everything goes. But we could just be limited by time, by efforts, by fan base, It just depends. It gonna be real interesting and I am gonna say this to the fans — Everybody loves what were doing, which is great, some people don’t, some people don’t dig it — whatever. But if this stuff has taught me anything, with every license I’ve had. People have to stick with it. Because you’re gonna get to the fourth and fifth tier characters who aren’t on as much as the rest of the characters and you start to wondering if these will sell as well as the other ones. Are fans gonna stick with it through to like a bizarre character that shows up in two episodes and in the fifth series of figures; That’s gonna be very telling. And in my experience with Big Lebowski, with Flash Gordon, and some others — Dexter for example, all they care about are the main characters. Once you get to the third and fourth tier on Dexter, it starts to fall off. But we could make Dexter till the cows come home. So, it’s gonna be very interesting to see what happens after this next wave of figures and pushing that where it might go.
Marc Ilagan: I am noticing at the booth, you guys have some Twilight Zone props, have you ever thought about making a Rusty Venture / Dr. Venture Sr. alarm clock?
Jason Lenzi: No. But we would certainly be opened to it. We’ll have to talk with the network — because they’re really happy with what were doing. No plans for anything like that right now, like accessories. But for me, for that sort of thing, even if we can’t do it and it opens the door for anyone else who want to do it because the success of what were doing — I’m all for it. Because I think it all helps each other. I would love to see that stuff too!
Marc Ilagan: Any estimate of when the second wave of action figures might be released?
Jason Lenzi: Maybe by the Holidays but it will depend. It’s gonna be tight but were going as fast as we can.
A special thanks to Jason Lenzi, CEO of Bif Bang Pow for taking the time to speak with us and answer questions about the Venture Brothers toy line at San Diego Comic-Con 2010.
Interview by Marc Ilagan, Executive Site Editor