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My Interview with Action Figure Insider’s Julius Marx and ToyOtter – Part 2

Posted by: vader at 12:20 am on Thursday, July 2, 2009

Today, we talk to Daniel and Jason about working together on their web site – ActionFigureInsider.com – how it came to be, what day-to-day challenges they face, and what we might expect to see from them in the near future.


When/What was your first online experience that involved this hobby?

Julius Marx: Wow. Good question. I’m not sure I can remember that far back. It would have been about 1992-ish, probably finding the Toy Collecting boards on AOL. Ah! The days of dial-up!

ToyOtter: I became part of the Usenet group rec.toys.misc shortly after it was formed in the early 90s, and then started my first toy page of archives while at college. Combined those pages with Eric Myer’s site to form modern Raving Toy Maniac site in 1997.


What other sites do you visit for toy scoops/information?

ToyOtter: RTM buzz. That’s about it.

Julius Marx: Currently, I don’t hit very many other boards mostly out of not having enough time! If someone links to a story on the AFi boards I try to go check it out, but I mostly look at toy company websites looking for new news. I’ve started to go back to visit the DC Direct boards. They seem to have calmed down a bit. Again if there were more hours in the day there are a lot of other sites I’d love to hit on a more regular basis.


What made you want to start your own action figure web site?

ToyOtter: There was no information online about specific toy lines at the time. Randy Matthews had the only action figure site.

Julius Marx: The nutshell version of this story is: I was a volunteer writer for another toy website. It was always a pipedream of mine to have my own site, but I didn’t have the skills or know how to do it. Eventually things fell apart at the old site. It was then Jason and I teamed up to start a new site. Jason built AFi from the ground up in 3 weeks.


How did you 2 meet each other?

Julius Marx: In prison. Oh… wait.

I knew Jason was in So Cal from us both posting on RTM. When we first got in touch I was in Santa Clarita at the time, and he was all the way in Orange County. In “Los Angeles distance”that might as well be another STATE! ?

I used to have these gatherings of like minded collectors at my house called “Geek Nights” and invited Jason to come to one of them. After three or four invites he finally made it to one of them, and that’s how we met. After talking on-line for months he finally came over to my house.

ToyOtter: We were both regulars of RTM’s forums, and when Julius heard I moved to LA he invited me over to his place for a get together with local collectors. After the 4th invite or so I finally made it over there. ;)


What is it like working with each other?

ToyOtter: Excruciating.

Julius Marx: It’s great! Jason is SUCH a creative force… I don’t think he really realizes HOW talented he is. He has such an eye for design. He’s an idea factory. He’s all about keeping things simple. Jason and I just click and work really well together. I don’t think we’ve ever really had a disagreement in four years.

We talk on the phone at least once a week and we email each other all the time.

I miss not living/working in the same city anymore and I miss our lunches together.


How do you resolve conflicting ideas?

ToyOtter: Usually defer to each other. It’s a pretty smooth partnership.

Julius Marx: I think I mostly just go with what Jason says. He’s been at this a lot longer than me, and he has such an eye for keeping it simple and sleek. So far following Jason’s lead has never steered me wrong.


How did the idea of forming AFi come about?

ToyOtter: Julius asked me if I would make a logo for his new site. When his old site unexpectedly gave him the boot, I was mad enough to just design him a whole new site. But I didn’t really want to be a part of it, having done that with my time at RTM. But slowly over the next year I did some much to help out I ended up becoming his partner whether I liked it or not. ;)

Julius Marx: See Above.


Who thought of the name “Action Figure Insider”? What other names were considered?

Julius Marx: I came up with the name… I don’t think anything else was considered… I also own the domain of JuliusMarx.com, but I wanted something more official and toy-centric for the name of the site. Plus, the name worked great for that “tabloid” format we launched with.

ToyOtter: All Julius. I had almost nothing to do with the direction of the site the first year, I just executed Julius’ vision.


What was the original goal of AFi?

ToyOtter: Ask him. My goal was to have it look better than the other sites out there.

Julius Marx: I don’t know that we had a real lofty goal apart from wanting a clean simple site that we had creative control over where like-minded collectors could gather and toy companies could trust. It’s really just a place for us all to talk about the stuff that we like. I love that I can talk to collectors all over the world, and we can share our love of this stuff. I love it when folks who run other sites come over (like you Peter) and join in the discussions. It’s too wide a topic for me to cover EVERYTHING, so I’m always glad they post about what else is out there.


Would you guys say you have already reached that goal? Please elaborate.

Julius Marx: I’d say yes. There are still some cool and unique things we have been wanting to do with the site that will set us a bit more apart from the pack, but we’re still noodling and working out the kinks on some of that.

I love the team of guys that we have running the site and as our admins. I also love the diversity of voices with the “Men of Action” blog. You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys.

ToyOtter: I think we have the best damn toy news on the internet!


What’s the hardest part about running AFi?

ToyOtter: Finding time to implement all our grandiose plans and create content.

Julius Marx: Finding the time to write, take pictures, respond to questions, write blogs and update the site! I wish I had a 27 hour day!


These days, it seems just about anyone can (and have) set up and run a web site like AFi. What do you think of these new breed of sites? And how do you plan to maintain your “position of authority” among the growing number of such sites?

ToyOtter: More power to them. I love to see new stuff, and the internet is big enough for everyone. I’m always amazed at how FEW toy sites are out there, when starting one is incredibly easy. It’s also easy to maintain a position of authority: just do a good job. Most sites are incredibly half-assed, so rising above them doesn’t take much.

Julius Marx: I’m all for it if it makes them happy! Now they know how hard it is to keep updating! ? It’s a BIG internet out there so there’s room for everyone, and I’m a big proponent of the idea “high tide raises everybody’s boat.” A lot of those guys visit and contribute to AFi, and I read their stuff too.

As for “maintaining my position of authority”… I have compromising pictures of a lot of industry professionals… it would be a REAL shame for those to leak out… ?


What new things can we expect from AFi in the next few months or so?

ToyOtter: Some anniversary scoops, some cool new blogs, maybe a kick ass new secret feature!

Julius Marx: Well, we just launched our new look in March and celebrated our fourth anniversary in April. There are two other cool things which are still a little ways off. We’ve got a great team put together for Comic Con this year, so we should have great coverage on that. And I think you’ll see more video on the site in the coming year. That’s one of the perks of dating an editor ?


— end of part 2 —

Tomorrow, the conclusion. Daniel and Jason shares with us what they think of toys in general and what each toy company does best.

For those of you who missed part 1 of the interview, please click here to catch up.


About the Author: vader



1 Comment »

  • Newton says:

    Really enjoyed the read so far. Part 2 is better at not making ToyOtter seem so “blah” about the whole thing. Really enjoy Julius enthusiam, but both guys have always been really cool in what interaction I’ve had with them on the AFI site.

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