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Toy Sites, Then and Now

Posted by: vader at 7:43 am on Thursday, August 11, 2011

Having recently revamped the site for a new look and steering it to a slightly different direction, I’ve been doing a lot of looking back and looking ahead. What with reading Lt. Clutch’s “Beginnings” a few times plus having the likes of Captain Collector, Casimir and Julius Marx (names I personally consider to be icons among common geeks) getting involved with my fledgling little site, it was quite a natural process to reflect on what the online toy community was like the past few years and how I somehow came to be a small part of it.

There’s probably a few of you who know that my 9-5 job is doing mercenary web works. I’ve been a web programmer for hire since the mid 1990s. With technology’s ultra-fast pace, that’s probably a human generation ago. It was a time when online and real life were still distinctly separate – for everyone.

As for toys, specifically action figures, I had been collecting them for a slightly longer period. But it wasn’t until about 2002-2003 that I started getting involved with the online toy community. Unknowingly and totally unintended, my 2 geeky worlds would start to converge.

The very first action figure web site I came to know of was a site aptly called Action-Figure.com. The site had a news section which was a great source of up-to-date info on toys. That site was also one of the early adapters of an online registration-based community software. Sadly, the site has been defunct for a few years now.

Action Figure.com

One other web site I used to frequently visit back then was Casimir’s Inanimate Objects. It was a regular web stop for me because what originally got me started in this hobby were the Timm-verse Batman action figures. And Casimir’s web site was chock full of them. Casimir is also one of the pioneers of “customizing” action figures and his work is amazing, to say the least. I believe that anyone who practices this craft today has to have somehow been inspired by Casimir’s early work.

Apart from his amazing customs, one of the things that gave his site a “revisit factor” (at least for me) is its layout. His site used to have a landing page bearing a photo of Ventriloquist & Scarface. And clicking on that image reveals the inside of his web site which is just reminiscent of the old Silver Age comic books I used to read as a kid. Up to this day, it’s still a treat for me to visit his site.

Casimir’s Inanimate Objects through the years

In 2005, a new player would enter the online toy site realm – Action Figure Insider. The site was launched by founders Julius Marx and Toy Otter. Oddly enough, I learned of this news from Action-Figure.com.

Like most of the toy sites around at the time, AFi started out as a site offering news and information on the hobby, primarily focusing on super hero toys. Many of the older folks in the hobby know Julius Marx’s earlier toy column called the Amazing Justice League of Julius Marx which ran on another web site. Collectors looked forward to reading his column which always had insider information on upcoming releases. So people just naturally gravitated towards his new web site when it came out. Since then, an online community has formed with a loyal member base that is still steadily growing.

Different Incarnations of AFi over the years

I first got involved with AFi sometime in 2006. That was actually around the same time I started AFHUB, which admittedly, was just a sort of knee-jerk reaction to a local incident which I won’t waste time writing about. But it wasn’t until 2007 when I officially became part of the AFi roster as their “Master of Interwebs” (that’s simply “webmaster” for the uninitiated).

Today, AFi is where I spend a good chunk of my free time on. I help out by offering what little I know about the technical aspects of maintaining a web site. Julius Marx and Toy Otter have become my good friends over the years and we’ve even worked together on stuff outside of AFi. The entire AFi crew and a lot of its regulars are just about the nicest bunch of folks in this hobby I could ever hope to be associated with.

And moving forward (or should I say backward?), I’ve dug up some of the other toys sites I used to visit just to see how they look, then and now. Here’s a few of them…

RTM is probably the grandfather of all toy sites. Up to this day, they still use the very same format of threaded discussion (patterned after the old Usenet) for The Buzz.

Raving Toy Maniac or RTM

What toy collector doesn’t know Michael Crawford? He’s been reviewing toys for ages and his site has become the de facto yardstick for gauging a toy’s overall worth for both old and new collectors.

Michael Crawford’s Review of the Week

I remember The Fwoosh used to be called Fwooshnet back in the early 2000’s. It started out as the go-to place for information on toys related to Marvel Comics. They have since evolved to cover almost every toy line and genre.

The Fwoosh

Finally, as for my own AFHUB, I’m hoping to let it continue as another venue for action figure info. With the help of friends like bnjmnrlyr, Casimir, Captain Collector, Julius Marx, Lt. Clutch, Review-Or, and a few still unnamed individuals, we hope to offer more diverse contents about our common hobby. Of course, the web now is not as it was some 10-12 years ago. Toy sites and toy blogs are everywhere and I think it’s great. I don’t look at other toy sites as rivals and I’m certainly not here to compete against any of them. This site is here primarily as a venue for old friends to come by and occasionally get some figurative free beer. But it’s here for new friends as well. And we will continue to post info, photos, musings and banter about action figures.

So thanks for stopping by.

Peter (vader)

 

 

 

14 Comments »

  • Great read, Vader! You definitely hit all the important ones I used to frequent as well!

    • vader vader says:

      Thanks, Steve. Although I’m not sure I was able to cover all of the old toy sites. I might have left out a couple because I never had the opportunity to get to know them all.

  • Casimir Casimir says:

    Great retrospective! I had forgotten some of those old looks the sites used to wear. But I must disagree with “what little I know about the technical aspects of maintaining a web site.” Your pinky finger knows more about web site creation than most of us!

  • Jim Abell says:

    Great blog, Peter!

  • Jason Geyer says:

    Great blog, Peter! And a nice trip down memory lane. I still remember making that RTM logo with the Mego Riddler like it was yesterday (although it was actually around late 1996).

    There is a long story about that little yellow head peeking over the top of the logo. I may tell it one day…

  • Lt. Clutch Clutch says:

    Great read, Peter. It brought back memories of my own intro to the net in 2000, seeing how that experience opened a whole new world for me. My first stops in the collector arena were RTM and Usenet’s G.I. Joe/RAH newsgroup. (Along with eBay, of course!) Usenet’s lack of mods made for some rather memorable threads. I met a large group of Joe collectors there, all of whom became good friends. Some of us later formed a short-lived Yahoo group which met on Tuesdays for group chats. My friends have since moved on to other interests and we’ve lost touch, but those were some fun times. Then I began posting at AFI with its colorful, Super Powers-y layout and the rest is history. (Didn’t take me long to realize that William Petersen handled the technical stuff. LOL!)

    • vader vader says:

      Thanks Joe.

      Your story about your friends forming a group and then disbanding because everyone had moved on to other things – it sounds all too familiar. We may have to write about that topic some time :-)

  • Lance says:

    All the best to you and AFHUB Peter. I will always be a fan and member. I remember you were one of my biggest influence who got me involved into collecting JLU which until now has given me joy and amusement thru the years. And remember those 10 inch customs I used to make? AFHUB was my showcase website and I still appreciate that til today! Those were the days… AH yes!


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