An interview with Moebius Models

Originally published Nov. 15, 2007.

What you see below is what I was able to recover of a Moebius Models blog entry I lost when the Clubhouse moved to a new server in early October 2007. The loss of that entry isn’t the worst inconvenience the Clubhouse experienced, and at least I held onto this much. The Q&A with Frank Winspur, the most important part, is intact, and for that I’m thankful.

Please keep in mind that Moebius has continued to make announcements about its future since I wrote this entry; check the Moebius Web site for information.

Resin the Barbarian: Why did you name your company Moebius?

Frank: The first two choices were turned down at the trademark office. I am a fan of the artist Moebius, and when I did a little more research and found out it is actually a mathematical term, I thought it would be a cool name. Its reference in mathematics is very interesting, I encourage everyone to check it out online at one of the many sites devoted to it.

RtB: As I understand it, you’re about to issue your third and fourth editions of the Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde kit. The first was the long-box version; the second was a glow-in-the-dark Wonderfest long-box; the third will be a glow version released the week of Chiller; and the fourth will be a square-box glow version. Is it safe to say, then, that the doctor has been a success?

Frank: The doctor has been a great seller. We hadn’t planned on four releases of it, but the limited WF kit got quite a bit of e-mail sent to us. The Chiller edition will be visually different in the way of box art, but still the Frightening Lightning edition. Slight color change. More copies this time, 480, hopefully everyone that wants one will get one!

RtB: Is it true that the teeth were trimmed off the Jekyll mold master by someone in China? And, is there any chance the figure’s teeth will be restored in a future issue of the kit?

Frank: That’s not quite the whole story. We started out with a ’72 version to tool off of. There was basically nothing left for teeth on the kit we got, either head. It was a sealed kit, so I know no one tampered with it. I can only think that some of the detail wore off through all its pressings earlier. We have had much e-mail on this, and it will be fixed. The only problem is, how to get heads back out to customers that want them. I will be speaking with China about having this done in a few weeks, and I will keep everyone updated.

RtB: How soon will Captain Action be available?

Frank: I wish I had a good answer on that. It has fallen behind due to the factory in China. A few small problems have come up. New regulations in China due to the recalls this year have effected almost everything, whether it needs testing or not. The other problem is that it is such a limited kit. No one is saying this to me, but I am guessing they are putting it off due to the fact that it is an extremely small job as to what they are used to.

RtB: Let me make sure I have this straight: Moebius has issued the Jekyll as Hyde repop and is about to issue the Captain Action. The kits that are coming include the Seaview, Voyager and the Prehistoric Scenes Jungle Swamp. Did I overlook anything?

Frank: For now, no. We have put the swamp on hold, as there really had been no interest in it. We are hoping next year once the brand grows, we can put it out. October we will have the first half of 2008 to announce at iHobby in Chicago.

RtB: For the repop kits, can you tell me where you acquired the mold masters? Were these, say, eBay purchases?

Frank: For Jekyll and Voyager, they were picked up on eBay. From there China went about prototyping them to fix original flaws.

RtB: Can you tell me the order in which these kits will be available, and/or specifically when?

Frank: Voyager, then the rest is a toss up. I am hoping for Captain Action and glow Jekyll for October. Seaview will most likely be November from the way it looks. Very hard to say until the prototype is finished.

RtB: Some sellers are offering preorders on, and taking money for, Moebius kits that probably won’t be available until well into 2008. How do you feel about that?

Frank: Honestly, not much I can do. I can guarantee the kits we have listed will all be released. We haven’t gotten that far ahead to predict 2008 on anything. This is why were not releasing any new info on 2008 releases at this point. Everyone needs some time to digest.

I guess it’s the same with any manufacturer. Retailers sell the kits and take preorders, so they have a view of what they will need. With the advent of Paypal, there doesn’t seem to be a way that someone can allocate funds to a product when it comes in.

All I can tell anyone from my experience in retail is use a credit card for online purchases. You can always go back and charge it back to the seller. Protect yourself first and foremost. There will be enough kits to go around, don’t worry about missing out. Unless it is limited.

RtB: Of your kits, do I correctly understand that the Seaview will be the first original creation by Moebius? I’ve seen at least one seller label it as an Aurora repop.

Frank: Yes, our first original. Not sure why someone would refer to it as a repop, definitely not that!

RtB: Do you have any more original creations in the works? If so, what?

Frank: Everything for 2008 at this time is an original kit. I cannot announce any of it at this time due to licensing. October at iHobby will be the announcement date.

We currently have one kit in the sculpting phase by someone many of your readers may know, Shawn Nagle. No hints yet, though. We have two other sculptors lined up for 2008 kits that I can hopefully announce in October.

RtB: I’m not going to get into a bunch of wish-list material because I know you get it all the time. However, If I don’t ask specifically about Gigantic Frankenstein, people will ask me why. I’m sure you’ve been asked about it yourself a thousand times. Any chance you’ll plug in the electrodes on this piece of classic plastic?

Frank: That has by far been the most requested piece so far. The one thing that everyone doesn’t realize is that it needs to be licensed through Universal. Check an old box and you’ll see a “copyright Universal Studios” line on it. They are a little more interested in checking Frankenstein licensing than some of the others they may own.

RtB: Can you tell me about any further repops in the works?

Frank: We actually got into it to make original kits. In the future we may do some repops as limiteds like Captain Action, for sale through our club/newsletter. We are hoping to get that going next year, just no time right now.

RtB: What’s on your own wish list? What subject would you most like to tackle? And, do you build kits yourself?

Frank: Myself, the ‘60s Batmobile would be No. 1. The 2001 kits have to be next. But as everyone knows, those are very tough licenses. Batmobile is impossible.

I built myself for many years. My eyes have been getting weak, and my hands are horrible now. I had to have one hand/wrist rebuilt this year, and it has put a huge damper on any building for some time. Hopefully again, as I love plastic!

RtB: I’ve heard a GK producer who sells Aurora recasts tried to prevent Moebius from repopping the Jekyll as Hyde kit, basically claiming that he owned the rights to the kit. Can you tell me anything about that?

Frank: Very interesting question. Anyone can claim they own anything, and more specifically put in a copyright for it. As my attorneys put it, “Anyone that has a correct address, and a check that doesn’t bounce, can copyright anything.”

None of what I was drug through is public knowledge, but I believe if anyone wants to look at the trademark site, this “GK producer” has filed opposition to our trademark for the series using the name Dr. Jekyll as Mr Hyde . This is public knowledge. I am not sure why someone would be so spiteful, as this has cost plenty to defend at this point.

If anyone checks copyrights on this particular kit, it is owned by Universal, and the OLD Aurora Plastics that was bought by Nabisco. Currently, it is expired and no one has come forth to register it that has proof of ownership. A “derivative” copyright, so everyone knows, claims you are making changes to the original, with the original owners’ permission. The changes must be “substantial” to have a valid copyright. Anyone owning a “derivative” owns the changes, not the original!

RtB: Has the possible emergence of a new Aurora, (or “A”) run by the Giamarrino family and planning to reissue many Aurora originals, affected your plans with Moebius? If so, how?

Frank: No effect that I know of. Honestly, we went into it looking at the large percentage being new kits. Polar Lights did nearly everything of value as far as sales are concerned. If I wanted to build a company that I knew would be selling repops, and probably only 500 at a time, I would be crazy. It’s just too costly, you couldn’t make money. Unless someone else had the tools and would do it for you with little cost. We’re trying to keep it reasonable, and interesting. We are not, nor would we ever, work with another company as some people have suggested.

RtB: You and Scott McKillop of Monarch Models seem to have a cordial relationship. Can you tell me about your first contacts with one another?

Frank: I spoke with Scott originally back in December. Most of what Scott is looking at is public domain properties. We were both a little worried we might have some overlapping interest. Jekyll was on Monarch’s list, Nosferatu was on Moebius’ list. We exchange some info so we don’t do something really silly. It’s expensive and too much work to have two of the same kit come out at the same time!

RtB: What are the high points, so far, of creating and operating Moebius Models? What’s the smartest thing you’ve done?

Frank: As crazy as it may sound, the high point was getting our first licensing deal done. It is so much more work than most would think. The studios just aren’t throwing their doors open to anyone with a check. It is a lot of work to get to the signing.

Smartest thing, not public knowledge quite yet, but that would be getting Dave Metzner on board. He officially starts Oct. 1 barring no complications. He is truly one of the most knowledgeable guys out there as far as getting this stuff done.

RtB: What are the low points and the biggest missteps?

Frank: The low point is just the waiting. Much of this we have no control over. You can’t pick up the phone and yell at someone and get it done quicker. Most of it is an art, and to get it right, there can be no rushing.

That is one thing if any I can stress to fans, do you want it fast, or do you want it right? We are working on getting out the best quality we can, and there can be delays. Like in the case of the Seaview. There were just a lot of small things we thought could be improved on. And we’re doing it. It has slowed the release down, but everyone will be happier with it. We learned a lesson with Jekyll’s teeth, and we are much more careful.

RtB: What have you learned that will affect what you do in the future?

Frank: Hard to say, we are still so young with this. Just get out the best product we can. At the most reasonable price that we can.

RtB: Anything you’d like to add?

Frank: Not much to add, other than a thanks to all of you that have written, bought Jekyll, and placed preorders with our dealers/distributors. Always open for comments, but please remember anything we receive for new kit suggestions are either the property of the copyright holder when we receive, or become the property of Moebius Models on receipt.

We love the suggestions, but remember we’re basically builders/fans/collectors that have been in the business for a very long time. Most things we receive are already on our list, it is a big one!

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