Hey Actioneers! Ed Catto had a rare opportunity recently to have a wonderful conversation with Stan Weston, whom as many of you Actioneers know, was responsible for marketing the concept of Captain Action to Ideal Toys in 1965.
Here’s a note from Ed about his conversation with Stan the man!
Stan Weston: The Guy Who Started It All
An unkind person might say it was like the Frankenstein Monster having a conversation with his creator, Dr. Frankenstein, but that would really miss the special magic of the conversation. I’d say it was more like an athlete finally meeting a Hall of Famer. Both participants play the same game, but during different times.
That’s what my conversation with Stan Weston was like. As you might know, Stan Weston was one of the pioneers of the toy and licensing industry. He created an astounding laundry list of classic toys among them G.I. Joe, Mego’s The World’s Greatest Superheroes and, of course Captain Action.
In recent years, Stan has become something of a mysterious legend. His fans heard that he was living abroad and was fully retired, eschewing contact with the industry in which he had hit home run after home run.
Though the kindness of a mutual friend, I was able to set up an international phone conference with Stan.
It was glorious! He was animated and fun; full of stories and words of encouragement. Similar to many Golden Age comic artists, I think Stan was pleasantly surprised by the high regard in which the toy industry and collectors hold him. After all, a generation or two ago, all these toys were meant to be temporary playthings and then be set aside. Who’d ever expect a passionate collector’s market would arise, embracing – and never letting go – of the spirit, essence and minutiae of “classic” toys?
Stan spoke about how his love of comics started it all for him. He was 5-years old when Superman debuted, and he rode the wave of popularity right along with the young comics industry. As a boy in Brooklyn, he sold and “rented” comics from an orange crate on his front stoop. Stan loved all the superheroes, but he had a fondness for what would later be called the DC heroes. Although his first blockbuster career win was a military toy, the theme of superheroes was one he’d revisit.
One of the original Mad Men, Stan started in advertising, working for McCann Erikson. But he wanted more. On his lunch hours, he’d visit manufacturers’ showrooms searching for products to include in his new mail order business, Quality House. It was during these pursuits that he began to see more and understand more about toys. He wholeheartedly embraced the industry. Soon, he left advertising and after 11 months, he hung out his own shingle.
Looking back, Stan talked about the thing he missed most about the industry. He remembers the thrill of the doorbell ringing and the postman dropping off a package. Then he’d carefully unwrap the contents, never delegating this task to an assistant. He loved opening these prototypes –the physical representation of his ideas. Stan chuckled that he’d know right away when he had a “goodie”, i.e. a product that would become a success. This, for Stan, was the best feeling in the world.
Stan also told a tale about how he and his co-worker, Marty Abrams, had an important meeting at Warner Brothers. They were meeting with Jay Everett, who Stan explained was the #1 or #2 man at WB at the time. Understanding the power and potential of the DC characters, Stan inquired if they’d ever consider selling the characters. “You know me, Stan,” roared Jay, “everything’s for sale”. Jay told Stan he could buy Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and about 784 other characters for $10,000,000. Seeing the marketing juggernaut that the industry has become, Stan still wistfully wishes had the $10,000,000 to buy the DC characters that day.
Stan was enthusiastic about the recent Captain Action efforts. He was amazed that the licensing deals could be consummated, given how much things have changed over the years.
Whew! It was a relief to get a seal of approval from the guy who started it all.