Thursday, October 22, 2009

The New MVP Gig

Well, now that the cat is out of the bag (what an awful phrase when you think about it...who puts a cat IN a bag in the first place? jackasses...), and a website has gone up, photos have gone out and so on and so forth, I suppose it's time to start letting a little about my professional life into the pages of Blogzilly.

Some people who read these pages know a wee bit about my career history. Struggled as a comic book artist, never really made it, went to work for a toy company in Columbus, Ohio called ReSaurus, where I got my start. Got laid off there, found a job back in my 'real' hometown of Baltimore working for a company called Palisades Toys.

ReSaurus was the appetizer, but Palisades was the entree as far as amount of workload, responsibility and influence I was fortunate enough to have over the product and how it looked. Great job. Probably still my favorite. Good people. Good atmosphere. Good product. Lots of different and unique things to work on, all the time. I eventually left mainly because of my family. My wife wanted to return to Columbus, Ohio to be closer to her family.

At the time...REAL tough time did I have with that decision. Hindsight being 20/20, damn did we make a good call. What would we have done in these past 10 months without living here and all the help Jen's family has given us during Bennett's seizures and brain surgery? Up shit creek without any perfume, that's where.

Anyway, stayed in touch with Mike, the former Prez of Palisades Toys over the years, and eventually he told me about something he was putting together. Something new. He started up a company called The MVP Collection, and it is founded on a license to produce official high-end statues and mini busts from players from the National Football League.

He asked me if I wanted to be involved in the product development, and of course I was interested. It had been a while since I had been doing anything in the product development world, mainly I had been doing some freelance stuff, and I was actually looking around at some jobs within the state when he made an offer for me to join the team. The main problem was that I didn't want to leave Ohio, and my fear was that this would be a sticking point. It wasn't, we worked something out where I could stay here and work full-time for them from a home office.

And so, for the bulk of this year we've been working on the development of some products. It's been going more slowly than we would like, for a myriad of reasons, but generally the product has started to take shape to a quality level we all are starting to dig, and the next steps are getting things through the factory to a quality level we all dig.

Hopefully as we move into next year the website will grow and I can start doing some content and stuff, and we can start building a new consumer community like we had in the old days at Palisades. Though it will be a lot different, because generally speaking this type of stuff isn't like Star Wars. You don't have a Star Wars fan who typically only buys droids, though they do exist. In the NFL, you USUALLY have fans who buy products from their team, and very few others. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out when it comes to building our product lines.

Because of all the hurdles associated with getting a new company going and developing new product, we weren't really able to do a hard launch for this season. We've done what we can, in all phases, but stuff takes time, especially when everything is being done for the first time. That may not make sense to people who read this who have followed my career. Hey...Lilly...waddya mean for the first time? You and Mike have both been doing product stuff for years?

True...but we have never done NFL product before, and it is an entirely different animal to what either of us have had experience with. Plus, the truth is that there is a major climate shift in the collectibles business since the time I worked for Palisades to today. Lots of things are different. Many of the freelance people that we used to work with have moved on to other things, signed exclusivity deals or are so busy with work it's hard to get into a queue.

And sports stuff is NOT everyone's cup of tea mind you. There are only a select few freelancers who really are interested in it passionately. Oh sure, there are plenty of people who CAN do this type of work, but a lot less who WANT to do it just because it isn't something like a sexy chick or Darth Vader or a Harryhausen creature. The rules of what everything is supposed to look like is grounded in reality, and a very strict, very specific kind of reality.

For example...there are a gazillion LITTLE details that you never really notice about what players wear on the field. Hell there are MAJOR differences between what some players wear on the field that a lot of people never pay much attention to, but require intense study if you are trying to make a product that is as authentic as it can be. For example, have you ever noticed how many different helmet types there are, on the same team? Or facemask configurations? Different chin straps? Or even seam work on the jersey?

Next Sunday, I challenge you to take a look if you watch any football, and pay very close attention. You will be amazed at how many players have so many different styles of gear they wear, but if you don't really look for it, you don't really notice it. That's part of the beauty of the sport.

Anyway, so that's the new gig, in a nutshell. Actually, the aforementioned Mike is in Hong Kong this very week, essentially doing a job I should be doing. He's meeting with some factory people and checking out some products in progress, something I normally would be doing.

At the time we needed to schedule this trip, neither of us were sure what would be going on with Bennett, and Mike has had my back all year when it comes to that, so he and another of the dudes from MVP scheduled it so that they would go over in my place. Mike would never expect me to thank him for that or even mention it, that's the kind of guy he is, but it's worth mentioning. He and all the people over there in the Maryland office have been so incredibly supportive of our situation this's just astounding. It's like working with your family.

And that...that's a good thing.


  1. Very cool new job for you. Glad you are enjoying it and so glad you found a company that completely understands the parents of SN kids need a little extra understanding in the "workplace".

  2. Congrats Ken! As a football lover, this sounds like a great endeavor for you and your family.

    I'll put my order in now...I want one of the Palomalu figures!!!

    From your pictures, these collectibles look awesome, quite lifelike. I really like the "in game" poses.

    Again, congrats. And good luck!!

  3. Sounds like a dream job. And thanks for the lesson, I thought a helmet was a helmet, grab one and go. Yeah, I don't watch a lot of sports. But now I'm going to be checking out the games, it's like those papers the kids get in school with hidden pictures within a bigger pic. How many different helmets can you find! Good luck, it really sounds like a great opportunity.

  4. That's an awesome job for you, Ken! Congratulations and I'm glad that cat is out of the bag now!

  5. Those are so cool! Where is the Julius Peppers? I don't care for a Jake Delhomme this year, but I would like a Peppers (if he will stoop to staying with my Panthers another year after getting a million a game this year!)

    What a cool job! And I've never noticed the helmets much, but the jersey stitching I have. Quite a variety.

    It sounds like a great thing to be able to do that from home with flexibility for Bennett's care. What a great situation.

  6. Those look SO great! Your talent is awesome!

  7. Wow, what a great opportunity. Creative, at home, flexible to your family's needs...awesome.

    So happy for you!

  8. Sounds like an awesome job!! and with your love for football...sounds right up your alley! Your boss sounds like an awesome guy too. Congrats!!

  9. Well, that's cool. You are right about the uniform stuff--I'm amazed at all the little details. I don't notice them either, but my football fanatic friends sure do.

    Also great that you have a boss that's willing to work with you. Sounds perfect.

  10. Very Cool - I love the Ray Lewis one, heck I would love any Ravens ones. Definitely post when they'll be available my son would love to collect any Ravens ones.

  11. Pretty darn beautiful quality.

  12. JSmith5780:
    Thanks, it is a cool gig and the understanding level is in the EXTREME.

    It does help to be able to work on things that I know and love. That Polamalu bust at the bottom is actually a pre-production factory sample, he's the first one coming out. The others are all painted prototypes. Though I think that Troy is still one generation away from final. Sleeve stripes are wrong and in need of correction.

    It is a great opportunity, and yeah, the helmets can be very traditional, like this classic VSR-4 Riddell model or downright Transformers-esque, like this one from Schutt, an ION:

    Yeah, it is a relief to be able to talk about it a little. Still gonna play it close to the chest until the MVP website gets set up for more regular content and we are further along, but you know how I love doing pre-pro write-ups!

    I wonder if we'll do any Panthers. I mean, the goal, ultimately, is to hit all 32 teams. But by the time we make it to Carolina I think Peppers will be gone. That's one of the things about this...trying to plan ahead for who will be with what team after the development cycle, which is right now around 10-12 months.

    Yeah...hey, wasn't for a lack of trying!

    Well, the talent is more in the sculptors and painters. I'm the designer/director.

    Thanks! Yeah it is great.

    Monica~ James~ Connor:
    A very awesome guy. One of the most supportive, generous and loyal person I have ever known.

    I did a concept of a Drew Brees. I'm pushing to get him into the 2010 queue.

    Glad you liked Ray Lewis. I liked it too. He actually needed to be fixed some from that photo, but the fixes are looking good. You live around Baltimore? The National Sports show is in Baltimore next year and we'll have a Joe Flacco ready by then as well.



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