Sponsor Feature #1
Alter Ego Comics!

For the next several weeks, I'll be doing one feature each week on one of MROTW's sponsors.  There's also a contest tied in with all this, with tons of great prizes.  You can find the contest here, but take the time to check out the features as well!

Up first is Alter Ego Comics.  Ran by the friendly and always customer oriented Marc Bowker, he was happy to sit down and answer some questions.

MWC - How long have you been in the action figure/collectibles business?

Marc - 8 months.

MWC - Do you have a brick and mortar store as well, or only an on-line store? How does having only one or both effect your business?

Marc - I only have an online store.  I would love to have a brick and mortar store some day, though.  Being an online-only store limits my involvement within the community and makes it difficult to attract local customers.

MWC - How did you get started?

Marc - Alter Ego Comics is my second online venture, (the first was in 2001), and it evolved out of my love of action figures, statues & comics.  I work with hundreds of small businesses in my day job at the local Chamber of Commerce, and I decided to put my knowledge of small businesses and marketing to work with my own site. I would like to eventually run Alter Ego Comics full-time and truly be my own boss and an online entrepreneur.

MWC - Do you collect as well? How does having a store effect your own collecting?

Marc - Yes, I collect as well.  Right now I'm focusing on DC Direct, Toybiz LOTR, Marvel Legends and Art Asylum Star Trek figures.  I buy what I like and I open all of my figures. Having my own online store has not really affected my own collecting other than being able to get most of the figures that I want without having to drive around town looking for them.

MWC - What are your feelings on the current action figure and collectible market, and the forces at work in retail?

Marc - I think that the current action figure market may be the best that it's ever been from a fan's standpoint. Who would've thought ten years ago that we would be seeing such a wide range of figures from so many different properties. And the quality is leaps and bounds ahead of where things were in the 1990s.

The retail giants like Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us are able to price their figures much more aggressively than most specialty stores (online or brick and mortar) due to their arrangements with the major toy manufacturers.  I try to sell more specialty market items, (like DC Direct figures), because most of those items are not available at mainstream toy stores.  Another problem is that the retail stores often get mainstream figures weeks and even months before the specialty stores, so it's hard to stay competitive in that regard.

MWC - What do you feel sets you apart from other on-line retailers?

Marc - What sets me apart from other online retailers?  I'm a fan that runs a one-man operation, part time out of my house.  I don't have a storefront, I don't have a warehouse and I don't have a staff, (well, my wife does help from time to time). 

Service, Selection & Savings are three more words that I would use to describe Alter Ego Comics.  I've worked in the service industry for years and know how to treat my customers.  Customers usually receive responses to e-mail or voicemail within 24 hours, and often times faster than that.  I'm in the business of building relationships with my customers and I think that I'm doing a pretty good job.

MWC - What trend did you completely misjudge? What really surprised you?

Marc - I haven't been in business too long, so I haven't had the opportunity to misjudge many trends.  The one figure line that I thought customers would buy is the Toybiz Lord of the Rings figures.  The Lord of the Rings market took off in late 2003, early 2004, but the Toybiz figures don't have the fire that the Sideshow/Weta pieces have.

MWC - What's coming up in 2004 that you think will be exceptionally cool?

Marc - I think that Sideshow's 1/4 Scale Figure line is very cool and will find a market.  All of the figures so far have sold out, and the last two, (Frankenstein and Dracula), have sold out prior to being released.  Any new Sideshow/Weta LOTR items will be hot and if the Hellboy and Van Helsing movies are good, their Sideshow items will take off.  I think that we've seen the first sign of that with the Hellboy Samaritan Revolver selling out to retailers at the end of March.  I also think that NECA's visibility will increase in 2004 with the incredibly detailed entertainment properties that they've got, such as the Crow and LOTR.

MWC - As a retailer, what's your biggest challenge?

Marc - My biggest challenge right now is finding enough hours in the day.  If I am fortunate enough to be able to run my site full-time in the future, I would like to spend more time interacting with other fans on message boards and trying to attract new customers.

MWC - Anything else you'd like to comment on?

Marc - Thanks, Michael, for running one of the best action figure review sites on the Net, and for your devotion and dedication to this world that we all like to play in.  Keep up the great work!

Thank you, Marc!  Take a minute and check out Marc's site, and remember that the sponsors help me keep the site running.  Without them, I couldn't afford the bandwidth and disk space costs.

Next week I'll have another sponsor interview - until then, make sure you enter the contest!

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