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The art world (and much of the internet) has been in a tizzy recently about a well-meaning elderly Spanish woman's thoroughly botched attempt to restore a 19th centure fresco entitled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) by Elias Garcia Martinez. For more than a century the painting has held price of place at the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza, Spain. Over the years the painting had deteriorated due to exposure to humidity. Cecilia Jiminez was distressed by the sorry state of the beloved portrait and took it upon herself to attempt to restore it:
BBC Europe correspondent Christian Fraser says the delicate brush strokes of Elias Garcia Martinez have been buried under a haphazard splattering of paint. The once-dignified portrait now resembles a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic, he says. The woman appears to have realised she was out of her depth and contacted Juan Maria Ojeda, the city councillor in charge of cultural affairs.
Professional restorers plan to examine the painting to determine if proper restoration is possible. In the meantime, the Archie McPhee staff decided to attempt their own "restoration" of one of our Jesus Action Figures:
The results bear an uncanny resemblance to the current unfortunate state of the Ecce Homo fresco.[Quoted text via BBC News]
The story of the Zombie Jesus is hotly debated by our customers. They accuse us of cleverly importing a Zombie Jesus and trying to market it as a production mistake. Even when we tell customers the truth, they tend not to believe us. So, I'm here to set the record straight.
It was a mistake. As the description said, the Jesus Action Figure was one of our best selling products and we wanted to duplicate the success with a Deluxe Edition. The sample we got was great, the actual product when it arrived was not OK. I wasn't the one that came up with the idea of calling it Zombie Jesus, but I was the one who thought some of our customers might want one. We set aside a few hundred of them to sell, the rest had to be fixed. (It wasn't the first production mistake we sold - the He/She Doll was our favorite.)
I got to go down to LA to appear on Attack of the Show! a couple of days after they arrived (August of 2005). So, I decided that in addition to the folks on our Cult Email list, I'd open it up to the geeks of the world. After my television appearance I learned two things. One, I needed a haircut really badly. Two, Attack of the Show! viewers loved Zombie Jesus. I had to grab more of them to sell.
Here are the original description and announcement of the Zombie Jesus in our Cult Email.
Production Error Jesus!
Here it is, our super secret stash of rare, Factory Mistake Jesus Action Figures. Let us take a moment to explain. We are doing a Deluxe edition of our Jesus Action Figure in a special "Miracle Edition." We made a new mold of the figure and asked the factory to make the palms of his hands glow-in-the-dark. Imagine our surprise when the figures showed up with evil red eyes and translucent glow-in-the-dark hands. Somebody (Satan? Beelzebub? Gary Busey?) really made a mess of things. Jesus looks like a zombie or a Sith Lord instead of a healer, teacher or Messiah. Obviously, we couldn't release a savior with the steely, ferocious glare of a damaged Terminator robot to the general public. That's where you come in! Before we send them back to be melted down, we thought we would give you, our best customers, a chance to buy one for your very own. These will only be sold until August 30th! We make no claims that this incredibly collectible piece will increase in value, but remember the Rocket Firing Boba Fett! Cha-ching!
FACTORY MISTAKE ZOMBIE JESUS - CULT ONLY OFFER
In addition to the librarian, we're also making a Deluxe Jesus Action Figure, but when we got our first shipment from the factory, they made a horrible mistake! Instead of the subtle glowing, healing hands we had asked for, the factory gave Jesus hands of shocking, bright green. And instead of the calm thoughtful eyes of a messiah, they gave him the red, evil eyes of a Sith Lord. Put the parts together and you have Zombie Jesus! This horrible and unfortunate mistake is being made available only for a limited time and only through this link! If you have a friend who might be interested, please pass the link along. There is no link to this page anywhere on our site! Web only! Cult only!
PS: If we did do it on purpose, it would have been a lot better. Just imagine the package!
Sure, we've been featured in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, but for us the highlight of our mentions in the press came in 2002 when the now web-only Weekly World News called about the Jesus Action Figure. They were everything you would hope they would be. The woman who called had a scratchy smoker's voice and was shocked when we said we were big fans. My guess is that no one had ever told her that before.
We were happy to supply a quote that implied the action figure had healing qualities without promising anything. She was glad to get it because, she said, they had to make up quotes most of the time. The article was published under her pen name, Max Durango.
They published a follow up story without asking for another quote.
Although we did sell a lot of action figures as a result of the articles, we got returns from people who didn't get healed by it.
When we were looking for a model for our Marketing Guru Action Figure, one name came up again and again: Seth Godin. In addition to his career as a world famous marketer and founder of websites, Seth also writes an extremely popular blog. He preaches the end of marketers as media buyers and instead pushes them as agents of change. In his book Purple Cow, he writes that products sell and ideas spread not because of marketing done in their name, but because they are remarkable. He mentioned us in this book, which makes it one of the greatest works of non-fiction ever written.
His latest book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, talks about the power of having a strong following that look forward to your products. We are not mentioned in this book, but it's still a darn good read.
To get a good feeling for the power of his ideas, we recommend you watch one of his TED talks.
He agreed to let us ask him a few questions about having his own action figure, the state of the world and exactly how awesome Archie McPhee is. You can read his answers below.
Archie McPhee: How has having an action figure of yourself changed your life?
Seth Godin: You wouldn't believe it. First came the movie offers--but Brad Pitt wanted top billing, which was completely unacceptable. And of course, the groupies... Then, the inevitable crash. My hair fell out.
AM: Has anyone questioned your sanity for having an action figure of yourself? Would you recommend it to others?
SG: Many aspire, few are chosen. The action figure proceeds go to charity (the wonderful Acumen Fund) and I'm proud of every one you've sold. But I'm amazed that some people think that this is serious, that I actually believe that I'm a guru and that I might expect you to put this on your dashboard. I don't. However, if you want my face on your grilled cheese, that's fine with me.
SG: There are some great photos on flickr of me with an Archie McPhee unicorn.
AM: Nancy Pearl offered you the following advice: "Don't get the real you confused (in your own mind or others) with the action figure of you." Has this happened to you yet?
SG: I have some advice for Nancy Pearl: quit hogging the action figure limelight! You outsell me. Curses!
AM: If you had to say something awesome about Archie McPhee what would it be?
SG: Archie McPhee is so awesome that it's not even necessary to say anything awesome about it. Are you on the bus?
AM: Unicorns or Narwhals?
AM: If your action figure were to fight Mr. Bacon, who would win?
SG: I hate Bacon. Bacon is my kryptonite.
AM: Why does your action figure wear mismatched socks?
SG: Because *I* wear mismatched socks. Every single day for the last four years (different socks every day, of course). You can buy yours at LittleMissMatched.com.
AM: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
AM: Does the word "blogosphere" irritate you? What about "webinar"?
SG: I find it irritating if it gets in my eye. But in general, it's fairly easy to digest. Same with webinar. Word I hate the most: axe. As in, "I need to axe him."
AM: What is the best CD you've heard this year? Best book you've read that isn't related to business or marketing?
AM: Have you ever walked out of a movie? Which one?
SG: When I was filming that movie with Brad Pitt, I walked out. But that's a special case.
I walked out of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It might have been the sound system. Or perhaps I was going to vomit.
AM: Do you think Squirrel Underpants can fix the economy?
SG: Ohmigod I can't tell you how important a breakthrough the Squirrel Underpants are. If we all did a webinar on them, the Dow would hit 12,000 overnight. They are amazing. (Do they come in boxers?)
AM: Any final thoughts or stories that you want to tell?
SG: Do your part. Buy something.
Click on the pictures below for insight into the design and manufacture of the figure! Including Demon Eye Seth Godin and Army of Albino Seth Godins!
Since its introduction in 2003, the Librarian Action Figure has been one of our most popular items. After an initial backlash against it because some librarians thought it promoted negative stereotypes, it has become a symbol of exactly how cool librarians actually are.
The model for the action figure, Nancy Pearl, agreed to let us ask her some questions about how being an action figure has changed her life. In addition to having superior information science skills, Nancy also came up with the idea of having a whole community read the same book at the same time, has written three great books (Book Lust, More Book Lust and Book Crush) about what books you should read and regularly reviews books for NPR.
Archie McPhee: How has having an action figure changed your life?
Nancy Pearl: I don’t know that it’s really changed my life, but it’s certainly led to lots of conversations with strangers – people love to tell me (and I enjoy hearing about) who sent them the LAF, or how they first heard about it. I’ve also had the gratifying experience of walking into a library in a new town (or different country – I saw one in New Zealand!) and seeing the LAF displayed on the circulation desk.
AM: Has the controversy over the shushing stereotype died down? Do people still talk to you about it?
NP: Every time that I think that we’re finally done with that, I meet someone who wants to tell me how awful she/he thinks it was, but at least it’s happening much less often now than it did at first. Most librarians, and most people, I am glad say, see the LAF as what it was – a real tribute to librarians and the good work they do.
AM: What is your favorite thing someone has done with your action figure?
NP: I frequently get pictures from people with the LAF in foreign countries (shushing the visitors at a temple in Cambodia, for example), or placed lovingly in large mushrooms (at least I think it’s a mushroom), or dining with a dashing man in a dollhouse. The Michigan Library Association sent the action figure around Michigan to have librarians take pictures of it in different settings. It went from a leather store in Royal Oak to visiting the new library in Southfield. That was one example. The LAF has certainly traveled much more than I have. The LAF was also on a wedding cake, which I thought was perfectly wonderful.
AM: On to more serious issues, in a fight between the LAF and Sigmund Freud, who would win?
NP: Oh, probably Freud – he’d quickly analyze the reasons for all my behavior and render me speechless and completely actionless. Plus, I couldn't understand his German so would be unsure what to do next.
AM: Any advice for more recent action figure model Seth Godin?
NP: The biggest piece of advice is not to get the real you confused (in your own mind or others) with the action figure of you. It took me a while to get that figured out.
Nancy's Recommended Books for Archie McPhee shoppers:
A wonderful graphic novel called Alice In Sunderland by Bryan Talbot – it’s perfect for anyone who loves history, England, and Alice in Wonderland, not to mention being a terrific example of what we (wrongly) call graphic novels can offer readers.
Mystery fans might enjoy Tana French’s In the Woods – a police procedural set in a suburb of Edinburgh. The characters are appealing and fully fleshed out, the writing is smooth, and the plot is great. One warning – those who disliked the last episode of The Sopranos might not be as fond of this book as I was.
Lorin "Big Lo" Sandretzky stopped by our offices earlier this year to film a spot about one of his charity events for the local news. Big Lo, you may remember, was the model for our Super Fan Action Figure.
Although the action figure was not one of our better sellers, we've always had a soft spot for Big Lo and we're glad we could participate in his event.
Now, Big Lo always has a lot going on so you learn to expect the unexpected when he comes around, but we were genuinely shocked when Big Lo showed us his new tattoo. He not only had the logo from the package tattooed on the back of his neck, but also the barcode. If you ran him over the scanner at a novelty store, he'd ring up at his suggested retail price.
This isn't the first time someone has had one of our products tattooed on them, but it is the first time a person has barcoded themselves as one of our products!
If you have an Archie McPhee related tattoo, email us a picture so we can post it.