I’ll admit I’ve been remiss in covering this, but Mattel’s DC toy lines are in trouble. Young Justice’s 4″ and 6″ lines have been cancelled; JLU ends this year. But what about the DC Universe 6″ lines? To quote the Magic 8-Ball, “Outlook not so good.”
It’s all covered thoroughly in an excellent editorial by NoisyDvl5, which I highly recommend you read. The story is mostly told in two question and answer sessions. Here’s the first, on the Mattycollector forums, by “Matty Justice League” (your guess is as good as mine as to who the hell on the Mattel staff that is):
As I’m going through this, my guess is that there are many questions on this topics. Additionally, we did make an official announcement. For more details, this is what I’m going to say (and point future posts to this one):
DC Universe is going away after 2012 and there’ll be one more wave of 4. In 2013, we’ll be relaunching our 6″ with complimentary [sic] offerings on Matty and at Mass. You guys will be able to complete your collection and I hope you’ll like what we are doing. We’ve taken lessons from DC Universe and Legacy. Overall, we need to adjust to retailers, consumers and what’s selling in volumes that can be supported.
As far as the character that we showed but haven’t released, most of them have been tooled so we’ll be looking for a way to release them in one form or another. However, I can’t 100% guarantee that.
The questions here are obvious:
- What will this 2013 “relaunch” entail? Wasn’t DC All Stars supposed to be the relaunch?
- What does “complementary” offerings on Mattycollector and at mass retail mean? I would guess Club Infinite Earths and the odd TRU exclusive respectively.
- Regarding “selling in volumes that can be supported” – I have a hunch that if Club Infinite Earths can’t even muster up the numbers for MOTUC – which are already fairly low – the problem here really may not be Mattel.
And that’s exactly what Noisy gets into later in the editorial:
I’m not going to excuse Mattel, but I have to wonder how much better off we’d be if DC could successfully market its secondary characters; if DC had been able to position itself as Marvel has. Remember, in the toy world, it’s all about units moved. If Mattel could sell more DC figures, the figures would presumably be better. I am frustrated with Mattel, but I’m really frustrated with DC Comics. DC’s inability to market itself is what has brought about the Relaunch in the comics. DC’s inability to market itself is why Mattel has been reduced to selling figures online, directly to consumers while Hasbro is pumping out two scales of comic-based merchandise for Marvel.
I think this is the crux of it. For all of Mattel’s mismanagement of DCUC – and there’s no question the quality control and distribution issues were terrible – the biggest problem was that outside of the core of the Justice League, there just aren’t many DC characters who have a lot of fans. I’m not going to bother with the argument that kids don’t know who the lesser DC characters are (though that’s true, of course); what’s more significant is that more collectors in the 18-49 segment want a Constrictor or U.S. Agent than any of the Metal Men. And I include myself in that list. I often wondered, when reading a review of a DCUC figure, how many of those reviewers had any idea who the character was before they were announced as a DCUC figure? Speaking for myself, I knew the core JLA and the Bat-characters and that was about it. I did a lot of catching up and bought a lot of trade paperbacks – trades that I’m now thinking of selling off.
I tried to keep up my excitement about DCUC, but after a while I quickly realized I was spending money on characters I didn’t know anything about and didn’t care to learn about (especially when DC kept changing their damned origins every other month anyway). Pretty soon I was down to just collecting Batman-related figures, and now I’m barely doing even that. If I could cancel my Club Infinite Earths sub, I would.
When I was a kid, I spent about two years as a big Marvel fan, and I think that mirrors the experience of many my age. I did try to get into Batman when the 1989 movie came out, but the Batman comics – still deep in the post-Dark Knight Returns grim’n'gritty era and obsessed with continuity – were inaccessible to eleven-year-old Poe.
I hate to say it, but I still think DC is Pepsi to Marvel’s Coca-Cola. Yes, DC has Batman and Superman – well, really just Batman – but Marvel is still winning the war, so to speak. And Mattel’s DC action figure lines are to be the latest casualties.