Ten Good and Bad Action Figure-related Things from SDCC 2013 (by Nemo Eight)

Please welcome a new PoeGhostal.com contributor, the eldritch Nemo Eight!

As a long time attendee of the San Diego Comic Con, Poe has asked me to share my thoughts on some of the major news from the show. Since this is primarily (at least to date) an action figure blog that’s where I’ll focus my attention, and fortunately that won’t be too hard.

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I’ve narrowed things down to the Internet-beloved ‘Top Ten’ of things that I found particularly relevant to the world of action figures. This is mostly things I’m excited about, but you’ll no doubt note a couple of significant flubs in the list too. While I certainly think this list is ‘spot-on,’ it is comes through the filter of my own tastes in collecting, business practices and fandom – as Poe says, ‘your mileage may vary.’

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10) “Thermal Vision” Dutch Schaefer

NECA keeps the fan-love going with this awesome variant of Schwarzenegger. I thought I was Dutch-ed out after the last series, but this figure is a new Big Red – too weird and cool not to want. The translucent green plastic gives him a really cool look (though he was solid in the movie) but I hope they figure out a way to do translucent paint or perhaps mix in other colors of plastic like you see on some Designer Vinyl figures, because the translucent-to-solid contrast is a bit too stark in person. This is just a prototype though, and is still nothing but coolness.

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9) MOTUC Castle Grayskull

Despite the reveals for 2014 being almost entirely appealing, I’ve come to accept that I’m just too burned out on Masters of the Universe Classics to keep going along with it, especially with toy costs skyrocketing across the board. I had pre-ordered Castle Grayskull but, like many, had been having some pretty substantial second-thoughts. Well, all those were washed away when I saw this in person. Having Grayskull there and out in the open to be played with is probably the single best “marketing” idea Mattel/Mattycollector has had since Day One. Despite all of the debates and debacles, in person this sucker is HUGE and, as a result, great. This IS a toy that is definitely worth the $250 they’re charging for it. This is absolutely one of those “pictures don’t do it justice” scenarios.

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8) Destructor & Gender Bender Exclusive 2-Pack

Sadly though, not everything was good – and at Comic Con that usually refers to Exclusives. Two years ago Toynami sold an oversized Destructor figure (Poe’s review) from Futurama as a pre-order, which didn’t end up shipping until the following January (if memory serves right). It was a less-than-stellar experience, but seeing as Futurama has always lived and breathed by the fans’ grassroots support, it was just chalked up to keeping the brand alive.

Well…here we are in 2013, with Toynami not only offering Destructor again, but now with a new, EXCLUSIVE Gender Bender figure. It’s kind of a slap in the face! I’m really surprised they didn’t offer Gender Bender as a solo figure to folks who bought the original Destructor (with credit card receipt or proof of purchase or something). Sure this set might be good for folks who skipped or missed the original Destructor, but for those who basically paid for its tooling, this could be fairly offensive.

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7) Hasbro is Rebranding their Marvel Lines

I imagine this is controversial because no one likes change, but frankly this is the most promising, and possibly exciting, thing to come out from Hasbro in the last year or two. Both Universe and Legends have been more-or-less running out of steam (just look at this Con’s roster of “who’s that?” figure reveals) at worst and impossible to find at best. This is a very, very smart move that helps us get figures on shelves and helps them keep things relevant and palatable to the non-über-fan. Plus, mixing the comic and movie figures is the best way to ensure more of both. This is absolutely a smart move for Hasbro and Marvel and in a year’s time, I think all us collectors will be quite pleased with the results.

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6) Jones the Cat

NECA surprised us yet again by revealing a figure of Jones “Jonesy” the Cat from Alien! Not only is this an incredibly cool nod to the fans, it’s also the coolest way to announce Alien figures because of that very semi-obscurity. It’s since been revealed we’ll be getting Dallas, and possible Kane, in a Spacesuit which firmly puts us on the track for achieving one of the few remaining “white whales” of toy collecting – a Ripley action figure! If anyone can do it, it’s NECA – the company who has brought us so many “un-doable” figures.

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5) DST’s Monsters Select Van Helsing

DST had a big surprise tucked away in the corner of one of their displays – Van Helsing. He’s been designed and sculpted by Jean St. Jean and may well be the coolest version of Van Helsing ever depicted. The bandolier of stakes definitely moves him over into the more “comic book-y” realm but the old man head (with a hint of a Boris Karloff vibe) definitely keeps things grounded somewhat in the mythos. Add in an equally awesome base with a Vampiress and you get one of the coolest looking things DST has done in a while. Here’s hoping we get a line of similar figures and monsters (I’d love to see Jean’s take on Dr. Frankenstein, not to mention an Archaeologist & Mummy and Diver & Creature)!

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4) More 6” TMNT Figures

Who doesn’t love the Ninja Turtles? We knew we’d be getting Bebop and Rocksteady, then they all but confirmed Splinter and Shredder at the panel plus blew us away by revealing 1990 Movie figures! 2014 is going to be a huge year for TMNT and I’m really happy and excited that Playmates is going to get behind that in a big way. Here’s hoping that the movie figures will be in 6” scale not 6” tall – it would be AMAZING to get a 6” Shredder, Foot Ninja and Casey Jones!

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3) Mattel’s “Total Heroes” DC Line

When Mattel unveiled this line during their panel it was easy to write off as another in a long series of “well let’s try this” DC lines from them, but despite the stylized look, they’re packing in plenty of articulation (comparable to DCUC it looks like) and each figure gets an accessory. The real news here, though, was shockingly glossed over quickly, and only verbally, during the panel – apparently these have an SRP of $9.99! A good 6” DC figure for the same price as 4” Marvel figure? This could be huge! It’s the first thing in a long time where DC and Mattel are aggressively going after their competition and are really poised to win. Add to that a couple Mattycollector exclusives which come with alternate heads and a ton more accessories for only $20 and we finally get a format that fits Mattel’s model and meets shoppers’ expectations. This is THE line to keep an eye on in the coming year – it could redefine the market.

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2) Hasbro’s Exclusives

One will never be able to discuss Comic Con 2013 without addressing Hasbro’s exclusives. I have neither the time nor inclination to go through all the gory details, but suffice it to say they created a situation that caused fans to camp out overnight for toys – probably for the first time in Con history. That flat out removes all fun from the collecting of them and plays directly into the ugly side of collecting, the compulsive sense of obligation. I can only hope that this finally makes Hasbro take the rational move of offering a pre-order/pick-up option in the future, just like several other vendors, including their direct competitor, Mattel. This was simply the most unpleasant experience at any Con I’ve ever attended.

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1) S.H. Figurarts Survey

We here are PoeGhostal.com are big fans of the S.H. Monsterarts series, and its sister line Figurarts, and the U.S. Distributor for it, Bluefin, had an all-too-easy-to-miss feature at their booth that was quite possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at Comic Con. They had two iPads set up for customer feedback. What is truly remarkable though is that the survey included multiple “pick one” lists of “Which license would you like us to get” pages! I can’t think of any other example in which a company was so candid about what they were doing or planning. If these lists simply represent where their thoughts are headed then things are about to get very interesting, but if these are listings of licenses they’ve actually acquired already… well I’ll have to give up collecting many other lines to focus on what they have in store! Blues Brothers? Rolling Stones? Super Mario? Zelda? Trigun? Cowboy Bebop? Dredd? Ghostbusters? TMNT? Oh man – you’re killing me! Want!!!

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