Hey Speed Readers,
I know it’s been a while since we’ve updated you on all the Flash Collectible News swirling about and there has been quite a bit these past few weeks. We will begin with Mattel:
For those of you who missed it Mattel quietly announced the cancellation of their Young Justice 4 inch and 6 inch action figures at retail citing poor retailer support. They later went on to make an official announcement that the figures that are further along in tooling may receive releases on Mattycollector.com in the near future but they can’t be 100% about it.
I can’t say that I’m too surprised with this announcement given the scarcity of certain releases and the sheer volume of repaints released in this line; I had four repaints of Kid Flash in my possession before they released the main team. Not that I’m complaining about more Flash-related figures but there is something seriously wrong with that if you ask me. Yes 3/4 of the uniforms have made in-continuity appearances on the show but still. The first mistake they made in my opinion was in the overall design of the figures. You shouldn’t be trying to appeal to a dying group of Justice League Unlimited collectors when designing a new toy line, you should be trying to compete with the other action figures out there that aren’t articulated like statues. Don’t get me wrong, I became a JLU convert later on because of all of the awesome Flash-related releases they ended up releasing, but in no universe should a child have to play with a Flash action figure that can’t be posed to run properly. It is just wrong!
I’m still waiting in anticipation for the 6 inch Kid Flash, with all of the accessories shown hopefully in tow. I personally was blown away by all the cool stuff they packed into the set and it is the first figure that I’ve really looked forward to in a while. I guess part of that is the fact that it is Wally and I’ve sorely missed picking up Wally West merchandise. Unfortunately with Young Justice cancelled the well of Wally West merchandise looks to have finally run dry. Hopefully since we’ve already seen a couple of previews and reviews courtesy of Julius Marx of AFI and “Pixel Dan” Eardley we have a good chance of seeing it if not at retail then on Mattycollector.com in some capacity.
Now this comes on the heels of the cancellation of DC Universe Classics at retail after 20 waves of some arguably great releases (although I wish we had a bunch more Flash-related releases than we did, but I can’t be selfish). I could have done without White Lantern Flash but I kind of dug Blue Lantern Flash. Captain Boomerang and Captain Cold were practically perfect except for the height problems on Cold and the flimsy Boomerang that came with Digger (well that and the fact that he was done in his modern duds which some collectors had a problem with). Kid Flash (Wally West) looked like a weird man-child, but was an overall respectable release that fits in pretty nicely with the Flash (Barry Allen) release we saw in the same wave. Classic Flash enemy, Gorilla Grodd was also one of the line’s first “Collect and Connect” releases. Add in the Crime Syndicate of America’s box set Johnny Quick and the upcoming DC Universe Classics Signature Subscription figures, Jay Garrick (pushed back a month to May) and Mirror Master (scheduled for release in August), the line has had quite the Flash presence over the years.
DC Universe Classics was scheduled to be replaced at retail with a re-branding of the line called DC Universe All-Stars. The line was going to feature mainly variants of Batman and Superman or characters related to them with a few A-listers sprinkled in. I think the idea was to entice retailers into once again taking a chance on the DC properties with the only characters that have really reliably sold well. Of course Batman and Superman are the only real characters that any company that has handled the license have given a real chance besides the recently released Green Lantern Classics that were released to coincide with the movie. It doesn’t appear to have worked however because a couple weeks ago the previously announced DC Universe All-Stars Waves 1-3 were all cancelled (including the one with the New 52 Flash, which after the retouches they made to it for Toy Fair 2012, good riddance) and then they re-solicited the first wave with an announcement that the subsequent waves were being reworked. Wave 1 was initially supposed to be Batman Beyond (a re-release), Larfleeze, Flashpoint Plastic Man (Really?) and Superboy Prime. The reworked Wave 1 is going to be New 52 Superman, New 52 Batman, Superboy Prime, and Red Robin (pre-New 52). I can definitely see this wave working better at retail than the previous releases.
Mattel has held the master toy license for the DC Universe characters since 2007 but have been involved with DC superheroes in one way or another since 2003 when they were granted the Superman, Batman and Justice League (which would later evolve into Justice League Unlimited) toy licenses to coincide with the hit Justice League animated series being aired on Cartoon Network at the time.
Reaction to Mattel’s handling of the license have been mixed among critics and fans alike. For example fans praised the wide variety and selection of characters in the Justice League/Justice League Unlimited toy lines but distribution problems have been rampant since the very beginning of the line and some characters remain extremely rare as a result, with very few collectors getting their hands on them. In fact throughout many of the Mattel-run toy lines distribution has been a huge issue along with scalpers buying up toys and putting them up on eBay for ridiculous amounts. I know personally that with no comic shops around for miles and not wanting to travel hundreds of miles to get my stuff I’ve relied on online shopping/trading for collecting almost exclusively for years now. It put me off even more to the idea of hunting at stores anymore when I realized that the stuff just wasn’t hitting with any sort of regularity. Why waste gas and my time (as well as others) hunting at places where I wasn’t sure I would find anything? So yeah I’ve spent a bit more to get stuff online and yeah in a way I guess I am contributing to the problem but that would all be a moot point if Mattel actually got the product out there and made it available.
Not only has Mattel been criticized for their distribution problems they also have had issues with pricing quite a bit in the past. For many, $9.99 for a single 4 inch action figure with a stand and $19.99 or more for a single 6 inch action figure with a few accessories is beyond ridiculous. I cherry pick for Flash characters so I don’t mind having to pay that once in a while but I would be up in arms if I were dropping that amount of money on waves that often included more than 6 characters at a time and rarely offered anything more than the actual figures as accessories.
For these reasons as well as the many reports of quality control problems I guess it isn’t too hard to see why Mattel is losing a foothold in the retail market when it comes to what should be a surefire seller. You can’t be trying to compete with things like 60 dollar video games and not playing up the value of the action figure. Sure, in my family we had just about every game system growing up (my mom as a single mother somehow scraped up enough money for stuff like that around Christmas time) but more often than not my younger brother and I would settle for an action figure or comics. Action figures at the time were about 5 bucks and comics were a quarter a piece at the used book store. I think that people are getting away from the fact that these things were meant to be fairly cheap forms of entertainment. If I were an average kid and I saw an action figure that cost a 1/3 of the price of a video game I would definitely go for the video game.
As far as the DC license goes for the rest of Mattel’s toy brands, Hot Wheels just released a boss set of DC Universe concept cars including a Flash-themed Hot Wheel that looks a million times cooler than all the Nascar and randomly designed Hot Wheels currently out there:
A special thank you to both Jeff Bohn and Michael Welch for tipping us off to the Flash Hot Wheels Car.
If there is anything we missed please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments below. We would also love to hear your thoughts on the recent Mattel announcements.
Thank you for reading,