Q&A: Articulation Arguments, SDCC Exclusives, and 2014 - Too Soon?

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's a short week here for Americans in the workplace, so there's no time to waste - read Q&A now! We look at Articulation, with More Articulation, and some More Articulation after that. We also engage in some wild speculation because we love it so much. Read on, and submit your questions for next week!


1. I am in the club that strongly dislikes the 5-POA figure style, as it halted any plans I had to collect "Iron Man 3" figures (I have many better-articulated items from other similar films). Given that the Black Series seems to be stuck in "most common characters" mode, what lay ahead for those of who like Vintage-style articulation in our figures? If Episode VII figures are strictly 5-POA, I'm not spending a dime. (And I own and fondly remember the older 5-POA SW collections, but that was then....)

This came into my questions folder with the "Q&A" subject line. A question needs to have a question mark in it, otherwise it's just cheap filler for a lazy Q&A writer. (Also: lots of people currently aren't buying action figures, one more probably won't make a lick of difference in the category's gradual decline into a collectible for the lonesome, on'ry and mean.) What do you want me to tell you? Because what I'd tell you is "OK, quit." If I have one less person rifling through the pegs, that means more people find stuff and fewer people write in to Q&A complaining about it.

We've seen lots of kid stuff change form in our lifetime. Trading cards and comic books went from cheap (almost free!) and disposable things for children to high-grade, glossy, and very expensive things aimed almost squarely at adolescents and adults. The market for both hasn't been the same since the 1990s. Action figures went from being almost 100% for kids to being more heavily weighted to both audiences and in many cases, not appealing to the youth. The action figure market has changed quite a bit too. Vintage video game collecting really took off, with graded and sealed NES and Super NES games doing what sealed action figures used to do - be expensive. This future of this sort of product is also in danger thanks to digital downloads and its replacement, the 99-cent iPhone app. Can a $60 game survive forever? The only thing that seems future-proof is Hot Wheels, and I have a feeling that'll change as soon as the car gets replaced by something... but we've probably got a long time until that happens.

Oh! And look at question #2 for the other side of the 5-joint coin, which is next in my mailbag.



2. With the reveal of the ultra cool Super 7 retro 70’s style Aliens figures, what are the chances we might see some retro 70’s style Star Wars figures. I am not suggesting re-issues of old figures. I’m talking about new figures that pick up where the old 1978- 1985 Kenner figures left off – figures that never got made in the vintage style. I would love to see this.

Presenting fans with options or altering expectations means TROUBLE. As you can see, you can't please anyone. Back in 1995, collectors basically expected either a sequel line - bring back favorites, do new ones in a classic style - or something new, but no matter what it was going to be based on the holy Trilogy and that's what it was - until 1996 when the first figures from what wasn't even called the "Expanded Universe" yet started to appear. Then the fandom had a skirmish between movie fans and "whatever" fans. And in 1997, fans didn't like the Special Edition figures, except those who did. And in 1999, we had prequel figures, which segmented the line another way. And so on and so forth. This has always happened and it will keep happening. And some fans won't be happy until the line is dead so they can pick its bones clean and study it in more detail.

Because Hasbro is currently - and this could always change - run by folks who do not want to sublet out the 3 3/4-inch license, more 1970s-style figures are unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely. There's nothing keeping Hasbro from making those old Kenner figures other than the team of Hasbro and/or Lucasfilm not wanting to do it - at least a few figures were in some stage of progress in the 1980s and there's not much keeping it from happening... but on the other hand, people also ask for super-poseable fancy and larger figures, and now we're getting those. The appeal of "Kenner"-style figures is hard to tell because, frankly, nobody has really tried selling them since the 1995 "Classic 4-Pack" where Kenner did reissues of Luke, Han, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader about 17 years too early or 10 years too late.

There's an interest - there's no question here. But here's the thing - the Zica Toys Six Million Dollar Man figures are $20 each, and the Super7 ALIEN figures are about the same. Would you pay $20 for a retro figure? I bet you would for 1 or 2 figures, but what if it were a dozen or more a year? I bet it'd probably hit a roadblock fast, and the assumptions I'm hearing is that the Zica and Super7 "Kenner" figures are going to probably be significantly lower than what Hasbro is willing to make. Since Hasbro is reluctant to license out the 3 3/4-inch scale - and believe me, I've asked a lot of people about this over the last year - you're going to have to be a very noisy fanbase to make it happen. I've asked. I want my damned Vlix, and a 1985-style Vlix is fine with me.

If you guys want it, you need to write letters. Real letters. Send 'em to Disney, send 'em to Hasbro, send 'em to Lucasfilm. There are companies making 1970s-style bubblegum cards with wax packs again - there's no reason, other than lack of business success, to try the same with action figures. They just need to hear you. Now let me reiterate: I hear you loud and clear. I am not able to help you. This is a "the masses need to rise up and ask" kind of a thing. Don't be lazy, write some friggin' letters. (And be sure to ask for Bif Bang Pow! to do it.)


3. I respect and follow your Q&A and your responses are always on point or close to it.

My problem is as a collector and a parent I have decided to go with what my children want. They love Star Wars and the action figures I buy them is the right size with vehicles to support them. That will be the 3 3/4-inch figures. I will always budget my gross income to buy my children the size of 3 3/4 –inch figures. When I see my two year old son play with a Tie Fighter and take out the Tie Pilot and calls him astronaut makes me happy and adamant that the size(3 3/4) of figures will always be bought my me, family, and friends.(That is a whole section of the South-East-Northeast Bronx) Something new with change is good but with the 3 3/4 inch figures will continue to rule the world of toys not only with the Star Wars brand. I will NOT buy a 6 inch figure from any brand especially Star Wars. Just want to emphasis, "3 3/4 action figures RULES" and I will buy myself and my children 3 3/4-inch figures from Star Wars. As a collector I will continue to buy 3 3/4 inch action figures and if the market no longer can produce that size I will stop buying for myself and buy custom size action figures for my children.

My question is; What is next for Star Wars 3 3/4-inch action figure? Will you continue to buy that size of action figures from Star Wars and what do you think of the 6 inch action figure Black Series Star Wars?

See, you can't please anybody.

The 3 3/4-inch line initially came into being with the idea that the figures were the accessories, in a sense - the vehicles were the toys you were selling, and as such the scale flourished as both a cheap collectible unto itself (until about 1998) and the toys really did quite well. Since 2002 Hasbro has been increasingly wary of vehicles and playsets, thus rendering the need for small scale stuff less important. It's still important - but the emphasis has really gone away from that since about 2008 or 2009.

It is likely that 3 3/4-inch will be around until it becomes unpopular and unprofitable. This could be years, and it could be one bad holiday season - but probably years. The consumer-at-large would need to realize that a 3 3/4-inch figure is $10 and a 6-7-inch figure is $13-$20, which they haven't yet figured out. There will probably be a place for this scale for a while - and let's face it, this is still the top scale for Hasbro, with some great other lines from DC Collectibles, Chap Mei/Animal Planet, the Four Horsemen, and Mattel if and when they feel like doing it. It's not dead. It's still a thing.

I'm not sure what you guys are trying to say to me by way of this column. There are all kinds of fans who won't continue the journey because of one reason or another, and they'll also come back later for another reason entirely... or stay away. I don't like high-end stuff. I think expensive things are largely unsatisfying, with few exceptions. But that's me. I also know that I don't think the line is going to be a satisfying experience if 3 3/4-inch continues on increasingly expensive figures that are less diverse than ever. Wave 1 of the Black Series in 3 3/4-inch offers little new at high prices. I'll accept cheaper figures, bigger figures, or maybe even premium-er figures. But not more of the same at this price.


4. What do you think Hasbro's strategy is going to be for the new animated series Star Wars Rebels? Will we see animated style figures like the Clone Wars line, or do you think they will be realistic style? Given that Hasbro's seem to have abandoned the cartoon look and said they will only do realistic Clone Wars figures in future does this mean they will do the same for Star Wars Rebels? The other question has to be the scale of marketing. Will they do a stand alone line or will they be integrated into the existing lines?
I must admit that as a collector I have never liked the cartoon look figures as much as the realistic ones. I think many other collectors are the same, but this line will probably be aimed mainly at the kids. Any guesses to Hasbro's big plan?

Given what we know about the property (basically nothing) anything I could tell you is basically the same as spinning a wheel and pointing to random words. Looking at The Clone Wars, Hasbro started to move toward more core characters, fewer villains, and it appeared that the trajectory in 2012 - which was aborted - would have been to move to more realistic sculpts over an animated style. We don't even know what the style is for the new show yet - ultra-realistic? More of the same? No idea.

It's even possible - although unlikely - we might see nothing. Hasbro and retailers might decide to go a different route, because if the new cartoon is Fall 2014 and the new movie is Summer 2015, that's a short window and it might be worth not doing the toys, or holding back until after the movie mania ends. Not every big Star Wars push is guaranteed figures, and well, anything could happen. Could be something, could be nothing.


5. I have always loved reading your figure of the day article, and was sad to see it end. They were informative, funny, and made a difference when I had to decide whether or not to make a purchase. So now that we finally have new figures on the way, will you throw in a new addition now and then to catch up? I would love to read your comments on the latest characters!

There will be new reviews this year - the format is not entirely clear yet, because what you guys wanted in the poll is really boring. Long multi-paragraph reviews are boring and generally can be pretty indulgent, and I get most of the indulgences out here. I'll try to come up with something that scratches the most itches easily. I'm not saying FOTD won't come back, but I'm really going to need to find a way to get some cash out of it because it's stupendously draining and not what you might call rewarding. I don't know how many of you have written 2000 of something, but it's a lot.



The first "new" Fall Star Wars items are shipping now - Hasbro Basic Lightsabers are shipping in the new Vader packaging. This isn't just a running change, it's a new SKU and a new assortment with the Vader "line look." I've seen them at a local grocery store chain plus Walmart and Target so far, so keep your eyes open for other new stuff too. I would wager this means that there's no actual street date as nobody has bothered to say anything about one, as far as I can tell, and I'm usually in a position to hear these things. (I could be wrong. But three shops in 2 days? I think we're gonna see new stuff sooner than later.)

I also set up a small display with another fun sub-collection of mine: glow in the dark toys. This are is pretty under-represented in Star Wars, with a few lightsabers on larger figures and (correct me if I'm wrong here) the only 3 3/4-inch glow-in-the-dark item is the lightsaber from the McQuarrie Concept Stormtrooper from 2003. UPDATE: A few of you reminded me of Darth Vader (Emperor's Wrath) ca. 2001 - this has a glow-in-the-dark skull that glows somewhat weakly. Thanks guys! There's a couple of Funko items (which I missed, dammit) too, but it seems that one of the cheapest gimmicks in the toy box has been absent from Hasbro's line. That's probably for the best, but I'd totally buy a few (very few) glow-in-the-dark figures. Like that vintage 2010 Rocket-Firing Boba Fett in glow? Oh yeah. Or maybe a glowing blue holographic Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine? That would be fun. As fun non-electronic gimmicks go, that's one I would like to see more often.

...and if you have any rubber glow-in-the-dark ghosts from the Pineapple Ltd. "Glow Ghosts" line, do let me know. I had one as a kid and if you've got the others for sale... let's talk.

Oh! And Hasbro did announce more Transformers exclusives for Comic-Con last weekend, including a variant Metroplex with different deco and tons of bonus accessories - like 12 mini-figures. No new Star Wars items were announced yet, and I assume if they're going to be we'll hear about them very soon. Or I'm deluding myself, you decide.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.