Q&A: Baby Got Black Series, Disney, Inflation, Conventional Wisdom

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 4, 2013

It's Q&A time! Let's talk Disney - will their reach mean better distribution for toys? And how about Mission Series and Saga Legends - are they a good deal, considering the cost of inflation, over their 1970s cousins? And of course, let's talk a whole bunch about the Black Series 6-Inch Figures. They're here. Should you care? (Yes.) All this and the video game that ate up a lot of my Sunday. Read on!


1. I just picked up the Darth Vader mission pack, and will be running out for the rest of them later today. These things are fricking awesome! Several questions and you can pick which are serious and which are rhetorical: when will toy collectors stop complaining about toys being toys? when will toy collectors stop complaining about exclusives being either too hard to find or not exclusive enough? what is the inflation adjusted cost of 70s/80s figures? what's the odds on Hasbro fixing the pupil paint app on the single carded saga legends figures? cuz those are also AWESOME (except for the googley eyes)

Wow, here's a bunch. Ummm...

I think - I could be wrong - a lot of the collectors complaining about toys being toys are adolescents, or "young adult." Sometimes younger people have problems admitting who they are, what they like, what their preferences are, and so on at the risk of being made fun of by their peers - and some older people are just delusional. Obviously, we're always going to take issue with the term "dolls" but I do find it funny when people want a Hasbro product to look mature in case they have "guests" when the reality is that if someone is going to (choose one: judge OR not sleep with) you based on a small plastic man by your dresser, well, you've got other issues to work through.

Star Wars figures in the 1970s and 1980s generally ranged from $2-$4 during the line's run, although I remember pleading with my parents to get a $4.99 Wicket the Ewok around 1984 at Long's Drug Store. $2 in 1978 dollars is $7.16 today. $4 in 1984 is $8.99 today. Which I guess means everybody should take a chill pill about the $9.99-ish price tags to some extent... I'd say feel free to keep complaining about $9.99 Battle Droid repacks. Those aren't worth it. But the super-articulated guys, for the money, are decent. I guess the takeaway here is that the real toy bargain of 2013 is the Transformers deluxe figure. The deluxe cars were $9.99-$12.99 during the 1980s and generally still are today... and of course Saga Legends/Mission Series (SLMS?) continue to be quite the value.

As far as paint apps go, well, uh... I wouldn't expect a lot of change here. If you'd like to feel better about your Hasbro purchases, take a look at Mattel's 3 3/4-inch Man of Steel action figure eyes. "Thanks, Adam!" You are welcome!



2. Do you see the increased focus on 5 POA figures affecting the secondary market for some of the recent pre-super articulated lines like OTC, Saga and POTF2? Sure, I have some in my collection that I've been reaplcing with their newer counterparts and could probably sell off for pennies on the dollar. But I've also been holding out on buying a few that were harder-to-find back in their day at brick and mortars like, Sio Bibble and Captain Piet, hoping for updates (but I don't think that's going to happen for either).

Most likely character selection will continue to provide the secondary market its fuel - video game figures are expensive due to a high awareness and lack of availability, which is why Vintage Starkiller is $60 and nobody cares about Sio Bibble ($4-$6). Articulation may be a factor but generally speaking price comes from demand, and video gamers a) have money and b) don't collect, so they're willing to shell out more. Most main characters are out there in such vast quantities, barring a fluke, there's not much you can do to convince people to overpay for a super-poseable Han Solo or Darth Vader - especially as 3 3/4-inch figures will inevitably fall under the shadow of 6-inch figures.

Most likely the new, cheaper figures won't have much impact on existing product. If they do, it'll be from people buying them and then looking on eBay to say "No way, they made a Starkiller? Dammit, why is it $50? I hate you, Adam, this must be your fault."


3. I admit that when the idea of the 6" line came up I was completely against it. After seeing the Luke pic just before Toy Fair, I became interested in the line and now I'm planning on buying some of them. With that said, it seems that the first 2 waves for sure are all new figures and wave 3 seems to be headed that way as well. At what point do you think we'll be seeing repacks, repaints, and carry forwards in this line?

Depending on your perspective we're already there - two Lukes in three waves is surprising, as is a Sandtrooper in wave 1 with a Stormtrooper (and I assume some shared pieces) in wave 3. Generally speaking repaints have often had to do with filling demand for new product, as we saw in a few Star Wars waves at the end of 2005, 2006, and 2007. Of course, sometimes the toys are planned for repaints - Transformers has been doing this regularly since at least 2008, by having alternate heads and weapons ready to go for many new molds. Given the higher-than-Marvel price point, I would anticipate (hope) that Hasbro is charging us higher prices now in order to cost in new tooling later. Much of Marvel Legends is $15-$17, but many of them share parts and have numerous built-in repaints as quickly as in the very same wave. Star Wars does not lend itself to as many repaints outside of troopers and droids, neither of which seem to be here yet. When Hasbro gets to Clones, all bets are off.

Carry forwards I would anticipate around wave 3. Hasbro's Marvel Legends line usually has a case with all-new figures, and later you might see some of them as returning favorites. But not always. I believe it would be in Hasbro's best interests to keep most of the announced figures in circulation next year - well, Boba Fett, the Sandtrooper, the Stormtrooper, and Darth Maul at any rate.

I would love to see some repaints as long as they're wildly different. If Hasbro wants to give me a (SILVER LENSES THIS TIME DAMMIT) Blackhole Stormtrooper, I'm in. And R2-Q2? Sure! I don't want to see a bunch of Sandtrooper repaints until we get word of a Landspeeder, a Dewback, or both.

At this time wave 3 is expected to be Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Stormtrooper, and Bespin Luke Skywalker. This means my fingers are crossed for Dagobah Training Luke with Yoda for SDCC '14.



4. Hi. Just curious if you've had a chance too find out if Hasbro plans to sell SW at Disney Stores. I would think at this point, with the new lines launching, we would start seeing stuff. I hope this happens, as it will give me one more location for buying toys.

Hasbro doesn't tell me these things, but history says yes - shortly after the Marvel/Disney thing, we saw more Marvel stuff including some shared exclusive items from Hasbro in Disney stores. Specifically, shared Toys R Us exclusives. It's a bit of a slog to the nearest Disney store so for all I know, there could be some products there now like Funko's Pop! Vinyl or standard Hasbro goods. (And as you point out, it would bring this line back to shopping malls once again.)

Back in 1999 at the peak of Star Wars mania, I could buy figures at Toys R Us, Target, Walmart, Kmart, Kay-Bee Toys, Sears, JC Penny, numerous food and drug stores, al sorts of gift shops, some video game stores, and I could go on. Today, toy shops have taken a real beating and alternative venues for buying stuff are hard to find to the point where most American shopping malls have few to no places carrying Hasbro products outside - you guessed it - the Disney store. LEGO is making better inroads into the malls, which I would assume is a concern for the action figure business.


5. With the recent announcement of the next Star Wars Celebration to be held in Anaheim, CA in late April of 2015, how likely is it that the inevitable Star Wars Episode VII action figures would be on store shelves/retail pegs beforehand? My memory is fuzzy on just when the previous Prequel figures hit prior to their respective films' release dates. Sure, it's speculation on your part, but I bow to your wisdom on said matters;)

That depends on how much you a) trust J.J. Abrams to deliver a movie on time, or b) trust Disney to hold a fire under Mr. Abrams to deliver a movie on time. As we've seen with Star Trek twice now, delays happen for various reasons.

As we've seen with G.I. Joe, it's now possible for toys to get out up to a full year prior to a movie is something happens to its development. I would wager this should never ever happen with Star Wars, but it's not unthinkable that Celebration VII in Anaheim could be changed from "let's talk sequels!" in theaters to "let's talk Rebels!" on TV.

At Celebrations I, II, and III, prequel figures were available at the show in some capacity. The street date was actually after Celebration I ended, but the convention shop had a handful of figures (Jar Jar Binks, Padme, and Anakin if memory serves) for sale and for the other two prequels, I seem to remember having most/all of the first wave around the time of the show. Maybe I'm remembering that wrong.

Depending on how street dates shake out, you can pretty much count on seeing figures early. While few Phantom Menace figures got out from American sources prior to the street date, I remember seeing Attack of the Clones figures over a month early on pegs, with Revenge of the Sith a whopping two months early at some stores. With that in mind, and if we assume Lucasfilm will indeed keep a May 2015 release date (and April 2015 toy launch date) it's a safe bet something will be on sale at Celebration VII.

I basically don't believe that 2015 is likely - it's possible (and I daresay likely) Mr. Abrams will keep us in the dark to the extent that we won't have a clue what's going on, so while a few toy business insiders will know things... it's not like we're going to be able to talk about it whenever it happens.




First up and off topic: Super Mario Crossover 3.0 is up, and is arguably the greatest flash game ever made if you're between the ages of 30-37. I don't know how it's still up, but the gist is someone took and re-skinned Super Mario Bros. (the NES game) and then managed to cram in playable characters from Contra, Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man, Blaster Master, and several others. I've played a bunch of the older versions and this new version is pretty spectacular for those of you who were fans of 8- and 16-bit gaming. There's also a faux 2600 skin which is pretty amazing.

WAR! Also, the Black Series! After getting a better look at the 3 3/4-inch line, I'm glad that there are some new figures being revealed finally - troopers are great, but they're basically the filler that makes up for the rest of the line. I don't want to build armies without vehicles or playsets (or things to fight) so Darth Plagueis and a better-than-expected Commander Neyo are going to make things more interesting. Mace Windu looks good and so does Vizam - I sincerely hope the quantities are such that wave 3 makes it out in good numbers for all of us.

I'm convinced 6-inch is going to be where it's at - it's also possible there are fewer in circulation so far, but let's face it: is anyone excited about the current crop of $10-$11 3 3/4-inch? With Sideshow's line being rather expensive, Gentle Giant's line being quite large, and the 3 3/4-inch series being completely unmanageable for anyone who is old enough to afford it, this is probably the go-to entry point until Hasbro hits 50-100 figures. At which point, it's just gonna be expensive again.

The current ratio is strongly in the favor of old farts, and the mix is close to what I would have wagered for the late 1990s - minimal prequels, major characters, and at least so far no overt fan service outside of Slave Leia. (Don't get me wrong, it's a good choice, but a surprising one right out of the gate.) The fact that it includes two Lukes says "We understand that nobody born after 1995 is our target market here" but I do hope Hasbro makes a good effort into updating the major players from the prequels (yes, even TPM Anakin and Jar Jar Binks) as it would be great to ultimately have 10-12 good figures from each movie.

And of course, the full compliment of Bounty Hunters, as many Vintage 1978-1985 Kenner figures as possible, and (given the price point) few to no simple head swaps or repaints. At 3 3/4-inch, you can cheat a lot - in this scale, and at $20, I think expectations will be higher. The amount of opportunity here is vast, I just hope it doesn't grow to unmanageable levels. Other 6-inch lines from Mattel have gotten to be quite large, save for Ghostbusters.

Of course, this whole thing could fizzle out real quick - a lot of 6-inch lines have folded quickly after the main cast has been done, and it appears the DC Universe line is starting to fade. Marvel Legends seems to draw strength from its limited release schedule, and He-Man feels like a surprisingly unstoppable juggernaut with increasingly bizarre and obscure figures like Icer, Goatman, and Geldor.

Star Wars has at least a dozen A-Listish characters with a few outfit variations on each, and enough well-known tertiary figures (Jawas, anyone?) that this could go on for a while. I mean, just look at who we don't have yet:
Clone Troopers
Darth Vader
Lando Calrissian
Jango Fett

...OK, so the list of real heavy hitters is pretty short. It's my hope that the line will last long enough to get weird - I really do want to see a 6-inch Ahsoka, Captain Rex, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Starkiller, and Darth Revan just to show Hasbro that there will likely be some more liberal attitudes toward what will make people excited in this series. Not that I don't love what we see so far, but the number of genuine A+ figures from the original trilogy isn't all that large once you take away variant costumes and resculpts.

I assume the Vintage Collection of 2004-2007 and the 7-inch Unleashed figures from 2002-2005 would also provide some insight into what Hasbro will whip out for us. If there are any characters that intersect all of the spin-off lines, that's the smart money. So Bossk, check. Clone Troopers, oh yeah. Aayla Secura, I'd put money on her showing up in year 3 or 4. I'm wondering how or when they'll get to C-3PO as he seems to be a fading star in the toy box, which is a shame because I've always been a huge fan. (He was one of my first two action figures.)

Are we taking bets on the convention exclusive for 2014? I'm hoping it's Dagobah Luke with a Yoda backpack. If they're gunning for a $45 price point, that would do it.

I'm trying to guess who we'll see from Jabba's entourage first. I'm hoping a Gamorrean Guard. I'd flip out over the Max Rebo Band, particularly if Sy Snootles was her 1983 self. But my money should probably be on Oola.

If by some miracle we saw a 6-inch scale Cargo Skiff I'd be pretty dang thrilled with that, too. But for now? All I want to see next is C-3PO, Obi-Wan Kenobi (SW), and a classic, white farmboy tunic Luke Skywalker. And Jawas. Jawa. One is good, two are better, build-a-Jawa is better still.

--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.