Q&A: More Black Series, Walmart, New Figures, and Too Much Stuff

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, September 1, 2013


1. Can you tell me which of the new [2013 lava packaging] Saga Legends figures are actually new versus repacks from either Missions two-packs or recent Battle Packs? I bought the Battle Packs from last year (w/ reduced articulation figs) and the Mission Series sets. Today I bought Legends Obi Wan and Shock Trooper but passed on Anakin because he seemed identical to the one in the Missions set. Can you help?

Basically, all of them - the single-carded figures are all unique enough to be worthwhile and all of the sculpts (except for the Mission Series Battle Droids) are unique to these new waves4. Anakin (single) has Anakin eyes, while Anakin (Mission Series) has Sith yellow eyes. The clone deco is different, and all of the rest of the Saga Legends guys are unique enough to be interesting. None of the molds are carried over from previous Battle Packs, and I'd still suggest grabbing Anakin/501st Trooper Mission Series 2-packs unless you really don't like variations. It's neat.

An aside: my Revenge of the Sith mini Jedi Starfighters just showed up. It's a mixed bag - Anakin and Obi-Wan fighters share the same mold, but Anakin's was slightly better for my sample. Obi-Wan's had some sticker sticking problems (solved with an Elmer's Glue Stick, as always) and the Obi-Wan Kenobi figure (gasps) does not fit easily - you really have to force him in there. Anakin just fits, no problem. From this line, I actually expected compatibility without having to shove or cram someone in there, so that was a little disappointing.



2. Walmart has recently reset, and there are no pegs for the 6 inch line. Everyone seems to like these figures, they look like an instant success. I wonder why the worlds largest retailer passed on these?

Walmart is and has been something of a toy power broker since the 1990s - if they pass on a line, it can mean that line doesn't have a future. Of course, there are exceptions - back in 2003, the retail chain passed on pretty much all of Hasbro's Star Wars range, with 7-inch Unleashed figures in short supply and if memory serves, unstocked at the end. Sometimes Walmart passes on the vehicles, so it can be pretty all over the place with what they think is worth having.

I just came back from a trip where I saw plenty of 6-inch at Target, Toys R Us, and Kmart and none at Walmart. Walmart has (oddly) opted out of this scale despite giving it significant support for Hasbro's 6-inch Marvel movie lines - why stop here? I have no idea.

I don't know if they completely passed on the larger figures, but as of right now I sure as heck haven't seen them there (or frankly anywhere all that much) just yet. Sometimes Walmart pushes for lower price points, and sometimes they want a higher price point - such was the case with G.I. Joe Sigma 6. And all of Walmart's successful movie-themed Marvel Legends. So why not this one? I have to assume it was the poor performance of Walmart's 2012 exclusive program combined with Hasbro's line plan for the rest of the 2012 line. Any buyer who doesn't have their finger squarely on the pulse of fandom - and I know a buyer for a large toy company that does! - would probably (I assume) look at the big box 2012 statistics and say "hey, this franchise is dying or dead. Let's pull back and wait for the next movie." While a fanboy would say "hey... look at this big giant figure stuff. This is amazing. Let's order a bunch!"


3. I really like the new 6" line. but they are kinda pricey for me. so i am going to only collect certain ones. since you have a pretty good knowledge of things do you think the original 12 will be made in 6"? since this is usually what i collect the most.

With the absence of a grey Death Squad Commander (Star Destroyer Commander) I think we still need to finish up that set in the smaller scale, myself!

I'd say it's likely that we will see most of those original 12 figures in some flavor in the 6-inch format eventually, if you're patient. We've seen 3 waves so far, and each wave has 1 of the original 12 figures. Darth Vader, C-3PO, and Chewbacca are likely to be sure things. I'm wondering if we'll see the Jawa, Tusken Raider, Obi-Wan Kenobi, any time soon. Classic Leia and Luke shouldn't be too far off - I hope - but those outfits haven't had a ton of love since 2004 at the retail stores. I wouldn't hold your breath for the Death Squad Commander, unless Hasbro is specifically aiming to do the original 12, one by one, in each wave. (And for all I know, they are. We'll know for sure with wave 4.)

The "Original 12" (Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2-D2, C-3PO, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jawa, Tusken Raider, Stormtrooper, Darth Vader, Death Star Commander) have been reproduced other lines if you're willing to make a few concessions to coloration or accessories. For example, they exist in the modern 3 3/4-inch line, Galoob's MicroMachines line, and Galactic Heroes. Hasbro has yet to show any interest in the significance of this specific subset as a thing to replicate, so I would not necessarily bet on this being a key part of their strategy. It very well may happen, though.



4. True or False? Hasbro will make/release a 6 inch Kalhar/holotable monster.

I wouldn't bet on it - I've been asking Hasbro for this one in multiple sizes every couple of years and I tried (poorly) to campaign for it in the last couple of Fan's Choices as well. Heck, I've asked other companies to do them as well - none of them have made it happen yet, so here's hoping someone, some day, will do something decent to be scaled to our action figures somehow. Either as "real" monsters, or as miniature chess pieces. (And I mean statues, action figures, or toys. 1:6 scale doesn't count.)


5. I agree with your 8/11 Q&A, that all of the options are counter productive. After all, kids are a captive audience (they gravitate to a brand, but gift givers are picking a price point), and as collectors, if there was just one line, most of us would be buying it. We've all heard how different SKUs & computer ordering should make it all work seamlessly, but have seen how a kid working at Walmart can defeat the whole process by opening one 'Star Wars' box and filling the empty shelf space.

In your professional and collector-oriented interactions with Hasbro, have they ever hinted that fewer lines is a possibility? The product offerings seem trending towards more (Playskool, Legends, Baby Black (3.75"), Papa Black (6"), and 12").

Counterproductive? Sorta. For our goals as collectors, absolutely - even in Steve Sansweet's Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible Kenner people were cited as indicating other, competing scales didn't achieve the success of the amazing 3 3/4-inch line. On the other hand, Kenner did do a lot of experimenting with 12-inch figures, mini die-cast ships, the aforementioned MicroCollection, roleplay toys, and others to figure out what would work. Common wisdom for much of the 1970s usually took the form of 8-12-inch figures in cloth outfits until Mego and Kenner and others tried something new with 3 3/4-inches.

Part of the problem is that you have to get a lot of people to agree that there is in fact a problem - Hasbro and fans have had a dialogue for years trying to accurately communicate to one another to see if big box retailers are ordering correctly, because the computer systems are set up correctly and supposedly Target is ordering what Target wants. And who is Hasbro to argue if Target/Walmart/TRU are happy? We as fans see items on the wrong pegs, or an entire aisle of filled pegs with the wrong Star Wars products on it. Can we communicate to someone this problem? And if so, who and how? I don't know. All I know is that it's been a pretty consistent problem since about 2007, when the multi-SKU similarly-packaged Star Wars line has been an increased part of our collecting lives. We know the difference - we live it. But to anyone, including employees, they all look basically the same and they aren't paid enough to care.

Problem #2 is that Hasbro will always seek to diversify and maximize its offerings on a popular license. You have to consider that a line with broad appeal has to be fully exploited. Transformers is insufficient - there must be Generations for older fans, Masterpiece Edition for rich fans, Beast Hunters for fans of all ages, Cyberverse for lower-income fans, and Rescue Bots for the tiny tykes. If anything is successful, this is to be the norm. Look at Batman, look at Mattel's high hopes on Max Steel. Hasbro has multiple Marvel lines going, focusing on scales, characters, and age groups beyond the target "kid" and "collector" field. Toddlers love Spider-Man!

We're in a period of strong experimentation combined with Hasbro not learning its lessons from the last few years. In 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2013 we saw collector-focused assortments kick off with a weak wave 1 that stalled (and in some cases, crippled) distribution of future figures. (Notables: Yarna d'al' Gargan, Bane Malar, Dengar, AT-AT Commander, 4-LOM, Biggs Darklighter, Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Battle Droid, Anakin Skywalker, and a Biker Scout to name a few.) Hasbro's desire to cut corners and get us to re-re-rebuy stuff (or to assume to kids, this is all new) is a recipe for disaster and why the 6-inch The Black Series line is going to take over as the dominant force in this line as a collector brand, up until it gets unwieldy around late year 3. (If history is any indication, anyway, it usually takes 3 years for collectors to sour on a new line or for the company to introduce a poor new twist.)

Walmart has already dropped Star Wars completely from many of its smaller stores. Toys R Us seems to be selective about its current offerings, as does Target. Kmart, bless 'em, seems to be trying a few things out. Just by looking around I assume it's going to be a hard winter for fans unless they shop online - again, minus the 6-inch line. That's got broad appeal with a solid 30-40 "A" and "B" characters that should appeal to all fans to some extent. (And if you can't get behind the idea of appreciating Darth Maul at this point, tough.)

Here's where I expect things to shake out in the next few years: Hasbro will probably "rest" 6-inch when the new movie hits. The new TV show's toy line will be hurt from the outset - either Hasbro will ship it long after the show starts, or after 2 quick waves a massive gap in the line will appear because of the new movie. No matter what, it's going to have severe turbulence. It doesn't matter if it's a hit, it's going to happen. 3 3/4-inch will be severely impacted with fewer new characters as Hasbro seems to be on a rerun kick - and not even a "greatest hits," sadly. Expect fewer new lines - it's far more likely Hasbro is going to roll their dice on Kre-O, Transformers, and other properties.



Jumping off from the previous question, I think the most important thing for the revival of Star Wars as a licensed property is a high-profile return of Star Trek on TV. Sci-fi and superheroes are all over the media, but it's either for kids (cartoons) or for adults (Lost, Battlestar Galactica) - there hasn't been a really good sci-fi show for families in quite some time, and I don't really count The Clone Wars because apparently none of you people watched it.

In the 1990s, we saw Star Trek grow as The Next Generation went from a popular cult thing to one of the hottest tickets on TV for many - myself included - which resulted to the series getting a second shot at an action figure line which not only succeeded wildly, but also got people excited about collecting other lines before the revival of Star Wars and the continued success of Spawn helped to serve as distractions over its long decline. The point being: a weekly sci-fi series that kids, teenagers, and parents might watch is an important thing for the entire hobby and business I'm in, and I don't think we have that right now. (Doctor Who is still a niche show and 'Merican families are generally not receptive to things from the BBC.) The takeaway from this is: Star Trek helped to reinvigorate science fiction fandom, the sci-fi toy market, and the sci-fi collector market fairly handily.

And why Star Trek? It seems far more likely that CBS/Paramount/Viacom would get off their duffs to get that back on TV than Disney would to push a live-action Star Wars, but what do I know. Prime time family sci-fi would make my life a lot better, just because as someone in the toy and collectible business, well, I had this wonderfully depressing conversation with a local store owner about how they just got Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon statues - and how that audience for that 1936 property is pretty much dead. This business relies almost exclusively on retro properties and comebacks lately, and putting something in front of an audience regularly makes a big difference. Unless it sucks, like the recent Flash Gordon TV show.

As a movie property, Star Trek is fun but it's basically a modern action blockbuster given a reskinning with J.J. Abrams' significant flair (and flare), doled out in stingy chunks every few years. A lower budget show bypassing apocalyptic themes in favor of smaller ones would be fantastic. Part of what made Star Trek memorable at its best were the charm of its era's effects, affable characters, and generally a decent story. The added bonus is moms and dads could say "hey, if you like this, let's go check out this other movie too." While the internet has done wonders making information and entertainment available, it hasn't helped to really bring in people to the aspects of this whole business that (let's be honest here) I find the most interesting. It's possible, and I'm hoping, the ABC show Marvel's Agents of SHIELD does some of this - if it's a hit, the superhero genre could see a huge upswing in terms of introducing fans and families to stuff beyond what's at the movies, and if it does succeed I hope CBS and its various parent and sibling corporations get their butts in gear to do the same thing for Star Trek, which as of 2013 hasn't seen an original TV installment since 2005 - and it, too, ended with a prequel. The last gap between the original series and The Next Generation was 18 years.

Even though Star Wars is about a galaxy far, far away and Star Trek is about the future, both seemed to be their best when pushing ahead into the future, generating new and interesting situations taking us beyond what we've already seen. Meeting Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade was pretty awesome. Seeing what happened to Kang, Kor, and Koloth was fairly rewarding, as was watching the Romulans evolve into something more interesting than evil Vulcans... and by the time they came out, Star Trek films V and VI were basically prequels. I'm very optimistic about Star Wars having an actual future again, and Marvel moving ahead with its movies has me hopeful that this won't delve into a snake eating its own tail too. I'm a fanboy, and I need a future to look forward to - if we're going to wallow in the past, I may as well just pull out my old DVDs and keep enjoying those. Make me excited for tomorrow, Hollywood!

Other: was on a small vacation, came back to significant ceiling damage. Saw four movies: The World's End (good), Elysium (meh), Kick-Ass 2 (skip it), and The Europa Report (go see it). The latter should be filed with Moon, District 9, and Cloverfield as clever, lower-budget features involving otherworldly stuff. Also, it continues to prove the built-in value in having Sharlto Copley in your movie. Confidential to CBS: put him in your upcoming Star Trek TV show. Confidential to Disney: He's make a great new Star Wars villain too.

--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.


The WalMart in Okemos, MI (East Lansing/MSU area) recently did their reset and they've dropped Star Wars completely. No Legends, no Mission Series, no Black Series 3.75" or 6" - period. I thought maybe they just didn't get them put up and looked everywhere for at least racks that would hold future figures. Nothing. The Great 2012 TVC Debacle has come home to roost.