Q&A: The Return, SDCC Stuff, Raw Data, and Low Expectations

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, July 22, 2012

We're back! Comic reboots are incoming, should we care? Hey, look at all the new Ewoks! And is it a problem that there's no Celebration VI exclusive? Not for me! All this, and the best thing I saw at San Diego Comic-Con. Read on, and welcome back!

1. Looks like we're in for a welcomed onslaught of Ewoks. As for the Toys 'R Us exclusive and K-mart 2-pack, are these figures new sculpts, repacks or kit-bashed?

There are no mix-and-match figures as far as I can tell, each new Kmart or Toys R Us Ewok has some new tooling. New deco has been applied, obviously, but each figure has something new about it (usually accessories) so if you're collecting them all, you'll want these sets.

Kmart's Ewok Scouts make use of the 2007 2-pack body with new hoods, weapons, and it seems like new heads. I'm going to need to get them in-hand to be sure.

Toys R Us' set of Ewoks seems so diverse you'll want two. Alternate hoods are available for numerous figures. Teebo appears to be built on Logray's body with the original head, while Kneesaa is based on 2010 Wicket. The others use 2007 bodies with new hoods, and in some cases, new heads. Tippet seems to be Machook with a new headdress, Corpsey seems to have a new head, and I gotta be honest, I'm not so sure about the last one. I'll need to do some digging to do him first in Figure of the Day when the set goes up so I've got a good answer for you.

2. I where do you stand on the no CVI Hasbro exclusive. FINALLY getting to a show where they just about always have an exclusive but since I'm going this time NO. I'm sure you've gotten this question before so throw mine on the pile.

Generally speaking I'd prefer there be no convention exclusives just because it seems to cause more heartache than joy. This year's SDCC item was a good choice-- 6 pre-release figures and an exclusive-- but the availability was limited and dang if it wasn't super-bulky.

The last few Celebration exclusives have been very travel-friendly so I rather liked them. Heck, the last ones were almost too easy to get-- no lines to speak of-- so I can go either way. Frankly, a toy exclusive is what makes a show legit in my eyes. San Diego and New York are real conventions, because Hasbro and Mattel sell toys there. Phoenix has a comic convention, but it has no real toy presence so I don't go to it. Hasbro not having an item to sell to the convention or at the convention speaks volumes to me, if a crowd of tens of thousands of Star Wars fans aren't enough to support an exclusive, something's up. Either the convention attracts non-buyers (likely) or the fanbase doesn't care (...possible.)

I kind of which they just did something simple and fun, like a grey Vintage Death Squad Commander. Even if it flopped, army builders might cough up for extras. (I'd buy a few.) It's strange that we now live in an era where it's the retail exclusives that are the easiest to get, with regular non-exclusive retail products being some of the tougher finds-- and if you want a convention item, well, give up.

3. My next question will start with an exclamation... Brian Wood! maybe an EU reboot! BRIAN WOOD! In case I haven't made it obvious I'm a huge Brian Wood fan. Channel Zero and Demo are high water marks, not as big a DMZ fan. I've all but abandoned the EU, I listened to the Plageus novel and pick up the free comic book day books, but unless it's a 3 inch toy or a video game George can no longer count on my merchandising tithe. The cost of entry to almost every comic or novel is a front to back reading of wookiepedia, so forget it. But the hints that Brian Wood will helm a "starting from scratch" Star Wars comic set imeadiately after A New Hope is the best news my Star Wars jones has had since Filoni was hired away from Avatar, and those awesome TOR trailers. So am I getting my hopes too high?

If Brian Wood's story lacks any sort of Luke/Leia/Han running around and bumping into the forces of Darth Vader, I'm already uninterested. I don't care about Frank the Forgotten Sith Apprentice, Kelly the Amnesiac Bounty Hunter, or Yet Another Lost Jedi. I'm sure many of you comic fans will disagree with me, but after spending hundreds (thousands?) of dollars on comics from 1991 until 2011, I can safely say that they're going to have to knock me on my ass to even become vaguely interested. I already forgot this announcement by the time your question came in, that's how not excited I am for it.

Rebooting the EU-- if they do indeed wipe the slate clean-- still means we've got baggage from six movies, probably the Clone Wars TV show, and a few other canon-but-not-on-screen things. As much as I'd love to see Luke and Han having fun adventures, I don't know that my adult eyes can enjoy it anymore. So few comic stories make an impression with fans, I doubt that this one will.

4. I've been following toys for over a decade, and trend that I've seen over the past couple years is that Walmart in particular appears to be falling back into "seasonal" buying habits. By that, I mean instead of a steady stream of reorders (with an increase for Christmas) in support of the wave system, increasingly (and this might simply be my podunk store on the ass end of distribution) it seems Walmart (and to a lesser degree, the other two big retailers) have fallen into this cycle: do a big order at a line's launch (movie) or in the late summer (typical new toy release), get another big order for Christmas and use spring and summer to sell off whatever's left. This has been causing fans to miss out on MULTIPLE waves between the end of Christmas and the buildup in the fall.
Do you feel this is indicative of a change in retailer's view on action figures, and do you feel Hasbro might soon go back to the "yearly assortments"? It seems a waste of resources to put so much into waves for spring and summer when retailers aren't really pushing them. (And bear in mind I live in lower volume area with JUST a Walmart so I don't see half the action figure market to begin with, they didn't even bring back Marvel Universe last Christmas!)

Walmart has been reducing its toy presence-- not just action figures, but everything-- roughly since the time Spider-Man 3 came out a few years ago. That whole section shrank a bunch, and the margins on toys are pretty weak relative to, say, pants or pickles. The chain often underorders on some lines, so there are multiple action figures which really do show up at Walmart(s) and fans never realize it because one or two people on a lunch toy run can gobble up everything. And that's assuming the store got it-- which it probably did.

Yearly assortments? No. Hasbro knows collectors require new product or they lose interest, although it seems that's less of a concern as of late. With Titanium, they made damn sure you had something new to buy regularly. There are numerous ways to play around with how a store orders product to ensure fresh product makes the rounds, but a lot of it means resetting more often, more new assortment SKUs, and generally speaking, more line management. I have doubts they would be interested in doing this... although Jakks Pacific and McFarlane Toys are usually good about making a new 5-digit assortment SKU for most new waves. Mattel and Hasbro tend to keep the same one going for a while.

5. Do you know of a link where I can find what figures are in each case of Star Wars factory cases?

If you're looking for a complete list of everything ever (the full report, with the 5 digit assortment SKU plus the 2- or 4-digit suffix with a complete breakdown) I have never once seen a site with everything. You can find some on sites now (for example, our sponsor/my employer Entertainment Earth lists current breakdowns as well as old ones in its archive section) but I do not know of anything that's organized in a fashion I would consider particularly handy. Data IS out there, but you might be the one who needs to organize it and/or start a Wiki database of some sort so we can help contribute.


Where was I? Nevermind that. Where were the questions? I'm not gonna answer your Spider-Man questions here.

Hasbro's SDCC showing being right before another convention is unfortunate. We got some good news at least. Ewoks? New exclusives? Wonderful! 2013 main line with 16 character names, 0 of which are character debuts? I'd be lying if I said I was happy. If it keeps the line going, fine, but wow I'm bored and I haven't even seen what the new Mace Windu is yet. Does it bother me that somehow Mattel has a dozen or more new-to-toys He-Man figures and Hasbro can barely scrape together any without resorting to Ewoks, Pilots, and Droid repaints? Let's switch topics.

For Kenner collectors, the most thrilling thing was probably at the Super 7 booth. This company is best known for its Super Shogun figures and urban vinyl type designer toys, but they got one hell of an amazing license with ALIEN, specifically 3 3/4-inch, specifically the 1979 Kenner prototypes we read about in Tomart's in the 1990s that never got made.

This is significant.

For starters, it means someone decided that "retro figures" is indeed a separate license. It shows that just because Kenner didn't make something doesn't mean someone else can't. And it may serve as a test run for other unproduced action figure lines, although other than Star Wars or maybe the 1960s bendy Outer Space Men or Masters of the Universe I can't think of many I'd see as financially sound. Heck, even ALIEN sounds risky but to get Dallas, Ash, Ripley, Kane, and the monster itself? Yeah, I'm signing up for these. If the packaging is appropriately 1979 Kenner-esque, I suggest you all go rent ALIEN and start getting excited at the prospect of new toys like the ones many of us had as kids.

It's my hope someone will go into the Star Wars archives to get us a Blockade Runner or Vlix or new MicroCollection stuff, but seeing Star Wars-style Kenner figures of another franchise is genuinely exciting for me. I suppose it will be limited appeal, but as good toy collectors-- and I know you are good toy collectors-- I'm sure you appreciate what these new figures could mean, even if they're not your cup of tea. While I loved the new Battle Beasts shown at the show and the new Outer Space Men were nice, the fact someone is really trying to give us vintage Kenner figures-- actual, real, old vintage Kenner figures-- is so staggering I can barely believe it, and it's been a couple of weeks. Confidential to Super 7: don't stop here. Keep going.

What else... the new OMFG figures are great (they're like MUSCLE but different), OMFG series 2 is on Kickstarter so please support them. Sadly the great Matt of Onell Design was not at the show, so no new Glyos to talk up just yet. There is plenty to be excited about in the world of toys (Watchmen!) but right now Hasbro isn't providing it. Maybe at Celebration VI in a few weeks. If you told me 10 years ago that Mattel and small companies most of you never heard of would be delivering the most exciting toys rather than Hasbro, I'd have called you a liar. Now... well... I guess you can look around and decide what's exciting for you. Hasbro still has a lot of neat stuff but I guess it's impossible for anyone to do 2,000 figures and keep coming up with new and interesting twists on them. Although if you give me a week...

--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.