Q&A: Star Wars Black Series Emerging, Hasbro's Marvel Toys, and New Stuff at 4-Inches

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, September 21, 2014

1. I am ready to go all in on figures for the new movies, but I haven't been terribly motivated to buy nor been overly impressed with the 5 POA or 6 inch figures so far. I'm a little worried that the new movie line may be comprised of 5 POA and 6 inch only, similar to what we saw with the Iron Man 3 and Guardians of the Galaxy line.

I love that Hasbro still gives us new stuff like Toryn Farr and Ree Yees, but beyond tradition and a likely small collector market, I don't think I have seen anything that would inspire me to believe that a semi-SA line is surely going to continue for the new movies. Do you believe there is hope for fans of the "TVC style" figures going forward into the new trilogy, or is it time to suck it up and move on to one of the new lines?

When complaining, I find it helpful to make sure we're all on the same page first. For example, you cite the limited-articulation figures for Guardians of the Galaxy - I should note there are no movie GOTG figures, only "mini" figures that are about 2-inches each. Hasbro isn't doing "simple" Marvel figures outside Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble right now, and I believe Captain America is the only movie line with 3 3/4-inch on the market right now. Anything else is 2013 or earlier. As such, I should also add I was annoyed when I found out Hasbro wouldn't be making cheap, simple 3 3/4-inch scale figures for Guardians of the Galaxy, mostly because they'd be a great fit with Star Wars. Instead, it's the "mini" figures or full-size Marvel Legends, or nothing. (Or comic-inspired figures.) I'd also take issue with describing Ree-Yees as "new" but I digress.

At this point I have literally no idea what Hasbro is doing for the 2015 movie - zero. For all we know they may downsize 3 3/4-inch completely and stick with Black Series 6-inch and a new 2-inch line.

If you look at the line over the past few years, it evolves. In 2006, that was the first time I remember people really complaining that a new figure - Republic Commando Scorch - had 10 points of articulation when they wanted 14. The first-ever super-articulated Star Wars figure was in 2003, and we had about a dozen in 2004 and very few in 2005. It wasn't really "standard" until late 2006, and even then, it was only rolled out to most of the figures. And by 2008? Price increase.

While unpopular to say, I think it's a good thing to really sit back and consider how you interact with your figures. If you don't open them? Your opinions on articulation are not important to me. If you have them standing on a shelf after you pose them, it may be worth weighing the value of a $6 figure that stands well versus an $11 figure that can be posed, but may not stand for long without assistance. I know some of you like what you like - and nothing I write matters on this subject - but when you multiply out $6 over 50 figures or $11 over 50 figures, it's a significant difference. I think back in the mid-2000s I would've taken a reduction in articulation as a big insult, but now - with this many figures - it's less of an issue.

As someone who has collected other lines, the best advice I can give you is to vote with your dollars. When Hasbro made movie-based Transformers my reaction was "That's nice, but it's not for me." When Transformers Prime didn't click with me as a TV show, I skipped all but maybe 3 or 5 toys which I happened to really like - and as a result I enjoyed collecting more. Not buying things makes me happy, too, as I save money and the few I do buy are given more time, more care, and more attention. So with Star Wars, you know for a fact there will be at least one collector-focused line - maybe it's 3 3/4-inch, maybe it's only 6-inch. We don't know yet. The important thing here is to take a good, long, hard look at your buying habits. Are you going to buy everything, no matter what? Well, welcome to the club. It's fun here. Get used to a mix of disappointment and joy, you can't win them all. Are you actually going to get picky? Things might work out well for you. I skip most Transformers segments - especially high-end collector and import segments - and I'm so much happier for it. I shelled out for about 22 Transformers figures this year, and while I am hungry for more it makes for a more manageable collection.

We are still in an era of remakes - Hasbro will give us new versions of major characters until (and long after) we say "Uncle." Keep that in mind when making your purchases - the heroes and bad guys will likely get made and remade, but our last Yak Face was in 1997, our last Lando with the blue outfit was 2004 and didn't have "proper" elbows, and also remember that each and every new prequel movie had figures based on early concepts and renderings. It may be worth your while to wait until after the movie - perhaps even a year or two - to see if things match or if we'll have a situation where we get a revised Boss Nass almost a year following the first one. With over 2,000 figures, Hasbro is tough to predict because we have examples of them trying just so gosh darn much.



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2. My crappy Walmart last night had the entire 3 3/4" Black Series Wave 3 that originally was out last December in stock! Mara Jade, Darth Plageuis, Vizam, Merumeru, Stormtrooper, etc. I couldn't believe it - I have never seen any of those figures in a store, other than the Stormtrooper a couple times. Where have they been hiding this stuff???

One of the dirty little not-so-secrets is that Walmart and Toys R Us basically own the US toy market. If Walmart wants you to change something, you do it. If they decide to not buy your collector line, they don't - and they didn't. You may notice waves of figures have been available online longer and longer since the demise of Vintage in 2012, and even some of those waves were available for order (and re-order) for quite some time. Back in 2004-2008, things tended to dry up more quickly - and Walmart also tended to order a lot more. So to answer your question, it's a very safe bet these older figures were sitting on a shelf in a distribution center or even Hasbro's own warehouses until Walmart finally was convinced to give them a try. Sometimes your not being able to find a figure just means a stroke of bad luck, but in the last year we've seen chains actively not stock any figures in some cases. If you can find evidence of old figures you don't want, that's still a good sign - but no figures of any kind means there's a problem, as Hasbro cited at Comic-Con. The stuff just isn't making it to the shelves, or at least, isn't getting out quite as much. I personally haven't seen anything from basic The Black Series at a store in either scale since wave 3. This is troubling.

The good news is that if you see a Stormtrooper, figures (from at least wave 2) were getting out there. If you know how to read the date stamps, you can ballpark which waves they came from - and you can see how long Hasbro (or their retail partners) waited to put them out on the pegs. In the 1990s it was pretty easy to market toys - you had Saturday Morning TV, some cable, some syndicated shows which were sizable hits, and collector magazines were a great way to get the word out. We don't congregate in the same places anymore, and while readership of this column has been surprisingly steady since its inception in 1999 it does not seem that the pool of interested collectors has increased.

This is somewhat unrelated, but possibly telling - nobody has asked me "when do you think this line will end?" in a while, so I assume that means those people either gave up and quit after the new movie announcement or decided to stick around. I'd love to hear from you in comments or email if you prefer if this was you and what you're doing. (Believe it or not, I do have a small readership of ex-collectors that just read these days.)




3. You're right about newness! It will always have my children and I running to the aisle to buy new products. With Star Wars, my children are enjoying the 3 3/4 inch figures with not too much articulation and it helps me to budget. Is fun for the kids to enjoy themselves. But they also like the articulation to kick and move the arms/legs in different directions, so I budget also for those when I miss a few weeks of going to the toy store. I myself enjoy new figures because it refreshes the line. My question is for the 3 3/4 inch figures, will Hasbro continue to produce two lines of figures with little articulation and figures with a lot of articulation – Rebels figures/Black Series figures?

I believe newness for both lines (6 points and 14 points) will help continue the Star Wars lines for kids that really care to play with these figures. (My opinion) What you said "the upcoming Saga Legends Jedi Temple Guard for $6 sounds like a winner" my son and I really enjoyed pictures of that figure. It sure looks like a winner with little articulation.

As of the moment I write this, I do not know anything Hasbro is doing for Episode VII other than you could ask the vaguest question in the world and they'll say "I can't tell you." You could ask "Are you making toys for Episode VII?" and they're probably legally required to say "I'm not allowed to talk about Episode VII."

We've seen a reduction on the 3 3/4-inch action figure format in recent years - G.I. Joe and Indiana Jones are gone, Marvel and Star Wars are on the thin side. Marvel has pared down its lines and even their cheap stuff is on the lighter side - Star Wars seems to be having more emphasis placed on the cheap stuff, with 20 new (or new to you) Saga Legnds and another 20 or so Mission Series (with some overlap) all due later this year or early next year. The Black Series 6-inch is orbiting a dozen new releases from here on out, and 3 3/4-inch is mostly repacks - maybe a half dozen or so new guys. So you can see where Hasbro's bread is being buttered, but Rebels is kid-centric so the toys are as well. The Clone Wars was largely that way as well in the big picture, but a few collectory items got out there.

I would bet money on 5 POA for 3 3/4-inch, and 6-inch for collectors. With a smattering of super-articulated versions of the movie's villains and maybe a couple of the heroes, but not the tertiary dudes. But that's me.




This week's big reveal was a shot of the Falcon from the new movie - and I kind of don't care at this point. One thing I remembered getting a huge kick out of for the Episode I (mis)information campaign was just how many weird things we saw in the Star Wars Insider and even leaked to the web that were ultimately of no consequence. I want to see what I don't care about - I want my red herrings. The random background Ithorians and the super-tall black and white alien are images that really stuck with me - and we never really saw in the movie, nor got figures of. Tons of work goes into these films and as I get older I find myself increasingly more interested in the fabrication of the weird bits and pieces. Especially now - Disney has my undivided attention for Episode VII and the sheer amount of fun you can have with misdirection, combined with our endless appetite for behind-the-scenes stuff, can be easily exploited.

Could you imagine just how giddy you would be if, in 1982, you were given the chance to see Hermi Odle or Ephant Mon or even Yak Face in a photo gallery showing off the design from various angles? You'd be thrilled. Granted, in 1983 you might be less thrilled - but in the long run, the ability to see that kind of reference material (that would likely get swept under the rug after the movie becomes old news) would be invaluable. Getting an insider's look at a blaster, or a lightsaber, or just some dumb thing inconsequential in the movie can generate a ton of traffic, loads of wild speculation, and of course eventual letdowns when we find out that in the New Toy World Order there's no room for it as an action figure.

I'm a little worried that the new movie's "collector" product might be similar to the last couple of years in that it would be relatively awesome, but ultimately entry-level stuff. Hasbro's post-Avengers stuff is a mix of Marvel newness and a bunch of main characters, again, plus a heavy smattering of reruns. Reruns are something I am beyond sick of at this point, even unless there's some wacky twist. I've seen Hasbro make good or excellent Darth Vader figures. Now I want to see weird stuff. That light-up lightsaber one? That was neat. The 5-joint one? That was different. If there's a cartoon one, or combat camo, or even a samurai incarnation, I'm in! I'm super interested in new characters and aliens, but that's what sort of scares me - 2015 could very much bring a return of the 1999-style collector shopping orgy. Then again, maybe not - enough people got burned that last time where the idea of pure unadulterated greed could be gone but the whole notion of having figures for the lapsed fans is probably something we're going to have to deal with. Vader's gotta come back as toys. We'll probably see more Boba Fetts. I suspect a few Han molds will be trotted out again, and I'm also fairly sure this will mean that the secondary market has the potential to utterly explode as parents expose their kids to movies in a marketplace where there are thousands of figures, but very few at Target or Toys R Us. People with junk to dump on Amazon will probably be surprised by sudden surges for weird characters and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see things like really expensive Ahsokas and maybe even Luke. After all, look at the 2014 line - how many Lukes are in circulation? Bespin Luke (6-inch), Dagobah Luke (Black Series), and another Bespin Luke (Mission Series) with Jedi Luke (12-inch) out of circulation for a bit and Jedi Luke (Saga Legends) about to return. There's a big gap for X-Wing Pilot Luke and Classic Luke from the original movie - so if Hasbro doesn't anticipate the kind of nerd kid that just wants a plain boring Luke, I'd wager he'll be expensive in about 300 days.

In the short term, though, things are looking good. Rebels will air in about 2 weeks and I assume now that the vehicles are trickling in, the figures are just about due too. Problem is, there aren't a lot of new things expected this year. A couple more waves of Saga Legends and Mission Series might hit the stores, we know of 1 vehicle that hasn't been solicited yet, and barring any surprise exclusives - and I do expect we'll see at least one more - it should be pretty smooth sailing in to 2015.

After seeing Toys R Us grow the Star Wars section a little bit - and at least one location, to two full sides of a single aisle - I am looking forward to another possible era where we're the most hated and spoiled rotten toy collectors in town once again. (Some of the G.I. Joe boards really, really hated us in the mid-2000s. Charming.) I'm guessing Marvel is going to have high toy expectations for 2015 and taper off quickly due to The Avengers basically cashing in on the same group of characters with toys that won't be all that different. I'd wager Jurassic Park to outperform low expectations as toys - there's a lot of pent-up love for that franchise, too, and it's been dormant for nearly 14 years as opposed to Star Wars' big screen body being cold for barely a decade. The battle for the toy aisle will be fascinating, particularly as it looks like the future is Hasbro competing against itself - which probably is going to be problematic for innovation in this particular field. Not that they won't do a good job, but let's face it, the arms races with Mattel and Jakks and Playmates over the years brings up a lot of interesting stuff.

--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.



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