The AFi/Mattel Justice League Unlimited Interview Part 1
May 17, 2010

 

I know.  You guys might think I’m really milking this 5th Anniversary thing, but this interview has actually been several weeks in the making.   I first proposed this interview to Mattel back in April when it was revealed that there would not be a JLU exclusive for San Diego Comic Con 2010.  Scott "ToyGuru" Neitlich got the concept of the interview approved, I polled the staff of AFi and some of the Men of Action bloggers on what sort of JLU questions they wanted the answer to, and submitted the questions… and then Scott’s wife, the lovely Mrs. Guru, went and had their new, beautiful daughter a week before the due date.  So, we patiently waited, because there are some things bigger than the hobby and that’s one of them.

I have a long history with the JLU action figure line.  As a matter of fact Jason and I were the people to break the news of the original line that Mattel would be making and we had the very FIRST pictures of the prototypes of the original wave.

Here’s a quick walk down memory lane with some of the original pictures of our original coverage of this line:

The original prototype picture 

 The Justice League line really does seem to have nine lives.   If some fans are to be believed JLU has has 1,742 lives as heralding the death of the line seems to be a weekly occurrence on action figure message boards.   The truth is, that the line was to have ended two years ago after the Target 6-pack with Gorilla Grodd was released.  But fans showed the powers-that-be at Mattel that there was still buzz behind this line and that fans were still hungry for more, and we have significantly increased our roster of characters since then.   We’ve gotten some really surprising characters this past year including the Doom Patrol, Legion of Super Heroes, and the Shazam family.   I don’t think any of us that started collecting this line back at the beginning would imagine that we would have such a diverse line of of character especailly now that we are four YEARS after the TV show the line was based off of has gone off the air..

It really is remarkable that we have gone from only the "Original 7" –to this:

 

Before we get to the start of the interview let’s take a look at the new JLU figures that Mattel announced today on MattyCollector.com.   Most readers will have seen these already as they popped up on ebay several weeks ago.   The announcement below actually helps answer one of the questions I posed to Mattel in part 2.

  • Future JLU Superman with Starro Spore — In a double dose of firsts, this release will mark the initial availability of an all-new figure, plus it includes fan-favorite Starro Spore as a never-before-offered accessory!
  • Barry Allan as The Flash with Lightning Bolt — It’s the first time this figure is offered, so you’ll want to catch him before he’s gone in a… well, you know…
  • Power Ring — Evil twins everywhere will rejoice when Power Ring joins their ranks for the first time as an action figure. Features a giant green hand construct.
  • Batman Beyond with Batarang — Available for the first time as a single, Batman is ready to battle the bad guys when stocked with this staple from his arsenal.
  • Mr. Terrific — Also making his big debut as a single, the ever-present T-spheres have been completely redesigned.

 

As I prepped for this interview I tried to gather the questions I thought most people were asking and what fans wold really want to know.   As I mentioned earlier, I asked the mods here and some of the Men of Action bloggers what questions they had about the JLU line.  If there’s a question that I didn’t cover in this interview, feel free to add your question to our bi-monthly Q&A thread and we’ll try to get an answer for you in the next round.

Let’s get started with part one of the 2010 AFi/JLU interview:

 

ActionFigureInsider: Is the line dead?

Scott aka ToyGuru: Not at all! The line is definitely on track at retail through the end of 2010. We should know by SDCC if it will continue into 2011. The online Mattycollector.com line got a bit of a derailment when none the four-packs perform as well as we would have  anticipated. We are going to try again with Lobo this June. If he does well we would love to continue to find a way to keep JLU on Mattycollector.com as well.

AFi: Why is there not an exclusive for SDCC 2010?

TG: Our big JLU item for the summer is Lobo. Since we already did a Lobo at SDCC a few years ago we didn’t want to bring the same character again. Instead, we put the figure on Mattycollector.com a month before the show as a Website exclusive rather than a SDCC exclusive.

AFi: Even though the 4-packs didn’t sell that well on MattyCollector

.com_112" value="" />, haven’t past JLU exclusives sold well/sold out at Comic Con?

TG: Grundy did okay but Giganta and The Green Lantern pack did not.  At least compared to a DCUC or a MOTUC exclusive, which had always sold out. At the end of the day, JLU fans tend to be louder rather than numerous.

AFi: Was there one of the 4 packs that sold better/quicker than the others (without getting specific into numbers?

TG;  Not really. The four packs all sold about the same, which is good in the sense that it told us what the “baseline” is for JLU fans. However, this baseline number is also much lower than the minimum number we need to keep the line going.

AFi: Have you seen the threads on Afi that show new JLU characters that can be made using all existing parts, that wouldn’t need any new pieces, just a new paint job?  Does that sort of information help you?

TG: It does and it doesn’t help. While there are characters that fans may say, “Only need a new paint job,” that doesn’t always work for DC Comics and Warner Bros. who may request some new parts before they agree to us releasing a certain figure and do not always want their characters released as repaints only.

AFi: How interchangeable are parts really?  I would think multiple parts would be cut into the steel tools.  But could you use (just as an example) Nemesis’’ head on the Joker’s body?

TG: The parts are not as interchangeable as one would think. In fact, there are times where we’ve run into trouble by expecting a part to be interchangeable and then we try it,  discover it didn’t work as expected. When JLU was first created years ago, it was intended only as a kid’s line so parts weren’t developed to be interchangeable the way they would be for a collector line. Recognizing this, we created the MOTUC line to have interchangeable parts from the get go.

AFi: Why was John Stewart in multiple 3-packs shipping at the same time?  Even if you say it’s important for the main characters to stay in the line for sales to kids, would those kids need multiples of the SAME John Stewart?

TG; A lot of time this is a coincidence. Many packs we create don’t always ship when we anticipate so characters we had intended to spread out through the year are shipped together. This is one of those factors that are well beyond our control and often frustrating for us too.

AFi: Could you do a subscription of JLU figures similar to MOTU on MattyCollector?  One figure (at $12-$15 a month), if they were new characters that fans have been asking for (and if the shipping could be combined with a MOTUC subscription) might be a good way to keep the line going.

TG: If fans would be willing to pay about $15 for a basic JLU figure this is something into which we could look. We’d probably have to do a pre-purchase sign–up; however, it would be similar to MOTUC where you commit to a year’s worth of figures at once without knowing all the figures you are getting.

We would make sure all the figures in a subscription had new parts (we won’t distribute repaints since we are asking fans to buy a figure for $15). Let us know if this is a program fans would want to support.  After poor sales of the four-packs we are unsure if there are enough people to support this type of program. Prove us wrong!

AFi: Do you have to do nice packaging for JLU to be on Matty?   Would that affect the end cost?

TG: No, resdesigned packaging would not keep the cost down.

End of Part 1.

Part 2 coming soon.


Daniel Pickett
Daniel “Julius Marx” Pickett has been around toys his whole life. The first line he ever collected was Mego’s World’s Greatest Super Heroes line back in the 70s. He has been surrounded by collectables ever since. In 1999 he was confounded by a lack of information and news about some of his favorite toy lines he was collecting. Since he couldn’t find the information he decided to pursue it himself thinking other people might also be interested in the same news. He started writing a weekly column on the toy industry and action figure for a toy news site and in a years time he tripled the sites daily traffic with his updates, reviews and product features. He built relationships with every major toy manufacturer and many sculptors, painters and mold makers. He grew his hobby into a world wide expertise that the industry has embraced. In 2004 he teamed up with his toy buddy Jason “ToyOtter” Geyer and they created their own website www.ActionFigureInsider.com. Daniel has been quoted in both industry and mass media press outlets. Over the years Daniel and AFi have been sought out as experts in the field. Daniel was regularly featured on “Attack of the Show” on the G4 network as the primary contributor to their “Mint On Card” segment, and our front page has been linked to from USA Today’s “Pop Candy” Blog twice. Daniel’s content has also been featured on MSNBC.com, Wired.com, Fark.com, Boing-Boing, Gizmodo.com, Ain’t It Cool News, the Official Star Wars blog, Geekologie, G4, CNet and Toy Fare magazine, among many others. He has consulted on toy lines, books, documentaries and TV shows. But all of that really just sounds snooty and “tootin’ his own horn” – the long and short of it is that Daniel loves toys and he LOVES talking about them.
Read other articles by Daniel Pickett.

 

 

 

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