Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a piece for Men of Action in which I gave, in no uncertain terms, my opinion of Diamond Select Toys’s handling of their three sci-fi action figure lines: Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate. Unfortunately, I can’t say much has changed for any of those DST properties, but geek culture has.
Stargate, then clinging to relevance with only the short-lived Universe on the air, has basically vanished from nerd radar, so it would be unfair to continue lambasting Diamond Select for figure line’s coma.
Battlestar Galactica, long over even a two years ago, retains more reverence and respect from the audience, but it too lives, for the moment, at least, only on DVD and Blu-Ray shelves. Also, in fairness to DST, they did release a (gorgeous) Commander Adama figure to Toys R Us subsequent to my prior blog, which leaves President Laura Roslin and Gaius Baltar the only major series characters unreleased. Indeed, DST’s BSG lined collapsed just short of the finish line. (Psst…Assuming you still have the license, guys, there’s still time for one last push. I said it before, I’ll say it again; SDCC exclusive 2-pack and you can close the book).
Star Trek is another matter. I still believe DST could do more with the license, with The Original Series particularly. But A) That’s not what this blog is about and B) the second J.J. Abrams Trek movie is due next year. Again, assuming Diamond retains the licence, let’s kick the can down the road that far and we’ll revisit this issue round New York Toy Fair 2013.
So, since nothing really changed with the lines I bitched about, why am I now happy with Diamond Select?
Well, it seems like other lines are benefiting from the sci-fi lines’ failure.
I know I was heard the last time out. A little bird told me Diamond Select Toys director Chuck Terceira (DSTChuck in the vernacular) read, and was infuriated by, my blog. Though he didn’t mention it came from me, Chuck later made reference to one of my Star Trek suggestions during a (somewhat ranty) response in one of the company’s monthly Q&As.
Why mention this?
First, no one likes to think they’re shouting into the void so, yes, I was satisfied to learn I’d struck a nerve. Second, and more important, it tells you Chuck pays attention to the subcultural landscape, for which he deserves praise, even two years ago.
So, though I take no credit for what I’m about to discuss, I think it’s important you know my history on this issue.
Some time after my blog, DST announced a new line of figures based on Universal Studios stable of classic monsters. This is a license tackled many times over the years (our own Cantina Dan just highlighted one of the cooler efforts), but Diamond proposed a few new tricks: highly-detailed sculpts (WITH actor likenesses), and deluxe, specialty market releases with elaborate, detailed bases alongside a more basically accessorized line for retail release at Toys R Us. The first three figures, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon, debuted on the pegs Halloween 2010 with DST quick to announce a second wave…
…to be released in one year.
I scoffed at that, at the time; just another way Chuck and company found to squander great figures and a great license. There was no way collector interest would last with that gap between waves. I said as much on the now dearly departed Raving Toy Manic ToyBuzz board.
I was wrong.
By timing the releases at the height of license interest and targeting both causal and serious fans with the tiered accessories, DST has brought two waves of Universal Monsters to market with a third shown at the recent New York Toy Fair. I can’t speak for everyone, but neither of the first two waves lasted long a’tall at my local Toys R I.
DST also did something else very important, but more on that in a bit.
Shortly after Universal Monsters, Diamond Select announced another 7″ scale figure line, this one based on the 1964 sitcom The Munsters.
When the prototype pics hit the usual spots, the figures (as sculpted by the criminally under appreciated Jean St. Jean Studios) were gorgeous. Again, there would be deluxe releases for the specialty market, this time featuring the family’s electric chair as a build-an-accessory.
Still, I wondered, had there ever been nicer figures for a more irrelevant license? After all, there was no discernible nerd clamber for Munsters figures prior to Diamond Select’s announcement. I pre-ordered, largely for my love of Jean St. Jean, but I didn’t think there was any way the line would sell, if it even made it to market at all.
Released alongside the second Universal Monsters wave, Herman, Lily, and Grandpa Munster appeared this past Halloween and, just like their scarier counterparts, quickly disappeared from TRU pegs.
But, whereas Universal Monsters are a set of individual characters under a collective brand, the Munsters are a family. Would we have to wait a year to have ALL the Munsters? Were Marilyn and Eddie even on DST’s radar?
Announced seemingly as the first wave’s sales reports dried, the balance of the Munster clan is indeed on the way. In a convenient 2-pack. This July.
The good news doesn’t end there, though. Diamond Select had another three-figure Munsters wave on display at NYTF (Racing Herman and Grandpa, along with a parasol-toting Lily), complete with the front hall staircase, to possibly feature Spot, proposed as the build-an-accessory.
Will the second wave see release this Halloween? I don’t know, but I’d say signs point to yes.
What signs? We’re getting there.
Leaving the themed release date aside, there are two things that set Universal Monsters and The Munsters apart from DST’s sci-fi action figures lines, risk and trust. After so many trips to the plastic well, Universal Monsters was a bit of risky license. The Munsters was a huge risk, in my opinion, with no real precedent or demand to guide Diamond’s decisions. In the past, the company’s tentative, relapsing/remitting approach torpedoed lines based on far bigger properties but, this time, things were different.
No solicitations followed by a series of delays.
No reliance on customer pre-orders to determine production.
No bait-and-switch, reshuffled assortments.
DST announced the figures, they made the figures, they released the figures, and they sold the figures.
Simple as that.
And it doesn’t hurt, in the case of The Munsters, at least, they’re terrific figures. The electric chair won Michael Crawford’s Poppy award for Best BAF. I don’t recall if Grandpa was on the ballot, but I’d offer him up as one of the best, if not the best, figures in the scale for 2011. The sculpt and likeness are not only great, he comes with an absurdly generous array of awesome accessories.
So good are these Munster figures, they inspired me to get the Complete Series DVD box set, which I’m making my way through now. Hadn’t seen the show since I was little, when I loved it, and I have to say, even now, it’s a fun, funny show, particularly since, as an adult, I can pick up on all the little set details and layers of humor and characterization. It’s a deeper show than you’d think, or remember, folks. Anyway, Jean St. Jean put a lot of love into these figures, and DST, and indeed my old buddy Chuck, deserve a lot of credit for making it happen and seeing it through.
To me, that’s the takeaway here. Great things can still happen in this hobby when a company risks enough to make great toys and trusts enough let us buy them.
Keep it up, Diamond Select. I’d love to see more.