Chuck You: Why I've Had It With Diamond Select Toys
February 23, 2010

Before we begin, let me say, unequivocally, this post is born of my selfish desire to have the action figures I want based on properties I love.

And I am not alone.

I had two posts planned regarding Diamond Select Toys.  The first was going to be a fun Top 10 List (who doesn’t love those?) devoted to figures DST could make in order to increase the viability or their Star Trek line, specifically as relates to The Original Series.  

The second was going to be a frustrated, though reasoned, screed about how DST is butchering three beloved sci-fi television action figure lines: Battlestar Galactica, Stargate, and the aforementioned Star Trek.  

That was the plan.

Then I read this in the latest DST Q&A…

"…TRU has decided to cancel their orders for the latest TOS wave of figures. They are not selling enough to support the space but we have agreed to review the line at each of our future meetings to see if they can be brought in again."

…which was followed shortly by this…

"…the chances are the traditional action figure line is on hold for Trek in 2010"

If you know DST, even at all, you know within that statement lie the death of their Star Trek action figure line.

 

Which makes the fun Top 10 post moot.  So, now, you’re just gonna get the screed.

Just a bit of background for the uninitiated.

Diamond Select Toys makes a whole lot of stuff based on a whole lot of stuff.  Among their action figure lines are two they effectively rescued from the previous licensee: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, formally held by the defunct Moore Action Collectibles, and Star Trek, formally held by the since incorporated Art Asylum.  Along the way, DST picked up the rights to action figures for two other science fiction TV gems, Stargate and the 2004 re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, and assigned design duties to Jean St. Jean Studios, who have done not but outstanding work on both properties from the start.

Star Trek.  Battlestar Galactica.  Stargate.  All under one tent.  What could stop them?

Well, DST, apparently.

Let’s get something out of the way right now; I know none of these three properties are the In, Hot, or Now thing.  I know Trek exists by the grace of J.J. Abrams, Galactica is basically over, and Stargate has only the Galactica-like Universe remaining in production, but that’s not a reason or an excuse for the sad state of DST’s lines.

Want a counterargument?  Star Wars.

And before you say a word about epic, monolithic fanbases or marketing genius, let me cut you off at the pass…

If Hasbro ran Star Wars the way DST’s run Trek, BSG, and Stargate, it’d be in the same sorry condition.

Let’s look at the individual problems first.

Stargate

I’m rather tempted to give DST a pass on Stargate, maybe even a pat on the back.  They’ve managed to release four series of figures based on the original SG-1 series, with the first bowing in 2006, almost ten years after the show went on the air.  Also on the market are three series of figures based on the first spin-off, Stargate: Atlantis.  Between these releases, most of the essential characters of both shows (most, I say) have been made and, in general, the rational fan in me says we should be happy nerds when it comes to this collection.
 
But then DST announced SG-1 Series 5 and things went bad.
 
More on that in a bit.

Battlestar Galactica

The main issues with this line lie in the overarching mistakes DST makes, so I’ll save my complaints for a bit later on, but there is one thing I’d like to address and it is both symptomatic of, and feeds directly into, the reason DST’s sci-fi lines are all but dead by their hands…

I can look to the left at my desk here and see 14 DST Battlestar Galactica figures on one of my shelves.  I love them all.

None of them is William Adama.

Star Trek

I’m going to concentrate on The Original Series here for three reasons.  First, it’s my favorite, by far, of the Star Trek series.  Second, it remains the most popular, and marketable, of the Star Trek series.  Third, DST has done a decent job of getting at least the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation out there in figure form.

As we’re all well aware, Playmates did a fairly exhaustive line of Star Trek action figures, spanning all applicable series, spread out over most of the 90s.  That being the case, DST had their work cut for them when it came to producing figures of characters, or variants of main characters, not already produced by Playmates.  However, luckily for them, there were some glaring holes in Playmates’s Original Series range, in particular, so DST, and Art Asylum before them, had some golden opportunities laid out for them.

They’ve taken almost none of them.

To Art Asylum’s credit, they did recognize some opportunities.  I’ll be forever thankful for my full set of red movie uniform figures.  That was AA recognizing Playmates only ever released Kirk, Scotty, Chekov, and Saavik in that attire.  AA/DST even went the extra mile and released a figure of the ill-fated Captain Clark Terrell of the starship Reliant.  Playmates never did that. 

So, there were some bright spots.  But then DST signed a deal to bring their Original Series figures to TRU pegs…

 …and things went bad.

Remember that Top 10 list I mentioned earlier?  Here it is, minus all the nice, blog-friendly pics I spent an hour finding.  They are in order of how badly I desired them, most first…

1. Gary Seven

2. Comdr. Matt Decker

3. Lt. Kyle

4. Romulan Commander from “Balance of Terror”

5. Lt. Jose Tyler

6. Number One

7. Sarek

8. Montgomery Scott from “Where No Man Has Gone Before”

9. Gary Mitchell

10. Dr. Richard Daystrom

…with an honorable mention to Commissioner Bele and Capt. John Christopher.
 
Undoubtedly, your list would have differed, maybe even been totally different, from mine; that was going to be the fun of the post, but there’s one thing undisputed about my list: with one exception, which made sense with what we were told DST planned, none of the figures listed above were made by Playmates.
 
Another advantage to my list is cost.  Fully half of the figures listed above could be achieved with new heads on existing bodies.  DST is known to have had Art Asylum sculpt one of the others.  Three of remaining four could have been packaged with existing figures (Sarek w/Spock, Number One w/Pike, and Daystrom w/ Kirk, off the top of my head) to allay costs; I’m confident collectors would have rewarded the effort with their wallets, and Gary Seven would have made a great SDCC exclusive.  But, alas, DST never dar

ed to dream beyond what had already been done, turning to whipping boys like The Economy as the reason for their failure.

The truth is, when it comes to Star Trek TOS, DST has done little but flood TRU pegs and etailer pre-order pages with Kirk and Spock variants, most of which Playmates handled previously, and rehashes of figures Art Asylum managed to bring to market without their help. 

One notable exception is the TRU exclusive Series 3 Klingon Captain Kang.  He’d never been made in his TOS look by Playmates or Art Asylum.  In fact, all DST had to do to create the Kang figure was slap a new head on an existing body (sound familiar?).  It was truly, or at least basically, a new TOS figure from DST.

How many times did you ever see him on the pegs at TRU?

Exactly.

I’m not saying you can maintain a Star Trek: TOS action figure line by leading with Gary Seven, Lt. Kyle, and Gary Mitchell; of course you need Kirk and Spock in there.  But, as DST has now proven, you can’t have not but Kirk and Spock, particularly those already done by another company, and expect to build a McDuckian money bin for your profits, either.

I have a Kirk in Dress Uniform figure from DST for just one reason: it was packaged with a Khan figure that had never been done before by anyone.

There were ways to make this work.

But that’s the other problem…

When is a Pre-Order Not a Pre-Order?

Imagine, if you will, a world in which, in order to get the DC Universe Classics figures you want from Mattel, you have to pre-order them, sight unseen aside from a few hastily cobbled proto pics, and hope enough of your fellows do the same lest the figures in question are never put into production.  Imagine how you’d feel if, after you made said pre-orders well before the appointed release date, the figures in question were delayed…and delayed…and delayed, while Mattel told you not enough of your fellows were making their pre-orders to be able to put the figures into production in the first place, though they’d been announced as upcoming releases.  Then imagine Mattel turned around and equated what I just described as "retailer pre-orders," and blamed those retailers, and the market for DC Universe Classics in general, for their inability to put the figures they announced and you pre-ordered, in some cases over a year prior, into production, much less in your hands.
 
And you think MattyCollector.com sucks.
 
Most unfortunately, and I would say amazingly, the above is exactly how DST runs their sci-fi lines.
 
Or, rather, how their sci-fi lines don’t run. 

There are currently twelve Star Trek: TOS figures (a thirteenth was officially canceled), five Stargate SG-1 figures, and five Battlestar Galactica figures sitting in this very specific form of limbo DST has (mis)managed to create.  I know this because all I needed to do to find out was go to BBTS.com, sign in, and click on "View Preorders."  There they all are, little pictures on a screen; likely as close as I’ll even get to them because, for some reason, DST simultaneously feels the suggestion of a figure is sufficient reason to buy it, but a guaranteed, faith-based sale is not reason enough to make it. 

Among the Stargate SG-1 abortions is General George Hammond, a character fans have wanted in figure form for years.  Essentially the King Randor of SG-1, Hammond is the key supporting character on the show.  As an SG-1 fan, it hurts to be so close to a figure of this beloved character, and yet so very far away from ever having it.

Battlestar Galactica fares even worse for, among its figures in suspended animation is and the above-named Commander William Adama, the star of the frakkin’ show, who’s been dangled in front of us three times (I know DST’s promised the revamped Series 4 for March but…seriously?) with no release in sight.  This is to say nothing of Colonial President Laura Roslin, who was removed from the original Series 4 and never seen or false promised again.  These are the stars of the show.  I know they’re not action heroes, but this is a collector’s line.

2-pack.  BBTS exclusive.  Can I be the only one whose thought it?

Can I be the only one whose thought any of it…

Some people won’t buy things unless they can see them.

Some people can’t afford to have their money tied up for months in something that may never come.

A retailer pre-order is not a customer pre-order.

Are these really things I need to say?

Is this thing on…?

I surely won’t be alone when I say my anger and frustration is born of passion.  I love these shows and I love these figures; DST, and especially Jean St. Jean Studios, has done a great job with what they’ve managed to release. 

But I’m sick and tired and sitting here and reading Q&A after Q&A full of contradictory, counterproductive, tripe about markets and retailer support when DST has set up a system, seemingly almost intentionally, by which customers are taught to have no faith in anything the company says…but are expected to support all product in full lest they themselves be blamed for the lack of promised product.  Add to that the inept handling of what mass retailer space they do have (I didn’t even mention the unmitigated Bait and Switch that was BSG TRU Series 4) and Diamond Select Toys has become a joke whose only saving grace is not having the privilege of fecklessly bungling properties more people care about.

But that’s no excuse, DST. 

Get your shit together. 

You’re ruining my hobby.

Jason "JJJason" Chirevas
Jason Chirevas is a toy collector whether he likes it or not (and he often doesn't). This former Would've-Been Action Hero is as interested in the humanity, psychology, and psychosis of collecting as he is in the action figures themselves. Fun guy.
Read other articles by Jason "JJJason" Chirevas.

 

 

 

10 Comments »

  • Lightso says:

    With all the attention on Mattel’s screw-ups these days it’s nice to have someone bring up the catastrophe that is DST. When I see NECA releasing movie figures from fringe properties successfully, it’s mindboggling to imagine how the three largest sci-fi properties out there fizzles out.
    My instincts tell me DST sucked their investment capital dry, and thought they could float through the year cutting corners. Why in the world would they not devote actual new tooling to their Star Trek line if they had TRU on board? Retail is the big time and they blew it by releasing collector-priced figures collectors already had. Star Trek was one of the biggest movies of 2009 but perhaps Playmates stole their thunder? As cool as the movie was, any 12 year-old would tell you they’d rather have that Clone Wars figure than Sylar in blue T-shirt. And any collector could see from the other end of the aisle that Playmates quality is nonexistant. It will be interesting to see what happens with Trek 2. Playmates must have lost big time.
    It’s a shame that DST quality is priced nearly beyond reach for retail as they would have been a better alternative. And so….even though DST’s figures are some of the best out there (thanks to Art Asylum and Jean St.Jean) I’m afraid they are no more. Damn shame too, as I’d been chiding for a Gen. Hammond, Apophus, Sarek and Andorian figure for years.

  • aguardiandevil says:

    SISKO AND DUKAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! times 10! by all rights DST should be gone like palisades. but I think what keeps them afloat is the marvel select line.

  • chad says:

    the only line i have ever bought from DSt is Marvel select for never got into stargete and the new version of battle star galactic pass mostly because of no rosilyn or amada. the leads not getting figures is wrong. as for star trek bought most of what play mates and art asylum put out so dst i do not touch though think they need to get their act together or let some other company have the properties and do them right for fans.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    I waited for about a year to get my Kang figure before my preorder was cancelled. I eventually gave up on the wave with Kirk, Rand, Chapel, surgical Bones and the Salt Vampire. BBTS kept delaying it and I realized it just wasn’t worth the frustration. One less company for my wallet to worry about.

  • Will says:

    I love the Galactica figures that I have. Would have loved them more if they’d all come out the first year DST owned the license. Two years for a Boomer figure? I cannot forgive DST for only releasing a handful of figures each year, even when they were aware that an end-date for the series was approaching.

    It is as if they’re deaf to all the angels on their shoulders who are shouting at them to strike while the time is most opportune. Instead, they wait, and wait, and wait some more (as detailed in your “When is a Pre-Order Not a Pre-Order?” section), until demand has faded and fans are angry — and then they get hurt that fans are angry.

    They’ve managed to make their business techniques dramatically overshadow the quality of their action figures. Why? Why do they do this to themselves?

  • FatLeeAdama says:

    AMEN! to this article! I remember being a collector of Palisades’s Muppets figures. After the line was killed doing figures from a movie and TV series (“Muppet Treausre Island” and “Muppets Tonnight”) from which no one wanted figures even when they were out in the public’s eye, let alone ten years after, Palisades was STILL giving us false hope of Veterinarian’s Hospital and Sesame Street figures which were “still in the works” and it all depended on us collectors placing pre-orders and demanding them from brick and mortar stores like TRU.

    DST also seems to have pulled a page from Palisades’s handbook: Don’t put your heavy hitters out in Series One. Instead push them back and make minor characters; collectors will buy them in anticipation of getting the main stars. Of course we all know what happened to Palisades. Lesson to DST: Don’t take business plans from an out of business company!

    What happened to the old days of the most wanted characters being the first made and getting a collector hooked on buying the rest? Adama and Roslin should have been Series 1, Lee and Kara Series 2, Tigh and Baltar Series 3, and so on. I’ll never understand why a minor character like Helo (supposedly a fan favorite) got two figures in the lines first two series! And did we really need that “Razor” sub-series?

    Now, we’re stuck with several toy lines which will probably never be completed, considering DST’s showing at Toy Fair and their comments in Q&A. I think it may already be too late for DST to learn that lesson.

  • NoisyDvL5 says:

    General Hammond… Sigh.

    I’m a big Trek fan too, but short of the movie uniforms DST never got me.

    But not having General Hammond blows. I put him in my Most Requested Figures article, but I know it’s pointless. It’s really irritating.

  • Hourman says:

    I’m in complete agreement with the author.

  • UncleMarsellus says:

    I had the Enterprise D on preorder for a year and 2 months before I finally received it. Beyond the typical quality control problems that always plague DST merchandise now (on one of the ships, the D was almost completely scraped off the registry), they had that mistake where someone forgot to paint in the windows on the neck. To their credit, DST offered to send us decals for the neck for free if we sent in a SASE. I did that in November. Still haven’t seen it. The toy itself is very nice. If not for the issues it’d be an all-timer for them. But they always find ways to shoot themselves in the foot.

    I’ve since sold the ship. I’ll stick to higher-end models from eFX or QMX from now on.

  • SadSap says:

    I have been a sad sap sticking up for DST for a little too long. The case made here is too strong to argue against. I too have been let down again and again by this long series of bait and switch type pre-orders. Really they aren’t even bait and switch as far too often they are just bait and poof.

    Bought a BSG Minimate Viper from TRU and it wouldn’t even assemble correctly – after years of seeing these being dangled before our eyes and when I finally get it – I can’t even put the top fin on. I contacted them about it and to be honest, I don’t think anyone cared since they got the sale.

    All the bungling of the other toy lines is plain to see. I am just afraid no one there will get it and things will continue as they have been. Our only hope is someone at the parent company Diamond Comics will hear our pleas and demand some change.

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