JLU…and the Bold? One Collectors Suggestion.
January 23, 2010

I know it’s going to be controversial blog and idea to some, but I think Mattel should merge the Justice League Unlimited and Batman the Brave and the Bold action figure lines.

As I sit here, still in my pajamas on a sunny Southern California morning watching the latest episode from Batman the Brave and the Bold I can’t help but want figures of these characters, but I want them in an adult collector setting and design.   I don’t need plug and play accessories or fractal tech gear or any of that other nonsense.   I just want accurate representations of these characters with accessories that make sense.   Ideally I’d LOVE to have them in a scale that works with some of my other DC animated figures, instead of starting over with an all new scale that fits with nothing.    I’ve dabbled a bit in the current Brave and the Bold line, picking up a few characters here and there.   I have yet to open any of them because they don’t fit in with anything else.   

Then I think about my Justice League Unlimited collection.   I love that line.  I’ve been in it from the beginning and was the first person to post pictures of the figures on the Internet.   This line, despite it’s flaws, will always have a special place in my heart and on my shelves.   But, it’s no secret that the line has struggled in the past 2 year.   The JLU line was set to end with the Grodd Target 6-pack, but like "The Little Engine that Could" these figure keep resurrecting and giving us more JLU plastic goodness.   This blog is just me spit balling and brainstorming  on a Saturday morning, so I might not have all the kinks worked out yet.   I’m just going to put my thoughts down and you guys tell me what you think.

Mattel still views the Brave and the Bold line as a "kids" line, so much so that it’s not even managed by the Boys Action Play team that handles all of the rest of Mattel’s DC properties.  Justice League Unlimited has been a hard sell for years because of a lack of media tie-ins. The B&B line is sold by every major retailer.  JLU is a Target exclusive line.

The Batman Brave and the Bold TV show started off a little stumbly and direction-less as have almost all of the DC animated properties, but has morphed with the help of actual DC Comic writers and previous DC animated property staff into a love letter to classic DC stories and characters.   It’s a great show that is steadily building it’s own universe and continuity.   Brave and the Bold is starting to take on some multi-episode story-lines and their range of characters is only surpassed by JLU.

 Justice League Unlimited is back on Cartoon Network now in reruns, but hasn’t had a first run episode in years.   The DVD sales have done well for Warner Brothers, but the show in it’s original airing was so all over the place was almost impossible to follow.   The final  two seasons featured brilliant story telling and a shining example of how well the DC Universe works in animation.

I think if Mattel started making Batman the Brave and the Bold figures in the same scale as JLU without the "plug in accessory" holes it would really breath new life into BOTH franchises and would open up a whole new roster of characters for us to put on our JLU shelves.   Characters like: Guy Gardner, Mera, Speedy, Aqualad, Ra’ Ah Ghul, Killer Moth, The Challengers of the Unknown and Detective Chip.   It would also get us some key characters in other eras of costumes, and could finally get us a real Hal Jordan with a mask.

We’re already getting some fun and interesting characters in the Brave and the Bold line like the Metal Men  and Black Manta, characters not seen in JLU.  But if the line remains as a "kids property" we will never see the depth of characters put into the line that the show deserves.   We’ve been told not to expect females in the line and anytime a question about Brave and the Bold comes up in the monthly Mattel Q&A’s we are always told that "Brave and the Bold is a kids line.  If Collectors want DC characters bases on DC animation then Justice League Unlimited is the line for them."   Does it REALLY have to be that way?   is there something in the contract that makes them have to be separate?   Is it "that’s just the way it’s always been" thinking holding the line back?

Here’s how I think it can work.   

Separate but similar lines.   We’ve already seen a version of this in action with the similar packaging, but different product both from Mattel in the DCUniverse lines (JLU and Infinite Heroes) and with Hasbro and their Star Wars lines (Legacy, Droid Factory and Clone Wars)   Both  of these examples allow for different styles, but similar product.  Clearly the Star Wars example work as a better example of this than trying to match JLU and Infinite Heroes, but I think you get the concept.   These lines can run along side each other and leverage off of each other to improve the overall health and longevity of both.

You still would need to work on the packaging concept as anyone that has found JLU mixed in with Infinite Heroes or Clone Wars mixed in with Droid Factory figures can tell you.  The people stocking the shelves can’t tell the difference in subtle packaging.   You could do a similar card design, but with a different colored backer for instance.   There just has to be some blatant differance between the cards because just changing the chip or strip at the top doesn’t work.

Of course there will be some other kinks to work out as well.  I know some fans of both properties will be protective of each shows style and not want to mix then on shelves, but it wouldn’t bother me a bit.  
If need be Mattel can keep the 5" kids line running separately, but at this point they are really missing out on capturing a lot more DC fans by embracing Brave and the Bold as an additional collectors line.   It’s like they are leaving a suitcase full of money on the sidewalk and walking away from it.

So what do you all think?   Am I crazy?  A genius?   Somewhere in-between?   Tell me what you guys think!

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.
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23 Comments »

  • Jason Jason Geyer says:

    Excellent idea, but I would add the suggestion to ditch the execrable Infinite Heroes all together and take their place with a 3 3/4″ B&B line that keeps the design but has at least 9 points of articulation.

    All new sculpting only, though. Stop with all the new head and paint deco only figures.

  • JoeAce says:

    Let me see if I can picture your idea. Batman: Brave and the Bold styled figures but done in the JLU scale and without the hex holes. The new body style will mean that they can stand on their own and the JLU style will be gone for good. Some JLU collectors may not be happy with that idea since the new figures will not match in style even though they are the same height. New female figures in the line would have to be able to stand as well and not be weak ankled. That’s what KILLED JLU for me, the weak ankles.

    Personally, I hope Mattel devotes time into fixing the problems with the new articulation of the DC Infinite Heroes. Maybe keep the new hips and ankles but go back to the old knees?

    I fear that JLU and DC Infinite Heroes may not be around next year unless the reveal at the New York Toy Fair is a huge hit and prices drop at retail.

    • JuliusMarx says:

      Not exactally. I want Brave and the Bold figures in B&B style (without the peg holes) in the JLU scale as a sister line running along side JLU. I still want my JLU figures!

  • Chris says:

    Yes, I totally agree. I wish they would do this.

  • demoncat says:

    your not crazy for i kind of like the idea of jlu and brave and the bold merged for one it would save Mattel time and money since jlu seems to not be doing so hot. though mattel has stated brave and the bold is just for kids.so merging the two lines could cause adults to wind up competing with kids to get the characters secondly though the idea is good certain characters that appeared on jlu have not been cleared for brave and the bold and due to their behavior in the comics Dc and warner like with Lobo would say no to them being on brave and the bold and figures . plus that would get around the no females in the line espically with wonder woman cleared to appear on brave and the bold.

  • Jeff Cope Jeff Cope says:

    Even though I don’t collect JLU, I support this. I probably would pick up some Brave & the Bold figures, but I really dislike the plug holes. If they were done in JLU scale and w/o plug holes I would certainly pick up characters here and there.

  • toyenthusiast says:

    “The Brave and the Bald”

  • H-Balm says:

    So, I can’t tell… do you want the “new” creation to be sized like B&B or JLU?

    You might have a good point, I thought all those Star Wars were the same “line”. I never noticed they were different.

  • Ryan Boverhuis says:

    great
    finally someone could illistrate something that might work for me a collector that has complainded about the JLU line on matty’s facebook that they no longer let me write post! and it would work for the company.
    i’ve been so made at mattel for the last year for making it increadably imossible to get the figures in my area (the nearest target is an 1/2 hour away and never stocked) that i want and not mention the Hal drama.
    but like an idiot i still have a panic attack about mattys online figures!
    i bought shazam, green lantern, batman’s bad guys and legion; all great figures that i enjoy! and i hate the fact that i miss out on the doom pack.
    but anyway your idea sounds like it would work and i got to tell ya that its been easyer for me to find superpowers and batman figures of the same scale than to find the rare JLU figures and ive been also playing withe the toybiz dc heros with my JLU figs.
    great idea, so what now with your idea?

  • jzachery says:

    I was recently going to post something similar but couldn’t quite articulate it.
    To me, JLU is no longer Justice League Unlimited, it’s more DC Animated Universe (Inclusive of JLU, BTAS, STAS, Batman Beyond, Superfriends, Titans, Legion of SH, DCU Proper, etc) I think it would make sense to have a Brave and the Bold line done in the JLU style, or at least compatible in scale and not so extreme in style as the current B&B figures.
    I would love the versions of Green Arrow, Robin, Catwoman, Huntress, etc that they are showing. Not to mention they are showing a ton of characters that I’d love to see as figures, Crazy Quilt, Aqualad, Katana, etc. Mattel has already said that since it’s a kids line they probably won’t even release the females, so why not put some of these alternate versions in the JLU line? They’re totally classic and I’m all for it!!! Great blog Julius, you’re not crazy:)

  • Shellhead says:

    Forget both of these lines and devote the resources to more DCUC!!! Sorry, never saw the appeal of JLU or BandB. Other than the Aquaman figures (my favorite DCer), I’ve never bought any of them.

  • Brainlock says:

    You want a line that mixes the best of JLU and B&B?
    We already had it: The Batman.
    and when that line started expanding it’s roster beyond umpteen Bat-variants and the occasional villain, it got canned for B&B.
    (That’s right, I still want my TB Lex, GA, QC Clark, Sinestro, Guy, Lucius, non-execdrin headed Robin/Dick Grayson, Shadow Thief, et cetera! even a Lois!)

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    I’m for combining both lines but would go with Jason’s idea of incorporating the newer Infinite Heroes articulation rather than the older and more static JLU designs. The chunkier look of the TB&TB characters is also better suited for this kind of approach.

  • ActionJon says:

    I agree with your points, and I found it interesting that if even an action figure enthusiast doesn’t quite tell the subtle differences between some packages, what would a simple employee notice? They always bundle everything together, it’s not their fault anyway, there should be some kind of sticker like you said to make it more visible and distinct.

    On other accounts, this is the kind of advise coming from the consumer that companies sometimes pay thousands in consulting or just a lot of time spent internally discussing… executives with executives.

  • darrell frazier says:

    I actually like the Brave and the Bold figures. They stand up well, they display well together, and they are reasonably priced. I have all of the heroes from the line, and hope they keep making them. My biggest gripe is that by labeling them as a kids line, there is no promotion on the toy website, no news, no display of upcoming figures, nada. I just saw the weird new Solomon Grundy zombie gangster figure on a peg, and had never heard anything about it. I think Mattel decides what they think a collector has a right to collect and then they promote accordingly. The same is true of the amazing new Green Lantern jet from the Imaginext line. That thing is cool with it’s little 2 inch tall Hal Jordon, but had you ever heard about it ANYWHERE? No. We try to support Mattel’s product, but they don’t do a lot to encourage fans.

  • R2FU says:

    JLU is dead at retail – the 6 packs are still gathering dust at the old Target left over clearance aisle. Brave and the Bold is geared to kids, and is sold out at all my local Toys R Us stores and Target stores. I have actually seen kids run up and ask their Mom to buy the Batman figures. My neices and nephews love the snap on gear for the figures and vehicles and spend quite a bit of time playing with these.

    The collector oriented line is DC Universe so exposure of the TV Show featured characters should work their way into the DC Universe line. For those adults who wish to collect more Batman Brave and the Bold, another NEW line of figures would be nice, however in this Recession I think you would run the risk of oversaturating the Retail market with Batman Brave and the Bold products. Why not offer a highly detailed BATB style line of figures direct through Matty Collector or have Diamond/Previews offer a monthly assortment of Mattel figures.

    I agree with you Julius that a new line of Brave and the Bold product would be nice, however don’t kill the kids line.

  • Emerald says:

    The industry still hasn’t come to realize that if a toy is cool enough, a collector will collect it. Being “for kids” or having “collector” printed on the package means nothing really.
    The BATB figures have started to claim the DC portion of the toy aisle more and more and truly JLU’s presence seems obligatory. Having a DC Animated line could encompass not just JLU and BATB but any DC Animated movie vehicle Warner Bros. wants to promote as well, such as the upcoming DC Showcase animations (ala Spectre, public enemies, crisis, etc.)
    Infinite Heroes is a line going no where. It seemed rushed to stores just to gain shelf space before Marvel Universe could one-up them. Problem being, that because of the lack in quality, Infinite Heroes was dead on arrival. I always thought IH & JLU should have merged as neither has legs to stand on much by themselves. One DC Universe Animated line under one SKU seems the only logical choice. Thanks for blogging this.

  • Jeremy SpyMagician says:

    Great blog boss!

    I would totally support one consistent Animated DCU line. I’m done with JLU, but do buy the occasional B&TB figure (Metal Men mainly so far). If the lines were merged, taking the best of both (the character selection of JLU combined with the better balance and construction of B&TB) it would draw me back in. Ditch the pegs but keep the accessories. Make sure characters have appropriate accessories when necessary and add a gimmicked one that kids can play with but collectors can discard if so inclined (much like the GI Joe Movie line).

    Mattel’s DC product is currently splintered into too many formats and scales. With 12″ Movie Masters, 8″ Retro Action, 7″ DCUC, 6″ Movie Masters, 5″ B&TB, 4″ JLU, 3 3/4″ IH, and 2″ Action League, Mattel is asking to much of the DC collector.

    Each scale has it’s pros and cons, but the biggest redundancy has to be among B&TB, JLU and IH. The first is a so called “kid’s line” the second a “collectors” line and the last is, well a struggling line at best.

    I think one smaller scale covering a variety of formats and styles would work great. Just like what Hasbro has done with the 3 3/4″ scale for it’s Marvel Movie, Comic and TV properties. Sure, the Marvel Universe figures have more articulation, while the animated figures are gimmick laden.

    But the key is one consistent scale. All those 3 3/4″ lines work together (hell, they even sort of work with Star Wars and GI Joe!).

    Mattel needs to get focused on their DC lines. And as JM outlined, a great place to start would be with the Animated properties and smaller scale figures.

    Spy

  • KingYuk says:

    Personally, I would like DC Direct to step up and create the Brave and the Bold line targeted at the adult collector. There’s a large amount of adults who want B&B figures that look like the cartoon and the line aimed at kids is doing too good for Mattel to screw with it. DC Direct is the best solution. And since it will be focusing on the adults, it won’t compete with the Mattel line.

  • CantinaDan says:

    Being one of those JLU “style” snobs I’d pass on mixing a new B&B line in with my JLU display, but I can be kinda picky. The only time I mixed was a short period when I displayed the old BTAS Clayface with my JLUs. I think if that proposed B&B line did happen it’d be more like starting a whole new thing for me (which, after all these years of JLU, I’d probably resist). But, then again, I’m not as big a DC fanatic as others. I say all this now, but if it did happen the real test would be that first time I actually saw them hanging on the pegs!
    Regardless, its an interesting idea and regardless of whether or not I personally get sucked in I do love checking out all the new characters that get made in the different lines!

  • NoisyDvL5 says:

    Great blog post!

    I’d be up for it. I’ve yet to buy any of the Brave/Bold figures, but I’ve wanted. They just don’t go with anything.

    Plus, I think bringing Brave & the Bold into the DC house would be good for it regardless.

  • Wrote about this a while back. The bottom line is Mattel has no interest in doing this. If they can’t even commit to releasing normal B&TB figures without holes all over them, I can’t expect they’ll do this. I also think that B&TB is dead at retail anyway. The 5 inch line is dropping prices daily, it’s never stocked at any store I go to and the figures that are on the shelvs don’t move. Then again, it’s mostly just Batman anyway. However the Action League stuff is taking over the aisle. So B&TB will live on, but I think the 5 Inch line is just about done.

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