JLU Fans are Loud, but not Numerous
May 25, 2010

From the AFi Mattel Interview: [i]"JLU fans tend to be louder rather than numerous"[/i].

I think Mattel failed to take into account a number of issues in terms of setting up their on line sales for JLU product.

1. Fans are MAD that they have been unable for years to find figures shown at SDCC or Toy Fair.  Mattel continues to pump out figures for retail which I have NEVER seen.  Even now, of the more recent figures, I have seen only Firestorm*.  Mattel, I am MAD that you have not fixed this.  You say it is a Target issue.  Hasbro has no trouble keeping their lines on the shelf.

2. Fans put up with the limited to zero new tooling because we know this is a budget line.  That means it should be available at a budget cost at retail.  The 3 packs are now 15$.  I would not mind that except to get them I would have to buy them from someone else and pay shipping ON TOP OF that.  I bought Firestorm for 9$.  But does Mattel think I should have to pay 9$ plus shipping for Aquaman, Barda, and Deadshot?  Does Mattel think I should pay extra to solve the problem that they cannot get product to my store?

3. Loud – Yes.  I started  JLU polls specifically because Mattel’s offerings at SDCC 2006 made no sense in terms of what I, personally, as a fan of the show and the DCU, wanted to see in the line.  I collected the top wants of other fans, over a hundred (126) of them to give Mattel a sense of what a group of fans wanted, not just one.  Boy Wonder’s team responded by giving us Hawkman, Mr. Miracle, Fire, Ice, etc.  Subsequent polls have been smaller (75) and larger (144).  Toy Guru’s team has given us adult Supergirl, Cheetah, Mr. Terrific, Capt Atom, Question, Batman Beyond, etc.  I’m not sure which team we have to thank for Solomon Grundy and Grodd, but I am grateful. I think the polls have helped.

4. The 3-pack problem.  Mattel still thinks we should buy 3-packs with only 1 new character which tick off collectors. At the same time, they put out packs with 3 new characters, which we go crazy for.  If they balanced this out, by moving one new character from the 3 new to the 1 new, putting 2 new in each 3-pack, they would silence this complaint without actually changing what was produced.  Please forget about forcing the characters into themes and instead balance the new characters across the 3-packs.

5. Online in general.  I just see the whole online offering as a failure of the line in general.  Mattel may see it as an alternative, but I just see it as them asking me to jump through more hoops to complete my collection.  I want to be able to walk into the store and buy a figure when I stop in to do the rest of my shopping.  After not being able to find so many at retail, unless the character is "key" to my collection, why should I bother?

6. The online experience.  I was not interested in the Batman villains.  (I had expressed on this very site that I felt the Hasbro versions were adequate.  The one new character looked like a civilian.)  I went on line, to order the Legion set.  When I got there, they did not accept PayPal.  I heard there were ‘issues’ with Paypal in earlier months, but it seemed to me they had had plenty of time to solve this.  Paypal is THE accepted method of making transactions on line.  To not offer it is to be an online dinosaur.  I cancelled out of ordering, went off to figure out which credit card I was going to use, got distracted and never went back.

7. The online horror stories.  Every month.  Pages and pages of people complaining about the experience of buying from Matty.com.  We are customers, or in my case, a potential customer.  Yet all I see is bad experiences.  Unable to buy product that they want.  Yes, it was product other than JLU.  But to have discontented customers month after month after month is just bad business.  I know if someone related to me goes to a restaurant and has bad service, we never go back.  And I mean the whole clan.  The extended family.  I will not reward bad service with my business.  Its just wrong.

List of JLU figures not seen at retail by me as of 5/15/2010.
=============================================================
Volcana, Deadshot, Barda.
Justice League 6 pack (Vibe, Steel, Deadman, etc)
Villain 6 pack (Atomic Skull, Key, Shadow Thief, etc)
Thanagar 6 pack (Hro Talok, etc)
Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne, Warhawk.
Cheetah, Lex in orange.
Cyborg.
Captain Boomerang, Captain Cold.
Metallo, Banshee.
classic Aquaman, (Deadshot, Barda).
.

I say it again.  Get the product to retail.  Package it right.  And I will buy it.

Singles of new characters, or ones I was unable to find before – I will buy them.  Put 2 new characters into the 3 packs, or 1 new and 1 could not find before, and I will buy them.  But do not blame me for poor retail sales when the product is not there.  And do not expect me to care about on line product when I cannot get the product that is supposed to be available at retail.

*EDIT / UPDATE – I wrote this after Part I of the JLU Mattel interview was up, but I waited until part II to publish to see if it changed my points.  Between then and now, I found the most recent set of singles including Plastic Man.  This is bittersweet as I am glad to finally have him, but at the same time it probably means I will never see Aquaman, or the re-releases of Barda and Deadshot.

Erik "Superfriend" Skov
"Gathered together from the four corners of the universe." Oh, wait, that's the show, not me. Erik "SuperFriend" Skov never actually got to appear on the show, although he did watch it every week. Erik spent 6 years working for Hasbro in Pawtucket, RI before leaving for a job that paid more (Why else would a collector leave the company that was making Star Wars, Transformers, and while I was there Batman). I used to post all over the net. These days I tend to hang my hat at AFI.
Read other articles by Erik "Superfriend" Skov.

 

 

 

32 Comments »

  • Casimir says:

    Well said, sir. A concise list of legitimate arguments.

  • Chip Cataldo says:

    Great blog, my friend. You make the points we all want to see addressed.

  • MisterPL says:

    So glad I stopped collecting this line years ago. It got more frustrating than fun early on for me. I felt almost driven away by Mattel’s antics– I mean “business model.”

    More DC Minimates, please.

  • demoncat says:

    could not agree with your article more. in fact the points could also apply to dcu classics also for like jlu most of the figures have become hard to find or unseen. Mattel should relize that if they do not make changes to the way they are releasing their lines soon they will wind up with no business from collectors at all. though the bad part then the lines will wind up dead. even motu . for Mattel like other toy companies now the lines only bring in money if the consumer is buying no buying line dies.

  • Duffman says:

    I find it rather ironic that in Northern California the Heroes 6 pack and Villains 6 pack were sitting on the shelves for months before being placed in the clearance section. MONTHS. At the same time the new Thanagar and Eclipso 6-packs went straight into clearance(I never saw the Thanagar set and did purchase it from Target.com + shipping). I had to buy the Aquaman online as I never saw him either and I was not happy about that. The new 3 packs with Metallo & Silver Banshee, Captain’s Cold Boomerang, Batman TAS reissues, and Weather Wizard & Livewire are at almost all the Targets I do my hunting at, and believe me- I go JLU hunting as soon as I hear a rumor of a new assortment hitting the shelves. Most of the figures my fellow fans complain about I have seen and bought. The problem is that they disappear quick and restocks are almost non existent. I know this may upset some of you but the above 3 packs I got at a clearance price of $9.98 each because they were not in the system.
    What have I not seen?
    Batman Beyond 3 pack
    Cheetah, Prison Lex 3 pack
    Aquaman
    Cyborg 3 pack
    Thanagar 6 pack

    I love this line and plan on collecting it until it’s over. I just wanted to share my hunting experiences with my fellow fans in the rest of the US.

  • darkknight30 says:

    I agree with everything. Your points were solid and your supporting evidence proves your thesis! Is it really that hard to figure out that people will only buy things if they can find them?

  • Lightso says:

    Well, if demand is as low as Mattel says then these should eventually be easy to find. Right?
    Mattel must deliver these figures by foot because of how long it takes for my Target to fill stock. They only ever get one case of anything and it’s usually gone quick. What’s really odd is that it’s one of the few pegs in the aisle that is almost always empty. Most likely they try to order more but Mattel just says “well, uh, gee, uh, we got them I think, but, uh, we can’t send any, cause, uh, there’s no demand…”
    I find more JLU out of Hong Kong than I ever do at a Target.

  • Shellhead says:

    Considering the cartoon has been completed for over 4 years now, I’d say be thankful for ANY JLU figures Mattel still pumps out. You don’t see The Batman, Teen Titans Go, or Legion of Superheroes toys anymore and those shows all ended AFTER JLU (at least, I think TTG was after). If you want them, shell out the money. I don’t collect JLU, but I do collect Aquaman stuff. $20 got me Aquaman with no problem. He’s pretty cool, for a JLU guy. Spend some extra dough if you really want a toy. That’s nothing new. If you aren’t willing to pay more, don’t be surprised if you can’t find what you want, especially if you collect a nitch line like JLU.

    • Erik superfriend says:

      Did they ever make Legion of Super Heroes toys?

      • JuliusMarx says:

        No. LOSH figures were designed but never made. The mass retail were not interested in taking them.

        • Brainlock says:

          McDonalds had the inferior Happy Meal toys for the cartoon, and Matty offered the Legion 4pk which apparently had even worse leg than before. I’m almost glad I passed on that set.
          .
          That price gouging is one thing that holds me back on this line. WHEN I CAN FIND IT. Not just the Matty site cost, but also the Target price increase. As mentioned, these are basically the same handful of bucks with new heads and ON RARE OCCASIONS, we get an extra accessory or two.
          .
          Last JLU I saw in stores? Waller/Eiling and Blackhawk. I grabbed her, passed on him because I just couldn’t justify $15 for ONE new figure. I’m still missing BatBeyond, Cheetah, Thanagar 6pk, and other recent releases from the past year.

  • Veil1 says:

    Erik, shoot me a pm. I’ve got the Aquaman from my collection I’m willing to ship to you at cost. I can tell you are wanting this figure a lot more than I. If you are an opener, I’ll ship cheaper, and cover shipping myself. It’s the least I can do for all the work you put into the polls alone. :)

  • Great White Customs says:

    I Have the Barda, J’onn, Atom, Supes w/Kandor,Braniac,The Captains 3 pack, the Metallo 3 pack and Nightwing/Batgirl/Penguin that you can have at cost…no worries there. Just PM me and they are yours.I’ve contacted several board members who had just gotten them so they are up for grabs.
    I agree with most of what you are saying. I have been very lucky in finding alot of the stuff at retail but not without my share of hoop jumping! If I had a full time job there is NO way I could do it. This is a complete love/hate relationship for me. Love the toys…hate that I can seldom find what I’m looking for.I just got lucky this time.
    It seems at times that Mattel just does not want to bother with the Online orders where Hasbro seems to do just fine. I just dont get it. We may be loud but at least we have money to spend!! I cant help but notice the newer guys are the impossible ones to find (hello Mattel…HINT HINT!!) the three packs with the big 7 anchor plus two new characters…Why did’nt we think of that?? re-releasing an impossible to find figure in a three pack with an anchor and a much wanted new character (Ex. Bats, B’wanna Beast and Circe or Bats, Volcana, Firefly)What a concept!! Six packs we can all find OR better yet…order at Target online or Matty Online …should I go on??

    • mike says:

      I was wondering if u still had the nightwing/penguin /batgirl 3 pack and was wanting to know if you wanted to sell it at cost still…that would be great …do u know anyone that has the plastic man/ cyborg / mr miracle 3 pack as well?

      mike

  • Howard the Duck says:

    SuperFreind…excellent post! Here’s your list of Never Saws, with my experiences listed as well:

    Volcana, Deadshot, Barda…Same here. Never saw it!
    Justice League 6 pack (Vibe, Steel, Deadman, etc) Never even shipped to my region!!!
    Villain 6 pack (Atomic Skull, Key, Shadow Thief, etc) Never shipped here either!!!
    Thanagar 6 pack (Hro Talok, etc)…Found on clearance at one and only one area Target.
    Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne, Warhawk…If you count Burlington Coat Factory, then yes, I saw it.
    Cheetah, Lex in orange. Saw one and only one at one Target, and later at BCF
    Cyborg. Saw it.
    Captain Boomerang, Captain Cold. Saw it once, maybe twice.
    Metallo, Banshee. Saw twice.
    classic Aquaman…Still have never seen!
    (Deadshot, Barda) Seen them both. Deadshot a lot more than Barda.

    Shellhead, quoted above: ‘You don’t see The Batman, Teen Titans Go, or Legion of Superheroes toys anymore and those shows all ended AFTER JLU’

    Well, The Batman sucks in my humble opinion, and collectors aren’t the focus there, thus spoke Mattel. Teen Titans Go toys sucked worse, and the Legion toys never made it into production. JLU can last as long as any current evergreen line if given a chance to develop beyond standard industry perceptions(which I firmly believe are antiquated and exceptionally short-sighted)

  • Hourman says:

    I feel your pain, JLU fans, but let your pain be mitigated by the knowledge that you guys got a lot more DC characters in your line of choice than I ever did in my beloved Super Powers Collection back in the day.

  • red Ricky says:

    Thanks for writing this!

  • GLsector666 says:

    Excellent! Superfriend for President!!! (How are you with oil leaks? :/ )

  • JuliusMarx says:

    My biggest beef with this blog is the thesis that “Hasbro has no trouble keeping their lines on the shelf.”

    I collect the regular Star Wars line (not Clone Wars and not the Legacy reissues) and Marvel Universe and in my area they are IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND.
    I constantly have to rely on other collectors to help me complete waves.

    The sad truth is that unless something is a BIG movie property, then most mass retailers are ordering MINIMUM quantities on most action figure lines. That means they will order the exact MINIMUM amount of figures to get the line/wave manufactured. That means there are fewer to go around. Mattel can force retailers to order MORE figures than they want. They can’t make the appear in stores. They don’t control that pipeline.

    Action Figure/Toy departments are shrinking. Walmart has reduced the number of lines they carry with their redesign. Target has pulled out about 8 feet of double sided plan-o-gram space in the action figure isle for new Bakugan displays. Some lines are going to have to move to an on-line only model or they will just go away.

    To be a collector in 2010 you are going to have to get by with a little help from your friends. This isn’t 1982. Sad, but true.

    • Howard the Duck says:

      Julius, I will grant you the Star Wars caveat. I stopped being a Star Wars completist last year, and I never started collecting the Marvel U line. SW is few and far between, and MU is even less easy to find around me. But…

      I still feel that Hasbro does a far better job of managing case packouts, handling distribution, and, for lack of a better phrase, getting their product out to fans than Mattel does. And I feel that Hasbro actively tries to move mountains to help their retail situations, while Mattel creates mountains with theirs. Forgive me the metaphors:)

      • Lightso says:

        The Star Wars thing, like any, must be regional because I have no problem at all finding them. For one, they’re produced in far, far more numbers and a lot more stores around here offer them.
        JLU is on the flip side in every way, and to get more to the point, fans are loud because JLU is the largest figural representation of the DC Universe so far. Even with DCUC fast approaching I can’t see them covering every obscure character JLU has. Characters like Lashina, Shining Knight, Vibe, the list goes on and on. Granted DCUC has made some very obscure ones even JLU hasn’t covered, which is why in my mind, I can only hope, the little line that could, will get to them too.

    • Erik superfriend says:

      “My biggest beef with this blog is the thesis that “Hasbro has no trouble keeping their lines on the shelf.””
      JM – I must say that I do not collect the lines you are referring to, however, my comment is based upon the fact that every time I am in the toy dept of any store, there are almost always full pegs of Star Wars and Marvel 3.75″ figures and Transformers of several styles. Very often there are 0 figures from at least one of Mattel’s DCUC, Infinite Heroes or JLU lines. Hasbro might not have exactly the figure you want, but they have something. Many times the Mattel pegs are just empty.

  • Sector1014 says:

    I think the whole premise of this blog is off, if we are talking about the “loud but not numerous” comment in relation to online sales (which is what I think was originally meant by it, and which is how you begin the blog). You start off saying that “Mattel failed to take into account a number of issues in terms of setting up their **online sales** for JLU product”, then you discuss the same old (tired but understandable) issues with JLU in terms of **retail** distribution, rising costs, and character selection. But the point of that “loud/not numerous” statement was that there are/were lots of passionate JLU fans who talk about JLU online a lot (or rage about it a lot), but some of those same people don’t/didn’t buy the items offered online. The internet talk didn’t translate into good enough online sales–I don’t ever remember hearing Matty complain about retails sales, so the retail issues don’t matter in relation to the online sales here. When you discuss the online problems, aside from the PayPal issue, you’re basically just saying that (1) you don’t like buying things online, and (2) if you can’t find the retail items you want, you’re gonna just skip the online items that are easy to buy. You are the epitome of the “loud but not buying” JLU fan. If every fan was as hard to please as you, this line would have died long ago.

    Superfriend, for you specifically, you’ve said before that you basically don’t go on toy runs at all–meaning you only look for toys when you go to buy other things/essentials. You might go once every 2 or 3 weeks for example. If that’s true and I don’t have you mixed up with someone else, I doubt your experience is that great of an example for collectibles. Arguably, retailers don’t want it to be that easy to find collectibles anyway.

    • Erik superfriend says:

      Yeah, I kind of wandered a bit. But you hit the nail on the head with your summary. I think buying toys should be as easy as buying movies or music. Product should be easy to find, in adequate quantity, on shelves of major retail outlets for a reasonable period of time.
      .
      Why?
      .
      Because I am in Walmart several times a week already. Its near by. If DCUC was there more reliably, they would sell more. I buy the Brave and Bold line when I am there and else where buying other stuff anyway. I specifically remember buying Iron and Blue Beetle at Walmart, and Batman/Lead at Benny’s while shopping for other stuff. I did make a special trip to Kmart to get Firestorm/Lead. As for JLU, I stop into Target when my travels take me near one.

      • BPearce says:

        “I think buying toys should be as easy as buying movies or music. Product should be easy to find, in adequate quantity, on shelves of major retail outlets for a reasonable period of time.”

        If this were a toy product with more broad appeal, that might be possible. But even then, that’s still a big if.

        That this doesn’t always happen, even with other licensed toys with a more significant presence in stores (and in media), is probably because big retailers just aren’t set up to cater to the needs of collectors when there’s a great deal more money to be made elsewhere.

        (I can think of numerous occasions where I’ve gone to a retailer in search of a particular DVD or book title, and it hasn’t been in stock. Many DVD releases aren’t even carried at traditional retail any more, becuse they just aren’t making enough money to justify the shelf space.)

  • Tony C says:

    If we’re so loud, I wish someone above “Toy Guru” would listen to what we’re all griping about. It’s been the same complaints for years now.
    Bottom line: WWE toys are on shelves. Avatar is on shelves (granted, no one is buying them. Bad example.) As Lightso stated above, the DC pegs sit empty for days, sometimes weeks, at a time. Please don’t tell me Target is not ordering more. The last thing a Big Box wants is empty space. That’s lost income to them.
    Maybe it’s time someone else gets a shot at running the DC division.

  • Dave Ziegler says:

    I was a JLU completist for a looong time, but a couple things finally ended my pursuit: the availability issues you mentioned (the hunt is only fun if you eventually find something), and their product was infuriatingly bad. To wit:
    1. The adult Supergirl’s legs are sooo badly crafted that both feet can’t touch the ground at the same time. And it wasn’t just my package. I went back & looked at all 3 of the Targets in my town, and EVERY SINGLE ONE WAS WARPED. It was appalling.
    2. Their ankles are sooo weak. The first line or two could actually stand up by themselves. After that, forget it. Which leads to #3.
    3. I was ecstatic when Matty offered the JLU stands, so I bought enough for all my figures, plus a few more in anticipation of the line’s continuance. And all those weak ankles left my figures leaning forward (if they stayed on the stands at all). I think it’s a VERY telling sight that Mattel doesn’t even use their own stands when they display their figs @ SDCC and places like that…

    So no more JLU figures for me.

  • Newton says:

    I think you have a few points. I still think the high prices are the biggest issue. Well that and availability. Ever since DCIH came around, it’s been a mess trying to get JLU. I’ve never seen Aquaman, but I don’t know if I’d pay the $9 for him. I really wish Mattel would figure out the kinks with this line, but I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to weave the perfect balance of what they want versus what we need.

  • B Pearce says:

    I can certainly sympathize with the expressions of frustration (I’ve had the same problems in trying to find just the odd figure here and there), but I’d like to know more about the mechanism by which this product is distributed before I start assigning blame for that. How much of this is an issue with Mattel? How much is it a problem with Target, or the individual (or even regional) stores?

    And on this issue of Target: I think people overlook the fact that this is product that’s available from a single retailer, and I’ll bet, in one form or another, that has an effect on virtually every aspect of the line — from character selection to retail price to how these figures are packaged.

    People take issue with price, for instance — but I suspect sales are more modest that they would be if this were product available from three or four large retailers, and that Mattel loses out on some of the economies of scale (even with the simplified design and interchangeable parts).

    People complain that other product, like AVATAR or TRANSFORMERS, are easier to find — how shall I put this? — well, duh. If JUSTICE LEAGUE were supported by a relatively recent very large and heavily-promoted media event, or just something, anything, better than late-night repeats on a channel in the digital cable tier (that most people don’t have) the situation might be different. (Who knows, it might not be exclusive to a single retailer.)

    People complain about how these figures are packaged — maybe that works better for the retailer than for the collector, but I’d be curious to know more about what’s driving those decisions before assuming that everything is Mattel’s fault. Who knows, perhaps this is the price that has to be paid to maintain Target’s interest in carrying the product.

    I’m certain there are aspects of all this that Mattel could be handling better — who knows, as a very, very large toy manufacturer, it’s might be difficult to adopt to producing small quantities of toys and distributing them to a small audience. But I’m equally certain that people often have unrealistic expectations of what a comparatively-limited product line like this will support, and are either unable or unwilling to acknowledge those limits.

  • Booyaboy says:

    Late to the party here but I have two points.

    1. If you want easy to buy and readily available then it doesn’t get any easier than online. Put in your info, click submit and wait for the doorbell to ring. You mentioned Matty.com horror stories but that doesn’t affect a JLU fan at all. You also said they don’t take Paypal…get a prepaid debit card. Pretty simple.

    2. You say you’re only checking Target once every 2-3 weeks. How can you be sure you aren’t missing new product? If you’re collecting a Mattel line in 2010 and you aren’t checking several times a week then you’re probably going to miss it and may never see that wave again. Should it be like that? No, but that’s what we’ve got to work with. If I only checked every 2-3 weeks I would have missed many a new wave that never saw restock. Maybe you did too.

  • J1h15233 says:

    Late to the party here but I have two points.

    1. If you want easy to buy and readily available then it doesn’t get any easier than online. Put in your info, click submit and wait for the doorbell to ring. You mentioned Matty.com horror stories but that doesn’t affect a JLU fan at all. You also said they don’t take Paypal…get a prepaid debit card. Pretty simple.

    2. You say you’re only checking Target once every 2-3 weeks. How can you be sure you aren’t missing new product? If you’re collecting a Mattel line in 2010 and you aren’t checking several times a week then you’re probably going to miss it and may never see that wave again. Should it be like that? No, but that’s what we’ve got to work with. If I only checked every 2-3 weeks I would have missed many a new wave that never saw restock. Maybe you did too.

    • Brainlock says:

      on checking once every 2-3 weeks: that’s how I built my collection and I had very few holes until last year (Volcana being a MAJOR one!). I’ve only had one local target built near me a few years ago, but it’s rare that I find anything there, so I have to drive almost an hour into StL to good “hunting grounds” to find anything. This didn’t bother me too much as my LCS was in that route as well. Now that that comic store has closed/merged with parent store (giving me a choice of stick with the guys I know or choose a “slightly closer” store run by people I don’t know), I have to make a new route. It doesn’t help that working late shift/nights right now, I’m lucky to be up by 1pm so all the good stuff is long gone by the time I get up there for a run.
      .
      Last new JLU I bought? Waller/Eiling, and I passed on the Blackhawk at the time. I actually did get lucky with DCIH Firestorm at my local Target, but they think JLU and DCIH are the same line, which the nearly identical packaging is NOT helping matters.

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