Not that you asked…
August 12, 2011

Not that you asked, but here’s how I warmed up to the DCUC Subscription offering.

I’ll admit, at first I had *no* interest in the DC Universe Classics subscription. I hadn’t been buying DCUC in ages, the prices at retail were ridiculous, and most of the time I’d only be tempted by half the figures they offered anyway.

On top of that, 9 times out of 10, I simply preferred the sculpts done by DC Direct.

Then came the emails from Bill Murphy, Jeremy Sung, and Scott Rogers… and the more they explained why I needed to support the line, the more I started to rethink my decision, and look at the line for the potential it offered.

And then, the more I read about the circumstances involving the creation of the subscription in the first place, the more I actually felt some sympathy towards Mattel, and wanted to give them my support.

As I understand it, DC Comics came in at the 11th hour and basically mandated that Mattel produce no more “classic” costume designs for retail, and that they wanted the new relaunch looks only. That led to Mattel scrambling to create this subscription option, and as they’ve said repeatedly, they had a very small window to get this organized, and a very small window to resift their focus. Of course the subscription seems poorly handled and a bit of a mess. Chances are, that’s because it really is a scramble trying to get it all organized. Simply the logistics alone must be a nightmare.

What the fanboys have been freaking out about and blaming Mattel, I see as Mattel trying to salvage the line, and give it a continued life under these new restrictions and unexpected timetables.

Now, make no mistake… I feel that Mattel made some poor decisions with the entire Classics line overall, but you know what? We got twenty waves of some pretty d@mned cool characters. I might not have wanted the Rainbow Lantern wave, but I can appreciate them trying to work in some modern figures into the line for variety.

Do I have some problems with how the subscription line is being presented? Absolutely. With the subscription line, it’s *supposed* to be pure classics. So… why would they offer an Atrocious? Or even allow for the option of voting for a Black Lantern Swamp Thing? THAT’s my biggest issue. Inconsistency… If I’m signing up for a classics line, I want to see classics only.

Still, I love the Jay sculpt. I’d love to get a Rocket Red. Poison Ivy, if she’s a mostly new sculpt, could be amazing. Even with some potential bumps along the way (I personally don’t want any Metal Men figures, but I absolutely want them made for those fans that want them), I figure it’s worth it for me to get the subscription. The good would (hopefully) outweigh the bad.

And, after a year, if I still wasn’t happy with the subscription I simply wouldn’t renew. Easy as that. However, after seeing the amazing range of characters worked into the Masters of the Universe line, I’m hoping for something similarly amazing with the DCUC subscription.

Admittedly, the subscription is fighting an uphill battle from the start: DC Direct has produced a ton of classic characters already, there will be the new modern Mattel DC line on the shelves, and the DC Universe is SO vast that it’ll be hard to please everybody with every figure offered. That’s a lot of DC offerings already out there (versus the relatively nonexistent MOTU or Ghostbusters merchandise). Maybe a Batman-centric subscription might be more enticing to me personally, or at least a clearer overall direction to the line. It’s that uncertainty that keeps me a bit wary. I have *no* desire for any more Rainbow Lanterns to be creeping into the line-up.

That said, I’m glad they didn’t unveil the entire line (and chances are even Mattel doesn’t have the entire slots 100% locked in). I’ve seen enough with Jay, Starman, and Ivy to figure it’s worth the risk, and I’m actually excited about the possibility of being surprised each month with the new offering.

When it comes down to the very basics, I would much rather see the subscription run for a year and then decide for myself whether or not to renew, versus the subscription never getting off the ground, and us fans always wondering what could have been.

That’s just where I’m coming from, and I felt I really wanted to dive in and see if I could do my part to help get the line off the ground.

Matt Cauley
Matt 'Iron-Cow' Cauley's background lies in the visual arts. Born in Dallas in the fall of 1973, he eventually relocated to New York to attend Parson's School of Design. Shortly after obtaining his degree in Illustration, he began working for Bloomberg LP as a Broadcast Designer while futher developing his Illustration and Toy Design work. In 1999, Matt formed Iron-Cow Prod. LLC to better serve his illustration, animation, design, and toy production clients. His work is regularly published and exhibited worldwide and he is a featured contributer to ToyFare Magazine. There are over 50 ICP-designed action figures currently on the shelves, and Matt is hard at work developing a line of t-shirts for Macys featuring his artwork. His clients have included E! Entertainment Television, DirecTV, the USA Networks, Macys, Art Asylum, Diamond Select Toys, the Irvington Institute, Safe Horizon and The Red Cross among others. Currently Matt resides in New Jersey with his ever-increasing amount of pets (along with his amazingly patient wife) and can be frequently found lurking about in the basement generally avoiding housework in the pursuit of visual creativity. Matt's illustration, broadcast, fine art, and toy design portfolios can be seen at the official Iron-Cow Prod. website at
Read other articles by Matt Cauley.





  • Jason Geyer says:

    Lawrence, I’m right there with you. I came close to writing a counter-point blog to all of these “please sub for X reasons” postings, but it’s not even worth my time to argue against something I’m not engaged in one way or the other.

    I will say if they had shown Quadrex or Phantom Stranger or Silicon (i.e., a character on my personal wishlist) I would have subscribed in a heartbeat. But Mattel’s execution has left me with zero confidence in them, and I can’t muster the blind faith to buy at least 4 figures I don’t want in hopes that somewhere I’ll get 1 that I do. I believe Mattel really does have the best intentions here, but 8 years down the road is too long for them to still be having “learning curve” issues.

    PS Reading their latest posting, does it sound to anyone else as if the DCnU line might not be by the 4 Horsemen?

    • blubeetle3 says:

      I’ve got to agree with you. Mattel isn’t entitled to my business. They have to earn it. I remember all the hype when the DCUC line began: “Mass-produced DC figures! They’ll be less expensive and easier to find than DC Direct!” Guess what? Mattel’s distribution was laughable at best, nightmarish at worst. As for being less expensive than DCD, they were… at first. Then Mattel’s prices kept creeping up while DCD’s held the line. Now, a DCUC figure from Wal-Mart is MORE EXPENSIVE than a DCD figure from my LCS.

      I stopped buying DCUC figures when I came to the realization that, out of every wave, I was buying two or more characters that I didn’t even want in order to complete the one figure I did want: the C-N-C figure.

    • Lee in MI says:

      Not to try and sway you but Phantom Stranger’s name WAS on the name placard that they placed out when they showed the Brightest Day figs. I asked the Four Horsemen, well one of the two that were there, and he thought that PS had made it out there. So if someone at Mattel printed the card, and one of the Horsemen thought it made it to the show, it’s probably a really good chance that he is definitely in the pike somewhere.

      I’m sure there are pics out there…I have one or two but I’m sure you guys can get info from the source.

    • Lee in MI says:

      OH! And yes, based off this last posting, it sounds like the new DCnU figs might not be 4H sculpted figs. I would venture to guess it’ll probably be some crap sculpted by Mattel’s in house “artist”.

  • mat-chow says:

    Without fanning any flames, I definitely got that vibe. Or that at least there might very well be other talent involved to some extent.

  • Thomas says:

    Still not sold. It’s like an unfair trade off. In sports term we’re giving Mattel our first round pick for 3 picks from the 4th and 5th round. Mattel is selling us hard how it’s a good deal for both of us but in the end it only benefits Mattel and their bottom line.

    It’s JLU 3-packs all over again. Soon they’d be releasing heat vision Superman and telling us we need to buy it if we ever a Conner Kent.

    No other company does it but Mattel and yet fans are dumb enough to fall for their ploy. We have the cash, we have the power. We dictate what Mattel makes. For once they should listen to us and not jerk us around and manipulate us, which is what they’ve been doing for years now.

    • j1h15233 says:

      And this is why the sub will fail…people who think Mattel is screwing them by continuing a line they want to collect

      • AJ says:

        They kind of are, though. For some people, the disadvantages outweigh “saving the line”.

      • Thomas says:

        It’s simple. Let us vote on characters we want. Give us characters we care about. Announce the figures in advance. Tell your boss’s boss’s boss that they need to open up their wallets. If the products are good people will buy it. Hasbro doesn’t have this problem, why does Mattel?

        Mattel could have given us an Ivy 4 waves ago but they didn’t. They held out on purpose for this very reason. To extort more cash from us and fanboys and Mattyapologists are falling for it. I swear it’s Stockholm syndrome with some of you.

        • j1h15233 says:

          Show me the proof that Mattel held out on Ivy on purpose. Go ahead and post that because I think it’s incredibly obvious that Mattel had no intentions of ending DCUC at wave 20 but the changes DC made and the suits that run this show at WB have forced their hand.

          • Thomas says:

            The proof is Ivy is in the subscription waved at us like a hostage.

            For example, we could have gotten her instead of Shark. But the brains at Matty decided to hold her off to produce figures no one gave a damn about which ultimately killed the line. They made toys they wanted personally, took advantage of the fact that they were in charge to get figures they personally wanted out first.

            I’d gladly trade all of Wave 17-19 for Ivy or Huntress OR A Tim Drake Robin. Likewise we could have gotten Jay in wave 19 rather than 3-4 other characters no one gave a damn about. But this works out for Mattel because they know we want STRIPE, so we’re forced to buy a bunch of crap figures to piece him together. They know we want Jay so we’re forced to buy a sub.

            It’s not rocket science to understand how Mattel works. It’s good business, just not consumer friendly and that’s why I’m not getting a sub or buying into this propaganda.

  • demoncat says:

    i kind of figured one reason the club was formed is because dc decided the toy line at retail would have to be the reboot look. for at least mattel is for all their faults some time with the dcu is trying to keep the old classic line going even if they are including characters like atrocious and a black latern swamp thing as the fan choice figure one swamp thing is enough. for dc collectors should at least consider giving mattel a chance with the sub. and can only not renew later.

  • Joe says:

    True, Mattel isn’t entitled to our business. And we certainly have a right not to buy them. But I don’t believe they are deliberately doing this to screw us over. If anything, I think they are trying to SAVE the line.

    Again. I do think mattel is TRYING to give us the figures we want. But while we are suspecting them of screwing us over, we fail to realize that DCUC isn’t as big a seller as we think it is. And hence, they have to resort to all sort of things to hit their margins and sales targets.

    It must be tough being the Mattel DC guy. You have bosses trying to force you into hitting sales targets, SLOPPY distributors who don’t buy your product, and fan who complain about how you handle things yet get insulted when you are completely transparent about how the business works.

    (This happened with both JLU and DCUC)

    They NEED to hit targets guys and they are openly asking for our help. Otherwise, they WON’T be allowed to make DCU figures because the company will not profit from them.

    Some people seem to think of Mattel as just ONE entity with one purpose. But as in any business, they have divisions.

    I imagine that the Mattel beancounters wanted to cancel JLU (for example) years ago but the DC team (who WANT to help fans) kept trying to keep it going. My friends who are toy store owners say JLU stopped being a profitable order for them years ago. They TRIED to keep JLU going through Matty Collector but that didn’t work out. They still managed to squeeze out a few this year but that’s it. JLU is over. They even tried to beg JLU fans to order enough STRIPE figures because if they get a good number, they can convince their bosses to let them make more. They failed.

    Now the same is happening with DCUC. And the fans are reacting the same way. So I expect DCUC to end pretty soon and despite them being transparent about proceedings, fans will still complain that Mattel killed the line (and yes, they did make plenty of mistakes like that horrible Rainbow lantern line and the frustrating scale issues) but here they are trying to save it so let’s give them credit for that.

    I’m a bit more confident that the SUBS will give us better figures because

    a) they no longer have to worry about wal*mart and the rest and…

    b) they have a good track record with GHOSTBUSTERS. A line whose license they don’t own, yet they’ve maintained strongly and they were even able to get a Bill Murray figure out despite everyone else failing to get an approval from the guy. Also…

    c) the range of characters they’ve given the MOTU fans is promising.

    My only problem with the subs is that it doesn’t seem international collector friendly.
    I’m not going to want to pay shipping and customs over and over again, without knowing what I’m going to get.

    Now, my only question is- to any guys living OUTSIDE the USA, will there be a way to make it easier for us?
    Because we will be paying close to DOUBLE the amount listed after shipping, taxed and customs duties.

    • Piper2Reason says:

      What makes you think that “DCUC isn’t as big a seller as we think it is?” With the exception of the occasional peg-warmer, it is impossible to collect this line at retail. There have been entire waves that I have never seen at any major retail store.

      And what on earth leads you to believe that the people at Mattel have ever been “completely transparent?” They are liars, spin-doctors and corporate suits, and very little else.

    • Lee in MI says:

      You’re a tad off base with your likening this to JLU in the sense that the fans caused it’s demise. While TG single handedly pulled this line out of the abiss, the usual suspects caused MANY fans to fall away WAAAAYYYYYY before the line needed the fans to save it. The distribution NEVER got better, the character selection was marginal at retail and Mattel never did refresh their offerings with the hard to find characters. That basically drove away the casual collectors and by the time it was at critical mass, “save teh lein!”, there was only the very hard core completist left. Which obviously isn’t enough for Mattel.

      This DCUCs deal is one of trust. They have simply spent their customer service capital with what appears to be most fans. It’s like going to a restaurant and getting an insect in your food. Will they refund your money? Probably. Will they beg for your forgiveness? Probably. Will they apologize to no end? Most likely. Will they offer you some freebies? It’s probable. Will you likely EVER eat a meal at that particular establishment again? Highly unlikely!
      Mattel has served up a many plates of defiled foods…so to speak. Distribution and character selection aside, they’ve made promises like the modern red tornado, all gold dr. Fate, all yellow shazam, light blue superman, classic guardian among others. Let’s not forget the whole Gleek incident, the wave 5 issues and the show stopping Gentleman Ghost/Giganta problems. That’s to say nothing of the wave 9 fiasco, the exploding ankles Robin, crappy hips and a sh!t ton of other QC issues and Digital Rivers “stellar” service these last few years.

      Now all these issues in and of themselves probably doesn’t do much damage…kinda no harm, no foul. But you compound them all together hitting back to back to back, and you start losing the bandwagoners, then the casual collectors and eventually the hard core completist fans. And you know it only takes one miss to stop a completist cold in his tracks! Ask Gentle Giant about their 1/6th Star Wars bust line. Sure it’s still popular but no where near what it was before they started those Asian commander exclusives. They served up the fly in the soup for their fans with that one.

      Unfortunately, Mattel has served all five courses complete with all manner of creepy crawlers.

      Most fans just aren’t choosing to stick around for dessert!

    • Disgruntled JLU fan says:

      Mattel was ‘completely transparent’ with the JLU line? To quote Stewie Griffin: “You must be shrooming.”

      How many JLU collectors here have the Legends of the League or Secret Society 2 6 packs? 50%? How many of those who DO have it bought it at retail? We must have missed it when Mattel explained that fiasco. Then the same thing happened AGAIN the very next year(albeit to a much lesser extent). There was a *6* month gap between production of the 2009 Wave 1/2 6packs. Some of the 2009 Wave 2 6packs were manufactured less than 1 month from Black Friday(and less than 2 months before Target’s toy aisle reset), and FOB shipping from Chinese factories takes at least 3-4 weeks. Was it Mattel’s transparency that got us this information? Nope, it was reported in these forums by fans.

      And remember when the Cheetah/Batman beyond wave of 3 packs saw VERY limited initial distribution to targets? After flooding Targets with a new production run of Fire&Ice packs how long did it take Mattel to tell us that a factory switch occurred?

      How could I forget the clarity Mattel provided regarding the fustercluck that was the last wave of 2009 singles and first 2 waves of 2010 singles? Mattel didn’t explain what happened until weeks/months AFTER the simultaneous limited release of 2010 W1&2. Even then, we didn’t get any information regarding a Volcana re-release until after Toy Fair 2011.

      Mattel wasn’t completely on the up&up with fans/target with regards to DCUC either. How long did Mattel try to get over on Target by sending them cases of DCUC with strange combinations of Waves 6-8? Remember when someone here let Target know about it, and Mattel called that person and basically told them to keep their mouth shut? Telling 2 sets of customers not to share information is really transparent…

      I won’t even bring up the disingenuous way Mattel handled the Apokolips MC 2 packs or JLU 2011 Toy Fair new reveals.

      Transparency means open communication and accountability. Mattel’s dealings with fans and Target with regards to JLU(and DCUC to a lesser extent) were anything but. Telling us about their failings AFTER they happened isn’t transparency, it’s hindsight.

  • Jeff says:

    After so many years, Mattel has never failed to demonstrate their incompetence at manufacturing and distributing these figures, despite the fact that they have been in such high demand that I’ve almost never seen much of the line on retail pegs. What other companies (Hi Hasbro!) seem to be able to get (mostly) right in terms of value, quality, and distribution Mattel fails and fails and fails. They can’t even seem to handle an online store correctly. How ridiculous is it that I can buy Mattel figures for lower cost and less hassle from or than I can from Mattel’s own website? Clearly their incompetence is costing them money, and they don’t even know it.

    No, I don’t think anybody is trying actively trying to screw anyone over. But there are individuals involved who have made decisions that should have gotten them fired long ago. Unfortunately they’re buoyed by completist fans are willing to overlook all their mistakes and hope for the best.

    Look, I’ve been collecting DCSH/DCUC since the beginning, but if I’m supposed to be voting with my wallet as I’ve heard so many say recently, I’m voting ‘NO’. If the only way to get a particular figure (potentially poorly constructed, lacking accessories, and heavily using reused parts) is to not only pay nearly $30 for it, but also pay that price for a bunch of other figures I may not want, then sorry, no deal. Having a Jay Garrick and Atroticus would be cool, I’d love to complete the Metal Men and Doom Patrol, and I’m sure a 4H Metron with Moebius Chair would be awesome. If it were possible to pick up these figures without a sub (as MOTUC and GB have been from their inception on Mattycollector), then I probably would pick them up if there were other new figures that month I wanted. But what Mattel is asking is a bridge too far. As the prices crept up, I knew that as a consumer I’d have to draw the line at some point, and I guess Mattel has finally in its asinine way stumbled upon that line.

  • misosazai says:

    I don’t get the anger and resentment towards a company that makes toys. I love the DCUC because it is a uniformly sculpted, high quality, and durable enough to be played with line of DC Characters.

    DC Direct put out a lot of product, & I love that, but only the recent Brightest Day & Darkest Night lines have produced a significant offering of figures in a consistent style. And Love DC Direct as I do, the durability of their product makes for pretty statues that you can move a bit – carefully and not too often. Oh, and don’t let them fall.

    I’m not a Matty apologist, but I link to think the people who sculpt, manage, or support this collector focused line from Mattel do so out of at least moderate affection for the subject, fans & sure the dollar. The latter is why business happens.

    People who complain about Matty wanting our money remind me of my father complaining about commercials on network TV: the desire for our dollars is why they exist.

    If we want to resent big business and throw around words like extortion, then maybe we should direct our attention to Exxon-Mobil or GE or the Banking, Investment, and Credit Card arenas. Ever dealt with the student loan people?

    I’m supporting the Subscription because I love DCUC, and no not all of the classics stuff, but enough. And hell yeah I’m looking forward to the New DCU and all the new character looks, but my love & nostalgia will have me grateful to Matty for keeping the torches lit.

    • mat-chow says:

      I agree with you to an extent. But your opening paragraph is not exactly true to my experience. I love that the figures are uniformly sculpted. One of my favorite things about the line. However, to say they are high quality is just a laugh. I have NEVER been hit with so many QC problems with anything else I’ve ever purchased. Ever. They DO look nice when they are not warped and the paint is good. And like I have said elsewhere, I can even handle having to do the freezer or boiling water tricks, as LONG AS NOTHING BREAKS. God that’s frustrating. My worst encounter yet? My Giganta’s foot snapped off at the fused ankle. Shortly after I completed her via Ebay.

      As far as playing with them goes? My daughter will occasionally ask to use some of them and it’s a very selective process for me, as I know just which figures would be OK for that and which ones will easily just come apart one way or another.

      I believe that the “DC team” at Mattel is in a tough spot. As am I, trying to decide if I can justify the $ for the sub. The fact is that MOTUC still has QC issues. The DC club will be no different.

  • Strider says:

    “If I’m signing up for a classics line, I want to see classics only.”

    Where was it said that it’s supposed to be purely classics? All I’ve gathered from what I’ve read is that retail gets the DCnU, while the subscription gets fan-demanded characters and characters that have been/would be difficult at retail. Why should that be limited to “classics only”? Many fans have demanded a Red Lantern Mera…should they be ignored? Do you really think there won’t be *any* pre-DCnU modern characters or costumes in the sub? They have to flesh it out somehow. I’m not sure it would last very long by running solely on classic and obscure characters only.

    “However, after seeing the amazing range of characters worked into the Masters of the Universe line, I’m hoping for something similarly amazing with the DCUC subscription.”

    Out of that amazing range of characters for MOTUC, I can think of one character (Chief Carnivus) that isn’t Classic and had only a few small appearances in the 2002 animated series, and a few non-classic redecos as well. And would you consider New Adventures of He-Man classic? Many don’t, but characters from that series are included in the MOTU “classics” line.

  • TK says:

    I signed up for the sub because I like the figures offered (JSA Flash & LSH Starman). I hope this new push by DC will still allow the Legion Box Set to ship out. Any info on this?

  • Clint says:

    The Legion set has nothing to do with this.

  • George says:

    Here’s one thing I don’t quite get. If Mattel was going to continue the line past Wave 20, then they would have known exactly who was in the line for Wave 21, because it takes time to sculpt these figures and produce them. So they were given a curveball by DC, which resulted in this subscription. But they should have these figures already lined up regardless, don’t you think? But Neitlich has already stated that there hasn’t been any other approvals past the first four already presented. Something’s strange in this neighborhood.

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