Well, after a long, long wait, it looks like fans may finally be seeing their hopes of another comprehensive mass-market DC Comics based toy line! Yeah, I know we thought that we've been down this road before, and DC Direct has pumped out an impressive number of figures, although the quality has been all over the place, but now it all may be heading toward a return to the heady days of the Super Powers Collection.
First announced in July 2002, Mattel won the Warners license (including DC) away from Hasbro after a decade long dominance there. Even before the new licensing deal was announced, news leaked out that DC themselves had commissioned Justice League figures sometime in 2001 in the event that Hasbro would not want to make them. These sat unused for nearly a year, as Mattel sought out the license, then internally went back and forth over what size and style this new toy line should take.
The arguments for a 6" scale line were many: most toy lines on the shelves today cost roughly $7- $8 each, and as Hasbro discovered with their Star Wars line, most parents won't spend that kind of money on an action figure unless it is in the larger scale range. But Mattel most likely would need to hit this price range due to the expense of the license. A 6" line would also allow Mattel to start fresh, and easily separate themselves from the years of stale Hasbro product still glutting the pegs at most toy stores. And finally, a 6" line would be in scale with the DC Direct line, letting collectors combine their Mattel and DCD figures together for a nice display.
But there were also strong arguments for a smaller line. Smaller figures would allow a larger range of playsets and vehicles to be made at a much lower price point which makes them much more attractive to toy buyers to stock). Smaller figures can be packed at higher volume into a case and greatly reduces shipping costs (which accounts for a sizable amount of the price of a toy) and take up less valuable peg space, again making them attractive to buyers. In general, kids seem to like smaller figures, also, as they can amass more of them with less storage space. But possible the greatest reason for Mattel wanting to make smaller figures has nothing at all to do with any of these reasons.
What might tip Mattel in the direction of the smaller figures is simply the time crunch in getting these to market. Let's look at the facts: Justice League has being airing on Cartoon Network for nearly a year now. Most products proceed their media tie-ins in stores by months, and then refresh the line throughout the life of the show. Factor in the average of a year's lead time to design, sculpt, tool, manufacture, ship, and distribute a toy line, and Mattel would be looking at having merchandise hit stores a year after getting the license and almost two years after the show debuted. By that time, the Teen Titans show will have been airing, and they would have two shows competing for the initial awareness from buyers.
Which leads us back to those sculpts DC Direct had made in 2001.
Sent to me by my mysterious source in the toy world that sends me stuff like the Flash prototype, these appear to be those very figures originated by DC Direct. If someone at DC would like to confirm this, I would be most appreciative. In any case, it looks like these are now in Mattel's possession, along with the original sculpts and possible already tooled molds as well. What this means is that Mattel may be going with a smaller scale in order to have product on the shelves very soon. If these have already been tooled, that saves months right there. And even more importantly, these figures come pre-approved, allowing Mattel to skip the notoriously lengthy approvals process that Warners insists on.
And going back to my Super Powers comment, these guys are apparently in a 4 3/4" scale, which makes them a bit smaller than the existing Hasbro Batman and Superman animated lines, but in perfect scale with Super Powers. And thus able to use the Hall of Justice and Batcopter for their own use (and conversely, Super Powers fans can add whatever new vehicles and playsets that are being produced to their existing collections).
Yeah, Martian Manhunter's scale is a bit off (thanks, DCD!) but all in all, these are more on model than most of the Hasbro line. They even appear to be scaled down, articulated versions of the Maquettes sculpted by Karen Palinko. And if we're lucky, Mattel will release the whole team in concurrent waves, using the time to sculpt the villains and guest stars for subsequent assortments. Some fans won't be happy with the limited articulation and scale discrepancies, but for my part, if the rest of the line continues with this same basic look and pattern, I'll be a happy camper. Expect these and other items in the line to be shown at Toy Fair 2003 in New York. Odds are, they were already shown to buyers last week at Pre-Toy fair, which is closed to the press at Mattel.
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