At the beginning of the month Mattel revealed the line up of their 2013 San Diego Comic Con exclusives. Fans of the old DC Universe Classics line and the newer DC Signature Collection Club Infinite Earths subscription line waited with baited breath hoping for another one of their favorite characters to be marked off their wish lists. In 2012 there was not a 6″ DC SDCC exclusive so there was a lot of anticipation for this reveal.
Needless to say there was a very strong reaction from the fandom when the 6″ DC exclusive was revealed to be the New 52 Shazam. It opened up a lot of questions for collectors of these lines. Why a New 52 character? Why not (fill in the blank)? Does this mean we’ll be getting New 52 characters in the sub? Why can’t you sell this character at retail as part of the DC Unlimited line? Mattel and Scott aka Toy Guru were gracious enough to allow us to sit down and ask those questions that are on the minds of the Mattel DC collectors. I attempted to address all of the big questions that I had seen asked around the web as well as those that folks have been asking me.
But first- We received a sample of the SDCC New 52 Shazam figure on Thursday of last week, so we have it in hand. Let’s take a closer look at the actual figure first and then move on to the Q& A.
Action Figure Insider: Why did Mattel choose a new 52 character as the SDCC 2013 exclusive as opposed to something “DC Classics?”
Toy Guru: Now that we offer DC Classic figures each month in Club Infinite Earth on Mattycollector.com, it just didn’t make as much sense to offer another Classic character at SDCC as those characters show up every month now. Before CIE, SDCC was a unique opportunity to offer a Classic character. Now we do this every month. For example, we just did Wally West in CIE. Could he have been a SDCC item? Sure. But it makes more sense to put him in the club. Offering a new 52 version of a character (and one never before done as a toy by anyone) made the SDCC offering different and unique from what we offer every month online now.
AFi: In the past fans were told that the SDCC exclusive slot was for figures/characters that wouldn’t fit at retail (Lobo, Wonder Twins, Plastic Man, Swamp Thing), but it seems to most fans that New 52 Shazam would fit perfectly in the DC Unlimited retail line (he has enough media exposure being on JLU, Young Justice, several of the Direct to DVD projects). Why put a character that could easily sell at retail over another fan-demanded character?
TG: There are really two answers to that. One is that we did not have a retail slot for another DC figure in 2013, so there wasn’t a spot for Shazam at retail. The second answer harkens back to the answer to the first question above. Take for example a “fan demanded figure” like Huntress of Elongated Man. Both are offered in the club. Sure we could have made Huntress the SDCC figure, but she made more sense to offer in the monthly club. Offering a new 52 figure at SDCC was something different as New 52 figure are not in the online club and it made the SDCC item unique. Just as you mentioned in your question, Shazam is a figure that wouldn’t fit in the online line (because we don’t do New 52 in CIE) or the retail line (because no available slot) this year. Hence an ideal SDCC item.
AFi: Many fans were hoping for an oversized figure that would require new tooling such as an oversized Doomsday or Granny Goodness. Were those characters ever considered for this slot?
TG: We’d love to do both Granny and Doomsday! The issue is they are both fully tool’d figures. We just don’t have enough current DC customers/sales currently to justify the logistics and cost for a fully tool’d figure either in the sub or at SDCC. Last year when we sold in the subs we noted a meter showing two levels. Level one was the bare min number of sub holders we needed to keep the lights on and actually do the 2013 sub as planned. Level two was the sign up level to explore more tooling and more skus for the future. We barely hit level one which is why you don’t see fully tool’d figures this year. Until we have the customer base to justify the tooling, fully tool’d figures will continue to be a challenge.
AFi: You took last year off from doing a 6” DC exclusive saying that the sub took the place of needing that slot. What changed for this year to bring back an exclusive DC 6” figure?
TG: I actually did not work on last year’s DC SDCC items, so I can’t really speak for the strategy as to why or why not a 6” comic figure was included in the offering, but for this year, when we were given the opportunity to do New 52 Shazam ahead of any other toy company, it worked out well and gave us something new and different from standard monthly classic figures.
AFi: With the launch of the DC Unlimited retail line we are starting to assemble a Justice League with Batman, Superman, Hawkman, Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. They are all original sculpts with the costume lines etched into the figure. Shazam has that detail tampo printed on the figure. Why that change?
TG: It was a cost saving. As noted above, we are at the bare min for sub holders in 2013 and that means we have to be very conscious of our tooling and expenses to deliver product. The lower the run (of any consumer product) the higher the cost to produce. The more sub holders we have, the more tooling and resources we can apply to figures. It is a direct correlation. Fans really do vote with their purchase.
AFi: The hood, when on the figure looks a bit “off” is that the final version of the hood that we saw last week?
TG: It just wasn’t snapped in tight enough when the shot was taken! Oops. The hood fits very flush. It actually tucks into the cape and looks awesome. We just got in PR samples and one was sent to Daniel. So hopefully he and some other reviewers can get some better shots up soon!
AFi: Since the reveal of the New 52 Shazam SDCC exclusive you have mentioned that this figure was meant to “bridge the gap” between the retail DC Unlimited line and the DC Signature Series. What was the thinking behind the decision to put this figure in DCSC-like packaging?
TG: Just to offer something compelling and fun. As noted above, since every month we are delivering classic figures, it didn’t makes as much sense to offer another classic fig at SDCC as that fig could work just as well in the club line. Offering a New 52 figure in club packaging not only linked the retail and online toy lines, but it made this figure different and fun for the show. Something you couldn’t get anywhere else.
AFi: This year there doesn’t look to be any sort of “SDCC Only” element to any of the exclusives (Gleek, Plastic Man suitcase). Why that change across the board for all the 2013 exclusives?
TG: Basically the ever increasing cost of producing collector figures. Doing SDCC only versions of characters, or adding extra accessories continues to add costs to figures. As much as we love doing that, delivering a product at a reasonable price came first. The toy industry is a lot different than it was 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. Labor and raw materials continue to be two factors we have very little control over and continue to rise.
AFi: Does this mean we will be seeing more New 52 characters in the DCSC subscription either in 2013 or the possible 2014 line?
TG: We will not be doing New 52 figures in the online club.
AFi: There seems to be some figures that were not “fan demanded” in the DC sub this year such as the Red Hood. Some would argue that New 52 Shazam also falls into that category. What goes into to making the decision to fill SKU slots with characters that have never appeared and any fan’s wish list for the lines?
TG: I wish we could just run a poll and produce the top 12 fan requested figures as the monthly selection and call it a day, but it just doesn’t work that way. A lot comes down to tooling. As noted above, in 2013 we are at the bare min to keep the lights on and produce the online subscription program for DC figs. That means we have the bare min amount of resources and tooling. Huntress for example had a lot of new tooling and was very expensive. Figures like Red Hood or Wally West help balance that out with characters with min new parts. We would love to do more “fan demanded” figures like Granny or Doomsday as noted above, but we just don’t have the tooling with the current level of customers/sub holders. That being said, it you look at the 2012 and 2013 offerings to date, both online programs are overflowing with fan requested figures. We finished the Doom Patrol and Metal Men, offered fan demanded figs like Poison Ivy, Wally West, Elongated Man, Huntress, Freddy Freeman etc… We do listen to fans and try to make as many figures “fan demanded”, but tooling and resources also play a factor. Not every figure will be for every fan, but as a whole we are really proud of the lines ups. (and for the record, Red Hood does come up quite a lot on the forums! Maybe not as much as some others, but he isn’t exactly a character that no one has ever asked for.)
AFi: Any chance that this year when you announce the 2014 sub that fans could at least get a list of names of who you are considering to be in the line up? Even if we don’t see sculpts or know which version of the character we might get?
TG: We wish we could! The problem with that is things in the toy industry change all the time. One of the things fans/customers tend to find the most frustrating is when we announce a figure or accessories and that figure doesn’t make it to market. Heck, fans are still asking for Modern Red Tornado, Nekron’s weapon and Wonder Woman’s spear (a dropped accessory that was sculpted but not tool’d for the Wave 4 figure in 2009). We just don’t feel comfortable announcing the name of a figure that could potentially change.
AFi: Anything you can say to fans about the remaining figures in the 2013 sub and the proposed figures in the 2014 sub?
TG: I can tell you we probably have some of our hottest most demanded figures of the full year still to reveal for 2013! (at SDCC) And 2014? Boy is it an amazing line up. We will have the Jan-March figures to reveal at SDCC as well as our sub only 13th oversized figure. We will also be running the meter again this year noting level 1 as the bare min to hit to get the 2014 line to move forward “as is” and a higher level 2 that will let us potentially explore additional skus and more tooling for the future. As always, it is in the hands of fans. We can only make collector toys when there is an audience to purchase them. A few years back we had to cancel our Ghostbusters sub when we didn’t hit enough sub holders. We have an amazing line up for DC figs in 2014, and still some mind blowing figures to reveal for the rest of 2013. If we have enough sub holders to keep the line going, the best is yet to come!
Thank you to Scott and Mattel for the articulate, well thought out answers.
This sample provided by Mattel.
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