So Long, and Thanks for All the Figures
March 6, 2011

JLU Amanda WallerWith Toy Fair 2011 came an announcement from Mattel that this would be the last year for their Justice League Unlimited action figure line. For many of us, that’s going to leave a significant void in our hobbies. We’ve spent a little over eight years in our pursuit of these little guys and gals, but don’t panic. All good things must come to an end, and JLU has had a long, fun-filled life.

If we’re being honest, however, the line really only had two things going for it: the Bruce Timm art style on which the toys were based and the vast character selection. Give credit to the designers for capturing the Timm style so well, and give credit to Scott Neitlich – aka ToyGuru – for so much of the character selection. A fan and collector himself when he took over as Brand Manager, he should be proud of the extraordinary job he’s done with this property. He got the Question into the line when we’d been told for years it was impossible (never mind the fact that the line was supposed to end after the Grodd pack). He did the same with Lobo. He got us a Hal Jordan the only way he could, even if that just gave some people a new reason to complain. And then there’s the one I find most impressive, Amanda Waller. She’s not just a female, but a female antagonist (at least through most of her time on JLU). And she’s not just a female antagonist, but a female antagonist in civilian clothing. That not enough for you? Okay, she’s not just a female antagonist in civilian clothing, but an African-American female antagonist in civilian clothing. A black woman who’s a villain in a business suit, and he got her into a mainstream line in the action figure aisle at Target. That’s no small accomplishment. I’ll be very pleasantly surprised if it happens again in any of our lifetimes.

In terms of quality, though, the toys really don’t stand up well next to action figures from many other lines released over the last few years. Anyone who has a JLU display knows I mean that as literally as I do figuratively. From legs that won’t stay straight – if they were ever straight in the first place – to residue buildup on capes, the line had more than its fair share of mostly harmless issues. While I still love them for what they are, I can’t ignore the distinct differences when comparing these to other brands.

And the line isn’t exactly going out with a whimper, either. Future Static, Vandal Savage, Toyman, Killer Frost, Mongul, and S.T.R.I.P.E. are still coming. Even Goldface and Evil Star are on the way. What DC fan could have ever imagined those guys getting the action figure treatment? So while I’m certainly not happy about JLU winding down, I can’t be too disappointed about it, either. The writing has been on the wall since the show ended in 2006. Diminished demand for the toys has been glaringly obvious, and other than a few singles at Toys R Us recently, the line’s been on retail life support at just one chain since 2008. That it has continued for as long as it has without media support is a testament to just how special JLU is in the minds of its fans. When you’ve visited the core characters over and over again, though, and there are only obscure names remaining, it’s a tough sell to anyone but the small niche of us who have been fully invested in the line.

So after this year, I won’t have any more JLU figures to buy. It’s not just one line that I will no longer be collecting, though. After getting to know them so well since the original Justice League line that would eventually evolve into JLU made its debut in 2003, it’s time for Mattel and I to go our separate ways. We’ve had a good run, Mattel and me. They’ve been good to me, and I think I’ve been good to them in return. All the fantastic DCAU characters in my collection, those are a reality because of the chances Mattel took. It will be strange to walk into retail stores without looking for DC toys, but where would we go from here? DC Universe Infinite Heroes died just when it was starting to get interesting. Unless Mattel can squeeze a Hal Jordan Goes to Gotham pack with those Harley, Ivy, and Cassandra Cain sculpts into their forthcoming line of 3¾" movie toys, I don’t see much of a future for us. There’s the 6" DC Universe Classics line, but their boring, generic sculpts and poorly designed articulation made it easy to stick with DC Direct for that scale. Their Retro-Action DC Super Heroes are kind of cute in a kitschy way, but I wouldn’t collect them (not even at the discounted Marshalls prices). The idea of starting over with another animated DC universe doesn’t do it for me, and Young Justice is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike JLU. I find absolutely nothing appealing about Masters of the Universe or Ghostbusters, so the relationship seems to be over.

There’s no bitterness or malice here. And really, it’s not you, Mattel. It’s me. Okay, it’s you. That doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends, right? Maybe even friends with benefits if you can come up with something new and exciting down the road. I’ve been seeing someone else, though, and her name is Hasbro. But I don’t want there to be any hard feelings, okay? We can try to enjoy what time we have left, but after that…

So Long, and Thanks for All the Figures

So long, and thanks for all the figures.

TAGS:
Jon "Caped Crusader" Edwards
Born in April of '77, Jon quite literally grew up with STAR WARS. His mother took him to see it barely two months later and started buying him the figures before he was even old enough for them. G.I. JOE and Super Powers came along in the '80s, and an action figure addict was created. The moment he decided he was "too old" to play with his toys, he started to collect carded figures, beginning with Super Powers. No longer in possession of the toys or comics of his childhood, he rediscovered collecting with The Phantom Menace, and has moved on from STAR WARS to JLU, DC Direct, G.I. JOE, Marvel Universe, and various characters from movies, television shows, and comics.
Read other articles by Jon "Caped Crusader" Edwards.

 

 

 

40 Comments »

  • Fernando says:

    Great !!! 100% agree, I support your comments ..

  • Erik superfriend says:

    Very nicely put. I’ve kind of moved on from JLU already for a number of reasons, the chief one being a lack of ability to find retail product. If I find it now, I might buy it, but there are so many holes in my collection, I no longer really care.
    .
    As for DCUC – I’m using it to fill gaps in DC Direct. I love that Mattel has made characters like J’emm and looking forward to the Super Friends wave.
    .
    As for Young Justice, I am eagerly waiting to see the final product. The problem is that I will be buying Happy Meal toys of the main characters in the next month, months before the Mattel line hits. That may be enough. The real pull in for the line will be what usually pulls me in. Characters I do not have yet in any form. Speedy is one of those. Then there is the Hall of Justice. I think that will get me to buy things I otherwise might skip.

    • Kal (aka Dusty) says:

      I agree with Superfriend, I lost most of my interest in JLU 1-2 years ago because of not being able to find them and because of price, (and that TG and Mattel said that the fans are to blame for it’s demise, TG kept saying that it wasn’t the fans faults once or twice then turned around and talked about us not buying enough parademons several times (it actually started to get really annoying.) Anyways, I do appreciate all TG has done for JLU (I really do) but please we all know where the fault lies (Distribution/Price/DIGITAL RIVER.)
      anyways this was a good blog post, thanks Jon, :)

      OT:
      (Man! how come everyone else gets a picture by their name when they reply to these blogs? I have been coming to AFI since it’s awesome digital doors first opened. Conspiracy I tell you, CONSPIRACY! ;) )
      j/k,

      K-D.

  • Chill Billy says:

    Wow. I’ve never heard anyone refer to 4H sculpts as boring and generic……. unlike cartoon figures that are all unique unto themselves and full of life ;)

    • Luciferjonez says:

      I agree about the 4H sculpts. I’m not a big fan either. Their stuff tends to look more like maquettes & lack any “personality.” Case in point the DC direct yellow lantern scarecrow vs. the DCUC. Articulation aside you cannot compare the two. Even their orange lantern lex has got evil written all over their face whereas the mattel version looks like a deer caught in the headlights.

      Maybe toyguru should lay off of the interviews & concentrate on some quality control.

      • StrangePlanet says:

        I have to agree also. The 4H are great sculptors and they do what they can, but the overall bland generic bodies part is true. I have a few DCUC and they’re pretty cool, but I’m also only buying those rare pieces that have unique sculpts.
        DCUC makes me appreciate DC Direct.
        If DC Direct had better articulation, they’d blow DCUC out of the water with better, unique sculpts, better paint apps and often better face sculpts. Many like the consistency, but I only want a toy that has the same body as another toy is those 2 people are twins.

  • Neil says:

    I’ll miss them too. i have a shelf with all 180 figures i have displayed (no small task due to the leg problem).
    While i agree the figures had a good run, Mattel had major goofs in promoting the line that sped up the demise. I’m sad most of the final wave is going to conventions instead of retailers. Leaving many of us to buy them on ebay/amazon at a mark up. going target exclusive hurt a lot. My local target is still carrying John S/Fire/Ice 3 pack. Also stupid to stop selling them on line because not many people wanted to buy 2 parademons @$25 for their set.

  • Shellhead says:

    DCUC is generic and has poorly designed articulation?
    You’re nuts.

    • Luciferjonez says:

      the plastic used is super soft & more often than not I find myself having to reset a display because the figures just fall over onto one another. DC direct is no better. The scar terra black lantern 2 pack has scar with one leg shorter than the other.

    • And boring. Don’t forget boring.

  • Martin says:

    I join in gratitude for this amazing collection, which gave us much satisfaction, emotions and is always kept us waiting for new action figures.
    Thank you for considering our views, tastes and preferences for all the characters in JLU.
    We welcome the latest figures and will close a cycle. But we’ll have the joy of being part of the history of JLU, for life.

    Thanks and greetings from Mexico.

  • Steven M. says:

    Quote: “A black woman who’s a villain in a business suit, and he got her into a mainstream line in the action figure aisle at Target. That’s no small accomplishment. I’ll be very pleasantly surprised if it happens again in any of our lifetimes.”

    I don’t understand why this is a large accomplishment (i.e. “not small”), but it’s clear different people measure success in different ways. Also unclear is why Mr. Edwards would be happy if it happens again in his lifetime. He must be one heck of an Amanda Waller fan.

    Regardless, I am all for any and all praise heaped upon JLU. It was a great run and I dearly love all these amazing DC Villains that I have as a result. Thank you, Toy Guru and Mattel!

    • j1h15233 says:

      It’s a large accomplishment because of everything he said. It’s hard enough to sell women action figures. When you add in the facts that she’s a black woman who wears a business suit, it almost seems impossible that he would have gotten that approved for retail.

    • jamiwa3 says:

      Add that she is a short, fat, almost bald, black woman who’s a villain in a business suit.

    • Cephus says:

      I don’t either, Amanda Waller was a relatively important character from JLU, she appeared in quite a few episodes and was the center of quite a few things. Why we wouldn’t expect her to appear in a toy line supposedly dedicated to this particular show is beyond me. It’s not like she showed up once in an episode and was never seen again.

  • gknight13 says:

    I like the ‘breakup’ comparison. I wish you played that up more. Yes, it’s still disappointing since there was still so much to do with this line. We can go on forever with the “It doesn’t sell/But we didn’t get the product” argument. I just wish it was clear what the problem was so we all could solve it. It’s a shame, but if MOTU came back, why not JLU??

  • gknight13 says:

    I still say it’s an evergreen product like Star Wars or G.I. Joe! JLU forever!

  • Danny CantinaDan says:

    Good blog, Jon. I’ve been with JL(U) since ’03 and now I’ve got two big cabinets full of ‘em! And I still crack a smile whenever I look at my Amanda Waller figure. One of my favorites of the line. I’m OK with it ending – but that’s because I don’t have room for a third cabinet!

  • Hourman says:

    I really need to stop reading this guy’s stuff. He is easily my least favorite contributor to this site.

  • demoncat says:

    even though i never bought any of the jlu line mostly not my thing. have to agree with the post for collectors of the line its an end of dc collecting that style. and toy guru has got to be thanked for not only making the line last longer then it was expected too but to also wind up getting the question and Amanda waller herself which i never thought would ever get in plastic. though have to disagree with the four horseman scuplts being generic for their work makes the figures look like they came out of the comic or the old motu cartoon.

  • looger33 says:

    Sad to see it all end. JLU was a favorite which i started collecting with my son eight years ago. A big thank you too toyguru and 4H at least it will go out with a bang in 2011. Now i have a little extra cash for MOTUC. The 4H are awesome.

  • Glenn Moss Glenn says:

    Outstanding blog!

    Couldn’t have said it better if I tried!

    Thanks!

  • anti mattel man says:

    are you freaking kidding me!!!!! the fans of justice league are furious and really really really ticked off!!!! Toyguru and the rest of mattel has jerked the fans of justice league for the last four years with horrible horrible distribution. leaving the most requested figures out of wave after wave volcana!!!! theb blaiming fans because they did not buy enough parademons or kalibak or destroyer darkside. Toyguru and mattel are nothing more then a smoke and mirror side show carnival charlatan. I would not be surprised if at this years conventions matty is not booed out of the building. as of now I am officially boycotting any and all mattel product and I will not be buying any young justice toys.

  • Howard the Duck says:

    I do, and will now thank ToyGuru for all his hard work on the Justice League Unlimited line. ‘Thank you, TG:)’

    But I’d thank him even more if we manage to see a re-released Volcana.

  • TrekkerGI says:

    I must categorically disagree with you about DCUC. I appreciate the consistency of the sculpts, and my only real complaint with them is the recent addition of double-jointed elbows and knees, which I hope will be a short-lived aberration. DC Universe Classics is my top line of action figures these days, and the Four Horsemen are — to make a moderately cheap plug for another of their lines — Masters at what they do…!

    That said, I will miss JLU. There’s characters that exist in that line that have never been turned out in any other DC line, and that amaze me that they appeared in JLU, since many of them were never even in the show! I do wish we’d get a couple more Crime Syndicate figures, and I know there was an Owlman prototype shown at a Convention a couple of years ago, but — I’m not holding my breath.

    So I will enjoy what I have, enjoy what remains, and join with others in thanking ToyGuru for keeping this line alive, and certainly making it far more extensive, than I believe anyone could have reasonably hoped, especially after the show completed its run.

  • Mern-Ra says:

    Wow. Why, when you were headed towards a tribute did you turn it into a douchey rant at the very end? And adding to the accomplishment of Waller, that was a one-time-use sculpt, which is even more impressive in a line that relied so heavily on reused parts. I also echo what everyone has already said about your taste being wrong. And yes, opinions can be wrong.

  • PhantomMark says:

    I agree with the praise being heaped upon the Justice League Unlimited line of figures. It was a great run and outlasted the JLU show by six years. However the line did have its problems, namely in one of the figures you mentioned: Amanda Waller. Another problem was the General Eiling figure.

    Sure, Waller and Eiling had a role to play in the final episodes of JLU, but those slots would have been better used by a Volcana reissue, a Dr. Mid-Nite figure, a Speedy figure, the Top, Golden Glider…I could go on, but won’t. Eiling and Waller should have been available as a Matty.com exclusive or a mail-away offer, not clogging the pegs at Target and contributing to “killin teh lien.”

    • j1h15233 says:

      Eiling we probably could have skipped but Waller played a huge role. Look on the bright side though…we are getting Doctor Midnite!

  • Lightso says:

    The line about JLU only having the two things going for it I totally agree — as for the rest, not so much. It was a bizarre, unprecedented toyline, no doubt, and for all sorts of reasons. I appreciated Toyguru getting some of the characters HE wanted into the line, but I’ve never agreed with his philosophy of slowly spreading out key characters over a line in favor of obscure ones. I think JLU suffered for it by having the line ending with a lot of key characters omitted. ‘Course I’m also of the mind that if you can’t get enough figures made out there to the limited number of fans there supposedly are anyway, then why bother at all? Knowing that a Volcana was made and I’ll probably never be able to afford or find one is annoying enough. But getting a General Eiling, Amanda Waller or Lightray, while cool in its own way, and not getting say a Trickster, or Firefly is even more annoying.
    It will be tricky for DCUC to achieve its level of character selection, but JLU’s passing carries mixed feelings.

  • Brainlock says:

    as much of a fan of the line, I’ve had the same distribution troubles as many and considered myself EXTREMELY lucky to find Waller when I did, as she was slowly becoming a rare item for the line (re: distribution/availability).
    .
    More recently, I managed to find the LiveWire/Weather Wizard 3pk. LW I noticed was off color, which several figures of the line have been (Booster, Fate, etc). But I only noticed that after staring at WW whose left toes were almost touching his knees. In Package.
    .
    Needless to say, I saved $17+tax that day.
    .
    The J-Leg Syndrome on this line has been (argued) about to death and turned many die-hard collectors off because of it. I know I passed on more than a few “rare” figures because of leg warpage, and those I did buy remain sealed as they would NEVER stand on their own.
    .
    Seeing that J-Legged WW almost had me laughing at the futility of Mattel’s “Quality Control” and whatever QC rant of the month is I know will be headed into File 13 as far as “Matty” is concerned.
    .
    Don’t even get me started on these Con First! exclusives.

  • gl666 says:

    I STILL don’t understand this silly fawning over Toyguru (and his mismanagement). He did his job, poorly. He didn’t “keep the line alive”: people who continued to buy product did. Some people make it sound like he was the collectors’ friend who twisted Matty to keep making product and losing money.

    Furthest. From. The. TRUTH.

    • anti mattel man says:

      you are a hundred percent right on. finnaly someone that can see thru the mattel charade.

      • j1h15233 says:

        You two couldn’t be more wrong. If it weren’t for Toy Guru, this line would have ended 3 years ago.

        • gl666 says:

          YOU couldn’t be more wrong: the line continues while it is MAKING MONEY. Why is this impossible to understand? Toy Guru kept an unprofitable line running? That defies logic and common sense!

          • Nick in NY says:

            Because it was a border-line situation where the line could have easily been cancelled several years ago, we can thank Toy Guru for tipping them over to continuing for a few more years.

        • Cephus says:

          Maybe it should have ended. I see no point to a toy line continuing badly until it’s put out of it’s misery. So long as it puts out an active and interesting line of figures, sure. When it’s “buy things or it’s going to be the end of the world!”, it’s time to pack it in. However, there are a lot of JLU fanatics who will buy anything, no matter how badly made, no matter how badly painted, no matter how badly packaged, just because it has JLU stamped on the outside. Those are the people who are responsible for the downfall of the line. It could have gone out on a high note and be remembered for excellence, instead it’s being forced out because nobody really wants it anymore and it shows.

  • Bunger43 says:

    I still can’t stand the Hasbro style. Hate it. Mattel is running me out of the toy biz all together

Leave a Comment

(required)

(required)

 

ARCHIVES

 

SPONSORS

 

250x250_aff_funkosale

 

902268-han-solo-and-chewbacca-024

 

gsi-250

 

tim-bruckner-250px

 

pets_howloween4_assoc_300x250._V327013843_

 

your-ad-here