aka…Plasticized in New York: A NYCC/Toy Fair Recap
Whew. We’re finally at the end of a whirlwind couple of weeks in the toy world. Now that New York Comic Con and Toy Fair International are behind us, how has the action figure landscape changed for frenzied collectors? Over the course of these two mega shows, we’ve seen announcements that have ranged from surprising (Mattel’s collector-centric Ghostbusters line) and inevitable (the cancellation of Mezco’s Heroes line). So, what plastic glory has this toy geek waiting with bated breath? I’ve done my best to summarize some of the toy highlights from both New York Comic Con and Toy Fair International. Read on for license announcements and product breakdowns, all with a healthy dose of geek snark (and pretty pictures at the end)…
At the start of 2008, there were few toy companies mightier than Hasbro. They were riding high on the new lease on life that their Transformers line received from Michael Bay’s onscreen adaptation. They were capitalizing on their long-standing Indiana Jones license, a move that was met with the banners and trumpets of geekdom everywhere, despite being long overdue. The company had reconnected with G.I. Joe fans through their amazing 25th Anniversary collection. Star Wars was… well, Star Wars. What a difference a year makes. Now that the Indy line has fallen victim to cancellation (thanks to poor distribution and a mythical “fourth movie”) and the 25th Anniversary of G.I. Joe is over, where can Hasbro turn to reclaim the fanbase that has diligently supported them? The unfortunate answer is that with two toy-themed movies coming out this summer, Hasbro probably doesn’t need to worry about the collector demographic. This is demonstrated by the sea of low-quality G.I. Joe and Transformers products on display.
This stuff looks terrible and while it may be an easy sell to the under-10 crowd, most collectors and older fans will likely shrug and continue onto the Mattel section of the toy isle. Here then is a look at some of the slightly-less-appalling items that Hasbro will be releasing throughout 2009.
- Mighty Muggs will become a Toys R’ Us exclusive line in the fall. Somewhere in the distance, scores of tiny misshapen urban vinyl figures dance for joy.
- Hasbro’s continued ability to make excellent 3 3/4″ scale figures was proven by their upcoming Marvel Universe line. With the Marvel Legends line suffering badly, fans can take solace in the knowledge that they can still find decent figures based on the Marvel universe… they’ll just be smaller.
- Star Wars
- The Droid Factory line continues, with each wave containing pieces to a previously-unreleased buildable astromech or communications droid. Look for a Wal-Mart exclusive wave to include a Dark Trooper Droid as its buildable figure.
- The Force Unleashed Stormtrooper Commander will see a re-release in a future wave this year.
- The Legacy Series 2 line will include a Concept Anakin Skywalker figure.
- The high-profile vehicle for 2009 is the Clone Turbo Tank from the Clone Wars animated series. This thing is huge and will accommodate up to twenty Clone Trooper figures (sold separately, of course). – Geek Note – All my West End Game peeps will recognize this Turbo Tank from the Imperial Sourcebook as the Juggernaut, the pre-AT-AT vehicles, still used in Outer Rim planets, natch – End Geek Note –
- Target will receive a line of remote-controlled 3 3/4″ astromech droids this spring. The line will include R2-D2, R5-D4, R2-Q5 and R5-X2.
- In celebration of the 10th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, a mail-away Qui-Gon Jinn & Eopie will be available in September. This is a re-deco of the original release of the figure/creature. Fans will be able to collect stickers that come individually packaged in Episode 1 wave figures.
- A new ‘smiling’ X-Wing Pilot Luke Skywalker will be available as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive.
- New Mighty Muggs: Gammorean Guard, Ben Kenobi (EPIV), Scout Trooper, Hoth Luke Skywalker
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
- Constructicon Six-Pack: This is the premiere figure release from the upcoming film. The six vehicle-mode Constructicons (High Tower, Mixmaster, Scrapper, Rampage, Long Haul, Scavenger) will connect together to form Devastator. The Devastator figure will measure approximately two feet tall and four feet wide and will retail for around $100. The Constructicons in this set will ONLY be in vehicle mode… they’re not transformable into robot mode. (Check out my rant on Issue 6 of GeekintheCity Radio for more on this sucker).
- Leader Class Optimus Prime: This is a re-tooling of the same figure that was available with the first movie line. This latest version will feature more movable parts and two swords.
- The Human Alliance Bumblebee will come with a mini Shia figure who ill be able to remain inside the vehicle during transformation. Sounds messy.
Unlike their battered sibling, Mattel is poised to make 2009 a year of special significance for both kids and collectors. At last year’s San Diego Comic Con, Mattel launched mattycollector.com, a website devoted to delivering high quality action figures and rare characters into the hands of eager fans. After recruiting the Four Horsemen, a group of sculptors legendary for their long history in the action figure world, Mattel announced plans to bring back Masters of the Universe and broaden their DC Universe line. Through mattycollector.com, regular Masters of the Universe and DC Universe Classics figures were released… and subsequently sold out. Mattel’s passion for creating high-quality action figures coupled with their transparency in the production process (they provide fans with regular updates on Matty’s Facebook page) has returned the company to the forefront of the action figure market. Given all of this, what could Mattel possibly do to top last year’s amazing success? One word… Ghostbusters.
- Ghostbusters – Mattel’s acquisition of this license was leaked online a day before New York Comic Con. Rumors had surfaced that the company was working on a “secret collector-oriented line sculpted by the Four Horsemen”… and this was it. The license will allow Mattel to release figures based on all original four Ghostbusters (yes, including Winston!) and will also include The Real Ghostbusters animated series and the upcoming Atari video game. All figures will be available exclusively on mattycollector.com.
- 6″ scale – Will retail for $20 each and will be released every other month. Each figure will come with a different pack-in ghost. Line will debut at San Diego Comic Con in July 2009.
- 12″ scale – Will retail for $60 each and will include cloth uniforms, articulated accessories (ghost trap!) and light-up proton packs. The Line will debut in June 2009.
- Masters of the Universe Classics – He-Man, Skeletor, Beast Man and Stratos have all sold out! Each new figure is selling out quicker than the last.
- He-Man and Skeletor will be re-released online. Figures will come in new packaging that will indicate a second run. A re-issue of King Greyskull (2008 SDCC Exclusive) is also planned in the coming year.
- Upcoming figures in the line: Faker, Zodak, Mer-Man, Man-At-Arms, Hordak, Teela, Tri-Klops & Battle Cat planned for 2010!
- DC Universe – The Dark Knight Movie Masters will continue in 2009 with Two-Face, Bank-Robber Joker, Jail-Cell Joker and a 12″ scale Joker.
- Batman: Brave & the Bold line has become increasingly successful due to the popularity of the Cartoon Network series. New figures planned for the line include Plastic Man, the Joker, Green Arrow, Despero, Gentleman Ghost, B’wana Beast and the Batmobile. – Geek Note – If they introduce Haunted Tank or Detective Chimp, I might explode – End Geek Note –
DIAMOND SELECT TOYS
Since joining forces with sculpting powerhouses Art Asylum and Jean St. Jean Studios, Diamond Select Toys has risen from the status of “also ran” to “legitimate contender” on many fans best-of lists. The company has breathed new life in the Star Trek license (you listening Playmates?!) and delivered some amazing Battlestar Galactica and Stargate figures to some of sci-fi’s most hardcore fans. In 2009 all of these lines return, along with DST’s super-posable MiniMates, which expands into a host of new licenses.
- Star Trek – The Enterprise D as seen in ‘All Good Things’ is planned for the coming year.
- Borg Series: 6″ scale figures featuring some of the sexiest Borgs from the Trek universe. The line will include 7 of 9 (two versions), a Borg drone, Locutus and the Borg queen.
- Deep Space Nine: 6″ scale figures include Sisko in command chair, a Sisko/Gul Ducat 2-pack and a Worf/Gawron 2-pack.
- The Original Series: 6″ scale figures include a Romulan Kirk/Spock 2-pack, Salt Vampire and a ‘Voyage Home’ Kirk/Spock 2-pack.
- A full line of TOS prop-replicas are planned. These will include a full line of tricorders (medical, science, geological) as well as a ‘Wrath of Khan’ Communicator & Tricorder.
- Stargate: SG-1 Series 5 is coming this year and will include General Jack O’ Neil, Black Ops Samantha Carter, General Hammond, Horus Guard and Baal. The build-a-vehicle for the series will be a UAV Armored Recon Drone.
- Battlestar Galactica: Upcoming figures include a Leoben/Starbuck 2-pack, Apollo/Duala 2-pack, Admiral Cain, Admiral Adama and President Roslyn.
- Marvel Select: This pricey 6″ scale line continues with Kree Armor Captain Marvel, Sabretooth and two Wolverines (yellow & brown suit).
- MiniMates: This super-articulated line of stubby badasses expands to include characters from Ghostbusters. The figures will be sold in two separate box sets and will include all four Ghostbusters, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Luis Tully and Dana Barrett.
Despite its rather cumbersome name, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association has cemented itself as a strong player in the collectible action figure industry. In fact, some might say that NECA has supplanted the once-mighty McFarlane Toys as the leader in movie and video game themed action figures. Their Cult Classics line saw some amazing additions in 2008 (Beetlejuice) and the company’s efforts to branch out into more video game (Street Fighter) and comic book (Ninja Turtles) licenses has been met with staunch approval. This year, NECA returns with more Cult Classics, Turtles, teenage wizards and even the Governator! (Diss is good).
- Terminator 2 – Line will include four different Arnold figures: T800 w/ shotgun, T800 w/ cybernetic arm, T800 w/ chaingun, battle-damaged T800 w/grenade launcher. The line will also include a re-release of the original Cult Classics T800 Endoskeleton. This re-release will have better tooling and new weapons. A new T800 Endoskeleton will be released later in the line.
- A 12″ T2 Arnold figure is also planned! (of course, Arnold always came in 12″ and things of this nature).
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The line is NOT dead. Series 2 is planned for a 2009 release and will include April O’Neil, Shredder (w/Krang), Foot Soldier, Elite Guard and a new Mouser.
- Cult Classics: New figures include an Exorcist box set (Regan in bed with spinning head!), Beetlejuice (in red suit), Chamberlain from Dark Crystal, Connor & Murphy MacManus from The Boondock Saints (but no Il Duce… WTF?!) and figures from the upcoming Tim Burton film 9.
- Player Select: The video game centric line will expand with new figures from Dante’s Inferno (upcoming EA game), Isaac Clarke from Dead Space (clean & bloody versions), a new Kratos from God of War 3 and three figures from Resident Evil 5 (Redfield, Sheeva, Executioner).
- NECA’s Street Fighter series gets expanded with Guild, Akuma and mega-thighs Chun-Li.
- Gears of War Series 4 will include Col. Hoffman, Ticker (with action feature), Locust Grenadier, Locust Flame Grenadier, Beast Rider and a Poison Lambent Locust. Series 5 will include a Boomer (regular), Mauler, Grinder and Butcher. A JACK robot has been sculpted and will be released. NECA isn’t sure if this will be available as a pack-in accessory in a box set or a build-a-figure for an upcoming wave.
- Street Fighter and Gears of War will both have San Diego Comic Con exclusives this year.
In addition to this bevy of toy goodness, Mezco announced that they will be canceling their Heroes line and that Series 3 and 4 will not be produced. I blame Jeph Loeb. He makes even tiny plastic versions of superheroes cry. Also, Kotoukiya unveiled a few nifty additions to their Marvel vinyl statue line. Fans will soon be able to get their mitts on Spider-Man, Captain America (new outfit), Nova, Scarlet Witch, Rogue and Winter Soldier. Rounding out the remaining blockbuster toy news from the past few weeks is Disney’s announcement that they have entered into a licensing agreement with Lego. That’s right… Lego will begin making Disney-themed sets in 2010. There is no ceiling to this license and I’m amazed that it has taken this long for the two uber-companies to join forces. (You listening Paramount? Trek Legos, NOW)! Lego will kick things off by rolling out building sets based on Cars and Toy Story. After that, they’ll work cooperatively with Disney to expand their empire… brick by tiny interconnecting brick.
Report and Review by Dan Clark – Portland’s only Swayze approved Pirate/Ninja!