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San Diego Comic Con 2003: Mattel Action Figures

At San Diego Comic-Con 2003, I talked to Steve LaBella at Mattel Toys who gave me excellent information about upcoming figures and the future case pack ratios.

First off many thanks to Palisades Toys for allowing me to volunteer at their booth, and helping me get in on Preview Night, so I could get the pics to you guys right away. See a later editorial for more details on Palisades and their amazing toy line.

Obviously all this information is subject to change, but Steve was very knowledgeable and I'm guessing something strange would have to happen for these numbers to change.

In general, Steve told me that Justice League was selling extremely well and beyond all of Mattel's expectations. They had expected it to be a minor license and probably something that they wouldn't invest too much time and money in. The first wave of figures represents that, as their limited articulation was never intended, but a necessary evil to get the first waves into stores quickly. In 2004, all figures will have added articulation at the elbows and the knees. Wonder Woman will have the increased articulation, though pictures below do not. Martian Manhunter will also be re-released with the new style of articulation.

I asked Steve what happened to Solomon Grundy, and basically he told me that they were worried that he wasn't going to sell, and they had already planned Luthor for the line. They do not plan to do Grundy at a later time.

I know many collectors hate the crazy variations and accessories that come with some figures, but Steve tells me that every accessory and design must be approved by DC who apparently demand some sort of story for every accessory. Obviously Batman is the easiest, as Batman always has "gadgets" whereas it was hard for them to design Superman's accessories, since he rarely uses any. For example the Black and Silver Superman variant in the deluxe playset was justified since Superman appeared in the costume about two years ago during the Bizzaro/Emperor Joker storyline.

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Obviously there's the new Hawkgirl figure. As slated before she's still going to be an exclusive. Hawkgirl will be available in about 2 weeks. She's going to be packed low and be either 1 or 2 per case. She will first be available at Target then everywhere. She will ship with the Mega Armor line pictured here, and with the Mega Armor Flash below.

Click for Bigger Picture jaw hit the floor when I saw this, and you're probably picking yours up right now. This Darkseid is everything that it looks to be and more. It's insanely better than the old Hasbro one, and yes his armor is removable. If you look at the figures, you'll notice a lenticular images that come with it. The line is called "Mission Vision" and all the figures will come with the lenticular accessory that will help each leaguer accomplish his or her "mission." Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman are all slated to be in this assortment along with Darkseid. These figures will be out Spring 2004.

Steve told me that they plan to do about one villain per season. Apparently children focus groups didn't test well with villains, so we'll get Luthor and Darkseid for now. Darkseid will be packed at most two per case.

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Justice League Cars. Steve told me these were basically done really quick and just as a tie in to the license. Essentially it's just a new decal on an old car.

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This is also something that I never expected to see. Mattel will be completing its 10" line of figures, with NOT just Martian Manhunter and Wonder Woman but also Aquaman. Green Lantern should be shipping now. I asked him why we had only seen these cases at Wal-Mart, and he told me that Wal-Mart simply gets it's product on the shelves earlier than the other major retailers. The first four should not be hard to get, so you shouldn't pay over $10 for them. On the other hand, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter will be out by the holidays, and will be nearly packed one per case on a rotating basis. This means that if you open a case, you'll find just one of these guys. Meaning you'll need to look through at least three cases to get one of each. The rest of the case will be filled with the previous four figures.

Steve told me that Hawkgirl might come out in the 10" line, but nothing definite. He'd also like to bring Aquaman to the 4 3/4" line, but that will be after Spring '04.

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Yup the Javelin-7. It looks really nice and by the time you read this, you should be able to buy it in stores.

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The Flash figure in the Mega Armor line. The Luthor on the left is the same Luthor that is in the Superman/Luthor two-pack that I have mentioned before. Currently the Batman/Superman two-pack is the only two pack that is being released.

Steve said that there was a problem with the Luthor figure and he is being delayed. He will be inserted into future cases. The case pack ratio will likely be 4 Batman/Superman to 2 Superman/Luthors. Making Luthor hard to get, but not impossible.

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This game is basically a Yu-Gi-Oh game that was given the Justice League treatment. Just a spin-off product that hopefully kids will like.

In other news, the Animated Batman line is basically dead and will not continue. Villains that crossover from Batman to Justice League might make it into the line. (i.e. Joker) They'll try to stick Batman characters into the JL line where appropriate.

They would like to do a Watchtower playset sometime. This will probably depend on how well the Javelin sells.

Julius Marx at Action Figure Times reported that Joker, Grodd, Aquaman and Metamorpho would also be released in 2004.

After reading this article you might be enraged with Mattel and their case packs, but Steve was honestly sincere about Mattel's practices. Basically they've done tests with children and the highest testing figures were Flash, Batman and Superman (in that order). Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter tested about the same, but really low, with Hawkgirl being basically non-existent. The case ratios reflect this testing. It'd be great if we could get a case containing Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman 10" figures, but they'd just clog the shelves. Mattel needs to move product, and the collectors simply don't buy enough. However, that does not mean that Mattel doesn't listen to collectors. Mattel offers cases to Diamond, and they're allowed to order whatever number of figures that they want, which in turn mean that comic stores can get more collector friendly cases. They've already done so with the Batman line, shipping cases that are evenly packed with Batman, Joker and Robin. What this means is that if you want these new figures and don't want to spend days searching for them at retail, you should ask your comic store to order cases from Diamond that should be packed more evenly.

Speaking of the Mattel Batman line, the Joker that is currently fetching a lot of money on the secondary market will be inserted into future lines of Batman. This means that if you see one you should buy it, but don't pay crazy prices now because they're only going to go down. The new Mr. Freeze figure will have two heads. One with glasses and one with an angry look without the glasses. The angry look will be a variant, and he mentioned a number of 1 out of 100 (didn't know if this was figures or cases, but I guess it might not make a difference). I don't think this number is final, but the variant Freeze will be hard to get.

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