Friday, July 27, 2012

The Buzz: SDCC Reveals, part 2: Mattel unveils "Submageddon!"

Yesterday I covered Hasbro's SDCC reveals, today I move on to Mattel... Oh, boy. I don't even know how to approach this one. There is a lot of debate and controversy surrounding Mattel right now, specfically the turmoil caused by their interest in subscription-only toylines for "adult collectors", available of course via which is operated by Digital River.

My main goal of these articles is to cover SDCC reveals, but it seems that with Mattel all the cool new toys have been overshadowed by the sub situation and that's a shame. In all honesty, I'm not anti-Mattel and for the most part truly feel they deliver some of the best action figures available. Nearly 75% of the reviews available on the Hive are Mattel-related. Hell, most are Mattel WWE-related! But when they force collectors to buy their products exclusively via Matty Collector a third factor is introduced to the equation and it's a detrimental one. That being Digital River.

The issues with Digital River are nothing new, but it seems they've reached a boiling point with the majority of fans. I've been making purchases on Matty since 2009 and for the most part never had an issue until I bought a subscription. Last year I bought the Club Ecto-1 & Lion Force subs and after an internet rally from some of the most reputable and revered fansites, I eventually joined Club Infinite Earths, believing like many I was helping the line continue. Well, Ecto-1 was scrapped (and looking back, I'm glad it was), Lion Force has turned out to be quite mediocre and Infinite Earths is more fizzle than BIG BANG. The quality of the lines notwithstanding, the real problem came in the form of Digital River being unable to update my billing/shipping information in a timely manner. This led to my first sub figures (Voltron's Red Lion & Lance) being shipped to my old address in February.

I don't want to bore you the details and lord knows I've written them out enough times over the past two weeks, but I will tell you that just yesterday I finally received an e-mail saying my Flash figure is being shipped to my current address. The sad part is that the communication between DR and myself eventually devolved into me essentially "bitching them out", vowing to never again make a purchase from Matty Collector until they are gone and getting the Better Business Bureau (of which DR is an accredited member) involved. No one should have to do any of that just to buy a freaking action figure.

DC Universe Classics & Watchmen
At SDCC Mattel revealed the final figures of the 2012 CIE sub: Elasti-Girl, Constantine, Uncle Sam, Platinum & Tin and the oversized Lead. After my wave 16 Mercury figure fell apart, I didn't bother getting a replacement and ended up selling my Iron and Gold figures, so Platinum, Tin & Lead are destined for the 'bay. Constantine would look great next to Swamp Thing in a Vertigo shelf, but I don't have ST and there isn't a Vertigo shelf. Uncle Sam looks nice, but I have little use for him at this point, pretty much like everyone else since we'll more than likely never get any of the other Freedom Fighters or whatever team he is/was/will be in. That leaves only Elasti-Girl for me to be excited about. Now, I know very little of the Doom Patrol, having only read a handful of their comics, but I still have my Robotman, Negative Man and Beast Boy in the bins, so I'll at least be completing this team.

So let's recap: out of the 13 figures in the 2012 sub, I'm only keeping 6 of them for sure (for now...) because even the club-exclusive, Metron, managed to leave a bad taste in my mouth when he arrived with chip on his nose. I STILL have not removed him from the package and he was the REASON I decided to buy-in last year. Okay, that's a QC issue, but the thought of having to deal with DR for a replacement turns my stomach, so I won't even bother with it. That will leave me with The Flash (tentatively), Starman (who I had no interest in until I received him, but I may have to dump his unmasked head because it reminds me of a former co-worker who was fired after he was arrested on child molestation charges. Don't need THAT on my shelf!), Mirror Master (my Flash rogues gallery started off with Captain Cold and recently added Boomerang and Zoom), Black Mask (Bat-villain, 'nuff said), Poison Ivy (ditto!) and Elasti-Girl.

Atrocitus went up on eBay as soon as he arrived because inspite of the nicer DCUC articulation, he was inferior to my DC Direct version. I listed and sold him for $25, plus shipping and that more or less recouped my cost on him after eBay & PayPal fees, but I fear it won't be as easy with some of the others I'll try to dump like Rocket Red and the Metal Men.

For CIE 2013, Mattel revealed the first five figures plus the sub exclusive: Saint Walker, Phantom Stranger, Elongated Man (red), Larfleeze and the Flash (Wally West, finally) with Monsieur Mallah & the Brain as the buy-in exclusive. They also revealed that the 2013 line would consist of 12 standard figures with Mallah being the only over-sized figure in the line. Not a bad idea, as it would keep the cost of the line down, but I had somehow gotten my hopes up for an oversized Doomsday figure. The infamous thermometer returned to gauge the level of purchases for the sub, but this time there were two goals marked on it. The first was the requisite amount needed to move forward with the 2013 subscription. The second goal marked the number of purchased subscriptions they would need in order to "investigate" a 100% tooled figure for the 2014 sub, if it even comes about. That's just further proof that Mattel will only make these figures with the bare minimum. I mean at this point they have a massive tooling library and you're telling me that can't tool ONE new figure if the sub goes through? That's total bullshit.

Anyway, the other big news, the mystery sub alluded to prior to the show was an "all-new" line based on the Watchmen comic book. I think the window of oppurtunity for this line has closed, Matty. This is something fans were asking for for years up until 2009 when the live-action film was released. It's pretty much too little too late. The other problem is that even though these figures will surely make use of parts already tooled for DCUC, they come with a $25 price tag and buying the sub gets you absolutely jack-shit. Where is the incentive to buy it? Having to pay extra-shipping costs?

There was also the reveal of the "Unlimited" series, Batman and DC, respectively. These are primarily composed of the cancelled DC All-Stars line from a few months ago and will be available at retail. They are definitely DCnU-centric and will hopefully appeal to a new generation of fans because they don't do much for me.

Masters of the Universe Classics
So Club Lion Force will be done this year, Infinite Earths is small-potatoes in the larger scheme of things because the real basis for the "Great Sub Debate of 2013" is the Masters of the Universe Classics subscription, Club Eternia. Long-time readers of the Hive know I'm a "passive" MotUC collector, only going after the characters I remember from my childhood and a few interesting choices here and there. I've never subbed and never really entertained the thought because it's always been an "all-in" deal, which unfortunately meant it would cost more than I was willing to pay with little enjoyment in return. This year I thought the reveals were actually pretty cool and I don't mean Ram Man because I don't care for the character or his design. I'm fascinated by King He-Man, the 2013 club exclusive, and the Fighting Foe Men are pretty interesting. However, that's not enough for me to purchase the sub. They seem to have turned down the volume for next year with 12 monthly figures and only four quarterly items, however the inevitable price increase means the sub still costs about as much as it did in previous years.

WWE Elite Collection
Mattel's WWE reveals were a mixed bag. There were a few shake-ups and some great news to be sure, but overall was rather underwhelming. Probably the biggest news was Miss Elizabeth being moved from the Matty-exclusive WWE Legends series to the Elite Flashback (in an as-yet-unannounced series). That's probably for the best, although, I don't know how hard it will be to find her, the Elite series has stalled out a bit at 14 in my area, with only Walmart still carrying them. Also, the first ever Elite Divas figure will be released, none other than Kelly Kelly in series 17 along with Mankind (F*CK YES!) and an Internet title-sporting Zack Ryder! We can also look forward to an "American Badass" Undertaker, Jerry "The King" Lawler and complete our con-CHAIR-to duo with a flashback Christian.

Sadly, no news on future Legends or Defining Moments figures. In truth moving Legends to Matty Collector and charging $20 for them (before shipping) was a bad move. I don't know what made Mattel think they could sell them for that much when Toys R Us was selling the last few wave for $12.99 each. I think they became overzealous after the voting results came in, which seem to have been heavily inflated by rabid fans when you consider the character selection. None of them proved to be big sellers as the first figure, Andre the Giant, only recently sold out.

Toys R Us will continue their exclusive "Best of Pay-Per-View" series with build-a-figures of John Laurinitis and Teddy Long. Those aren't enough to get my to buy those over-priced Elites. The only exclusive I'm really interested in is the RSC Stone Cold Steve Austin with his "Smoking Skull" belt and "Attitude-era" WWE Championship belt.

As much as I would have liked to give Club Eternia a try and continue with Infinite Earths, the bottomline is I cannot justify spending that kind of money while Digital River is involved, making life miserable for collectors. It may sound cliché, but it goes back to that old saying, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I would love nothing more than to have a service where I receive all the figures I want mailed to my home with little action from my end, but DR has proven that they are incapable of doing that in a competent manner. The price increase is another issue, but when you have to pay separate shipping for non-sub items, that REALLY drives up the bill!

A few days ago I posted on Facebook that I would be boycotting Matty Collector until the day DR is no longer associated with it and I meant that. Those who know me in the "real world" know that I'm a pretty calm guy and usually don't make impulsive decisions, that's why I can tell you that I thought long and hard before I made that post. Additionally, I will no longer review any products I've purchased from Matty Collector because regardless of page hits, it's still free-advertising for them. I won't take down any of the reviews I've already posted over the years, but that means no DDP, Voltron or CIE reviews.

I'd also like to add that I hold no ill-will towards those who do continue to subscribe and I'm certainly not encouraging anyone to follow my lead. I'm simply stating my point-of-view and what works for me. I don't want ANY of the lines cancelled, every fan deserves to have the collection they want and if you buy-in to the subs I completely understand. I once felt doing so would help keep the toys I love coming, but it's obvious that doing so will no longer be on my terms.

To be clear, I'm not boycotting Mattel, just Matty Collector. I'm still going to buy their WWE figures in-stores. I'm still going to buy the random DC toy. And I'll be open to seeing MotU at retail again, but Digital River can go to hell. And if that means taking CIE, Eternia, Ghostbusters, WWE Legends and whatever else with them... so be it.
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