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We Have A Crisis On Our Hands – Keep DC Universe Classics Alive!

Well kids, we are at a crossroads. The fate of our favorite DC Comics action figure line is in our hands. With less than a week to go, the thermometer that has to hit 100% (degrees?) is only at about 40. Well, we still think it can make it and DCUC can continue. The fate of the line is in our hands. Have you bought your subscription yet? If not, go do it now! We can wait… Still need some coaxing, okay – we have just the thing for that too. Fwoosh Main Man, Pablolobo, along with the faithful Ibentmyman-thing and Veebee are out to plead their case. Show you that the fate of the line is just the first thing for you to decide – the collector community is going to be a lot more involved from now on. If we can make it happen. Remember, at the end of the day, it is all about the toys. The TOYS. So, set the politics, the old beefs and the grudges aside and take a look at what we could have going for us. Is there a risk? Sure, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. And you know what – DCUC is worth it!

At the SDCC 2011 Mattypalooza panel, it was announced that Mattel would be starting a DC Subscription through their MattyCollector website. This subscription would allow customers to sign up for exclusive figures that would be released on a monthly basis; regular 6 inch figures and “larger” connect and collect sized figures. Mattel chose to offer this subscription to customers as it was a way to continue to bring DC Universe Classics to customers as DCUC is going to be rebranded at the start of 2012. As part of the rebranding Mattel will be focusing on the current new look of DC characters as they will also be going through an update in the comics.

This has drawn the ire of many collectors for many different reasons and as a result the success or future of the DC Subscription seems to be in jeopardy.

One of the issues is that DCUC is coming to a close as we know it, Wave 20 will eventually end the line and DCUC as it has been. Over the last 20 waves, 2 classics waves and various MattyCollector exclusives and SDCC exclusives we’ve gotten a hell of a lot of figures and we want more. We want to complete the Golden Age and Modern age Justice Society of America, All Star Squadron, Teen Titans, Doom Patrol, Justice League from every year, 4th World characters and many more that I could go on listing. As collectors we have an insatiable thirst for these toys and hearing that a line we’ve come to love is going away is hurtful.

To hear that the line will be rebranded and the focus will only be current looks for characters sucks for collectors like me stuck in the stone ages. Sure my kids might like it, but for me I’ll be moving on.

Mattel, in an attempt to keep collectors like me, has offered a subscription only continuation of DCUC via Mattycollector, giving me the opportunity to get Mento, Tempest, Negative Girl, The Chief, Elasti-girl, Harbinger, Pariah, Lady Quark, Monitor, Quardians, Tarantula, Johnny Quick, Shining Knight and many, many, many, many more that I could on listing. I would get each figure guaranteed, I wouldn’t have to drive to 40 different stores, wasting time, energy and gas that I cannot afford.

I drive 2 hours to get to work between 8 and 9 AM. I work for 8-10 hours a day, drive home 2 hours. I participate in family dinners, spend time with my 2 sons, spend time with my wife, make time to exercise and keep myself fit and healthy and make time for hobbies. Weekends are booked with family gatherings, soccer matches, track and field events, swimming, school events, work and everything else under the sun. I simply don’t have enough hours in my day as it is, and to think that I have to spend all my time hunting for figures makes me insane. Truth is, I wind up getting toys off an online source anyway. For me the DC Subscription offers me a get out of jail free card. I get a guaranteed figure from a line sporting a style and character that I know I want in my collection, no hunting, driving, getting stressed. It’s just delivered to my doorway.

Another issue is that unlike the Masters of the Universe Classics line or Ghostbusters or Voltron, is the subscription (or subscribers and non-subscribers alike) is dependent on getting the numbers to get started. And that hurts. It excludes the rainy day collectors or the ones only collecting certain figures. Not everyone is as nuts about the Golden Age like fatsal, VeeBee, IBentMyManThing, SDComics and myself. Not everyone wants to complete the GA All Star Squadron, Justice Society of America, Seven Soldiers of Victory or Freedom Fighters like we do. Some people just want Green Lantern characters or Justice Society and those people are being forced to subscribe.

That is a tough one, I agree, but DCUC, unlike Masters of the Universe Classics, is not completely owned and operated by Mattel. It is a licensed property and at the end of the day they are subject to the whim of the licensee. I don’t know the details but I’ll guess that Mattel has been allowed to continue DCUC in this format, and if not for this approval there would be no DCUC after wave 20. Personally I’d rather have it this way then nothing at all.

But keep in mind online ordering these days can be stressful and disappointing. This is a guaranteed subscription for a figure.

And not just a guaranteed figure, but a guaranteed fans choice figure. Mattel is going after the figures that we as collectors, as fans, as direct customers want. Sure they won’t hit 100% on the happiness bar, but at least there isn’t any doubt as to how we are getting the figures.

Look at the success of Four Horsemen Studios Fantastic Exclusive, fans voting on the figures that they want. The DC Subscription offers that exact same formula. Things like Fwoosh Top Ten lists are no longer fun things that we did to get the toy executive’s attention to what we wanted, but any toy sites top 10 DCUC becomes important in deciding who will be voted on next. Top 10 voting lists become the tool and voice that tells Mattel what we as collectors and direct customers want. Top 10 voting lists what you, the fan, the collectors, the direct consumers vote on.

Can it get any better for DC toy collectors?

Yeah ok, so my choices might not always get made and my vote might lose to another Green Lantern (* red vomit* Atrocious * red vomit*) character. But if that is what they fans want and they get the figures they voted on then the line is a success.

I can’t think of a better marketing promotion than the one that Mattel has going on. Just imagine the chatter online, the forum interaction, Facebook, Twitter, etc. People will be talking about this line! Look at them already, the heated debate over whether to invest or not. When the line succeeds and takes off; monthly we’ll be having discussions about the figures that we want! The ones we chose! We’ll get to spend hours debating with one another about why our choice was the best! The insanity!

And once the figure comes out? Then we’ll spend hours talking about how Mattel didn’t quite get it right or that they did or that the amalgamized too many different looks to satisfy everyone. I can’t wait. More than having a modern Super Powers line, more than having the Super Friends, more than having the Wonder Twins, I’ll get a line where I get to choose the figure being made, this figure won’t just be mine but it will be a community’s. And it will be based off one of the greatest comic book companies in history. And we the fans, the collectors, the direct consumers make it happen.

Guaranteed, delivered straight to my doorstep. Does it get any better?

Yes. The timing sucks. I just spent a boatload on SDCC exclusives, plus there is a ton of great plastic out there at this very moment vying for my money. It’s summer vacation where we are, and the economy just crashed. This is not the time to be asking me to invest. But I did it. I did it within days of going live on MattyCollector. I am extremely excited and hopeful about this line and I will do what I can to help it succeed.

*****

You know, when I started to think about how I wanted to compose an article like this, I was torn in a lot of directions. Should it be a smarmy love letter to DCUC because I love it so much? Should it be rage speak at DC for the deeper issue? Should it be that this whole saga has brought out some of the worst aspects about the menial things that are associated with this hobby? Should it be lambasting some guy with 20,000 forum posts that seemingly has nothing better to do than pass out the foil hats and gather more emotionally-distressed people to hate on a “hobby”? Okay, that last one was kind of tempting. But no, none of those things really seemed appropriate. I took a minute to think about what is ultimately important for me, and probably a lot of the more even-keeled people in that make up the community of fans of a hobby I very much enjoy, and I arrived at the most practical, utilitarian and obvious choice. But what is it that I enjoy? What keeps me coming back? How’s this for some inspired conclusion – it’s the freakin’ toys! When I look at the shelves in my toy room, what brings me satisfaction is what is tangible and accounted for. Nothing else even comes into play in the grand scheme of it all. Do I remember if there were any politics or conspiracy theories or finger wagging surrounding the release of someone like Robotman? Nope. I mean, I am sure there was – this is the internet, but if there was anything particular about it I don’t remember and I will be damned if I care in the least right now. All I know is, I have a Robotman figure and seeing him standing next to Negative Man, being able to see his freaking brain(!) that, THAT is action right there. That is why I love the hobby.

So, since getting toys of characters that I love is ultimately the ONLY worthwhile reason I continue to love this hobby, it makes sense that it is the only reason I can offer that is worthy of getting up on a soapbox. But I am not going to rant and rave like so many that ascend to such a platform, I am simply going to lay out why I want the Club Infinite Earths Subscription to happen: we still have A LOT of collecting to do and we are being offered a chance to do it in why that really is easier than it has even been before. Characters, friends, it is all about the characters that need to join their comrades on our shelves. I am not ready to stop, nor am I resigning myself to fall into the chant of those that would make ridiculous stands on any political, or “bad guy” company argument because that is NOT the point. If you are still undecided, let’s take a look at how much better our collections can be if they continue. Let’s get back to what is important – the TOYS! The toys will stand on your shelf for all time, all of the chatter and side-picking, and babble disappears into the wind just as fast as it starts. Let’s make it about what counts.

I want to see a promise kept, a promise that requires the commitment of both producer and collector: building a universe. Now, I could type out 10 or 11 pages without even thinking of characters that I want, no NEED, to still see in the DCUC line. But for the sake of time, I want to focus on a smaller part of building a universe, the part that, at this very moment, seems to be even more urgent – completing teams. Oh dear, we still have so much work to do! There is still so much more to see and to get, especially for some of our favorite teams that are already in-progress. The real kick is that when we finally have an outlet to get some of those team members that even the most optimistic fan was skeptical about seeing in the line, it might not be given the opportunity to happen. I CANNOT SIT ON MY HANDS ABOUT THIS. Allow me to present to you, The Justice Society of America.

 

It is arguable that there is not a more important team in the DC Universe or even comics in general. This is where it all started, this is where traditions continue and damn it – this is a team that is just as important to the DCUC line as the DCUC line is important to it. Can the situation with the JSA be any more immediate at this point in time? DC comics is saying that the team is going to be given “a rest” with this new re-launch. I don’t know what that means, but the very notion of such a thing makes it even more important for me to get figures of all of these characters that I love so much. I am giving Mattel credit for what they have done, and for what is coming in series 19 with the JSA, but just for the limitation of time we have so much more to do! And if showing Jay Garrick – Jay FREAKING Garrick is any indication, if the sub goes through, the JSA train will not be slowing down. Can you imagine not having Jay? I don’t even want to think about it! But fans of all eras of the JSA, and the All-Star Squadron as well, stand to benefit greatly from this execution. Give fatsal his All-Star Squadron! Better is the JSA display that includes the Star-Spangled Kid and Golden Age Mr. Terrific! But better still is when they can stand next to modern characters like Liberty Belle, Sand, Cyclone and Damage. There is still so much left for classic, modern and all-era fans. This is how we are going to get them! Ma Hunkel? Never a possibility before, but now… C’mon! Do we really not have Jade? Or Rick Hourman? Pieter Dr. Mid-Nite is such a great character, I need to have him on my shelf. The JSA has stood the test of time, they have always been there, they are the characters and legacies that preserver throughout time. That is what this sub will give us for the JSA: more time. It is a BIG team and four years is not enough to satisfy it. Let’s give ourselves more time.

The next two teams that I thought about are easy targets for this case, and the subscription plan in general. The Doom Patrol and Metal Men as so close. They are so incredibly close. They are small teams, but that makes their current incomplete state all the harder accept. A toy shelf is not meant to have Mercury without Lead, or Negative Man without Elsati-Girl. THESE are the tried and true fan teams that make a comics tapestry so much richer. I saw Boy Wonder post on the forums that he did not even know the Metal Men before DCUC, but now, they are a priority of his for completion. THAT is how I know we have something special that must be allowed to continue to grow. Platinum as portrayed by the Four Horsemen? She could EASILY be the best DCUC female figure ever. EVER. We just need to the chance to get her. Guess what else? DCUC as it has lived up to this point? No chance of getting Dr. Magnus or The Chief. None. Zip. Now? I can practically see them in front of me. We can get all that we expected from these two teams with the sub, but we can also get more than we would have ever imagined. Making teams better, that is what we need. Let’s give ourselves better teams.

 

The JLA. My JLA display on the shelf is essentially the Satellite team. So, for all intents and purposes, there is really only one big character hole for that team: Elongated-Man. Ralph has had such a hard go of it in the comics, he has been treated so poorly. But you know what? WE can give him what he deserves: respect. Ralph DESERVES to stand tall with Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter. He can be given care and respect by the Horsemen and displayed amongst the upper-echelon on your shelf. Ralph deserves to given respect in the form of a great action figure. He can be revered in plastic even if he is not on paper. Let’s give our favorite characters respect.

Ralph also spent time on another Justice League team that is near and dear to my heart – the Justice League International. My first League. The JLI was all about diversifying, pulling heroes from all different corners and all different walks. The parallel between the JLI mandate and what we could have in the DC sub is actually pretty uncanny. JLI gave us characters from other shores. It gave us more females than we ever had before. It added armor. It added humility. It added Guy Gardner! Okay, so we have gotten that last one in the line already, but while I could get teary-eyed about how my favorite comic character (the Blue Beetle) needs his teammates, the larger issue is that our line needs more diversity. Fire and Ice and Dr. Light II are three very strong female characters, and that is what we need more of. In the end, with any retail line that resides in the boy’s aisle, we are naturally going to have more males than females (and more heroes than villains for that matter), but with the subscription, that is not an issue any longer. The DC Universe is NOT Man’s World. It is populated with wonder male and female characters alike, and so many of them deserve action figures. It seems like the DC reboot is going to go back to the big guns, and they are fine, but it is the diversity that really makes a universe worth exploring. That is what the DCUC line needs: more diversity. Let’s give our shelves and teams the variety that makes this sandbox such a fun place to play in – let’s give our collections more diversity.

I could go on and on about all of the teams that still need all of these things: time, respect, diversity and an overall better approach, but this is getting out of hand already. So the last two pictures spring from the Fourth World, and if ever toys were supposed to be fun and visually cool and interesting, they should come from Apokalips and New Genesis. Look at that corner of your display – it is so much fun. We know the designers at Mattel and the Horsemen hold these characters in the highest regard and you KNOW they are top of mind in all of this (Ahem, METRON. And not just Metron. Metron done right, and with his chair). I want the Forever People, they are a semi-selfish inclusion, but I will argue with anyone all day about how cool they would be as figures. But there are only two words that ultimately need be spoken. Granny. Goodnes. I know she is right around the corner if this thing happens. She is right there, ready to give us her loving care. That’s it! Let’s give the DCUC line what it needs: LOVING CARE!

Titans, Flash Rogues, the Legion, the Lantern Corps, Secret Six and on and on and on will benefit from the subscription. There has got to be several characters that you care about included in those groups, not to mention the teams that have not even been given a chance yet. For example:

There are just so many possibilities.

You know, my part in this is, by and large, about the toys. I stand by that. Even if you have to close your eyes and plug your ears to drown out all of that stuff that doesn’t matter, they toys themselves must be the top priority. I mean, THIS is a work in progress – NOT a finished collection. Can you imagine how all of those characters that have yet to come would fill this out? I want to add more shelves!

 

But, to go along with what Pabs has been saying, this represents such a cool opportunity for us as fans. The Top Ten can move beyond being a fun exercise of distraction to something that can really matter. Things get done in the Masters of the Universe line because the fan community demands it. DC is teetering on this opportunity. That, is so cool. Is the sub by itself the best overall solution? Heck no. I want retail AND a sub for all of my favorite characters. However, since this is opportunity we have, I want to take it. I want to take a chance. There is risk on all sides with this, company and collector alike. The DCUC line has given me so much toy joy and the love the characters of the DCU that I have not yet gotten in figure form so much that I am going to take the risk. Nothing ventured, nothing earned. But, we can lose a lot. It is about the toys and it always will be. I implore you: subscribe to the Club Infinite Earths. Remember why you got into the DCUC line in the first place. Chances are, it was to build the greatest collection of DC action figures ever. We have an opportunity to continue that. Take a chance on DC. Subscribe.

*****

I’ve been catching up on Breaking Bad recently and loving it, and there’s a line in there that, if altered slightly, I think applies very well to DCUC. In the show, the line is: the chemistry must be respected.

Change one word and you have my thoughts on this or any toyline that deals with plastic representations of comic books: the characters must be respected. And you can say a lot about the toyline so far, but more often than not, the characters have indeed been respected. You can feel that there’s a genuine affection for the broader DC Universe lingering behind the scenes. As a toy fan I appreciate that love.

For me, DCUC has delivered in a way that no other toyline has before. I rarely get to cross figures off my top ten lists at the rate with which I have so far. Often you wonder if you’re the only person who even remembers this character that only made a handful of appearances, or that character whose comic came and went so fast that he’s barely a speedbump. But then you see something like an Earth 3 Luthor figure and you realize that somebody somewhere got it. They gave a character that hasn’t existed for decades and barely registered at all in his brief time on four color paper respect.

I don’t want to lose that.

I don’t want to lose a line that gave me a Guardian, or a Vigilante, or a Jonah Hex or Steppenwolf. I don’t want to watch a toyline that had only just started scratching the surface of the Fourth World wither and die without Furies, Forever People, Kanto or Granny. Of course, these days a toyline starts dying from the minute the first wave hits the pegs. Whether it’s the single, perfect wave of NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles or the 2 doomed waves of Legendary Comic Book Heroes, a toyline’s life expectancy can undercut its potential by staggering degrees. 20 waves plus peripherals is a lot for a property that wasn’t thought up by George Lucas. We got the A-listers, and a healthy grouping of B listers, with room for more of the alphabet. And that alphabet–C listers, D listers, the characters that aren’t lucky enough to be Superman or Batman—that’s what made this line what it was. This is a DC UNIVERSE line. I haven’t even come close to getting enough. But the line as it exists now is being rebranded, its focus narrowed.

But those character choices, the C’s, the D’s, the niche characters…they don’t have to end.

Everybody’s needs from this line are different. Some people just want a handful of characters, some just want selections from a certain family whether Bat or Super, some may want just one team and be through. That’s fine. But for people like me—and I have a feeling there are more than just a few of them out there—just handing me a few crayons isn’t going to do it. I want every color, and I want to color outside the lines. I want to finish up the Metal Men and Doom Patrol and JSA but I want much much more than that. It’s a Universe that began in 1938, and despite how many Crises or reboots or so-called relaunches they try and toss at it, that history, those characters, must be respected.

It is, after all, not just a Universe after all. It’s a Multiverse. Pure potential. We can’t get everybody. No toyline will ever deliver every character from a fictional universe. But the possibility of those we could get fueled that excitement for the new wave, wondering if that character you read in World’s Finest or Adventure comics as a kid may finally get his shot at plastic. That’s what made every reveal exciting, and for that one minute the real world and adulthood and all the baggage that comes with it can happily fade away and we could be that kid again.

If you would have told me a year ago that the line would be ending without much hope for a Golden Age Mr. Terrific or the first, original Flash, I’d have scoffed at you with such a mighty scuff that your glasses would have cracked and your shirt would come untucked and possibly unbuttoned. But now…I just don’t know. I don’t like it. Not one bit!

But now we do have hope. It’s not a perfect solution, but with a subscription, they’re offering me something very similar to what those 20 waves have offered: less obvious choices. OMAC. Kamandi. B’wana Beast, Blue Devil: those are the character choices that set this line apart. Those are the character choices that lead me to believe they haven’t forgotten that the great WW2 trifecta of Sgt. Rock, the Unknown Soldier or GI Robot exist. That on some master list somewhere they have the bizarre threesome of Ambush Bug, Wild Dog and Heckler with the word “maybe” written beside them. That they consider one boxset of Legion members “a good beginning”. Or that somebody somewhere thinks that the All Star Squadron, the Freedom Fighters, the Outsiders, or the Royal Flush gang all have perfectly viable characters.

Speaking of the Royal Flush Gang, that’s just the beginning of the villains that this line is lacking. Flash is running an almost solo marathon waiting for the Rogues to join the race. Firestorm is wandering around causing sprinklers to go off because he doesn’t have a Killer Frost or Multiplex to fight. Aquaman is holding a seashell up to his ear waiting for the Ocean Master to return his calls. The JSA are just sitting around watching Matlock because Per Degaton is conspicuously absent. The Legion’s Fatal Five is suffering a pretty bad mathematical error. We have two almost complete Crime Syndicates that only need a handful of members to do what no other line will ever do: finish both eras of the team.

Are we going to give up on them? Are we going to let them give up on us? I’m definitely not. I’ll readily admit there’s not a single character they could make that I’d turn up my nose at. I love the characters, because they’re all products of imagination, and as such they’re as cool as I make them. Crazy Quilt, Ragman, Colonel Computron, Professor Pyg, Vartox and Ultra the Multi Alien, Animal Vegetable Mineral Man, Signalman: they’ve all got a place ready on my shelf, as much of a longshot as any of them might be. I just want the chance to add them. And I know I’m not alone.

*Well dear friends, there you have it. Three honest pleas with only the interest of seeing a line that brings joy to us all continue. Nothing more, just the purity of the toys. Go get ’em!

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