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SDCC 2006 – Hasbro Marvel Legends Update

Five short months ago, the Marvel Legends collector community at Fwoosh and across the internet was reeling from the details of Hasbro / Marvel toys deal.  During Toy Biz’s "nerd herd" we asked "What about Hasbro?" and were told that Hasbro would be responsible for it all – design, marketing, production, and distribution.  The outlook was doom and gloom.

This week, following a combined Hasbro / Toy Biz showing at San Diego Comic Con, the community is buzzing with excitement once again.  The first sets of Hasbro product for 2007 look good, and we’ve gotten a positive update on the relationship between Hasbro and Toy Biz.

In this article, I’ll discuss what we’ve seen and heard, what people think they heard but really didn’t, and what I think the longer term outlook is for Marvel Legends.


What We’ve Seen and Heard

Hasbro seeks to broaden the appeal for the Marvel brand.  To that end, they’re keeping what works for Toy Biz, and adding their own spin to things.  They fully recognize that Legends is a collector-oriented line, and are adding additional lines to bolster their offerings to the collector segment.  The first is an 8-inch line of figures akin to Famous covers, with plastic heads and bodies adorned with cloth costumes.  The bodies are identical to the Hasbro products available in the late 90’s.  The second is an assortment of Titanium figures, like we’ve seen with Star Wars characters.

The Spider-Man line continues to be targeted at kids, and Spider-Man Origins looks to leverage the upcoming Spidey 3 movie by looking at the evolution of Spider-Man and his villains throughout his comic run.  Hasbro will also leverage the broad set of existing molds and toolings, making the spring assortment of Origins re-releases and repaints, with the exception of the new Iron Spider-Man figure.  The line will also have some fan favorites in a Spidey 2099 and a color-accurate Demogoblin.

Hasbro also seeks to leverage what they’ve done with its Star Wars license, and make toys that appeal to an even younger consumer.  To that end, they’re adding the Superhero Squad, Marvel Attacktix, and Marvel Heroes.  Superhero Squad and Marvel Attacktix borrow directly from the Star Wars toys.  Marvel Heroes will focus on the big-hitter heroes and villains in the Marvel universe and will be targeted at kids.  While the first few series will reissue existing Toy Biz toys (series 1 is from X-Men Classics), this line will most likely be reduced to 5" scale and include action features.

For SDCC, Hasbro focused a lot of their messaging on Marvel Legends.

The more things change… … the more they stay the same.
  • New Marvel Legends logo
  • New packaging
  • No comic pack-in
  • Restart at Series 1
  • Available direct from Hasbro online
  • Existing sculptors and painters
  • 6" scale
  • Super-articulated
  • Build-a-figure
  • Close to even case ratios
  • Chase and variant figures
  • Similar price point
  • Four assortments per year

The most welcome statements were in contrast with what Toy Biz told us at Toy Fair – Hasbro and Toy Biz will collaborate on the design of Marvel toys as long as Hasbro wants them to.

What People Think They Heard But Really Didn’t

They’re have been some pretty forward-looking statements made by folks who attended the Hasbro / Marvel / Toy Biz panel at SDCC.  I’m not trying to rain on the parade here, but for all of the items below, every convention member question was phrased as "Will you consider…" and every Hasbro answer was phrased as "Yes, we will consider…"  There’s nothing definite in those statements, and I hope everyone will set their expectations accordingly.  This applies to all the "product pitches" that were made:

  • G.I. Joe Legends
  • Bring on the Bad Guys Henchmen and Army Builders
  • Age of Apocalypse figures
  • Jim Lee figures
  • Re-releasing Toy Biz chase figures
  • Exclusives and mail-away premiums
  • Flight stands available online
  • Playsets and vehicles
  • Continue the Showdown line

The Hasbro team handled character-specific requests with either a "clap if you’re interested in so-and-so" question or a straight up "we know so-and-so is popular and we’re considering it" – from time to time they’d chime in if they personally liked the character.  So – nothing definite here, either.

And in case you didn’t want to hear it, Hasbro definitely will not be re-releasing older BAFs as individual figures, and you shouldn’t expect them to work around the retailer issues with Marvel characters like Son of Satan and a Nazi-costumed Red Skull.

What I Think It All Means

You’ll have to take all of this with a grain of salt.  After all, back in February, I said that Showdown and Megamorphs had the most to gain, while Legends would face the most pressure to change.  And here in July, Showdown and Megamorphs will end this year, while Legends goes on unchanged in the attributes that are likely most important to the majority of collectors.

And while I’m tremendously psyched in particular about the Legends assortments planned for spring 2007, I do wonder what is in store for us after that.  Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

  • Just how long will Hasbro and Marvel collaborate on design?  The statement "as long as Hasbro wants" says a lot.  If the Toy Biz team is actively participating in design, I’d guess they’re not doing it for free.  If that’s the case, that’s impacting Hasbro’s bottom line, and I wouldn’t expect it to continue for the life of the 5-year Hasbro / Marvel agreement.
  • I also wonder how much Hasbro will use Toy Biz’s set of freelance sculptors and painters.  My guess is that we’ll see more re-use in Legends vs. new sculpts, and for the new sculpts themselves we’ll see those shift from Toy Biz’s crew to Hasbro’s in-house team.  Again, this is another factor driven by cost.
  • I think Megamorphs could be reborn as Marvel Transformers – but this will be wholly dependent on how the Star Wars Transformers line performs.
  • I also think we will see more Showdown-scaled Legends.  The allure of having Star Wars, Joes, and Marvel action figures in one scale is enough to make any collector salivate – and Hasbro likes drooling collectors.  At the SDCC panel, we pitched a 6" line of Joes, but I wonder if Hasbro is thinking about Legends in 4" scale.  When they were asked about Showdown, they asked if people were interested in other scales.  Everyone responded enthusiastically.  I think it’s important to clarify to them that we’d like Legends in other scales – as long as we continue to get 6" Legends too.
  • The only real concern I have for Legends is retailer shelf space.  With the proliferation of Marvel toy lines next year, there will be increase competition for shelf space for a category that retailers may not believe merits expansion.  If retailers don’t allot more Marvel space, then lines like Superhero Squad and Marvel Heroes will take shelf space from Legends, since they’ll have a broader mass market target and have lower unit costs.

The next year will most definitely be an exciting time for Marvel Legends.  Until Toy Fair, however, I know I’ll be focused on finding what I can of the Toy Biz offerings for the remainder of 2006.  In the meantime, if you have questions for Toy Biz or Hasbro, post them, and we’ll ask.

Discussion in this thread in the forums:

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