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Marvel Legends is dead! Long live Marvel Legends!

{mosimage}With Hasbro’s announcement of the 3 3/4-inch scaled Marvel Universe line this past week at San Diego Comic Con, many Fwooshers have started lamenting the death of the the 6-inch Marvel Legends line

While we may see some changes in how Legends ultimately end up in our hands, I believe the line is alive and kicking.

As collectors, we had about five years worth of 6-inch figures from Toy Biz, followed by a couple of years worth from Hasbro.  That’s a really long time for a toy line to keep flourishing, even for a successful one.  There are a lot more toy lines that have died out after a year or less – even great ones like Legendary Comic Book Heroes – than have gone on in perpetuity – like Power Rangers, where kids can’t seem buy enough of the same five or six characters over and over again.

Now, to be clear, I want the 6-inch line to go on forever.  But from the standpoint of its product lifecycle, this many years in, I recognize that we’re on the back end of it.  Case in point: I’ve bought every Wolverine that Toy Biz and Hasbro have made, and my wife has asked me why I keep buying them.  She’s onto something there.  I just bought 4 more Hulks to build Fin Fang Foom, yet I’ve already got enough green plastic to make a life-sized rotocast Hulk.  Ideally, I would like to just be able to start filling holes in my collection, instead of buying the same guys over and over again.  Once again, we’re on the back end of the product lifecycle here.

Incidentally, a toy line’s position in the product lifecycle explains why Mattel can continue with their Connect and Collect figures while Hasbro may not want to continue with Build-a-Figure.  Remember, we’ve only had two C&C series of DCUC so far.  That’s a product line that’s just getting started.  Mattel has plenty of A-list DC heroes that haven’t seen the light of day yet.  Compare that to where we are with Marvel Legends – who are the big A-listers left?

I think this is part of what’s driving how Legends is doing at retailers.  If you think the Marvel products that are yet to arrive at retail this year, only the Hulk Legends BAF was picked up broadly by the big box retailers (e.g., Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys ‘R Us).  That is probably because Hulk had a movie this year.  The rest – the Red Hulk, Ares, and Nemesis BAF series – are retailer exclusives. 

Even with all the signs of a declining product line, I’m not that worried about the fate of Legends.  First, Hasbro knows there are a dedicated base of collectors out there that still want them.  They’ve found a product extension (the 2-packs) that big box retailers are still buying.  And if all else fails, they have as a distribution channel.  It’s a safe bet that Hasbro is using the Sunfire exclusive to test the waters, in case they need to go that route.

Despite the strong push Hasbro will give to Marvel Universe – they want a product at the start of its lifecycle, remember – they’ll also prepare some offerings in the 6-inch scale for Fall Toy Fair.  If they knock it out of the park, we’ll see broad distribution of Legends.  It’s more likely that we’ll see the line head to the domain of a retailer exclusive.  Even if it’s a complete failure at big box retail, we’ll see a program developed for distribution through

Six-inch Marvel has been a cash cow for two toy companies for nearly seven years.  Rest assured, Hasbro will continue milking it as long as they can.

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