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SDCC2008 – The Mattel DC Wrap-Up

dcuc.gifWell, I must admit that my brain is still on SDCC overload but since Ron is doing a lot of talking about Marvel, I think DC needs a little press. I don’t want to spoil some of the surprises from our Four Horsemen and Toy Guru interviews (coming soon) but I just wanted to get to some of the facts about each of the Mattel DC lines and give a personal take on the whole SDCC showing.

The "DC Universe" logo was all over the convention center this year, from video games to stationary and I think that DC is really starting to push their brand and characters into many different brands and consumer products, and Mattel was leading the pack. I have to say, it was really nice to see this and all of the Mattel brands being worked on have so much potential, especially for collectors like us. Mattycollector.com is going to be BIG for us, trust me. Each of the collector-based lines are going to benefit in spades from this site and it will help get us more and more characters even faster.

Speaking of the Mattel DC brands- Toy Guru was extremely forthright in broadcasting the collector focus coming from Mattel. Of the five big lines shown, THREE of them are being branded directly to the collector market (though I am sure they will take as many kids buying the lines as well). DC Universe Classics, Justice League Unlimited and DC Infinite Heroes are all collector driven lines and let me tell you this: Mattel is listening to the fans and are totally committed to getting us the toys we have always wanted. This is just getting started and it is going to be so exciting being a part of it. Here is a little bit of discussion about each of the three big collector lines (I need to refresh my memory before going into the Brave and the Bold and Super Friends lines). Also, the Movie Masters line was on full display with an impressive new Target-exclusive Batpod but no new figures. Not to worry though, I have some good news coming soon on some of the future aspects of the line.

JLU

I have to say I have always had a bit of a weird relationship with this line. I like the shows to be sure- from Batman the Animated series to Superman to Justice League, but I have never really collected the toys. Sure, I have a few of the New Gods characters and Deadshot of course, but the toys have never really been my bag. I like super-articulated 1:12 scale comic figures, but the line has been good for the hardcore fans of both the show and the figures.

The shift to a collector-driven line is happening right now and will be Target only here in the States from now on- the fate of the line is in the hands of the collectors. Now is the time to support it because Mattel is certainly behind it. The exclusive Giganta figure(s) were just the tip of the iceberg- I have to say I was absolutely floored by all of the product and characters they were showing off at the panel and then down in the booth.

Their dedication to character selection is stronger than it has ever been in the life of the line. Man, oh man, the characters! Aside from variations on existing figures/characters there was Vibe, Tala, Cheetah, Commander Steel, GENTLEMAN GHOST(!) and a myriad of others. They all have got to be huge hits with the people wanting to finish off characters from the show. Then of course there was the Question. There were con-goers swooning over seeing him in the line after all this time, great stuff. It was also cool to see a little tease for Shazam and Legion of Superheroes figures but the thing that got me was the sketch previews for non-show characters. That just blew the entire universe wide open. Again, simply an amazing showing for JLU this year.

Justice League fans now is the time- put your money where your mouth is. You have been patient with Mattel (for the most part) as the line was transitioning so go out and support it. It is obvious that Mattel is committed to bring everything you have ever wanted from the line, now it is your turn to step up.

DCIH

The newest line Mattel has to offer up for collector consumption was Infinite Heroes. This little three inch line is going to be the place to go to for amassing characters at the quickest rate possible. This is an army-builders dream- Gotham SWAT, Luthor thugs, Thanagarian soldiers, oh my! The box sets are great too because they are heavily packed with the army builders, a nice touch for the fans.

I am not joking when I say there are over 50 characters on display in the case with Green Arrow, Starfire and Killer Croc stealing the show for me- those three have such nice sculpts and paints they are must buys. Trust me, if you have a shelf all lined up for displaying these guys, buy another. You are going to need all the space you can get because there are so many characters coming, your lil’ DC Universe is going to grow faster than you can probably imagine.

Toy Guru lead on to a couple of things for the line- vehicles and play sets being possibilities, Anti-Monitor Points in the future and a little bit of information about the future of the line that kind of surprised me a bit. Trust me, the news is pretty huge, but you have to wait until his interview to see that that is. Oh, the suspense! How it kills!

DCUC

Ah, the big boys. DCUC has started off with a bang (except for a little shipping delay that should be all worked out in about a week) and it is just going to get bigger and bigger. This is the flagship collector line and there is some big stuff in store here- we still have a lot of product coming out in 2008 and when next year hits, it will all get ratcheted up another notch. I have to admit, we did not see quite as many new characters as I thought we would, but what we did see went beyond my wildest dreams.

There is all kinds of good news for the future of line, both immediate and into the future. First, Mattel addressed the shipping delay being due to a change in vendors in China. They had a Captain Atom figure on display from both the old and new factories and the quality of the newer figure was MUCH better than the old one. The shiny paint looked great and I can tell you it is worth the small wait now for the full-court press in the future. Indeed, DCUC series three should be showing up early next week (shortly followed by the Jason Rusch Firestorm half of series two) and Toy Guru assured me we will get all of the 2008 product out by the end of the year with series four and the Wal-Mart series hitting in October and series six coming in December. Buckle up, it is going to be a sprint to the finish of ’08.

Let’s take a look at the line series by series.

Series 3: they had full blown carded production samples on display in the case and they looked fantastic. Robin is impressive for his smaller size (which looks great next to the older, taller characters) and Deathstroke and Hal are perfect in every way. The tampo printing on Hal’s GL logo is so crisp and clean and the shiny paint on Slade’s plate armor makes me all giddy. Those two will be the hit of the series. Grundy looks completely awesome and while he is very big, he doesn’t look overly large and will fit in with the whole line very nicely.

Sinestro and Nightwing are going to cause some discussion though. They both look great but they are opposite ends of the size scale. Sinestro came out small. While he should be nice and thin, he is really too short in comparison to the rest of the figures. You scale freaks will have a lot to say about it, I am sure. His head sculpt sure is nice though, woo boy. Nightwing on the other hand just looks too big to my eyes, a little too bulky, I think it might be the shoulders that are doing it but he is pretty buff. I always picture him as being more lithe and fit, here he is pretty muscle bound.

Overall series three looks like it is going to be the best DCUC series yet and I cannot wait to get them all- even both variants.

Series 4: Mattel had some near-final production pieces on display from the new factory and the figures have certainly benefited from the change. Wonder Woman looks MUCH better than the example that they had on display at NYCC (if still not a little too skinny) and Ares is just so imposing, he is probably the most intricate figure from the line yet. Beautiful. It was also interesting to see Cyborg in person, he is pretty much a direct plastic translation from the Perez era Titans books but his stature is smaller than most of the regular male figures in the line so he indeed looks like a TEEN Titan. Captain Atom was there too, and looking very shiny, just as he should; he is made of the more bulky series one Red Tornado body and it was very nice to see the first character from the Charlton Comics stable out in full force. Mattel went on to surprise the crowds by announcing KB Toys exclusive versions of Cyborg (with sonic blaster arm attachment) and Batman Beyond (with unmasked Terry McGuiness head) that will continue to ship from the release of series four through the end of the year.

Finally, it was nice to see Despero (the series four Collect and Connect figure) on display. I must admit that I was not overly keen on Despero when I saw the figure for the first time at NYCC. I mean, sure, he is an appropriate character for a Collect and Connect figure, but I was afraid he would be a little small for the version that they picked (of which I have never been a real fan of either) and his bandolier and weapons just did not remind me of the Despero I know. Seeing him in person though changed a lot of my feelings toward him. He looks really nice, and very imposing- having my SDCC Exclusive Lobo figure now affirms just how massive Despero will be (they share much of the same body) and the color scheme looks great on him. I am still not a huge fan of all of the guns and armor but it looks like it can come off easily enough. Overall, he is probably my least favorite Collect and Connect announced thus far, but I am happy to be getting him.

Series 5: Once again (like at the New York Comic Con) Mattel had the large, hand-painted "2-ups" of series five on display for the first couple of days of the convention (they were moved out on Friday to accommodate the space needed for the new series seven figures) and they all looked great in person. In fact, the the exception of the Toys R Us 2-packs, all looks going forward will be based on 2-ups, not actual product. There is really not a whole lot of new information to report on this Wal-Mart exclusive wave except the it is currently being tooled in China and that both the Atom and the Riddler make great use of preexisting parts and look to be the highlights of the series for me. Look for them to hit sometime in October, about the same time series four will be landing.

Series 6: Whoa, daddy, Mattel is saving the biggest line-up of the year for the holiday rush and let me tell you- it does not disappoint. We had gotten a taste of the fully painted Recovery Suit Superman and Mr. Miracle 2-ups at Wizard World Philadelphia, and they look great in person. Scott Free is very Jack Kirby-esque and I hope he makes it out with all of his accessories. His Dr. Impossible variant is an interesting choice as the character has not seen much press in the comic books since his introduction in Brad Meltzer’s Justice League of America, but he is a viable variant that looks to be a straight-up repaint. Superman also looks great in person, even with the 90s mullet, and Mattel showed off the variant for him as well- a classic blue and red version that I think will be very popular with the fans. The body type, cape and color scheme are great improvements over the old DC Superheroes series two Superman. The other figure that had been teased previously in unpainted form was also on display and Hawkman looks completely amazing. He is big and very built and he has the most detailed base body sculpt of any basic spandex hero so far. There are subtle details in the veins on this arms and his wings are a work of art. Even his shield had dents and dings sculpted right into it. His straps look to be separate from his chest sculpt to me, and he will lend himself quite well to be reused when the eventual Martian Manhunter figure rolls out.

As for the new figures that we had not not officially seen prior to the convention, they all look amazing. We got a brief glimpse at a mysterious image of the series’ Collect and Connect figure, Kalibak, but let me tell you, it did not do the figure justice. Seeing him in person really makes you appreciate all of the detail that Eric Treadaway worked into the sculpt and he will be very wide and imposing and will look great on the shelf next to dear old dad. The final two figures were the real show-stoppers of the series: Shazam (Captain Marvel) and classic Killer Moth. Wow, talk about a capturing a character’s essence perfectly in plastic- the Shazam figure looks like he flew right off of the page. The favorite DC character of Horseman Eric "Cornboy" Mayse, there is a lot of loving care put into this figure from the perfect smile to the snap fold front of the costume and the cape. Billy Batson is going to be right up there with Aquaman and Deathstroke as one of the best basic figures of the line’s first year, a fantastic piece.

Finally, there is Killer Moth. Not the modern monstrous incarnation Charaxes, this is CLASSIC Killer Moth, right down to the orange and green striped pants. For a character that has not gotten a lot of respect over the years, the Horsemen sure did make the obscure Batgirl punching bag look really cool. He seems a little muscle-y for my tastes, but it works I guess, and I suppose it would be a stretch to want a unique base body for Killer Moth when this one works pretty well. It speaks volumes about the direction and dedication of this line when you can get a character so obscure and never-been-done-in-plastic in the first year. The future is going to be a fun ride. I still cannot get over it- classic Killer Moth!

2-packs: The final pieces of the 2008 line-up come in the form of exclusive two packs. First there are the four Toys R Us exclusive packs spread out over two series. The first series will have a re-release of the Barbara Gordon Batgirl and Azael in one set and an Orion with removable mask and Lightray in the other. The latter was very eye-catching and it looks like Orion’s helmet will fit right on the figure’s head without looking too big and bulky. Lightray is a very interesting figure that matches the source material very well and has very clean paint detailing in the gold and black in his costume, very nice. The second round of the TRU packs consist of a re-release of the Mongul and the much-requested Cyborg Superman, along with repaint of the Hal Jordan Green Lantern figure (with a more 1960s feel to the costume) along with Abin Sur. This pack took me by complete surprise and Abin Sur looks just great, I think that these two packs will be a great way to get us a whole lot of Green Lantern figures in the future.

The final two pack is part of a new product execution exclusive to www.mattycollector.com. This Starfire and Adam Strange set will hit the Mattel website exclusively this fall and look for a new DCUC two pack to hit there every quarter going forward. Adam Strange is sporting his modern togs in this 52-inspired set and comes with his gun that holsters nicely in the backpack straps. Starfire strikes a nice balance between her modern incarnation and the classic Perez look. She has one of the nicest female face sculpts I have seen and her hair is a nice compromise between the more sleek look of today and the bigger version of the 1980s. Cornboy did confirm that she will be most a reuse of the Harley Quinn body (so she might be on the small side) and I expect that most figures in these packs will utilize a lot of reuse in the future. The idea behind these two packs is very exciting and we can not look forward to getting at least eight more figures a year than originally anticipated.

I know this has gotten fairly lengthy by this point but if you have read this far, you will see that the 2009 product introduction was very exciting indeed. By now you have seen lots of pictures of the two ups of the series seven figures so I will only comment briefly on each one (keeping in mind that this is based off of the hand painted 2-ups so the final outcome may vary), but man, this has got to be one of my dream line-ups. I get four of my most wanted figures in this series along with one of my most wanted Collect and Connect figures. Needless to say, I was riding pretty high at the Con from Friday morning on. Here is the line up for Series seven:

Flash (Barry Allen): The Satellite Era League gets another one of its core members with release of Barry. People have been knocking on the Flash door since the inception of the DCUC line and the wait has been worth it. They got every little detail right with this figure from the blue eyes to the treads on his boots. We now have Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Firestorm, Red Tornado, Atom, Hawkman and Flash for our Satellite JLA. Just over a year in and we are well over half way there. I know there has been talk about him being too bulky but trust me, he looks right on.

Kid Flash (Wally West): Fans of the third Flash get him in his classic Titans get-up and the figure looks great. It uses the more "teen" male body utilizes by Robin and it looks to be completely appropriate. I have to say that it was pretty cool seeing Barry and Wally together in the display case and it will be fun to be able to add them to the shelf at the same time, and more Teen Titans are always a plus.

Captain Cold: Wow, wow, wow, what an amazing figure. I must admit that he is probably the most striking figure in the whole series. He is a completely new sculpt and has all of the fabric folds of his jacket and pants built right in. Again, the Horsemen spared no detail and gave him treads on his snow boots and a nice frosty application of paint to the barrel of his cold gun, both very nice touches. Leonard is a very appropriate first Flash Rogue in the DCUC ( if you don’t count the Grodd Collect and Connect figure) and I look forward to adding the likes of Mirror Master, Captain Boomerang and the Trickster to the collection soon.

Big Barda: Another New Gods character is always good for me and and Barda Free will be a great addition to the shelf to stand next to her husband Mr. Miracle. One of the series’ two variant figures (standard with helmet, variant without) Barda looks to be an all new sculpt and every single little piece of the plate armor has been diligently sculpted by the Horsemen. She is tall and imposing, living up to her name, but still has a very feminine face sculpt. Toy Guru promised us a commitment to doing at least one female in every single series in 2009 and Barda is a great start.

Aquaman (Ocean camouflage): This was the big surprise figure of the series for me, never did I expect that we would see this incarnation of Arthur Curry in this line, at least not so soon. He looks to be made from all preexisting parts (including the series two classic Aquaman head) but the paint scheme is really quite stunning, even though I have never been a fan of the costume. It did not last long in the comics as it was apparently very hard to capture consistently on the page, something that Mattel should take into advisement on this figure- the paints have to be very clean and very crisp.

Booster Gold: Holy cow! Blue and Gold all in one series, how cool is that? One of the stars of the former Justice League International book and now the secret time-fixer, Booster has been realized in plastic with all of his charming personality. Chris Dahlberg captured his face sculpt beautifully giving him just the right amount of smirk to fit his light-hearted attitude. There is a great story about the sculpting process of Booster and Blue Beetle in our upcoming Four Horsemen interview, so stay tuned for that. Booster’s visor has been done in clear yellow and he has a very shiny, almost metallic paint scheme to really bring out the gold aspect of Booster Gold, he also has his Legion Flight Ring, a very nice detail. I know a lot of people are saying that perhaps he is a little big, but when dealing with these 2-ups it is really hard to tell just which base body he is using. He is the second of the series two variant figures, the standard being the classic version with collar and the variant is the modern incarnation without the collar. The best past of that is that his robot valet Skeets comes in both his classic and modern form and the gang at DC/Warners suggested that Mr. Mind be inside of the modern version so they included him there (not removable) with a flip up plate that can open and close.

Blue Beetle: What can I say about this character and figure that I have not said already? We got a sneak peek here at the Fwoosh of his back side and the front is just perfect. This is the figure that I have been waiting for my entire life and Eric Treadaway’s sculpt and paints do not disappoint. His goggles are perfect, again being clear yellow and his mask has nice little raised details. Ted comes with this air gun too and has (working!) holster for that. First quarter of 2009 cannot come soon enough for me and I think I might be buying about 10 of this figure so I can have one in every room of the house. Excitement and relief all at one time.

Collect and Connect Atom Smasher: We are now into the the big boys with C&C execution. Atom Smasher is one of the few "growers" in the DCU so it is only appropriate that he be the first Collect and Connect of 2009. He will be about 9-9.5" tall which will put him at serious height advantage over the rest of the DCUC figures offered thus far. His sculpt is right on and he has a lot of nice little details in his boots and gauntlets. Seeing him as a C&C figure give great hope to the future for bigger characters like Giganta, STRIPES and Kilowog to show up.

Whew. Did you get all that? Yeah, it takes some time to sink in. 2009 is going to be a blast for DC collectors and we will be getting new product through all kinds of different channels from mass retail to www.mattycollector.com. A few important final things to note: first, as you can tell, the DCUC waves will expand to SEVEN figures from the previous five next year. Six figures will come with the Collect and Connect piece and the headliner figure (in the case of series seven, the Flash) will come with a figure base. There will be four standard series of DCUC in ’09 and one Wal-Mart exclusive wave. Mattel is working on getting solid character cases to online stores so that they can easily sell sets and single figures. Matty Collector will be offering figure bases for DC lines as well and the current Toy Fare Fan Poll winner will be an exclusive to the Matty site in the fourth quarter of 2009. Mattel plans on running one of these polls every year, so look for the pattern to continue in the years ahead.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out all of the pictures linked to the galleries below and stay tuned for our upcoming interviews (in multiple parts) with the Four Horsemen and Toy Guru. Finally, Samuron and I will be hosting a Q&A session in Fwoosh Chat sometime this week to answer any questions we can about SDCC and everything we saw there. Stay tuned for more details about that coming soon.


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