Your Home for Toy News and Action Figure Discussion!

SDCC2008 – Toy Guru Interview – Part 3

mattel.gifWelcome to part three of our ongoing talk with Scott Neitlich (AKA Toy Guru), Associate Brand Manager at Mattel. In this edition we continue to discuss the DC Universe Classics line and delve into the long-running Justice League Unlimited property. Learn about everything from the history of Comic Con exclusives to "finishing off the show" and beyond.

Fwoosh: Back to the teams, and I know you can’t talk about things directly that have not been revealed yet- but teams like Freedom Fighters, Seven Soldiers, Legion, Metal Men?

Scott Neitlich: Oh yeah, Metal Men, Doom Patrol, Seven Soldiers, War that Time Forgot-

Fwoosh: Wow!

SN: All of this stuff, I mean- this the DC Universe! This is not about doing Superman and Batman, this is about doing it all. By 2012 at this point you will have a whole set of Doom Patrol. You will have the Metal Men, you will have the Freedom Fighters- ideally of course, but that is what we are working toward. Absolutely, patience will get people there.

Fwoosh: To help with that now is the aforementioned Matty Collector correct? We have seen the Starfire and Adam Strange two-pack, is this something that will continue through the site?

SN: Yes. You will see a new DC Universe Classics two-pack every quarter, a new JLU four-pack every quarter as well as Comic Con exclusives. Figure stands will be there too, I think they will be in blue, we are still tweaking them.

Fwoosh: Are those going to be limited quantity to order like the Masters stuff?

SN: Yeah, and again, we haven’t quite figured out the quantity yet, we want to work with the fans to see what is best for them, we just don’t want dealer buying everything up.

Fwoosh: So again, if something sells out fast, you will make more?

SN: Yes, but we would probably change the packaging to say "Second Edition" or something to reward the fans that get them first. All of the product in Matty Collector is open because we want to get a figure into the hands of every collector out there that wants one. So if we run out in a day, we will go back into production.

Fwoosh: Speaking of figures that will be on Matty Collector soon- Lobo, he has been off the table for a long time it seems, what finally changed that?

SN: We suggested doing him as a Comic Con exclusive and DC have been really fantastic about it, they agreed that it would be a great exclusive as long as is labeled "14+". DC was just fantastic, I really want to thank them for letting us do it. Lobo is still a little off limits on the JLU line because even though he actually appeared on the show, there is a thing called permanence where when you actually do a toy you can now take him and put him in all kinds of situations- like shooting Spiderman or Superman or something. So our partners are a little concerned about that because while it would be a collector-oriented thing, kids are drawn to the animation style. I know a lot of older collectors don’t believe that but you know what?

Fwoosh: Yeah, that is not true.

SN: Absolutely, it is not true. DC knows there is a demand for it we are still working with them on that and if we were going to Lobo in the JLU line it would probably not be for a little while because we would want to separate it from this Lobo in the DCUC line by at least a year, maybe even two. We are definitely aware of it and I think fans are pretty clued into the fact that we are doing stuff now.

Fwoosh: Well then, before we jump into the JLU line, what is the one character that you want to do in the Classics line more than anyone else?

SN: In the DC Classics line? Gosh, I already have Hawkman who I really wanted and Shazam…

Fwoosh: You took care of my big want too.

SN: Ha! I know! But yeah, I love Booster and Beetle so much too. Let’s see, I said Kamandi and I am big fan of Black Hawk too. I love the 1940s guys, I love the World War II stuff. Man, one character? I just love them all.

Fwoosh: Pick your child!

SN: Yeah, how do you choose? Honestly, the ones that I was really excited about doing are already cranking.

Fwoosh: Well when the sky is the limit…

SN: Yeah, pretty much the only things we aren’t doing are Vertigo and Wildstorm.

Fwoosh: Jonah Hex?

SN: Oh, Jonah Hex? He is one that is way up there because I love all of the historical stuff- the wild west, World War II. I love time travel- I would love to do Rip Hunter, I think that would be really fun.

Fwoosh: Well, we have Booster…

SN: Yeah, it can just be tough when they are civilian characters, when they are not in super outfits. However, Matty Collector is going to let us do stuff like that.

Fwoosh: Yeah, like in a two-pack perhaps? Like with Abin Sur? Maybe Jim Gordon or someone like that teaming up with Batman?

SN: Yes and the civilian characters- I want to do them- Lois and all of them. We will get to them.

Fwoosh: So JLU? Wow. I know it is in the hands of the fans now but the sheer volume of stuff that you guys showed at the panel, especially in terms of character selection is astounding. People are really, really pleased. I mean, Gentleman Ghost? Amazing.

SN: Thanks so much. I cannot tell you how excited I am for this line now. I mean, before I came to Mattel I used to work in advertising and I personally collected JLU. I went to Target just about every morning on my way to work, like so many other people, so half of my collection on my desk is stuff that I bought before I came to Mattel. So this line gets a lot of excitement from me, as well as our lead designers. I probably watch an episode of the show just about everyday when I come home.

Fwoosh: I get one in just before bed most nights…

SN: Exactly, so it is definitely in the hands of people who know the episodes backwards and forwards. We told fans last year that if they have a little patience with us while we changed gears with the new license, we had to put a lot of our resources behind it and they were starting up the six inch line. By resources I mean people, money, all of it. But once the six inch line took off and started moving we could redirect some of that to JLU. We only have so many people who can design, and market and do packaging so we just needed some time.
Also, there are actually about 5 figures that we didn’t get to show here that we wanted to.

Fwoosh: Really? On top of all of that?

SN: The thing about it is that they are even COOLER than the stuff that we did show. People are really going to flip when they see what is revealed at New York Comic Con. If you thought what we revealed in San Diego was cool- oh my gosh you are not going to believe what is in store. Especially since that by the end 2008 and into 2009 we are going to get into characters that were not actually in the show, but we are going to do them in that style.

Fwoosh: Like the Firestorm and Plastic Man teaser from the presentation?

SN: Yeah, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Fwoosh: So if the fans show their support and get behind it, you guys sound pretty committed.

SN: Right, it is all in the hands of the fans now. You will always get stuff through Matty Collector and we are going to pump those out, but the mass line at Target? As long as the fans are behind it, and I read all of the requests at the message boards, man, be ready. Some of the lists are pretty obvious and so are names like Mr. Terrific. I mean, of course we are going to get him and the resculpt of the adult Supergirl, yeah, obviously we are going to do them. The obvious ones.

Fwoosh: The characters to finish off the show?

SN: Yeah, there are not going to be any major blank holes, I can definitely tell you that.

Fwoosh: That is an interesting point you raised with Matty Collector- say that JLU or DCUC, forbid, start to dwindle at retail, will Matty be in place to be sort of a last line of defense to keep various lines going?

SN: I would call it more of bridge than anything else. Lines that still have a fan following but cannot really work at retail, like Masters which is a good example, can be done there. So if Target suddenly loses interest in JLU, yeah, we can keep it going at Matty. We will keep stuff like DCUC and JLU going for as long as we have the license. The latter is such a relatively inexpensive line for Mattel to do- like new heads sometimes equal a new character. As long as fans don’t mind some of the same parts being used, like using the Two-Face body for the Question, as long as the fans are okay with that kind of approach it will keep rolling. There are only going to be about three figures a year that are 100% new tools- Cheetah is one of them. So we look at all of the characters and decide who really needs a completely new tool, who can be cheated a little bit, but we will do it right though. For example, Batman Beyond was not going to originally have the spikes on his arms because we didn’t have a two spike figure arm pattern as Batman has three spikes. Then we looked at it again and realized that it did not look right and we wanted to do it right so we dipped into our tooling, kind of went over on our tooling just to give him the correct arms.

Fwoosh: That is commitment.

SN: We are doing what we can.

Fwoosh: So the overall message for the fans of DCUC and JLU would be?

SN: Support the lines! We apologize that there has been a little bit of a gap getting running on both of those, but honestly, just go out and buy them. Buy a couple for gifts too! Give them away to kids. As long as fans are buying, we will keep making them, we are very committed to this.


You hear that? These collector-driven lines are in the hands of you- the collector. It is time to put your money where your mouth is because Mattel is committed. Check back soon for our final installment of our conversation where we will finally get to DC Infinite Heroes and wrap up the loose ends.

 Additional Links