The GeeksverseAre DC Direct Toys Really Relevant to Action Figure Collectors Anymore?

Are DC Direct Toys Really Relevant to Action Figure Collectors Anymore?
Published on Monday, October 25, 2010 by

Steeling Thoughts by Brian “Steel” Santore:

Are DC Direct Toys Really Relevant to Action Figure Collectors Anymore?

The early 90’s was an exciting time to be a comic book fan, as new titles, characters and publishers gave way to an expanded universe of accompanying collectibles such as statues, busts, posters, clothing and of course, action figures.

Hasbro began to release updated versions of characters from the Star Wars Universe, McFarlane Toys introduced the “Spawn” line and Toy Biz began pumping various waves of action figures based on the Marvel Universe. Hasbro also released various movie & theme related incarnations of DC’s Batman, but other than that, there really wasn’t much of a presence for the rest of the DC Universe.

Fast forward to 1998/1999 when DC Direct, owned by DC Comics, began creating “action figure collectibles” of various DC Universe characters. Initial releases were mostly obscure characters such as Alfred E. Newman, Sandman & Swamp Thing, but within a few years, fans were seeing their favorites such as comic accurate versions of Batman, Superman, The Flash and Green Lantern. DC Direct was bringing both mainstream and obscure characters in the form of action figures to hungry fans of the DC Universe. Granted, these figures were often victim of what I refer to as PPS/Pre-Posed Syndrome, with limited articulation and the ability to be posed in one basic stance, but for most they were better than the alternative-having no DC figures at all.

Fast forward once more to 2006, when Mattel won the license to produce action figures of DC Universe characters, from Hasbro. This transition gave birth to the “DC Superhero/DCSH line, which evolved into the immensely popular DC Universe Classic/DCUC line. This line began giving the Toy Biz Marvel Legends line a true run for the collector dollar and the race was on, with both lines raising the bar in quality, sculpt & articulation.

At the same time, DC Direct was still producing an interesting mix of “action figure collectables” both mainstream & obscure, also with a noticeable change in quality, but not necessarily a good one. Collectors began complaining of breakage, poor paint applications and overall lacking quality control. DCD product also lacked the articulation that Toy Biz & Mattel were giving collectors, while charging nearly 35% more per figure at that time. As a collector, I base my purchases on “Mego 3:16”, which says that an action figure must be fully-poseable, with a wide range of motion and articulation. A 6” tall piece of plastic with 4 points of articulation, pre-posed in such a manner that only allows for the item to be displayed in one stance is NOT an action figure, it’s a statue. An action figure foils villainous plots, battles heroes and saves the day, while a statue…looks pretty. DCD was clearly losing a large part of its demographic to Mattel due to quality issues and the inability to keep up with the competition. DCD has stated on many occasions that they focus more on their products as collectibles that capture the look of DC Universe characters, as they appeared in DC Comics, which differentiated their products from that of Mattel.

That brings us to today, where Mattel has now got the collector world salivating for that next wave of DCUC & Masters of the Universe, both wonderfully sculpted by The Four Horsemen. Hasbro has announced the return to splendor of the Marvel Legends line in 6” form, with the next round consisting of such favorites as The Winter Solider, Deadpool, Warpath and The Hulk. Both Mattel and Hasbro have also incorporated the “Build-A-Figure” concept into their waves, to help lend more value to the product. All of this has been accomplished without sacrificing sculpt for the sake of articulation or value.
And then there is DCD, still plodding along, offering multiple repaints & repackaged figures of the same characters. While they were once regarded as THE source for some of the obscure and secondary characters of the DC Universe, they now frustrate collectors with continued rehashes of average-at-best product. Sure, there are some great figures that have been produced since 1999 (one of my personal favorites is Batman from Superman/Batman Series 7) but where they were once an innovator, they’ve now become obsolete to many collectors including yours truly. Yes, the DCD “Blackest Night” series looks great, but are they really action figures? I don’t think so. DCD has failed to follow through on their promises to add articulation. Just go back and take a look at some of the older solicitations and releases around July 2009 and you’ll see added articulation shown in product photos, but not in the final product.

The toy industry has evolved and more than ever, toy collectors are speaking with their dollars, while DCD continues to make product decisions that simply don’t make sense. Lesser value along with constant rehashes & repaints versus an industry giant that is producing their own high quality versions of the same characters beg the question: Is DC Direct Still Relevant with Action Figure Collectors?

We’d like to hear what you think in our Superhero Toy Discussion Forum. Make your voice count and thank you for allowing me to Steel your time.

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