Friday, July 27, 2007

SDCC 07: Mattel to Legion Fans - Drop Dead!

That's the impression I've been getting from Mattel regarding Legion figures. Every other character seen in the Justice League show (or so it seems) has gotten their own figure. Except the Legion. And despite fan support, they don't seem to be in a hurry, they have too many other versions of Superman and Batman to release.

This year Mattel won the master license to the entire DC universe. They can make toys of whatever characters they want in whatever format they want, so they're not limited to (for example) only characters that appeared in the Justice League show. To say that their physical showing and their proposed plans at San Diego this year have been underwhelming would be an understatement, according to those who follow the action figures more than I do.

Mattel has teased us with a line of Legion action figures for a while now. I've been at this close to 2 years and here's what I've reported:

  • March 2006, Wizard World LA
    "Mattel will indeed make action figures based on the new Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon. They haven't started yet, but the designers are excited."

  • June 2006
    "there is a full toy line in the works from Mattel"

  • July 2006, San Diego Comic Con
    A "Legion Of Superheroes" toy line was announced, tying in with the new cartoon series from Warner Bros. Not much could be revealed, but Mattel called the show "breathtaking" and think fans will love it. There's no definitive lineup for the first wave of "Legion" toys, except that Superman was in it for sure....

    Superboy & the Legion of Superheroes animated cartoon will have a line of figures. First wave should include Superboy, Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, Phantom Girl, Cosmic Boy, Bouncing Boy, and possibly Timberwolf. They are still deciding the exact character mix.

  • Dec. 2006, ad in Previews Magazine for an upcoming article in ToyFare Magazine:
    We take you inside the hot new cartoon series and show you why it's the perfect successor to Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited! Plus, a sneak-peek at the new toy line from Mattel!

  • Feb. 2007, New York Toy Fair, the article in ToyFare is cancelled
    the Legion action figure line has been pushed to 2008, which suggests that previews for the line might not be on view until San Diego. I haven't heard a "why" from anyone yet. All they will say is LOSH is now an 2008 line.

  • March 2007
    we went to the folks at Mattel and asked them what the status of this line was. According to Dan Salazar from Mattel, this line will now see release in 2008.

  • June 2007
    Mattel releases a packaging preview to Action Figure Insider, then pulls it

  • July 2007, San Diego Comic Con
    Q: When will we see Legion Of Super Heroes?
    A: How does the audience feel about it? (Everyone claps.) The future of this line is still up in the air.

Hell, frickin' McDonald's is releasing a line of figures before Mattel.


J.D. Long said...

I think that the McDonald's deal is why the Mattel deal keeps getting pushed back. I suspect the McDonald's folks had some kind of clause that gives them right of first refusal of an DC superhero figures. Mattel probably designed a line of LSH figures for the show, and DC legal ran the idea past McDonalds -- who loved it, and exercised their right to get the figures first.

There's probably also a follow-up clause that allows McDonald's to bring along follow-up lines of figures, and only allows Mattel to publish figures after McDonald's has abandoned them for 1 year (or plus or minus -- these things are notoriously fluid.)

Best Guess: watch for LSH figures from Mattel about a year after the show stops being popular -- which may be never, since Mattel probably won't want to publish figures from a line that's no longer popular.

I'm very probably going to be at Chicago, and try to buttonhole the Mattel guys into considering putting out a line of 'Collector" figures boxed-sets of LSH, which would (again, probably) not violate the McDonald's agreement.

Hey, it hlps to have a cousin who's a corproate law attorney.


Anonymous said...

I suspect the delays have something to do with the legal wrangling over Superboy, which I suspect has something to do with the hastily revamped cartoon, which in turn could have something to do with the toys related to the cartoon being delayed...

Michael said...

Anon: I don't buy it. Since the Superboy shuffle was announced in July 2006 right before the San Diego con, I'd say they have had more than enough time to change things. In my notes for the con, it specifically mentions "Superman", for one thing, and by December they were all ready to have an article in Toy Fare with pictures of the line. You don't even have to change the sculpt of the figure a bit, just change the name on the packaging to "Superman" or "Young Superman". That's how McDonald's and Heroclix have done it.

Bjooks said...

I'm not giving up hope yet. From the front page report at AFI, due to the new master license "Legion of Superheroes and Teen Titans animated shows can also be folded into the [JLU-scale animated] line". I wonder if this had something to do with the delay?

Peter said...

bjooks is barking up the right tree with that theory -- Mattel and DC have been wrangling over their new toy licensing deal all this year, and it seems to have thrown their entire boy's action figure line into disarray. Distribution, marketing plans -- everything seems to have been in total flux since last year. The guy in charge of planning the line changed since last year as well, so internal organizational changes have been a part of the picture.

My impression is that the future is brighter for Mattel's entire DC mainstream line, and that the Legion toys are still on the way, just delayed a bit. What I haven't yet seen is an indication of whether the female Legionairres will get incorporated into the line.

The apocryphal tale from a couple years ago was that Mattel was offered the Teen Titans license but passed on it, reasoning that the show's prominent female characters wouldn't sell to the boys they were targeting -- Bandai ended up with the license instead and did quite well with it at retail. Hasbro's Batman: Animated line had few female characters for years, and only at the very end started producing everyone from Batgirl to Talia, albeit as part of some store-exclusive fourpacks. Mattel's JLU figures initially had Wonder Woman available but Hawkgirl in rarer quantities. They've gradually introduced more and more female heroes and a very few villainesses in that line, which would seem to indicate a market for the figures.

Time will tell, but it's notable that last year at this time, Hal Jordan was an absolute no-no as a Mattel mass market figure in any form, and suddenly, there he is in the line based on The Batman as well as a few other Mattel lines being planned. Things change, and there is hope.

kcekada said...

I'm writing an article for Newsarama concerning Legion figures. Do you have an email address I could use to contact Mattel?

Michael said...

I don't have any direct contact info, but the guys over at Action Figure Insider will be able to help. Check out their contact page here.

Please let me know what you find out!