I first noticed how bad the situation was getting when Alex Ross’s Justice League Series 5 came out. All of the figures in that set are superbly sculpted, especially the Martian Manhunter figure. They also had fantastic paint jobs as well, especially Braniac. All of them, that is, except the Lex Luthor figure. This figure is one of the worst figures I’ve seen in a long time. First of all it is one of those “transleucent galaxy” type bodies, which are usually not that great in the first place. Despite the fact that these types of bodies usually look bad you can do them well, an example is the Marvel Legends Captain Mar-Vel variant. This was so disappointing to me. The Lex Luthor figure was so bad that it brought down the quality of the set as a whole, even though all of the other figures were absolutely amazing.
After Justice Series 5 came out I was just really irritated, but I could handle it, just barely. The thing that pushed me over the edge, and made me need to write this article, was the recent release of Elseworlds Series 3. I am a big fan of the Elseworlds figures, because they allow the sculpting artist to create an image of a common character in an uncommon scenario. A good example is the Red Son figures. Elseworlds Series 3 was chalk full of great figures, especially Red Son Hal Jordan (one of my favorite characters) and Kingdom Come Aquaman. Imagine my surprise when I started to check out the Kingdom Come Nightstar figure and it was a piece of trash. The first thing I noticed was the gigantic seam on the front, not even the back, of both of the figures legs. This blew my mind, especially since the sculpting of the Kingdom Come Aquaman was so exquisite. I looked further and noticed the upper arms were disproportionately thin at the top. Then, to top it all off the paint job was very sloppy. I was so astonished by the quality of this figure that I checked out some of the other stock of Nightstar just to make sure it wasn’t only one; it wasn’t. Once again I encountered a situation where a single figure significantly reduced the quality of an entire series. That was when I decided that I need to bring this trend up in the next “Ramblings of a Toy Department Employee.”
The way I look at is that there are only two motivations for this behavior, and both are related to money. The first scenario is the one that I would like to believe; the developers run out of money at the end of the series. They throw so much money at the first four figures that when they get to the fifth they don’t have any cash to make it as nice as the others. In this scenario the manufacturer looks at their product and says, “Well we have a mostly great line here, I think that we can get away with having one bad figure in it.” The part of me that has faith in basic human goodness and honesty wants to believe that this is the reason behind “the bad figure”, but the more realistic and logical part of me knows better. If this was an isolated event I might be able to believe in the aforementioned theory, but “the bad figure” occurs all the time. This leads me to believe that the toy manufacturers know exactly what they are doing.The thing about today’s toy industry is that a good percentage of the market is collectors, and collectors are going to buy the whole series if most of the series is good. A serious collector is not going to refrain from buying the Lex Luthor figure from Justice 5 because it is “the bad figure”. This is especially true if they have all of Justice 1-4. Imagine 10 years from now you look at your collection and you have every figure form the Justice line from series 1-10, except Lex Luthor. That’s not a complete collection, and even though it’s production was a waist of materials you still need the last figure to have the full collection. The Toy companies know this, so they throw all their money at the first four figures so that Justice 5 will be an “awesome set”. Once they attain “awesome set” status they can skimp on the funding for the fifth figure, because they know that it will sell no matter what. This way they can save money on the development of one figure, and as a result make more money on the series as a whole. The loser in this situation is the customer, and that really makes me mad. The toy companies are supposed to be making quality toys for the customer to enjoy. I realize that the ultimate goal of the business is to make money but it is still possible to make money while making a consistent, high-quality product. Well that’s my take on this situation. What do you think? Well, that’s it until next time, keep on sending me questions and comments, either here on the site or at my email address firstname.lastname@example.org.