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Ramblings of a Toy Department Employee…

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The Odd One Out

By Mathew McKee     April 09, 2007


Lex Luthor Figure
© N/A
Hello everyone!  Welcome back to “Ramblings of a Toy Department Employee.”  This week’s topic is that one figure in the series of toys that reduces the series from awesome to just great.  I’m sure that you have all experienced the following scenario.  You find out that the newest series in your favorite line of figures is coming out on Wednesday.  You are excited because you looked at what figures are supposed to be in this series and they are some of your favorite characters, so you rush to you local toy supplier as soon as you have the time on Wednesday.  You manage to get there before they are sold out and you pick up the first one….and it looks great!!  Then you check out the second and third and they are even better than the first.  When you check out the fourth figure it’s the best yet.  Then, finally, it’s the moment of truth… you pick up the last figure and, “WHAM” punch in the stomach.  The last figure looks like it was made by a preschooler in art class, and it’s one of your favorite characters.  We’ve all experienced this disappointment; I’ve seen it happen time and time again in the store I work at.  Today I’m here to delve into this phenomenon a little bit, and possibly shed a little light on why it happens.

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 shadowfaxz@yahoo.com.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
mckracken 4/9/2007 1:25:34 AM
aside from the plasic toilet paper tubes all over Lex's suit I personally dont see a flaw in this figure (presuming that this Lex figure thats pictured was the one that the author had all the gripes about.... of course I dont collect toys.
Flat 4/9/2007 5:23:59 AM
They run out of money? Is that the best you can come up with? Come on... Like the toys you're describing, I think this article was written by a preschooler. Now I just feel cheated out of five minutes of my morning. By the way, "waist" as it is in the last paragraph should be "waste."
CardinalSin 4/9/2007 6:39:14 AM
This guy must have really, really high standards because that Lex Luthor figure pictured above is beautiful. Hey buddy!!! Take it easy!!!
themovielord 4/9/2007 11:27:42 AM
First of all the Lex figure is incredible. The Brainiac figure is cool and weird but not as unique as Lex. As soon as I saw Lex, I had to have him for the collection. I will agree with you about Nightstar. It is a piece of trash and wouldn't even sell in a dollar store. But besides all that, aren't you a Toy store employee? What toy store are you working at that sells DC direct? I only see those at movie stores and comic book shops. Maybe you should focus more on pirating the cool figures or the lack of the most wanted figures in a box? Ex: 10 R2 D2 in a box against 1 all white Boba Fett! Here is a personal beef of mine... why would Spider-man or the Thing come with a motorcycle? I know it's to make money and sell somehting else to a kid but why are these toys always made and why are they in the discount isle when the new superhero car toys show up? Obviously the kids are smart enough to realize they are pretty lame too.
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