2012 Action Figure Recap: First Quarter
(And why it could be the last)
I’m not feeling terribly motivated to cover this subject these days. It’s not the lack of readers (I assume you’re all spammers, bots, and hackers, leaving the actual reader count at 0), it’s the lack of subject matter. Waves of figures are released more and more infrequently, with anything other than launch waves released in quantities so small that you have a window of two or three days to find them before they’re gone forever. It’s gotten to the point that Toys R Us employees commiserate with me for no apparent reason. Do I really leave there empty-handed that often?
Yeah, I guess I do. Why even bother looking if there’s no chance of finding something to buy? I don’t even bother with Wal-Mart anymore, they’re stopped carrying so many toy lines that it’s not worth it. Well Target, looks like it’s just you and me, and I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be in this game. As insurance against my impending disinterest, I’ve split my annual recap into quarterly recaps so that I only have three months worth of material at most to finish off when I throw in the towel. The awards are still annual, if I make it that far. And now, The First Quarter of 2012: Waiting for Restock.
Things picked up in 2012 where they left off at the end of 2011, with the old Clone Wars line getting clearanced out along with Green Lantern, Pirates of the Something Something, and, finally, Tron. Bring on the new product!
Or not. Remember that January 28 non-street date for Star Wars? It turns out that the street date didn’t matter because nobody had anything to put out early. TRU even got in a truckload of old Saga Legends figures at mid-month… A few new things trickled out late in the month, but many stores didn’t get through with their reset until February. And when they did, well, don’t count on seeing anything new until summer, this crap ain’t moving anytime soon. This year, it’s all about The Phantom Menace (on 3D Blu-Ray!), which means lots of Darth Maul and podracers. Mostly podracers. Vintage carded podracers, store exclusive podracer packs at TRU and Wal-Mart, podracer vehicles, the return of Titanium vehicles (all slight repaints, if that, with podracers), and mini-me Anakin all over the place. Gone (thankfully) this time around is the Saga Legends line. Unfortunately, the Movie Legends takes its place with mostly the exact same figures at a higher price. Get ready for $10 basic figure pricing!
With nothing new in stores, Transformers was in the news in January because of the (painfully slow) reveal of the upcoming convention set. This year’s theme is “stuff they’ll get me to pay way too much for.” If I can get an order through their order non-processing system… It went through on the second try. I think. The sale of convention sets went smoothly compared to their club exclusives, Shattered Glass Drift and Runabout or Runamuck (whichever one isn’t the subscription figure), or whatever they had to rename him to. Those went live at the end of the month, for about an hour. It turns out that Fun Pubs’ credit card processor sucked at processing credit cards. All was fixed a few days later with a new processing service. And nothing else could possibly go wrong with Fun Pubs and credit cards…
Remember last year’s Transformers t-shirt and Kre-o figure giveaway that included a coupon good for $5 off a Transformers purchase? So did Hasbro at the end of the month. I received my final coupon on February 2. Coupon expires January 31, 2012. Crap. On the plus side, there’s been nothing to buy over the last couple of months, so I still had two of those coupons kicking around. Crap.
Elsewhere, the first 2012 wave of Marvel Universe was briefly seen in January. You might have missed it because it was only released as a checklane display at Target. Included in this wave were some short-packed female figures (on that god-awful old generic female sculpt) and a bunch of Thors. Guess what was leftover every time I found this wave? Meanwhile, there’s still no sign of Thor Wave 3 except for the one Odin figure I saw at TRU. Have money, can’t spend it.
Speaking of Marvel, February was the end of the second year of the Iron Man 2 line. To celebrate, Target finally started stocking Movie Series Wave 5, released only about a year ago. If you’ve been looking for the drone figures since they were originally released in the summer of 2010, they’ve finally arrived. But wait, there’s more! The end of the month was the street date for the new The Avengers toy line, which means that TRU had it out two weeks early and most stores will get around to putting it out sometime in March. Not to worry though, there’s not much to see here. In the first 12 figures, we have a few Iron Mans, some Thors, some Captain Americas… Wait, didn’t I see these guys somewhere else? Right, their respective movie lines clogging the pegs on the other end of the aisle. Hasbro could have saved a fortune by just sending out some aisle banners and stickers to put on the old merchandise. Instead, they put out a new line of figures with half the articulation at higher prices. To be fair, there are some newcomers in this line, like Loki (as seen, or not, in his King Loki outfit from Thor Wave 3), Hawkeye (not shipping in any of the cases that are showing up at retail), and a really terrible Hulk figure. These are just going to fly off the pegs at $9-10 a pop.
Also trickling out over the month of February was the new line of Transformers Prime toys, just in time for the show’s second season. Remember how the First Edition Prime toys were going to be exclusive to online retailers and maybe TRU? And how they were delayed for a few months? Well, you don’t have to worry about tracking them down, because they were canceled after the first wave. Hooray? Most of the characters are still showing up in the regular line though, but for some reason they went through the trouble of creating all-new inferior (but more show-accurate) molds for them. Seriously, what the fuck, Hasbro? You develop a set of molds, don’t release them, and then develop a new set for the same characters? With the Optimus/Megatron pack canned, that also means that Miko has officially been shafted. Not that those tiny human figures were all that interesting in the first place, but releasing the guys in the NYCC pack and then kicking the girl to the curb isn’t going to score you points with the demographic of girls looking for something tougher than My Little Pony (Rainbow Dash aside). At least we’ve managed to get three Arcees (four if you’ve managed to spot the Legends class figure, which was shortpacked along with Vehicon, see below).
Also marginalized in the start of the Transformers Prime line were Decepticons. Like Starscream in the preview line, all of the Decepticons (all three of them) released in February were extremely limited. Megatron was one per case (to three Optimus Primes), Soundwave was one per case (to three Bumblebees, two Wheeljacks, and two Cliffjumpers), and the tiny Vehicon was vastly outnumbered by Bumblebees despite being a troop builder character.
Finally, some good news in February: G.I. Joe 30th Anniversary Wave 3 and Wave 4 have been sighted again! At Target, once case per store, not available in all stores, and not in Target’s system, so bring the DPCI or a picture of the peg tag with you to the register (as usual). Or at least that was what I would have told you a month and a half ago, they’re long gone by now. 2010’s Arctic Destro however is still available. Pegs are bare in most other stores. For one week though, there was new(ish) product on the pegs. New stuff was also shown at Toy Fair, etc., but I gave up following that. Too many broken promises and shattered dreams. (And I know I’ll never get that Shockwave HISS tank, so there’s no point drooling over it now. Sigh.) Speaking of broken promises, the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club is still working on getting that ordering system going for their Figure Subscription Service. In addition to the usual delays, Fun Pubs also found that there has been a lot of credit card fraud connected to its credit card processing, so you should probably request a new card if you ever placed an order with them. Oops.
A second wave of Real Steel figures? And they’re actually selling? Did someone finally figure out how to manage a movie toy line? My world is shattered.
March belonged to The Avengers, mainly because there wasn’t much else around (except for the massive quantities of Marvel Universe 2012 Wave 1 that finally arrived at Target, guaranteeing that future waves will never be stocked). Iron Man and Thor begin their epic journey to clearance while The Avengers settle in to warm the pegs for the next few years. Who could have guessed that $9 action figures would be a tough sell? The equivalent Transformers Prime price class (except at TRU, where they’re $12) also made it out to most stores at the end of the month, with Bulkhead, Megatron, and Starscream also included in the case assortments with all those Optimus Primes that are left on the pegs. Trust me, they do exist. The final figure from the Transformers movie line also made its debut, a Deluxe class Optimus Prime (as seen in two Wal-Mart exclusives) with a trailer that transforms into an open trailer. For holding additional weapons. Weapons not included. So for $30 you get a $10 figure and a box on wheels. Whoo.
A few Star Wars Vintage deleted scene wave figures also made it out at Wal-Mart in very limited quantities, and of course they weren’t in the system yet. There was also another wave of Titanium 3-packs, which could have been interesting if they weren’t identical to the originals released years ago. Seriously Hasbro, not even some slight paint differences or new variants? Finally, two Clone Wars DVD two-packs went straight to discount stores, giving you yet another chance to pick up the first versions of Ahsoka and Obi-Wan, each with a clone in the original fully-articulated sculpt. Looks like baseball cards win this month.