I have mixed feelings about Club Infinite Earths. I’ve wanted to respond with my thoughts on some forums, but stopped myself. I decided the best place for that is here. I’m not going to pitch it to you outright, but I think most of the people speaking against it shouldn’t be.
I’ve written this article a few times. The first version went over the facts and tried not to step on anyone’s toes. In the second version, I got a little more fired up and while I liked it, I’m not out to diminish the opinions of the opposition because I understand most of their concerns. I think this version is a fair compromise, it’s got the facts, it’s got the passion, and if it steps on your toes, well, at least it was free to read.
Originally, I included a section about how the subscription works, but I cut it due to the length of the article. If you have questions about the subscription, I did my best to lay out the specifics here.
Mattel is rebranding the retail line and while it will “not necessarily” focus (Fangirl 2.0’s words) on the relaunch looks, it will drop the collect and connect aspect completely and switch to mix assortments. The easiest way to explain what they’re talking about is to look at Hasbro’s Marvel Universe line. While Hasbro is gearing up to copy Mattel’s version of the Toy Biz model (right down to important characters being “All-Stars” without BAF pieces), Mattel is gearing up to copy Hasbro’s MU line with multiple revision cases per wave being mixed between new figures, old figures, and standby figures. I have concerns about the whole thing (expect Hal Jordan to pile up like Iron Man), but the important part is: No More Collect & Connects. Oversized figures will only be in the sub.
That alone is enough to get me to subscribe. I need Elasti-Girl and Lead and I’m not going to get them in the retail line. No subscription means no completeness for those two teams. Plus, I really want Magnus & Chief and those were never going to happen at retail, so I have hope the subscription might include those someday. I’m in. It didn’t require much thought at all.
And I know what some of you are thinking. It’s the first bullet point on the “against list” – we’re not guaranteed to get Elasti-Girl or Lead. We might end up with Black Lantern Swamp Thing, more Super Friends, or more “INSERT SOMETHING I DON’T WANT HERE”.
I’m going to tell you right now that that doesn’t matter. It’s not really one of the valid concerns. Money is a concern. The shipping is a concern. The commitment is a concern. Who’re they’re going to make doesn’t matter though.
The MOTU fanbase is relatively small, but it has its fractures. Some fans want more MO2K influence. Some fans want more focus on POP characters. Someone out there is sad that there aren’t more NA characters. Some only want updates to their classic toys. In fact, there was a dude the other day complaining about the “new” characters in the 30th Anniversary line*. It wasn’t that he didn’t want them, it was that he didn’t want them to exist. If only I could virtually slap someone upside the head…
* – Now, he’s lucky because he can buy a sub and not worry about them because they’re not in it. Meanwhile, I’m going to have pay $52 in extra shipping next year so he and his like-minded fans can sleep at night.
My point is that in that small slice of MOTU there is division. So I’m not surprised in any way that a DC Subscription is going to be about eleventy-billion times more difficult for Mattel to administrate. There are many more factions, many more fronts for the battles between fanbases to be waged. I don’t want crappy old heroes! I don’t want that newfangled crap! I don’t want super-stereotypes!
I understand. Even I have complained ad nauseam about Black Lantern Swamp Thing the last few days. I even made a protest graphic. I don’t want him. But what I want isn’t the point. This subscription isn’t about me or even about any of you, not individually anyway. It’s about all of us that have been buying DC Classics.
On one forum, a collector characterized figures he didn’t want as “dogs”. He was sure the line will have dogs in it. It won’t. Someone out there wants Black Lantern Swamp Thing. Sure, to me – he’s a dog, but to someone else, desperately in love with Brightest Day #24, he’ll be a prized figure. Now, that guy is way crazy and I hope I never meet him, but I would like him to get the figure he wants. Especially if it means that I can get some figures I want.
That’s the value of this subscription. It provides an excellent opportunity for fans of different eras and aspects of the DCU to band together and keep the Classics brand alive, keep Collect & Connects alive, and to help fill the holes in our collection while this newly minted line can go off and do whatever it is that it’s going to do (which, so far, is “not necessarily” be all Relaunch looks).
The last thing we should be doing is making post after post worrying about who’s going to be in the subscription that we don’t want. I mean think about that for a second – we don’t know who is going to be in the sub beyond Thom Kallor and many of us are sitting around worrying about the figures we don’t want to be in it. What? We’re fans! We cast fake movies that will never happen! We create wishlists of figures that we hope will be in the next wave or even what figures would be in a hypothetical last wave! But this time, instead of being true to form, we’re making lists of who we don’t want and then making plans to miss out on this chance because of fears that we’re stoking ourselves!
Why aren’t we talking about what we could get? Elasti-Girl is a C&C needed to complete the Doom Patrol. Lead is a C&C needed to complete the Metal Men (in the subscription, he might be a regular figure – but Mattel has considered him as a C&C for the retail line). Starro (Vault will do cartwheels on our Youtube channel)! A Four Horsemen sculpted Brother Warth (I might pee myself! …and no, that won’t be on Youtube)! The new C&C’s aren’t limited in height by the packaging, so how about a Classic Anti-Monitor that can really look down on the retail one? And that’s just the big ones, what about non-retail friendly figures like Oracle, Lois Lane, the Chief, Will Magnus, Phantom Lady, Bouncing Boy, the Lieutenant Marvels. Bleez.
Wait… do you… do you not want some of those? That’s okay – I imagine that’s what would happen if Mattel provided us a list of exactly what would be in the subscription too. That’s part of why they don’t. The subscription IS going to include figures that each of us may not want because it has to cater to all kinds of DC fans. I wouldn’t tell the subscribers if I were in charge either. The blind aspect has less risk of alienating potential buyers than a complete list would. What if you’d only buy five or six of the revealed list, would you sign up? Probably not. This helps Mattel sell the subs and I don’t begrudge them for it (and, hey, the “begrudging Mattel” list is rather long already anyway).
Look, I’m a DC Classics collector. It’s not the best line out there, but it’s pretty good. And if you’ve been trying to collect DC Figures anytime in the last forty years, then you know how good we finally, really do have it. We cherished Super Powers for longer than may have been fashionable because that’s all there was (and luckily they really are pretty cool). We didn’t get an expansive 5″ line that was all the rage of the 90s. We had DC Direct which showed promise in 6″ only to turn into the Superman/Batman/Hal Jordan show with the occasional great figure thrown in. We had to wait six years to even start to catch up to Marvel Legends. Classics, warts and all, is the ultimate DC line and I’m not ready for it to alter course with this rebranding. I want the Collect & Connects. I want the retailer-unfriendly figures. We can have those now! The retailers can’t be used as an excuse with this subscription. We have an opportunity to get a line direct from Mattel that we can influence. And we’re going to turn away from it? Because we’re concerned that not all the figures will be tailor made to our individual wants? C’mon!
The first time I wrote this article, I didn’t like it. I played it safe and tried to be reasonable. But, man, I can’t do it. The ball is in our court. Look at the MOTU line. Look at how humbly it started out and look at how it’s grown. They’re getting (and paying $80 for it, I know) a huge Granamyr. They’re getting vehicles. That line, while expensive, is verging on insane amounts of coolness. And we’re squabbling as DC fans about whether or not we want to follow that path? And if that kind of growth isn’t enough for you, think of the influence we can exert. If you haven’t followed along with MOTU Classics – think about this: a purple power axe, Keldor’s swords, the MO2K gear with Fisto, Battle Armor Faker & Bikini Teela (whole figures), etc. All of those things were fan demanded – for some of them, we were even outright told “no”. But we fought on, and all of those have come out or will come out now. I plan to be just as loud and obnoxious with this DC sub as I have been with the MOTU sub. My DC readers know that I’m not above breaking open a (hard-to-get at the time) figure to prove to Mattel the neck articulation was being made incorrectly. I won’t fight any less for us on this subscription. And I’m going to start right now…
What Mattel needs to do better:
Mattel is to blame for part of these backasswards “what we don’t want” wishlists. The MOTU fans were never told “subscribe or else” like what’s happening to us. And I do hold that against Mattel a bit and I keep hoping they don’t really mean it as I watch that stupid thermometer on Mattycollector go up so slowly. They should’ve have just had faith in the brand and us and offered it outright like they did for Voltron or Ghostbusters. They also should have announced it better instead of springing it on us with just two weeks to judge its merits and while we’re processing the sudden rebranding of the retail line.
To put it simply, I don’t think this rollout went as planned. Damage control interviews with AFInsider and AFTimes have fixed most of that in my eyes and if you’re on the fence, I hope you watch both. I still wanted to shout a few things at the computer while I listened (please stop saying “Flash 1 and Flash 2” and learn their names!), but I better understand what they’re trying to do. Things are a little marred right now, but there are things Mattel can do to fix it.
The figures are “just” $15, but the shipping will make them cost more. Mattel, you need to take that into consideration and increase the value of figures post-Starman at the least. An accessory, an alt head. Whatever. I understand that the lower production run from the subscription causes per unit price to go up, but with the C&C piece removed the value of these figures must be corrected for this to not be a price increase. The prices can’t go down, so the value must go up. If there’s not an obvious accessory or alternate head, Mattel needs to be hitting up the Four Horsemen’s spare parts bin. Bottle City of Kandor. JSA Trophy Room. Other colored constructs. Mattel, if you want this to be a collector’s line, then you have to make it one. If you’d rolled this out better, more of us would be apt to sign up. The MOTU & Ghostbusters (particularly) trade on their accessories; the DC line shouldn’t be any different.
I mean, Mattel put it on the collectors to keep Classics going (and I really believe we will, thermometer aside), but they still have to make it worthwhile. They didn’t really do that at the panel or in the interviews. Well, in the AFI interview, Mike (I believe) mentioned that Atrocitus should be a little bigger than an average figure, so if the current plan is to scale his 2up down to “a little bigger” than normal before April, that’s terrific! In that same AFI Interview, Bill said they’ll look to include second heads if they don’t think they can get back around to the figure – well, are they going to get back around to Jay Garrick? Because he needs a young head. And not to mention, as a runner, he NEEDS rocker ankles (and you Mattel guys know Hasbro was mocking you when they made a point to say that Marvel Legends will have rocker ankles, right?). Let’s bring those back since neither the subscription or retail lines will have C&C pieces. Starman could use an 80s head to get closer to the classic look, or for fun have a head with his mask partially up and a half eaten sandwich! I really don’t think these figures can be too far along to not make changes to, because Mattel shouldn’t even know if they’re making them at this point (and the April MOTU figures aren’t generally produced until after the first of the year). But, if, for some reason, these three can’t have anything added to them? Fine, but let’s make July spectacular! That one should be awesome anyway, because Mattel will no doubt be trying to sell us on the 2013 subscription… unless y’all are worried the world’s gonna end if “adult collector” becomes more than a packaging buzzword.
Anyway, I’m not concerned about buying blind. I’ve been pre-ordering DC waves blind for years. I love that line, warts and all. I’ve been a satisfied, “blind” MOTU Classics subscriber for two years even though I haven’t liked every character. If you don’t want to make a commitment to Mattel, I understand. But in my clearly skewed lollipops and ice cream world, I see it as a commitment to each other. I’ll scratch the back of the Black Lantern Swamp Thing guy and hope that he dislikes Elasti-Girl or Lead just as much. We have to get along to get along just like the MOTU fans do. And, as a MOTU collector, I feel pretty catered to and I think the DC subscribers can angle for the same treatment if we move units. That’s why I’m excited.
That said, I understand that there are other concerns. Paying shipping sucks. But there are positives to balance that out – no hunting, no gas, no off-hours shopping, no scalpers, no shitty store employees, and no competition – the figures will just show up like the mail-ins of our youth. You won’t even have to go to Mattycollector except* to change your card (which is easy) or when it comes time to buy the 2012 SDCC exclusive (and maybe you’ll luck out and it’ll be Wendy & Marvin and we can all skip it!).
* – If Mattel deigns to add a non-sub DC item to the site, I might rage a little bit. The single biggest problem with the MOTU subscription is that they don’t offer tiers or a truly all-in sub to skip the site entirely. If DC goes that way, I’ll be annoyed and everyone will hear about it. All-in is all-in, dammit!
And look, if you can’t afford the sub, you just can’t afford it. There’s no “blank check” like some have suggested – the costs are set in stone and laid out for us. If you can’t afford that, then what I’m saying doesn’t apply to you. It doesn’t make you a bad DC fan or draw my ire. There are a lot of great toys out there and you have to spend your money where you want to or where you need to – especially in times like this. I don’t want to apply pressure or ill will to the collectors that can’t afford to purchase this subscription. I really, really want Arnim Zola, but I’m a DC fan first and the money for Marvel toys might not be there for me. There are good reasons not to buy in and I understand and sympathize with most of them.
If you don’t want the sub, you just don’t want it. That’s fine. I’m really talking to the fans who are on the fence here. But, no matter who you are, we don’t need to sit around and dream up worst case scenarios about Conjura, Cosmos the Phantom of Disguise, or that new guy that appeared in Flashpoint last week. We don’t need to discourage other people from buying in (particularly if you’re not a DC Classics Collector, that’s just poor form). I’m hoping for the best because that’s what I do. I’m being positive because that’s what IAT is about. I’m not saying cross your fingers and hand over your credit card info – it doesn’t stop there. We must make clear the things we do and do not want from Mattel. Right now, that appears to be that the figures cost the same without a C&C piece and don’t have value added to make the shipping sting less. That’s where we start working on Mattel.
My ultimate hope is that Mattel can make this subscription so great that we wish characters released earlier had been saved for it. And after we get a few months in, when things look more fully formed instead of what appears to be a hastily put together “throw DCUC21 into a subscription” thing (and even if it isn’t, Mattel, you should act like that’s what happened… yeesh!), I think the subscription will be more appealing already. I know it sucks that we have to sign up and then encourage Mattel to do better, but that’s the breaks this time constraint has given us. I’m ready to work at it until Mattel rues the name of this site if it means better toys and character selection.
If you don’t want to take the leap of faith with me, I won’t hold it against you, but the ball really is in our court for the first time. If this falls through and Mattel blames us – they’ll be right for the first time. I don’t want that to happen. I want this to go through and I want to throw that ball back at them hard. I want this to be the collector line it should be. I want this to be what DC Direct should have always been. I want this subscription to kick ass like the MOTU one already does. And I think we can get it. Even if that means we end up with a kickass… sigh… Black Lantern Swamp Thing.