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Truetorial: DC Classics & Walmart –
A Match Made Without Variants

I’m ambivalent on the Mattel/Wal-Mart partnership. I really don’t care if they keep getting exclusives or not. I live practically on top of Wal-Mart HQ and have dozens of stores within a reasonable driving distance, but that doesn’t make it easy to find the exclusives. I didn’t get DCUC5 first hand. I had to buy the Giant Man figures and Nemesis figures while traveling in other states. And I know that even though DCUC10 was easier to find for a lot of fans, the bad taste DCUC5 left in the mouths of most collectors is still fresh enough that even I cringed at the announcement that DCUC14 would also be exclusive to the retailer. But I’m not writing about whether there should or shouldn’t be Wal-Mart waves today. That ship has sailed, so I’m moving on too. But I do have a problem with some of the figures that go into Wal-Mart waves.

Wal-Mart exclusive DCUC waves don’t have variants, at least none of them have so far. That’s a good thing. Two less figures to have to track down at an exclusive retailer is a nice relief from what can be an untenable situation. And I’m not suggesting that they should start putting variants in those waves either. But I would like to see Mattel chose the figures in a variant wave more carefully. If a figure can or should have a crucial variant, then it shouldn’t be in a wave that doesn’t support variants.

I know that Mattel has a system in place for choosing wave lineups. And to be honest, I’ve been really happy with it. I know each collector has waves they like and waves they don’t. I wasn’t that excited for waves three or twelve in particular, but I still consider character selection to be a real strength of the DC Classics line. Even if I don’t love every wave, Mattel really can’t make a character I don’t want.* The only problem I ever have with the character selection is when they miss a juicy variant. Sometimes, it’s cost. I get that. Sometimes, it’s that I’m crazy and want obscure things. I get that too. But other times, Mattel has placed a character with multiple popular costumes in an exclusive wave. That hurts.

* – Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise is on my want list.

This weekend’s news about the confirmation of DCUC14 was like a roller coaster. First, came word that the Zatanna figure would be a reality. Then, the excitement was amped up with the images from ToyFare! We were finally getting Zatanna and the figure looked fantastic. All we needed was to see the Perez variant! Then, everything came crashing down the following morning. She was slated to be a Wal-Mart exclusive. That meant no Perez variant.

If you’re not familiar with Zatanna, she’s had a few different costumes. Her basic appearance is what we’re getting for the figure, that of a female stage magician. I’m happy about that. If we do only get one, that’s the one I would rather have. But, Zatanna has also had other costumes – most notably the one given to her by George Perez in the late seventies during his JLoA run. While it wasn’t around as long as her basic costume (and its subtle variations), it’s been imprinted on many fans. And some would’ve preferred that version be the only one Mattel makes. That’s a fan split that a 50/50 variant would have easily solved, but now that Z’s in the Wal-Mart wave, we’re not sure when, or if, that’s in the cards anymore.

Zatanna isn’t the first figure that this has happened to either.

In the first Wal-Mart exclusive wave, if you found it, you found the Atom, Amazo, Black Lighting, the Eradicator, and the Riddler. If we wanted to get really deep into this, all five of those figures have appeared in different costumes. But the alternate costumes of Amazo and the Eradicator are probably not in that high a demand, so we’ll drop those two off the list.

The Atom. The Atom has two quick ones that jump to mind. First, his successor, Ryan Choi. A new belt and a new head would’ve been all it took to make this figure a reality. With Dr. Mid-Nite though, Mattel stated that modern versions of classic characters could see release on their own; that they don’t need to be relegated to variant status. Maybe that applies to Ryan Choi. I hope so. But what of the Sword of the Atom? Reuse some Deathstroke pieces, slap on some soft plastic parts, and a new head. Boom. A perfect variant.

Black Lightning. This one bothers me because I feel Mattel gave us the worst of his four costumes. There’s his original costume, his 90s costume (my personal favorite), a later 90s costume (used in the Public Enemies line), and then the costume from his recent appearances in JLA/Outsiders. The DCUC5 figure is based on his current look though I imagine the original is the one most fans wanted. The question now is, can Black Lightning get three figures? That’s what it’s going to take to get the one most people want.

The Riddler. This one’s a no-brainer. A classic jumpsuit Riddler. Put a new head on the standard buck and give fans of the classic Legion of Doom Riddler they want. I have nothing against the suit version, I like it too. But this is probably the best example of a figure that shouldn’t have been in a Wal-Mart wave.

The 2009 Wal-Mart wave was a little better about not having obvious variants. A trench coat Joker could surely carry his own weight and wouldn’t need a variant. There probably aren’t too many fans clamoring for one of Power Girl’s other costumes or for the dark version of Forager’s costume.* The only clear standout from DCUC10 is Beast Boy, but he’s a big one. Beast Boy has had his fair share of costumes. Not only did Mattel give us one that he only wore for a brief time in the comics, but by placing him in a variantless Wal-Mart wave, fans missed out on a chance to get a classic version for the Doom Patrol or a Perez version for the classic Titans. Instead, there’s a Beast Boy figure that doesn’t really fit much of anywhere.

* – Sorry, Samuron.

And now in 2010, the choice of figures in the Wal-Mart designation of DCUC14 is robbing us of more variants. We already mentioned the disappointing lack of the Perez Zatanna, but there are others. A Sentinel version of Alan Scott probably isn’t in high demand, nor was a shadowform version of Obsidian. We weren’t going to get GA/MA variants based on Matty’s Dr. Mid-Nite comments either, but any of those could have happened in a normal wave. And there is one other one that I think would have been cool. Tommy Tomorrow.

I know you all just went… who? Tommy Tomorrow of the Planeteers was a long running backup seen in the pages of Action Comics and World’s Finest Comics for about fifteen years. I’d love to have this classic character and DCUC14 might have been his single best chance for release. Why? Because Tommy is Kamandi. If the Great Disaster were adverted, Kamandi wouldn’t have been the last boy on Earth, he would’ve grown up to be Tommy Tomorrow. Not only would that have been a great nod to longtime DC fans, but it would’ve been yet another signal that Mattel is serious about getting to every corner of the DC Universe.

But that’s not going to happen now. We’ve got another Wal-Mart wave and that means, just like before, some key variants are ending up on the cutting room floor. Like I said at the beginning, I’m not advocating that the Wal-Mart waves should have variants. I’m happy that there are two less figures to buy when it comes to finding these at Wal-Mart. I’m also not calling for an end to the retailer exclusives. They serve their purpose. But some characters shouldn’t be in exclusive waves going without variants while other characters, in regular waves, get variants that we don’t need.

There’s a lot of lame variants when it comes to the 70/30s. Helmetless Barda? Glow-in-the dark Spectre? Purple Wildcat? Phasing Deadman? Unwrapped Negative Man? Now, you may like some of those. I could’ve taken either Wildcat, but there was no need for both. I do like Phasing Deadman, but he makes the regular one redundant. I still haven’t opened it. You may disagree on some of those, but Helmetless Barda?* We get that as a variant instead of Perez Zatanna? Really? We’re getting a Negative Man with an unwrapped head and we donโ€™t have a first appearance Black Lightning? That seems wrong to me.

* – Had she been in her bikini, that would’ve been a terrific variant. I’ve always wondered if that was the plan at one point.

Bottom line, Mattel needs to be just a little more careful when deciding where characters that have smart variants available end up. Obsidian was a fine choice for a variantless wave. So was Tyr. But Zatanna? Come on. Zatanna is the poster character for a figure that ought to have a variant. So was Beast Boy before her. And the Riddler before him. Each Wal-Mart wave has had at least one character that didn’t get a variant and left fans wondering if they’ll ever get the version they want. Will there be a Changeling? A Classic Riddler? A Perez Zatanna? We can only hope that Mattel will find away to approach these characters again (and not in multipacks or twopacks where we have to double up on a figure we already have). Going forward, we also have to pressure Mattel to stop putting characters that should have variants in waves that can’t have them.

And yes, I really would’ve been excited for a Tommy Tomorrow. I can’t be the only one…


Past Truetorials:

50 comments to Truetorial: DC Classics & Walmart –
A Match Made Without Variants

  • Nicholai

    I agree completely. I really would have liked a Perez Zatanna, but Beast Boy definitely got the short end of the stick. They should’ve gone with the New Teen Titans era costume.

    • Beast Boy is one of my biggest disappointments in the line.

      1) The size of the figure is awkward. In that costume, he should be a short adult.
      2) The costume itself because it’s about the last one anyone would want. (cartoon not withstanding)
      3) And the lack of a variant to please most fans.

      • j1h15233

        Guess I’m in the minority but that’s the exact Beast Boy costume I wanted.

      • Brainlock

        Gar has always been drawn as shorter than average. the teen buck is fine for him.
        the costume choice, however….

        and mark me down for Power Girl’s gold JLE costume! I made a custom of that for the TJ/JLA line using a 5″ Marvel (Widow/Jean) and never did the main costumed one.
        altho I could live without the white/blue ‘diamond window’ version.

        • I don’t think the teen buck is fine for anyone! Maybe the very early Teen Titans, Doom Patrol Beast Boy, and Damian Wayne – but even then it’s so over-muscled and short. I dislike it very much.

          The gold PG costume is interesting. I remember that one more than the classic one a lot of the time.

  • j1h15233

    You may be the first person to say they didn’t care for wave 3. That’s still my favorite and the only one so far that every figure has been a must have for me. In fact, looking at those figures over and over is what finally drew me in.

    • Mr. T

      It’s especially odd since he’s a Green Lantern fan. :/

    • True story. That wave almost left me a cherrypicker instead of a completist!

      I had all the figures released up to that point, but I wasn’t that happy with the line. I loved getting Firestorm and the Electric Supermen and the Aquaman is still one of the best figures in the line, but I don’t like Grodd and I wasn’t that excited by Grundy at the time.

      Combine not really caring about the C&C with not being interested in Deathstroke, the cartoon Robin, and Nightwing, I just didn’t know what to do.

      I almost bought Hal and SC Sinestro and left it at that. I’m glad I didn’t and I kinda laugh at the notion that I was getting out back in ’08.

  • The Flash III

    I would’ve killed for a Sword of Atom variant. My Atom is currently displayed holding Hawkgirl’s sword.

  • Mr. T

    It’s not like we were guaranteed any of these variants. They could have been given “lame” variants just as easily. Kamandi could have had an OOP Kirby head for example.

  • Tom Waits

    Tommy Tomorrow? Now, that’s mining obscurity.

  • Gildeft

    Ribbler (FA) would awesome to wave 15 with Raven.Im really big Ribbler fan and funny Ribbler joke there =)

  • Adrian

    Great post!

  • Mike Rekowsky

    Great choices! I’d love to get them all!!

  • Taylor

    Those were all easy variants. I doubt some of them will get made now.

    • At this point, I still have hope for Perez Zatanna and will give long odds to Black Lightning and Changeling.

      But Sword of the Atom is probably lost to us now. I’d love to be wrong now.

  • see… to me, many of the variants mentioned are stong enough for their own release. In fact, the very point of a variant is a way to get something out that most people wouldn’t really care about… like the super powers/classic kirby splits, since there are many people who prefer one way to the other (I personally, am more of a Super Powers fan, though I am getting kirby variants when I can, simply for the fact that they exist… though I did get 2 green parademons because they are awesome)

    but I think the perez Zatanna, or BL’s original costume and especially spandex Riddler are more than strong enough to be a part of another line… as for “losing a slot” as many people claim is the case, well… no, if this line has the legs everyone seems to claim it does, than there is no worry… in fact, stretching those things out just extend the brand..

    with hope it will not be the case of not getting a sal to go with your johnny fiama (*sniff* why sal?… why couldn’t palisades just give me a stinky monkey.. why the hell did they waste the plastic on Dr. Phil Van Neuter… WHY TOY GODS?!..)

    sorry.. still.. I am confidant that mattel will figure out a way to get those crucial costume changes out there (well.. I’m less confidant about a changeling, but that’s the only one I’m really bothered by)

    • I agree that some of them could be strong enough for their own release, but when are we going to start seeing characters get these second releases?

      Superman and Batman? Sure. Aquaman. Well, there was that one time. Hal Jordan got his FA in a 2pk I guess. But after that?

      Plus, and I’m not complaining about the lineups, the A-list characters are out of the lineup for the most part and the WGSH figures are just reissues.

      If they’re not doing other versions of the Flash, I don’t know how much hope I’m supposed to hold out for Black Lightning and Riddler.

      • that is true… I have no idea why they haven’t churned out a wally flash, especially in his new “distinguishable from barry” duds… but they did give us a full GL wave, so perhaps they’ll do a flash wave to counter (or not thanks to Captain Cold’s ironic pegwarming)

        still.. I can’t fault them for doing relatively obscure figures… the line seems to move, on line at least… I don’t really know about retail, as my TRU just recently got the second half of wave 7, (and they are the one’s labeled “exclusive” despite being nothing of the sort)

        all I know is that I will continue to preorder sets (or, in the wal-mart wave’s case) rely on the kindness of strangers to help me acquire them.. stupid city hating wal-mart waves)

        • I won’t fault them for the obscure figures. I love ’em.

          I just see conflicting policies. I see them telling fans not to worry about second versions of the characters because ‘they’ll sell on their own’ while nearly every wave in 2010 has relegated A-listers to WGSH status.

          And I do love the pre-orders. 12 will be here this week, no fuss. I do miss that when it comes to these exclusive waves.

  • Lay Ze-Man

    Seeing that composite graphic at the end, that could TOTALLY be its own Wave.

    Now you just need some C&C variant ideas to pick one to go with. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Are you saying I shot myself in the foot? LOL

      If we’re talking about missed variants, then the C&C should be SP Kalibak!

      But I’ll think about a better choice.

      • dayraven

        we we’re keep a GL theme in play this year (or so it appeared until this wave), what if we did a ross GL from kingdom come and scored the nifty armor too?

        • I think the ‘net rumor was a GL theme based on the wave 11 weeks. I don’t know if Mattel ever said it. Sounds like we’ll see that in 2011 though.

          Vault, Rant, and I go back and forth about KC versions a lot.

          • dayraven

            no, they didn’t specify that 2010 had a GL theme, but if you’ll recall, about the time they were discussing having a 2010 theme, the photos for the GL wave got distributed and this hot on the heels of blakcest night being the buzzword of the day in the comics industry… it’s easy to dismiss a GL theme as false assumption, but the coincidence is there. i don’t think it was a accident.

  • Colonel Rick

    I’m with you. Sword of Atom isn’t coming.

    Maybe it never was, but it could’ve been if not for Wal-Mart.

  • Stiffrightshoulderman

    I grew up watching Super Friends and later on The Legendary Super Powers Show and SP Kalibak (voiced by Frank Welker) was the only version I knew. I was not a New Gods comic fan as a kid and it wasn’t until much, much later that I learned that the SP Kalibak was a Kirby redesign. Long story short, a C&C SP Kalibak would be a very welcome addition to the C&C ranks.

    P.S. Noisy… here’s hoping that Mattel never hires you as I fear they would make you check your common sense approach at the door. You’ve penned a museum quality piece. Bravo!

    • I ran into Super Friends right as they added Firestorm and Cyborg and Super Powers into the title. I’m up for all those in the line, even SP Kalibak if there’s a way to get that done.

      And thanks! I’m glad I’m making sense to some people. I was writing late last night (I bumped a different article for this one) and was sure I was going to come across like a raving lunatic. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • tornado

    I hope in the future they can release a translucent black figure with a removable cape that can double as Obsidian’s shadow and Negative Man’s energy form. That is two wave they missed out on that variant.

  • dayraven

    color me dumb, but i don’t get the forager/power girl exchange…

  • Lee in MI

    I agree wholeheartedly. Some folks have faith that these will still show up…and they might. But those would have been great variants and Mattel, imo, missed a great opportunity. And the point you made about the variants they did choose was right on point. Some of their choices for variants just leave you scratching your head…and I’ve bought EVERY figure (besides WGSH re-packs) in the line. And I will continue to collect the line with the same ferver I did with TB Marvel Legends but I think Mattel needs to put as much thought and effort into this line and its variants that you see them putting into MOTU and now WWE.

    I mean some of the WWE figs have 2-3 releases already and they are only on wave 2!!!!! We still haven’t seen Wally Flash, Prof. Zoom or even some of the awesome Wonder Woman variants that could have been produced! WTF Scott!

    And this new guy Mike is making me nervous. I believe he said he started reading DC when Supes died!?!?!?! It was clear that Scott N.’s personal fav was MOTU over DCUC but Mike having such a brief love for the DCU makes me really wonder how great 2011 will be when Mike takes the helm. Just my $.02

    Thanks for a great read!

    • You’re welcome.

      You collect on par with me. I’ve picked up everything but the WGSH reissue 2pks (although I haven’t gotten around to muddy Batman). But the variants are starting to leave me cold on continuing that. I may have reservations about getting rid of my regular Deadman – but I may not buy GITD Spectre at all.

      I’m weak about completism sometimes. I might have to sell off the useless variants so it can be over and done with!

      I do believe that they have a long term plan mapped out loosely, but I don’t think all of those variants I mentioned today are coming – and I think my point stands if even one or two of them gets skipped.

      And yes… Professor Zoom. The easiest repaint ever (though I’d prefer a new head) and no one does it?! DCD will finally have one in the bubbly line, but they’ve skipped on dozens of Flash figures.

      Mattel has brought him into JLU & DCIH, but there’s a lot of characters in those lines including him that haven’t made the transition. DCIH bugs me in particular since that line is newer and has better covered some corners of the DCU already.

  • Brainlock

    for me, I prefer the hair LITTLE Barda over the helmeted LITTLE Barda, but I do agree that it would have been AWESOME to get the BIKINI Barda! sigh….

    as many people who were glad to get Gar didn’t mind the DP colors over his NTT colors, hoping we could get that version down the road (NTT BOXSET??)

    I’m more annoyed that we got Kid Flash on a teen buck, and now Donna Troy is coming as an ADULT WONDER GIRL with no black costume variant!

    and I’ll keep hoping I see a non-exclusive wave Jefferson Pierce so that I can have one. The DCD sold out immediately at my shop, and I have not seen either DCUC version.

    I still hold out hope for Sword of the Atom (Indigo variant?), War World Gladiator Superman, Walter West, John Fox (black/blue over 1M!) and JLE gold Power Girl!

    • I always see the bikini Barda that could’ve been.

      I’m not happy with these promised multipacks because I’m not sure what they’ll include. The Gotham 5pk was okay, but I only really wanted the one figure. For $55, I don’t want to be doing that a lot.

      The Titans are jacked up. No doubt about it.

      LOL – That’s true, both BLs have been retailer exclusive. I didn’t think about that.

      You’ve got some great variant suggestions. Vault & Rant would love to see some 1 Million Repaints now that you mention it. Well, sorta mentioned it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • DCFett

    Gotta totally agree with you, NoisyDvL and reiterate what my bro Lee said. I just finished reading that Mattel has not one, but two versions of Moss Man, who has two heads! And this is all due to fan demand. What are we, chopped liver? We all kept buying these figures thru the lead scare and everything, wherever Mattel was able to get these out and it seems that ALL the creativity is going directly to the MOTU line! I’m more than a bit disturbed on this. Where da luv at for DCUC? On top of all your excellently noted points of the infamous missus, I’d like to point out that the PE wave (including it’s lame-O variants, cant forget them) could have done extremely well to add a regular head WITH the animated head so that we could have had two-in-one figures. I’m just not understanding why MOTU gets “running changes” and so much creativity and thought put into its making while we get, as you said, “lame variants”! This line is great, there is not doubt there, but it could be exceptional. I think they are moving MOTU in that direction and I hope that someone at Mattel will start to do the same with DCUC.
    Thanks for the Tommy Tommorrow lesson. Being a completist like yourself, it would only take him being included in a wave to get him, but that little bit of back story has me wanting him for the shelf already!