August 23, 2011

Optimism is better than despair

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 12:59 am

Yeah, I know. I really haven’t been around much. What can I say other than it’s hard to think of positive things to say about toys when you are trying to sell the biggest collectible of all - your house.

But I digress. I wanted to write a little bit about a decision I came to tonight. Actually it was a decision I’d made a few weeks ago while on the road to what was suppose to be a week at the family cottage until fate - subtitled: The House - intervened. And it was my decision regarding Mattel’s Club Infinite Earth.

Prior to the trip, I was completely on the fence with regard to Club Infinite Earths, the Matty Collector exclusive monthly DC line. I liked the concept and the idea that I’d have regular figures coming to my door. But I hate to let companies get away with poorly executed campaigns, and this was a poorly executed campaign. Coming into Comic Con with no lead up, and telling fans we had just two weeks to decide, with limited information is no way to make a pitch to collectors and fans. Even worse, unlike the Masters of the Universe Club or Club Ecto-One or even the Club Voltron, the club going forward was made condition on an completely undefined number of buy-ins (measured by a microscopic membership meter on a front page ad on the website.) Bad enough that the club was contingent on support, but to refuse to even tell us the criteria seemed dubious and wrong-headed.¬† The final insult of course was to basically threaten fans that they had to buy the collection or the “kittens” (or in this case, Jay Garrick, Atrocious, and the Legion of Super Heroes Star Man) would get it.

Really. Rushing and threatening your fans is not a great publicity move. Or a way to build brand loyalty. So I was resistant, until I read this article on the blackberry, and agreed with the points made. Which can really be distilled to the main point of if we build it, they might come. Which is kind of what happened with Club Eternia, as the first year led into a second and third, and the rise of animals, accessories, vehicles and even Filmation characters! While I still believe that the three “collector” figures will be released on store shelves if the club goes away, and I can really live without any of the four large scale figures offered (Shaggy Man, Metron, Rocket Red and Black Lantern Swamp Thing - although my votes have always been to Metron in case you were curious), really, could I risk getting up on my high horse and fail to subscribe when some real treasures might come our way in a line that I really like (admission: I am four square behind any and all Super Powers and Superfriends related releases!)

Could I risk not helping a club that might even bring me an official Mr. Terrific Terry Sloan? Dare I dream?

So I was in and all ready to go, to sign up before the deadline to try and do my part to save the club (then lingering at the low 20% threshold required to go forward), so at least I could say I tried. And MattyCollector pulls a fast one, and changes the deadline, and rushed the name of a four figure (Poison Ivy, a coveted Bat villain) to sweeten the pot. And I lost my appetite again. Hope replaced by disgust over a cynical move that was, in fact, contradictory to the point of the experiment. The Club was suppose to be for fan favourite characters that wouldn’t sell in stores. But a bat villain would likely do well in stores, at least if packaged right (say with the right accompanying figure). More importantly, Poison Ivy is not a selling point for me. Right now, I have a club that is offering me a rainbow lantern I already have from DC Direct, a quirky Starman that is only complete with a variant head, a bat villain I can live without, an exclusive large scale character I can take or leave, and Jay Garrick who looks oddly bulky. And I’m suppose to pay $255 plus shipping for this?

Knowing my luck, the one character I want will be screwed up in the ordering by Digital River, a la the Mego Style John Stewart order? (I’ve been cherry picking Masters of the Universe figures, picking up DC figures, and buying toys for friends, almost every other month. But the Mego-style Lanterns were at the top of the want list, and the June order came with a Masters’ Faceless One in the place of Mr. Stewart. It’s taken the better part of two months to rectify the situation, and though I have emails indicating that anywhere from one to three replacement John Stewarts may be in the mail to get around my complaints, I still had to buy a scalper version at TFCon to avoid missing out on him altogether because of a bad communications experience with Digital River. But, again I digress.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was falling out of love with the idea of wasting time and energy on Club Infinite Earths. When Matty Collector, looking at numbers still below the undefined 50% and panicking, offered a third extension, it was from frustrating to embarrassing. Really. This club is not going anywhere. We know it. They know it. And all the fake deadlines in the world isn’t going to change it. Why bother at this point.

And then an unexpected thing happened. We got more details about Hasbro/FunPub’s GIJoe figure club.

Now I was on the fence about this club too. Again, I love monthly toys coming in the mail automatically, and I like a lot of what FunPub does with its GIJoe club (of which I’ve been a member in 2007 and 2010) and the Transformersclub, where I’ve been a member pretty much since 2005. But I’m not as big on the new Joe figure molds as I am the traditional 3 3/4″ scale from the 1982-94 era (which the club has effectively discontinued with Big Lob, apparently to their success given the response to the offerings of the most recent JoeCon, so shows how much I know). And with FunPub, price is always going to be an issue. You can pretty much guarantee a doubling over the retail price for their toys, plus expensive shipping and sluggishly slow shipping for us Canadians (MattyCollector has its faults but shipping to Canada is both reasonable AND QUICK!) It was always going to come down to two factors: price and figures.

Well out of the gate, the Joes had a great figure offered in the former Action Force toy Quarrel. Gods, that is a figure I want to OWN. They have so far followed this up most recently with some creation called Nano-B.A.T.S., which, while not a toy I crave, is nice looking and would be fine on my shelf. But then came the pricing effect. $25 per figure plus shipping.

Let me repeat that. Twenty five dollars plus shipping. Oh, and one more thing. You have to be a MEMBER to join. So add another $40 to $80, depending on your residency, to your final price, or about $350 plus shipping for two less Joes than come in a nice box at annual convention time.

Now the club to their credit is not running around with barometers of interest for these toys, and have promised to show their cards ahead of time on all but the bonus 13th mystery figure that is an extra incentive to join. But they are charging an outrageous amount of money for what are even in Canada $10 4″ highly articulate action figures. By comparison, I can purchase an amazingly articulate Masters of the Universe character, articulated beautifully rendered by the Four Horseman and standing at 6″ tall for $20, about five dollars less than the Joe.

Or in the case of Club Infinite Earths, a figure at 6″ that could one day be a Mr. Terrific and, even if it’s not, is still $10 less than a tiny solder with a gun.


P.S. Non toy related, it’s been a very sad day in Ottawa with the word of the passing of federal Opposition Leader Jack Layton. Taken just months after taking the post, for the first time in the history of his party and the country, it seems too cruel a fate to contemplate, let alone belief. For comparison sake, imagine if President Obama had passed away shortly after winning the election, at a time when all that seemed ahead was optimism unhindered by the realities of day-to-day political life. It feels¬† like that.

I was, and remain, an admirer of Mr. Layton. I’d often contemplated an appropriate munny to bring to an event and present to him. That munny never came, the moment never arrive. But I may yet try my hand at it, in memory this time. For now, I’m left with a bobble head and the feeling of regret of what could have been, and what should have been.

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