"We think DC Super Hero Girls can be bigger than a $1 billion brand."
I want to let that sink in for a second. DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment president Diane Nelson believes that strongly in DC Super Hero Girls. The only other current billion dollar brands in the dolls/action figure arena? Barbie and Disney Princesses.
For years, all we've heard from major toy makers, including DC's own partners at Mattel, is that girls don't buy toys, and they especially don't buy toys you'd consider to be action figures. While the truths of that matter have been relentlessly shattered over the past few years, particularly with regard to the likes of Marvel and Star Wars toys, there are still very few companies willing to go out on that ledge and buck outdated stereotypes. Fortunately, Diane Nelson is just as tired of those ill-conceived notions as the rest of us.
With a new movie on the horizon, it should come as no surprise that there are some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes Mega Blok sets coming out to tie into the release. Though some have already started hitting stores, Mattel and Mega Block have officially announced a handful of upcoming building sets and micro action figures that will see the existing TMNT line expand with new vehicles, playsets and characters.
Some of the smaller sets are certainly nice, and I particularly like the modest TMNT Party Van that's hitting shelves as we speak. However, it's the bigger movie-related sets that currently have my attention. While the Battle Truck and Jungle Takedown sets won't be available for a few months, I'm already eyeing up some shelf space in my office.
For almost a year, we've been waiting for the DC Super Hero Girls to arrive on the scene. Announced last April as a multimedia brand aimed squarely at young women and designed to cover toys, comics, apparel, animation and more, DC Super Hero Girls' reveal was a big deal. Here were DC Comics and Warner Bros., along with partners Mattel, Random House and Lego, not just acknowledging that young girls were into comics, but that they were also important enough as a group to deserve an entire line of collectibles and apparel. Yes, there have been numerous action figures to buy featuring the heroes and villains of the DC Universe, but DC Super Hero Girls marks the first time any company had the brains to realize something we did long ago: "Teaching girls that they can be super heroes too [...] is really, really important."
Starting in the fall of last year, the DC Super Hero Girls web series got things running. The short stories introduced the world of Super Hero High School, and how all the characters of DC Comics would be interpreted in this new universe. There was a longer wait for the figures and Action Dolls based on these new designs, but earlier this week, Target and Mattel finally delivered the goods. The DC Super Hero Girls line hit store shelves, with figures, dolls, and roleplay accessories that would not only give young girls a chance to play with their favorite heroes, but to be their favorite heroes as well.
After ditching the DC Universe Classics line and moving to 3.75" figures with the initial launch of DC Multiverse, it was a bit of a surprise to see Mattel would once again enter the 6" arena with the Multiverse collection. It made sense of course, given that DC Comics and Warner Bros. were releasing a new tentpole movie featuring all three of the comic company's iconic heroes, and (hopefully) kickstarting a cinematic universe. But the Multiverse line is much more than just Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and as recent releases like Arrow's Green Arrow and The Flash's Flash have shown, Mattel has larger goals in mind for the figure line.
That DC TV love will continue into the next wave, which will introduce CBS' Supergirl into the mix. It's good to see that a third party licensor sees the value of Supergirl toys, even as DC itself has struggled to find a way to make Kara Zor-el relevant in print and within its own collectibles. Green Arrow and Flash had to wait a season or two until they got their shot a figures, but Supergirl's jumping right out of the gate with her first attempt. That said, based on how infrequently the Multiverse line has shipped so far, it's unlikely we'll see this Supergirl figure until the fall. We've still got the second half of the Dawn of Justice wave and the TV/comics mix to come, plus those Suicide Squad figures.
Every step along the way, Mattel's new DC Super Hero Girls have looked better and better. Since announcing DC Super Hero Girls, Mattel has slowly been teasing the figures and dolls, along with the numerous other branded accessories like notebooks, skate helmets, socks and books. There are already a dozen animated shorts online, which I guess are supposed to be the impetus to get you to buy the dolls. Considering most of these characters are already fairly big names, it seems like the inverse might be more true. But what do I know?
Not much, except for one thing. This line is going to be trouble.
With a new Ghostbusters film on the horizon, the fearless foursome will once again return to the mass market courtesy of Mattel. Though Mattel previously tried to resurrect the Ghostbusters franchise as action figures back in 2009, the line was fraught with issues. Other companies, like Diamond Select, have stepped up in recent years to fill the void for figures based on the 1984 classic, but outside of specialty shops, Ghostbusters toys have been few and far between since the Real Ghostbusters line ended all those years ago.
Depending on how invested you were in the Matty Collector Ghostbusters line, even bringing it up might recall a particularly sour taste for fans who were burned the last time this license was making the rounds. After seeing the new figures in person for the first time this weekend at Toy Fair, I hope this wave can find the audience and success the previous batch just couldn't maintain. Given all the excitement for the female-led film, that doesn't seem like it should be a problem. Even if the figures aren't all that great.
Though you would have thought a great deal of Mattel's Toy Fair event would have been focused on Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which to be fair it was, there were actually more new figures on hand from August's Suicide Squad film. Many of the Dawn of Justice figures have already hit retail, but the upcoming villain-led film made a surprise showing, and Mattel revealed almost the entire team this weekend.
Interestingly enough, there was no Suicide Squad branding on any of the new figures. Where DC Collectibles and other specialty lines can get away with putting the word "suicide" on the box, it's a tougher sell for mass market figures that will show up in Target and Walmart. The Suicide Squad will fit in with the DC Multiverse line, offering 6" versions of the team in the branding you're already seeing for characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman for Dawn of Justice, and Flash and Green Arrow from their respective TV shows. Where those media properties get the film/show logo slapped on the side of the box, it'll be interesting to see what Mattel puts on these packages to indicate just where these guys came from.
Today, Mattel finally unveiled the final member of its Barbie-fied DC Trinity. Now Superman can partner up with Batman and Wonder Woman for all kinds of outrageous fashion adventures. Will Darkseid's attack close down the mall and prevent Clark from buying a new flannel shirt? Will Batman finally muster up enough courage to ask Wonder Woman to the Spring Fling? Can the T-birds finally take the Scorpions out on Thunder Road?
For a mass-market figure, the Henry Cavill Ken doll head isn't all that bad. It's got those piercing blue eyes; the thick, expressive eyebrows; the cleft chin and strong jawline; it even looks as if he's silently judging you for having your doubts about the DC Cinematic Universe. Or maybe he's just giving you stone cold Blue Steel right in the kisser.
Boy, these new Barbie body types are sure getting really specific. I mean, it makes sense for Mattel to attempt to reach a broader, more diverse audience by releasing new Barbies that better match the girls and young women of the world, but aging, rich white dude with trust issues hardly seems like it will strike the right chord. The only thing this might strike is fear into the hearts of criminals.
Though Mattel had announced the full DC Trinity (in their Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice garb) would be getting the Barbie treatment at San Diego Comic-Con last year, the only doll anyone got to see was Wonder Woman. The Amazonian princess certainly looked the part, but nobody really knew what to expect from a potential Batman or Superman at the time. With Toy Fair 2016 right around the corner, and Mattel having a large Barbie and DC Comics presence at the show, it seemed like we might get our first glimpse at the Bruce and Clark Ken dolls in a few weeks. Thanks to Amazon, we no longer have to wait for Batman.
For at least a generation, Barbie has been a controversial figure. Mattel wants to emphasize her independence and her range of careers, but most people who look at her just see a body. Traditionally, a body with huge breasts, a very narrow waist, and feet that can only wear high heels. A body that is available in a brown version, but that everyone knows is meant to be white.
Mattel is now trying something bigger and newer with Barbie. The company has introducing three new body types; in addition to Original Barbie, she now comes in Curvy, Petite, and Tall. Mattel had already been working on being more inclusive of skin colors and hair types, so those factors combine with these new bodies to create a far wider variety of Barbie possibilities.
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