Hasbro’s Marvel Legends Team Divulges the ‘Secret Sauce’ at NYCC [Interview]
Since Hasbro took over the Marvel action figure license a few years ago, the Marvel Legends line has been home to a fairly diverse cast of characters from the classic Marvel Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That trend looks to continue heading into the new year, where Hasbro already has its plans in motion for the early part of the year, including the Captain America: Civil War wave, and the first wave of the newly christened 3.75" Marvel Legends.
During New York Comic Con, we were given an early look at some of Hasbro's plans for the Marvel Legends line for the upcoming year. Both the 6" and 3.75" lines will fall under the Legends banner moving forward, with new characters and some familiar faces filling out the rosters on both sides. After seeing everything that was on display, we had a chance to chat with some of Hasbro's Marvel Legends leads, Dwight Stall, senior Marvel product design manager, Mike Breslin, senior director, brand strategy and marketing, and Tony Colella, senior model artist, about Legends and its future.
ComicsAlliance: You teased the re-branding of the 3.75" line as Marvel Legends at San Diego, but we saw it here at NYCC in full for the first time. Was that something you saw being done with the Star Wars Black series all being under one banner that you wanted to do with Legends to signify the "adult" collector lines?
Dwight Stall: For us it was more the next logical evolution of the brand itself. Before it was a little bit fractured, and it was fractured by scale and size in some instances, and also by movie or non-movie. I think the overall plan was to unite the brand under one moniker, one look and one feel, so we can merchandise it easier and build equity with Legends as a brand.
Mike Breslin: The new 3.75" packaging is definitely a departure from what we've done in the past. We're really celebrating with the sketches and artwork on the front, and the photography on the back really glamorizes the character. To Dwight's point, it's tying it all together with one brand so when someone says, "Marvel Legends," they know what it is.
CA: Fans are finally getting a Rogue, and it was quite a surprise to see X-Men #1, '90s Rogue in there. What led to the transition from the X-Men Legacy version to the somewhat more classic look?
DS: Some of it was getting a little sneak peek at Battleworlds, and knowing that Marvel was going to be bringing these characters back, even in a short run. And it's just a great, striking costume. We made a Rogue earlier, but we never shipped a Rogue in Legends in any form.
Tony Colella: I think we like this body a little bit better than the Legacy Rogue. She didn't have those ankle rockers, and the hips were a little eh... We wanted to update the figure to make it a little bit more aesthetically pleasing.
DS: Would you still like to see the Legacy one if we can get it out there?
CA: Yeah. I'm partial to this one myself. The bomber jacket is great.
TC: That one seems to have a lot more fond memories for people.
DS: Both Sharon Carter and Mockingbird, I believe, are being sold as Agents of SHIELD. So there will be the swap between the two of them.
CA: Hasbro's done a fairly good job of keeping Legends diversified. There's usually at least two female figures included in each wave. What led to that decision, and is that something we'll continue to see as the line grows?
DS: We like to get a mix of everything out there, from races to male and female. Marvel's a universe that's so deep and so rich, and everyone across the globe has a certain character from their background that they relate to or something from somewhere else that they aspire to be. It's just such a great diverse world, we love to get as much of that out there in toy form as possible.
As far as the females themselves, we put them in there because there's a lot of fantastic female characters that populate the Marvel Universe. Also, the fans, both male and female, have been asking for them. More importantly, the fans are stepping up to actually purchase them. People had asked for them in the past, but when we made them, they weren't going anywhere, which is a problem for us. I think there's been a massive resurgence with Marvel since the movies, and that's now made many more of these characters relevant to a much deeper selection in the community. More people are in, more people are wanting this stuff; not just our collectors, but fans.
MB: Our product line is a direct reflection of what our consumer base is asking for, and it's also a direct reflection of the cross-platform entertainment. We already talked about Agents of SHIELD on TV, we talked about the move, but there are other areas we are looking at as well. You look at Captain Marvel, that's a huge focus for Marvel going forward, and that's a huge female lead character. Obviously we're going to get behind that.
This line is doing so well because it's a direct reflection of what the fans specifically are asking for. That's really our secret sauce. It's a line for the fans, by the fans.
CA: Is that something we'll see carry over to the 3.75" line? You have included female figures there before, but for the most part, they're less packed-in than they are in the larger-scale figures.
MB: We're in the business of making products that people want, not that people don't want. We focus on the research, we focus on the numbers very hard.
CA: With regards to the 3.75" line, how do you ensure the figures that are showing up in Legends and through the other less-articulated lines aren't over-populated by the same characters?
MB: It comes down to our wave strategy. In all of our lines we start out with a massive list, and we brainstorm and look at the key beats throughout the year --- events, entertainment --- things that we can leverage and make sense. I don't want to say it dictates itself, but the team does a great job of leveraging what's happening in comics and movies. There's a lot of thought that goes into this. We're all fanboys, too, but we do analyze it and see what makes sense. The goal is to get people to buy into the line and want to build that build-a-figure because that's what drives the business.
CA: With the Marvel Unlimited digital service, it's the only way to get the Pepper Potts Rescue figure that had been developed a few years ago. Will there be more exclusive deals like that to perhaps get other figures that had been shown but never released, or figures that might not be part of a standard wave out there?
DS: Yeah, quite possibly. A lot of it comes down to those kind of accounts are looking for something that's going to be relevant or have a surge behind it. Most of the exclusive-type opportunities still want to have things coming that are focused on the future. Every once in a while we'll have an account that's looking for something a little different, or they want to stand out, and they we can look at all those great figures that we've made. We've worked really hard to get as many of them out there to you in some way or fashion as we can.
I think if we had this conversation two years ago, there probably was in excess of 10-20 action figures that we'd shown that had never made it out. I think that list now is down to under 10, so within just a couple of years, we've been able to get most of the lost children placed and back out to fans. We still remember them, and when appropriate, and when we have the time, we'll try to find a way to get them out. If they're still desirable, and people still want them.
TC: And we look at it, maybe there's an update to that character that maybe we can put it out in a different way. It may not be the exact same, but maybe with an update or something like that.
DS: Rogue here is a perfect example.