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Toy Fair 2016: Mattel DC Showcase

Mattel-DKR-Batman-toy-fairThe second time is the charm for Mattel’s DC Multiverse series, while Mattel’s newest DC toy line might be the most intriguing thing on display at their Toy Fair showcase.

Mattel’s collector event at Toy Fair featured a few different facets of their DC toy line, including the vastly improved 6″ scale Multiverse series, DC Films products based on Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad, and possibly the coolest series of the bunch, the DC Super Hero Girls, making their toy debut.

We’re already seeing the wide range of BvS products hitting retail in advance of the upcoming movie, ranging from action figures and role play gear, to Barbie dolls of the lead characters and even an admittedly rad Batman versus Superman redo of the classic Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots game.  Suicide Squad seems to be getting slightly less toy treatment, which sort of makes sense considering the movie promises to be a little rougher than BvS, though an entire assortment of Multiverse figures was shown.

Speaking of Multiverse, I’m really glad Mattel gave this concept a second shot.  Their initial multimedia toy line made the dubious decision to switch from the successful 6″ scale to 3.75″ toys, and leaned very heavily on the Arkham video game series.  After a little less than two years, the line sort of sputtered out, and Mattel has now relaunched as a hybrid of the TV/ movies/ comics/ video game shared toy line concept of the smaller Multiverse line, as well as the scale and Four Horsemen sculpts that made the DC Universe Classics such a beloved toy line.

Yes, Multiverse also borrowed more than a little from Hasbro’s most recent iteration of Marvel Legends, from the waves that revolve around the most recent film properties, the Build-A-Figure Collect N Connect gimmick, and even the collector-friendly window boxes.  But y’know what?  Good for Mattel on recognizing what was succeeding about their rival’s smash hit toy line, and aping it unabashedly.

I’m not sure exactly how the waves of figures will be structured in 2016, but Mattel had a whole bunch of new Multiverse figures on display.  In addition to the previously mentioned Suicide Squad lineup (including Deadshot, The Joker, Katana, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang, a gas mask clad Batman, and– oddly– no sign of Harley Quinn), we also saw more BvS figures such as Lex Luthor and Aquaman, and TV inspired figures like Supergirl from the CBS show.  Of course, the comic world is still getting some attention, as well, and I was particularly happy to see more Frank Miller style Dark Knight figures, including Armored Batman and the Mutant Leader.  The amount of original tooling on these new figures suggests they will not be Wal-Mart exclusives like their predecessors Batman, Superman and the Son of Batman… but that could just be wishful thinking.

The DC Super Hero Girls is a fascinating project, one of the more progressive concepts I’ve seen from DC Comics in a long time, and it’s great to see Mattel get fully on board with not one but two toy lines dedicated to DC’s greatest female heroes.  Not unlike the new Ghostbusters, the question that comes up surrounding the Super Hero Girls is, should Mattel release them as action figures, or as dolls, which would fall more in line with traditional gender barriers.  They made a prudent decision, especially for this brand new property, by offering both.

We’ll see a line of Monster High-esque 9″ Super Hero Girls dolls, with fabric costumes and rooted hair… but Mattel also revealed their line of 6″ all-plastic action figures, which featured more show-accurate sculpts and a nice range of articulation.  I really liked the look of these figures, and despite the fact that I’m pretty far off from Mattel’s target demographic, I most certainly plan on picking up Batgirl, Harley Quinn and some more of the figures featured in the promising line.  I’m also very hopeful Mattel’s refreshingly gender-inclusive format for the Super Hero Girls means we’ll see these toys sharing shelf space in the same aisle as the other DC Comics toys… but that is a decision that may wind up in the hands of retailers as opposed to the toymakers.

Of course, Mattel’s predominant motivation behind their progressive choices in 2016 is centered around making money.  I get that, and there’s no need to sugarcoat it… but regardless, they’re still taking some huge steps forward in 2016, especially for one of the biggest toy corporations in the world.  I want to see them reap the reward of being at the forefront of social consciousness; cliche as it may sound, kids are the future… and if we’re going to move forward as a culture, it needs to start by teaching them new lessons about gender and representation and equality.  Stuff like the female Ghostbusters action figures, and the Super Hero Girls, and the new body diversity in the Barbie line won’t accomplish these lofty goals on their own, but they can help point all of us in the right direction.

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