Toy Fair 2013: Mattel’s DC Universe Goes Past, Present & Future

By junior - February 15, 2013

Matty Collector showed off a few new pieces of their reconstructed DC Unlimited and DC Infinite brands during the Collector’s Night event at Toy Fair, although the showing– and their new strategy– seem quite limiting.

No more are we seeing well-varied groups of DC Universe-building figures that expanded on the foundation of the earlier assortments. Rather, Mattel has turned to “Mom and Son” to pick up only Batman- and Superman-heavy assortments at retail, in the hopes that they may prop the existence of the tooling-restrictive assortment of the Infinite Earths subscription figures. The reaction appears to be as mixed as to their new offerings and strategy.

As for the sub, we finally saw sub incentive Monsieur Mallah and the Brain boxed together, in addition to figures from January through May. The Huntress was fully painted for her arrival at Toy Fair, appearing, as many predicted, in her Jim Lee/ Hush colors. Besides the return of Captain Marvel Jr, new reveals included an impressive JLI Fire with flame attachment– we need more of this and less of lazy and mainstream characters like Red Hood and Flash, that could have easily made it to the mass retail line.

With regards to the Unlimited retail line, the new figures debuted were… old figures.  Fans will recognize Batman Beyond almost immediately, but now with his added red wings… which were unceremoniously dropped the last time. $20 is a lot to pay for red wings, but I am certain some fans will bite. Another throwback is an out-of-scale Darkseid, this time from the new 52 universe.  Thank goodness for DC Collectibles. Sometimes Mattel never learns, as much as they swear they do.  Coloring up the barrage of Batman figures (New 52, Batman Beyond, Dark Knight Returns, Planet X Batman with Bat-Mite, and a cool Kelly Jones variant) are Batgirl, Wonder Woman, and Damien Wayne Robin, all of whom looked very good.

The amazingly good Watchmen subscription series was well represented, with the sold-out Rorschach appearing alongside his fellow Minutemen Dr. Manhattan (out in march), Silk Spectre (May), Nite Owl (July) and The Comedian (September).  Each figure looked fantastic, loaded with original tooling, accessories and they looked like they stepped right off the page of the legendary graphic novel.  It seemed odd that these figures were sold at a higher cost than their fellow DC Universe-style figures, but seeing the attention to detail, the newly sculpted pieces and the wonderful new packaging, these toys absolutely feel worth the price tag.  I can’t wait to assemble the entire team, once Ozymandias is revealed!

I am thinking fans warming up to the New 52 will have a tough time on their hands, as though many collectors enjoy the Four Horsemen’s design aesthetic, DC Collectibles’ figures of the New 52 characters are already out and, in some ways, outdo Mattel’s tardy efforts.  Admittedly, however, the Batman Unlimited variants are niche but extremely impressive– the subscription has a questionable characters, but it seems like the mid-year will be peppered with important additions and long-awaited female characters.  Overall it’s great to see a home for interesting core hero variants at retail without losing the universe-building characters found in the sub.

Hopefully this will be a winning formula for Mattel. The subs had a false start, but I think that they are hitting their stride nicely. Let’s hope they can stick the landing and not limp across the finish line.

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