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From the Desk of Ramen Junkie

Toy Fair 2019 – What I’m Excited For

This last weekend has been Toy Fair 2019, one of a few times a year when big toy companies show off a lot of their upcoming stuff. Wonder Fest in Tokyo also tends to happen around this time period, though that’s mostly overseas releases. the other big event is SDCC in the summer.

The clear big winner for this year’s Toy Fair definitely seems to be Hasbro. I’m biased, since I have an interest in a lot of their lines, but overall, they really pushed out a deluge of stuff, a lot of it looks decent, some of it could be better, some felt almost non existent.

Transformers

I’ve been in kind of a slump lately with Transformers. There is a lot of neat stuff being put out, but I feel like I’m reaching a point I hit with Star Wars 3.75″ figs years ago where I just sort of, have everything I want, in a good enough representation. I can’t get excited at all about Seige, I have a Hound, and a Sideswipe, and an Ultra Magnus, and several Primes, etc etc.

I was a little disappointed by the lack of Studio Series Devastator. There have been a few reveals of some of the components in the last few months, but we still haven’t seen the complete deal.

The only real exciting thing that came out of the Transformers for me was the Ectrotron ECTO-1 Ghostbusters tie in. I pre ordered it on Hasbro pulse (more on that later). It looks neat, but I am still a little wary, the robot is a little uninspired bot starters. It also looks like it has some elements of Combiner Wars Hot Spot to his torso and legs, which means he is a pricey Voyager at $40. Still, he looks neat, and it makes me wonder what else they might do in the future with crossover figures.

Star Wars Black Series

While I’ve been mostly done with 4″ Star Wars for a while, I still really enjoy the Black Series 6″ line. That said, it kind of felt like there was basically nothing for Black Series shown. I think there was maybe one wave, but nothing that really felt real exciting. There have been so many serious peg warmers in this line, I almost worry it’s on it’s way out. At least I’ve gotten the core cast.

Marvel Legends

Where Transformers and Star Wars felt lacking, Marvel Legends was really knocking it out of the park. It seems like maybe their recent efforts to branch out into some “Lesser” MCU characters and the Villains have been well received, since a whole slew of new figures I never really expected to show up.

Gransmaster Jeff Goldblum, Korg, Skurge, Luis and Ghost, Peggy Carter and Shuri, all minor character that I never really expected them to make. I’m looking forward to all of them. They also, thankfully, are coming in useful 2 packs. When I first say Grandmaster, I expected he would be in a set with another Thor and Hulk, for example. Instead he comes with Korg. Too bad Shuri didn’t get packed with Ross instead of “Another Killmonger” it would have really fit thematically.

There was also a lot of comic themed figures shown, though lately I’ve been kind of steering away from Comic stuff. Mostly for space and somewhat for money reasons. I am just not as interested in the comic figures as much, though I know a lot of people are stoked for the anniversary release figures and they look really nice. A couple stood out for me though, nothing super exciting.

Rock Python, as pointless and random as he is, is neat, because he’s another addition to the Serpent Society. These are a bunch of snake themed villains from the Marvel universe. I’ve gotten several of them over the years and now, because they are kind of all goofy nobodies, I kind of want to keep picking them up. Then there is Boom Boom. While her look is wrong, she is another member of Nextwave, which is totally awesome in my book. All that’s left now is a release of The Captain.

Overwatch

Last year, Hasbro teased their Overwatch license with Mercy. I’ve already been collecting Max Factory’s Figma Overwatch line, but the idea of Hasbro getting the license was exciting for one reason. Max Factory is very unlikely to put out any Tanks. Ok, yeah, we are getting D.Va, but more specifically, we are getting Hana Song, the Pilot of MEKA, which collectively is known as D.Va. Figma isn’t putting out a MEKA. Neither is Hasbro at the moment, but they are doing Reinhardt. And he is at a larger price point, so he will definitely be quite a bit larger.

In fact, the whole selection of the initial wave is pretty interesting. There isn’t a ton of overlap with the Figma line, only Tracer, Mercy and Pharah so far. Figma Reaper comes out this month, but the Hasbro line is giving us Blackwatch Reyas. They are also putting out Shrike Ana instead of regular Ana, which sort of just solidifies that they aren’t just going to focus on the “core designs”, which is something else I don’t really see happening with Figma.

On the other hand, the quality isn’t quite the same as the Figmas, which is understandable since they cost considerably less, but there’s a LOT of iffy going on here.

The heads all seem a little small, and Reyes and Tracer are both really weird looking. Figma Tracer’s face is off too, it’s like no one can pin point what she really looks like in 3D. The pose ability seems like it may leave a lot to be desired as well, though it doesn’t help that whomever photographed these seemed to have no idea what they were doing. Ana, for example, doesn’t see to be able to properly hold her rifle at all.

This makes wanting to pick these up kind of a confusing mess. The nicest looking pair is definitely Phara and Mercy, though they still don’t loo quite as nice as the Figmas. Rein is definitely one I want to pick up, even if he doesn’t seem like he can hold his shield properly at all. Still, this could be a photographer problem. Ana looks nice as well but something fels off about that Soldier and Soldier is pretty likely to get a Figma release eventually, being a popular normal human shaped character and arguably the most important character lorewise.

I will probably test the waters on the non Tanks with Sombra and Lucio. I’m blaming the photographer again on how stuff Lucio looks, and Sombra seems like a decently solid all around figure. Mostly, as awful as it sounds, I feel like Max Factory probably won’t do either of these characters in their line, because they generally aren’t super keen on doing “minority” characters.

Hasbro Pulse

So, it kind of felt like Hasbro also indirectly showed off it’s new online storefront at Hasbro Pulse with Toy Fair as well. They started pushing out pre orders for almost everything as it was announced and they are launching something called Hasbro Pulse Premium, though the details are a little sketchy at this point. The core seems to be discounts and free shipping. I’m kind of interested to see what all it involves. Hasbro Toy Shop really had been getting good before the whole upgrade/rebranding and it looks like they are doubling down. As frustrating as “the hunt’ has become at Wal-Mart and Target etc, and how Amazon seems to completely encourage over priced reseller cancer on their site, I would love it if Hasbro started pushing and selling their own stuff reliably even at regular retail, much less any discounts.



The Problems with Marvel Legends as a Line

So, as much as I like Hasbro’s Marvel Legends, I have a lot of problems with how the line is handled.  I really feel like it’s severely hindered by a lot of goofy choices about waves and whatnot that are all probably done intentionally to exploit the market for extra money.  Except as near as I can tell, it doesn’t really work real great and, if anything ultimately hinders the line.

The Build a Figure Gimmick

So, Let’s start off with one of the more obvious, the Build a Figure Gimmick.  This was started back when Toybiz had the line, though it wasn’t always part of the line.  The early waves didn’t have BAF parts and sometimes there would be substitute gimmicks in a wave like crappy “vehicles”.

Build a Figures create several problems.  First, it eats up part of the budget for the line and figure.  Budget that could be used instead for alternative heads, hands, a few more accessories or effect parts or better paint apps.  We have gotten a few figures in the past year without BAF parts and they are almost universally better in all of these areas.  The Walgreens exclusive figures tent to have better paint apps and overall QC, others like Deadpool in the X-men line are loaded with accessories.  In the case of the Walgreens Magik figure, it’s both.

It also creates somewhat of a waste issue.  Not every BAF is interesting, so over time, you end up with a pile of useless arms and legs and torsos for characters you don’t care about.  You could always resell them on eBay, but my experience has been that the ones worth the effort of reselling, are ones you’re probably going to want to keep anyway.  This kind of goes the other way too, where there might be a particularly interesting BAF in  wave, except now you’ve got to track down that one last figure for the last arm or head.  You can always buy just the part on eBay, but chances are, everyone wants that particular part, so it’s going to cost you as much as just buying the figure and the included part, especially factoring in shipping costs.

Now, even if it’s a character you really want, you’re still stuck with a pile of useless limbs and parts.  This goes both ways as well on the figures.  This is subjective of course, but I find it’s fairly rare that a wave of highly desirable individual characters matches up to a desirable BAF character.  So if you really want say, that Kingpin figure, you’re going to have to buy another couple of Spidermans and some of his D tier villains.

The only market this really helps is the secondary market, where prices get inflated on the stuff everyone wants and Hasbro doesn’t really get anything out of that inflation. 

Personally, I feel like the BAF gimmick has run it’s course and needs to be scrapped.  Most of the BAF characters these days aren’t even larger than the standard figures.  Back in the early days the build a Figure tended to be a large or complex unique mold, like the large Sentinel or Galactus, or MODOK or that blobby crab walker chair guy.  Introduce a slightly higher deluxe price point for those larger figures if needed.

Mismatched Waves

This kind of ties into the Build a Figure problem above, since removing the BAF would alleviate some of this issue, but I really wish the waves were more homogeneous  in their themes.  The primary line should be between comic themed and movie themed figures.  The waves really need to be one or the other on this point.  This is sort of getting better I’ll admit, but it’s not quite there yet.  For example, I think the recent Black Knight figure is cool, but he has zero to do with Infinity War, or MCU Thanos, whom he has a BAF piece for. 

This of course would be less of an issue without the Build a Figure bits, which just end up being a waste of plastic.  The end result is often an extra figure you don’t really care about or an extra limb you don’t really need.

This would also incentivize the whole concept of ordering a case of figures as well.  If you only really collect MCU figures, then it would be better to just buy the wave up front than to worry that the Thor of the wave is suddenly going to be impossible to find. 

Distribution Issues

The mismatched waves and BAF parts also really only hurts the line on the pegs, since it means undesirable characters just languish and clog the pegs longer.  Which kind of brings up the next problem, though there isn’t a super clear answer to this one since it’s partially the store’s fault.  If the figures weren’t tied to waves and BAF parts quite as much, it feels like it would be easier to ship out more of the individual figures people want.  If the pegs get clogged up with Hellcat figures, that sucks, but it doesn’t have to hurt the distribution on Captain America or Iron Man. 

Dropping the BAF part would remove the need for cases to be evenly packed as well, since there would no longer be a need to try to ensure say, 2 sets of BAF parts in a case.  Or even mix up later waves with repacks, the way Star Wars Black or Transformers is handled.   They sort of do this already with version variants, but straight repacks of older characters might almost be better overall for this.

Two Pack Repacks

Every so often there are multipacks released, often around movie figures.  There is a definite pattern to these 2 packs, they will include a rerelease of a previous figure, usually the main character, and a new release of another character, usually someone fairly popular who didn’t appear in the main line.  I don’t really have a ton of problem with this strategy on it’s own, reusing the molds is smart business or whatever and re-releasing a minor variant of the hero is understandable.  The MCU figures are so often mostly unique molds too, so it’s harder to get a lot of return on that investment for Hasbro.

The real problem comes, once again, when you couple in the Build a Figure gimmicks.  See a pattern here yet?  It would be easy to skip that single pack release for the later Two Pack release in many cases, except that often there will be a related, desirable BAF that’s included with the single pack release.

The Accessory Problem

So, this one has gotten better, but it’s still got some weird issues. More figures lately come with accessories, especially MCU based figures. Unmasked heads, are getting really common for movie based figures. What I’d like to see more of is extra hands, especially for figures that have them available.

So, one of the worst offenders, several years ago now, we got “Pizza Spidey”. Which was a really nice Spider-man with a ton of extra hands. This mold has been reused a lot for other Spidey Suits, but often, there aren’t any extra hand options included. You might get a fist and a thwip hand. Both fo these are available on this mold for left and right, along with an open fingers hand. I can’t imagine the hands cost a ton extra to produce and include. Having the hand options would at least help justify the sometimes “need” (due to the BAF) to pick up these boring repaints. I have this House of M Spider-Man that I pretty much have for the SP//DR limb. The suit design is kind of neat I guess but his lack of hands kind of hurts for making him look cool. It just feels like it should be a no brainer.

I’ll Say It Again, Build a Figure

Honestly, a lot of the issues feel like they boil from the need to include this huge chunk of another figure in the box and budget. I really feel like things could be improved if they just dumped the BAF. Star Wars Black Series is the best comparison, they have always felt slightly better in quality and have gotten better over time. Plus they have a ton of unique sculpts. They even have more recently added a slightly larger price point at $30, for slightly larger figures like the Gamorrean Guard.


Star Trek: Discovery – Screw It…

This isn’t any sort of review on Star Trek Discovery, it’s just a straight out complaint about how ridiculous this whole scheduling streaming etc thing that’s going on with this show is.  So here’s the basic idea.  the new Star Trek series, is exclusive to CBS’s AllAccess Netflix clone.    I kept thinking this was some new deal CBS was pushing but apparently the service has been around for 3 years now.  News to me, shows how well it’s doing I suppose.  It also follows the Hulu Model, where there is a lower priced tier with ads and a high priced tier without ads.  CBS knows that Trek is really popular, or was at some point, so it’s something they are using to try to leverage success out of their dumb streaming service.

I guess I also heard wrong about Discovery being available on regular broadcast TV.  Last I had checked, it was supposed to be broadcast on regular TV weekly, then only available “on demand” with All Access.  I can deal with that, I have a DVR.  Except the DVR goes to crap when a show gets delayed, and thus gets cut off.  This is kind of an issue with cable boxes in general not being very dynamic in their scheduling, but it also feels kind of intentional.  Ok, no CBS doesn’t have control over football, apparently there was a game earlier in the day, but how often does a game NOT go over.

So what do I end up with?  half an episode of Star Trek and half an episode of some crap with Oprah having some sit down bitch fest about Trump.  And of course, it’s not available on demand.  How convenient.

The reality is, I’m irritated, but I probably really shouldn’t be.  I really haven’t cared much about Trek since Star Trek Voyager.  The new movies are all terrible.  Star Trek Discovery seems to be getting rather mixed reviews anyway.  I’m also not paying for CBS’s Netflix.  Maybe, MAYBE if it were ABC, and it had all of the Marvel stuff included, but a lot of that is already on Netflix.  CBS has very little programming I even care about, and I’m not paying monthly for one show.  I might get a free month once the entire season is available, like I plan to do for Hulu and Runaways.

Which kind of touches on another reason this whole thing is lame, they aren’t putting out all episodes at once Netflix style, they are still being released weekly.  This kind of shows how completely tone deaf CBS is on just WHY Netflix is popular.  People don’t want ads.  People want to binge watch and not wait weekly.  People want lots of good content.  One show, weekly, with ads?  I can find that on regular TV, and my DVR has a fast forward function.