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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.

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