Last week, a Florida mom petitioned Toys R Us to stop selling Breaking Bad action figures, using the tried and true family values argument. Nearly ten thousand people voiced their support, and then Toys R Us blinked. This helped fill out an otherwise uneventful news day (if you discount the news of Ebola landing on US soil) with a story that resonated widely by bringing together pop culture and human interest angles. The story was picked up by everyone from ABC News to Zimbio.
Mainstream media came out largely in support of the Florida mom and the actions taken by Toys R Us, and this prompted fans of the TV show and action figures to protest the protest. Action Figure Insider’s Daniel Pickett launched a counter-petition, keeping the story in the news cycle for another revolution. The petition to keep Breaking Bad on toy shelves has garnered over forty thousand signatures, but despite this, TRU has not reversed its actions. This leads me to today’s topic: who actually won this fight?
You might be surprised (if you already forgot the title of this article) – almost everyone comes out ahead.
Remember the good (or bad, depending how you fared) old days when there were toys that you actually wanted to buy on Mattycollector on their monthly sales dates? Those toys would sell out in hours, sometimes minutes. And while that truly meant missed opportunities through lost sales, the quick sell-outs became the barometer for successful products.
Fast forward to today. We’re a couple of days past the Mattycollector sale for October, and looking at the sale page, there’s not a single item on the page that’s sold out. There’s not even a single item that’s marked with the “Almost Gone” tag that Mattel would add to give you a sense of urgency to grab up those soon to be sold out toys. And for a company whose marketing team is so fond of saying “We’ll keep making them as long as you keep buying them,” I’ve got to wonder how much longer Mattel will keep making them, because we certainly not buying them – at least not like we used to.
On the eve of New York Comic Con, I’m doing a bit of catch-up on a piece that our good friend Jedd sent in several weeks back, during the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention. It’s a great interview with designer toy icon Frank Kozik. Be sure to check out Jedd’s own site, The Movie and Me, for his full coverage of STGCC and much more.
Frank Kozik with Marvel Labbit Rocket Raccoon – Image Credit: Vinyl Pulse
Artist and designer Frank Kozik is known in collectible art circles as the creator of the Labbit, but it also famous as a poster designer who created artwork for bands such as The White Stripes, Pearl Jam, The Beastie Boys and Nirvana. The commercial artwork he has done includes work for Nike, Swatch and MTV. Kozik was in Singapore as a guest of the Singapore Toys, Games and Comics Convention (STGCC) and I got to sit down with him to discuss his work. He was somewhat intimidating and frank and off-the-cuff, giving a detailed description of how Labbit came to be (it involves booty calls) and offering a surprising, piece of advice to aspiring artists.
Jedd Jong: What was the genesis of Labbit; how did you conceptualise that?
Frank Kozik: That’s an interesting story. In the mid-90s, I was going to Japan quite a bit, I was working with the people there. When I went over there for the first time, I was really in Sanrio products, was really into like Hello Kitty and Keroppi and stuff, I thought it was very interesting, the stuff they were doing. I liked how they did the characters, it was like super-perfect. What’s interesting is in Japan then, it was just something for low-class people. These were are sort of like snotty Shinjuku fashion dudes, right? And they’re like “what do you want to do, do you want to do cocaine on top of a mountain?” and I’m like “no, I want to go to Kitty Land!” And they all just thought I was crazy, they were like “what?!” They couldn’t understand, it was such a low thing for them. And I tried to explain it, I said “look, there’s something really interesting here. It’s like super-perfect way to develop a character,” like you got to get beyond who buys it. In the US, it became a really big cult thing.
To be frank, I haven’t been paying much attention to the Mattycollector subscription drive this year. Last year, I did a fair bit of agonizing over Club Eternia before re-upping very late in the game. Sure, I chuckled a bit and wondered what was behind Mattel’s announcement that they would *limit* subscriptions for 2015 – but I still waited to see Mattel’s 1st quarter selections for Club Eternia, then subscribed without much further thought.
So it was somewhat of a surprise to see the subscription drama starting to unfold just like it did last year – with an impassioned plea from Toy Guru followed by a confirmation from the Four Horsemen along the lines of “hey, this isn’t a marketing ploy – it’s real.” To state the obvious, this is not good news for Mattycollector. And it begs the question if the collector-oriented site will follow Masters of the Universe Classics into the sunset after 2015.
This holiday season, I’ve found myself playing a fair amount of Marvel Heroes, the action RPG from Gazillion Entertainment. I was a big fan of the earlier Diablo games (not so much Diablo 3), and the team behind the first two games drove the development of this one. As such, the game may look a bit “classic” but the non-stop action coupled with the Marvel lore makes it a very fun experience.
Before I started playing, I wondered about what it would be like, since as a player, you are limited to choosing from the roster of Marvel heroes in the game (versus designing your own hero, like in many other RPGs). But with a steady release of new playable characters, it’s not all a bunch of Wolverines running around. Which brings me to my point – of *all* the playable characters (and a fair amount of villains in the game), there’s only one who doesn’t have an accompanying action figure in Marvel Legends – Squirrel Girl. It’s time for Hasbro to step up to the plate and make her!