It looks like Mattel may be pulling a bit of a Marvel on fans.
Variety reports that Mattel, the world’s largest toymaker, has created a new in-house studio called Playground Productions to manage the creative direction of its properties, such as Barbie, He-Man, Max Steel and Hot Wheels. The new division will reportedly oversee the development of scripts for television and film, and control how the toys are adapted for books, live events, video games — and, by logical extension, comics.
Mattel already has one of its properties already in the comics world — DC’s He-Man & the Masters of the Universe title — but given this new push to better organize and monetize its brands, we could see a lot more.
Although Mattel is the world’s biggest toymaker, its public perception has dulled some in the face of efforts by competitors. But the 68-year-old company has a vault of properties at its disposal, from signature brands like Barbie and He-Man to ones with some nostalgic appeal, like Hot Wheels.
Mattel’s Playground Productions looks like an ideal way to get its product out into other markets, and licensed comics based on toy lines are experiencing a bit of a renaissance at publishers like IDW Publishing and Ape Entertainment.
And although Mattel has just one comic book series licensed out now — the aforementioned He-Man series at DC — even a cursory look reveals some gems. None match the success of toys-turned-comics like G.I. Joe and Transformers, but several have some history in comics: He-Man, Barbie, and even Hot Wheels, which found a home in the early 1970s at DC (if only briefly), with Alex Toth initially on art. Reprints of those, and even more so the idea of new series, seems like something comic publishers might already be thinking about.
There are other gems in that Mattel library, too: Imagine a Magic 8-Ball anthology series, or something based on Mattel’s current hit Monster High? We could be seeing a lot of Mattel on comics shelves in the years to come.