EXCLUSIVE: Mattel Toys with the DC Universe

DC Comics and Mattel have enjoyed a great working relationship over the past ten years. In that decade, Mattel launched a series of 6-inch figures called DC Universe Classics that rivaled the then-king Marvel Legends figures from Toy Biz and later Hasbro. Taking a page out of their rival's playbook, Mattel started producing highly articulated figures that came with Collect and Connect pieces to build a much larger figure and also kept the designs uniform. The latter resulted from a deal with renowned toy sculptors The Four Horsemen who still produce the DC figures as well as Mattel's popular Masters of the Universe Classics line.

Speaking of Masters, Mattel launched a collector oriented website called Mattycollector.com to sell the figures directly to the consumer, but He-Man soon found company in DC characters as Mattel began selling site-exclusive 2-packs and other items including the recent 12-piece Legion of Super-Heroes set online. The website will soon become home to some of the more obscure figures as DC Universe Classics ends with the 20th wave, splitting between the Matty-exclusive DC Universe Club Infinite Earths figures and the DC All-Stars, available wherever toys are sold. With the shift in production as well as the recent re-up of the contract between the two companies -- not to mention possible figures based on the upcoming "The Dark Knight Rises" and "Superman: Man of Steel" movies -- CBR News spoke with Mattel's DC dream team of Associate Marketing Manager for DC Universe, Young Justice and Superman Danielle McLachlan, Mattycollector.com Marketing Manager Scott Neitlich, Batman Associate Marketing Manager Derick Deller and Warner Bros. Marketing Manager John Friberg.

"Not only has it been a huge success," Neitlich said of the site, "but it has given us an avenue to put out collector toys that just simply would not work at retailer either due to price point, package size or character selection. We are not restrained by shelf space online!"

McLachlan went on to explain the difference between the All-Star and Club Infinte Earths lines, the latter of which had a subscription option that includes exclusive figures. If you missed out, keep your eyes peeled in 2012 for another chance to get in on the action.

"The DC Universe Club Infinite Earths line is geared towards the hardcore collectors who want to collect the breadth and depth of the DC Universe," McLachlan told CBR News. "The All-Stars line will also excite collectors, while at the same time appealing to the broader audience that shops at retail. We have the Mattycollector.com site that was created specifically to offer collector product to the fans. We wanted to use this avenue to get DC Universe collectors the characters they want, while providing them with other desired benefits such as the Club Exclusive figure and oversized figures."

Mattel also offered CBR readers an exclusive first look at the second wave of All-Stars figures including the New 52 iteration of Superman, black costume Supergirl, Flash and Red Robin. For some these choices may seem somewhat "inside baseball," but the idea is that people who shop at Target are more likely to recognize Superman and Batman-related characters more than New Gods or deep cut members from the Justice Society. Meanwhile, the first wave from Club Infinite Earths includes Atrocitus, Legion of Super-Heroes Starman, Golden Age Flash, Poison Ivy and Metron with his Mobius Chair.

With the second All-Star wave, Mattel moved into making figures based on the rebooted New 52 DC Universe. Since it takes nearly a year to move from concept art to the figures appearing in stores, a great deal of work must be done ahead of time.

"Just like the fans, we were excited to hear about the [DC Comics] relaunch," McLachlan said. "This gives us new opportunities to bring some characters to market. Be on the lookout for some of these figures in our 2012 line."

One of the first questions posed when Mattel announced Club Infinite Earths and All-Stars would take the place of the Classics line was about the status of the larger Collect and Connect figures. The larger figures will remain available, just through different means.

"Now through DC Universe Club Infinite Earths we can simply offer amazing oversized figures," McLachlan said. "Whereas in the past we would break up an oversized figure and offer it in several pieces through the DC Universe Classics line at retail, now fans can simply purchase their favorite big guys online."

In addition to the 6-inch figures and sets such as the Legion one -- which sold out so quickly it necessitated a second offering -- Mattycollector also offers other lines from the Mattel/DC pairing including the 8-inch cloth Mego-like Retro Action toys, some of which also sold at Toys 'R Us.

"We know that there is an audience of Retro Action collectors who love the offering in that form factor," McLachlan said. "Since the line targets collectors, any future offerings will likely be seen on Mattycollector.com."

Another recent offering consisted of a 7-pack based on the "Justice League Unlimited" animated series and was originally sold in all stores before becoming a Target-exclusive and eventually a Matty-only line. The 7-pack featured show-accurate versions of characters who had yet to get their own figures in the correct costumes. Neitlich said the offering was a thank you to fans. "It was also a way to finally complete on-screen members of the team as the line heads into the sunset," he said.

With so many figures heading to website exclusivity, some might wonder what will be in national chains stores such as Toys 'R Us, Walmart and Target. DC fans need not worry -- there will still be plenty of new figures to purchase, most of which will be based on movies or cartoons. Considering "Green Lantern" received everything from 6-inch figures and tiny figures with big monsters to kid-sized costumes and arm cannons for action play, expect a similar roll out for "The Dark Knight Rises." That said, Mattel isn't revealing much just yet.

"We are not ready to reveal details on our 'Dark Knight Rises' toy line, but fans should know that we will have a few different scales represented in the line," Deller said. "Movie Masters will continue to be in the 6-inch scale in order to fit with prior movie lines." McLachlan was equally coy on the subject of "Man of Steel" but said fans will get a look at their plans in 2012.

The tune was similar in regards to the new Cartoon Network computer generated animated series "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" and "Beware the Batman." "At this point, it is still too early to discuss the CGI Animated series," Friberg said. "We are looking into them and if we execute, how we should do so. Again, too many things are still in flux to give a definite answer at this point."

While in-store figures ship more erratically, Mattycollector.com items go on sale the 15th of each month (unless that happens to fall on a weekend). Supplies are limited, so collectors should keep an eye on the site to keep tabs on figures they want to purchase and order early.

In addition to future coverage here on CBR, more news will be released on Mattycollector's news section and the site's Facebook page, where Mattel does its best to interact with their loyal fans. "We could not have such great collector lines if we did not get all the fantastic feedback from our customers and fans," Neitlich said.

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