Thomas explores the pros and cons of Hasbro’s premium action figure lines
Star Wars The Black Series and Marvel Legends are probably Hasbro’s two biggest toy lines. Although they are both premium 6-inch lines and aimed more for collectors than children, the two lines are at the same time similar but also suffer from the same problems. If there are two 6 inch lines we can fairly compare it’s these two.
Distribution, Prices and Character Selection
It seems to be Hasbro’s never-ending problem – the distribution. Both Marvel and Star Wars suffer from that. Sure, there are street dates for each wave to be put on shelves but some stores receive them way before others, other stores just don’t receive them and that’s only in the US. When it comes to the international sales the problem is even worse. For the past few years, the release of waves in European stores was a catastrophe, where most stores did not even receive half of what the US had and when they got the waves it was at extortionate prices and let’s not even mention the exclusives.
In 2019, Hasbro has pledged to solve the distribution problems and the prices in Europe. In terms of toy stores, the problem hasn’t been resolved at least in France – prices are still high and most stores don’t have the latest figures. However, when it comes to online vendors the problem has been resolved. You can get the newest figures in both lines at a price range that ranges from £18.95 to £19.99, which is a HUGE improvement. As for the exclusives, most of the new exclusives are available at a price of £19.99 for a single figure. (not double packs, these packs retail for an average price of £39.) So to sum up on this issue, let’s just say it’s on the good path.
Now, the character selection, I am not entirely surprised to say that yes it’s the same problem with Marvel Legends. Hasbro does not know how to promote new movies, they simply do not know. Marvel Legends first Avengers Endgame wave contains two figures from the actual movie, one from the previous Avengers movie and FOUR figures from the comics. Plus, the Build-A-Figure that is Thanos from Endgame. There is also a 2-pack Quantum Suits from the movie but that is basically the first wave of Endgame toys for Marvel Legends. Doesn’t it remind of how Hasbro handles the release of Star Wars movies? It was the same with the first wave of Black Series figures for The Last Jedi – the first wave had only three figures from the movie and four figures from other Star Wars stories.
Let’s take another movie for example – Ant-Man And The Wasp, they basically released two figures from the movie Ant-Man and The Wasp. There will be more figures from that movie by the end of 2019. One year too late. For Solo: A Star Wars Story, it took 6 months to release all of the main characters and for The Last Jedi, we are still waiting for a Leia figure and only got a Holdo figure this month!
Hasbro absolutely needs to work on this, you cannot promote a movie with waves mostly composed of figures that are not from that movie, it makes no sense from a marketing point of view and it’s even more frustrating for Marvel Legends as there is a Build-A-Figure with each wave. But if you want to build it you have to get the whole wave! The only time I have seen Hasbro properly promote a movie was the second Black Panther wave. It was a wave composed entirely of figures from the movie including the BAF. However, there was one small problem (well it depends on how you see it), that wave was released ONE YEAR after the movie was released in cinemas. If Hasbro could just do this for Episode IX and Spider-Man Far From Home, it would be perfect, minus the small problem there was on the Black Panther wave, obviously. However, I’m not holding my breath considering how they did for Captain Marvel and Avengers Endgame.
Accessories, Build-A-Figure, Packs And Packaging
Accessories are a case of hit or miss with Hasbro. The big problem with weapons is the bent plastic, it goes for both lines. You can get bent lightsabers, bent blasters, bent weapons, bent helmets. It was very often a few years ago that you would get bent accessories, however, now it’s less recurring but still present. The problem comes from the quality of the plastic they use and it cannot be solved as long as they continue to invest in this type of material.
As for the accessories themselves, and for the Black Series, it’s a weak point. Most of the time, there’s a minimum number of accessories and Hasbro never includes all the accessories the characters have. When it comes to interchangeable heads and hands, they are basically non-existent. Padmé comes with an interchangeable hand and BT-1 will have two, but those are the only exceptions to the rule. It’s a completely different story with Marvel Legends, there are often interchangeable hands and heads. The figures often have a good selection of accessories. However, there are times like for Talos and Yon-Rogg, the accessories included are disappointing, Talos had zero accessories. But Marvel Legends is mostly superior on that level compared to the Black Series.
Build-A-Figure is a bonus feature used by both DC Multiverse (Mattel) and Marvel Legends. It’s quite simple. With each wave you have a figure to build, this implies that you need 6 of the 7 figures to get every component of your BAF. Generally, the first figure of the wave doesn’t include a BAF part but the 6 others do. The BAF figures can be movie figures or comic figures, it will depend on the wave. However, the problem is when you are a movie collector, and the BAF is a movie figure, you are unlikely to get it as each wave includes comics figures (generally it’s 2/4 movie figures and 2/4 comics figures). And the same goes for comics collector. I would prefer them to separate the comic waves from the movie waves, that way both types of collectors would be happy and not frustrated to buy figures they don’t want just to get their BAF. The good side of the BAF is you can get figures that don’t fit the single carded package with single carded figures and it’s actually fun to build these. However, characters like Thanos should also be released in a deluxe package outside of the BAF system because not everyone is ready to spend money on a whole wave just to get him.
The Black Series doesn’t incorporate this concept but Star Wars fans will remember there was a Build-A-Droid facility with the Star Wars Legacy 3.75 inch line and it was awesome! I think it would be interesting to bring this to the Black Series line, either in the Build-A-Droid form or simply the Build-A-Figure form with characters that can’t fit the single carded package. I’m pretty sure collectors would be happy about this!
As for the packs, it’s something you often see with Marvel Legends 2-packs or even 3-packs. Every collector likes to get these, it’s a way to get more characters than just with the single carded waves and when it comes to promoting movies, packs are often a good strategy! The Black Series doesn’t have a lot of 2-pack or 3-packs. It’s something that is rare but still happens. However, packs are solely exclusives, you will never find a 2-pack in every store, they are either Disney Parks, Target, Toys ‘R’ Us or Walmart exclusives and thus they are hard to get, which is obviously frustrating! Once again, Marvel wins there.
Now for the packaging, The Black Series has a sober and minimalist packaging while Marvel Legends goes for a more colorful packaging. They are both easy to open so it’s really up to your liking to decide which one is best. I personally enjoy both.
Articulation, Sculpting And Paint App
This is Hasbro’s spearhead! Now that they are using the digital print technology for the faces, it highlights their face sculpts a lot better and the results have been really impressive for both Marvel and Star Wars. The digital print tech gives you figures that are worth (or almost worth) the S.H. Figuarts and MAFEX digital print tech! I have never been disappointed by a face sculpt since the beginning of the digital print tech revolution so it says a lot! The paint app for the rest of the figures have improved significantly, there are less and less sloppy paint apps for the greater pleasure of the collectors.
The articulation is very different from one line to another. The Black Series has a lot of points of articulation but Hasbro tries not to use joints that are too big and they replaced the ugly neck joint with a brand new neck joint that you don’t see for better visual results. However, for Marvel Legends, Hasbro uses big joints that you see a lot more on the figure along with the ugly neck joint so Star Wars wins here!
What is the best line between Marvel Legends and The Black Series? It is actually difficult to tell, it would say it is a tie. Both have distribution, prices and character selection problems but when it comes to accessories and articulation, the lines are not equal. If Hasbro took the best out of TBS and ML, we would get the best line for sure but separately, they are not perfect but still amazing lines!
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