Mattel’s Marketing Brand Manager Scott Neitlich is looking for fans to save the DC Universe…the DC Toy Universe, that is.
Neitlich is concerned about subscriptions for Club Infinite Earths, the MattyCollector.com line of DC figures that continues the acclaimed DC Universe Classics line sculpted by renowned toy designers the Four Horsemen.
Though the line’s won acclaim for its detailed, highly-articulated figures and toys of such lesser-known fan-favorites as the Metal Men, the characters from Watchmen in “Club Black Freighter” and new versions of original characters from the 1980s “Super Powers” line, rising price points based on increasing manufacturing and shipping costs and a variety of options for consumers have cut into orders for the online-only toys – and now, Neitlich is concerned that the line will be canceled with a number of major figures coming up. We talked with Neitlich to hear about his plans, and hopes for the future, including an elaborate Ghostbuster ECTO-1 toy.
This all comes hot on the heels of today's news that Damian Wayne has been added to the 2014 line-up. So read on, and get subscribing!
Newsarama: Scott, tell us about the plans for Club Infinite Earths and other DC figures for 2013-early 2014 -- the characters, how they were selected, unique aspects of the design, etc.
Scott Neitlich: We work very closely with our great partners at Warner Bros. and DC Comics. Together with the Four Horsemen and Mattel design and marketing we look at fan requests, tooling logistics and sculpting resources to put together what we hope is the strongest possible roll out.
Not every figure will be for every fan, but if you look back at the last two years, we’ve really done our best to deliver the DCU 6” figures fan want; Huntress, Freddy Freeman, Constantine, Flash I, Elongated Man, Fire, Hook Arm Aquaman, Ra’s Al Ghul and on. We really are doing all we can to deliver fan requests within the limitations of our tooling budget.
Nrama: And tell us about the tier system and plans for exclusive figures.
Neitlich: We need to hit tier 1 to go forward with the sub in 2014 at all. If we hit that level, it unlocks the sub and the Prison Suit Doomsday.
But… if we can hit tier two we will have more customers, which means more tooling and resources so we can do the Unleashed Doomsday as the sub only figure!
Nrama: You've mentioned sales on subscriptions are slow. Put bluntly as possible -- what happens if you don't get enough sales?
Neitlich: If we don’t have enough customers to keep the sub going we will most likely just release the first 4 figures quarterly and that will be it for the 6” Four Horsemen style. We can only make figures when we have customers to buy them! (Newsarama Note: Neitlich said that Mattel does not comment on sales numbers and could not provide final info on the number of subscriptions they need to sell)
Nrama: What are the range of characters in DC you're allowed to use for the line, and what are some of the areas y'all are hoping to get into if the series continues?
Neitlich: DC and Warner Bros. have been amazing partners and have let us explore all aspects of the DC Universe. We’ll be staying away from characters like Captain Nazi, but otherwise we have a lot of freedom to explore!
Nrama: What’s wrong with Nazis… um, never mind. What are some of the trickiest parts of doing this line that many people buying it at home might not be aware of?
Neitlich: The high cost of production. In the last few years labor and materials have risen sharply and that makes it harder to produce and tool these figures. It is why we need a locked in sub holder base to keep things going
Nrama: MattyCollector is also doing Masters of the Universe Classics, which I am curiously addicted to, and there's been some DC/MOTU crossover packs in the past. With a new MOTU vs. DC miniseries coming out, any plans to possibly do some more pairings? You may also use this as an excuse to gush about the upcoming figures for that line, as I've been all psyched about Modulok.
Neitlich: We produced a series of DC vs. MOTU packs a few years back. While we are all excited for the comic and the crossover, we don’t have plans for a toy line for this right now. But let us know! Would fans like to get the “DC” versions of the MOTU characters down the road?
Nrama: Newsarama readers, let him know! And there's the Ghosbusters line -- there's a similar pre-order effort being made to do a large-scale ECTO-1 toy. Tell our readers a bit about what they would get with this one for some hard-sell.
Neitlich: This is the big one! Much like Castle Grayskull we are putting it all in on the ECTO-1. This car will fit all four Ghustbusters, have opening trunk to fit the proton packs, all the details, plus it is loaded up with lights and sounds from the engine, the siren to the flashing lights and even a sampling of the theme song! This ECTO-1 will have it all. Just as fans have been asking for!
Nrama: I must name my own horrifyingly obscure "Dream" DC figures: The 1970s era Sandman with the red-and-yellow costume, various versions of Ragdoll, the JLI-era Injustice League with Big Sir, Major Disaster, Clock King and Multi-Man, and BROTHER POWER THE GEEK. I'm seeking help. Oh and Tommy Monaghan the Hitman, with a special SixPack and Section 8 set!
In an effort to make this vaguely journalistic, I am curious as to how fan input affects the selection for DC figures, and what the biggest challenges are in determining demand for these, i.e. projected sales justifying production. I greatly enjoyed the figures that were Superfriends/Super Powers figures and the Metal Men sub-line, but I'm also aware that it can be a risk making toys of lesser-known characters.
Neitlich: This is exactly why the line is now subscriber based. Without sub holders we would be doing things like DC Unlimited and only releasing the main characters and villains. Having a dedicated subscriber baseline allows us to go deep in the character selection for the fans.
Nrama: About how far in advance is the DC line planned, in terms of how many characters you might have planned for the future in different stages as toys?
Neitlich: The 2014 line is already worked out. We won’t start working on 2015 until we know 2014 is happening.
Nrama: What's coming up for you at Mattycollector that you can share with our readers?
Neitlich: We’ve got a ton of conventions coming up. Grayskull Con in Germany, Power Con in LA, NYCC and finally Comikazi in November. If the subs go through, there will be great reveals at all these shows!
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Neitlich: Basically I just want to remind fans about how important it is to subscribe. We can only keep these lines going when we have the min number of sub holders. We all love these lines, I love these lines, Mattel, DC, the Four Horsemen, everyone.
And this is a limited engagement. It is not like this offer is going to come around again or someone else anytime soon will be doing toy lines this character deep and this collector friendly for these brands. If you love DC and MOTU and want more 6”figures, now is your chance to support the line by purchasing a 2014 subscription only on Mattycollector.com!
Are you sold on getting a subscription to Club Infinite Earths – or have you had your fill of the line? If you could see more DC characters in this line, who would you want rendered in plastic? Let us know in the comments!