Thursday, June 9, 2016

Toy Talk -- Wonky Legs and Inconsistent Sizing: Hasbro's Troublesome Miniverse

Two years ago Marvel decided to test the weight of their box office behemoth of a name and deep dive into a quintet of characters that even hardened Marvel readers would be somewhat unfamiliar with.  The gamble on a talking raccoon and a sentient tree paid off, Guardians of the Galaxy has become perhaps the most universally accepted and beloved of Marvel's cinematic output.

Soon enough the film's unusual characters started popping up in toy aisles everywhere, as Lego sets, as wearable costumes and play accessories, and, of course, as action figures.  Only, just like the film was a gamble, Hasbro gambled on trying something different.  Instead of 3 3/4 in figures -- the standard set by Kenner's Star Wars in 1978, and upheld by G.I. Joe for the decades to follow -- Hasbro introduced a 2 1/2" line.  Oil prices were high, but smaller figures meant smaller vehicles and accessories which meant they could price things cheaper.

I still see piles of Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: Winter Soldier action figures all over the place.  Obviously they weren't gargantuan sellers, so the shift seemed at least worth a shot. Honestly, I can't tell you whether the 2 1/2" Guardians sold well or not.  They appeared to languish a bit on the shelves, but not at all like Thor:TDW or CA:WS...  I'm not still coming across them everywhere, so they obviously cleared through all right.  I know personally, as an action figure fan, they didn't appeal to me.  The five points of articulation, the poor detailing, the awkward-looking limbs, the rudimentary painting... they weren't very attractive.  The ships, however, were gorgeous, and I contemplated a long time on buying a Milano.  I never did.  (Note that the CA:WS and Thor:TDW figures weren't all that appealing either...bad sculpts were the primary culprit).

Mega Rigs dudes
Marvel's next film after Guardians was Avengers: Age of Ultron and I was sad to see in the advance promotion of the toys for the film that they were sticking with the 2" figure.  One thing caught my interest though... a three-tiered playset.  In actuality, three different playsets, sold separately (but with figures) that formed one large Avengers tower playset.  That...that was cool.  I was intrigued.  When they finally hit the shelves, though... I couldn't must the enthusiasm anymore.  These wee 2-inch figures just weren't doing it to me.  They looked like the action figures that come with Matchbox Mega Rigs... and I didn't consider them action figures at all.  Plus my kid wasn't playing with Mega Rigs anymore so the crossover appeal wasn't even there.  I gave them another hard pass.  These guys didn't seem to linger on the shelves as long as the Guardians did, though you can find the odd two-pack of hero+"Sub-Ultron" occasionally.  The playsets especially seemed to disappear quickly

Fast forward another year.  Captain America: Civil War was basically another Avengers film, and so I awaited the toy onslaught, only to find that stores, at least local Toronto stores, seemed a bit more wary of carrying Marvel stuff.  Stock for Civil War at Toys R Us and Wal-Mart (pretty much the only first run toy retailers we have outside of specialty shops) were pitiful.  Not like "we've sold out already" pitiful, but "we didn't bring that much in" pitiful.

The wife is a huge Winter Soldier nerd and likes to pick up most things Bucky (and anything Cap that looks good too), so when I came across the "Miniverse" (which Hasbro officially started calling this line with this release) Civil War Winter Soldier/Ant Man 2-pack, I just had to get it for her.

As soon as I got my hands on them, I knew they were trouble.  These bitty little action figures are both adorable and cool.  Ant-Man in particular -- who has become a favourite of mine through his movie, Civil War and Nick Spencer's great current run in the comics -- I just love.  And he comes with this little armor boost stuff...hearkening back to M.A.S.K.  I was never a M.A.S.K. kid but now I feel like I missed out on something great.  This tiny size is kind of awesome.

  A Falcon/War Machine 2-pack followed quickly by a Black Widow/Iron Man 2-pack, followed by a Captain America/Crossbones 2-pack.  Suddenly the Black Panther/Hawkeye 2-pack has become our holy grail.  Easily the most difficult to find.  I kind of love that Black Panther is hot right now.  He's finally getting the recognition he's long deserved.  And in this mini form, he's just the bestest.

Actually, the Giant-Man/Ant-Man 2-pack is my holy grail right now:

I was wrong about these mini guys.  They turned out to be pretty awesome.  And, as my collection-obsessed brain does, it started to go into overdrive, thinking back upon Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy. 

So I hit up eBay ...and it's always a dangerous thing when I decide to start "collecting" via eBay.  eBay must be fantastic for my American friends.  Things are dirt cheap, and in-country, shipping is pretty tight.  But in Canada, most things are sold in US dollars, even if they're a seller from Canada, which means biting the exchange rate bullet (+25%, thanks! ugh).  Shipping within Canada is okay, but shipping from the states is a nightmare.  A $6 toy will cost almost $30 to ship.  It's totally cost prohibitive.  Anyway, I found a quartet of Age of Ultron figures totalling $12 (+$8 shipping) and a lot of all the Guardians figure releases plus two ships (no Milano sadly) for $40 US (even though the seller was Canadian).  Shipping was priced at $18 US.  So it wasn't a bad deal, in US money, but converted to Canadian and it was probably a little more pricey than I'd have liked.

I later found an Age of Ultron Quinjet on the Toys R Us website for $17.95 (on sale from $40) but thought I'd spent enough.  The next day I found myself in Toys R Us (as I said, I get a little obsessive) and found the Quinjet in store, same price, no shipping fees.  Bonus. 

(SIDE NOTE : The longer I writer about this topic, the less proud of myself I feel)

So immediately I unpack the Quinjet, I put the decal stickers on and I figure out how it plays, and then I go and grab some of the Civil War figures and...well...the Quinjet is supposed to seat four, and it's tight with just Iron Man and War Machine in the cockpit.  This doesn't make much sense.

I take hunched-over Cap off his motorcycle (technically it's Black Widow's cycle...ahem) and compare the size of Iron Man to him.  It's just not looking right.  Iron Man is noticeably bigger.  I started to wonder... did they change the sizes on the figures between Age of Ultron and Civil War?  That wouldn't make much sense, given how unusual the size is and how there wouldn't be much backwards playability as a result.

Yesterday the Age of Ultron eBay order arrived, and my suspicions were confirmed.  The Age of Ultron figures are noticeably smaller than the Civil War figures.  The AOU figures are a true 2 1/2", while the Civil War figures are 2 3/4" - 3".  I was beyond disappointed.  My aspirations of collecting all the Age of Ultron figures (and more on point, getting those awesome Avengers Tower playsets) were dashed on the spot.  What would be the point?  It's obvious Hasbro wasn't sticking with the dimensions, the figures and vehicles and sets would we obsoleted by any new releases.

Today the Guardians of the Galaxy figures came, and it only got worse.  These figures aren't even true 2 1/2".  They're actually smaller than the Age of Ultron figures (except Groot, who is a 3" figure, but scrawnier than the Civil War guys), averaging around 2 3/8".  So over three releases of Hasbro's mini-figure toys and playsets they've adjusted the size by 5/8ths of an inch.  That's a noticeable difference especially when it comes to placing figures in vehicles... which is most of the fun of having vehicles.
Above is the Nova Corps dude from GotG, Nick Fury from AoU and War Machine from Civil War.  You can see Nick has slight height above the Corpsman, while War Machine towers over them both by a full head.  Now, these mini figures are scaled pretty well within their lines.  Some figures are taller or shorter than others (like Groot is much taller than all the other GotG figures and Rocket is much smaller) but each of the above represents the average heights of figures in their lines.  So AoU guys are all a little taller than GotG guys, and Civil War guys are huge compared to both.

Look at Civil War Iron Man next to the Corpsman, or even AoU War Machine beside Civil War War Machine.  That's some insane sizing differences for what should be compatible lines.  Groot looks so scrawny.

Having just got the GotG and AoU guys over the past two days, I'm reminded why I didn't buy them in the first place.  They don't look good.  They look flimsy and junky.  The Civil War guys in comparison are stury and feel good in the hands.  As annoyed as I am about the inter-compatibility of the figures, the Civil War line is literally and figuratively heads above the previous lines.

It just makes me wonder what's going to happen when Guardians 2 comes out next year?  Are they going to keep going with the Civil War line, and make a new Milano that fits the larger figures, or are they going to shrink the line again so that at least there's consistency within the Guardians line.  I actually hope it's the former, because they're nicer figures all around.  And I like the weirdo fractal armor (to borrow a term from total justice)

One of the problems that plagues all three lines is wonky molding, particularly the legs.  There's a lot of inconsistency.  Civil War War Machine's left leg is 1/8 of an inch longer than the right.  The base of his left is sturdy enough that you can bend back the right and make him stand, but you shouldn't have to fiddle so much to get an action figure to balance.  Nick Fury, likewise, has a shorter left leg than right.  You can see in the pictures above him leaning to the right (his left).  And the Corpsman also has a right leg longer than the left.  It's more like a club foot, and it's almost impossible to get him to stand because of how the plastic has bent outwards.  I'm curious to know if these are consistent flaws for these figures or a product of the way the plastic is cooled or something technical like that.

In any case... Civil War Miniverse is where it's at...except their playsets (still unseen around these parts) are so uninspired compared to the Age of Ultron tower sets:

And whither Spider-Man?
Comic Book Movie shared this article earlier this year, and yet, I've no idea where this set with Spidey is.

 The Target exclusive multipack doesn't contain him.  But then they seem to be two different packs. The one above has no Winter Soldier, Vision or Hawkeye either.

I wonder if last minute, they realized they don't have the rights to distribute Spider-Man within the Civil War brand, only under their Spider Man brand (which they also have the rights to).

Okay, I've embarassed myself enough for today.
Nerd -30-

1 comment:

Adj said...

My holy grail is a blue, VW bug that's to scale with the CW Cap, Bucky and Sam. I need that.