Editorial: All that Glitters Is Not Gold (or Platinum)

March 17, 2023 ,

It’s hard to believe how many emotions two tiny stickers can elicit over the wandering masses of collectors, but the sight of them on the shelves -or to be more precise, the lack of them- can bring vast states of rage, sadness, frustration, and even an entire second market economy, where scalpers thrive and fans suffer.

But looking past all of that is a grand experiment from the genius -or mad, depending on whom you ask- mind of the Toddfather himself, one who always has to try at least, learn from his mistakes (sometimes), and evolve in an industry that refuses to be logical sometimes and just listens to the almighty dollar.

Let’s start with the Gold Label Collection. Born in 2021, launching the second year of the brand with the DC license, the premise looked to be something other than just a variant with the release of a steam punk-y looking Batman, designed by Todd McFarlane himself; it was gritty, it was different, and even if it was not to everybody’s liking, it was different enough to embrace a line that was getting pretty saturated with the caped crusader. This was Walmart’s first exclusive too (Target had been the first retailer to get one, barely weeks prior with Flashpoint Batman, although that release didn’t got a Gold Label denomination or sticker).

Alas, even if we got some variants that went a bit further than just repaints, like the unmasked characters, or the alternate costumes over the same mold, or even the new Jokerized releases, and at least one more try for a Todd-designed character, the Gold Label quickly became (to this day) a synonym of an exclusive figure for Target (and even a bunch of BAF waves!), Walmart, or the McFarlane Toys Store itself to fight over the hard-earned money of collectors in the US.

But that’s nothing compared to the weirder kids in the block: the platinum editions. I still remember the excitement and fascination for those first two grey and blue Batmen variants back in 2020. Were they real, how could we get our hands on them? They quickly became the prized grail for most collectors, who were not accustomed to “chase variants” if they came from a Marvel Legends or Mattel’s DC background. I mean, having a single different figure in a case of 6 was nothing new, but oh boy how crazy things got at the start.

Then came the golds, and the bronzes, and Todd even went out of his way to explain why he thought those were cool as heck: a toned-down paint scheme allowed the mold to shine in all its glory, and he wasn’t wrong. But hey, let’s do something cooler… how about no paint at all?!

I’d be rich if I would have gotten a nickel for every frustrating post I read on FB detailing the disgrace of ordering a Swamp Thing and getting that “unfinished” thing.

The thing was that Todd had already tried this particular variant with another one of his licenses, to great success, and he was just trying to replicate that with DC Multiverse. But it’s worth noting that the “other” license was Warhammer 40k, a grim sci-fi lore that originated as a tabletop game with minis… that came as a blank canvas for the players to paint. A community that had a background as painters and customizers loved this, but the one from DC, people that sometimes didn’t even open the boxes, were outraged.

Let me tell you before I keep going on and on, that we did see some amazing modders create some incredible stuff with these variants, but for the most part, this was a very controversial move that wasn’t completely well-received by the community.

Now, after all that rant, let me give some credit back to Uncle Todd himself. He listens, he learns… he tried side eyes, but people hated it, and he scaled back on those. Same with these primed figures, he rolled back and made them disappear for a while (just this year they have started to appear again, but you purchase them if you want them, not just score one as a random surprise). Now we’re starting to see some new Platinum Editions stickers again, with cool paint variations of previously released figures, going back to the chase origins of these variants; case in point the two latest ones to jump into this family: Classic Jay Garrick’s with toned down and metallic colors, and the “blink and you’ll miss him” Mr. Freeze variant, inspired by the color palette of the vintage Super Powers release.

So what does the future hold for these two kinds of releases? Probably more controversy and debatable choices, but also… a willingness to try new things, coming from one of the big toy manufacturers, in a landscape where others are alienating their customers in the name of profit. So the next time that you see one of these stickers, remember… it could be worse, but it could also be the perfect playground for something really really cool down the line.