Editorial: We Need to Have a Talk about McFarlane

Bytgreco

March 23, 2024

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the biggest selling action figure line in 2021 has seen several changes in the last two years, and none of them good. There are problems with the DC Multiverse line. Big ones.  Let’s be honest…Todd has gotten super cheap and lazy with the DC Multiverse line. It’s almost as if the people in charge of the DC Multiverse figure line know NOTHING about the DC Multiverse, and it shows.

Now that McFarlane is handling DC Direct as well, collectors have 3 choices. Purchase premium figures from MAFEX or Mezco which are higher quality, but also substantially higher priced, putting them outside of many collectors budgets, buy from Todd, or quit collecting.

So seeing as Todd and DC have left us with very few choices, let’s talk about what’s really going on with the line.

The Lack of Variety

With over 30,000 characters in the DC Universe and a line that is titled the DC Multiverse, it’s amazing to me that several major characters have still not been made. What we do have a lot of is Batman. And by a lot, I mean 120+ Batman figures. And while I’m a big Superman fan, I don’t really need 50 of them.

The lack of Starfire, Huntress, Black Canary, Artemis, Powergirl, Zatanna, Mera, Barda, Lois Lane … ALL major characters in the DC universe. McFarlane can’t be bothered because they’re women. Here’s Batman as a Green Lantern, but you can forget about a Star Sapphire figure, because Todd don’t do women action figures. So many great characters that are central to the DC Universe, and you and I should just admit, Todd is never going to do them. Todd claims that 13 year old boys don’t want female action figures. Yet, we have Duke Thomas as Batman, and the Abyss. Who asked for those? Hey genius, take a good hard look at your customers, because they aren’t 13 years old. They’re adult collectors, and they are more than happy to purchase female figures.

Then there’s the versions of characters that we wanted but from the worst source. No classic Scarecrow, or Two Face, or Penguin, or Ra’s al Ghul? You get the video game versions. Never mind those pesky comic book things. Hell, how about a classic Darkseid, Metron, or maybe Lex Luthor in a suit? Not a power suit, a business suit… Nope. None of those either. What is this Fourth World you speak of? And who at McFarlane thought fans would want THAT version of Etrigan?

You want an easy one Todd? Here, I’ll throw you a bone. How about a classic Speedy, and Red Arrow, and Arsenal. You can do what you love… repop the same figure, and with minimal changes resell it, and collectors would actually be happy about it. But that would require you to actually know something about the DC Universe.

The Lack of Complete Teams

Who here collected the animated Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and Flash, and is still missing Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, and Hawk Girl? Go ahead… raise your hand. Everyone? Yeah that’s what I thought.  Think we’re ever getting those missing teammates? Oh… you’ve all put your hands down.  How about that Animated Teen Titans Cyborg… yes he stands alone.  No Blackest Night Black Hand, but you get Batrocitus, who appeared in 3 panels?  Teen Titans… you only get four members, and not the classic ones, but hey, you get two versions of Beast Boy.  Justice League… who is this Hawkgirl you speak of?

If took four years to get a classic Wonder Woman, so that DC collectors could display the DC Trinity. FOUR YEARS. How absurd is that? And even then, it was a poorly handled pre order and distribution making one of the most popular DC characters almost impossible to acquire for many collectors. On the secondary market the figure is fetching $60-$80. (Which I”m sure pisses Todd off, because it flies in the face of his notion that female figures don’t sell!)

The Lower Quality

If McFarlane is all you collect, and you’re still buying Todd’s line about how affordable the line is, you might want to broaden your horizons a bit. McFarlane used to be a really good deal for a mid-tier quality figure. But if you see what you get from NECA, or Four Horsemen, or several other adult collector oriented lines, you’ll quickly see where McFarlane cuts corners. For $19.99, that’s fine, but they’re not $19.99 anymore, and the quality of what you get for $22.99 (a 15% increase) has gone down noticeably. Page Punchers are now $22.99-$24.99, and Build-A wave figures are $24.99-$39.99.

No, you’re not imagining things. If you keep your figures sealed you probably haven’t realized it, but for those of us who do open, there has been a definite drop in the quality of the figures. And not a small one. From the plastics used, to the paint applications (if any) and the quality control.  For an old school collector like myself, I look at my original Movie Maniacs… and marvel at the intricate paint applications… then I look at the last few DC Multiverse figures, and think “wow, that looks cheap”.  Left shins on right legs. Belts that are unpainted on the back side. Cheaply cut soft good capes. Ankle joints that break when posing. These aren’t one time only issues.

McFarlane fans used to rib Marvel Legends collectors about how they over paid for figures. Now Marvel Legends collectors can pay back McFarlane collectors with interest.  I’m not a Marvel fan, but look at what Legends is releasing and then compare it to McFarlane, Marvel fans get their money’s worth.

The Price Increase

Todd says he isn’t going to increase the price on main line figures… which is true, in the least honest way possible. When the line kicked off, figures were $19.99.

But, let’s not forget that almost half of figures released in 2023 were Gold Label Exclusives. Of the 182 figures released by McFarlane in 2023, 83 of them are Gold Label Exclusives. That’s not counting Collector Editions, or Platinum Editions. Giving retailers the ability to charge more than the $19.99, and making it more difficult to add desired characters to your collection. And then there’s the distribution of the Gold Labels. Some retailers are worse than others, but when you see some stores get very few, and others have receive so many they wind up in the clearance aisles… the problem is pretty obvious.

And while we’re here, let’s talk about the Collector Editions. $29.99 for a box and a card stand. It says “Collector’s Edition” right there on the box, so obviously it must be worth 50% more than a regular figure.

The Constant Recycling

If the 120+ Batman figures isn’t bad enough, let’s not forget the Jokerized, or Black Light, or Glow in the Dark, or Sketch Editions. I didn’t want Batman White Knight when he was comic accurate, why would I want to pay $30 for the black and white Sketch Edition version, or a Patina Superboy Prime? When it’s not a repainted peg warmer, it’s the same five body molds over, and over, and over again. It’s gotten so bad, that when McFarlane posts a “First Look” people automatically know which body buck was used for the figure.

Let’s be clear, I am not a completionist, and my opinion doesn’t come from a completionist point of view. I buy the figures I like, but I haven’t pre ordered a McFarlane figure since November of last year, (and that pre order was cancelled). The last figure I received was STEEL, and it has feet that don’t sit flat, and a hammer that’s bent like a noodle.

The offerings for this year have been pretty dismal, including some of the laziest new offerings I’ve seen in the history of the line. Repops of the DC Direct BTAS figures, but with worse paint jobs. There’s 2 new figures, but you’ve got to buy 8 you might already have. The Rival? (a recycled Jay Garrick body, and a recycled King Shazam head). The Spectre… Yes please!  $39.99 + $10 shipping…nevermind. Frostbit Batman?  Seriously?  You couldn’t even use the George Clooney Batman sculpt? Another Owlman… did we need two? And while the Aquaman movie toys rot on pegs, Todd gave us two more! Are we up to 8 or 9 Batman figures for 2024? I’ve lost count, and we’re only 12 weeks in to 2024. Gold Label after Gold Label, so only one store has it, and good luck with your preorder! Who’s excited for this garbage?

The PreOrders

A really simple concept. McFarlane announces a figure. You preorder it from one of the retail outlets that’s offering it. When it arrives, they ship it to you. That’s how a preorder is supposed to work… right? Well not anymore. For some reason, when they put the number of inventory available into their shopping cart software, McFarlane can’t seem to actually get it to the retailers. So you wait anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months to be told, oops… sorry. No figure for you.

Is there a reason McFarlane can’t seem to fulfill pre orders? Is there a reason they can’t pass on accurate inventory information to their retailers? They know how many of each figure their factory is manufacturing. They know how many they have allotted to each retailer. And yet somehow we have multiple preorder cancellations. It’s not a Target problem, or an Amazon problem, or even a Gamestop problem. It’s a McFarlane problem.

Someone higher up at McFarlane may think that scarcity makes their line more desirable. I’m here to tell them, it does not. If your preorders aren’t a guarantee of a figure, then why should I bother preordering anything from you?
Fix your preorder system.

Conclusion

This is just one unsatisfied collector’s opinion, but I started collecting the line when it launched, and I’ve been a big supporter of it for years… until now. The line is stale, boring, predictable, cheap, and lazy. But most importantly, it’s incomplete. It’s not the DC Multiverse. It’s the Batman Multiverse.

I miss Mattel and DC Direct, and frankly, if this is the future of the DC Multiverse, I’m okay with moving on to better, more complete, more collector friendly lines. The Gunn-verse of movies and TV Shows and Cartoons will be arriving soon, and James Gunn loves obscure comic book characters. Based on Todd’s handling of DC characters so far, he will ignore the characters he doesn’t recognize, and focus on the same old same old, and that’s bad news for everybody.

Here’s to hoping McFarlane realizes there’s more to DC than Batman, or loses the license at the end of 2025.

One thought on “Editorial: We Need to Have a Talk about McFarlane”
  1. You’re putting out in words what the great majority of the McFarlane collector community thinks of the treatment we’ve been getting for a while now. It’s a real shame that what started so promising is going down the drain now.

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