Hasbro has really impressed us here at Comic Impact with the Marvel 3 1/4 line of figures. When Simon and I first started the site Hasbro had just released wave 1 and we used to see them at the comic shop while we talked about what direction Comic Impact was going to go.In many ways we have grown along side this excellent brand. Today we were lucky enough to talk to both the Brand Manager (Scott George) and the Senior Design Manager (David Vonner) from Hasbro’s Marvel Universe line and this is what they had to say.
C.I.) Do you already know how many Marvel Universe and Marvel Legends figures are planned for the rest of 2011 and into 2012? And if so, how many are planned?
H. Yes, the average toy development cycle is about 18 months from concept to shelf date so 2011 is completely locked down and we’re deep into development for 2012. In terms of the numbers, the real beauty of the Marvel Universe brand is the size of the sandbox. Our primary goal is to put out as many different characters and costumes as possible so we’re always looking for new ways to do that. For 2011, if you were to add up the single carded figures, variants, comic 2-packs, team packs, Masterworks and all of our exclusives we’ll be well over 80 figures.
C.I.) Can you walk us through the process of deciding which figures are chosen for the line? I know in some instances it is dependent on special anniversary’s coming up (i.e. Phoenix Saga).
H. Character debates are the best part of the job – it’s one part art, one part science. When we do an initial brainstorm, nothing is off the table. First, the team comes up with an extensive list of all the characters we want to do in the upcoming year. We give heavy consideration to completing teams (like the Wrecking Crew), fan wish list characters (Darkhawk & Gladiator) and classic storylines (like Secret Wars and the Dark Phoenix Saga) as well as what’s hot on today’s comic shelves (like the recent Secret Invasion and Dark Avengers storylines). Next, we throw a few of our personal favorites into the mix like classic Captain Britain, Rocket Raccoon and Commander Steve Rogers. Narrowing down the list is where things really get difficult. We like the element of surprise – we always like to keep a few things on the list that will cause fans and collectors to say “I can’t believe they actually did that!”
C.I.) I know what I love about your line is that you throw in modern incarnations (new outfits) of prominent Marvel characters and we would love to see more “modern” sculpts/current costumes of figures (like the upcoming Commander Steve). Do you have any plans for more going in that direction and if so any one you can tell us about?
H. Absolutely. This year’s World War Hulk and the latest version of Apocalypse are great examples of this. You’ll also see a bunch of freshly updated costumes coming your way in the back half of 2011. Ultimately, we want to strike a great balance between classic era specific costumes and the contemporary “right now.”
C.I.) When we saw you at San Diego Comic Con, you mentioned that vehicles might be in the works for the Marvel 3 ¾” line. We have now seen some of the bigger ones in the Captain America: The First Avenger line. Are there any plans to implement that into the Marvel Universe line?
H. No official plans for 2011, but we’ve gotten a ton of questions about the S.H.I.E.L.D. Car model that was shown at SDCC last year. You can bet we’re trying to get that one in!
C.I.) I have seen some pictures of “team packs” of the Fantastic Four (minus Johnny Storm). Will we see him in the matching outfit for that pack of figures and are there any plans to introduce the new Costumes of the Future Foundation of the Fantastic Four in the future?
H. Ha, it isn’t so much “minus Johnny” as it is “plus H.E.R.B.I.E.!” We can’t give you a specific answer on the Human Torch, but we don’t like to leave any holes on core teams and lineups. The new costumes are cool; you can bet we’re talking about them.
C.I.) As I mentioned you guys really are reaching all over the Marvel Universe. What are the chances of seeing figures like Nova and Starlord (current costumes before they died in the Cancer Verse) or even interesting team packs like Agents of Atlas (which fans have even made)?
H. The Watcher says….your chances are promising on at least one of these.
C.I.) Does your team have any specific characters they are fighting for to get made?
H. Every day! There are a lot of lifelong comic fans on the Universe team so you can imagine that we’re pushing for some personal favorites. There’s an Alpha Flight Fan who continually fights for our heroes to the North and cosmic fans who lobby for characters like Drax, Starlord and the Guardians of the Galaxy. I would personally love to see Shang Chi, Puck, Morbius and Kraven the Hunter see their day in Universe, and Dave (Vonner) has been trying to get a Paper Bag Head Spidey and a classic Disco Dazzler into the lineup for years!
C.I.) I appreciate that fact that you guys have tried to find a balance to the Marvel Universe in how you release your figures i.e. Not overly aggressive with X-Men. Are you still finding that some areas run low on certain figures? And is this something that you keep an eye on and are trying to control better? I know in my area (Los Angeles) you get a lot of one figure and then a small amount of another.
H. We know that there are some geographic areas where the fan favorites sell out faster than others. Unfortunately, specific regional distribution is out of our hands. We deliver product to our retail partners and they distribute it to their individual chains of stores. In recent years, online retailers have helped to make it easier to find some of the more elusive items, hopefully, that has made it a little easier for MU fans.
C.I.) Moving forward with this line, what big “ideas” do you guys have for it?
H. Plenty! At its core, Marvel Universe is (and always has been) about robust comic heritage and tons of variety. With that said, we’re trying to find some new and unique ways to dig deep into the character portfolio and incorporate more great comic nostalgia. That means both IN pack and ON pack. We want every single package to resonate with fans and remind collectors why they love these characters. That’s why we work with amazing Marvel artists on each and every Universe package! So far, we’ve had the unbelievable privilege of working with some AMAZING creative talent at Marvel like Joe Quesada, Mike Deodato, Bob Layton, Olivier Coipel, Simone Bianchi and Frank Cho! Over the next month or so, we’ll have a brand new Marvel artist to announce for Wave 5 of 2011. We’re incredibly excited about the future of this line and we think you’ll be fired up about some of our new plans for 2012, but we’ll have to ask that you wait until SDCC for the real specifics on 2012.
C.I.)I feel like with this line you are always pushing forward and doing the unexpected. You consistently surprise and have yet to make any mistakes in the fans’ eyes and we thank you for that!!!
H) Thanks to ComicImpact.com and to the entire Marvel Universe for all of your continued questions and support!