DC collectors have a new best friend.
The lead-up to this year’s New York Toy Fair has been an eventful one, especially for Todd McFarlane. His company McFarlane Toys has just acquired the rights to two massive Warner Bros. properties – Harry Potter and DC. We’ve seen McFarlane Toys tackle everything from Spawn to Fortnite to the NBA to The Walking Dead, but this new arrangement with DC will allow McFarlane to try his hand at some of the most iconic heroes in the comic book industry.
We were able to chat with McFarlane on the phone this week to learn more about this announcement and what it means for the future of DC’s collectibles lineup.
McFarlane made it clear that this new arrangement isn’t meant to be an exclusive one. McFarlane Toys won’t be responsible for handling all the DC-branded toys and figures on the market, but will focus specifically on collector-oriented toy lines and a more adult audience. Spin Master Corp. will take over the more mass market-focused toy lines in 2020, while Mattel will presumably continue the very successful DC Super Hero Girls line.
According to McFarlane, this represents a shift in philosophy for DC. Rather than granting a master toy license to one company, they’re dividing it among several specialized companies. “If you’re gonna go into the geek stuff, we’ve been swimming in those waters a long time,” he said. “And obviously, they decided to move in a different direction with [Mattel]. I think maybe Mattel was servicing all of it prior, and they decided they’d break it up among a couple of vendors. Instead of giving it all to one person, why don’t we play to everybody’s strengths? I can do cool stuff at a little bit higher price.”
McFarlane told us that he was motivated largely by a desire to try his hand at DC’s characters. “I’m the only guy who doesn’t do Marvel, DC and Star Wars. Everybody else on the planet has done it except for me. Because they keep carving these licenses up, I know that hamster sweaters with Star Wars logos is a thing. I’ve got to figure out my niche. We finally get a crack at that now.”
He continued, “I’m not gonna look at you with a straight face and tell you I can do what the big Fortune 500 companies can do. Because I can’t. But what I’m saying is, I just wish that every contract you sign with the master toy license had a side cutout that says, ‘And McFarlane gets to do at least one figure.’ So I can do my one Batman and my one Spider-Man and my one Darth Vader. Just so I can say here – here’s how I would do it.
While it’s too early to discuss specific figures or toy lines (McFarlane said that we won’t be seeing any prototypes until at least Comic-Con this summer), McFarlane Toys will be targeting the same audience that have been buying Mattel’s DC Universe Classics and DC Multiverse figures for the past decade. These toys will feature a mix of traditional comic book designs as well as those inspired by DC’s movies, animated series and video games.
“The technical category is ‘DC Multiverse collector figures’,” said McFarlane. “You’re going out and doing a little more sophistication with the toy at a higher price point, and maybe the packaging is a little more sophisticated. A little more in terms of props. It’s not an obvious buy for a five-year-old. There’s plenty of those… It’s for the people who are a little bit older like yourself or myself who say, ‘Hey, I don’t mind spending an extra $5 or $10 if we get the extra value out of it and it looks cool.’ That’s where I step in.”
In addition to stepping in for Mattel, McFarlane Toys will also focus on the market previously covered by DC Collectibles (which was recently folded into WB’s Consumer Products Divison as part of a larger corporate restructuring). That means fans can expect high-end collectibles like statues and busts from McFarlane along with traditional action figures. McFarlane told us, “With DC Collectibles taking a step back, there’ll be a void there, and they want me to sort of step up and take some of that momentum on myself.”
Given how long Mattel has been putting out adult-oriented toy lines like DC Multiverse, it’s probably safe to say some collectors are feeling trepidation at these recent changes at DC. McFarlane wanted to reassure these collectors that they’ll have plenty to look forward to in the years ahead.
“I’m a geek, just like them. I’m a toy collector, just like them. I like cool stuff just as much as they like cool stuff. I pride my company on over two decades of delivering that. Batmans and Supermans and Wonder Womans – you can sell those 365 days a year. You can put out some of the key characters that are out there. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. I’m just trying to put out as high quality a product as possible and let my company’s reputation speak for itself once you see it out there. I’m just hoping to put out a good figure at a decent price.”
Stay tuned to IGN for more Toy Fair coverage all week.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.