June 2010 Recap

Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in June 2010. If you missed any, or simply want to see them again, click on each "title" to be taken directly to that post. As always, thanks for reading.

Star Wars Dolls
Secret Wars

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Secret Wars (Mattel)

In 1984, Marvel Comics began its legendary Secret Wars limited series. Destined to stretch across the entire year in 12 monthly installments, this limited series was to set the stage for several future "crossovers" and special events. The series drew together heroes and villains from the far reaches of the Marvel Universe. Most fans either loved or hated this new experiment; few were ambivalent.

Secret Wars was not Marvel's first effort in the realm of the limited series crossover, but while the relative merits of the series, and its sequel, are certainly debatable, the release of Secret Wars in May of 1984 was extremely well-received by comic buyers. Each issue sold nearly three quarters of a million copies. Written by then Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, Secret Wars was an event that helped to define the direction of the Marvel Universe for years to come.

Action figures were certainly the most prominent promotional items that sprung from the Secret Wars franchise. When people think of Secret Wars merchandise, this is most often what they think of. Interestingly, it was the toys that inspired everything else. According to former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, Mattel came to Marvel with the title "Secret Wars." Thus, comic series was born. And with it came these memorable Marvel figures.

The figures were Marvel's answer to Kenner's DC Super Powers line also launched in 1984. The Secret Wars figures were articulated only at the shoulders, hips and neck and had no special "action feature" (Super Powers figures had both knee joints and built in action features).

All figures came with "Secret Shields." The Heroes came with round shields and the Villains came with square shields. These shields came with a series of two-sided inserts that changed the scene when tilted. With a few notable exceptions, the most figures came with few other accessories and the accessories that were present (e.g., guns) were reused frequently.

Not Shown - Marvel Super Heroes 3-Pack with Captain America, Spider-Man and Iron Man, and Marvel Super Villains 3-Pack with Doctor Doom, Magneto and Kang

Many action figure lines are accompanied by vehicles, playsets and other accessories for use with the figures themselves. The Secret Wars line was no exception. However, there is one aspect that set these accessories apart: Some of them actually came with figures included! Not all of them, mind you. But in these days of increasing marketing pressure, the absence of the "Figures Not Included" caveat on the package is truly unique.

Despite the series shortcomings, Secret Wars remains a fan favorite, and in 1984, they were the only game in town for Marvel Comic fanatics. While many of these figures were destined for better versions in later lines, the Secret Wars figures represent a nostalgic era for Marvel toys. It was the first real marriage of Marvel comics and toys. Not too shabby.

While the action figure series didn't last too long, Marvel would once again use the "Secret Wars" banner for a follow up story arc the following year. Though the series sold well, many fans pan the sequel. As for why, I really can't state this  reason any better than one Reddit user already did:

"Secret Wars II started the very bad trend of needing to read the tie-ins to get the complete story. In the first Secret Wars you could just read the 12-issue main series to get the whole story. The other titles just showed the heroes getting taken away from Central Park on the last page of one issue and then they arrive back the next issue with unexplained changes (Spidey's black costume, Fantastic Four - Thing + She-Hulk. It made you want to read Secret Wars to see what happened. Secret Wars used the long-standing titles to promote the series where as Secret Wars II (and most modern events nowadays) use the event title to boost sales of the long-standing titles." - Reddit user c_is_for_classified

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Star Wars Dolls (Kenner)

Star Wars figures. Star Wars vehicles. Star Wars dolls?

Oh yeah, that's right. Star Wars dolls.

In an attempt by Kenner and Lucasfilm to make Star Wars a franchise for young girls as well as boys, 12 inch, or in the case of the smaller characters, 5 inch dolls were produced. But, unlike your typical Barbie doll, these dolls appealed to both boys and girls.

The detail allowed for a 12 inch doll was incredible as compared to the popular 3 and 3/4 inch figures. Not only were the figures exceptionally sculpted, but so were the weapons that each character came with. The clothes were nothing to frown at either.

Eleven dolls were produced under the "Star Wars" banner. The initial concept was to create the main characters, and then simply design and market clothing for each of them as the series progressed, and outfits changed. Had the dolls been a huge success, it's probable that even clothing not seen in the films would have been designed.

However, by the time The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters, it was very apparent that while girls were interested in what was to become the Star Wars Saga, the toys themselves had little to no draw for them. Due to poor sales, the line was eventually dropped, but not before IG-88 was released under "The Empire Strikes Back" banner, as well as a handful of the originally released dolls (not all pictured).

A revision attempt at the 12 inch line during the Star Wars boom of 1995 (AKA when the general public took interest again) was tried. It was moderately successful, but not enough to constitute a "regular" series of dolls. However, this revitalized series continues to have releases. They are marketed more towards hardcore collectors, and are often produced in very limited numbers as most are exclusives to particular stores or events (conventions, SW Celebration, etc.).
If there's one thing that I personally enjoy about these types of series is that they're really just fun to look at. That's part of the reason I enjoy doing these little posts. It's like a mini museum of a particular series.

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