DC Collectibles has primarily stuck to specialized figure waves based on a specific storyline or artist. Back in its earlier incarnation as DC Direct, that was the only route to get figures like Swamp Thing, the Justice Society or Legion of Superheroes characters. With DC Icons, DCC hoped to have an extensive line that would celebrate multiple eras of the DC Universe for years to come.
But thanks to a series of errors, the once promising DC Icons line is slowly dying. In a series of Toy Fair interviews, DCC representatives said the line is being refocused to move toward iconic moments instead of single-release and two-pack releases. This was on the heels of several online retailers announcing many Icons figures were cancelled.
I’ve been very high on Icons and despite the flaws, was fully invested in the line and wanted to see it succeed. Naturally, this was very disappointing news for me. So what happened for DCC to essentially kill off yet another line before it built an audience? Let’s break them down.
Not being Marvel Legends compatible
Fair or not, for many collectors this was the biggest deal breaker for getting into the Icons line. DCC went with a true six-inch scale. That meant Icons were smaller in size and height to Hasbro’s Marvel Comics line, which skew closer to 7 inches. Any hopes of having an Icons Batman square off with a Marvel Legends Captain America were quickly squashed.
This put Icons in more of a niche scale effectively ensuring most collectors would hold on to their DC Classics figures since they matched up better with Marvel Legends figures. DCC also missed out on being a supplemental line for DC Classics. While the style is vastly different, some collectors would have happily added Icons figures to their DC Classics collection if the sizes matched up.
More than price, character selection and availability, going on a different scale proved a disastrous decision for Icons.
Failure to provide unique niche from DC Classics
This was another big one that was ironically similar to a problem Mattel faced in starting a new line. After acquiring the WWE figure license, Mattel had to win over collectors who’d assembled a massive assortment of WWE characters from various eras. Mattel’s WWE Legends line failed primarily because too many collectors weren’t ready to essentially start over. There were no guarantees Mattel could come close to the wrestlers Jakks got to stores.
Icons had the same problem. A lot of DC fans happily built a massive collection with Mattel’s DC Classics line. While that line had issues, it also covered a vast portion of the DC Universe. With a much smaller release schedule, DCC needed to create an instant buzz to get collectors to buy in immediately.
Despite solid offerings like Batman, Green Arrow, The Flash and Green Lantern in the first two waves, DCC was asking collectors to buy figures they’d already purchased from Mattel. Despite Mattel’s extensive work with the DC universe, it neglected some areas that could have opened the door for DC Collectibles to become the new top dog for DC 6-inch figures.
While heavy hitters like Batman, Superman and Green Lantern are essential, secondary characters like Deadman, Blue Beetle III and the new 52 Mister Miracle weren’t the best choices to lure new collectors to Icons. Even though Atomica was a fun character, she shouldn’t have gotten a figure before Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Batwoman or Supergirl.
Tackling characters and teams Mattel lightly covered like the Teen Titans, Legion of Superheroes or The Outsiders would have filled a niche. And in this market, a niche is essential in earning collector confidence and line investment.
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As a latecomer to the 6-inch, highly articulated market, Icons didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. All it really needed to do was meet the standards of the top dog — Marvel Legends. For the most part, DCC hit those marks, but the lack of a thigh swivel, waist articulation and better neck clearance for flying characters created another roadblock for collectors considering getting into the line.
This wasn’t a matter of trying a new articulation style that didn’t connect, but having an articulation scheme that was lacking compared to other, less expensive lines. And for a lot of collectors, that made little sense.
Considering their smaller scale and lack of Build-a-Figure pieces, charging $25 for the Icons line was already a tough sell. In the face of apparently waning consumer interest, DCC responded by increasing the price to $28. Raising prices to keep a line afloat is never a smart strategy.
This cannibalization of the loyal fan base was a questionable move while also justifying the decision for collectors to not get into the line.
Inability to meet early demand
After a strong debut and initial first three waves, DCC failed to capitalize on the momentum. DCC revealed a slew of exciting line-expanding characters at San Diego Comic Con last year. It’s going to take more than a year for collectors to get the only character now slated for release with Nightwing arriving in September.
For the problems and initial early sell, the SDCC showing provided some badly needed momentum for the Icons line. And the failure to seize that moment dulled collector interest despite Icons getting mass acclaim for figures like Batgirl, The Joker and Harley Quinn. With no product for collectors to purchase, they found other lines to collect and now that decision seems like the smart one.
Switch from New 52 to Rebirth
DCC started Icons at a time when dissatisfaction with all things DC was strong. The movies underwhelmed and the New 52 failed to create much excitement. DC’s big editorial switch to Rebirth caused some shakeups with the Icons line.
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A much-anticipated 7-pack of the New 52 era Justice League was updated to reflect the Rebirth costumes. This left the premium Darkseid and Grail two-pack in a weird place as it now didn’t properly connect to the Justice League 7-pack.
DCC probably didn’t anticipate Rebirth proving to be such a hit with readers. Had Icons started with Rebirth looks in a Marvel Legends scale, it probably would still be going strong instead of limping to its inevitable conclusion.
DCC’s poor reputation
Whether with the abrupt ending of lines or poor quality control, DCC has a bad reputation among the collector community. And when the first two waves of Icons figures suffered from QC issues, many collectors had a ‘told you so!’ mentality. To their credit, DCC quickly replaced shoddy figures, but the damage was done.
DCC also failed to do their part to reassure collectors that the Icons line was a priority. Or even spread the word that more support was needed to keep the line going. Instead, DCC quietly cancelled and removed solicitations for announced figures.
Can DCC rebound with the Iconic Moments format? History would bet against them, but until the plug is finally pulled, I’ll still keep rolling with this line in spite of its problems.