A Call to Action (Figures): TV and the Future of Action Figures
We’ve been seeing a lot of new types of action figures aimed at adults in the past few years. A few weeks ago I talked about the rise of video game action figures, and before that the smart ways that NECA and Funko pursued licenses that other manufacturers wouldn’t to get better footholds in the market. TV action figures aren’t that new—we’ve had them for series as far back as Buffy and The X-Files—so the increase shouldn’t be a surprise, especially considering that many television critics believe that we’re in a golden age of television.
With Pop Vinyl, Funko is covering as many series as they can—Firefly, The Twilight Zone, Hannibal (which may also have a set of figures forthcoming from Threezero), Dragonball Z, and many others including their own line of Game of Thrones Legacy toys. McFarlane is covering The Walking Dead as well as various athletes from different sports. The only televised program that may sell and doesn’t have figures (yet, I bet someone is going to pick them up) is True Detective.
As we go forward, we’ll be seeing more of the same. The action figure markets are expanding because collectors of all ages are buying. What I’m really interested in is where the next big market is going to come from. On a surface level, movies, comic books, sports, and television are all being tapped, and companies will mine those genres further, which is awesome. Once that happens, there’ll be a crossroads where companies choose whether to build the same characters again or to invent new characters and figures.
If the recent bottleneck in movies (how many theatrically released movies in the last ten years haven’t been adaptations or remakes?) is any indicator, the companies will take the safe bet, which in some ways irks me. I don’t need another Wolverine or Luke Skywalker, but there is a value in rebuilding something and making it better. It’s also going to be what keeps them above their bottom line, so I’m going to try not to begrudge them that.
What I hope they do on the side is create new characters and figures as well. Taking these types of risks (especially when they’re selling out of Thor 7 action figures, especially the one-eyed ballet dancer variant) is what will help the toy industry to and the cultural zeitgeist to grow. That’s what G.I. Joe and Transformers did for Hasbro in the 80s, and what I hope I Am Elemental and Vitruvian H.A.C.K.S. will do for their manufacturers. Until then, keep calm and keep supporting the action figure industry.
A Call to Action (Figures) is a weekly column published on Wednesdays, chronicling my rants and raves about all things action figure. Next week I’ll be talking about the importance of Kickstarter in the future of the action figure industry.