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.

Did I get it right? Do you think television action figures are on the rise? Which are your favorites? And what do you think the future of the action figures could or should be? Let me know in the comments!

By Bryan Stewart

Bryan first discovered an appreciation for action figures at an early age, setting up elaborate GI Joe ant hill attacks, complete with firework pyrotechnics. Due to the high injury rate for the Joes, replacements were a constant necessity.


  1. Great article! I do think TV action figures are going to be on the rise especially as more and more higher quality shows come out, and especially those that develop a cult following. I wish they had figures from the show prison break, more variety from breaking bad, and I hope they make some from the soon to start Ashe versus the evil dead! Those would be awesome!

    1. Thanks!

      I’ve seen a lot of the Breaking Bad ones, but I was never super interested. I love the show, but out of context Walt’s an old white guy in a goofy outfit. Did they ever make a Mike? I might buy that.

      I would love for Ashe versus the Evil Dead to be good and to get toys. It’s perfect for merchandising.

      1. Easy now. Easy! Walt was a hero! (Kind of ). And Superman Kingdom Come is an old white guy in a funny suite too! And come to think of it : I am too! No, no mike has been made yet as far as I know.
        And I share your sentiment. I really really hope Ashe versus the evil dead is good. With good figures!

        1. Walt is great, but I feel like he makes for an uninteresting action figure and their line is mostly him. And Superman Kingdom Come is still a Superman suit.

          Mike is the best. I feel like he’s got the same problem as Walt, being a nondescript white guy, but I love him in a way that I could never love Walt. He’s just so good at what he does. Every scene with him was gold.

  2. I wouldn’t mind seeing figures for “The 100”, “Dark Matter” and “The Last Ship”. I’m a sucker for all things sci-fi TV!

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