Hello and welcome to Action Figure Collecting 101 Part 3- Domestics! If you missed Part 2, click here. When most adults discuss “domestics” and “imports,” they’re usually talking about beer. Not this “adult.” I’m talking about plastic gold. Escapism. My very own socially acceptable heroin addiction.
If you have the same poison I do, maybe you can use some of this information. By “domestic” I mean any action figure readily available in the United States. Obviously, if you’re in another country, I can’t speak for what your domestic scene looks like. I am also focusing on 1:12. If you expand it to 1:10, you can find NECA figures almost anywhere toys are sold. Usually for the same cost as their 1:12 brethren. I think the figures look fine but you’re sacrificing articulation.
If you recall, in Part 1 I mentioned the flavors of my addiction, comic heros and Star Wars. Right now we have two main superhero lines in stores. One is the Mattel DC Multiverse figures. I am not really a fan. I find their articulation maddening, their lack of accessories befuddling and their availability, at least in my area, nill. However, many of us love DC Comics and are left with little choice. Theoretically, you could walk into a Target or a Walmart and buy one. I haven’t seen any new ones since the Wonder Woman movie last year.
On the Marvel side, we have Marvel Legends. For the same price as a Multiverse figure, you get improved articulation, a 50/50 shot on accessories and in my opinion, a much better figure. Originally, Marvel Legends was put out by Toy Biz. The line all but died in the 2000’s only to be resuscitated, like a saucy phoenix, by Hasbro. You will see reused bucks and occasionally, some odd design choices. However, those don’t bother me because, without those cost-cutting measures, there is no way we’d get a figure like Warlock, for instance.
Legends can be a chore. If you’re like me, you rarely have an extra $200 lying around. When a new wave of figures hits (usually named after whatever the Build a Figure is, so, the “Thanos” wave or the “Juggernaut” wave), you may be lucky enough to find all of them on the shelf at once (again, we are currently 3 – 4 waves behind here in Central Ohio). Which one do you buy?
Short answer? Good luck. There is no secret algorithm I’ve seen that helps. It is important to note, I am not talking about making the decision on what to purchase based on potential aftermarket value. If you’re buying figures as a retirement plan, congratulations. You’re pretty bad at life.
No, I am talking about what figure should I buy now that will be hard to get later. I am usually wrong, but I try to go by a few rules. Is the figure based on a movie? I usually let it sit. Why? Because the bread and butter figures like Captain America or Iron Man always come with multiple instances in a box. I’ve never not seen a glut of movie figures collecting dust eventually.
Ask yourself this: Is the character so obscure that people won’t know who he/she is? I don’t mean obscure to lifelong comic readers, but obscure to your average buyer? Was the character part of a cartoon? Is there some pop cultural relevance to it? Maybe someone wrote a song about Baron Zemo and it broke the top ten? Lastly, does it look cool? For instance, I am not convinced that most people have read a single comic with Deathlok in it. But he has “death” in the title and he looks sweet. As a result, he’s been harder to find than half of the wave.
However, as with Deathlok, I tell myself that eventually, I will come across all the figures in the store. That logic lands me about 80% of any given wave, sometimes more. For the rest, you’ll have to hit Amazon. As an example, the Deadpool wave, who is super popular right now thanks to that dreamy Ryan Reynolds. However, I can walk into almost any store here and find the red suit or X-Force grey suit warming a peg. Even the “Back in Black” figure which isn’t really in a wave, is sitting there. Deathlok and Cable? Not so much. I would have guessed Cable, but not really Deathlok. Inevitably, I am rolling the same 9 sided dice everyone else is, with almost the same results.
Another domestic 1:12 line that recently came to an end was the DC Icons line. It scaled small on the 6-inch scale, but I really liked the figures. They weren’t perfect. Barely any head articulation, pea head Superman… yet I feel like for every miss they had several hits. While not available in any mass retailer I went, they were always readily available when I walked into my local comic shop. DC Collectibles has eschewed the DC Icons line for the new DC Essentials line. They look nice, but right now I can’t help but feel burned by DCC. I invested a lot of time, money, shelf space and not to mention my ridiculously misplaced emotional investment. I have pretty much every one of them and DCC is like “Oh, no thanks, fam. Check out the new fire.” I hate being tempted to buy the same characters all over again. However, I’ve heard (but not verified) that the line is closer to a 1:10 scale.
In regards to Star Wars, there is only one 1:12 game in town. The incredibly frustrating Black Series. I’m not sure how you can have what has to be the most successful intellectual property since the Bible, and you can’t make human beings? Their early human characters were absolutely awful. Their New Hope Leia was so bad they had to release a mi culpa to the world that was only marginally better. In their defense, they now have face printing tech and there has been a steady uptick in quality as of this writing. A plus to the Black Series line is they have no Build Figure components, so you feel no obligation to buy a figure you don’t want. The downside is their distribution system, like their early human characters, is absolutely awful. We still have a glut of Rogue One figures (and not the two cool ones) in our stores. I’ve given up on getting any BS Series figure I’d actually want to buy.
Finally, I feel like I would be remiss if I did not mention Mezco Toyz. I am only mentioning them because they are a company based out of New York (domestic) that has import prices and no real distribution system. Yet, they make high-quality figures packed with soft goods and usually outstanding accessories. However, don’t expect to find them in any local store, you need to start your search on their website if you’re interested.
That wraps up our domestic lines for comic and Star Wars characters. Come back soon for Part 4… IMPORTS! The special sauce on my Big Mac.