Points of Articulation
The toy hobby can really be depressing at times.
It's not the toys themselves, or even the pain of trying to hunt down what you want. That's what makes toy collecting fun. Hell, that's what makes toy collecting toy collecting. No, what drives me to drink is the other fans.
Now, I could really aim for the hojos, and say "the other so-called fans," but I won't. Everybody in this hobby has a right to enjoy their toys any way they want, even if that involves sealing the toys away forever and not actually enjoying them. I may think MOCers are clinically insane, but that's what they like. More power to 'em.
But what drives me nuts, what makes me want to pull my hair out in frustration, are the whiney bitches. The doom and gloom crowd who never have a positive word to say. About anything. There's always been that undercurrent in the fan community (in any fan community), and every so often it would come bubbling up to the surface. It's just that lately, that bubbling has turned into a full-on geyser. An "Old Faithful" of cantankerous grumbling, shooting up at regular intervals.
There are sites out there that are breeding grounds for this kind of negativity. You've seen them. The places where everything is the end of the world. The assortments are all wrong, the characters don't deserve figures, bitch bitch bitch. That's the average level of whining - judging figures based not on the toys themselves, but on your opinion of the character and your expectation for how it might turn out.
And that, I think, is the problem. There's a difference between just bitching about figures and offering honest complaints. The difference? It's hard to pin down, but a big part of it is timing and intent.
Back when I used to frequent the Spawn boards, whenever one of the mods would post some news, there was a good-natured race to be the first to respond to it. Just get on there, throw up a quick "first!" and then go back afterwards to react to what the post was about. And in a way, this current trend of bitching seems similar. People want to be the first to say something is awful, so if it turns out to be true, they can go back and say "ha, see, I told you! First!" So news comes out, and without actually considering it, people head out in their effort to be first.
When the rumors about Hasbro buying the Marvel Comics license from ToyBiz started, and the fanboys went nuts. Every toy message board, every public forum (and one, in particular) was swamped with posts decrying the deal, talking about how Hasbro was going to blow it, how Marvel Legends was dead and how this was a sign of the endtimes. "Oh noes! Cuz Hasbro is teh s uck! ZOMG!" Not a word had come out from either Hasbro or ToyBiz by this point, mind you; the fanboys were reacting to absolutely nothing besides the Hasbro name. But no, they knew what they were talking about. Hasbro had Marvel, Legends was dead.
And then it turned out that wasn't the case at all. The numbering was being restarted, but that was it. Hasbro would be continuing Marvel Legends.
"But wait," they said. "The figures suck! The line-up sucks! Hasbro's blown it!" Except that they were wrong again. The first line of Hasbro Legends was planned, designed and sculpted by the ToyBiz folks. If the deal hadn't gone through when it did, they would have been ML16. So the blame, if there was any, couldn't fall on Hasbro. But did that stop the complaints? If you think it did, you haven't been paying attention.
By jumping on the first news - the transfer of a license, the announcement of a line-up - people are making hard judgements based on soft facts. And it seems to be happening more often now, for whatever reason. No one wants to wait to see what the toys are really like; they want to nail down the things that "suck" as soon as possible.
The sad fact is, you can't judge anything based on a prototype. Not any more. Remember Silver Centurion Iron Man's giraffe neck? That was fixed before the figure shipped. On the other hand, remember how much better the Scarlet Witch proto looked compared to the final thing?
Most companies bend over backwards to touch up their promo shots, lighting them nicely, hand-painting them, going all-out to make the toy look perfect. The fans get excited, and then the toy doesn't look anything like that. Maybe it's that practice that has cause this current trend of bitching: fans who got burned so many times that they've come not to trust anything.
Look at SOTA's Now Playing 3. In particular, Meg Mucklebones. Prototype looked good enough, but the first production pictures made it look like crap. A second round of pictures proved that while the figure wasn't as bad as fanboys claimed, it still looked low-end. Colors were flat, joints were more blatant... it wasn't up to SOTA's usual high standards, which was very disappointing. At least the photos were better now, so people could put forth some more informed (and more realistic) complaints, based on the toys rather than the quality of the photos. They haven't shipped yet, so who knows? It's not like they're suddenly going to improve between now and when we see them on shelves, which is a shame.
It's a fine line to walk: if you complain about the prototype, things might have already changed; if you wait until the figures ship, then it's too late. So what do you do? Well, step one is to never stop your complaints at just "this sucks." At the bare minimum, you can't say the toy sucks because you don't know. You haven't seen it. It doesn't exist yet. So please, skip that kind of dead-end negativity.
But don't keep your problems to yourself, either. "Bitching" isn't telling people your complaints. Complaints are valid, even if they matter to no one but you: just ask Rustin what he thinks of... anything. Finding fault with real things isn't "bitching," not at all. Even if no one agrees, you're not bitching. What pisses me off are the fanboys who say "I don't like it, it's no good" without anything to back it up. If you want the toys to be better, you can't just bitch.
Thanks to the internet, a company that shows prototype images no longer has to wait three months for a magazine to print before it can gage reactions. The company has time to make changes. Maybe not many, but some. ML11 Ultron proves that. If the fans had said nothing but "U1tr0n is the sux0rz," ToyBiz wouldn't have know what to fix. It wasn't bitching that got us a (marginally) better toy, it was specific complaints. Loud, annoying complaints, yes, but not bitching. There's a world of difference between "this prototype has some serious problems that I hope are fixed before they make the real toys" and "THIS AM SUX!" One helps companies make better toys; the other makes you look like a judgemental assclown.
When we review toys, we're judging them. But we're doing it based on more than an early picture of the toy. None of the toys the fanboys really complain about are out yet. Most of them aren't even close to coming out. You want to judge a toy, judge it when you're looking at it through the plastic blister. Don't expect it to be super based on promotional pics, and don't expect it to be bad based on what you see online. But judging a figure, bitching about it, is different than sharing real complaints.
If you must make definitive statements based on online pictures, then at least try to restrict yourself to toys that have been made already: something that doesn't exist can't suck. Talk about problems you see on a prototype. Tell the company, so they might fix it. Say something thoughtful, because if all you say is that it's crap, you aren't improving anything. You're just being negative.
So yeah, it drives me nuts. This is a fun hobby. Really fun. We play with toys, for god's sake! Toys should be fun! And yet so much of the fan community has this defeatist attitude, expecting everything to be awful from square one. Life really isn't that bad, toy fans. Don't be afraid to cheer up!
And for frak's sake, quitcher bitchin'!