yo: Vaporware

Small company Shocker Toys has just announced a line of comic-based toys called Indie Spotlight. Now, the idea is a great one, but there are a few problems that strike me right away:

1) The bad state of the industry. This is the biggie. Like SOTA's Jerry Macaluso recently said, the market doesn't seem to be showing support for anything but DC and Marvel.

But really, who's trying to MAKE anything other than DC and Marvel? Look at the variety of licenses Shocker's got - this isn't a brand-new company trying to make one crappy indie book into a toy, this is a (fairly?) successful and established group that's getting tons of potential properties.

2) Recognizability. Who the hell knows who Scud is? Or Madman? And how many people who read Dick Tracy in the paper would go out to buy a toy of him?

But again, the scope may save this - if it was JUST a Scud line or JUST a Madman line or JUST a Dick Tracy line, it might tank. Indie Spotlight (I give it ten minutes before people start calling this "Indie Legends") sounds like the comicbook equivalent of Now Playing, where lots of affordable but appealing properties get thrown together and help support each other. Not saying that for sure, just hoping.

3) Shocker Toys. Boy, talk about problems with recognizability. Shocker's not a familiar name to most fans, let alone most potential consumers.

But then again, at one point neither was NECA. They've managed to apparently thrive in the block-figure market so far, a crowded arena even before they showed up. They've managed to impress a distributor (Southern Island Toys) enough to join forces with them and become a pseudo-manufacturer, and even the Stickfas are starting to borrow structure and design from Shockinis.

Bad news is, while people are talking about Gwar, we have yet to actually see any regular action figures from Shocker. We've seen blockies, but that's it, so we can't really judge how they'll do with the properties they've landed. I mean, at one point, N2 seemed like they'd do an awesome job. Once Gwar comes on stage, we can all make a better judgement, and thus complaint #3 might go away in an instant. Until then, this is a very ambitious project, but it might be a bit too much; it might be action figure vaporware.

The term "vaporware" comes, of course, from the world of computers, and doesn't necessarily imply intentional deception - just unbridled optimism and an announcement that may come too early. Obviously I hope Shocker can pull this off - I can think of quite a few indie comic stars that I'd love Marvel Legends-style toys of - but there's a lot standing in the way. Why announce this line now? If they'd rushed to get the news out at Toy Fair, I could understand, but that was three months ago; at this point, why not wait until they have at least one prototype and a definite lineup for Series 1?

By announcing now, the line sounds more like spitballing: "hey, wouldn't it be cool if someone made toys based on..." Yeah, it has to be exciting to get this line, but why not sit on the news for a few months until things get more solid? If fans are buzzing like this right now, imagine how big it would hit if, in September, a press release had come out that said exactly what this one does, but then continued with a list of the first figures and a rough release date. If that had been the first word anyone heard about the line, it would have been an atom bomb - not that it isn't huge news right now. It would just seem less like potential vaporware.

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