Geek speak: Waves vs. Series

We've been fighting this fight for years - even longer than we've been trying to teach you what a "buck" is (and what it isn't) - but it's a slow battle. People are still making the same mistakes. Maybe some visual aids will help?

Since the day OAFE started, we've had a glossary of toy-related terms that clearly explained the difference between a line of toys, a series of toys, and a wave of toys. Let's look at those definitions:

An entire family of action figures, encompasing both Series and Waves.
A specific subsection of a line of figures.
A specific shipment within a series of figures.

So as you see, the breakdown is Line > Series > Wave. Here are some pictures:

Marvel is a brand, and thus also a license. "Hasbro currently has the Marvel license."

Marvel Legends is a line. "Since they have the Marvel license, Hasbro releases the Marvel Legends line. Marvel Universe, Spider-Man, and Iron Man 2 are some of their other lines."

This is Marvel Legends Series 2. Not Wave 2, Series 2. "Arnim Zola was the Build-A-Figure for ML Series 2."

This is a wave:

And this is a different wave:

The first wave of ML2 had one set of the variant figures, while the second wave had the other variants. That's why we're still waiting for the Marvel Legends Series 3 variants - Blade and Moonstar - to show up: because Hasbro has not yet shipped wave two of Series 3.

So the problem comes in when people talk about series as though they were waves. Red She-Hulk is not part of Marvel Legends Wave 4. She's in Series 4. And since she has a variant, she may only be in Wave 1.

The defining factor of a series is character selection: when !CompanyName creates a set of figures featuring characters A, B, C and D, that is a series.

The defining factor of a wave is time: when a company makes and ships a set of figures, that is a wave. In January, !CompanyName ships cases of toys A, B, C, and D (Wave 1). Those sell well, so in March, they ship new cases of toys ABCD (Wave 2). Even if they shipped EFGH in February, that March shipment would still be Wave 2 (because EFGH would be a different series with its own waves). Maybe Wave 2 will feature some running changes. Maybe it will be a straight rerelease of what came before. But if it's the same ABCD assortment of figures, manufactured and shipped at a later date, it's a different wave.

It doesn't help that some companies use the wrong terms in an official capacity. There is no such thing as "DC Universe Classics Wave 19" - that's a series, no matter what Mattel calls it. They could call it DCUC Group 19, and it would still be a series, not a wave. So when you copy Mattel's terminology, you're merely repeating bad information and looking foolish in the process. Imagine if Ford sold a new model of car, but referred to it as a "floorboard." If any driver used that term, you'd look at them like an idiot, wouldn't you? Then why accept calling a series a wave when it's not?

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5 Responses to Geek speak: Waves vs. Series

  1. Black Arbor says:

    My head hurts. As great as all this is though, it still doesn't help the fact that Hasbro's distribution sucks ass. Waves or series, I still don't have my Redpool or Blade, and i'm Still waiting on series 4 to show up at retail.

  2. Mark says:

    I had to read this twice and stare at the pictures until it finally clicked.

  3. John says:

    This is a great example of what gives toy collectors a bad name. Repeating wrong things they've heard without knowing the real meanings.

  4. Nightboomfer says:

    Kind of like how the BBC refers to a season as a "Series."

  5. yo go re says:

    The one I find weird is Hasbro, who sometimes use it right and sometimes use it wrong. Like Marevl Universe, which they group into series based on the year the figures come out. Like today's Kraven, which says "Series 4" right on the package. I think they're trying to do the same thing with ML, too: I could SWEAR I saw somewhere the new series (with Archangel and Hyperion) referred to as "Wave 1." Yeah, THAT'S not going to confuse anything.

    Plus, they've got those cases that ship as "Revision (number)" and have new figures mixed with re-releases. Is that a wave, or something different? That's supposed to be Series 3, but it's all Series 1 figures? How's that work? At least this one had SOME of the proper figures in it...

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