Fighting For His 1:6 Future— Despite Captain Action’s popularity among collectors of a certain age (50+), ol’ Cap faces an uphill struggle to remain relevant and profitable at 1:6 scale. (Art: Jusko/CAE)
“We need to show the depth of this license. Captain Action cannot survive as a one-trick-pony, 12-inch action figure.”
—Joe Ahearn, Captain Action Enterprises
Captain Action for Today’s Generation— This odd little Lego-ish rendition of CA is yet another example of a multitude of recent CA licensed products that fans of 1:6 scale could simply care less about. And what’s with those Mickey Mouse ears? (Photo: CAE)
We’ve already reported on Captain Action Enterprises’ (CAE) current controversial efforts to expand the appeal of the iconic Captain Action (CA) brand though licensing and the release of a plethora of non-1:6 scale products (see full story HERE). CAE reps, Joe Ahearn and Ed Catto, have also confirmed (to The Joe Report) many times, that they believe their business strategy remains the best hope for capturing a younger market and repositioning the 49-year old brand towards a more profitable business future.
Predictably though, their plan has met with open derision from many 1:6 collectors who lament the loss of additional 1:6 scale CA product. Others have grudgingly accepted CAE’s plans as necessary steps that must be taken if ANY beloved CA brand toys are to survive and/or remain relevant to current and future generations that know little (to nothing) about Captain Action and his schizoid superhero proclivities.
As with Hasbro (and their GIjOE brand), CAE is now openly admitting concerns that its original fan base is clearly aging. And the sad truth is, both of these toy companies have begun looking at adult-aged toy collectors as customers of their past, rather than of their present—or future.
The Future is Looking… Smaller— A rendering of ZICA Toy’s prototype for a 1:18 scale version of Captain Action and his Silver Streak vehicle. Pretty nice, but is THIS the future of CA? (Photo: CAE)
In our recent interview with Hasbro’s Derryl DePriest, many GIjOE fans were stunned to learn that Hasbro now openly disdains its original “razors and blades” marketing strategy (see story HERE). Captain Action, by comparison, was a toy line heavily advertised on that self-same strategy. It was predicated on the idea that a child needed only ONE CA figure and that he (or she) could then change that ONE figure into a wide variety of superheroes simply by changing its costumes. Indeed, Ideal’s original CA became better know for its costume sets than its figures (see commercial below).
Whether or not CAE’s efforts to reinvent and reinvigorate the CA brand succeed still remains to be seen. Meanwhile, its existing customer base of “maturing” collectors, will continue to stand by patiently waiting, money in hand, and hoping against hope for the release of ANY new 1:6 scale products. (Remember the highly anticipated Rocketeer, Batman and Superman costume sets?)
Don’t get your hopes up, Bat Fans— In this closeup of a package mock-up for a proposed 1:6 scale Batman costume set, assorted DC Direct parts and simple cardboard cutouts were used to indicate what fans might expect to receive. Sadly, this set is now on indefinite HOLD. (Photo: Toygodd)
In a recent face-off with fans, CAE executive, Joe Ahearn, responded (once again) to comments from discouraged fans in a revealing back-n-forth online discussion that proved quite illuminating. It’s wonderful what we can learn when a bunch of well-educated toy executives and collectors all get together in the same place online. In this case, the discussion in question took place over on the CA Yahoo fan forum found HERE and began with a heartfelt post left by nevergrewup_90:
“I won’t make assessments regarding anyone’s efforts. I’m sure that a lot of hard work has been done to get us to this point. I’ll just state my interests. I’ve been a Captain Action fan since the beginning. I have all of the original costume sets and enough Captain Actions, Action Boys and Dr. Evils to wear them all. I even have Captains wearing a jet pack and a parachute. I have all of the Playing Mantis and Round 2 costume sets and figures as well.
I’ve never had any interest in owning a Silver Streak, even as a child. Comic books were never an interest either. My only interest for the future would be in the form of 1:6 figures and costumes. I would include Lady Action in that, but the Phicen-based Lady Action is well beyond what I would be willing to spend. Besides, with the various incarnations of Captain Action being slightly less than 1:6, I would imagine she would be noticeably out of scale there.
Smaller figures and novelties don’t interest me either. My fear is that the 1:6 line has already reached the end without the beloved Batman and Superman costumes, along with an Action Boy to sport a Robin costume.” —nevergrewup_90
Fortunately, CAE’s head honcho, Joe Ahearn, saw the above post and offered this candid reply:
Joe Ahearn, founder of Captain Action Enterprises (Photo: CAE)
“Gentlemen, I would like to just say a couple of things. As far as 1/6 scale product is concerned, we of course would love to have all the stuff we all want to see out there. But due to circumstances beyond our control, it has not been able to come to pass.
We are trying to look into a lot of different options, but all of these things take a lot longer than we would like them to. As soon as we can get some more 1/6 scale product out there, we most certainly will. It is certainly not a dead line for us by any stretch of the imagination.
We have tried to keep 1/6 items out there through our convention variants, the new Lady Action figure, the footlockers and most recently, custom heads from Marshall Made Collectibles. In the meantime, as businessmen, we need to keep the Captain Action brand moving forward in other ways to keep it growing and viable.
Do you need to like all of those other things? No you do not. If they are not your cup of tea, that’s cool, but we need to keep doing these things. Because otherwise, if we have NOTHING going on, no one will see Captain Action as a viable property, and any negativity about these other things also reflects back to our ability to do 1/6 scale stuff as well.
We need to show the depth of this license. Captain Action cannot survive as a one-trick-pony 12-inch action figure. We are still also working very hard on the animation side and are hoping to have a NEW ANNOUNCEMENT to share in a couple of weeks at SDCC.
I hope we get some Bad Guys Customs for our figure contest from a lot of you out there who are so hungry to play in the 1/6 scale sandbox. It would be a great show of support for 1/6 scale that we can use to help move things forward! Thanks always for your support of Captain Action.” —Joe Ahearn, CAE
CA fan and collector, Al Hartman, represented fans who choose to remain optimistic, stating:
Al Hartman, Captain Action fan & collector (Photo: Al Hartman)
“I want to add this to what Joe just wrote… Please don’t assume that the current state of the 1/6th line is going according to some purpose and plan by Joe and Ed. The first two people who want to see the DC wave on store shelves are CA’s premiere fans; Catto and Ahern (notice the first two letters of their names? huh? huh?).
They are not playing ‘keep away.’ They want to move forward, but are depending on R2 and the factories in Asia. We have to be patient and hope that the sets we want will show up under our trees someday.
Until then, they are trying to bring us other goodies. I appreciate that. Thanks guys! —Al Hartman
CA collector, Paul Dodd, represented frustrated fans with such questions and comments as:
“Al, I appreciate your opinion, and for beating the CA bandwagon drum. But, unless you work for R2, how do you know any of this to be true? It’s been a very long time since the DC license was announced, and a very long time since Wolverine & Iron Man.
And since then, we have heard from Joe & Ed several times, (and seriously guys, I’m not calling you out here) and the story has been the same. Never anything concrete, just a lot of dancing around the issue, without revealing the real meat & potatoes of the problem.
Have the licenses expired? Has R2 severed its relationship with CAE? (or vice versa)? Is there some sort of stalemate between the two? Is it a production issue? Or, POS problem?
There has been multiple crowd funding efforts for other non 1:6 C/A figures. Why can’t something like that be done for a DC uniform/equipment set? There is a reason, we just don’t know what the big secret is.
Me personally, I would like to know more. But I know these things are not my business. What I do know is other similar superhero lines are being produced on time, and with pretty high standards. Even the little GIjOE Collectors Club produces new, classically styled 1:6 product a couple of times a year. (Did you see their ‘Fantastic Freefall’ convention set?)
There is way more to this than just ‘circumstances beyond our control.’ And to me at least, it’s a cryin’ shame.” —Paul Dodd
Toy Expert and Pop-Culture Blogger, Rudy Panucci (Photo: Rudy Panucci) Click to enlarge.
Toy industry expert, Rudy Panucci, offered his own professional viewpoint of the current CA dilemma, stating:
“I might be able to shed a little light on this as an impartial observer who’s offering educated guesses. In order for Captain Action to have DC and Marvel costumes sold, they have to be in the mass market at an affordable price, or be premium-priced low-production run items. Obviously the goal is to hit the mass market. In order to sell to the mass market, there have to be retailers willing to sell the costume sets, as well as a supply of figures. They have to be willing to sell these items at a price that allows everyone to make aprofit.
Due to the toy licenses held by Mattel and Hasbro, DC and Marvel costume sets can never be sold in the same package with a figure. In essence,they are “model kits.” Retailers would prefer dressed figures. They are running away, screaming, from the “razors and blades” concept. It’s even hurting Mattel’s Barbie line. Costume sets are a hard sell. The license to sell DC and Marvel model kits (and other items) is held by Round2. For CAE to produce DC and Marvel product, they have to go through Round2 to piggyback on their license. Effectively, Round2 is licensing from DC, Marvel and CAE to produce their figures. CAE is shouldering some of the risk, in order to get the product made.
The license has not expired. There are no production issues any tougher than any other small toy company experiences. The problem is finding a retail partner. Round2 is willing to go back into production as long as CAE has retailers lined up. They’re still working on that. TRU has had a management and philosophy change. They are no longer open to the idea of carrying Captain Action (at least not right now, maybe in a year things will change). Walmart would be perfectly willing to carry Captain Action if they could buy them at a wholesale price that would be slightly below the cost of production.
Target is gun-shy on exclusives from smaller companies these days. They’d be interested in online-only sales, but they don’t want to give up shelf space. Sears and K Mart are barely in the toy business at all anymore. Diamond Select is not only a distributor, but also a manufacturer, and their customer base is comic book shops and TRU. If they try to sell Captain Action through DST, and every comic shop orders two of each item–that will only amount to five or six-thousand orders. That’s not enough to turn a profit due to the license fees.
Remember that, in the case of Superman and Batman, DC gets paid first.Then Round2. Then returns and defective units are deducted. Then CAE gets whatever’s left… if there is anything. If they go through Diamond, the wholesale price is probably 40% of theretail price. Then the licensors get paid. Then the manufacturer. If they crowd-fund, they may not be able to go through Round2 and use thelicense. Even if they did, you’re still looking at comic-shop numbers.
To be honest, I’m surprised that Ed and Joe are still managing to keep the character viable. By dealing with smaller licensees like Marshall Made Collectibles, 3rd Son Books, Airship 27, Dynamite Comics, Zica and the other folks who have ‘borrowed’ Captain Action for various figure lines, they’ve managed to keep Captain Action alive as a property that more and more people know. You’d never see Hasbro or Mattel invest this much time in a revival of a toy from fifty years ago. Just look at how Hasbro bungled the fiftieth anniversary of GIjOE! Mattel only keeps the Major Matt Mason trademarks because they hope someone will make a movie someday.
This is obviously a labor of love for Ed and Joe, and I think us fans need to realize that and be patient. They’re working hard on this in an industry that is more secretive than the military industrial complex. They can’t tell us every detail of every ongoing negotiation because that would probably kill any deal that they’re working on. They can’t really risk complaining in public about retailers when they’re trying to convince them to carry their product.
My advice to Ed and Joe is to maybe look into less conventional retailers. Cracker Barrel Restaurants (630 stores) have large “general stores” loaded with retro toys and 1960s TV shows on DVD. They may beopen to a fiftieth anniversary product, if the price is right and the right characters are involved. That one deal won’t be big enough for a whole line, but it could attract the attention of a larger retailer. Just my two cents.” —Rudy Panucci
A Future Home for Captain Action? Rudy Panucci’s idea of slotting CA products on the shelves at Cracker Barrel restaurants is nothing to sneeze at. Take a look at this recent photo of some of the chain’s great “retro” toys for sale. WOW! (Photo: wideopencountry) Click to SUPER enlarge.
In closing, CAE’s Joe Ahearn sought to reassure fans of 1:6 scale Captain Action by saying:
“We are certainly not dancing around the issue. I’m sure you can understand that as businessmen under contract with different project partners, we are not always at liberty to discuss things in exact details with the public.
I tried my best to give an overview to give everyone the gist of the current scenario. It shouldn’t really matter what the exact details are, rather knowing that we are not giving up on getting new 12-inch stuff out to you guys should be the big take away. When that will be, we cannot say. But it is still on the table.” —Joe Ahern
Bottom Line: An emotional tug-of-war continues to be waged between frustrated collectors and manufacturers of 1:6 scale Captain Action products. Our sincerest thanks to those who continue to keep Cap’s legacy alive through such well-informed discussion. Let Justice Be Done!