The writing has been on the wall for over a year now. It was just confirmed via an email sent to all Warner employees from Warner CEO Jason Kilar. The email reads like most executive speak, emphasizing the great things that are about to take place, looking over the horizon at things to come, and then the unfortunate part of laying off dedicated employees that have helped bring them to this success.
Keep in mind, this news affects more than just DC Comics and DC Direct, but Warner Bros. as a whole. I am focused on the DC Direct side of this news, with this article.
Also a victim of the layoffs: DC Direct, the company’s in-house merchandise and collectibles manufacturer. The division has been shuttered after 22 years, another move that was rumored when Warner Bros. Consumer Products began taking a more active role in DC merchandising.THR
DC Direct has long been providing relief for an itch that only a very small segment of fandom might have. Yes hardcore toy and comic fans are the only ones that really support the company. Outside of Gamestop, what other big retail store carries DC Direct product? For the most part none (outside of a few promotional things with Walmart – looking at you Batman Black and White blind bags).
In fact the writing has been on the wall for a few months now. We haven’t had any DC Direct solicitations in the last couple of months. The last bit of news came from Toy Fair 2020, when the name change occurred. When the AT&T acquisition took place, DC Collectibles (at the time) was moved under the Warner Bros. Consumer products division. That oversight was likely the death knell for the company.
The company could not compete with the likes of McFarlane Toys and Spin Master. Even in my last review of the upcoming DC Essentials DCeased wave 1 action figures (which was before this news broke), I talk about how DC Direct cannot compare to what McFarlane Toys is doing.
You can find McFarlane Toys DC Multiverse figures at Walmart, Target, Gamestop, and comic shops. The price point for these figures are $19.99 to $24.99. DC Direct action figures start at $23.99. The MSRP for DC Direct figures is $28.00! With McFarlane’s price you get the figure, loads more articulation, more detailed sculpt, several accessories, a collectible card and more! With DC Direct you get a figure and if you are lucky, one accessory.
Couple that with the niche places to purchase their product and you can see why they have to sell their product at those prices.
The company has seen its fair share of successes though. Some of the best DC Comics merchandise has come from their hands. Some of their most popular items consisted of Batman: The Animated Series line of action figures, Batman: Black and White statues, Green Lantern Series of action figures, Batman: Arkham action figures, and their Green Lantern series of mini-busts from the Geoff Johns run. These items will no doubt continue to rise in value.
Now let’s be honest, the company did try to make some changes back in February by rebranding back to DC Direct from DC Collectibles. But this was too little too late. A name change really isn’t going to do much, other than create a little nostalgic feelings for long time customers. Despite the success of a couple of their properties (looking at you Batman: The Animated Series action figures), forces were already in play to eliminate them from Warner’s plans.
In this day and age, it is simply more cost effective to license out toys and collectibles to other major companies that can do it cheaper, put out more product, and get that product in front of more eyes. This was something that ultimately DC Direct could not do, and frankly I don’t know if it was something that they wanted to do. They probably were not trying to compete with the McFarlane’s and Mattel’s of the world. They were trying to provide die-hard fans with awesome collectibles.
When you are a small company, that might fly for a little while, because it creates a connection with fans. Unfortunately DC’s budget is controlled by a corporate overload that comes from the business side of things and not a creative side of the world. That means, when you aren’t producing enough for the bottom line, you become a liability.
With 22 years of service to fans, DC Direct has put out some fantastic product, that will no doubt go down as some of the finest DC Comics collectibles ever produced. They were willing to take risks that no one else would. I mean did you ever think you would get a tattooed up Harley Quinn on a motorcycle statue? Or how about Dr. Fate’s replica life size helmet?
Now what does this mean for all of the unreleased product? Who knows? Could all of the solicited items still be released? If I were a betting man, I would say that everything that has been solicited will no doubt be produced, because more than likely it is already in some state of production and Warner Bros. probably doesn’t want to totally lose all the money that was put in to the items. Only time will tell.
I sincerely want to wish all those at DC Direct the greatest of luck in finding new jobs. No doubt they will be picked up by other companies very soon. There was some extraordinary talent that lined those halls.
What are some of your favorite items that DC Direct produced over the years? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
About DC Direct:
DC Direct is the exclusive collectibles division of DC Comics, which manufactures and markets over 100 products each year. These fantastic items, ranging from action figures to cold-cast porcelain statues, are based on the world-famous DC Comics superheroes and other characters of the DC Universe. Each product is designed with the greatest attention to detail and authenticity. The DC Direct line is highly regarded and sought after by fans and collectors for its superior quality and limited availability. You can’t miss with collectibles from DC Direct.