Todd McFarlane took part in an interview last week with popular action figure reviewer and YouTube personality Shartimus Prime on his channel. While they covered a variety of subjects, there was a segment of the interview that has rubbed people the wrong way all weekend. When discussing female action figures, he…well, he completely shows his ass is the only way to put it. Not only does he say that he couldn't put a whole wave of female action figures in one wave at retail in the "boys figure aisle," but he also tells a horribly long story about a boy receiving a female action figure and being incredibly disappointed, before also implying that the sadness of getting a female action figure may lead to someone becoming a serial killer. It's pretty gross, and you can see the clip below.
Todd McFarlane: Prove It Then
I have seen quite a few reactions to what he said. Of course, there are the extreme sides. "What an appalling thing to say!". "Oh, he was clearly joking." "Well, he is right- female action figures DON'T sell!". And it is that last one, the crux of Todd's whole argument, that really irked me. The figure business is one of the strangest going right now in the collector realm. The entire business is built upon the lie that kids buy action figures when if you really talk to people in the industry, they know the truth. We, adults, are the collectors, and the number of kids buying action figures is shrinking every year. The figure game is a collectors market now, with kids gravitating towards mystery boxes, LEGO sets, app-enabled gimmicks, and things of that nature. It is the adult collectors who are still here, buying figures because that is what we grew up doing, and we are stuck in the endless loop of nostalgia and reliving our childhood.
Companies like Hasbro, Mattel, NECA, and yes, McFarlane Toys know this. They also know that they have ignored an audience and a social movement over these last few years, asking, "Where the hell are the female superheroes, wrestlers, and action figures? A few years ago, the hashtag #WheresNatasha went viral when Avengers: Age of Ultron was released, and Black Widow was largely left out of figure waves and merchandise for the film. It was around the same time the WWE was having its own revolution, as the hashtag #GiveDivasAChance also went viral. In one instance, the WWE listened, and women's wrestling took off in a way it may never have before, but things kinda remained the same in the other instance.
Todd McFarlane is also not the only one who feels this way about female hero figures either. His customers, or at least a vocal part of them, feel the same way. The same narratives he spewed in that video are repeated on social media constantly, and frankly, it is tiring. The same people who complain have no problems snatching up the hot figure from the latest wave of a figure line, and guess what? For years, that has tended to be the female figure. Guess what? Not all figures are made for boys or girls; a vast majority of collectors want them all. Maybe the problem is not the myth that "Boys don't want female action figures"; perhaps the problem is, they aren't getting enough of them, and the industry isn't giving them to the people clamoring for them.
I took a deep dive into the numbers or what figures came out in 2021 in five of the most popular lines of figures on the pegs right now: Marvel Legends and Star Wars Black Series from Hasbro, Masters of the Universe and WWE from Mattel, and yes, the DC Multiverse line from Todd McFarlane's McFarlane Toys. I added up every figure released in the calendar year, including exclusive releases and online exclusives, to see what percentage of figures released in the various lines were female releases. Let's start with Hasbro.
Marvel Legends releases in 2021: 147
Number of female figures released: 34
Percentage of the line: 23%
Star Wars Black Series releases in 2021: 75
Number of female figures: 9
Percentage of the line: 12%
Hasbro has made a concerted effort to get more female figures into their Marvel Legends line. According to Todd, they even went as far as doing the unthinkable and putting multiple women in one wave, peaking with three in the What If?… wave last summer, to huge sales, I might add. Star Wars is so broken with repaints and repacks that three of the female releases last year were the same Princess Leia figure. Now, let's shift to Mattel. For these proposes, I counted MOTU Origins and Masterverse together. For WWE, I counted Basics, Elites, Championship Showdowns, Ultimates, exclusives, everything.
Masters of the Universe figures released in 2021: 25
Number of female figures: 5
Percentage of the line: 20%
WWE figures released in 2021: 246
Number of female figures: 38
Percentage of the line: 15%
First off — wow, I used to be a completionist on the WWE line somehow. MOTU gets a smidge of a pass, as they have corrected and have a number of female figures coming in both Origins and Masterverse coming in the next couple of months and adding Sun Man into the line. WWE…well, there is work to be done there. The team over there has done a great job getting at least one female figure into Elite and especially Basic waves, but here could be more. There is a market for female wrestling figures, and they have never tried a female line before, instead of doing everything BUT figures in their own line. The black mark for them is their Target Legends line. So far, in seven waves since the line returned, there has not been a single female figure released. Again though, they recognized that and the next two waves have female wrestlers finally represented.
That brings us to Todd McFarlane. These are not going to be flattering numbers, Todd. First, we can go over the DC Multiverse numbers for 2021.
DC Multiverse figures released in 2021: 91
Number of female figures: 9
Percentage of the line: 10%
Of those nine, six were different versions of Wonder Woman, and two were Harley Quinn. Well, hey, that's just one year. They have made figures for two years now. It gets no better if you factored in the start of the line in 2020 and what has been released so far in 2022 and revealed to be coming this year, either.
DC Multiverse figures released and revealed so far: 195
Number of female figures: 19
Percentage of the line: 10%
It gets way worse if you look at every figure McFarlane Toys released in 2021 across all of their major licenses, including Spawn, Mortal Kombat, Princess Bride, DC, My Hero Academia, Avatar The Last Airbender, and more:
Number of McFarlane Toys figures released in 2021: 177
Number of female figures: 12
Percentage of the lines: 7%
That's right. Besides DC Multiverse figures, only three female action figures were released in 2021 by McFarlane Toys: Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride, Belle from the Disney Multiverse line, and Katara from Avatar. For those keeping score at home, that means McFarlane Toys produces the least amount of female action figures on the market compared to some of the most popular figure brands on the pegs, and by a wide margin.
It is not too big a leap to suggest that companies investing more effort to get more female figures on the pegs are seeing success. I also say that knowing that DC Multiverse was the top-selling action figure line of the year in 2021, at least to retailers. But think about what your sale would be if you didn't just take one group of people into account when deciding what characters need to be released.
Todd McFarlane can be a nice guy, and he has been in the interactions I have had with him. But he is severely wrong here, and to say these things in a public forum and evidently hold them close as a business model is antiquated and disgusting. Even if that was a poor attempt at humor, there is no place for that in this hobby, or at least there shouldn't be. All that rhetoric does is give credence to these false narratives. So, put your money where your mouth is, Todd. How could you know unless you try?
Do a four or five-figure wave of only female figures. Prove what you are saying is true. Here is a partial list of all the female DC characters you have ignored so far in this line: Starfire, Zatanna, Terra, a comics version of Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Supergirl, Mera, Black Canary, Huntress, Stargirl, Hawkgirl, Power Girl, Raven, Donna Troy, Lois Lane, Killer Frost, Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, Jade, Cheetah, Amanda Waller, Talia al Ghul, Renee Montoya, Nubia, Wonder Girl, Batwoman, Big Barda, Jessica Cruz, Katana, Star Sapphire, Mary Marvel, and plenty more that I am forgetting, that is just off the top of my head.
You honestly are going to sit there and tell me that if you did a five-figure wave at regular retail of Catwoman, Zatanna, Poison Ivy, Supergirl, and Power Girl, that they would just sit there? So do it then. And not just Todd McFarlane either. In any of the lines discussed above, there hasn't been a single full wave of female figures ever offered. None and these companies are always wondering how to attract more people to these lines; why not actually try and do this and foster great change here? It is way past time. Nothing at all is stopping you.
Until you do it, Todd, we will just shake our head and, like your figures as of late, give you the side-eye.