I know the GI Joe line has gone through those pains as well and I get it, I really do. One of the biggest events in recent memories was the Rise of Cobra disaster. Stores were flooded with merchandise, mostly the first wave of somewhat mediocre figures. Later waves showed much more promise, but it really couldn't save the faltering sales.
Even before RoC, the line suffered due to lack of sales. The later waves of the 25th Anniversary figures, including the few Resolute single figures, made their way to stores like Family Dollar and an odd little regional chain called Ollie's. Oh, I loaded up on those cheap BATs found at Family Dollar. Ollie's was a mythical place to me, many states away, never to be visited.
(Just a reminder, I'm a hack. This crap is based mostly on stuff I've read over the years and my own opinion. For what it's worth.)
Ross, TJ Maxx, and Marshall's turned into treasure troves as extra and unreleased RoC merchandise flooded those discounted chains. It was a wonderful time to be a GI Joe collector despite cries of "Deth of teh line" from across the fandom.
GI Joe recovered somewhat with the release of the Pursuit of Cobra and 30th Anniversary waves of figures. The vehicles didn't fare too well and the few that were released were often found at the discount chains not too long after the release in the big box stores.
Sometime during the course of this retail nonsense, a new store appeared - Five Below. Nothing in the store was sold at a cost over $5.00. Nothing.
I checked it out, thought that they had some pretty cool stuff, but nothing of real interest. I thought to myself, "If they ever get GI Joe figures, I'm screwed."
And eventually, they did...
I actually found out about GI Joe showing up at Five Below from the "What's on Joe Mind" podcast. The crew reported that there had been some sightings of Joe figures at Five Below sporadically across the country. As soon as I could, I hit my local store, and there at the front of the store was a wheel-barrow loaded down with brand new Wave 4 GI Joe Retaliation figures. You know, the Night Viper wave? I should have whipped out the credit card and bought every damn one of those figures - for two reasons - to help out a few Joe buds online and make some serious profit on the 'Bay.
But I didn't. I bought just a few, meaning to come back later. Once I did, the Night Vipers were cleaned out.
Sometime during the past year, Ollie's makes its way into my area. Once I saw this "new" store, I remembered those tales from before.
I stopped by a while back and noted that the store was getting in the smaller vehicles and those lame-ass 12" figures. Were the 4" figures on the horizon?
Sure enough, the ad came out for this year's Black Friday sales and there they were - the action figures on sale for $3.99 each! Damn!! As I read the ad, I began to consider if I really needed more figures. This was an awesome wave with some really amazing figures.
I really only would have bought some of the Cobra Combat Ninja Troopers and maybe a few of the "Ultimate" Duke figures - both of which were great as troop builders. The more I thought about them, the less I discovered that I cared.
Would it really be worth it to get up and on the road at around 4:30 this morning? Brave the cold and the idiot crowds out there? Hadn't I learned anything from my nine plus years at Walmart? Ultimately, I decided that I really didn't need more figures and I slept in and I'm okay with that.
Tomorrow, I've got to take the dog to Pet Smart to get her nails trimmed. Maybe I'll swing by and see if there's anything left. Or maybe not.
I want to go back to my original point about discounted toy lines. I get it, I really do. I'm sure collectors were jumping all over these figures and I don't blame them at all.
This discounted line is different, this one hurts a little bit more. These amazing figures barely had a chance at stores like Walmart and Target. Both of those stores dropped the line before these waves had a chance to show up. Toys R Us was the only "loyal" retailer - sort of. They usually had a shitty location on the side counter for GI Joe, even the 50th Anniversary exclusive line. Hell, I was buying some of this wave of figures from Walgreen's and Rite-Aid.
Somewhere, someone really screwed up GI Joe. Was it the big box stores? Were they burned by the overstock from Rise of Cobra and the scheduling screw up of Retaliation? Had Hasbro lost confidence in their flagship line that saved their corporate asses at least twice in the past 50 years? How does a line go almost from the warehouse to the discounter?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but these discounted GI Joe figures seems to be a pretty crappy end to the 50th Birthday of GI Joe.
Happy freakin' birthday, GI Joe. Dammit.