Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2003 Inferno BAT

In 2003, collectors were army builder mad.  Any figure that could be used as an army builder, was.  Even marginal figures that had "Viper" after their name were highly sought after and could be resold for profits on the second hand market.  It was a nutty time in many ways.  For whatever reason, though, Hasbro was loathe to really explore the army building possibilities.  While they had released the greatest army building pack of all time in 1998 with the Cobra Infantry Team, they simply refused to revisit the notion of more than one army builder in a pack.  As such, collectors were left frustrated with dozens, or hundreds!, of extra Destro, Cobra Commander, Mirage or Big Ben figures.  The rationale from Hasbro was that they were still targeting kids and kids gravitated towards these characters.  It was a battle collectors simply were not winning: until December of 2002.  At that time, Hasbro showcased a collector themed army building pack that would be an Internet exclusive.  The BAT pack was designed for army builders in terms of figure selection, price and distribution method.  Collectors were least until they saw the sample figures proposed in the 6 figure pack.  While the BAT figures were acceptable, the Inferno BAT figures left many collectors cold.  The result is a figure that is generally disliked, but a concept that may have found its time.

This figure makes sense.  I get why Hasbro came up with it and why it was released.  Really, it was a good idea and was something the Joe line had not seen since the highly unpopular Shadow Ninjas from 1994.  A translucent figure was a way to bring something different to a line of repaints that had become rather stale.  For the BAT character, the notion of see through plastic was plausible and within the realm of acceptable stretches for collectors.  Despite that, though, the figure just  While the see through red material is interesting, the reality is that seeing the O-Ring and internal construction is somewhat  limiting.  Had Hasbro taken a step to outline the insides of the figure with something that would have simulated machinery or circuitry, the figure would be light years better.  Of course, it would have also been light years more expensive.

The Inferno BAT is a straight up repaint of the 1991 BAT figure.  That sleeker mold held a lot of potential that was largely realized through the black repaint that was included in this 6 pack.  The Inferno BAT just being a repaint of the same mold that was repainted in a more collector friendly way in the same pack likely played into collector malaise in regards to the character.  But, the '91 BAT mold hadn't been seen for 12 years and, at the time, '91 BATs were not overly common.  Also included with the figure were some repainted V2 BAT accessories.  Instead of the full '91 BAT gear, though, Hasbro only opted for the hand and a laser/flamethrower attachment.  Gone was the backpack on which to store these items as well as the missile launcher that gave the original figure some chutzpah.  The hand and laser attachment are decent enough.  But, with no backpack in which to store them, the figure seems unfinished.  With this diminished accessory complement, it would have been nice to see the figure include a rifle of some kind to arm him a bit more.  It should also be noted that the hand attachments, especially on the Inferno BATs, can fit rather loosely and are prone to falling off if you put something in the figure's hand.  It won't break the hand or the peg, but is annoying if you are trying to display a large number.  (Or, take a photo of him in the plants, holding up a Skyhawk part!)

When Hasbro came up with the idea of an army building 6 figure pack that would be distributed through online dealers, they had grandiose hopes.  They imagined this would be the wave of the future with online dealers ordering massive quantities to ship to eager collectors.  Future 6 packs were planned, even before the BAT pack was released.  However, the orders for the BATs were tepid at best.  While small, Joe specific dealers ordered heavily, their notion of ordering heavily was very different from what a Target, Wal Mart, KB Toys or Toys R Us would have purchased.  Plus, the minimum buy on BAT packs was $10,000.  At a wholesale price of $8 per pack, dealers had to purchase 1250 BAT packs at a minimum if they wanted to sell them at all.  That priced some dealers out of the game, and hurt the overall sales.  Within days of the BAT packs going on sale, the Head of Boys Toys at Hasbro stated that the packs hadn't sold as well as expected and future offerings would be cancelled.  

Collectors, by and large, weren't swayed with the packs.  Despite dealers pricing them at $15 per set (only after what many might call collusion where the prices were proposed as high as $22.99 per pack prior to release) collectors didn't find the 3 decent black BATs, 2 Inferno BATs and an Overkill in every pack really worth the time or money to splurge indiscriminately.  Rather than buying out dozens of packs each, many collectors were content with 4 or 5 as they didn't like the black BATs enough to justify the, worthless, extra Infernos and Overkills.  The result was that dealers, who hadn't ordered enough to meet Hasbro's expectations, were now left with massive overstock of unsold sets.  And, only a few months after the BAT pack release, Hasbro showcased upcoming Cobra Troopers, Officers and Crimson Guards that would be available at Toys R Us in 2004.  (The TRU exclusive Cobra Trooper/Officer 6 pack would have been the 2nd Internet Exclusive had the BATs been successful.  Truthfully, had that pack been offered to collectors first, it would have sold well enough to at least justify a second attempt by Hasbro at the Internet dealer distribution.)  Collectors moved on and BATs languished for years at many dealers. blew BAT packs out for around $6 each just to move the stock.  And, BAT packs ultimately showed up at Tuesday Morning stores for $6 as well after Hasbro dumped their unsold surplus to the overstock liquidator.

This failure soured Hasbro on the ability of collectors to sustain any line.  That was unfair since the product, really, wasn't awesome.  But, the Hasbro people of the time were generally down on collectors and viewed them, and the legacy ARAH figures with contempt.  The reality of the Inferno BATs is that they have remained rather unpopular.  While you don't see as many for sale as you might have 7 or 8 years ago, those that are out there are generally ignored.  Many dealers try to sell the figures for $6 to $7 if they are still bagged.  But, those go heavily unsold.  You can get them for $3 or so if you buy in lots or are willing to be patient for someone to sell them for market price.  Either way, the figures are cheap, unappreciated and generally a forgotten part of the repaint era Joe line.

Hasbro's plan was to sell 10,000 of these BAT packs.  The dealers of the time simply did not purchase that many.  It's likely, though, that the overall production of 10,000 was still realized and the overstock sales to Tuesday Morning and were clearance dumps for Hasbro to rid itself of unsold inventory.  So, at 2 Inferno BATs per pack, that puts their production numbers at an estimated 20,000 figures.  Depending on your point of view, that may seem rather large, or rather small.  But, it was in line with the number of figures produced in the Toys R Us exclusive 6 figure packs of the era.  The figure for whom this info is useful, though, is Overkill.  At one per pack, that figure had around 10,000 units produced. For a mass release, that is the smallest number of any figure of the repaint era.  The fact that he's concentrated with collectors and, frankly, kind of sucks, though, prevents that low production for having any real affect on his availability or pricing.

For me, this figure is a novelty.  Visually, it's interesting, especially as a one off conversation piece.  But, that's about the extent of the figure's value to my collection.  It is a high quality piece in terms of paint application and design.  But, it's also rather limited.  I find the black BAT figures from the set more useful.  But, even they are limited due to the lack of backpack or firearm.  As such, this is not a figure that has seen any meaningful use since 2003 when they were new.  I don't think it's a bad figure at all.  But, not all solid releases are worthy of heavy use or army building.  Some are good to appreciate on their own for what they were.  The Inferno BAT encompasses that perfectly.

The concept of the Inferno BAT, though, has lived on.  There is an exclusive update of the character to be offered in a figure subscription service.  Collectors have generally received this figure with great positivity and seem to be genuinely anticipating its arrival.  But, the new version uses a sculpt that is more true to the vintage BAT and includes many more, substantially better detailed accessories.  In general, it's a better designed figure.  If someone were to take the 2008 Headhunter BAT and repaint that mold as an Inferno BAT, it would also, likely, be better received than these 2003 versions.  But, that's not going to happen and collectors are left with just these Inferno BATs to represent the character in vintage form.  The fact that they are cheap is good.  And, because of their low price, they are worthwhile figures to have moderation.

Really, only one Inferno BAT survived my modern army builder purge in the late 2000's.  One for display was all I needed.  For others, mileage may vary.  Many collectors took advantage of cheap Inferno BATs at the time of the figure's release (often as low as $1 per figure) and built up large armies.  Personally, I think this a figure best left at a quantity of 1.  Others will have differing opinions.  But, the figure is something distinctive released at a time when that was not the norm.  In reviewing the figure now, I see the quality that was obscured by the disappointment of his release in 2003.  But, I still have no interest in owning any more of them.  He's a decent figure who has, likely, seen his final use in my collection.

2003 Inferno BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Mail Away, Internet Exclusive, 1984 Sky Hawk, Steel Brigade

2003 Inferno BAT, Battle Android Trooper, Mail Away, Internet Exclusive, BAT, V2

1 comment:

  1. Once the novelty wears off, Inferno BATS are silly. Too 90's at a time when fans wanted 80's Cobras.

    I didn't know all that Hasbro backstory. They attempted to cater to collector without asking what collectors really wanted, then blamed the failure on collectors. Sounds about right.