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Would you buy a $400 Marvel action figure? Thousands of people can’t wait.

A monstrous 32-inch-tall plastic Galactus could point the way to the future of superhero toys

Hasbro's largest Marvel action figure was crowdfunded with more than 30,000 backers. (Hasbro)

In comic books, Galactus is known as the devourer of worlds. When it comes to action figures, Galactus is now the destroyer of wallets.

Hasbro decided that its newest figure depicting the giant planet eater from Marvel’s Fantastic Four wouldn’t be the typical six-inch toy that retails in the $20 to $30 range and decorates work desks and bookshelves. This Galactus, with a design based on the art of famed Marvel writer-artist John Byrne, would be a towering 32-inch-tall monstrosity of plastic articulation. The figure, scheduled for release some time this fall, is the biggest toy Hasbro has ever built for its Marvel line, which is fitting, given Galactus’s gigantic stature.

The price for such oversize ambition? $399.99.

How do you know whether a fan base will step up to luxury-level action-figure pricing? Hasbro’s answer is to crowdfund in advance to gauge interest, as part of the toy maker’s HasLab series, which started in 2018 and is aimed at creating dream-scenario action figures not available in stores.

A product is presented online for fans, who then have 45 days to pledge the full price. If the goal number of backers is reached, those backers are charged, and the toy goes into production. If not, the toy doesn’t go into production, no one is charged and it’s back to the drawing board.

“We are very aware that money is very precious, and things can be tight. And while these items might not be for everybody, we hope they are accessible for anybody and everybody who has the opportunity to save up for them,” said Dwight Stall, the principal product designer for Hasbro’s Marvel team. “We thought [32 inches] was a really strong size that you could still manipulate and get in and play with it, and it wouldn’t be too [overbearing] for the user. But it would still look massive and powerful on your shelf to tower over all your action figures.”

A superhero action figure approaching half a grand or more isn’t an anomaly. Hong Kong action figure maker Hot Toys has a highly detailed Iron Man figure based off the character’s movie appearances that cost over $400. A Wolverine statue from Sideshow Collectibles costs $575. Name-brand recognition and a promise of greater detail in design contribute to those prices. So Hasbro knows when it goes bigger in size and price, it isn’t alone — and its crowdfunding model allows the toy maker to be imaginative with its ideas and test the pulse of its fandom, who will always have the final word.

The Galactus figure’s call for backers came in summer 2021, with a goal of achieving 14,000 of them, a number it didn’t reach until its 40th day of fundraising. But in the final five days, something unusual happened: The number of backers doubled. The final total: 30,811. Figures will ship out to backers later this fall, but that hasn’t stopped some from already offering Galactus on eBay starting at prices as high as $790.

Ryan Ting, Hasbro’s senior manager of global brand development and marketing for the Marvel Legends line, refers to the surge of support as FOMO (fear of missing out). A section of fans was not ready to commit unless they knew the toy was going to be made, but when they saw the figure would go into production, they jumped at the chance to get it.

“The whole premise of the HasLab model is that we build to order,” Ting said. “Once the campaign is closed, it’s not available for sale later on. Fans who missed out have no other choice but to go to the secondary market.”

The voracious appetite for Baby Yoda toys

The HasLab’s first attempt to go big with Marvel was in 2020, when it announced the crowdfunding of a 26-inch Sentinel action figure. The characters — robotic mutant hunters from the world of Marvel’s X-Men — are known for being gigantic, and served as a litmus test of sorts to see whether Hasbro’s fandom would take to such a large action figure with an even larger price tag. The Sentinel needed 6,000 backers minimum, and in 45 days gained almost 22,000 pledging the full price of $349.99. The Sentinel figures shipped the next year.

“For us, the natural progression was going from something from the X-Men universe with the Sentinel to what’s even bigger, what’s even badder, and that was the Fantastic Four’s Galactus,” Stall said.

Hasbro isn’t stopping there. The next HasLab is now live online, featuring a six-inch Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider, with a flamed-out muscle car almost 19 inches long, for $349.99. It’s already amassed more than half of its needed 9,000 backers, with around a month left of fundraising to go.

“I think we’ve definitely seen that over the last couple of years that people aren’t afraid to spend money for something that is really a centerpiece in their collection,” Ting said.

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