The New Year holiday is a time for both reflection and looking forward. Almost every publication, network, YouTuber, blogger, etc. does some sort of “Best of the Year” segment or just a feature that recalls the events of the past 365 days (or in the case of 2020, 366) because it can be both fun and it’s easy to fill time during a period when everyone is looking to take time off. Toy producer Boss Fight Studio is no different in that regard for it did a webcast on its Facebook account recalling the events of 2020 as it pertained to its line of toys. It featured the partners and some of the designers at the company and it gave them a chance to maybe spotlight something that fell through the cracks and also draw attention to what collectors could look forward to in 2021. As a rabid collector of Boss Fight Studio’s Bucky O’Hare line, I tuned in to see if there was any news on that front. Captain Mimi LaFloo was released at the end of 2020 and it was the first figure in the line to see release without an announced figure in the pipeline. It’s a bit of a cruel reality for toy designers that once a new figure is put out fans immediately turn to ask “What’s next?!” but that’s the way it is.
Needless to say, the update on the Bucky franchise was not what I would consider promising. To paraphrase, the update (which is archived on Facebook) was that there is no update! There are plenty of figures in stock and ready to order, but the company is not ready to announce another figure to follow. It was, of course, stressed that they love Bucky and have enjoyed their relationship with the license holder, Continuity Comics, but that doesn’t change the reality that there appear to be no plans for Bucky O’Hare at this point in time. Sure, things can change and maybe something gets announced in the future, but for an industry that works on lags of more than a year from conception, to announcement, to release it can certainly be inferred that there will be no new Bucky product in 2021, and if there isn’t an announcement of some kind before the end of the year then you can probably write-off 2022 as well.
2020 was not a good year for a lot of people and things, but for Bucky O’Hare it was a significant improvement over 2019. 2019 was the first year since the line launched that there was no new Bucky product released. Anything that might have released in 2019 was pushed to 2020 due to a variety of reasons, one of which was undoubtedly COVID. It was pretty fruitful though as Boss Fight released two new characters, Bruiser and Mimi, as well as a fun variant of the Storm Toad Trooper. I, of course, got all three and even in the case of the Storm Toad I got two. I am all-in on this line and that pretty much includes new sculpts and variants at this point.
It should be noted that Bucky O’Hare was the first license Boss Fight Studio acquired. Since then, the company has added a bunch more and has released or is preparing to release action figures based on Sam & Max, Flash Gordon, Zorro, and more. It’s a small, Massachusetts-based, company that sells a lot of its product direct to consumers with a few internet outlets and comic shops also stocking product. Space is a real constraint for a company of Boss Fight Studio’s size and I took the comment from the Facebook Live event about having plenty of stock to mean there physically is not any more room for Bucky O’Hare figures in their warehouse. At least, the company does not want to devote more space to the line. Bucky O’Hare is, and I’ve said it many times, a niche license. The fanbase is small and has been given no reason to grow over the past few decades as pretty much the only new Bucky merch have been the toys of Boss Fight Studio. And being that this is a small company, it can be assumed the figures are being sold at a price that is as low as it can be, and at $35 a figure, it’s not priced to invite a casual fan that may have a fading memory of the old Hasbro line or Konami game. And the fact that they’re not in a lot of physical stores also means the company loses out on impulse buys. That’s all to say that Bucky O’Hare is dependent on its fanbase, and it’s a small, limited, fanbase.
If that sounds negative, I don’t intend for it to be. I think of it as a realist point of view. From what I understand in speaking with people who have some inside info on the line, it’s that it’s a pretty flat line in terms of sales. In some respects, that’s good as it implies that the fans have bought basically every character Boss Fight has put out in roughly equal numbers. They know what to expect, and since they’ve released 6 sculpts in the line they must not be losing money on it or else why keep putting figures out? Boss Fight Studio isn’t Hasbro or NECA where it can take on some pet projects that maybe just break even or actually come in at a loss, so the fact that the line has gone as long as it has tells me it’s not a loser. It just doesn’t appear to possess any growth potential, and when the company is launching new licenses that maybe have more active and excited fanbases, it’s easy to push Bucky aside. And it can also say to the company that if they do indeed come back to it they know what to expect sales-wise
All of this is to say that I’ve had this line and Bucky on my mind in general for the past few weeks. I’ve been in a reflective mood when it comes to this toy line. When Boss Fight Studio announced this toy line back in 2017, I was both surprised and psyched. Up to that point, Bucky O’Hare had come to feel like a forgotten property not even worthy of a true DVD release in the United States. It’s legacy seemed destined to be constrained to the retro gaming circle where the old Nintendo game was both praised and a bit of a hard-to-come-by item. If someone had told me I could have a modern Bucky O’Hare action figure I would have taken it and happily paid probably a dumb amount of money for it at that. A whole line though was a dream come true. I was also guarded from the moment it was announced though. The only other Bucky announcements from the 2000s had ended in cancellation before anything was officially produced. As a result, I’ve always approached this line with the thought that whatever figure I get could be the last one. An announcement or prototype unveiling didn’t necessarily mean I’d ever get my hands on the product, and that has even been true of this line. Boss Fight showed off additional variants of both Bucky and Dead-Eye that have gone unreleased, alongside a line of mini figure and vehicle combos that are apparently cancelled at this point.
Even though I’ve always had reservations about this line’s survival, it didn’t stop me from compiling a wish list for where I wanted the line to go. And even as I made that, I mostly acknowledged that the chances of seeing every character on that list get made was remote. Now that we’re at what can best be called a pause in the line, it has me wondering what it would take to end this whole thing on a happy note? To bring it all home, so to speak.
For most collectors I know who have been into this line, they’ve largely wanted to see it re-make the characters Hasbro did and if they could have got to Commander Dogstar’s crew then all the better. For me, I have a lot of nostalgic attachment to the cartoon so I’ve always wanted to see that embraced more than the classic toy line or even comic. A character like Mimi was one that excited me, but appeared to disappoint others. That said, we have presently received the following figures: Bucky, Jenny, Dead-Eye, Bruiser, Mimi, and the Storm Toad. It’s a selection heavy on good guys and naturally my greatest wants are bad guys at this point. The lowly Storm Toad Troopers have no one to lead them, and they’re hardly formidable even with leadership so without they’re just laser fodder. As much as I would love a Toadborg or Al Negator, it pains me to admit they’re now low priority, because if we want to end the line with a sense of closure, and only have room for a figure or two, I think we need to focus on Bucky’s crew.
When both the comic and animated series begins, Bucky’s crew consists of the following: Jenny, Dead-Eye, Chief Engineer Bruce, and A.F.C. Blinky. Bruce is the brother of Bruiser and he gets killed off rather quickly and is essentially replaced by Bruiser in the cartoon’s second episode. Bruiser, being a marine, is not really equipped to take over for Bruce and Bucky is forced to turn to the displaced human, Willy DuWitt, to serve as his new engineer. I am not a huge fan of the Willy character, but I can’t deny he is a member of Bucky’s crew after that first episode and is pretty essential for a toy line based on the property. Hasbro already provided the blueprint for a successful Willy figure back in ’91 and that’s to put him in his space suit (a holdover from Bruce) and equip him with his silly squirt gun. For Boss Fight, this does mean a whole new sculpt which isn’t a new thing for this line as basically every character is entirely unique. He possibly could reuse Bruiser’s feet, but that’s it. And it would mean the standard roll out of accessories: alternate hands, head (masked and unmasked), and a gun. And seeing how the glasses of the old Hasbro toy always seemed to break or fall off, it would be really cool and appreciated if he came with a spare set.
More important than Willy though, is that other character who was there from the start. Little Blinky was always a favorite of mine. He just has a nice, clean, and even cute design being that he’s a little robot with a giant eye for a head. The old Hasbro figure was not in-scale and he was the same size as everyone else when he should be noticeably shorter than Bucky and is absolutely dwarfed by the likes of Bruiser. I’ve wondered if the fact that he’s so small has turned off Boss Fight from doing him since he’d look so tiny beside the other figures, but would probably still need to retail for the standard MSRP. As we saw with their release of Max from Sam & Max (a review from me is coming, I promise), it seems like the solution there is to pack the figure with some more accessories, but with Blinky what do you give him? In the original comics and cartoon, he really doesn’t use anything. No guns, no signature items, and being that his head is just an eye he doesn’t really demand additional faceplates or heads. Sure, you can get creative and play with the size of the his pupil to illustrate surprise or even fear, but that’s all. Hasbro gave him a jetpack with a gun and I assume Boss Fight would just do the same, but what if they didn’t have to? He’s still a figure needing a unique sculpt, tooling, and production and being that I’m not an industry insider I don’t know how much cost accessories add to the package, but what if they could do a two-pack?
A final release in the line of just Willy and Blinky together as a two-pack would be a neat way to put a bow on the whole toy line. Could they price it closer to Bruiser’s retail? That I don’t know. Is there enough fandom to consider a made-to-order release? I suspect “no,” in that if Boss Fight solicited such a thing there might not be enough orders to satisfy a factory order at a tenable cost. And as neat as a two-pack would be, I don’t know that it makes any real financial sense since anyone who spends $35 on a Willy action figure will probably spend $35 on a Blinky. And honestly, if they could do a Blinky on the cheap compared with the other figures produced thus far I’d be totally fine with the company putting him out at the usual price-point to boost the profit margin on the line in hopes that it could help finance a Willy. Simply put, a two-pack makes sense only if Blinky has little or no accessories and if Boss Fight just wants to do one, last, release that completes the team.
As much as it would pain me to see this line come to an end, I’d feel a lot better about it if it ended with Bucky having his whole crew together. I think Boss Fight could do an awesome Toadborg, but I understand their reluctance considering he’d have to be another deluxe figure. If Bruiser underperformed relative to the other figures, it would make sense that the company would have little interest in doing another figure with a $55 price tag. Even though I personally think the fanbase would be more excited for Toadborg than it was Bruiser. If Toadborg can happen one day then I’ll jump for joy, but my focus is on the crew and I hope it’s a goal Boss Fight and Continuity has as well. We don’t know how the license works. It could have an expiration on it, it could expire if the company doesn’t release new product within a certain window of time, or it could be totally at-will with both parties able to cancel at anytime. It’s not like Continuity is fielding offers from other toy makers looking to get in on that Bucky “action.” My guess would be the license is Boss Fight’s until they no longer want it, but sometimes company’s can be unrealistic about the value of their property so who knows? Hopefully both parties have the same goal and can work towards that. For now, at least we have a great selection of characters that, in some respects, shouldn’t even exist! I’ll continue to hold out hope for more and if there’s any Bucky O’Hare news you’ll definitely be able to read about it here.