Report: One Marvel exec blocked making Black Widow toys

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This past spring there was a a lot of hullabaloo over the lack of Black Widow toys from the Hasbro Avengers: Age of Ultron toy line. This was confirmed by some anonymous insider accounts and observation. In the massive crush of A:AOU merch only a handful even featured the Black Widow, one of the film’s most prominent characters;

Among the 60 items in the featured Avengers: Age of Ultron line available on marvel.com, Black Widow shows up only four times (on a video-game starter pack, on a men’s shirt, on a book cover, and on a shopping bag). Elizabeth Olsen’s new character, Scarlet Witch, only appears once, on a separate book cover, though to be fair, her brother Quicksilver also only shows up there. (To be clear, we’re just talking about these two shops –– Black Widow and Scarlet Witch products are available at Lego, Funko, and a number of other places.) Weirdly, popular female Marvel character Captain Marvel, a.k.a. Carol Danvers, does get an action figure on marvel.com despite not being in the film at all. Perhaps a carry over from an earlier script?


The crowning blow came when toy sets featuring Natasha’s most dashing moment—riding a motorcycle out the back of a plane to the rescue–were released, she was replaced by Captain America in the Hasbro line

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and Iron Man in the Mattel lines

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The lack of Natasha was so clear and pronounced that even her onscreen love interest, Mark Ruffalo, was moved to protest on twitter:

Now it is true there is a Marvel Select Black Widow, but that line is aimed at grown-up collectors. And as I myself Instagrammed, she appeared in certain Lego sets:



But still, Black Widow—and Gamora before her—seemed to be victims of the cold war mentality that states that girls don’t like action figures. 

And might there be a singular force behind this idea?

Well, if you just read the piece by Devin Faraci about Marvel Studios losing it’s Creative Comitte input we just quoted, you might say yes. 

And if you guessed maybe Ike Perlmutter might be to blame, move to the head of the class, as Faraci notes in a throwaway:

(trivia: I understand the reason there are no Black Widow toys is specifically because Ike, with a background in toys, believes girl toys do not sell and thus vetoed them again and again. One guy was the roadblock.)


It only takes one guy to be the roadblock, or worse, but luckily, even the great pink/blue toy divide is beginning to crumble a bit, as girls’ love of nerdy things and entertainment is now firmly established. As you may recall, a few weeks ago so Target announced they were doing away with separate pink and blue aisles for girls and boys toys, or indeed, labeling things like bedding and building sets that have no gender bias as being for boys or girls. On a recent trip to Target I did still see action figures in one aisle and baby dolls in another, but at least the announcement that either was for girls or boys was gone. 

Although Faraci mentions Ike’s Black Widow veto, it isn’t clear if moving Marvel Studios away from him is actually going to improve the toy situation, as Ike has had a big say in Disney/Marvel’s consumer products division. Hopefully more modern thinking will control movie licensing from here out.

Comments

  1. Torsten Adair says

    What does Disney have to lose from testing the girls’ hero market?
    They don’t manufacture the items, they license them.
    If it doesn’t sell, Disney still gets the licensing fee, right?

    Start with clothing, like t-shirts. Easy and inexpensive to design, approvals aren’t complicated, it lasts a season.

    Her Universe already has a relationship with Lucasfilm. Why don’t they make Marvel shirts?

  2. Brett says

    Well Ike eventually got overruled, because Hasbro debutted multiple Black Widow and Scarlet Witch figures as part of the next wave of Age of Ultron figures at SDCC. I made sure to snap photos of those unicorns.

  3. says

    Torsten, Her Universe does have a deal with Marvel and just launched a bunch of Black Widow shirts a few weeks ago at Disney D23 Expo.

  4. Andrew L. says

    oh, come on! It’s bad enough that the toy companies themselves give female characters no respect in their action figure lines (don’t get me started on Mattel and Avatar: The Last Airbender) without Perlmutter feeding the flames. We’ve got to put an end to this mindset that boys do not want female action figures.

  5. Aaron says

    Based on Disney cutting Marvel Comics out of the moviemaking process, it sounds like Disney is not happy with a lot of things Ike is doing. Wonder if this is one of those things? Like Torsten said – Disney could not stand to lose too much money with letting Hasbro or someone license the rights and take on the risk.

  6. Comic2read says

    Some of the most valuable toys are the 1967 Ideal SuperQueens of Wonder Woman and Batgirl. It was STUPID to block Black Widow toys. I suspect the real reason was they feared overprotective mothers would object to the attractive Scarlett Johansson.

  7. Chris brown says

    Imagine a director rehearsing a high school musical doesn’t want to cast the football players but the school wants to see it and the popularity of players will bring in tickets sales, so he does it reluctantly. Truth is not about whether a black widow or scarlet witch toy will sell. We know from the screaming consumers begging for more girl toys they will. The truth is studio executives don’t want to promote women to that equality because their heart and soul doesn’t agree with it. They don’t think anyone will buy the toys because they never would. Johanson ass too small on action figure. Their mindset serves their ego driven decisions. Sure you can let black people into the country club but doesn’t mean you have to put them in the brochure or pictures on the wall.

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