Friday, June 11, 2021

Game Set Match: The Black Order

One of the definitive highs in a toy collector’s hobby is being able to complete a certain team or lineup of characters. It can be a journey full of twists and turns and major frustration. But in the end, seeing a complete line up on the shelf makes it all worth it. With that in mind, I’m starting a new “sub series” of posts called “Game Set Match” where I’ll write about how I completed specific sets or teams in my collection. So let's get started on how I finally got to complete The Black Order.

I never had any real connection with The Black Order. I wasn’t actively reading comics when they first made their debut in 2013. Although I was aware of their existence, nothing about them collectively really screamed groundbreaking or important characters in the Marvel universe. They were basically the new cookie cutter superpowered threats that the heroes had to defeat.

So when Disney had their “grand reveal” of the Black Order making their MCU debut in Avengers Infinity War movie, I was not necessarily blown away. And when Hasbro announced their first Black Order action figures I didn’t rush out to get them.

In 2018, as part of the Avengers Infinity War Marvel Legends rollout, Hasbro released 2 members of the Black Order. Proxima Midnight was part of the first wave of movie figures and Cull Obsidian was the build-a-figure for the second wave. And both of these were easily available everywhere on retail.

But as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t really set on getting them at this point so I basically passed on them. I had multiple opportunities to pick up Proxima at retail but chose not to. And even though I ended up buying almost everyone from the second wave (I skipped on the dark elf Malekith) I decided to save a few bucks by buying them individually sans the BAF pieces to complete Cull.

Then the next year rolled along with the next movie Avengers Endgame and a whole new batch of toys. It was here that Hasbro released the final two Black Order members Ebony Maw and Corvus Glaive. Ebony Maw was part of the first wave of Endgame figures, while Corvus Glaive was lumped in a 2 pack with an older Loki figure sporting some new paint deco.

By this time, since all 4 members had been released, I decided to bite the bullet and complete the team….along with every other Marvel collector out there.

My first score was Cull Obsidian. For some reason, his wave went on clearance so the secondary market was pretty much flooded with loose BAFs. So I was able to find one at a fairly cheap price. One down. Unfortunately the same wasn’t the case for Proxima Midnight, who by this time was gone from the retail shelves, making loose figures of her in hobby stores very rare….and soon enough none existent.

Then came Ebony Maw who thankfully was not too difficult to acquire. Wanting to avoid another Proxima Midnight scenario , I immediately pre ordered him online and got him a few days after he was released. Two down.

Corvus Glaive though was another thing altogether. You see, in the previous year, Hasbro seemed to go all out with their Infinity War toys, they were everywhere, especially the 2 packs. So this was what I was banking on with the Endgame rollout. I figured being packed with a less desirable Loki figure, Corvus Glaive wouldn’t be too difficult to find. I was wrong.

Maybe it was Hasbro trying to make up for overproducing toys the year before, but Endgame Marvel Legends, especially the 2 packs never made it to retail in my country. I’m not quite sure what exactly happened there but all of a sudden, Corvus Glaive became the most sought out figure for the most part of the year. And the limited 2 packs that made it to our shores though hobby shop pre orders shot up to almost triple their original price. It was a hard pill to swallow and one I couldn’t bring myself to do.

And so there I was, with half of the Black Order with no idea how to finish up the team. At this point my only real option was eBay which I scanned constantly almost on a daily basis for any decently priced opportunity. And eventually, my patience paid off...although I had to be a little creative.

I came across a user selling both Proxima Midnight AND Corvus Glaive along with a few more common characters (including Ebony Maw which I already had). He was selling the lot at a reasonable price, and I figured that if I managed to sell the other figures off locally, I could actually get my last two Black Order figures at close to retail I bit the bullet and bought it. Once in hand, it didn’t prove too difficult to sell the other figures and so it turned out to be a successful gamble on my part and I finally got my complete Black Order!

With the team complete, all I needed now was their leader.

As the main bad guy of the Infinity War, an unarmored Thanos was released as the build a figure of the first Legends wave, unfortunately he looked a little too happy and goofy for a mad Titan so I passed on him. The next year, an armored version was released as the build a figure of their first Endgame Wave. Although this version was better, it had it’s problems too, namely limited articulation and inaccurate details, like an arm wielding the full Infinity Gauntlet when he never really did in this armor. So I passed on him as well, but I did managed to acquire some parts (specifically the head) from some of the figures I did end up getting from the wave.

Instead, I opted to go with an officially licensed cheaper Chinese version which I felt was more accurate to the film. The only drawback was that his head wasn’t as nicely painted as the US version. This was easily fixed by switching it out with the Hasbro head I already had. While the skin tones differed slightly, It wasn’t too obvious especially on the shelf so I ran with it.

And with that, I was done! That is until Hasbro decided to throw just one more curveball in the form of an exclusive Black Order box set that they announced the following year.

See here’s the problem with Hasbro. In order to release toys to coincide with movies, they have to get the production ball rolling months if not years ahead of the actual movie release. And at that point, usually all they have for design references are early movie concept art…..which often evolves throughout the movie’s production. And this oftentimes leads to early toy releases that aren’t quite accurate to what is ultimately shown in the movies.

Sometimes the inaccuracies are fairly negligible for most collectors, but other times, it’s like night and day. This was the case with the original toy of Cull Obsidian, who looked more like his comic book design. The version that appeared in the movie was more...clothed and wielded a completely different weapon. And while the other members of the order had at the very least better paint deco, Cull Obsidian was an almost completely new figure and was the selling point of the new box set and which caused everyone to dump all their existing Black Order figures onto the secondary market.

Of course, being the OC collector that I am, I jumped onto the bandwagon, promptly pre-ordered my set on Amazon and eagerly waited for it to be released at the end of the year. Sure I could’ve gone with a local preorder, but Amazon had it at a better price and based on my previous experience with them, expected to receive my set before any of the local pre orders arrived.

Anyway I don’t know what was up with Amazon in 2020, but I should have been tipped off when they cancelled some other pre-orders I made with them without any warning or reason. Still I held onto my box set pre-order even after the release date was pushed back a couple of months well into the next year. And then they cancelled it, just like my other preorders.

By this time I had missed out on most of the local pre orders and the very few sets that were selling in the aftermarket cost just too much. I eventually found someone selling the individual figures in the box set at slightly inflated prices. Had I bought all the pieces I would’ve ended up spending considerably more than my original Amazon preorder. So I decided to cut my losses and focus on just getting the big fish, Cull Obsidian along with Proxima Midnight, who also came with a more screen accurate head sculpt. And then a few weeks later I scooped up Ebony Maw….who had longer hair (yes I know I have a problem).

And THAT is how I finally completed my Black Order.

Since they all died...twice in the span of two movies, I doubt that any of them will be back to merit any new action figure updates. So I believe I can officially call this team done.