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Drastic Plastic is both an innovative, risk-taking rulebreaker in the action figure business, and an example of how things can go horribly wrong.
Founded by David S. Reeves, Drastic Plastic was formed in the 1990's to create "action figures for collectors". David had the grand plan to create a line of "Space Marine"-style figures and aliens that were not subject to mass-market limitations of the time for the growing adult collector base.
These figures would be by adults for adults - with no child testing, the sky would be the limit: metal parts, sharp bits, glow-in-the-dark paints, and more. However, there was one fatal flaw in this logic at the time. The costs to bring a line to market are CRUSHINGLY LARGE.
What makes a toyline so expensive? Every aspect of the process means you have to pay someone. A rough guideline would be: creating the designs for a product; making drawings from those designs that will work as toys; having someone sculpt the design; engineering the action features and accessories of the toys; having steel molds created from the sculptures; designing the packaging and sales strategies; paying for the production of the figures; quality controlling the produced items; having the items packaged and shipped to a warehouse; and finally, convincing a third-party to buy your merchandise and sell it somewhere.
Of course, the above is very simplified. There are many levels of intricacy to the process.
Drastic Plastic had a simple strategy for their first line, which was titled "Hard Corps". Knowing that the collector fanbase read magazines such as Lee's Action Figure News and Toy Review and Tomart's Action Figure Digest, they focused their advertising in that direction.
One of the great collector gambits of all time was the Star Wars "Early Bird" offer. Drastic Plastic would do something similar. To pay for the required molds, DP would sell 1,000 sets of nine figures at $100 per set (later to be raised to $200 per set). With this $100,000, molds could be cut for a full production run. However, even if the full 1000 sets had been sold, this would not have been enough cash to make a full production run.
It is not known how many sets were sold through this offer, but what is known is that DP mysteriously disappeared after taking payments from a number of people. It took intervention from governmental authorities and Tomart's to cause the release of some "Mission: Equinox" Hard Corps sets. It is unknown how many sets were actually produced and sent out to the early adopters.
Later, Drastic Plastic would become infamous for creating a 12-inch figure of Adolph Hitler: review at Michael Crawford's review site.
The second figure in this series, FDR, would be released (with proposed Stalin, Churchill, Mussolini and Hirohito figures never making it to market), as well as a General Custer figure, before Drastic Plastic disappeared again.
In the end, Drastic Plastic is an interesting footnote in toy history, as they attempted to be an independent in a corporate-driven industry. David Reeves will perhaps be best known as the owner of the Super Powers Tower of Darkness playset at one time (as credited in an old issue of Tomart's).
However, you never know when Drastic Plastic might pop up again with a new and innovative concept.
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