WB, DC get creative with 'Man of Steel' products

Superman doesn’t drive an iconic car or sport a belt laden with gadgets, so when it comes to designing merchandise, toymakers haven’t had much to play with.

That hasn’t dissuaded companies from partnering with Warner Bros. for “Man of Steel,” however.

In fact, as it readies to relaunch Superman in theaters this summer, the studio has secured a longer list of licensees around the tentpole than it had for 2006′s “Superman Returns.” And early demand from retailers for products tied to the June 14 release is on par with that for “The Dark Knight Rises,” surprising even executives at the studio, sources close to the deals say.

That demand is a positive sign for WB and DC Entertainment, which have put considerable coin behind “Man of Steel” and hope the pic can launch a new Superman franchise and generate interest in “Justice League,” which would feature the character alongside Batman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. “Justice League” is being developed for 2015.

Superman has long been a popular character for Warner Bros. Consumer Products. But because his powers — the ability to fly, his heat vision and super strength — are hard to translate in action figure form, sales were mostly driven by apparel featuring the character’s signature “S” shield.

“Man of Steel” won’t dramatically change that, but through its long-standing relationship with Mattel, Warner Bros. believes it’s been able to expand on the kinds of products it can offer this time around. For example, Mattel will introduce “Man of Steel QuickShots,” which will build elements of flight and strength into its toy line that will include action and collectible figures, vehicles and playsets.

Mattel’s planned lineup of products, which WB will promote at the various toy fair conventions kicking off today in Nuremberg, Germany, and bring to the New York Toy Fair next month, is said to have sparked interest from buyers for stores akin to that of Batman fare, execs at retailers confirm to Variety. But so has the more action-oriented approach helmer Zack Snyder and producer Chris Nolan have taken in the rebooting the film franchise for DC and WB.

“Superman will always be a pop culture icon, and the upcoming summer action adventure will continue to fuel excitement for this fan-favorite superhero across the globe,” said Brad Globe, president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

Mattel’s toys are one of more than 300 product licenses WBCP has brokered for “Man of Steel,” covering toys, apparel, accessories and back-to-school categories.

Other partners include Lego, whose construction sets are inspired by scenes from the film; Rubie’s Costume Co.; Thinkway Toys; RC vehicles; collectible figures from Sideshow Collectibles, Kotobukiya, SquareEnix, Neca and Jakks Pacific; props from Noble Collection; and puzzles from Cardinal Industries, along with Mez-Itz figures from Mezco Toyz and vinyl figures through Funko’s Pop! line.

At the toy fairs, WBCP will also promote products for other DC properties such as the classic Batman TV series from the 1960s; the “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” “Arkham City” and “Injustice: Gods Among Us” videogames; “The Hobbit” trilogy; and TV shows “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Vampire Diaries,” “Scooby-Doo” and “Looney Tunes.”

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