Wizkids, makers of the superhero table-top game “Heroclix”, has just announced that their next full DC expansion set will be Superman-themed.
Wizkids had great success recently with two Marvel sets focused around one main character (the “Web of Spider-Man” and “Hammer of Thor” sets). This “Cape of Superman” set will be the first DC set focusing on one character. While the “Arkham Asylum” set had a healthy representation of Batman and villains it was more of a potpourri than its name suggests. After all, it included figures like Human Bomb, Ghost Fox Killer, Lightning Lord, Amon Sur, and Metron.
The potpourri strategy was a sensible one. Seldom was any one customer overjoyed at the list of characters in any one set, but each set had enough variety to entice almost everyone to get it for the characters they did like.
But the evolution of the game gave this strategy unfortunate side effects. Characters you really wanted to play together were spread out across many sets. For example, after ten years, you still can’t field a Detroit League Team because they’ve never made Steel (*ugh*) or Vibe (*popping hearts around head*). Also, early characters were often hopelessly outclassed by later figures they should have been compatible with, simply because the game mechanics had been improved. There hasn’t been a solo figure of the comic book Catwoman since the first DC set ten years ago, and it’s nearly unplayable in today’s game.
As a character represented in Heroclix, Superman has suffered from these side effects. I can easily put together plenty of Heroclix teams (good and evil) to play around Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and (with a bit of customizing) even Aquaman. But a Superman teams still remain a challenge to compose. The sets always have a Superman—there are plenty of great versions of him—but his allies and enemies have been wanting.
With the advent of individualized “special powers”, rather than dials composed entirely out from a group of generic “standard powers”, Heroclix has made great strides in playability and comic book accuracy of its figures, including recent additions to the Metropolis Heroclix rolls like the Kryptonite Man figure. But this new Superman-centric set provides a fresh opportunity to bring Metropolis alive on the Heroclix maps.
Which leads to my actual point: Wizkids, don’t give short shrift to the supporting cast. Superman’s supporting cast is much more important than almost any other character’s, and a more central part of his mythos. Jimmy Olsen’s public profile is enormous; people who can’t name three Superman villains can all name Perry White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy Olsen’s comic book ran for 20 years, for pity’s sake. Yet, after ten years, there’s still no Jimmy Olsen figure in Heroclix, though Wizkids has managed to emplasticify such mayflies and lowlights as Forerunner, Aztek, Shimmer, the Holiday Killer, and the Human Defense Corps. Julius H. Schwartz, you could make an entire sixty-figure set (plus addition LEs) of nothing BUT Jimmy Olsen figures, each one a different one of his bizarre transformations or alter-identities.
Wizkids has gotten much wiser in including “regular people” characters as supporting figures in their newer sets (such as Mary Jane Watson, J. Jonah Jameson, Alfred Pennyworth, and Amanda Waller). They used to just represent them as one-click deep pogs! But I want to encourage them to go even further in that direction: I shouldn’t have to have ordered customs made just to have important characters like Iris West, Jean Loring, Steve Trevor, Etta Candy, and Jimmy Olsen on the board.
In short… if Jimmy Olsen and Perry White are not represented in this “Cape of Superman” set, I am going to be really ticked off.
P.S. It's hard to be too critical of Wizkids in this respect, since DC itself seems to have half-forgotten the importance of a recognizable, long-term supporting cast to a successful superhero mythos. Only Geoff Johns seems to get it. Fortunately for the fate of supporting characters, his influence is powerful and wide, so maybe others will start to catch on.