The past few weeks have seen the fan-boy side of the inter-tubes all roiled up as some revealing aspects of future super hero projects that are in production have come to light.  This is generally nothing unique. Harry Knowles, for one, has built a Jabba-esque web empire based on ferreting out advanced details on beloved properties and spilling to his basement-based minions. But these recent revelations came from sources not affiliated with the unwashed action-figure collocators, but rather the developers.

Two films looming on the horizon are Sony Pictures’ reboot The Amazing Spider-man, and Joss Whedon’s helming of The Avengers.  The producers – Whedon in particular – have been keeping a tight lid on details of their films.  They should maybe have sat down with the executives from a few toy manufacturers it seems, as specifics on their features have been relayed to the public the past few weeks, courtesy of promotional literature from licensees. One of those guarded details has been the prospect of a second villain teaming with Loki as the co-heavy in The Avengers.  And now people have been clamoring that they know who that will be.

The latest filibustering came courtesy of game manufacturer Wizkids, the makers of the HeroClix line of gaming toys.  In a release announcing their upcoming line for their Avengers movie tie-in was this eyebrow-raising detail:

  • Charging straight out of theaters and onto your tabletop, Marvel’s the Avengers Movie HeroClix set features heroes like Captain America and Thor as they battle the villainy of the Red Skull and Loki!

Given Whedon’s vision will not be released until this summer this is considered a big reveal.  There is speculation as to how valid this peek into the details becomes, with many pronouncing the company had simply declared a number of affiliated characters from the Marvel universe along with their movie edition.  But digging a little deeper shows the company may have indeed tipped their hand. Yes, HeroClix has a variety of sets involving cross-over characters at times for their gaming, however this particular blurb concerns a self-contained set; “Avengers The Movie”. It is believed all the names included in their PR kit involve those connected to the film. Though time will prove it out, this appears like an advance reveal.

In similar fashion the new “Spiderman” has had some cloaked content regarding its own villain.  It has been established Rhys Ivans was going to play the role of The Lizard, but Sony has worked to keep the appearance of the character shrouded.  That is, until the emergence of an image of The Lizard streaked across the world when it was discovered – from a Pez candy dispenser. Just after Thanksgiving the candy company released images of their character dispensers tied-in to the film, including the first look at The Lizard.

This villain revelation was then backed-up when another toy line was soon announced and a character vehicle with a Lizard figure was exposed, along with the remote controller sporting the similar image of the cold-blooded baddie. (Images found by Idle Hands blog.)

And if these curtain-pulls were not enough to rancle Sony executives there are more plot points getting loose, courtesy of yet another toy maker. A long standing legal combatant with the Lego Toy Corporation is the Canadian outfit responsible for the copyright-infringing Mega Bloks.  They have won the licensing rights to the Spidey film, and as they have touted their upcoming branded toy sets they also appear to be exposing some set pieces that defy the script bans often installed by studios.

One, labeled as Lizard Man Showdown replicates a screen battle involving some of the nefarious machinery Ivans may be piloting as he squares off with Andrew Garfield.


Next they boast a diorama called Sewer Lab HQ, which is believed to match up with a story line from the graphic novels.  This one appears to be involving The Lizard’s subterranean laboratory, where Spiderman enters to take on his nemesis.



And as if that were not enough there is also an additional set that seemingly replicates what is possibly the climatic conflict from the film.  The Oscorp Tower FX Battle looks at the very least to be a signature scene from the film. One of the figurines shown on the box from is described as a “S.W.A.T. Lizard”, possibly exposing that the villain will have the ability to transform some law enforcement figures into minions of a sort.



Now this kind of “accidental” overexposure is not exactly novel.  Quite often a big-budget production has endeavored to keep a lid on things, only to see their efforts undermined by a promotional partner.  One of the more amusing instances was years back when Fox worked hard at keeping the image of their rebooted “Godzilla” under wraps before the premiere, only to see their stealth dissipate when the toy line was released into stores weeks before release, as is the norm with licensed toy lines.  What is perplexing is how studios expect this sort of thing to stay cloaked.

These cross-promoted licensing agreements are often made with the expectation these items will be on the shelves well before the release date. It is estimated up 30% of the sales on these items can occur before the movie is in theaters. Further, studios normally allow for this because the longer a marketed item is on shelves before release the more advance word their title receives. Add to that the time needed to market to the stores and distributers for advance wholesale purchase (which we are seeing in the above examples) and it becomes ridiculous to think elements will be kept secret. This is why you need to question how “accidental” some of these leaks can be called.

In truth if the studios wanted to truly keep plot points and character reveals under the radar they could choose to suspend some of the agreements.  The licensing fees for toys are relatively small, as they are based on a percentage of the wholesale cost — against the eventual royalty payouts – and if a studio believes they need the mystique to sell more tickets that may be a reason to wave some licensing agreements.  Another option would be holding certain items from stores until after debuting in theaters.  Ultimately that is probably not going to happen, given the promise of guaranteed money will always trump that kind of common sense in Hollywood.