Those who loved Batman: The Animated Series and the other series in the DC Animated Universe have gotten an embarrassment of riches from the DC Collectibles line of direct market figures, featuring larger, more detailed, more articulated versions of the animated versions than the lovely-but-limited 3 ¾-inch-scale figures from Kenner over the years. So when we had a chance to review the latest wave of Batman figures, we jumped at the chance.
A few general observations up front: There a few things that apply to all the figures in this wave. All come with at least two extra sets of interchangeable hands, the increasingly-ineffective display stands (seriously, just put some pegs on those, they do not hold the figures up well) and fairly consistent articulation and sculpting styles.
This results in some problematic elements that have been consistent with this line - often, efforts to keep visible joints from obstructing the design elements result in articulation that, while still a vast improvement over the old-school figures, is still pretty limited. In particular, the legs remain problematic for almost every figure in this line - the thighs’ awkward attachment at the waist of each figure results in some awkward poses, and most figures are in need of some extra swivels in the upper arms and thighs.
With those limitations acknowledged, let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the individual figures – and see what fun poses we can get out of them. Special thanks to Carson Mataxis of 3DJoes.com for providing the photo backdrop and lighting.
First, the best…
It’s fantastic to get a deluxe figure of the mutated Matt Hagen, voiced on the animated series by genre god Ron Perlman. Clayface’s two-part origin, “Feat of Clay,” contained some of the best animation and characterization of the series… but the original toy was little more than a glorified chew-toy. A later direct market version at least gave him two hands, but it was a bitter irony that a shape-shifter wound up with one of the least-poseable figures in the entire line.
This isn’t quite the best Clayface toy - the DC Universe Classics version had some of the best sculpting and articulation, easily-busted bendy arms notwithstanding, and the cybernetically-enhanced one from the “Legends of the Dark Knight” line was memorably… fecal in appearance. But this is easily the best rendition of the animated Clayface, and the first Clayface toy to really capture the shapeshifting elements of the character.
The deluxe treatment means Clayface towers over Batman by a head, and while the facial sculpt seemed oddly scrawny in some of the publicity photos, in real life it’s well-proportioned to the bloated clay-body. It doesn’t quite get that neckless, up-from the shoulders look of the animated version exactly, but this sculpt at least allows Clayface to have a… um, clay-neck. The head is made of a softer rubber, and there’s an interchangeable extra head with a nicely unsettling wide-mouth scream of rage.
In addition, there’s several interchangeable arms that allow for a real variety of display options. The bladed-fingers hand isn’t there, which is a shame, but the axe-hand, hook-hand, and mace-hand are all properly menacing, and clay-colored in a way that makes it look like they’re already part of his body. The mace in particular has a short-but-articulated chain with the links fully-painted - an excellent touch.
Pose-wise, Clayface’s bulk and the existing issues with articulation do make for some limitations - this is a very top-heavy figure, and the legs are virtually useless. But there’s a good range of motion for the arms, and the larger scale allows for an ab crunch that lets Clayface hunch over some for some extra-deformed poses.
Along with Etrigan the Demon, this illustrates what’s possible with bringing in different scales to the figure sculpts. Any chance of a Justice League-style Solomon Grundy down the line? The figure they did make as an SDCC exclusive is kind of hard to find.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The most pleasant surprise of this wave, the slovenly Gotham cop and occasional Bat-hunter employs an elaborate new sculpt and variety of accessories to create some fun possibilities.
Larger than the average figure, Harvey has some weakness - his head fell off the ball joint right out of the box, for example, and like most of these figures, the legs are about worthless, though one hardly expects Harvey Bullock to put up much of a chase. He also lacks an ab crunch despite his larger size… but, again, one does not look to Harvey Bullock for abs.
But as a representation of the character, it's spot-on. There's a good soft rubber overcoat, the face is appropriately hangdog, and his whole outfit has a saggy, poorly-fitting quality. The alternate hands work well if you want Harvey to put up his dukes, point a gun at a perp, or just munch on a donut.
Ah yes, that brings us to the accessories. Harvey comes with a surprisingly diverse variety of add-ons. In addition to the extra hands, Harvey has a tiny pistol, a much-larger shotgun, not one but two donuts (one half-eaten) and a pair of handcuffs. That last item features an actual metal chain (as opposed to the solid plastic chains most toys use for cuffs/nunchucks/etc.) and fit the wrists of most figures if you pop off the hands first. The smaller gun fits Harvey's hands fine, though the shotgun is a struggle to get his finger on the trigger - it works better if it's flung over his shoulder, or with a different figure.
Overall, had way more fun with this than anticipated. Could they do this well with Renee Montoya?
Rating: 8 out of 10
A great disappointment, to be honest. It's great to see more female characters get figures, but some poor sculpting and articulation choices undermine one of the most complex figures in Bat-Mythology.
As a display piece, the Daughter of the Demon is a lovely 3-D representation of the character's initial animated appearance in the Hitchcock-hommaging "Off Balance." She's got a nicely defiant look in her Emma Peel-style catsuit (a.k.a. Dame Diana Rigg from those other Avengers, whose character in the James Bond Film On Her Majesty's Secret Service provided the inspiration for Talia). In a nice touch, her hair is a separate sculpted rubber piece, meaning you can lift up her Veronica Lake hair overhang to see the eye underneath. So yes, she has two eyes.
If only there was similar care taken with the rest of the figure. The biggest problem is the character's gun. First, while Firefly has a useable holster, Talia's is a solid piece there's nowhere to put it. The alternate hands aren't much help - on set can kind of hold the gun, but results in a badly distorted index finger. Even if you can get gun in hand, the limited articulation, combined with the odd shape of the gun, requires a particularly odd pose if you don't want the figure to topple over...and don't even try to pose the character kicking unless you want to bring new definition to "thigh gap."
The end result is that a dynamic and visual character is reduced to something stiff and immobile. A nice-looking design, but little more than a plastic statue and a missed opportunity.
Rating: 4 out of 10
Joker (New Adventures)
Another pleasant surprise – the more streamlined designs of the Batman: The New Adventures series aren’t always superior to the originals, “Amish Zombie” Scarecrow a major exception. But the second version of the Joker, with the darker color scheme and Little Orphan Annie eyes, threatened to come in a far second to the pale-white, bone-chilling original version of Mark Hammill’s take on the Clown Prince of Crime.
Words were quickly eaten, as excellent sculpting and paint choices give this figure the dynamic quality that Talia sadly lacked. The Joker’s not so much clown-white as a pale blue, and the purple of his suit has more of a neon tinge than the bright flamboyance of the original animated version, but the menacing, mercurial quality of the character comes off perfectly in this new version.
The facial sculpt is a terrific job – just the right note of contempt, and a slight extra paint application to the hair above the brow gives an extra sense of shading. Other subtle details carried over from the first animated Joker help, such as including the flower on his jacket as a (non-removeable) separate sculpted piece – there’s a feeling of depth and texture that’s often missing from figures. The slimmer design allows a slightly greater range of motion than some of the other figures – you can have the Joker fighting, scheming, seething, or just ready to dish out some serious evil.
The only joke-themed accessory is a simple handgun that fits the Joker well – but the inclusion of the Joker and Harley Quinn’s two pet hyenas, their “babies,” more than makes up for the lack of other accessories. These are simple sculpts with articulation in the thighs, tail and ball-jointed necks, but they’re well-proportioned to the other figures (they tower over the cats that came with Catwoman and Klarion, for example) and despite the limited poseability, the range of motion in their heads allows for some variety of scenes of them pouncing down on some poor victim.
The figure of the first animated Joker is still tops as far as nightmare-fuel design goes – but the New Adventures version is surprisingly fun, and one of the most dynamic figures in the line to date.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand…sorry.
Employed several times in The New Adventures stories, including the memorable “Rashomon”-inspired episode including 1950s and Frank Miller-style Batman fantasies, the pryromaniac mastermind boasts a nicely creepy insect-themed look, a flame-gun, and most importantly, a jetpack. Plus, if you have no life whatsoever, you can have him and Mr. Freeze team up against Heat Wave and Captain Cold, not that…that was the…first reaction upon seeing this…shut up.
There is not a lot to say about the figure overall; as mentioned with Talia, a nice touch is that he has an actual holster where you can put his flame-gun, which fits snugly. The range of posability is especially limited, though, due to the character’s broad shoulders and hunched-over look. The jetpack piece is good and sturdy, but there’s not a lot of range in the arms and legs, unless you, you know, want to pretend he’s flying around and…this review is over before things get any geekier.
Rating: 6 out of 10
The biggest question mark of this wave, and oddly reminiscent of how the Kenner Batman: TAS figure lines would have endless gimmick-suited Batmen, alongside one actual villain if you were lucky. At least this represents a suit actually used in an episode of the show., the Firefly introduction "Torch Song." Visit the "Legions of Gotham" site to recall the likes of "Tornado Batman."
Oddness of this choice aside, along with the additional oddness of Batman carrying a gun (albeit a fire-stopping one), it's a solid enough Bruce Timm-style design. The faceless black helmet is appropriately ominous, and suggests perhaps an ancestor of the Batman Beyond suit, if one has no life whatsoever and spends inordinate amounted of time on such speculation (looks around nervously).
Perhaps the most skippable figure this time around, though for the especially creative and lifeless, a good base for a custom armored Batman figure (more nervous looking around).
Rating: 5 out of 10
So that’s this wave of Batman: Animated figures – and it’s going to be very exciting to see what comes next!