Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Batgirl Show DC Super Hero Girls is Off to a Strong Start [Review]
For almost a year, we've been waiting for the DC Super Hero Girls to arrive on the scene. Announced last April as a multimedia brand aimed squarely at young women and designed to cover toys, comics, apparel, animation and more, DC Super Hero Girls' reveal was a big deal. Here were DC Comics and Warner Bros., along with partners Mattel, Random House and Lego, not just acknowledging that young girls were into comics, but that they were also important enough as a group to deserve an entire line of collectibles and apparel. Yes, there have been numerous action figures to buy featuring the heroes and villains of the DC Universe, but DC Super Hero Girls marks the first time any company had the brains to realize something we did long ago: "Teaching girls that they can be super heroes too [...] is really, really important."
Starting in the fall of last year, the DC Super Hero Girls web series got things running. The short stories introduced the world of Super Hero High School, and how all the characters of DC Comics would be interpreted in this new universe. There was a longer wait for the figures and Action Dolls based on these new designs, but earlier this week, Target and Mattel finally delivered the goods. The DC Super Hero Girls line hit store shelves, with figures, dolls, and roleplay accessories that would not only give young girls a chance to play with their favorite heroes, but to be their favorite heroes as well.
The DC Super Hero Girls animated shorts mostly focus on the school's newest student, Wonder Woman, and her acclimating to high school life away from Themyscira. Her inclusion as the keystone of the action dolls line was thus a no-brainer. It's a little odd watching a show that pits Wonder Woman in the "average teen" role considering her status in the DCU, but that's also part of what makes it work in a way. Aside from Supergirl (who has her own television show), Wonder Woman has the highest profile to make the star of the show. Such as she can be in an ensemble cast anyway.
Based on her appearance at the end of the first season/semester, Wonder Woman is everything you want out of a flagship figure. She's arguably got the best design of all the DC Super Hero Girls, and this updated interpretation on her signature style translates extremely well from the show to an actual toy. Since all the head sculpts and body types are identical, save lipstick and eye color variations, it's all about the costumes for these ladies. I love the sparkling stars print on her t-shirt; I love wing-tipped boots; I love the way the design team turned her metal corset top into a classy pauldron. Everything about this doll exudes Wonder Woman despite being a completely revamped version of the character.
Now believe it or not, this is the first time I've bought dolls like these. Despite having a number of action figures and high-end figures, Mattel's DC Super Hero Girls are probably the most intensely packaged toys I've ever purchased. The number of straps and ties holding these dolls in place in the package was a bit of a surprise, particularly when it came to the heads. I don't know if this is common practice with these kinds of dolls or not, but securing a figure with those annoying t-shaped clothing tags causes more frustration than it has to be worth. Forget the fact that they're near impossible to cut loose due to how tightly they're fastened, and focus instead on the idea that the other end is permanently jammed inside the doll's head.
There are now three little barbs in the back of each of the DC Super Hero Girls' heads, and I'm not sure that's such a great packaging method. If you've got any tips on how to get rid of those, I'm all ears. That's not even counting the set holding Wonder Woman's tiara in place. I'm too afraid to cut that one loose for fear the headband won't stay in place. This is the one major flaw for all of the figures I picked up so far, aside from the hair being incredibly unwieldy out of the box. That's fairly commonplace with synthetic hair on figures though, and is rectified rather easily with a little time and attention.
Since all of the dolls have the same body type, they also all have the same articulation. Unlike some of Mattel's other offerings in this arena, the DC Super Hero Girls are extremely posable. However, just because you can pose them in a number of ways doesn't mean they'll be able to stand upright for very long. The ball-jointed hips offer a decent range, but the single-joint knees and lack of ankle movement limit how crazy you can get when displaying the dolls. Granted, that's not going to be the primary focus for many of the dolls' buyers. Without a display stand though, you can really only leave them standing straight up if you do want to show them off on a shelf.
The bodies are all skinny but athletic; not as waiflike as the girls from Monster High. I wish there was a bit more to the upper body. The stylized take leaves little for the torso and arms to do, though there is enough articulation in the chest and arms to have Wonder Woman and her friends participate in an arm wrestling match. That's how high school girls settle debates right?
Interestingly enough, neither Supergirl nor Batgirl has actually been introduced in the web series as of yet. Barbara Gordon does appear in several episodes, but never in costume, and always as the school's resident IT specialist. Supergirl has been hinted at in a few episodes (rather cleverly, I might add), but she's not yet make an actual showing in any of the dozen episodes. Including both as the de facto representations of Batman and Superman is smart though, as it puts that DC Trinity out in the first wave, and gives kids something to look forward to when these two do finally arrive on the show.
Supergirl's design is probably the most simplistic of the six figures launching the line, but that doesn't mean her doll is a disappointment. It's actually a fairly classic Supergirl costume riff, and adding a little white collar to the tried-and-true red and blue gives it a school uniform vibe. There's some slight patterning on the shirt to give it the appearance of texture, but it's merely printed on there. Her hightops feature the iconic "S" symbol, and her wristbands also feature the shield shape, driving home her Kryptonian roots.
Curiously, Mattel went with a sculpted cape for Supergirl, which attaches to her necklace via two pegs behind her head. Since it's sculpted, it doesn't quite sit right on her shoulders, and if you fiddle with it (read: play with it), the cape comes loose quite often. As much as I like the Kryptonese writing on the cape's trim (it spells "Supergirl" over and over), I can't help but think a cloth cape would have been a better decision aesthetically. I feel the same way about sculpted cloth on action figures though. Capes just look better when they're actually able to flow, in my opinion.
Supergirl also has a little blue headband hidden in that ultra blond head of hair. Unlike Wonder Woman's tiara, this one is held in place with glue. The right half is glued down under her parted hair, which is also glued down. It's actually a fairly smart decision to keep that part under control this way, otherwise Kara's hair would be even more all over the place than it already is. She's got the least styled locks, so it makes sense that to keep it out of her face, Mattel decided to glue it in a part.
Batgirl's hair gets the same glued-down treatment, which is the only conceivable way I can figure to keep her bangs in place. Though she hasn't appeared on the show in more than a purple shirt and pants, the DC Super Hero Girls design team clearly looked to the current Batgirl of Burnside incarnation for inspiration. Babs Tarr's and Cameron Stewart's design is sharp as hell, so why wouldn't they? From the yellow Doc Martens to the purple and yellow scheme, everything about Batgirl is just perfect. The circuit board print on her hoodie even invokes her time as DC's computer whiz, Oracle. It's terrific through and through.
As adorable as the hood with bat ears is, once you take it out of the package it's a little troublesome. Not being held down by all that plastic means the hood takes on a life of its own, and I found myself adjusting it quite often to keep it in place even during the short photo shoot I did. Playing with the figure exacerbates the issue, and it's real hard to keep that hood in place to keep the complete look together. That wild mane of red hair just does not want to be contained.
Aside from her backpack, Supergirl's cape and Wonder Woman's lasso of truth, the dolls are all a little light in the accessories department. Articulation and costumes are great, but a few more action-themed accessories would have been nice to see. Considering the cape and backpack don't actually do much, and Wonder Woman's lasso is sculpted plastic, even those accessories offer little to work with. If these were just being offered as fashion dolls, that's one thing. Labeling them action dolls brings with the the connotations of action figures, which often come with much more to actually play with. It's a small complaint, but it is one I hope Mattel and the DC Super Hero Girls team can improve upon as the line grows and we see more figures and (finger crossed) playsets.
These three dolls are just part of the initial offering for DC Super Hero Girls, and based on how well these turned out, the line is going to be a big hit. The only thing that could potentially hinder the line is being exclusive to a single retailer, as the demand could quickly outstrip the supply. We've seen shortages happen with every popular figure line ever, in particular even these last few months with Star Wars, and that's available everywhere. In order for DC Super Hero Girls to thrive, it has to actually be on store shelves for people to buy. I hope this line finds success, as Mattel, DC and Warner Bros. are finally delivering something fans have been asking about for far too long. Other companies better take notice, or soon the DC Super Girls really will run the world.
The DC Super Hero Girls line is currently available exclusively at Target. The Action Dolls retail for $19.99 each. These figures were purchased for review.