Toy Review: DC Collectibles Batman: The Animated Series, Wave 1
Though Batman: The Animated Series had its share of action figures back when it was on the air, the collectibles could hardly be considered more than children's toys. This year, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Batman, DC Collectibles went back to the animated well for a new series of figures based on the now classic Bruce Timm designs.
Incorporating characters from the original Batman: The Animated Series as well as the under-appreciated The New Batman Adventures, the figure line's aesthetic (more articulation and accessories, as well as a higher price point) is geared towards the adult collector. This series is aimed directly at those who spent their afternoons after school patiently waiting to see the latest episode, and who are now old enough to have disposable income.
Despite having had many issues with DC Collectibles in the past, this new collection was just too promising to pass up. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and like myself, I'm sure many Batman aficionados were powerless against the charms of such detailed figures based on one of the most definitive takes on Batman and his world.
Unfortunately, just like before, DC burned me (and many others) with its incredibly inconsistent quality control. The line is disappointingly fragile, but still happens to be one of the best-looking figure lines DC's put out in recent memory.
The line-up for this first wave heavily favors The New Batman Adventures, with three of the four figures (Batman, Two-Face and Mr. Freeze) based on the looks from that version of the show. Catwoman is the only character to come from B:TAS this time out, though subsequent series will alternate the ratio (series two will feature three B:TAS characters and one TNBA character, and so on). Each figure is supposed to represent a single appearance from the show, though Batman (sculpted by Irene Matar) looks like he did in just about every episode of TNBA.
Though some of DC's post-New 52 figures have included some nice accessories, these figures go the extra mile. Multiple sets of hands have been included, as has a second cape to give Bats a few different looks. I prefer the solemn, over the shoulder cape, but the additional cape does give him a bit more flexibility in posing. Sadly, this Batman's right shoulder and elbow came out of the package a bit wonky, and is severely limited in range on that side. It's most disappointing because one of the additional right hands included is holding the grappling gun. There's a standalone grappling gun included as well, though it doesn't actually fit in any of his hands, and is quite pointless as a result.
This Two-Face (sculpted by Gentle Giant) comes from 'Sins of the Father', where we're first introduced to Tim Drake in the animated universe. A standard pistol and Tommy gun are included, but the gas mask, suitcase and chemicals are all pulled straight from the events of that episode. The simplicity of the design on these characters works wonderfully in animation, though there are definitely some issues in bringing them to life. Two-Face in particular was hit with some sloppy paint application, and there are numerous spots where the black and white bleed over to the wrong side. The detailing on his face is also a bit iffy, but he still strikes a mean profile.
The best figure in this wave, Mr. Freeze (sculpted by Gentle Giant), is ripped straight from the 'Cold Comfort' episode, which occurs in a post-'Sub-Zero' world. While his larger, bulkier suit is represented quite well, it's the ability to take his head off that sets this figure apart from the rest of the group. Included with the figure are four spider legs that you can attach beneath Freeze's helmet, giving him the creepy 'The Thing'-like look that debuted in the aforementioned episode.
It actually worked out well that the head was detachable, as Freeze's hip joints were both fused so tightly, they were impossible to move out of the package. Two-Face fared the same fate, which was doubly troublesome given his diminutive podiatric stature. At least Freeze has gigantic boots to help balance what would be a top-heavy figure. Two-Face's broad chest and shoulders whittle down to virtually nothing by the time you get to his feet, making it nearly impossible to stand him up on his own for more than a few seconds. (Yes, there are figure stands, but they aren't exactly practical. We'll get there.)
The most frustrating and fragile figure of the bunch, Catwoman (sculpted by Irene Matar) was inspired by her appearance in 'The Cat and the Claw' two-parter. She's even got the weird, pseudo-futuristic binoculars you might remember from a handful of other episodes. Like Two-Face, Catwoman gets the short end of the paint app stick, and her otherwise fantastic design is marred by splotchy joints and a rushed belt. Interestingly enough, the intricate detailing on her face came out near perfect, and the figure didn't wind up with any accidental side-eye or lipstick that looked like it was applied while swinging from the rooftops. She did however come with a completely useless right elbow that snapped immediately upon touch. If anything, I figured her ankles would be the biggest issue, given that they're more articulated that any other figure in the line. That wasn't the case, but again, like Freeze and Two-Face, Catwoman's hip joints were stiff to the point of uselessness.
Part of that stems from the biggest issue I have with this whole line--that ugly hip joint. The recently revealed fourth wave seems to have done away with being able to see the full peg from the front of the figure, but the next eight will all have the same visible issue. This articulation make sense, in theory, as it allows the sculptors to keep the silhouette of the Timm design intact without putting something like a ball joint (like you see in the shoulders) in the hip. It would completely detract from the uniformity of the original animated character designs, and would look tacky and out of place.
However, considering how infrequently the joint actually works on any of the figures, it's a wonder why it was included at all. In the rare instance you feel like posing these characters in some kind of Batverse dance-off, it serves only as bullet point on the articulation checklist versus having a real purpose.
All four figures do come with a stand to help alleviate some of the display concerns. Each of the stands actually features some of the original style guide art for that particular character, giving fans a little peek inside the process, tiny as it may be. The stands themselves are overly bulky, save for Batman's. The stand included with Batman is a single post with one adjustable-width claw. The other three include those same things; however, the claws don't just have a width adjustment, they also have a depth adjustment. What would otherwise be a simple profile for a small shelf is now ruined by a few inches of needless plastic.
In spite of the wealth of flaws this figure line has, its visual appeal is undeniable. Whether it's the flashbacks to a moment in your childhood, or just the brilliance of Bruce Timm's designs, it's hard to turn a blind eye to these figures at your local store.
For $25, you would expect DC to at least have the same quality control many competitors have, and as a result, for these figures to have far fewer problems. That's just not the case though. Could the problematic articulation be addressed in time for future waves? Sure. Will it actually happen? Knowing DC's past in this area, and knowing that,these figures are going to sell like crazy, that seems unlikely.
In fact, with Batman and Catwoman coming in as two of the top three sellers in Diamond's November collectibles sales chart, they're already moving fast. Fans will put up with a lot when it comes to the Dark Knight.
The DC Collectibles 'Batman: The Animated Series' and 'The New Batman Adventures' figures are available now on on Amazon for ~$24.95, as well as your local comic shop. These figures were purchased for review.
Which Bat-villains are the most underrated?