Thursday, July 21, 2011

Toy Review – DC Universe Classics: Classic Robin By Mattel

I had every intention of buying this Robin when it was first announced. I just wasn’t going to buy it for me – it was going to be for Lil’ Troublemaker. Robin is his absolute favorite superhero; no matter what he’s wearing. He loves Batman and all, but I think like a lot of kids he identifies with Robin more. And Robin is a whole lot cooler now than he was when I was a kid.

So while I didn’t feel the need for a classic, fish-scale panties version of Dick Grayson I did want to get one for my son. Until I started hearing about the problems. The feet were breaking off. And not just on a few – everybody I knew that bought one (or more) was reporting the problem. It was widespread on the toy message boards. So I skipped it. I only really wanted Riddler, Creeper and the Valley Batman from Series 16 and felt I could live without Bane due to having a great DC Direct version.
And then I saw this:
Which is not only the closest we’re going to get to a Brave and the Bold Batman in the DCUC line, but which also cries out for a classic Robin. Combine that with the fact that I had just finished reading the entire run of Gail Simone’s mostly-excellent Secret Six and I had more than enough motivation to buy the rest of Series 16 (to build that Bane). I had only been avoiding the Metal Men because I had been under the impression that they did not include regular hands and Jonah Hex was a cool-looking figure but one that didn’t really fit into the collection.
So one day when I was in Toys R Us with a ten-dollar-off coupon and saw Mercury, Hex and Robin on the pegs I went ahead and got them.
I had a plan for dealing with Robin’s weak ankles. His were not the first weak ankles I’d ever dealt with, after all.
I had looked online and seen that people had enjoyed some success from running the Boy Wonder’s ankles under alternating hot and cold water. This loosened up the paint that was the reason for them sticking; and the sticking is what caused people to apply too much force for the hollow (!) peg that connects the feet to the calf. Then the peg would snap and you’d get footless Robin.
Lil’ Troublemaker was very excited about the water plan. Just as I did when I was a kid, he loves playing with toys in water. Whether it’s the bath tub or a pool or the sink – there’s something about submerging your toys and staging aquatic confrontations that’s just awesome. So he is of the opinion that every figure should see this treatment. If Mattel doesn’t get their Quality Control sorted out he may get his wish.
The process was irritating. I’d run water as hot as I could stand over Robin’s feet while slowly and carefully working them back and forth. 
Eventually they came loose and I ran cold water over them to tighten them back up. Over the course of this I also noticed that Robin’s hip joints were not moving freely. I tried the same trick on them, but to no avail. 
The Mr. Freeze I had purchased around the same time had a stuck foot that the hot water method did not alleviate, so I stuck them both in the freezer – another method that people had found to be successful in dealing with Mattel’s trademark stuck joints.
The freezer fixed Robin’s left hip, but did nothing for the right one or Freeze’s foot. I don’t have these problems with Hasbro products. Then again, sometimes Hasbro doesn’t even bother to paint their joints.
But the important thing is that I have an intact Robin that can stand up like a normal human being. 
Beside that fantastic Batman. If only I had a couple of giant neon signs shaped like saxophones and top hats I’d be set.
First Glance: I can’t imagine how many people have been let down by this figure’s fragility because this Robin is an extremely nice looking figure that you just want to buy. I’ve actually been fighting the urge to buy one version or the other since the first time I saw them at retail. And Lil’ Troublemaker freaks out every time we see one.
Sculpt: Obviously the hollow pegs used to connect the feet to the legs are totally unacceptable. Even if there wasn’t a lousy paint process that stuck the joints together this would be unacceptable. Toy companies have got to stop using fragile, inferior plastics on their products (Don’t sit there looking all smug, Hasbro – I’m talking to you and your rubber guns, too).
As far as the actual sculpt of the figure, it’s great. Robin has the standard DCUC articulation, plus double-jointed knees. The hips and ankles are obviously a problem, but that’s more of a paint issue, so I’ll save that for the design portion.
Robin’s individual parts are very impressive. The boots look perfect and don’t suffer from any design-related issues that would interfere with articulation. The trunks are great, with just as much detail as Aquaman’s awesome shirt. Robin’s shirt (Tunic? Doublet? What do you call that thing?) is just as great, with a softer rubber bottom that matches up perfectly with the upper portion despite the abdomen joint. The gloves are accurate but there is a small notch at the top of each to accommodate the elbow bend. It doesn’t detract from the figure, but it is there and I did notice it.
I don’t actually own the modern version, but I greatly prefer the head on this one, even if the body is too big for it. This is young Dick Grayson Robin and should really be a smaller body. If Mattel was going to the trouble of sculpting so many new parts for this one I think they might as well have gone ahead with a smaller buck.
Robin’s cape is not meant to be removable (nor should it be) and it looks very good. It’s not too long or too short and the collar looks great. The folds in the cape are very nicely done and it hangs well. I have to give Mattel credit for the way they handle capes – they sculpt them so that they look very natural on the figures. Sometimes a non-fabric cape will sort of stick out in an unnatural way and none of the caped DCUC figures (or MOTUC, for that matter) seem to have that problem. Granted, they can’t sit or squat; but at least the capes look good standing there.
Design: The paint looks very good on every part of this figure. The apps are all tight with effective shading. Even the scales on the trunks look good and not sloppy. The “R” on Robin’s chest is where it should be.
The problem with the paint is that the hip and ankle joints got painted over and sealed in an immobile position. I find that entirely unacceptable. I nor anybody else should have to perform any sort of maintenance on a toy we have just opened. How wrong is it that I went into buying this figure knowing that I was going to have to do some work on it. You could say that I’m stupid for contributing money to a product that I knew was defective and you’d be 100% correct.
Accessories: Robin is a big win in the accessory department. He comes packed with a Batarang and a grapple gun.
The Batarang is fairly simple, but at least it’s not made out of rubber like Captain Boomerang’s weapon. Robin can hold it sort of okay if you put a little effort into it. The grapple gun is beautiful. The hook is basic but the gun itself is just great. I think every Batman figure should come with one of these. The detailing on it is awesome, as is the paint. The gun and hook are connected by a short length of string that could easily be replaced with a longer one if you so desired.
Each Series 16 figure also came with a piece of Bane, who we’ll get to later.
Packaging: The same old DCUC bubble. If I was a hippie I’d probably complain about it being unnecessarily large, but I’m not.
Overall: The flaws in this figure piss me off so much. I can get over Robin being a little too big, but those paint issues are just not acceptable in any way. How many kids out there have ended up with one of these that broke the second they took it out of the package? I know of several adults, but they’re all grown up enough to deal. Think about a seven or eight-year-old's reaction and their parents then having to deal with the fact that the figure could not be replaced because every single one they bought was like that. Fuck you for this, Mattel.
1 out of 5
And the real burn is that other than those flaws the figure is so damn good. But it doesn’t get a single point for any of that because it is an utter failure as a plaything. Robin gets one point for the simple fact that I can stand him on the shelf, but even that was only because of the foreknowledge that I would have to put a lot of work into the figure. Fail.

Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

4 comments:

  1. That is some lame bullshit, right there. Whoever was responsible for that particular problem coming to pass needs to be fired and forced to apologize to all the children who have cried over their immediately broken and irreplaceable toy. Not. Cool.

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  2. Yeah - Mattel has had a lot of shameful moments in the DCUC line but this is by far the worst.

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  3. that's some sad stuff- i'm glad i read this however, 'cause i have one unopened and might've broke his feet off otherwise. thanks!

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