Monday, November 24, 2014

Toy Review – Batman: The New Adventures Batman from DC Collectibles

I couldn’t even count the number of action figure lines I have been excited about over the years. I love toys and there’s just something in my nature that gets me excited to see how new toys are going to look and play; even if they’re a license, franchise, or concept that I have only a passing interest in.

I can, however, count the number of toy lines that I have been anticipating in a way that was borderline obsessive – the Star Wars relaunch of 1995, Sideshow’s Universal Monsters, the GI Joe 25th Anniversary line, and the 4 Horsemen’s Outer Space Men.

And then there’s the toy line that has filled me with a singular excitement that has left me almost literally on the edge of my seat every time I’ve read about it. The line that is based on my favorite – and arguably the greatest – animated franchise of all time. The line that is being produced by a toy manufacturer that over the last three years has stepped up their game to the point where they went from near the bottom of my list of great companies to the very top. The line that has the potential to top Masters of the Universe Classics as one of the most integrated and amazing toy lines ever produced.

That toy line is, of course, Hasbro’s My Little Pony.

Haha! Kidding!

That toy line is DC Collectibles’ vaguely named Batman Animated line.

The first exciting thing about this line is that the creators of Batman: The Animated Series, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm – are consulting. They are the ones determining which versions of the characters – Animated Series or New Adventures – are getting made. Or getting made first, anyway. Presumably if the line is successful and continues on for long enough we will see multiple versions of the characters. I, for one, would love to have both Batman designs, as well as many of the other characters that were redesigned for New Adventures. So far Timm and Dini are choosing exactly the looks I prefer – Catwoman and Joker from TAS and Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze from NA, for example.

The first twelve figures from this new line have been shown and they all look fantastic. As excited as I am to collect every single character from the Batman cartoons, the ultimate potential of this line is to delve into the massive cast of the successor to the animated Batman and Superman cartoons – Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. If – no, when – this happens it won’t be long before I sell my DC Universe Classics collection. A huge portion of those figures were bought simply because I knew them from Justice League Unlimited and if I can have proper animated style versions I would much rather have those. As uniform as the 4 Horsemen’s DCUC style was, nothing will ever beat Bruce Timm’s slick designs.

The first figure released from DC Collectibles’ new line is, of course, Batman. I was a little surprised that they went with the New Adventures look first, but once I saw the other eleven figures in these first waves I realized that aesthetically this design fits in better. And again – I have no doubt we’ll see an Animated Series version in the near future.

FIRST GLANCE

Unfortunately, my first glance of this figure revealed a dismaying quality control issue – the joint on the right elbow was clear, unpainted plastic:

I try not to get too emotional about toys. I love ‘em, but they are just toys. But I was pretty upset about this. It’s not like I could just go to Toys R Us and get another one. And my Local Comic Book Shop isn’t the best with ordering, so I thought there was a good chance they wouldn’t have any more.

Oh, and the reason I even ended up with this one was that my wife brought it home for me. Obviously a figure with that kind of fail wouldn’t have made it past the cash register if I had been able to inspect it. Despite her years of dealing with nerd stuff, Mrs. Troublemaker just isn’t wired to look for such things.

The next day we stopped by the shop and, sure enough, they didn’t have any more. I cursed a lot. Then I started calling other comic shops. Fortunately, the second one I called – Galactic Quest – had one in stock and put it on hold for me. After having Thanksgiving lunch at my son’s school, we went and picked up what would hopefully be an error-free figure. 

And it was.

Well, mostly. But I’ll get to that.

In the box, this is a beautiful figure. It has a certain visual weight to it that identifies it as something a bit more than the old Kenner figures or Mattel’s more recent JLU line (nothing against those – they’re good toys). Batman fills up the package. Or, at least, he seems to fill up the package until you realize that there are tons of accessories behind him.

In short, there’s no way any Batman fan could pass up this figure if they just saw it out in the wild. Unfortunately, this is a Direct Market line and you won’t be seeing them at Target and Toys R Us. Your best bet is to preorder them from your Local Comic Book Shop when they’re offered in Previews.

Or, of course, click the below link and help out Needless Things.

PACKAGING

As excited as I was to see this new, ultimate (in my opinion) Batman figure, I was just as excited to see that it was on a simple blister card. I am not a fan of DCC’s usual clamshells, so I was delighted when I saw the cardboard backing on this guy.

This is overall a very simplistic design. The graphics are simple and appealing, letting the beautiful figure sell itself. There isn’t even a blurb on the back, let alone any kind of character bio. While I always like to see bios, I have to admit that the silhouette graphic on the back is striking. And how many times do we need Batman explained to us, anyway?
I’m happy to see the sculptor credit prominently displayed on the side of the blister:

As well as the numbering system being used:

I’m not quite sure why, but I like the numbering that recent lines like Star Wars Black and Funko’s Legacy figures have been using. It’s not like I don’t know which figures are coming out, but there’s something about that extra level of quantity definition that I find reassuring – there are exactly this many figures out, you know?

LOOKS

This head is such a simple design, and it would have been hard to mess up, but I am so impressed with how perfect it looks. The jaw, the ears, the shape of the eyes – it’s all perfect. The mouth is nothing more than a line, but it’s sized and placed to perfectly capture that determined expression that is animated Batman’s default look. It’s just a line, but it’s incredible. The seam between the head and neck is a little wide, but there’s good – nay, excellent – reason for that.

Batman’s cape is made of rubber and is a separate piece that sits on the top of the neck and the shoulders. It hangs exactly how it should and is one piece rather than being a shoulder/neck piece with the draping part tucked in. It’s flat black and matches the rest of the black on the figure quite well. It hangs over the back of the figure’s shoulders so as not to interfere with posing of the arms. The lower portion is sculpted off-center to suggest movement.

The base figure perfectly captures the loom of New Adventures Batman. The massive chest and shoulders sit on top of the narrower but still thick waist. The arms and legs feature exaggerated muscle definition that makes the joints less invasive than they would have been on the Animated Series Batman. I think that might be part of the reason they chose to release this version first. The TAS Batman is a little sleeker and the joints will be a little more apparent.

The Bat symbol is sculpted and not just painted on. It looks really good except that the paint on mine doesn’t quite cover it. There’s some unpainted grey on the bottom of the middle curves. It isn’t a huge deal, but when combined with the rest of the paint errors it becomes more of an issue.

Batman’s trunks are just painted on, which surprised me a bit. But I suppose they need to be able to re-use as many parts as they can and the lower portion of this figure will prove valuable in future releases. Tons of DC Animated figures will be able to use this same design, and not all of them have trunks.

The utility belt is a separate piece molded out of softer plastic. It’s thick and wide and looks great. It can also be moved independently of the torso, so if yours is a bit off-center you can turn it. 
 
Batman’s gloves look great. There’s a wonderful definition where they meet the sleeves of the costume. The thickness of that seam is really nice. 
 
The boots are actually separate pieces, so that seam looks great. The design is similar to how the Masters of the Universe Classics boots are articulated. The top portions and the feet match perfectly as far as color goes.

All of the colors on the figure are close to perfect. Despite the various pieces and the different materials used, the greys and blacks all match. That’s the good thing about the paint. The bad is that there are some definite, noticeable issues with the applications. I mentioned the Bat symbol above. There’s a similar – but much less noticeable – issue with the cowl. It doesn’t really show when you’re looking at the figure straight on, but from below the black doesn’t extend all the way under the cowl sculpt. There’s also a bit of black slop on the right front of the trunks. It isn’t terrible, but it’s noticeable.

Compared to other action figure lines that have eyes that are off center or entire paint apps that are misaligned, these issues aren’t major. But I want this Batman to be perfect. The design is so simple that the errors that are here stand out quite a bit. 
 
Overall, though, this is a striking figure. The design is flawless. It’s the execution that falls shy of perfection.

ACCESSORIES

This figure comes with a huge number of accessories – an extra cape, seven extra hands, a Batarang, a grapnel gun, and a stand.

I’m going to start with the stand since I usually hate stands as accessories. The first thing this stand has going for it is that there are tons of other accessories, so it doesn’t feel like it was just an obligation so the figure wasn’t in the package alone. The other thing it has going for it is that it’s awesome. It consists of three pieces and is designed like a doll stand. The base has a nice graphic depicting what look like animation reference shots. The upper portion is adjustable for height and for width. This is a classy stand that I won’t mind seeing with a whole line of these figures.

The last thing the stand has going for it is that the figure can stand perfectly well without it. This would seem to defy the laws of physics given the top-heavy design. Now, I’m not going to put this Batman on the shelf without the stand. He does fine when posing for pictures, but I don’t think I trust this guy to stay put for years of shelf life.

The extra cape hangs straight and drapes down over Batman’s shoulders to achieve a standing pose. It looks great. The trick is switching the capes out. Batman’s head is a pain to get off. Those pointy ears are sharp and I actually managed to poke a hole in my finger while trying to put it back on. 

Fortunately, the peg that the head is mounted on is sturdy plastic and the not the clear plastic garbage that many figures – including this one – are using for joint pieces nowadays.

The extra hands are mounted on very delicate hinged pegs. I cannot emphasize enough how careful you ned to be with these. Gently test the hinges before you put these on the figure. Loosen them up. Even then be very careful with them. The hinge on my grapnel gun hand broke off with barely any stress at all:

It’s disappointing and shouldn’t have happened, but I’m also not planning to display the figure with that hand. It did, unfortunately, mean that I couldn’t get the classic “Batman getting ready to fire his grapnel gun” shot quite right.

The hands are relatively easy to switch out, but be sure to grasp them firmly by the hinge when you remove them from the figure. Pull the figure away from the hand rather than vice versa. Don’t put any more stress on those hands than you absolutely have to.

The grapnel gun and Batarang are very simple and are made of sturdy plastic, as opposed to the rubber a lot of people like to use for accessories now. The Batarang fits into one of the posed extra hands. The grapnel gun sort of fits into a different hand. It’s a little superfluous given that one of the extra hands is holding it properly and there isn’t much more you can do with it, but I’m glad it’s here.

FUN

Obviously a figure with this much meaningful articulation and this many accessories is a ton of fun. 
 
All of the articulation works quite well, but I caution you to carefully loosen everything up and use freezer or heat methods on stubborn joints. DO NOT FORCE ANYTHING. The only problem spot I had was the right hip and it came loose with some persistent wiggling and no freezer time.

Head – ball joint
Shoulders – ball joint
Elbows – swivel/pivot
Wrists – swivel/pivot
Waist – swivel
Hips – Hinged t-joint
Knees –pivot
Boot Top - swivel
Ankles – pivot
Foot – pivot

The peg that the head is mounted on has a ball at the end, so this joint provides 360° of rotation and a little bit of angling; as much as you need, really.

I was surprised at the range of movement the arms have. I didn’t expect much due to the thickness, but they’re really versatile. 
 
The feet work well and are much sturdier than they look. They still warrant caution, but they don’t snap right off like I thought they might. The swivel at the top of the boot is great and helps with more dynamic poses.

As good as the articulation on this figure is, it could have used a ball joint on the waist rather than a swivel and some kind of swivel above the knees. I think the different waist joint would have been easy enough, but I’m not sure if the thigh swivels could have been done without being ugly. I’m not a fan of the kinds of seams those usually create. I’d rather the posing be slightly more limited than have those breaks in the figure’s profile.

OVERALL

This is the best Batman figure I have ever owned. It’s not perfect. The paint errors are a problem and obviously those fragile wrists are no good. But even with those things this is a beautiful figure that perfectly represents New Adventures Batman and is still a lot of fun to play with. It’s not often you get an action figure that is both aesthetically pleasing and a fun toy, but this one accomplishes those dual goals quite nicely.

I can’t give it a perfect score, but I highly recommend this figure to any toy collector. It’s a great example of what smart toy design can accomplish. Just be sure you’re able to physically examine it in person before you buy. 
 
4 out of 5

Unless, of course, you just can’t find one in your area. Then you should buy one from Amazon and help the site out:


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