Monday, June 1, 2015

Toy Review – Batman: The Animated Series Man-Bat from DC Collectibles

I have always thought it was odd that Man-Bat was the first villain used in Batman: The Animated Series. He and his alter-ego Kirk Langstrom appeared in the first episode, causing the GCPD to go after Batman. The admirable thing here is that they avoided an origin story. The approach was, “We all know who Batman is. Let’s get to the action.”

I love Man-Bat because he’s a combination of horror tropes – Jekyll and Hyde and the Wolf Man. It might not seem necessary to throw the Wolf Man comparison in there, as Jekyll/Hyde covers the transformation aspect, but the Man-Bat creature isn’t evil like Edward Hyde. It’s simply a wild beast like the Wolf Man.

Langstrom was used somewhat sparingly in the DC Animated Universe, making only a few appearances. The character had the honor of being voiced by two powerhouses – Marc Singer provided Langstrom’s voice and the legendary Frank Welker performed Man-Bat’s vocals.
Kenner’s original Man-Bat figures is one of my favorites from their Animated Series line. It’s a large figure and functionally does everything that a Man-Bat figure should do. Kenner added to and enhanced the standard articulation for the line in order to produce a figure that could both stand and fly. It’s aesthetically nice and has great play value – something that can’t be said for many toys of the early 90s. 
 
DC Collectibles had a tall order in updating this particular character. Given what they’ve accomplished so far with their Animated line, I had no doubts they would succeed.

FIRST GLANCE

This is a huge figure, and it’s amazing that it retains the same price point as the other single-carded figures in the line. As big as that Kenner Man-Bat was compared to the rest of the line, this one is monstrous. The scale is much more properly represented. To me all of this just shows that DCC loves this line and wants to provide the best figures they can for collectors.
At least, that’s what I thought until I opened the box…

PACKAGING

Man-Bat comes in a window box custom designed to house his large, winged form. The color scheme matches the rest of the line and fits right in with the other figures despite its different shape. The figure and all of the accessories are nicely visible in the window.

The back has the generic Batman design printed on it, but the important part is the sculptor credit on the side.

The box is easy to open, but for reasons I still don’t understand I had a heck of a time getting the plastic tray out. This was the case with both Man-Bats I ended up getting.

Yes, both. DCC hasn’t yet gotten ahold of their quality control problems, and Man-Bat might be the worst of the bunch. Hang in there, I’ll tell you all about it.

LOOKS

The scale of Man-Bat versus the other figures in the line is spot-on. It stands tall and has a massive wingspan. I like how much menace his sheer size imparts. 
 
Sculpt-wise he looks great. This character involves a good bit more detail than most of the other figures released so far and certainly has the most distinctive profile. All of the shapes are so cool to look at – the long torso, the distinctive bat wings with the fingers at the ends, the angular head, the bent legs and feet. It all looks so good and so true to the cartoon. Slightly more true, even, than Kenner’s figure.

The head sculpt is packed with detail. The large ears have sculpted, painted ridges inside that add a nice visual touch. The open mouth is red inside with a painted tongue and white fangs. Above that are two yellow eyes that I absolutely love because of their mismatched shapes. This is one of those little touches that DCC has been adding that makes these fgures so much more evocative of the cartoon. You can just see the animation within the plastic form.

The elongated torso features angular musculature and a thick, powerful neck. 
 
The shoulder joints are just a little bit ugly on the “flying” arms. The discs of the joint stick out beyond the shoulder sculpt a bit and it isn’t great. Otherwise these look fantastic. The hands and fingers at the ends of the arms are creepy and well-defined. The skin of the wings has a great classic horror shape – if that makes sense – and is a softer plastic with a cool texture that is slightly different from the rest of the figure. 
 
The trousers have an awkward look that suggests they don’t fit right. The legs and feet are angled just right and are sized better than the stumpy ones on Kenner’s figure.

I realize I am comparing this figure to Kenner’s more than I have in any of the other reviews for this line. There’s a reason for that.

ACCESSORIES

Man-Bat comes with a stand, three pill bottles, a cassette recorder (a what?), and two extra arms.

The stand is adjustable in three ways and has a nice turnaround of Man-Bat printed on the base. I still wish the bases were black with blue or red print. This white is only going to get ugly over time. Otherwise the stand is good, though I don’t think you should necessarily use it like this:


The bottles and recorder look nice and have solid paint jobs. Man-Bat can’t interact with these, but other figures – hopefully including a future release of Kirk Langstrom – can.

The extra arms are sculpted with folded up wings. I can’t help but be disappointed in these (and this is just the start). The Kenner figure had elbows with swivels and pivots, allowing standing and flying poses: 

At the very least I feel like these should have pivots. As it is you can’t even pose the figure the same as the turnaround drawing. I’m definitely disappointed at how limited the arms are.

FUN

Well, here we go.

Man-Bat’s arms fall right out of the arm holes. The right one is worse than the left, but neither stays put. At all:


A video posted by Phantom Troublemaker (@phantomtroublemaker) on


This has been the case with both Man-Bats that I have purchased. It’s pretty ridiculous and an inexcusable lack of quality control. Especially with the problems that this line has had and DCC’s assurances that they were tightening things up. They literally did not tighten these up.

This time around the problems aren’t just QC-related, though. I feel like there are big design problems with this figure, as well. I’ll skip over the ugly hip joints that were chosen as the standard for the line and go straight to one of my biggest action figure pet peeves – figures of characters that can fly should always be able to be made to look like they’re flying. Man-Bat’s head can rotate, but has very little up-and-down movement. Even with the generous range of movement provided by the admittedly excellent torso articulation, Man-Bat cannot look straight ahead while in a horizontal position. Even the Kenner figure was capable of this:

If the joint would have had a negative impact on the figure’s profile then they should have engineered a second head. This is not something I consider optional, especially when “flying” arms were included.

Sadly, all of those things combine to make a figure that is not very fun. You can’t touch it without the arms falling off (both sets suffer from the problem) and it can’t look right while flying. What we’re left with is a figure that can stand on the shelf and look nice, but that’s all. And don’t jostle the shelf.

OVERALL

I am so damned disappointed to be giving this figure a poor review. It’s one of the ones I was the most excited for from this line and I am honestly baffled as to how it turned out so poorly. QC aside, DC Collectibles has been on fire for over a year now. Heck, I’ve got a batch of brand-new Arkham Knight figures that are incredible.

Side Note: I really hope we can somehow get an Arkham-style Man-Bat. I don’t know if he’s in the new game, but that would be rad.

The aesthetics are beautiful, but this figure utterly failed in the functionality department.

2 out of 5

If you want to try your luck, go to Amazon and buy a Man-Bat so you can help out Needless Things!:


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