Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Toy Review – Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Set from DC Collectibles

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is a milestone of cinema.

To this day it remains the best Batman feature film released to theaters. In just eight months the creators of Batman: The Animated Series crafted a feature-length film using all of the tools that had been established by Batman: The Animated Series. It is part of the continuity of that show and the DC Animated Universe; an extra-long story with a budget that dwarfed other stories.

At the time I thought it was weird that there was an Animated Series movie coming out. I don’t know why, seeing as Transformers: The Movie had been released seven years prior. The precedent was there, I just found it odd. Now that I’m thinking about it, I might have been annoyed that we were getting an animated feature rather than the inevitable sequel to Batman Returns. In retrospect, this is hilarious for many reasons.

First, I would prefer it if we had never gotten the sequel to Batman Returns that ended up happening. While I now find Batman and Robin to be a lot of fun, I have never discovered a fondness for the third installment.

I didn’t know at the time that Phantasm was a very loose adaptation of Batman: Year Two by Mike W. Barr. I was very off-and-on with Batman comics back then (and now, I suppose) and wasn’t familiar with all of the storylines. But I did go to see Mask of the Phantasm in the theater. It blew me away. I’m still not a fan of how CGI and animation was mixed back then, but otherwise it’s a true masterpiece and I doubt we’ll see anything like it again.

Afterwards I devoured anything I could find that related to the movie, much the same way I did with 1989’s Batman. That’s how I discovered the Year Two connection and also when I really started to learn about Paul Dini and Bruce Timm.

SPOILER ALERT: The one thing that almost kept me from buying this set is the fact that, unlike the Kenner Phantasm figure, this one does not reveal Andrea Beaumont under the hood. 


DC Collectibles has shown a strict adherence to the forms and sizes of the animated characters in this line, and I think it would have been impossible to get the dimensions right. The movie flubbed it and Kenner did, as well, with their figure. So while I want an Andrea Beaumont and will likely be furious when DCC reveals her figure packed in with another Phantasm, I get why they did it this way.

I didn’t buy the single-carded release of this Batman. I can’t remember if it’s because I knew this set was coming or if I just felt like New Adventures Batman was enough. So this set was all new figures for me.

FIRST GLANCE

As much as I do like the New Adventures Batman, this is my animated Batman. I love the yellows on the belt and the symbol and the blue under the cape. I like the thicker shape and the shorter ears.

Phantasm seems huge to me. This is because over the twenty-three years since the movie came out I’ve watched it maybe fifteen or twenty times at most. But I’ve looked at my Kenner Phantasm figure almost every single day and it has that hood on Andrea Beaumont’s smaller female body. My brain is just used to Phantasm having a smaller frame, even though that isn’t (visually) the case in the movie.

Whatever the case, these both appear to be fine specimens of DC Collectibles’ animated work.

PACKAGING

I don’t think I ever explained why all of my packaging shots are angled now.

I was tired of the package pictures looking lousy. I’m not exactly an experienced photographer(!) and I’ve gotten only incrementally better over the years. My biggest issue seems to be the flash and what it does to what I’m taking a picture of. I know the best way around it is to build a light box, but who has time to build a light box?

Without the flash packages with shiny surfaces (all of them) look slightly grainy or blurry. With the flash packages with shiny surfaces (all of them) have a big, giant flash reflected on them. But if you angle the box or blister just right, you don’t get the reflection. That’s why everything is strategically angled now.

This does not solve the problem with the flash washing out lighter colors on the actually products, but there’s only so much time I have to invest in this issue. If shitty pictures keep you from buying a toy, I just don’t know what to tell you.

Anyway, this set comes in a nice window box that’s the same style as Man-Bat and other oversized releases. It looks great and features the all-important creative credits:



LOOKS

Phantasm is the star of the set. Batman looks great and all and I’ll get to him, but this is the only place you can get a figure of Andrea Beaumont’s alter ego. For now, at least.

The head is designed to be hidden under the hood of the cloak, but it still has a complete shape and sculpt. The skull-shaped mask is all hard edges. I love how it cuts off right at the eyebrows. It gives it a menacing, disembodied look, particularly with how it is designed to appear to be floating within the hood. The paint is spot-on, with well-defined edges between the blacks, whites, and greys.

The hooded cloak is grey rubber with no paint. DCC had a tough job here because they had to maintain the aesthetics they’ve established within the line, but also give us this heavy cassock that looked like the animation. The head has to move, but the hood has to be big. This is another reason why this figure couldn’t have Andrea Beaumont hidden underneath. 


The Kenner figure had one big piece for the hood and mask that covered the Beaumont head. DCC didn’t have that option. So the hood sits on top of the shoulders and head, allowing the head to move freely within. They’ve used this method on other figures like Azrael and Anarky from their Arkham line and it works well here.

The rest of the cloak has a wonderful shape that falls over the shoulders and body of the figure. It looks very much like a Scooby-Doo design, and that’s a good thing. I’m usually not a fan of cloaks or hair being sculpted “in action”, but there’s not one frame of the movie where Phantasm’s cloak isn’t in motion, almost as though the character is draped in a ghost. The figure captures that look well.

While this is larger than you would expect a DC Animated female to be, the legs are somewhat slender and the exaggerated bulk of the upper body is obvious. When you stand Phantasm next to the other standard-sized characters, there is a clear difference in her look. Also, her hideous hip joints don’t look as hideous since the whole body is black and rounded.

The left hand is gloved in a large gauntlet. I dig the squared-off look of the fingers on the fist. The right hand sports Phantasm’s unique weapon – a scythe-like blade that also emits a thick chemical fog. This is another element that Kenner’s figure has messed up in my brain. 


On their figure, this piece is hugely oversized and removable. The DCC version has a properly-scaled weapon that does not come off. It looks perfect. It’s made from a firm plastic that won’t break and also isn’t rubber. For that it wins my award for “Thing That Isn’t Rubber And Shouldn’t Be”.

Phantasm’s boots are plain, but distinctive. They look like they should and the paint is applied cleanly. I’m impressed that there’s no noticeable difference in gloss or shade between the feet and the tops.

I love this Batman. The head is more square and imposing than the New Adventures Batman, and the shorter ears appeal to me more for some reason. I didn’t used to feel that way. The paint is spot-on and… wait a minute… They didn’t paint his teeth.

DAMMIT DC COLLECTIBLES.

Batman’s cloak sits a little funny on his shoulders. It doesn’t drape quite as nicely as I think it should. The shape otherwise is great and indicative of the Dark Knight’s earlier years. I can’t say enough good things about the way DCC designs these, with the neck being entirely covered by the cape material and creating a nigh-unto seamless look between it and the cowl. The scalloped bottom reminds me of Super Powers Batman – always a good thing. And that blue lining is fantastic.

The shape of the cape reminds me of Super Powers Batman, but the body looks like Adam West, which isn’t really a thought I had had about Animated Batman before, but taking in this 3D model really brings west’s physique to mind, especially with the way the Utility Belt is situated on his frame. The Bat Symbol is actually sculpted and not just paint, which is fantastic. I also never realized how closely it actually resembles the odd shape of the one on Michael Keaton’s chest in Batman. It has the same raised wings rather than the more ovular shape we’re used to seeing on this style of emblem. It’s just missing the little feet or whatever. The utility belt is simple and yellow. It looks great.

Batman’s gauntlets have the longer style fins. Each one is sculpted separately and they look fantastic. They have just enough thickness to be substantial and not feel like they’re going to break off.

Batman’s boots are tall and have the requisite angled top. The flat black looks great and the feet are big enough to support the figure.

This Batman differs from the single-carded release. That one has a closed-mouth head sculpt and includes several more hands and accessories. Obviously that head is better since it doesn’t have missing paint, but to not have to double up on figures it’s worth it to me to have this one.

ACCESSORIES

The set includes two stands, two extra hands for Batman, a Batarang, and two extra hands for Phantasm. Pretty minimal. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed.

The hands all look great and swap out easily.

Batman can hold the Batarang with the included “Batarang holding hand”.

The stands are classy, but as I collect more of these figures I find myself liking them less and less. They take up a lot of extra shelf space. I almost boxed them all the other day, but decided I’d wait until I have to. The good news is that so far I haven’t run across any figures from this line that have trouble standing independently.

FUN

If you’ve been reading my other DC Animated reviews, you know the drill with these guys.
DCC has to stick to a certain aesthetic style with these figures and they have done an excellent job aside from the fugly hip joints. These look like they stepped right out of the cartoons. But they also have respectable articulation. Our old Kenner pals only had five points, but these figures can do just about anything you need them to.

Each figure has a ball-jointed head and shoulders, hinged swivel elbows and wrists, waist swivels, ugly hinged swivel hips, knee pivots, boot-top swivels (only on Phantasm), and ankle pivots. With all of that you can achieve plenty of dynamic poses.

There aren’t many accessories here, which surprised me. I realize an entirely separate Andrea Beaumont figure is likely in the works, but in lieu of a transformation Phantasm could have included a fog effect or even an alternate hand for the right side.

As far as I’m concerned this Batman should have come with all of the same accessories as the single-carded version, or perhaps at least some movie-accurate extras like the tape recorder bomb that was in Salvatore Valestra’s lap or the locket from the end of the movie.

OVERALL

I’m not sorry I bought this set because Phantasm is a must-have and is executed well, but I’m disappointed by the cut corners. The lack of accessories and the missing paint on Batman’s teeth are definite issues.

3 out of 5

If you need a Phantasm, buy one from Amazon and help Needless Things pay the bills!:






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