This blog is a month shy of being a year old now. A while back I reviewed my first Batman figure, a happy meal toy, and I mentioned how shocking it was that it took me so long to review a Batman. Well the same could be sent of this gentleman, The Man of Steel. I couldn’t let an entire year go by without reviewing a Superman figure so here we are. I don’t mean to neglect the DC characters it’s just that I grew up a Marvel kid and to this day remain a Marvel man and my collection reflects that. I’ve got hundreds of Marvel figures and dozens of versions of their flagship characters. When it comes to the DC Universe I only have a select few figures and I’ve felt the need to ration out my reviews. I have a couple of the 80s DC Super Powers toys and I have a few odds and ends like a 12” Joker doll and the aforementioned happy meal toys but the bulk of my rather diminutive DC collection is made up of figures produced by DC Direct; the comic company’s in-house collectable manufacturer. When DC Direct first started up over 10 years ago it seemed to have a philosophy similar to that of McFarlane Toys; the philosophy of making good toys. DC Direct didn’t tackle the well known characters like Batman and Superman, they left that up to the mainstream companies like Hasbro and Mattel. The kind of companies that make toys geared towards children (go figure) and produce figures with names like Zip-Line Batman or Krypton-Punch Superman.
DC Direct instead focused on the small collector’s-only market with toys geared towards adults, available only in comic stores. Initially they started with characters that were unlikely to ever get figures produced by those mainstream companies. Characters like Swamp Thing, Sandman and Alfred E Newman. The toys they were making were so well received though that DC thought it best for the company to branch out. They soon started tackling DC’s big guns but rather than releasing an expansive generic DC toy line they released a number of small toy lines based on famous DC comic stories. This worked out well as most DC storylines include at least one of the big name guys along with a bunch of C-list characters. This way fans got toys of their favorite obscure heroes and villains but Bats and Supes were often right alongside them to draw the attention more casual passersby.
One of the biggest issues with a toy line like Batman or Ninja Turtles is that its focused on a finite number of heroes and in order to keep those heroes on the shelf, since they’re the ones kids always want, the toy companies have to resort to gimmicks and silly costumes. DC Direct avoided flooding store shelves with Zip-lining Batmen and Krypton-Punching Supermen by releasing each new story-specific toy line in the style of the artist that drew it. The figure itself was the gimmick and that was awesome. Sure you may already have a Batman but do you have a Frank Miller Batman? How about a Jim Lee Batman? DC Direct released great figure after great figure and none of them felt repetitive or forced into a line just so retailers would order a box. The first offerings from DC Direct that really captured my attention was the line based on the new Superman/Batman team-up book written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Ed McGuinness.
I love Ed McGuinness’s exaggerated, cartoon-on-steroids style. For lack of a better word, his art is “fun” to look at. It’s big, clear, crisp, bright, and dynamic. I think I first fell for him when he was drawing Deadpool. I already liked the Deadpool book but McGuinness elevated it to one of my favorite reads. McGuinness got me buying the Superman/Batman book which was one of the first DC books that I bought on a regular basis, and he then got me hooked on the Red Hulk, a character I never would have bothered with if not for his illustrations.
The first story arc in Superman/Batman was called Public Enemies which told of then president Lex Luthor’s plot to frame Batman and Superman, thus turning the public against them. The story wasn’t great but it was packed with characters and read like a mindless action summer blockbuster. The real selling point was the artwork. Batman and Superman have never looked so heroic. The world’s finest were forced to duke it out with a ton of heroes, and villains alike, in the 6 issue story. Unfortunately the Public Enemies toy line failed to capture the scope of the comic book, consisting of only a few figures. Luckily DC Direct followed those figures up with a line of JLA figures also based on Ed’s art. The Martian Manhunter from that line was one of the first figures I reviewed.
So let’s talk about this Superman figure. I would understand if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but personally I love it. The somewhat blocky way that Superman’s muscles are defined and that cartoonishly square jaw are McGuinness trademarks. The squinted eyes are another thing I happen to really like about the figure as it really makes him appear to have leapt off the page. I really like the paint job on this guy as well. The shimmery metallic blue really pops and he looks fantastic on display. The biggest gripe I have about these Public Enemies figures is the proportions. I’m not sure whether it’s Ed’s fault or the sculptors but the arms are pretty stubby looking on all of them. It’s not a deal breaker but it’s hard not to see once you notice it. The cape is rather comedically short which is another strike against. The figure’s articulation is lacking as is the case with almost all of DC Directs product but I’m okay with that. These are meant to be display pieces. The lack of joints mean the figures have a good solid stance and don’t require display bases (though this figure comes with a nice one of the merged logos). The pose is neutral and there is enough movement that a kid would still get a kick out of playing with him. I’m sure he’s much more durable than any of my Marvel figures as well. I have most of the main characters from this line in my collection but would like to eventually back fill some C-listers I initially passed on. A pretty super figure. 8 out of 10.