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HARLEY QUINN (SPACESUIT) 2017

DC DESIGNER SERIES: AMANDA CONNER

I’ve been settled into my new house for a month now. If you saw my last post you know that most of my toys are unpacked and the man-cave is looking great. I don’t know if I’ll start posting reviews on the regular again but I’ve got a little time to kill this evening and I got a cool new figure today so I thought I’d write my first review in the new house.

Harley Quinn first appeared on Batman: The Animated Series in the early 90s. I was a fan of the show, and though I didn’t watch it religiously, I liked Harley Quinn right away. She had a fun, court jester style costume which worked really well for her role as a love interest/henchman of the joker. True, she was a little annoying but her outlandish enthusiasm suited her since she was supposed to be absolutely nuts.

Harley was brought into the main DC comics universe in 1999 by way of an original graphic novel. I found the comic book version even better than the animated version.  She wasn’t as goofy and you could read her dialogue free of the annoying animated series voice. Bruce Timm’s animated jester design translated perfectly to the more detailed comic book medium courtesy of top-tier artists like Jim Lee and Terry Dodson. I had wanted to add a Harley Quinn action figure to my collection for many years but the cartoon based ones didn’t fit in with my existing DC crew and I missed out on the comic figure based on Jim Lee’s popular “Hush” storyline. She was a little too pricey for me on the secondary market and for years that Hush figure was the only 6″ Harley Quinn option.  Oh how times have changed.

I finally got my first Harley Quinn figure in 2014. It was based on her “edgy” New 52 redesign. I was happy with the figure at the time and gave it an 8 out of 10. If I were to review that figure today I’d likely give it a 4.  There are far superior options out there now, it constantly falls over, and I just don’t care much for that costume choice. A year later I got a new Harley based on her 2013 roller derby redesign. It was a much better costume which was designed by artist Amanda Conner. I was very pleased with that figure at the time and gave it a 9 out of 10. Nowadays I’d probably bump it down to a 7. The figure had a lot of good attributes, such as removable roller skates, but the weird face and stumpy neck were not among them.

In my review of Derby Harley I mentioned that I’d been hoping for figures based on Amanda Conner’s art for years and it seemed as though that was as close as I was gonna get. Well here we are just a couple of years later and DC Collectibles has offered up a whole series Harley figures based on Conner’s distinctive artwork (I’m still waiting on Power Girl though). I’m so happy to see Conner get her due. I’ve been a big fan of hers since 2002’s “The Pro”. I wish she still drew comics on the regular but it seems like she’s content just doing covers and writing these days.

I eagerly pre-ordered all 4 Conner Harley Quinns when they were offered on BigBadToyStore about a year ago. However, once the initial excitement wore off I calmed down and questioned whether I really needed 4 more Harley Quinns…because I don’t think I even like this character anymore.

 

I have tried on several occasions to read Harley Quinn comics and I just can’t get into them.  They’re stupid. Too stupid for me. I really wanted to like them because of my past affection for the character but I just can’t.  On top of that, the character’s popularity seems to have reached a critical mass and she has completely saturated the market. She’s everywhere.  But the straw that finally broke the Harley camel’s back was that goddamn turd of a Suicide Squad movie. After that I was done.  I cancelled my figure pre-orders.

Harley hate aside, I still love Amanda Conner so I told myself I’d let myself pick up 1 of the 4 figures once I saw them in store and decided on a favourite. They recently hit stores in my area and the winner was spacesuit Harley. This figure is based on a specific storyline (as are the other figures in this series) which I did not read. The entire body design is faithful to Conner’s artwork but the Conner-ness is most evident in the face. She draws such beautiful and expressive faces so this is where the sculptors really needed to nail it and I think they were successful. This type of facial sculpting is what was sorely lacking on the derby figure. The wide eyes, exuberant smile, and flowing hair all do Conner justice and the delicate paint apps seal the deal.

This figure has a vibrant paint job, plenty of articulation, and fun accessories. She comes with a display base, removable space helmet, a cork space rife with a stretchy phone-cord like rope, and some sort of evil space pizza. The pizza doesn’t mean much to me but I’m sure somebody out there will appreciate it. This figure has mended enough of the damage done by Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad that I may even allow myself to buy one more from this series. I may not feel this way forever but, as of right now, this is the Harley Quinn figure I’ve been waiting for. 10 out of 10.

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KNIGHTMARE BATMAN (2016)

POP-Batman Knightmare fullFUNKO POP!

I try to stick to toy reviews on this site but every now and again I’ll sneak a movie review in disguised as a toy review. I don’t think I ever shared my thoughts on 2013’s Man of Steel so allow me to now… Hated it.

I love me some Superman and I was excited to see it initially but what a boring piece of crap that was. I could go on and on about the things I didn’t like about it (it was grim, it was long, Superman let his dad die, Ma and Pa Kent were kinda dicks, Superman killed Zod and destroyed a city in the process, Amy Adams sucked, etc. etc.) but I won’t bother.

When it was announced that a sequel was being made called “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” I was concerned for many reasons (they were trying to build a shared universe on a super weak foundation, they were adapting a comic about Superman and Batman’s final meeting into a movie about their first meeting thus diminishing the conflict and starting the DC cinematic universe off with an aged Batman, they were planning on cramming in multiple {thus underdeveloped} characters, etc. etc.) and yet I went and saw it anyway like a chump.POP-Batman Knightmare back

I enjoyed BvS more than Man of Steel but just barely. I still thought it was riddled with problems but it wasn’t a pile of  garbage like MOS was. As I feared, BvS was too long and too dark. They introduced too many characters in an effort to rush the Justice League together and it felt forced, character motivations were largely absent, Doomsday was completely generic, and {SPOILER ALERT} they tagged the Death of Superman storyline onto the end and it didn’t have nearly the impact it should have because in the DC cinematic universe most of the world thinks Superman is a jerk. Plus there was the killing of Jimmy Olsen, the overly goofy Lex Luthor, Batman killing everybody, etc. etc.

I really hope DC get’s its s**t together before the Justice League movies come out but I’m not optimistic.  The first teaser trailer was released this weekend and it did nothing to make me think things are heading in the right direction.

POP-Batman Knightmare side

 

Even though I didn’t love the movie I do love this figure based on it. This “Knightmare” version of Batman appeared in a dream sequence that foreshadowed the coming of Darkseid. It was one of the most out of place scenes in the movie that I’m sure left casual movie goers completely confused. Even I, a seasoned comic nerd, was left scratching my head. I’m not interested in collecting any of the DC Direct/Mattel figures from this dour movie but I couldn’t resist picking up this adorable little version of Batman in his trenchcoat and goggles from Funko.

I seem to have started a sub-collection of Batmen figures within my larger POP! collection. This is now the fourth Batman I’ve acquired and I’m still hoping to pick up the BvS armoured version as well.  As much as I love the trench coat, the neckerchief, the goggles, and the dirt spatter, it’s the 5 o’clock shadow that really won me over. Who doesn’t love a stubbly Batman. I’m quite certain that this figure is the best thing to come out of Batman v Superman. I would score the movie a 5 (Man of Steel gets a 2) but this figure gets an 8 out of 10.POP-Batman Knightmare Batmen

BATMAN YELLOW (POP!) (2014)

POP-Batman yellow fullFUNKO POP!

There was a time when I told myself I wasn’t going to collect Funko’s POP! vinyl figures and now I have a small army of them including three variations of Batman.

The floodgates can be traced back to my first POP! figure, a black and grey contemporary Batman that I received as a gift.  I liked it so much that I thought I would maybe buy one or two more.  I started out by buying a couple oddballs like Rocky Balboa and the the Winged Monkey from Wizard of Oz and the next thing I knew I had a dozen of them.

My second Batman, an Adam West 60s Batman, was gifted to me on my birthday by my brother Doug a couple years ago. That one came with a retro Batmobile which was pretty sweet.  After that I was quite certain I had no need for any further Batman POP! figures. Then last weekend I bought this mustardy yellow Batman.  You might think it ridiculous but there is precedent for this garish costume.POP-Batman yellow comic

This figure, along with pink, green, orange, purple, and blue variations were released as a special exclusives to collectibles etailer, Entertainment Earth.  They were produced in celebration of the Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary in 2014.  The rainbow Batman outfits are based on Detective Comics issue 241 published in 1957.  I’ve never read it but in it Batman apparently dons various coloured costumes as a means to distract some bad guys from noticing that Robin was fighting crime with a wounded arm. Sounds silly I know but it was the Silver Age and s**t like that happened all the time.

POP-Batman yellow group

 

My friend Jay runs a comic shop called Cape and Cowl Comics in my hometown of Sackville, Nova Scotia.  You may recall me talking about it in my Blowtorch review a while back.   It’s a great shop but I’ve only been in there a couple of times.  I don’t get out to Sackville very often unless I’m visiting my folks and I do 99% of my comic shopping at Strange Adventures in Halifax.  Jay has faced some hurtles in starting up his new business and I guess things have been exceptionally slow in the new year.  When tales of his struggles made the rounds on local news outlets and social media I knew I had to get out there and spend some cash.  I went out for a browse on Saturday and despite a great selection of goodies there wasn’t much there I “needed”.POP-Batman yellow side

Any POP! figure would’ve been a fun purchase, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Deb from Napolean Dynamite, Neo from the Matrix, but I just couldn’t resist the pull of the rainbow Batmen.  The shop had a few varieties in stock but the yellow one won out because I oddly find it the ugliest and the most appealing.  (I also bought a Scarface ReAction figure).

There isn’t much to say about the figure itself.  The sculpt is as cute as it was the first two times I got it.  I’m sure it will be a conversation piece on my work desk.  7 out of 10.

If you’re able, go support Cape and Cowl comics.

 

 

HARLEY QUINN (2015)

DC-Harley2 fullDC COMICS – SUPER VILLAINS

For my birthday in January 2014 Vanessa bought me my first Harley Quinn action figure.  It was based on the character’s appearance from the recently relaunched Suicide Squad comic. I liked the new costume design even though it was a pretty drastic change from Harley’s original court jester costume which I was a big fan of.

The costume change occurred in 2011 to coincide with DC’s line wide reboot known as the New 52.  Two years later Harley got her own solo comic book series and with it came another costume design but the 2013 make-over wasn’t as drastic as the 2011 one.  Most of the New 52 design elements were retained but they were tweaked to give her a roller-derby girl look.  This included the addition of knee pads, shoulder pads, elbow pads, and of course roller skates.  I really dug the new look but I don’t know if I would’ve loved it as much if Amanda Conner hadn’t drawn it; that woman can do no wrong.

I had every intention of buying the new series once the collected edition came out but based on my brother’s reviews (he’s been reading the monthly issues) I think it might be too silly for me.

art by Amanda Conner

art by Amanda Conner

 

I actually think some comics should be silly.  Too many books are dark and dreary these days and Harley’s a good candidate for silly.  But I’ve read quite a few silly books over the years (Deadpool, Bomb Queen, Superior Foes) and I just got burnt out on it.  I may still pick up the new Harley Quinn collections one of these days but for now I’ll remain a fan from afar.

Even though I’m not reading her current series I was still very excited when this figure was announced a few months back.  I immediately pre-ordered one from BigBadToyStore.  As far as I could tell it looked amazing and was influenced by Conner’s artwork.  I’ve been wishing for action figures based on her art for years.  It’s an absolute crime that DC hasn’t yet released an Amanda Conner Power Girl.DC-Harley2 hammer

 

 

There was no doubt in my mind that this new figure would be superior to the Suicide Squad Harley and I couldn’t wait to add her to my collection.  I was notified a month ago that BBTS had it in stock and ready to ship to me but I was frugal and patient.  I waited until a few more pre-orders came in before telling them to send it because I wanted to save some cash with the combined shipping.  Last week, once my Boondock Saints and Rocketeer figures were in stock,  I told BigBad to ship my package and earlier tonight it arrived.

DC-Harley2 side

I really like this Harley Quinn.  Both the sculpting and the painting are great.  The sneakers alone put the previous figure’s to shame.  Derby Harley’s shoes have sculpted laces and pompoms and multiple paint apps whereas the 2014 figure’s kicks had hardly any sculpted detail and zero paint apps.  The new Harley still has ribbed socks but ups the ante with painted stars and stripes.  The shorts are more attractive this time around and they also have additional star and diamond paint apps.  The stars and diamonds motif continues onto her elbow and shoulder pads.  Instead of a frilly collar this Harley has a choker with bells, like something a BDSM reindeer might wear.  It’s isn’t by a wide margin but I think this face sculpt is prettier too.  Trading in the black mask-like make up for a more subdued pink eyeshadow was a good call in my opinion.  The hair is similar on both figures except the new one’s pigtails are a fair bit longer.  At a glance I think the thing I most prefer about this new figure is that she’s wearing black and red like her original jester costume.  The red and blue of the Suicide Squad version isn’t as dynamic.  Also this Harley’s skin is pure white as opposed to the porcelain off-white of the other figure and the white on black contrast makes this one really pop out at ya.DC-Harley2 back

For accessories Harley comes with a pistol which can be holstered on her hip and her trademark mallet.  I’m happy to see a return to her cartoony red mallet.  The brown and grey sledge hammer that came with last figure wasn’t nearly as fun.  Also she comes with removable roller skates which plug into her sneakers.  The wheels actually spin so you can cruise her across your computer desk or kitchen floor if you’re so inclined.  I knew she had skates but I didn’t expect them to actually work or to be removable so that was a pleasant surprise.

This figure is pretty great but its not perfect.  I’m not a fan of the bell choker.  It makes it appear as though she has a really short neck.  Also the combination of the choker and the pig tails really hinder the head movement.  Lastly, this figure still doesn’t have any torso articulation which is something I griped about in my last HQ review.  She really should be able to turn at the waist.  Other than that though the articulation is good.DC-Harley2 face

 

 

I was really excited to receive this figure when I hit “send” last week and it pretty much lives up to my expectations.  Unfortunately that excitement was slightly diminished a couple of days ago thanks to an announcement at last weekend’s San Diego Comic Con.  DC Collectables revealed that they have a new Harley Quinn figure coming out next year based on Darwyn Cooke’s artwork.  Darwyn is one of the best and most unique artists in the business and his Harley looks incredible.  The design is almost identical to this figure so this figure suddenly felt kinda redundant just days before I got it.  Oh well, thats toy collecting for ya.  9 out of 10.

Darwyn Cooke's Harley (2016)

Darwyn Cooke’s Harley (2016)

...and a classic upcoming Harley figure

…and an upcoming classic Harley figure

DC-Harley2 compare

CATWOMAN (2014)

DC-Catwoman fullDC COLLECTIBLES DESIGNER SERIES

A while back I reviewed the Talon figure from wave 1 of DC Collectibles’ Batman toyline based on the artwork of Greg Capullo. Just before Christmas I acquired my second figure from the line, wave 2’s Catwoman. I really liked the look of Talon but due to some articulation issues (his loose ankles mean he’s constantly falling over) he was not a contender for my “best of 2014” year-end list. Since I hadn’t picked up any of the other wave 1 figures it seemed as though the Capullo line, despite being beautifully sculpted by Jonathan Matthews (the same guy who did the amazing New Gods figures based on Jack Kirby’s artwork), was sadly going to be shut out of my list. However, Catwoman swooped in just days before the deadline and clinched the number 5 spot.

Giant Robot Comics had a “buy 2 get 1 free” sale on for Boxing Day so Doug and I popped in (along with the rest of his family) to check it out.

DC-Catwoman face

First off let me say that I’m used to shopping for toys alone; or perhaps with an embarrassed girlfriend in tow. I am not used to shopping for toys with Toddlers. I don’t know how Doug does it.  His youngest, Luke, is an awesome little dude but he is the epitome of the terrible twos. While Doug dealt with the tantrum I went about my business browsing the latest action figures. The pegs were freshly stocked with the latest “Capullo Batman” and “Son of Batman” figures. I went with Catwoman and Batgirl from the Capullo series and for my freebie I snagged a Zatana from DC Collectibles’ New 52 line. I was very tempted to pick up the Damian Wayne Robin figure too but if I did that then I’d have to either put one of my original picks back or pick out two more figures to take advantage of the savings. Seeing as it was the day after Christmas I couldn’t justify carting 6 new figures home so I stuck with my original three picks. As luck would have it my pal Andrew ended up getting me Damian for my birthday 2 weeks later so stay tuned for that review.DC-Catwoman whip

I was super stoked to get this figure. Much like the Supergirl and Robin (until a few months ago) Catwoman was an essential DC character of which I did not yet own an action figure. I don’t have a massive DC collection but it’s about 40 strong so it seems crazy that none of those characters were represented. Not only are they important characters in the DC universe but they’re also some of my favorites. There have been many versions of each of them released in the past but none of them matched my expectations.   The HUSH Catwoman released in 2004 and based on Jim Lee’s art was probably the best version of the character prior to this but even that one wasn’t quite up to snuff. The face was too cartoony or something.

This Greg Capullo inspired Catwoman finally gives us what I would consider a definitive version of the character.

DC-Catwoman Batman

The sculpt is rally impressive. The costume is relatively simple but it should be. A cat burglar shouldn’t have a whole lot of bells, whistles, and bright colors.  She’s wearing a sleek black cat suit with a zipper down the front and some buckles on her boots. The design is enhanced by a number of subtly sculpted wrinkles and folds in the material. The body is very curvy and feminine but doesn’t suffer from any outlandish proportions as is sometimes the case with female figures. Impressively she’s wearing high heeled boots yet she stands up on her own quite well. I haven’t had to pick her up from the floor once.

DC-Catwoman back

The head sculpt is also beautiful in its simplicity. She has a black cowl with ears, gold and silver goggles, and a neutral facial expression.  I praised the Supergirl figure for not having bright red lipstick which Catwoman does have however this is a much more seductive character so it makes sense. You can’t see her eyes through the oversized cat-eyed goggles but the gold paint glistens in such a way that from certain angles the lenses almost look translucent.  If I were to complain about one thing it would be that they painted her nostrils. It looks fine but it makes them more pronounced than they need to be.

The articulation on this figure is decent but it could be better. Her legs only go forward and back with no side-to-side movement and she has no torso articulation at all.  Personally I prefer aesthetic over functionality for most of my figures since I just display them anyway but a character like this should be a little more flexible.  Although, DC’s earlier figures were so stiff that Catwoman is plenty nimble by comparison.

For accessories she has a whip as any good cat-themed bad girl should. It’s made of soft rubber so it hangs realistically and looks good no matter how you pose it.

I highly recommend you get this figure but if by some chance you can’t track one down don’t fret. A new series of figures based on the artwork of Jae Lee (Jim’s brother) is due out later this year and the Catwoman is very similar to this one. 10 out of 10.

DC-Catwoman catfight

ROBIN (1984)

DC-Robin SP fullDC SUPER POWERS COLLECTION

Not too long ago I reviewed the new Red Robin figure from DC Direct’s “New 52” toy line. In that review I told you how I always related to sidekicks when I was a kid. Having a brother that’s 2 years older than me meant that when we ran around the house pretending to be super heroes he always got to be the main hero and I was always relegated to the sidekick role. I was the Tonto to his Lone Ranger and the Twiki to his Buck Rogers. So of course I was the Robin to Doug’s Batman. When it came to collecting action figures we followed the same pattern. Doug had the Mego Batman doll so I had the Mego Robin doll. I wish I still had my Mego but regrettably I destroyed that thing when I was still wearing footie jammies. Despite my childhood attachment to the character I never acquired another Robin toy until that Red Robin figure showed up in the mail last month.DC-Robin SP back

I was really impressed by the Red Robin figure. I’d say it’s a contender for my year-end “best of” list. I don’t think Robin has ever looked cooler than he does in his contemporary outfit showcased by that figure. But my connection to Robin dates all the way back to the early 80s, long before the character was “cool”. My first exposure to the character was likely from re-runs of the 1960s live-action Batman show. Burt Ward made for a fantastic Robin but he was far from cool when he was wearing those itty bitty green shorts and slippers and exclaiming his silly puns. And yet, that look is iconic and will forever be the definitive Robin in my mind. This Super Powers figure from 1984 perfectly represents Robin in his classic homoerotic sidekick costume.

DC-Robin SP BatmanNow, you may be wondering where this figure came from since I just told you that the New 52 Red Robin figure was the first Robin toy added to my collection since the Mego days. Well, last week I received a message on this blog’s facebook page from a fellow named Nate. We had never met before but he also lives in Halifax and he knows many of the same people I know. He said that he’s a regular reader of the blog and that he came across some of his old toys recently and he was looking to get rid of them. He sent me a very well organized excel spread sheet which listed all of the figures, as well as their accessories, their condition, and their value. The list primarily consisted of vintage G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and Super Powers figures though there were a few small miscellaneous collections on the list as well such as Crystar and the Muppets. The figures that excited me most were those from the 1979 Disney movie, the Black Hole. You may recall me mentioning in my review of Twiki (Buck Rogers’ robot sidekick) that I was hoping to one day reacquire my Black Hole VINCENT figure (that film’s robot sidekick character). Not only did Nate have a VINCENT but he also had a bunch of other cool robot figures from the film such as BOB, Maximillian, and a Sentry (another toy I had when I was a kid).

DC-Robin SP jump

I replied to Nate to say I was definitely interested in the Black Hole figures as well as some of the others. Nate replied to say that despite the prices he had listed on the spreadsheet he’d sell me everything for $5 a pop…except for the Black Hole figures. He found a buyer online willing to pay $400 for a single BH figure. My heart sank a little but I made plans to venture to his house that Friday after work anyway so I could check out the other figures.

Nate was a cool guy who I plan to grab a beer with so we discuss the intricacies of Twin Peaks, just as soon as I’ve made my way through the entire series on Netflix (he’s a huge fan and I coincidentally just started watching it a week earlier). I ended up buying 21 figures from Nate. I would’ve liked to have bought more but five dollar increments add up fast. My haul consisted of 3 Joes, 8 Super Powers, 9 Star Wars figures and a darker variant of Daggit (the robot sidekick from the original Battlestar Gallactica).DC-Robin SP haul

DC-Robin SP piggy backNate probably had about 20 different Super Powers figures. Most of them were in great condition and they even had their accessories and mini comics. I love how bright and colorful they are and it pained me to leave some behind. I had to pass on Joker, Hawkman, Green Lantern, and Plastic Man just to name a few. But I scored some great ones like Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Batman, and Robin. Both Batman and Robin still have their sheer little capes that click snugly onto the backs of their necks. The Robin is in especially nice condition. You’d never guess that this figure is 30 years old. His joints are firm, his karate cop action feature still works, and the paint is nearly perfect. Nate clearly didn’t play as hard as I did when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I took care of my toys but you can tell they’ve seen some s**t. Getting this figure for five bucks was a great score. This haul doubled the size of my existing Super Powers collection so I may have to actually assign them their very own shelf soon enough.

So thank you Nate for thinking of me when you came across this stuff. You can sleep soundly knowing your toys have found a loving new home. 8 out of 10.DC-Robin SP compare

RED ROBIN (2014)

DC-Red Robin fullDC DIRECT: NEW 52 TEEN TITANS

I had an epic haul from BigBadToyStore show up in the mail the other day. It was such a gluttonous and self-indulgent haul that I actually felt a degree of shame as I lifted toy after toy out of the box. There was such a wealth of items all at once that I needed to take a break from opening their packages half way through. My fingers had twist tie fatigue.

The haul consisted of Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars 6” Black Series, a complete wave of Marvel Universe 4” figures consisting of Cyclops, Antman, Deathlok, Omega Red, Valkyrie, and Ares, a full wave of Transformers consisting of Night Beat, Gears, Acid Storm, Windblade, Cross Cut, and Jhiaxus, and 2 DC Direct figures: Supergirl and Red Robin. It was more action figures than a childhood Christmas.DC-Red Robin back

There were 1 or 2 duds in the Marvel Universe series (I’m looking at you Antman) but for the most part they were all great figures. I had a tough time choosing who to write about first. After some mulling I settled on Red Robin.

I’d imagine there are some people out there who really don’t like Batman’s sidekick Robin but I’ve always been a fan of the character. One of my earliest action figures was a Mego Robin doll which sadly got destroyed when I was very young. I don’t even have any recollections of playing with it. The only reason I even know that I had it was because his loose shoes and yellow cape remained in my action figure drawer for years after his demise. When Doug and I were kids running around the house we would often pretend we were super heroes. Doug was the older brother so he always got to be Batman while I was always Robin. I didn’t mind because I was a big fan of how Burt Ward portrayed him on the live action Batman show, a staple of our youth.

MEGO Robin

MEGO Robin

I was a Robin fanboy as a small child based on the TV show and the cartoons; I didn’t read comics when I was that young. And even after I started collecting comics I never followed Robin’s monthly exploits in the Batman comics because my cousin Greg converted Doug and I into devout Marvel readers. For years we bought nothing but Marvel books. It wasn’t until my childhood alter-ego Robin got his very own series for the first time in 1991 that I felt compelled to buy my first DC title.

The Robin of that title was a kid named Tim Drake who had recently been recruited by Batman. This was not the Robin I grew up on. The original Robin, the one portrayed by Ward in the 60s and who was a key member of the Super Friends from the 80s animated series, was Dick Grayson. Dick was a member of a family of trapeze artists known as the Flying Graysons. Similar to Batman, Dick tragically lost both of his parents at a young age. This resulted in Batman taking Grayson under his wing and thus the first Robin was born. Dick eventually outgrew the short shorts and graduated into the big leagues by becoming Nightwing.   That all happened before I started collecting comics.  A second Robin, Jason Todd, replaced Dick in 1983 but he got bludgeoned to death by the Joker as per the reader demand. I guess fans just weren’t ready for a new Robin at that time.

Robin Issue 1 1991

Robin Issue 1 1991

But fans were ready for a new Robin in 1989 with the introduction of Tim Drake. I don’t recall any sort of nerd rage relating to the introduction of the third Robin. He just kind of showed up and seamlessly fell into Batman continuity, overwhelmingly embraced by fans. Mind you, if the internet had existed back then I’m sure the angry nerds would’ve had something to say about the whole situation. I was really excited about the new Robin and so I got onboard with issue 1.

Tim Drake was a Robin I could get behind. He wasn’t as campy as the original and he wasn’t as unlikable as the second; plus he had pants on. I was a big fan of that first Robin mini-series and the two subsequent series as well but I kind of lost touch with the character sometime after the third series.  He went on to have his on on-going title than ran from 1993 to 2009 which is extremely impressive for a teen sidekick character.

When a fourth Robin, Batman’s biological son Damian, showed up on the scene in 2006 it was time for Tim to graduate from the sidekick role, much like Dick had done years earlier. Tim added a cowl to his costume and became known as Red Robin.DC-Red Robin hooded

I was glad to see Tim take on a new role in the DC Universe as opposed to getting killed off but I wasn’t a big fan of the hooded Red Robin costume. It was a cool outfit but it looked too grown up and was too far removed from his Robin look. Even Nightwing’s costume retained the classic Robin domino-mask. When DC implemented a line-wide reboot known as the New 52 in 2010 Red Robin got a make-over and the look you see on this action figure was the result.

I really like this design. It looks like it could be a Robin outfit but the lack of yellows and greens makes it look more mature. There’s no sign of pixie boots, underroos, or little half capes. The modern Red Robin has combat ready costume complete with combat boots and Falcon-style wings. DC-Red Robin face

This figure captures the new look beautifully. The sculpt is great throughout. The face has an air of femininity to it but it works. The costume is loaded up with straps, belts, padding, and other details. The removable folded wings have a ton of sculpted detail and they look really cool. The paintjob on this figure is nice as well.  The gold accents look great against the red and black.

My major issue with this figure is the articulation. It’s crazy that DC Direct still struggles with limited articulation even after all these years. This figure has more joints than earlier DC Direct figures and a few action poses can be achieved but it still feels quite stiff. A swivel joint at the hips or mid-torso would have helped a lot. My other minor complaint is the lack of articulation in the detachable wings. These things really should be able to spread out so Robin can glide around the house.   Folding wings can’t be too tough to pull off because I’ve seen it done successfully in a number of other lines like Marvel Universe and MOTU.  The static wings would be a huge disappointment if I was a kid playing with this thing but since I’m a grown up and he’s just a display piece it’s not a big deal to me.DC-Red Robin kick

I’m super stoked about this figure. I can’t believe it’s been 30+ years since I’ve owned a Robin action figure. I also plan to get the recently released Jason Todd as Red Hood and the upcoming Damian as Robin figures so I’m about to go from no Robins to 3 generations worth. I guess I’ll have to get me a Nightwing as well so i can have the whole gang. 10 out of 10.DC-Red Robin Batman

TALON (2014)

DC-Talon fullDC COLLECTIBLES DESIGNER SERIES

It was less than a year after I started collecting comics that Todd McFarlane took over as the primary artist on Amazing Spider-Man. I was a fan of his exaggerated cartoonish drawing style from the get go. Now, I love the more traditional look of Spider-Man developed by artists like John Romita Sr. but when I was a kid I didn’t appreciate the greats like Romita and Kirby the way I should have (I’m still not a big fan of Ditko – I really should check out more of his stuff). Romita’s art style was so synonymous with Spider-Man that to this day I view Romita’s version as the “default” Spider-Man. But when I was a kid Romita and his ilk’s drawing style struck me as old fashioned. When McFarlane came onto the book with his crazy poses, large eyes, and masses of webbing, it felt new and fresh.DC-Talon face

 

I bought all of Todd’s Spidey books and when he left Marvel to start Image Comics I loyally followed him. He put out Spawn issue 1 in 1992. I was there to pick it up the day it came out and I’ve bought every issue since. That’s over 20 years of faithfully buying Spawn every month. I’ve stuck with it through its ups and down. Todd found himself stretched too thin to continue writing, drawing, and inking the book by himself quite early on into the series because he had branched out into other ventures such as starting his toy company. He decided to stop drawing the book. This left some very big shoes to fill. Expectations were high when he handed off the art chores to a relatively unknown artist named Greg Capullo. Most people probably weren’t familiar with Greg at all but I knew him from his work on Marvel’s C-list title, Quasar.DC-Talon art

I was sad to see Todd leave Spawn but I appreciated that Capullo seemed to be doing his best Todd McFarlane impression with his pencils. Their similar styles made the transition relatively painless. Capullo stayed on the book for years and his artwork kept improving along the way. When anniversary issues would come out with multiple covers drawn by various artists I would find myself choosing Capullo’s covers over McFarlanes.DC-Talon back

Capullo left Spawn in 2004 and in 2011 he took on the high profile gig of re-launching Batman for DC as part of their “New 52” initiative. I like Batman but I’ve never felt compelled to collect his comics. That’s mostly because I grew up strictly a Marvel kid (Spawn was the exception) but I did collect Batman for a couple of years in the early 200s. That was spurred on by superstar artist Jim Lee taking on the role of series artist. After Lee left I lost interest and stopped collecting.

Well here it is some 10 years later and I find myself collecting Batman once again because another superstar artist is tackling the pencils (Scott Snyder’s scripting doesn’t hurt either). Capullo has obviously developed a fan base over the years as DC Direct has launched a whole series of Batman figures based on his artwork, like they’ve done in the past with bigwig artists like Jim Lee, Alex Ross, and Ed McGuinness (That’s McGuinness’s Batman below).

DC-Talon fight

The first wave of Capullo style figures included Batman, Nightwing, Riddler, and a Talon. As much as I like Greg’s art I didn’t feel the need to add another Batman to my collection but I did pick up this Capullo inspired Talon. A Capullo Talon is the only Talon you’re gonna get as it’s a brand new character and this is his first ever figure.

Snyder and Capullo’s initial story arc told the tale of a secret society, the Court of Owls, that ran Gotham City from the shadows. Even Batman wasn’t aware of their existence, though he had heard rumors of them as a child. It may seem a little implausible that The Court could have operated under Batman’s nose all these years, what with him being the world’s greatest detective and all, but Snyder spun a convincing yarn.DC-Talon dodge

The court itself consisted of a bunch of upper crust aristocrats who attended clandestine meetings while dressed in tuxedos and creepy round owl masks to conceal their identities. When they needed some dirty work done they sent their enforcers, the Talons; an army of reanimated super-soldiers in cold storage which are thawed out as needed, kind of like the Winter Soldier.

DC-Talon close upOne of the Talons, Calvin Rose, betrayed the Court and got his own spin-off series for a while where he battled other Talons such as the sadistic Gotham Strangler. When I heard DC Direct was releasing a Talon figure I was hoping for the Calvin Rose version. I read the entire series and was a fan of the character. But as I discovered when images of this figure first hit the net DC Direct had opted for this nameless Talon which was the lead baddie in the main Batman book. I’m still very pleased with this figure but I hope to get a Calvin eventually. I actually like the idea of the Court of Owls so much that I would buy a bunch of these guys and build a small army.

This figure really captures Capullo’s style and yet it’s generic enough that it can be displayed with any other DC figure and not look out of place. I’m very impressed at how well the sculptors managed to translate him from the drawing board into 3 dimensions. He’s got plenty of sculpted details such as belts, blades, and buckles. The base color is a very nice matte black and then there are gold and silver highlights that add a bit of flair. It’s a great looking figure.DC-Talon box 1

He comes with a few different blades for accessories, and even a replica of the white owl mask worn by members of the Court  which is a nice touch, but what this dude really needs is a display base. My Talon is constantly falling over and taking all the surrounding figures down with him. I finally gave up and just sat him down on the edge of the shelf.DC-Talon box 2

DC Direct has come a long way in terms of articulation. Their figures used to be stiff as boards but now they have plenty of joints. Unfortunately the joints clearly aren’t stiff enough as my DC Direct Harley Quinn is always toppling over as well.

One last thing I want to mention is the packaging this guy came in. It was a very sleek window box with some Greg Capullo artwork on the side and his name prominently displayed. It looked so nice it was almost a shame to open it. 9 out of 10.DC-Talon sit

BATMAN 60s (POP!)

POP-Batman 60s fullDC COMICS : POP!

In my last review I talked about the Iron Spider-Man doll gifted to me by my good buddy Andrew.  Today I’ll be reviewing the birthday gift I received from my brother Doug.  My big bro got me a vinyl Pop! figurine of Batman and his Batmobile.

I was reluctant to embrace these Pop! figures at first but once they proved themselves to be more than just another short-lived cutesy flash-in-the-pan, a la Mighty Muggs or Blammoids, I accepted them whole heartedly.  My collection is now 11 strong and growing.

The diversity of the properties keeps this line fresh month after month.  Just this week Strange Adventures (my local comic shop) stocked Pop! figures based on the classic Planet of the Apes films and the Goonies. I’m sure I’ll be adding some of them to my collection soon. Pop-Batman 60s box

The first Pop! figure I ever acquired was Batman.  I’m not even a BIG Batman fan, at least not when compared to other heroes like Spider-Man or Silver Surfer ( Neither of which do I have in Pop! form) but for whatever reason that cute little Batman just really appealed to me.  He’s been protecting my work desk from crime for a couple of years now, along with fellow Justice Leaguers Flash and Green Arrow.

I have a sizable list of Pop! figures that I’d like to own.  Vanessa whittled my list down by two by getting me Spikor and the Governor for my birthday.  Had Doug asked me which Pop! figure I’d like next I probably would’ve told him to get me one of the ninja turtles or Robo-Cop.  Another Batman wasn’t exactly high on my list.

Pop-Batman 60s in carBut I’m very glad that Doug didn’t ask me.  I can, and will, eventually buy myself those other figures.  But I never would’ve bought this Batman and Batmobile for myself.  Not only because I already have a Batman figure but also because of the nearly $40 price tag.  But this figure is rad and I would’ve been missing out.

The Batman I got years ago was black and gray, based on his comic book look.  The black and gray version is probably my favorite Batman costume and it seems the best default look for the character in my opinion.  This new one is based on the live action TV series from the 60s starring Adam West.  Now while I wouldn’t want Batman to wear this costume in the comics necessarily it’s still an iconic costume and it looks fantastic in Pop! form.Pop-Batman 60s car front

At first I assumed this was the exact same mold as my other Batman, only painted differently, but once I got them side by side I realized that this was a completely new sculpt.  The utility belts are different, the capes are different lengths, and the 60s one has shorter ears.

The paint job on this Batman is what really elevates it above and beyond my other figure.  The classic blue and gray compliment each other nicely.  The black face circle is present,  and just like on my recently reviewed bendy Batman, it allows for some epic painted mask eyebrows.  The lighter blue used for the brows and around the nose really make his features, for lack of a better word, pop.  His utility belt is bright yellow with a gold buckle. Funko didn’t have to go that extra mile to have a gold buckle but they did and it’s appreciated.

Pop-Batman 60s compareThen there’s the Batmobile.  This thing looks awesome and is my first ever Batmobile toy. And when it comes to Batmobiles there’s no beating the 1960s TV version.  This thing looks great on my work desk and everyone stops to admire it.  It’s sculpted in a glossy black so it’s shimmery and reflective as though Robin just waxed it.  There’s a surprising amount of sculpted detail on this thing.  There’s the bat symbol hubcaps, the clear double windshields, the tail fins, the exhaust pipes, and even a steering wheel.  I love it.  My only gripe would be that the wheels don’t turn.  However, it’s not like I was gonna go driving it around on the floor anyway.  Since it just sits on the shelf above my desk at work as a display piece the static wheels are probably good thing as this way I don’t have to worry about it rolling off and smashing into a dozen pieces. Pop-Batman 60s car side

Another great present from Doug.  10 out of 10.  And, sidenote, it’s Dougie’s birthday today.  I’m on my way to meet him for lunch and give him his birthday present.  Hopefully he likes his as much as I like mine.

Pop-Batman 60s backPop-Batman 60s car back

HARLEY QUINN (2014)

DC-Harley fullDC COMICS

I’m not sure when I’ll get this posted, but as I write this it is January 17; my birthday.  Today I turn 36.  I am officially in my LATE 30s and it’s a little bit of a bummer.  But only a little bit.  I’m not the type to sulk over getting older and every year I throw myself a big birthday party.  Tonight I’m going out to my folks’ place for dinner and then my parents, siblings and I are going to play poker.  Tonight’s game should be fun and if all goes as planned I should kick my family’s ass and take their money (update: they took my money ).

Tomorrow night I’m hosting a party at my place for all my friends which should also be a good time. I don’t expect much in the way of presents but both my brother Doug and my pal Andrew have already told me that they picked me up something cool, and if history has taught me anything it’s that they probably bought me action figures.  Last year Andrew got me Metalhead and a make-your-own action figure kit and Doug always finds me something cool.  I’ll keep you guys posted on any good scores (update: Doug got me an awesome Batmobile + Batman set and Andrew got me some Spider-Men dolls).  Vanessa gave me my birthday present last night. I’m a stickler for “the rules” so I wanted to wait until midnight but she rarely stays up that late so she had me open if at 10:30. DC-Harley face

Vanessa got me a cornucopia of candy (Junior Mints, Nerds, Mike & Ikes, Toffifee) , the extended cut of Wolverine on Bluray, a new pair of pants, vinyl Pop figurines of the Governor from the Walking Dead and Spikor from Masters of the Universe, and this Harley Quinn action figure.

Harley is a character that was originally created for the Batman animated series in 1992. The 1990s Batman series was probably one of the best  animated shows ever.  I enjoyed it every time I watched it but truthfully I didn’t watch a whole lot of it.  I was in junior high/high school at the time and didn’t have much time for cartoons.  Even now I have a hard time sitting through half hour animated programs aimed at children no matter how good they are.  Though I love the animated DC movies.  I remember going to see the animated movie “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm”, which was a spin-off of the 90s series, in theatres.  What a huge mistake it was going to a see an afternoon matinee of an animated movie.  I remember the place being chalk full of talking kids and crying babies which soured the whole experience for me. DC-Harley Dodson

I don’t recall if I saw the episode that introduced Harley (I think I did) but I at least saw a handful of episodes which featured her.  I liked her right away so I can understand how the character became so popular so quickly.  She was fun and quirky with an awesome costume design.  The two-toned red and black harlequin jester costume with the white face made for a visually appealing and instantly recognizable character.

It took a while for the character to be brought into the main DC comic universe but doing so was a no-brainer.  The character had garnered a large fan base and it would’ve been foolish not to capitalize on it.  After being introduced in a 1999 one-shot special she soon got her own on-going series which is a rare thing for a villain.  I hardly read any DC books at the time but I picked up the Harley Quinn book because I enjoyed the character so much.  Terry Dodson’s artwork didn’t hurt either. DC-Harley suicide

Harley received a pretty drastic makeover for the console game Arkham Asylum.  Gone was the happy-go-lucky clown outfit, replaced by a creepier, torn mini skirt, pigtailed appearance. I didn’t mind the look as an alternate version of Harley but I preferred the original.

When the DC universe got rebooted as the “New 52” in 2011 Harley got rebooted right along with it.  Her new look seemed to draw a lot of inspiration from her video game version.  She now had the pigtails and the more revealing clothing and was a member of the super villain team Suicide Squad.  Again, I don’t mind the new look but I miss the more whimsical Harley.  I collected Suicide Squad for a while but the rest of the cast didn’t do much for me so I eventually jumped ship.

DC-Harley backThis is a brand new figure of Harley Quinn based on her New 52 design.  I first saw it at Strange Adventures this past Wednesday.  DC is one of my smaller toy collections but I try to acquire at least one figure of each character I like, a list which has grown over the past few years.  I didn’t have a Harley figure in my collection before this.  There have only been a few of them and most are quite expensive on the secondary market. So while I would prefer a figure of Harley in her original outfit this one was more financially attainable.  I looked it over, hummed and hawed, and ultimately left it behind. I told Vanessa that I was torn about whether or not I should go back and buy it.  Vanessa took matters into her own hands and went out the next day and got it for me as a birthday gift.DC-Harley guns

This is a pretty nice figure.  I wasn’t sure about it at first but now that i have it in hand it’s really grown on me.  The sculpt is really nice with lots of attention to detail. Her face is pretty and feminine, her socks are ribbed, and her corset has stitching on the front, daggers on the side and bullets on the belt.  The articulation is better than I’m used to seeing on a DC Direct figure.   She’s articulated at the knees, hips, thighs, shoulder, elbows , forearms, neck, and even her pigtails.  Some waist articulation would’ve been nice but as I said she has far more joints than any other DC Direct figures I’ve reviewed; and they’re well hidden which is a big plus.  The paint job is also really nice.  I really like the off-white color used on her skin tone; it gives her a porcelain appearance.  For accessories she’s got a pair of pistols which can be holstered at her waist and a mallet.

I thought I’d be giving this figure a mediocre score but as I’ve looked it over I’ve changed my mind. This is a darn good representation of the New 52 Harley. 8 out of 10.DC-Harley stick up