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Toy Fair 2008 : All Things Superman

[Please read back here, here and here for previous articles about this year's Toy Fair, for all of its weirdnesses and delights!]

By now, I’d seen the fancy DC Comics dolls over at the immaculate (but welcoming) Tonner booth, but I had other DC figures in mind – and I knew that they could be found at the showrooms of DC Direct and Mattel.

DC Direct is Time-Warner’s in-house DC Comics merchandising group and toy company. DCD makes action figures, prop replicas, statues, Minimates and other great comic items, all aided by the benefit of having original reference materials and current comic artists at their immediate disposal. They are, after all, the source. They’re responsible for a large number of artist-specific and story-specific action figures, which number over 60 each year, created in (unnumbered) limited editions. While you won’t usually find a DC Direct action figure at your Toys ‘R’ Us, you can find them in comic shops and mall entertainment shops, usually at a price of around $15 per figure. They’re a great company if you want the newest bad guy from a recent and major story arc, but they don’t normally address figures like ‘the most iconic Batman’ in a 6” scale. They will, however, give you a Batman drawn by every notable Batman artist in the past 30 years.

dcd_joker.jpgWalking the line between ‘action figures’ and ‘dolls’ is the 13” figure line. These feature large, articulated bodies in cloth costumes, and unlike the small figures, these DO successfully capture characters at their most iconic and recognizable, often also accessorizing them with a bevy of weapons, removable parts and packaging them in a beautiful window box. Past offerings in this size have included over a dozen characters, including Batman, Superman, Robin, Catwoman, Martian Manhunter, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Lex Luthor, Two Face and more. Future offerings include The Joker, Harley Quinn, Green Arrow and Bizarro – but the only new announcement for this line during Toy Fair was a re-release of the original, rare Green Lantern figure, which has reached over $300 on eBay since it was released. This new edition will have a slightly different costume, as well as four interchangeable heads, including the basic Hal Jordan mug – with notable GLs Abin Sur and Tomar Re, as well as new fish-headed GL NautKeLoi, rounding out the variety. Sure, these figures are a little too big to fit in next to your 1/6th Sideshow toys, but they’re still fine enough to pass muster as their own thing.

A Wonder Woman figure has been on the drawing board for this line for over two years, with one undecided factor being whether or not she’ll have rooted hair, like a Barbie, or have sculpted hair. I put in my vote for sculpted hair as I spoke to a designer, and everyone else in the showroom chimed in and agreed. I’ve seen my niece’s Barbie-fros, and it would be an unbecoming look for a warrior princess. Plus, the appearance and manufacture of the series’ women should be consistent, and all have had sculpted hair thus far.

dcd_wonder_woman_museum.jpgWe will be getting a large Wonder Woman, though, as a Museum Scale statue. The most eye-catching thing in the showroom was this epic piece, with Wonder Woman standing at roughly 18” tall, wielding weapons and clothed in real fabrics. It’s a beautiful work of art, and it will accompany the previously released Superman and Batman Museum Scale statues. It’s not articulated, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a statue.

Next to her was a 1/2 scale (or, 50% smaller than actual size) Joker bust, which was another impressive and alluring (and slightly creepy) item, designed to accompany the previous Batman bust, also done in the same scale. Both feature details that are luminous and eerily human in person, but photography flattens them. Until you can see the statue’s pores shift in the light, it’s hard to communicate the level of detail in these. Batman’s stubble looks real enough to shave. Or caress, depending on just how you feel about stubble and / or Batman.

DC Direct Silver Age Superman Heads

And then, we come to the regular action figure lines. 2008 will see the last wave of Alex Ross’ Justice line, rounded out with Supergirl, Captain Cold, Toyman and Batgirl. I’m still geeked out about the Jack Kirby New Gods figures, as well as the line of four ‘Showcase‘ figures, which pull from the whole history of DC Comics for favorite artists’ works to turn into figures – including the Superman with three alternate, wacky heads that show the effects of red Kryptonite.

dcd_quitely_all_star.jpgNewly-announced in the All-Star line, which pulls images from both ‘All-Star Batman’ and ‘All-Star Superman’ comics. This line will have the first two Frank Quitely designed figures ever created, those being of Superman and a super-powered Lois Lane. Also in the line will be another Batman and Batgirl, drawn by Jim Lee.

Also newly announced is another wave of ‘Secret Files‘ figures, comprised of four Bat-villains : Hugo Strange (in a Batman costume, with an optional Batman head), Poison Ivy, Two Face and a tropical Joker from ‘The Killing Joke’. Slight variations of this Joker and Batman will also be released together in a ‘Killing Joke’ box set, along with a copy of the comic of the same name. Summer convention exclusives promise to be further variants of the same.

It’s also worth noting that DCD has announced a Huntress bust for their second series of ‘Women of the DC Universe‘ bust series, all designed by Terry Dodson. The first series, all designed by Adam Hughes, ended at the end of 2007 after a dozen great busts – some of which are worth three times the initial sale price. There are also new Ame-Comi figures happening, based on Donna Troy, Poison Ivy, Hawkgirl, and Zatanna – if you’re into that anime thing.

ame_comi_hawkgirl.jpg

Here’s some news for World of Warcraft fans : we saw the third wave of figures but weren’t permitted to photograph them. They were great, and the line of four has TWO female figures in it – so run out and buy your Blood Elf chick from the first series now! I’m not a WoW kinda guy, but I like warrior women. My complete collection of Xena DVDs agrees with me.

And Minimates fans, nothing new was on display. Rumor has it that these amazing little guys won’t make it past an 8th wave, which breaks my little plastic heart. If you like them as much as I do, make some noise. It’s a great line, it plays well with others, and the character depth is stellar. I mean, AMBUSH BUG.

[Click here for the full DC Direct Gallery in our Community!]

[Click here for the full Mattel Gallery in our Community!]

After we saw DC’s showrooms, we made our way over to Mattel, who hold the other major component of the DC Comics characters licensing. Mattel takes a different approach to making figures than DCD, so there seems to be enough room for both companies to coexist – inasmuch as Mattel DOES go for the most iconic character appearance possible, and uses a broader selection of recognizable characters that fans have asked for, regardless of current appearances within the comics. Mattel also super-articulates their figures so that they’re very pose-able (wherein DC Direct uses minimal articulation), and use a build-a-figure system where one can build a 6th, bonus figure if you collect all 5 of the basic figures in a set.

dcuc_sinestreo.jpgThese DC Universe Classics didn’t come with many new announcements, but the display of the next dozen 6” characters was exciting. Wave 1 has been on store shelves for a few months now, and Wave 2 will include Aquaman (modern and classic), Red and Blue Superman (from a brief period a few years ago when he changed his costume), Firestorm (modern and classic), Black Manta, and Harley Quinn, and with parts from 5 of these, you can build a huge Gorilla Grodd. Wave 3 will include Nightwing, Robin, Sinestro (modern and classic), Deathstroke (masked and unmasked), and Hal Jordan Green Lantern. Get five of these together and you can make a huge Solomon Grundy. The makeup of future waves was not yet revealed, but Cyborg and Wonder Woman are definitely in the mix, as 2-up sculptures were displayed of them.

dcih_power_girl.jpgI was surprised by the sudden announcement of the ‘DC Universe Infinite Heroes‘ line – a collection of small 3.75” figures spanning an unusual and diverse range of characters. While these little guys don’t yet come close to matching the quality of the large figures, they do seem to have appropriately simple sculpts with basic details, about ten points of pivoting articulation, and hearken back to the classic days of collecting from my youth. Their small size will allow for a larger range of characters to be made in a shorter time, and they’ll also be in scale with your Star Wars and GI Joe guys. That Han Solo / Flash smackdown that you’ve been praying for is about to happen. The reaction to the line has been very mixed, but I’m waiting to see the final product before I pass any kind of summary judgment, as most of the items on display were prototypes. No matter what, I’m getting a Bizarro out of it. Some of the other surprising figures in the lineup were Commissioner Gordon, Mirror Master, Thanagarian Warriors, Black Adam, Batwoman, The Question, and Hush – all of whom are usually second-tier characters at best, and don’t often (if ever) appear as figures.

barbie_supergirl.jpg

Barbie collectors, note that a new Black Canary and Supergirl Barbies will be coming out, also! These should sit comfortably with the previously released DC Heroine Barbies of Poison Ivy, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Harley Quinn. All of which are in my closet. Don’t laugh.

Mattel has also made action figures for the upcoming Batman movie, The Dark Knight. While the ‘Movie Masters‘ line is meant to appeal to the adult collector with a fixation on accuracy and display, a secondary line will feature the requisite Batman in a handful of impractical, brightly-colored armors with action features. Hello, Ice Lobster Helicopter Rescue Batman! Despite the recent death of Heath Ledger, the actor who played the Joker in this movie, it’s reported that the action figure in his likeness will still be released at this time. I can’t help but wonder what the initial eBay hysteria will be like.

dc_super_friends.jpg

Finally, the kid-friendly Super Friends line doesn’t seem to have anything new to add to it either, as the most recent figures of Cyborg and Hawkman are just now trickling out onto shelves, with nothing more planned. A vehicle or two is on the way, and a series of plush dolls – but nothing too noteworthy for the collector. Cuddleworthy, yes.

These two companies are surely holding off on a few big reveals until April’s New York Comic Con, since most of the ‘new’ information was already a few weeks old. Here’s my vote for ‘Doom Patrol’ anything.

Stay tuned on Saturday for toys from your favorite non-comic book forms of entertainment – if you’re entertained by Hellboy and Heroes. Which I am.


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