There are hundreds upon hundreds of Batman action figures (and I have at least 170 of them). Some are better than others. For every beautifully engineered, artist-specific Batman figure out there, there’s also a Tropical Helicopter Barbecue Batman, straight out of the nightmares of some toy executive’s trapped and damaged id. Once in a while, a Batman figure comes along which kind of blows all of the others out of the water. Including Hamburger in Paradise Leopard Attack Batman.
A majority of available Batman figures are under 7″ tall, which is the standard size for a modern action figure. A few larger Batman figures exist: three great figures from DC Collectibles’ ill-fated 13″ line, a bizarre and mannequin-like 18″ offering from The Dark Knight trilogy, and a few odds and ends which never really amounted to very much. The weirdo, giant Batman toys are great for completists who can appreciate a slightly off-brand-looking Batman, or a kid who just doesn’t care, but they’re not great figures. Play Imaginative has just made the ultimate 12″ Batman figure.
The main selling point of Play Imaginative’s Super Alloy Batman, based on artist Jim Lee’s ‘New 52′ design, is that it’s made of 85% die cast metal parts. That’s a truly heavy metal Batman, in the most literal sense, and it comes with all of the articulation you’d expect from an amazing, high-end action figure, and a whole lot more. This is an action figure with multiple joints for every finger… but let’s start at the beginning.
Super Alloy Batman comes packaged in the most handsome box to ever envelop an action figure, as though this $275 Batman is a fine wine, or a rare piece of finely-crafted jewelry. It’s the kind of respect rarely paid to pop culture, though it’s something us nerds are seeing with greater frequency as we’re taken more seriously. For real, we’ll totally mess up your computers. The outer slipcase holds a fold-out box made of matte cardboard, the front clasped closed with a metallic, magnetized bat-emblem. As this all unfolds and unfurls, Batman is laid into a series of plastic trays to hold him and his accessories securely in place: the main figure, a grappling gun, two batarangs, a cape, and a gargoyle base.
Batman’s heavy body is, as mentioned, mostly metal, making him a hugely heavy thing to manipulate. He’s weighed down by the gravity of his own parts, so the joints holding him together need to be especially strong. Visually, it’s difficult to tell where the metal ends and the rubberized parts begin because of the flawless merging of materials. The only place where this different is readily apparent is his rubber underpants, which are designed to flex as much as possible while still hiding the ball-jointed hips. For the rest of the figure, it’s genuinely difficult to tell which part is made of which material.
Double joints are used for the knees and elbows, both of which ratchet into place for added stability and tightness. With a figure made of so many materials, you’re advised to move the joints with caution: metal straining against plastic parts can easily snap, and then you have a problem which might not be repairable. We don’t have the luxury of Revoltech-styled joints that pop apart when under too much strain and then easily reassemble. These joints are totally for real and forever.
The figure’s flexibility has a pretty wide range, while remaining just a little bit robotic. The most impressive piece of articulation is with Batman’s fingers, which have all of the joints of a real hand—just way, way tinier. This makes it very easy for him to hold his weapon accessories, or his cape. Or just point at things.
The cape is lined at the very edges with wire, allowing the user to pose it to some degree, since we can’t always make our figures look as wind-swept as they do in the comics. The cape is attached to Batman at the neck using a couple of magnets sewn into the lining, which affix directly to the figure. It’s not the strongest bond, but it’s strong enough to keep the cape in place without wearing through the fabric or rubbing on the figure itself. It’s also a pretty perfect material for a 12″ Batman cape.
Batman’s general sculpt is pretty simple, and comes right out of his newest comic book look: a costume with lots of computery lines all over it. Sure, a 1970s-styled Batman would have been stellar, but this is definitely a costume that lends itself to this metal treatment, as it’s already the most dehumanized costume Batman has ever worn for any length of time. Batman’s face is great, though sculpted very young and with a subtle manga-esque appearance. It’s not pure Jim Lee, but it’s definitely inspired by Lee, which is better than a dead-on representation anyhow.
Batman’s gargoyle base is optional, but it exhibits a stunning level of detail and texture, well beyond the smooth and simple figure. This is a piece of architectural art that would look better on a building in Asia than in the noir landscape of Gotham City, but it’s still a great gargoyle, and it actually works with just about every Batman figure you might have. As bases go, this is pretty appropriate, but I wouldn’t have objected to a Bat Signal either.
Batman obsessives who are even more dedicated than myself will also want to hunt down the Special Edition, which has a gloss finish and white packaging. This variant was available via preorder and at a convention in Singapore only, but as of this writing, isn’t selling for prices much above the standard retail cost. Understandably so—it’s a limited market that will spend over $200 on a Batman figure.
While countless Batman statues are always competing to be a collection centerpiece, there’s no doubt that this is the king of all 12″ Batman figures, and can hold its own among any genre of Batman collection. Its heft and presence are pretty great, but it becomes exceptionally real when you actually touch it. The unexpected weight and nontraditional materials are a pretty epic attempt at making the world’s coolest Batman, and the attempt is very successful. This is their first real action figure, and first product from the DC Comics world, and it’s a resounding success. It’s a very long leap between Care Bears figurines and this, but Play Imaginative didn’t miss a step.