BATMAN BEYOND (HASBRO)
Batman Beyond marked something of a notable turning point for DC toys. The license had been with Kenner for pretty much the entirety of the ’90s, and Kenner had handled the toys for both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. By Beyond’s premiere in ’99, Hasbro, who had purchased Kenner in ’91, had closed down the Kenner offices and rolled everything in under their name, making Beyond‘s tie-in toyline one of their first proper DC offerings. Their approach to it was…less than ideal. The line was populated mostly with variants of the main character (and no actual straight standard version of him either), with practically no antagonists or supporting cast members. The lone antagonist in the first assortment played further into Hasbro’s misunderstanding of what they were adapting…for reasons I’ll get to further into the review.
THE FIGURE ITSELF
This figure, dubbed “The Jokerz” on the package, was shipped in the initial assortment of Batman Beyond figures in early 1999. In the show, “Jokerz” refers to the roaming gangs of Joker-inspired thugs that would serve as minor antagonists throughout the show’s run. None of them are actually named “Jokerz.” This particular figure is actually based on J-Man, the leader of the gang that receives a beat-down by Bruce in the show’s pilot (who, fun fact, was voiced in all of his recurring appearances by DCAU producer Bruce Timm). Of the early Jokerz, he was the one with the most classically Joker appearance, which no doubt is why he was chosen for the spot here. The figure stands a little under 5 inches (thanks to the wide stance of his legs) and he has 5 points of articulation. Though Kenner’s S:TAS figures had added a waist joint as a standard for most of the figures, the Beyond figures went back to the basic neck, shoulders, and hips set up. Given the generally not-as-animation-accurate nature of this line, J-Man’s sculpt is actually fairly decent, and honestly pretty faithful to the design from the show. The pose is kind of an issue, though; he was designed to ride a goofy bike thing for some reason, which ends up hampering the figure proper quite a bit. Also hampering the figure? The paint. It’s fits within the classic “Joker” colorscheme, but doesn’t follow J-Man’s actual appearance from the show, which was far more subdued and also made it more abundantly clear that he was wearing makeup, rather than just having white skin like the original. They’ve also put him in bright pink, in contrast to the darker purple he was sporting in the show. J-Man was packed with an “Assault Hover-Cycle”, which was kind of a goofy looking thing that didn’t really match anything on the show. But there it was, I guess.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
Future Knight Batman (the closest the line got to a standard Batman) was a hot commodity when these figures hit. Hot enough that I didn’t get one at first and therefore he was on my birthday list for ’99. I actually ended up getting two from different family members, so one of them went back to the store, and I got this guy in exchange. J-Man was a character I had something of an affinity for the show (I’m a self-professed lover of background and side characters), so I enjoy the figure for what it is. That said, given all of the far more unique and distinctive characters from the show’s first season who went without figures, his inclusion is certainly odd.