NEW GODS (DC DIRECT)
“One of Superman’s greatest foes is the god Darkseid. They are each other’s ultimate enemies–and Kalibak shares his hatred for the Man of Steel with is father Darkseid. Superman versus Darkseid? The ultimate Good vs. the ultimate Evil.”
When DC Comics brought Jack Kirby over from Marvel in the ’70s, they largely isolated him in his own little corner of the universe, the Fourth World. However, to launch that corner, they also had him do a little work on Superman spin-off series Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, which itself got wrapped up in the whole Fourth World thing. However, despite putting a lot of time and money into bringing over Kirby and with him his signature style, when Jack drew Superman’s number one hero Superman in the pages of Jimmy Olsen and The Forever People, DC’s odd and at times frankly silly attachment to not letting differing interpretations of their characters potentially “damage” their brand kicked in. Kirby’s illustrations of the Man of Steel were deemed not up to DC’s standards for the character, so they had the heads redrawn by Al Plastino and Murphy Anderson. While the final result was certainly a very classic Superman, it was also one that clashed heavily with the style of the rest of the artwork. Due to DC’s handling of original work at the time, only a few small samples of Kirby’s original Superman remain, making any attempt to restore his original work next to impossible. There have been a few consolation prizes, however, such as using an unused cover sketch as the basis for a Steve Rude illustration to serve as the cover for one of the collections of Kirby’s DC work, and, in the action figure realm, a Kirby-based Superman that actually looks like a Kirby illustration. I know, crazy concept.
THE FIGURE ITSELF
Superman was released in the second, and ultimately final, series of DC Direct’s New Gods line. Given the line’s short run, Superman’s presence as 1/8 of the total coverage wasn’t ideal, but with Darkseid already covered in Series 1, they presumably felt they needed another heavy hitter. Hence the very clumsy packaging text explaining his ties to the New Gods…sort of. The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 16 points of articulation. Though less mobile than the previously-reviewed Barda, Superman still wound up with a fairly decent articulation set-up, as did all of the Kirby figures. He uses the same core base body as all of the standard male bodies, which is a suitable starting point for something based on a Kirby illustration. He got a new head, hands, and cape to fully sell the Superman angle. Since all we really have to go by for Kirby’s Superman are some unfinished sketches, it’s hard to nail down exactly what his Superman should look like in finished form. The roughs we’ve seen aren’t quite up to Kirby’s usual finished standards, so this figure takes them as a starting point and polishes them up just a bit more. He very much keeps the Kirby styling for the face and expression, while making sure he’s actually got things like the proper spit curl for the hair. The end product is actually pretty cool, and means that this guy doesn’t clash with the rest of the line. The figure’s paint work continues that trend of making the sketches into something more finished. The general colors are classic Superman, and they look really nice. Application is all very clean and sharp, and he just generally looks pretty slick. The one notable Kirby element here is the logo; Kirby was infamously bad at doing the Superman logo, and his roughs showcase something that’s very off-model. This one is closer to the proper, but still keeps a little bit of the shaping that Kirby gave it, again giving us that sort of optimized, what if they’d kept more of Kirby’s work feel. The figure is packed with a Kirby Dots-emblazoned display stand, matching up with the rest of the line.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
I remember being quite let down by this figure’s announcement back in the day. I was going through a real Kirby kick when the first series hit, and was disappointed to see them give a slot to Superman instead of an actual Kirby character for the follow up. I wound up skipping the whole set when they dropped, and it’s all Superman’s fault. Okay, not really. Over the years, I’ve gained more of an appreciation for this figure’s place in the line, and I do like what he represents. I was able to snag one when he got traded in loose at All Time not too long ago. And, having gotten him after finally getting the Barda that I really wanted from this series, I can appreciate him for what he is.
Thanks to my sponsors over at All Time Toys for setting me up with this figure to review. If you’re looking for cool toys both old and new, please check out their website.