#2959: The Flash



You do have to give Mattel a little bit of credit, and I can’t believe I’m saying that, on how they handled the early line planning on DC Universe Classics.  There was some serious effort not to just front load the whole thing with all of the hitters right away, instead using them to anchor assortments of otherwise more minor characters.  Their first year saw them struggling to reach full retail distribution, but going into their second, things were starting to seem a little more solid.  They kicked off the year with an assortment loosely centered on today’s focus, the Flash, specifically of the Barry Allen variety, since he had just returned to life after a lengthy period of deadness just a few months prior.


Flash was part of the seventh series of DC Universe Classics, the series that built the Atom Smasher figure I reviewed last year.  This marked Mattel’s first of many assortments where the heavy hitter of the set would be sold sans Collect-N-Connect part, something Hasbro would end up co-opting into their Legends line when it returned a few years later.  Flash was, unsurprisingly, the heavy hitter for this assortment.  The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 25 points of articulation.  At this point in the line, the rockers are still present on the ankles, for all the good they do.  Okay, that’s a little unfair, because they do wind up being somewhat useful on Flash, at least for some slightly better running poses.  He’s still not gonna balance very well in those poses, but let’s take what we can get.  Flash was built on the medium male body, originally introduced in Series 3 for Nightwing and Green Lantern.  It was the slightest build they had available for an adult male body at the time, and would remain that way for quite a while.  Ultimately, it’s just too bulky for any iteration of the Flash.  Barry can be a little bulkier than the average speedster, but this goes to excess.  I honestly think that it’s really the shoulders that throw things off; the DCUC bucks always had very prominent shoulders, and for a character like Flash, this stands out even more.  Generally speaking, however, it’s not the worst it could be, and in light of a line that was built upon such things across the board, it’s ultimately a minor issue.  Flash got a new head, shins, and feet.  The head is decent, if a bit devoid of personality for Barry.  A slightly warmer expression would go a long way.  The lower legs gave him proper boot sculpts, which are actually quite nice.  The feet even get treads on the bottoms, just like Flash always had.  It’s certainly a nice touch.  His paint work is generally pretty basic, but it’s also generally pretty clean in its application.  He also gets a little bit of accenting on the reds and yellows, just to keep things a little more visually interesting.  It actually works pretty nicely.  Flash was the one figure in the set not to get a CnC piece, but he did get one of Mattel’s patented crappy blue display stands.  They were great for…umm…being not so good at helping the figures stand?  They sure were blue and translucent, though.  They did that part well.


By the seventh series, the line was starting to get a little easier to get, so it wasn’t quite the nightmare of other sets to get these figures.  That said, I didn’t actually get Flash until after the line was essentially dead.  At the time he hit, I was still mixing these guys in with my DC Directs, and I had a couple of other Barry Allen Flash figures I liked well enough, so I didn’t go after this one.  When the line ended, I realized how close I was to having the Satellite Era League, so I filled in a few gaps, and picked this one up for a decent price loose.  He’s not my favorite figure from the line, but he does an okay job, and he does look cool with the rest of the League.

#1459: Justice League Rebirth Set



It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another entry in my latest recurring feature…F-DC F-icons Fridays?  Yeah, there’s a name that’s catchy and rolls right off the tongue.  Not content to just review one DC Icons figure a week, I’ve decided to continue my descent into madness and review seven of them in one day.  And you all get to be here for that descent.  Don’t you just feel so special? Without further ado, let’s look at the Justice League!


Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and Cyborg were released in March of this year in the “Justice League Rebirth” boxed set, as part of the DC Icons line.  The set’s actually been in progress since mid-2016, when it was initially shown as a New 52-themed set, before being updated to reflect the characters in their most recent looks (for the most part), and tying it into the DC Rebirth relaunch.


This figure’s my primary reason for grabbing this set, since Rebirth actually got me reading Superman and Action again.  This figure actually just saw a single release a few weeks ago, which looks to be identical, apart from the packaging.  The design of this figure comes from the initial Rebirth books, after the older Post-Crisis Clark took over the identity again.  It’s already been replaced by a tweaked design, but it’s not too far off.  I actually quite like this design; it’s not the classic look, but it’s way ahead of the other post-New 52 looks.  It’s still weird to see a Superman without the red shorts, but I think making his boots blue helps to alleviate some of the color imbalances caused by that.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and has 29 points of articulation.  Superman follows the “new” scale for Icons, meaning he’ll fit in best with figures from later in the line’s run.  He’ll also fit with some Marvel Legends depending on how much of a stickler you are for inter-character scaling.  He’s a little smaller than a Legends figure built on the Reaper body (as seen in the comparison pic with Cap).  Since he’s so sized up, he can’t really use any pieces from the first Icons Superman, making this figure an all-new sculpt.  It’s not bad work at all.  The build of the figure seems about right for Supes, and the proportions are all pretty balanced.  Detailing is all pretty clean and bold as well.  The head is pretty solid too; it’s got a nice friendly expression that seems right for Clark.  It feels maybe a touch wide, and perhaps a bit young for the more experienced Clark Kent this figure is meant to represent, but by and large I find myself really liking it.  The cape is made from a soft plastic, and it’s very nicely done.  After years of Mattel capes that have to be attached with a huge brick that utterly ruins the flow, this is a very refreshing piece.  In terms of paint, Superman is decent, if perhaps not fantastic.  The basic colors are all good matches for the source (the blue is a touch dark for my taste, but that’s accurate) and he looks pretty slick overall.  My only real issue is with the face, which just seems a little bit lopsided.  It’s the sort of thing that looks totally fine from most angles, but really goofy if you catch it the wrong way. Still, good work overall.  Superman includes no accessories.  Of course, that’s true of the entire set.  At least Supes doesn’t feel too light without the extras.


This guy also saw a single release, at the same time as the Superman figure.  It’s hardly a shock, what with it being Batman and all.  Batman is also sporting his look from Rebirth, but he’s been fortunate enough not to have it already change on him.  It’s another decent design.  It doesn’t speak to me quite as much as the Superman design, but that’s less about any particular element pulling me out, and more about it not being too terribly different from all the other Batman designs in recent years.  I can point out what’s different between this and the New 52 design if put on the spot, but they’re fundamentally the same.  Well, this one has less tactical-tech lines, which is certainly a plus.  The figure is 6 1/4 inches tall and he has 29 points of articulation.  Batman’s maybe a smidge taller than Superman, depending on posing.  I generally like for Bruce to be a little shorter, but it’s easy enough to have Clark standing straight and Bruce slightly hunching.  The important thing is that this Batman is taller than the Icons Nightwing, which can’t be said of the first Icons Batman (which is absolutely dwarfed by this release).  The very first prototypes of this set showed Batman using quite a few pieces from the older figure, but this guy ended up as a totally new sculpt.  It has its pluses and minuses, to be sure.  As a whole, I think it’s a strong sculpt, and it does a good job of conveying a modern era Batman.  He’s got a good, solid build, and the details on the costume appear to be more or less accurate to his new design.  The mouth seems ridiculously pouty, but Batman is the king of brood, so I guess that just goes with the territory.  His head is set a little higher on the barbel than other Icons figures, which can look a little off in straight standing poses, but actually affords him a good deal more range on his neck joint, which is pretty nice for a guy who does a lot of hunching.  The figure’s topped off with another nicely rendered cape, which has a flow to it that is just as well-crafted as, but completely unique from, Superman’s.  Paint on Batman is very solid work.  Nothing seems out of place like on Superman, and everything’s very bold and clean.  Perhaps the purple could be a little more noticeably different from the black on the cape, but that’s a very minor complaint.  Batman feels a little more hurt by the lack of extras; at the very least a batarang or something would have been nice.


This set’s Wonder Woman was actually the first in the line, though her single release wasn’t far behind. Unlike the last two, Wonder Woman’s single release was quite a bit different, leaving this one still exclusive to the larger set.  Wonder Woman was another big motivator for me buying this set since, like Superman, Rebirth got me reading her title again.  She’s sporting her first Rebirth look, which was sort of an update on her classic look, with a dash of the movie design thrown in.  She’s switched to something even more movie inspired since, but as with Superman, I sort of prefer this one.  The figure stands almost 6 3/4 inches tall and she has 29 points of articulation.  Yes, you read that height correctly; Wonder Woman really is almost a half an inch taller than Superman and Batman.  I’m not inherently opposed to her being taller than the other two (my favorite take on Diana is most certainly Darwyn Cooke’s, and he drew her as an inch or so taller than Clark), but this feels like a little much.  I think my issues ultimately stem from how the height is distributed; her proportions are a little out of whack, so her legs, specifically her thighs, end up taking most of the height and looking a bit longer than they should.  There’s a similar issue with the arms, where the forearms and biceps look really long relative to the shoulders and torso.  If you look at the comparison between her and the other two, you can see that despite her pelvis being a good half-inch higher than the other two, the hands all end in the same spot.  It’s not awful, but it does look a little off, at least in comparison to the other figures in the set.  On the plus side, it does make her the one figure in this set that fits in with Legends without any fudging.  Regarding the quality of the sculpt on its own, this figure’s a bit tricky.  Based on photos online and my initial reaction right out of the box, I was all ready to hate on the sculpt.  But then I took her out, and was messing with her for the photos and such and I realized it’s actually not a bad sculpt at all; it’s just an exceptionally hard to photograph one.  This figure looks very different based on the angle you catch her from, and she really doesn’t look great viewed from above.  But, head-on, she actually looks rather nice.  Yes, the proportions are still a little off, there’s no denying that, but I like more about this sculpt than I dislike.  Given the right pose, she actually looks pretty great, and given just how bad a lot of prior Wonder Woman figures have been, that’s very much a compliment. Wonder Woman’s paint work is definitely on the better end of things.  From what I’ve seen, there’s a bit of variance on the face, but mine seems to have turned out alright, and I really dig how bright all the colors are.  I didn’t know colors were allowed to go that bright on a DC figure.  Wonder Woman gets hit pretty hard by this set’s lack of accessories, because it means she loses her defining weapon: a big ol’ sword!  I jest, of course.  Who would ever think her defining weapon was a sword?  That’s just silly.  She’s actually missing her lasso, which is a real staple of the character, and a rather glaring omission.  It would have been nice to at the very least have it coiled up hanging from her belt.


Flash is one of the two figures in this set who I’ve looked at an Icons figure of before.  I was overall impressed by the Series 2 figure, so I wasn’t really in the market for another, especially not one based on his super line-y New 52/Rebirth design.  And yet, here we are.  Flash’s design was essentially unchanged for Rebirth; the only noticeable difference here is the lack of chin strap, but a quick Google search shows that totally varies from artist to artist.  The figure stands 6 1/4 inches tall and has 31 points of articulation.  Flash’s sculpt is all-new to this figure, but looks to have used the prior figure as a starting point at the very least; the musculature and sizing are all about the same, but the specifics of the costume have changed.  All of the yellow lines are etched into place, and there’s added details on the boots.  The head is a completely original piece, totally different from the Series 2 figure.  Since the head was the only part of that figure I had an issue with, I was intrigued by this one.  I’m happy to say, I find this one to be a serious improvement over the original.  The yellow lines aren’t etched into the head, so there’s a part of me that’s tempted to try and remove them so I can put this head on the old body, because I like it that much.  The paint work on Flash is mostly good, aside from one glaring issue:  he’s got a big spot of missing paint on the right side of his chin.  It’s a pretty noticeable flaw, and I’m definitely going to have to break out my paints to fix it.  Not the sort of thing I like having to do right out of the box, but I feel confident this is a one-off.  The lack of accessories for Flash is a bit less of an issue, but I do wish his default hands were flat running hands instead of fists.


GL is the other character for whom I’ve already reviewed an Icons release, and this figure’s even less different than Flash.  At first glance, this is a straight re-release of the deluxe Hal Jordan figure from Series 2.  However, that’s not quite the case.  You see, that figure was 6 inches tall, but this one is 6 1/4.  He’s also got tweaked hips to add the drop-hips that the rest of the set feature, so my first thought was that they’d simply sculpted new thighs with added height. Upon closer examination, I found that the entire figure has actually been ever so slightly enlarged, in order to bring him into scale with the rest of the set.  What’s more, the details of this figure’s sculpt are a lot crisper than those of the earlier figure, and the green has been changed to a more metallic sheen.  I loved this figure the first time I got it, and I still love it here.  Of course, I’m also frustrated by it, because it’s just different enough that it’s not a straight duplicate, so now I have to keep it.


You know the old saying: “if an Aquaman figure is released without a trident, does he make a sound?”  …Maybe that’s not quite it.  Regardless, here’s this Aquaman figure.  He’s based on the Rebirth design, which isn’t that much different from his classic look, apart from the gold around the collar and the lack of black shorts.  This figure stands about the same height as all of the other figures in the set, and has 29 points of articulation.  He’s really just a reworking of the single-release Aquaman, though, like with GL, he seems to have been scaled up ever so slightly.  The real difference between the two Aquamen is the head.  I can’t say I’m much of a fan of this one.  It looks fine on the prototype and all, but something was definitely lost in translation, leaving him looking rather goony.  It’s possible it’s just the paint making it look that way, though.  The rest of the sculpt is pretty top-notch.  The build is appropriate for him, and I really like the detailing on the scales of his shirt.  His paint is fairly decent; the colors are bright, and, apart from the odd placement of his eyes and a little bit of bleed over from his belt, it’s fairly well applied.  Aquaman’s lack of accessories here means that he doesn’t include his trident.  And I’m okay with that, because despite what pretty much every Aquaman figure ever would have you believe, he doesn’t really use a trident all that often.


This figure’s presence in this set frustrates me, because it sort of continues a persistent problem I’ve had with DC for several years now.  They keep shoving Cyborg into the Justice League, and it just upsets me.  I like Cyborg.  I like the Justice League.  I don’t really like Cyborg in the Justice League.  Especially when it’s at the cost of Martian Manhunter as a member, which it almost always is.  And that’s what the case is here.  In a seven figure Justice League set, I kind of expect a Martian Manhunter.  But noooooo.  No, in this set, we got Cyborg.  Cyborg who also got a single release with accessories.  Instead of Martian Manhunter, who was completely left out of the line, leaving my Icons Justice League sadly incomplete.  And of course, now I have a Cyborg, but not Titans to go with him, meaning that’s another incomplete team.  Bleh.  I’m sorry, all that ranting is largely to do with the fact that I *actually like* this figure.  Quite a bit, in fact.  His sculpt, even though it’s based on a more modern Cyborg than I tend to go for, is top-notch.  It’s sleek, well put together, and just plain cool looking.  He’s got 31 points of articulation, and it all works really, really well.  The joints are smooth, and the mobility is pretty sound.  He’s probably one of the best in the set, posability-wise.  Perhaps the only drawback to the figure proper is his lack of extras, since his forearms have clearly been designed to swap out for other arm attachments.  Just one of those would have been really cool.


After picking up Nightwing and Supergirl, and finding out that just about everything I wanted from Icons was cancelled, I was admittedly a little bummed.  That being said, I recalled that this set had been released, and I had checked it out a few times, before ultimately deciding it was a little bit on the pricey side for me.  I still really wanted that Superman, though, so I was excited to hear he was getting a single release.  I was less excited to hear that he was going to run me almost $30 and feature no additional accessories.  It was around this time that I discovered that Barnes & Noble’s website had marked this set down to half of it’s original value, and were also offering free shipping and $5 off orders over $25.  The final cost was $45, which is $6.43 a figure.  And that’s an amazing deal.  Superman’s awesome, as is Batman.  Wonder Woman’s better than I expected, if not perfect.  Flash isn’t my ideal costume choice, and has that one annoying paint flaw, but is a very good figure.  Green Lantern’s not the total repeat I expected, and fixes a few minor issues with the original.  Aquaman’s head sucks, but the single release has a spare head I can toss on the otherwise solid figure.  And I ranted a bit about Cyborg’s spot in the set, but he’s still a very, very well crafted figure.  If you want to give Icons a chance, I heartily recommend this set, and feel obligated to inform all of my readers that it’s still available at the discounted price on barnesandnoble.com.

#1209: The Flash




A quick glance around the internet tells me that this may be a slightly controversial opinion, but I really love the work of Alex Ross.  Marvels and Kingdom Come are obviously the standouts, but in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, his work was the best source of classic DC Comics material out there, which was something of a godsend for me, a classic comics fan born into the wrong era. In that regard, his 12-issue maxi-series Justice, which was effectively Challenge of the Superfriends on an even more epic scale, was right up my alley.  The fact that it got a whole line of figures courtesy of DC Direct?  Icing on the cake.  Today, I’ll be looking at my first figure from the line, Barry Allen, aka the Flash!


flashjust2The Flash was released in the first series of Justice figures from DCD.  This was only the second Barry Allen Flash we’d gotten from them, and the first time he’d been released solo.  The figure stands about 6 1/2 inches tall and has 9 points of articulation.  Not a ton of movement, but it was an incredible step up from the prior Kingdom Come figures, which had what can be described as “minimal” movement at best.  He’s based, of course, on Alex Ross’s depiction of Barry from not just Justice, but also the tabloid-sized specials DC put in the early ‘00s.  It’s really just Barry’s classic costume styled as if it were made from real fabrics and worn by a real person, but that’s a pretty good look.  The sculpt on this guy was handled by DCD’s main sculptor at the time, Tim Bruckner, and it’s not a bad stab at this particular design.  The main issues I would cite with this figure come from its desire to be two different things simultaneously.  They wanted him to be in a sort of a running pose (something no Flash figure they’d released up to that point was capable of pulling off), but also be able to stand up relatively straight, like the rest of the line.  The end result is a figure with a rather static and stiff upper half, and a lower half that looks to be mid-lunge.  With a bit of careful posing, you can get him to look fine (which is more than can be said for some of DCD’s later output), but he always seems ever so slightly off.  On the plus side, there’s a lot of fun detail work on the sculpt.  The costume sports plenty of wrinkles and stretched fabric, to make it more convincing that he’s not just sporting body paint, and there’s even a seam running down the front, showing how he gets the costume on and off.  The boots are heavily wrinkled and very obviously a different material than the rest of the costume, and there’s even the appropriate treading on the soles.  The head is some pretty solid work as well; the face under the mask displays Barry’s goofy charm pretty well, and the mask has a seam running across the forehead, much like Adam West’s Batman Cowl.  The paintwork on Flash is pretty good, but I have one small complaint: they used gold in place of yellow.  It’s not an uncommon practice, and this is far from the first Flash to do so, but when companies do this, they almost always use this dark and rather dull gold.  In the case of the Flash, this robs him of some of his costume’s boldness and clash, and on this particular figure, it has the unintended effect of sort of reversing the dynamic of his costume and making the red the lighter color in most lighting.  A more vibrant gold would have looked a bit better.  Apart from that, the application is all pretty clean, and I do really like the slightly pearlescent red they’ve gone with.  Barry’s only accessory was a rather large and unruly display stand, which was the same one included with every figure in this line.


Despite getting most of my DC Direct figures from Cosmic Comix, I actually got Flash from a Suncoast.  I think CCX had sold out of Flash by the time I got there, so I ended up finding him while on a mall outing with my Grandmother and my cousins.  I think he may have even been on sale.  I was quite excited to get him, since I didn’t yet have a Barry Allen in this scale.  He remained my go-to Flash figure until he was eventually supplanted by the Darwyn Cooke-styled Flash from New Frontier.  He’s not a perfect figure, but he’s a pretty solid one, and he definitely brings back some fond memories.

#0857: The Flash




In 1956, Barry Allen became the second version of the Flash, and officially brought about the Silver Age of comics, for DC anyway (though, if you want to get technical, the first real Silver Age character was Martian Manhunter, who appeared one year prior. And if you want to get REALLY technical, the first Silver Age character was Superboy, who appeared a decade before that. I feel I may have lost some people on that one…). Barry was a brand-new take on an already established hero, and in one fell-swoop showcased DC’s penchant for both reboots and legacies. Barry is a pretty important character for DC, so it’s not a huge shock to see him show up as one of the figures in DC Collectibles’ DC Icons line.


FlashIcon2The Flash is part of the second series of the DC Icons line. He’s figure #05 in the line, placing him right after Mr. Miracle in the numbering, and making him the “first” figure in Series 2. Flash’s figure was designed by Ivan Reis (one of DC’s top artists) and sculpted Amos Hemsley. He’s officially based on Barry’s appearance in “Chain Lightning,” which was a five-issue arc during Mark Waid’s tenure on the book, which brought back a pre-Crisis Barry through time travel. Of course, all that’s just a very specific way of saying he’s a classic, pre-Crisis Barry Allen Flash. The figure stands 6 inches tall and has 29 points of articulation. He’s just a bit taller than the Mr. Miracle figure; he still totally out of scale with other DCC lines, but you can sort of fudge it a bit if you want to put him with, say, some Marvel Legends. Also, he’s got lateral movement on his legs! Yay! I was afraid DCC had totally abandoned such joints. Barry gets an all-new sculpt, but it’s worth noting that he, like many others in the line, is built on a base prototype body, which gives everyone a unified look. Overall, I really love this sculpt. It’s nice and clean, and full of classic comics goodness. The details of his costume are all sculpted elements, which is certainly a nice change of pace. The detailing on his boots is definitely a stand-out. The arms do seem just a touch small, and I really wish his facial expression was a little less bland, but aside from that, the sculpt is very nice. Barry’s paint is generally pretty nice. The colors are bright and vibrant, and there’s a nice glossy finish on the boots and his logo. His eyes are a tad wonky, but not terrible for the scale. The Flash is packed with two pairs of hands: one set of fist/gripping combo, and one set of flat palms, perfect for running. However, the coolest accessory by far is the Cosmic Treadmill. It’s a slightly more modernized design than I’m used to, but it’s exquisitely sculpted, and a fantastic companion piece to the figure.


This is actually the figure that sold me on the whole DC Icons concept. It’s funny, because it isn’t like I don’t have classically-inspired Barry figures, but I just really liked the look of this one, and was happy to see more pre-New 52 stuff. I ended up using a giftcard I got for Christmas to order him from Amazon. While he isn’t perfect (the expression still kinda bugs me), I do like him a lot, and he’s one of my favorite Flash figures I own. He’s definitely a good indicator of how cool this line can be!

#0561: The Flash




Live action and DC Comics have something of an iffy history. While they pretty much invented the modern Super Hero movie with Richard Donner’s Superman, most of their film work has been acceptable at best and horrifyingly bad at worst. On the small screen, they faired a little better, with popular runs of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but they kinda started to run out of steam. Smallville lasted for an insane 10 seasons, but I wouldn’t really call any of them particularly noteworthy. When they launched Arrow, I watched for about a half a season, but gradually lost interest. I figured that DC TV just wasn’t for me anymore. Enter The Flash. It’s fun, light-hearted, and it doesn’t seem to be shying away from the bolder aspects of the characters. And now it’s getting action figures.


FlashTV2Flash here was just released last month as part of DC Collectibles’ The Flash line, based on the show. It’s sort of a spin-off of the Arrow line, and Flash is a single release figure (though he’ll soon be joined by Captain Cold). Flash is marked as figure 01, so clearly DCC is planning on there being at least a few of these. The figure stands about 6 ½ inches tall and features 30 points of articulation. In case you hadn’t already pieced it together, Flash is based on the character’s appearance on the TV series of the same name. The show design is, of course, based on the comics design, with a fair bit more texturing and the like added. The figure features an all-new sculpt. After dipping my toes into the DCC waters with several of their animated figures, the Flash is a little bit of a letdown. The sculpt certainly isn’t bad. There is plenty of texturing on the suit, and most of its finer details are nice and sharp. The problems with the sculpt are mostly related to its resemblance of actor Grant Gustin. Gustin is a pretty skinny guy, but he’s definitely not as lanky as this figure would have you believe. In addition, while the head features a passable likeness, the details are a little on the soft side. The figure’s paintwork is generally pretty decent. The colors seem to be a close match to those on the show, and most of the details stay within their designated areas. The only real weak point is the head, where the paint ends up being a little softer at the edges, although that’s at least in part due to the sculpt. The Flash is packed with three sets of hands, in fist, grip, and open poses. They’re perfectly fine additions, but the figure would have majorly benefited from the inclusion of some sort of stand to facilitate some deeper running stances.


Flash was something of an impulse buy (which is fitting, I suppose). I don’t do that very often anymore, but my comicbook store had him sitting on the shelf, and I have been enjoying the show. The figure isn’t the most impressive figure ever made, and he hasn’t really swayed me on buying anymore of DCC’s TV-based figures. That said, he’s really not a bad figure, and I don’t regret the purchase. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the rest of the line, and I’ll probably end up picking up a few others, depending on the character selection.