#2136: Wildcat

WILDCAT

DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS (MATTEL)

Ted Grant was a heavyweight boxing champion in the 1930s. He became a fugitive when mobsters framed him for murder in the ring. Ted donned a black costume and, adopting the name Wildcat, used his combat skills to beat a confession out of the men who framed him. Wildcat decided to remain in costume and focused his attention on mob-related crime. In his civilian identity, Ted Grant has operated a gym and trained Batman, Black Canary, and Catwoman in hand-to-hand combat arts.”

I had been tempted to start this review with a gag about how I hadn’t reviewed any DC Universe Classics figures recently, and how that was actually Mattel’s fault.  Trouble is…it’s only been two weeks since my last DCUC review, so I guess that joke doesn’t really fly so well.  Well, I’m still gonna blame Mattel…force of habit really.  For today’s review, I turn to one of the DC Universe’s older heroes, Wildcat, notable for sharing his first appearance with Wonder Woman (and Mister Terrific, but not as many people know him).  As a definite second stringer to her starring role, he found himself somewhat pushed to the sidelines, not even joining the premier Golden Age team, the Justice Society, until after the Golden Age had ended.  He found a renewed life after Earths 1 and 2 merged after Crisis on Infinite Earths, where he was retrofitted into an aged hero who had trained most of the current generation.  As a mentor, he flourished and became a fan-favorite.  And that’s how he’s become one of the most action-figured golden age heroes.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Wildcat was released in Series 9 of DC Universe Classics.  He wasn’t technically the only JSA member in the assortment, since Black Canary was also part of the line-up, and the two actually made for a pretty sensible pairing.  He was also right at the head of the oncoming push for the JSA, and continued the DCUC trend of providing updates to characters DC Direct hadn’t touched in a while.  There were two versions of Wildcat available, though unlike a lot of the variants produced for this line, the differences between the two are menial at best.  The standard’s body suit was a straight black, while the variant (reviewed here) was instead a very dark blue.  The reasoning behind the variant was never really explained, since it’s not exactly a callback to a specific look.  Both figures went for Wildcat’s slightly modernized look, with his wrapped up hands, befitting his past as a boxer.  The figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 23 points of articulation.  Wildcat was built on the larger male body, which was in service from Series 1 to Series 20.  For a bruiser like Ted, it was a good fit.  He also got a new head, forearms, hands, and feet.  The head is definitely the most impressive piece; rather than just a solid piece, the face is separately sculpted from the mask on top of it.  It adds some nice depth to the sculpt, and makes him unique amongst the other, single-piece sculpts from the line.  Wildcat’s colorscheme is fairly monochromatic, and by extension his paintwork is pretty simple for the most part.  The variant is sort of a purplish-blue, which doesn’t look half-bad, and he gets some pretty impressive work on those hand wraps.  Wildcat was packed with the torso and head of the Series 9 CnC, Chemo, who I didn’t actually complete, but there it is.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I feel like all of my DCUC reviews have the same “Me Half of the Equation,” but here goes: Series 9’s distribution was spotty.  Not as spotty as Series 8, but still pretty damn spotty.  I never saw either version of Wildcat at retail, and so I never got one while the line was running.  Fortunately for me, when All Time Toys got in a DCUC collection last December, I was able to find this guy among them.  He’s a strong figure, no doubt, and I’m definitely glad I was able to get ahold of him, because he really exhibits the line’s strength in simplicity very nicely.

#1595: Mantis

MANTIS

DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS (MATTEL)

“Mantis is a servant of Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips, the planet of ultimate evil, and his power may rival that of his master.  When Darkseid sent Mantis to Earth to locate the Anti-Life Equation, the means to control all sentient life throughout the universe, Mantis schemed to conquer the planet himself instead.  Cursed with an insatiable lust for power, Mantis would be just as happy to see Darkseid defeated as he would to see Apokolips triumph.”

In addition to being very much focused on the odd-ball characters of the DC Universe, DC Universe Classics was also committed to being a recreation of Kenner’s Super Powers line from the ‘80s.  Initially, it was just thematically and somewhat stylistically, but eventually, sub-text became full text, and each assortment was given one direct Super Powers recreation.  Today’s figure is one of those.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Mantis was released in Series 9 of DC Universe Classics.  As he was a pre-existing New Gods character who just got a hefty redesign for Super Powers, there were actually two variants of Mantis in this assortment.  The one seen here is, as mentioned above, the Super Powers design, which traded in the somewhat goofy spandex for a cool sci-fi robot thing.  The figure stands 6 3/4 inches tall and he has 23 points of articulation.  Despite what you might think, being a variant and all, the only parts shared between this and the classic Mantis are the upper arms, upper torso (albeit completely covered by an overlay), and knees, all of which are just the standard medium body pieces.  Everything else was brand-new to this guy, as it well should be.  It’s definitely one of the most impressive sculpts the line had to offer.   It captures the ‘80s figure’s design very well, but also scales it up, adds some extra details, and just generally modernizes the whole thing.  The only real problem I have is actually the re-use; the shoulders just end up looking a little bit out of place with the rest of the figure.  Still, not at all bad for a Mantis figure.  Paintwork on Mantis is pretty impressive as well.  There’s a lot of very bright, very bold color work, so he’ll definitely jump out on the shelf.  He’s also got a whole ton of accent work, including some slight airbrushing to keep things from getting too bland.  He really does represent the line at its peak.  Mantis was packed with the arm of Chemo, the Collect-N-Connect for this particular series, and nothing else.  Not sure there’s really much else you could have given him, though.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Mantis is another recent addition.  Series 9 suffered from some pretty fierce distribution problems, so I never found a lot of them at retail.  Fortunately, Cosmic Comix recently bought someone’s DCUC collection, so I’ve been able to pick up a lot of the figures I’ve missed.  I actually grabbed this figure back on Small Business Saturday, in an effort to be supportive.  Mantis is definitely a fun figure, and I’m certainly happy to have finally gotten him!

#0512: Green Arrow

GREEN ARROW

DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS

GreenArrowDCUC1

In a lot of ways, Mattel’s DC Universe Classics was really the true successor to ToyBiz’s run on Marvel Legends. Now, before you grab the pitchforks and the torches, hear me out. Both lines were the hottest action figure line around at the time of release, both offered a surprisingly expansive look at their respective universes, and both were renowned for their representations of obscure characters. They’ve also both begun to show their age, and they were both a pain in the butt to collect. And of course, they both have their fanbases, who don’t tend to like being compared to each other. If I go missing, you know where to look. In the moment, I think I enjoyed collecting DCUC a bit more, just because I gained more of a mastery of tracking stuff down online, which made getting the figures I wanted a whole lot easier. So, why not have a look at one of my favorite figures from that line, Green Arrow.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

GreenArrowDCUC2Green Arrow saw release in the 9th Series of DC Universe Classics. He served as the “anchor figure” of the series. With shows such as Arrow on the air, Green Arrow being an anchor figure nowadays wouldn’t be a huge shock, but at the time, it was actually a pretty bold move. However, given the presence of another 11 series of the line after this one, it’s safe to say it paid off okay. The figure is about 6 ½ inches tall and he has 27 points of articulation. He gets an extra two points of articulation compared to others in the line thanks to some hinge joints at the wrist, in addition to the usual swivel joints. It’s a nice addition, although it would have been nice if they’d made it standard to the line. Green Arrow is based on Oliver Queen’s Bronze Age (read: 70s-80s) appearance. It’s easily the character’s most distinctive look, and it’s one he’s returned to many times over the years. Also of note, it’s the look he had in the DC Super Powers line in the 80s, which was what Mattel was working to recreate.  DCUC generally operated on the buck system, but characters such as Green Arrow tend to need more unique pieces than others, resulting in him being more new than re-use. The waist, upper legs, and shoulders are re-used from the medium sized buck, but I believe everything else on the figure is new. Ollie ended up with one of the best sculpts DCUC had to offer in that regard. All of the little details of the costume are sculpted, and they are done with the necessary precision. They are also spot on to design from the comics, right down to those weird draw string things on the front of his costume. The pointed shoulders of his costume also help to mask the slightly large shoulders that were an issue with the line, and the rest of the pieces being new meant that Ollie ended up with a build that was appropriate to him. The figure’s hands are both sculpted to work well with the accessories, and they really turned out great. The head sculpt really makes this figure, perfectly capturing the Neal Adams Green Arrow of the 70s. He’s got just the right “charming rogue” look, which sells the character really well. In addition, they’ve managed to render his hat in three dimensions without it looking the slightest bit silly, which is really great. Where the figure ends up falling down just a bit is the paintwork. The paint certainly isn’t bad. In fact, the colors are well chosen, and it’s overall pretty clean. However, there’s a little bit of slop and bleed over. The worst thing on my figure is the airbrushing, particularly on the face. What was clearly meant to be a little bit of color on his cheeks ended up looking rather ridiculous, almost to a clownish level. The figure included his signature bow, a few different arrows, and a clear blue display stand. The bow ends up being another point of contention. There’s an arrow molded to it, meaning not only can the other arrows included not be used at all, but he also can’t draw the bow back any further, and he looks silly when just holding the bow one handed. Why Mattel decided to handle it this way (and to continue to handle it so on all the archers that followed) is baffling.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Amazingly enough, Green Arrow is one of the DCUC figures I ended up finding at retail with no real issues. I stumbled across him (as well as Black Canary) at my local Target and happily purchased him. Issues with the bow aside, this was one of the best figures that DCUC had to offer, and he still holds up, even while the rest of the line begins to look dated. It’s a shame that Mattel couldn’t keep up the effort they put into this figure.

#0420: Guardian

GUARDIAN

DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS

Ah, yes, DC Universe Classics. One of the most confusing lines I’ve ever collected. Purely viewing the figures offered, it’s easily the greatest DC toyline ever released (beating out Kenner’s Super Powers). The sheer breadth of the line is truly astounding. But, it was a Mattel toyline, which means the line was met with mismanagement, strange choices, and some of the worst distribution I’ve ever seen on a major toyline. An entire series of figures would be completely absent from store shelves in most areas of the country, leading to insane aftermarket prices. Because of this, I’m still filling holes in my collection two years after the line ended. One of my recent acquisitions is Guardian, DC’s resident shield wielding hero who is totally not Captain America. Let’s see how the figure turned out!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Guardian was released in Series 9 of DC Universe Classics. He’s one of the line’s more odd-ball choices, but that’s never a bad thing. The figure is a little over 6 inches tall and he features 25 points of articulation. He’s based on the original Jack Kirby-version of the character. Early prototypes for the figure showed the 90s incarnation of the character, and comments from Mattel indicated that that version might surface as a variant, but such a figure never surfaced. Sorry Guardian fans. DCUC was primarily a “buck-system” line, and Guardian is no exception. He’s built on the mid-sized buck, with a belt add-on and a new head. The mid-size buck seems like it might be a bit too small for Guardian, but it doesn’t look terrible. One thing I’ve noticed is that since getting back into Marvel Legends, the shoulders on the DCUC bucks look larger than they should, but overall, the bucks were well done, so this is a good starting point. Guardian’s head is really nice. The helmet is a separate piece, so the face is actually below it, which gives the figure the appropriate amount of depth. Guardian’s paint is rather simple, but what’s there is cleanly applied for the most part. There is a tiny bit of slop on the neck line, but that’s about it. The work on the face is the highlight of the figure, mostly due to just how clean everything is. The colors on the costume are really bright, which is befitting of a character like Guardian. They really make him pop. Guardian included his trusty shield, which is sort of silly looking, especially given the size, but it’s actually quite well sculpted. He also included the right leg of Chemo, but my figure was purchased loose and therefore did not have that piece.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I wanted a Guardian when he was released. In fact, I wanted pretty much all of Series 9. However, the series never really showed up in my neck of the woods. I was able to track down a few of the other figures from the series, but not Guardian.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I accompanied my dad to Philcon. We decided to explore the surrounding area on Saturday and came across a very nice toy store, called The House of Fun. The store’s selection was actually a bit overwhelming, if I’m honest. Anyway, my dad and I decided to focus on the large selection of DCUC figures they had, and Guardian happened to be amongst them. I’m glad I finally found the figure. He’s often been referred to as the sleeper hit of this series, and I can see why. He doesn’t have the bells and whistles that some of the better DCUC figures had, but he’s a solidly put together figure who is just undeniably fun.