#1599: New Frontier Boxed Set

SUPERMAN, BATMAN, WONDER WOMAN, & GREEN LANTERN

DC’s NEW FRONTIER (DC DIRECT)

One of my favorite DC stories is Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier.  It’s a great period piece, with amazing artwork, and a great focus on a few of DC’s lesser followed characters.  It was fortunate enough to get a a whole line of figures focused on it back in the day, which remains one of my favorite products from DC Direct to this day.  I’ll be looking at a few of those figures today!

THE FIGURES THEMSELVES

These four figures were released as a special boxed set to coincide with the release of the Justice League: New Frontier animated film in 2008.  All four figures had originally seen release in DCD’s New Frontier toyline from 2006, before being re-released (with minor tweaks) here.

SUPERMAN

This figure is essentially unchanged from his single-packed release.  Of course, I never got that one, so he’s new to me.  Cooke’s take on Superman is a nice merging of styles.  He’s the character I think best encapsulates the ‘50s feel of the story, and a lot of that comes from his slightly tweaked version of the classic Superman.  He’s got a definite Fleisher flair to him, which I definitely dig.  The figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 11 points of articulation.  Hardly a super-posable figure, but he can get into some decent standing poses.  His sculpt is definitely one of the best in the line.  The details are sharp, and the line work is very clean.  Cooke’s style has been translated very well here, and Clark looks like he’s been lifted right off the page.  The shaping of things like the hair and the cape, and even the wrinkles where his costume has bunched up in a few places, are just perfect matches for the way Cooke drew his take on Superman.  The figure is slightly preposed in nature, but it’s not super awkward or anything.  It is, instead, a slight off-shifted balance of his weight to one side, which provides quite a naturalistic stance.  The paint work on Superman is pretty solid work.  It’s cleanly applied, and the palette nicely matches the more subtle hues of the book’s colors.  The original Superman included a camera and a rather elaborate display stand.  This release only gets a more simple black display stand.

BATMAN

Batman is another figure that was essentially unchanged for this second release.  He is notably distinct from the Designer Series Batman.  That one was based on the ‘40s styled Batman from the first half of the story.  This one goes for the ‘50s styled Batman as he appears in the back half of the book.  I always found this an interesting choice, since a lot of Batman’s role is in that first half, thus making this figure the less prominent design.  The figure is, somewhat frustratingly, taller than Superman.  He’s also a bit bulkier overall, which just looks…strange.  Cooke certainly didn’t draw Batman as the larger of the two, so why DCD went this way is anyone’s guess.  In general, Batman’s sculpt is a bit of a mess.  I mean, there are certainly nice qualities to it.  The head’s pretty strong, and the whole figure still manages to get the style down pretty decently.  The big flaw of this figure is his pre-posed nature.  More specifically, it’s the fact that I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what pose he’s *supposed* to be in.  Absolutely nothing looks natural.  He’s got this sort of a chest-thrust thing going on, but nothing else about him seems to match up with that.  The end result is…less than appealing.  On the plus side, the paint’s pretty decent.  Application is clean, the colors match the comic, and it just generally looks pretty good.  Guess something had to.  As with Superman, Batman’s only accessory is a display stand.

WONDER WOMAN

Darwyn Cooke’s Wonder Woman is my very favorite take on the character, especially in terms of design.  He very deftly merged her classic design with a more battle-ready amazonian look, creating a rather unique design for the character.  All of the important elements remained, of course, and it’s actually a pretty great send-up to the early Wonder Woman illustrations.  This figure marks this set’s first real deviation from the single releases, and it’s perhaps one of the first times that DC Direct ever directly addressed a problem with an initial release.  Wonder Woman gets a new head, which is a slightly more generalized expression, replacing the more intense (and not quite as well implemented) expression of the original figure.  I definitely prefer this one to the original release, though it’s a shame DCD didn’t give another stab at a more intense look.  The rest of the sculpt is straight from the original figure, and it’s actually pretty good.  Like Batman, Wonder Woman goes far more preposed than Superman, but unlike Batman, it doesn’t totally suck.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  The stance is very befitting the battle-happy Wonder Woman of the story.  The details of the sculpt are pretty fantastic, and I especially like the nicks and gashes taken out of her bracelets and shin guards.  Wonder Woman’s paint work is once again pretty decent.  It’s clean, and actually pretty bright, and slightly less subdued than the others in this set, which is appropriate for the character.  The original Wonder Woman release included an extra head, as well as a sword, lasso, and display stand.  This one doesn’t have the extra head, but does still get the sword and lasso, as well as the smaller display stand.

GREEN LANTERN

Hal Jordan is really the closest New Frontier comes to a main character.  You’ll note I said Hal Jordan, and not Green Lantern, since Hal isn’t really GL until the last chapter of the story.  Of course, the costumed look is a bit easier to sell than just Hal in a flight suit, I’d suspect.  This figure is about 6 1/2 inches tall and has 15 points of articulation, the most of any of the figures in the set.  He has my second favorite sculpt in the set, second only to the Superman figure in that regard.  Once again, the line work is simple and clean, and Cooke’s style is expertly recreated here.  The posing to this figure is very subtle, but adds a lot of life to the figure.  I like the friendlier expression seen here, as it definitely fits with Hal’s depiction in the book.  The paint work on GL is the one notable change from the original figure.  The biggest change is giving him the green on his shoulders, meaning this is actually a Hal from later on in his career, presumably sometime after the story.  Technically, this change doesn’t quite match the sculpt, but it’s subtle enough not to really matter too much.  In addition, the green used on this figure has a bit less yellow in it, which makes him look a little cleaner to me.  The original GL figure included an extra unmasked head, as well as his power battery, and the display stand.  This figure only gets a smaller display stand.  It’s a shame his extras got cut.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up a good number of the New Frontier figures when they were originally released, but somehow I managed to miss both Superman and Wonder Woman from the first series.  I remember this set being released, but I passed on it because I already had Batman and GL.  By the time I’d become willing to accept the pair of duplicates, the boxed set and the original releases had both picked up a fairly heft after market value.  As I’ve mentioned a few times in the last few months, Cosmic Comix purchased a rather sizable action figure collection last year.  This set was amongst that purchase, and the guys at CCX were nice enough to sell it to me for quite a markdown from its usual going rate.  I’m happy to finally have Superman and Wonder Woman, and I quite like this variant of GL.  Batman still sucks, but what can you do?

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#1036: Batman

BATMAN

DC COMICS DESIGNER SERIES (DCC)

BatmanCooke1

Earlier this year, we lost Darwyn Cooke, one of my favorite artists in comics. As fate would have it, this was also the year that DC Collectibles decided to devote a sub-set of their Designer Series to Cooke’s work, with the figures arriving just over a month after his passing. The figures are nothing if not a very nice tribute to all the awesome things Darwyn did during his career. Today, I’ll be looking at Batman, a character Cooke illustrated quite frequently. DC Direct did a Cooke Batman back when they did their New Frontier line, but that one was one of the line’s weaker figures, and it was also based on Batman’s ‘50s design, so this figure, based on a more timeless design is far overdue.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

BatmanCooke2Batman is figure 1 in the Darwyn Cooke sub-set of DCC’s DC Comics Designer Series, released alongside Supergirl and Harley Quinn. The figure stands about 6 ½ inches tall and he has 14 points of articulation. The articulation count isn’t super high, but very similar to what the New Frontier figures had (with some of the range increased a bit), which helps this guy to still fit in with those figures. For the most part, he’s just going to be doing basic standing poses, but he can get a nice variety of nuanced changes, and you can even get some slightly more dynamic poses if you work at it. This Batman is based on the character’s look from the early-to-mid-40s, after his appearance had settled a bit, but before he had become his more jovial self. It’s Batman as he appears in a lot of Cooke’s work, such as Batman: Ego and the first half of New Frontier, so it’s definitely a good choice. The sculpt is very much in line with what I looked at with Doctor Fate. It’s probably one of the best sculpts I’ve gotten from DCC. They’ve done a very good job of capturing Cooke’s Batman, down to all the little creases in his costume. And, unlike the last Cooke Batman, this one doesn’t have an odd, unworkable sculpted pose, so he doesn’t look super awkward. That’s a definite plus in my book. Batman’s paintwork is all very sharp and clean. He’s certainly got a striking color scheme, and I especially like the use of glossy paint for his gloves, boots, and logo. The only slightly odd part of the paint is his mouth, or more specifically, his lower lip. It’s oddly defined and makes him look a bit pouty. Batman included no accessories, which is a bit of a bummer given the price, but certainly not the worst thing.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Cosmic Comix got this set of figures in dribs and drabs. My dad picked up Supergirl at the end of June, but she was the only figure in stock. About a month later, they got this guy, and I picked him up as soon as I saw him. This is a figure I’ve been waiting for since the second series of New Frontier figures all those years ago, which makes me very happy. Now, if I could just figure out what the heck happened to that Adam Strange figure…

#0937: Doctor Fate

DOCTOR FATE

DC’s NEW FRONTIER (DC DIRECT)

DrFate4

Over the weekend, it was announced that artist Darwyn Cooke had passed away. While Mr. Cooke may not necessarily have been a household name, his body of work was nothing short of amazing, and his death is a huge loss to the comics community. Cooke spent most of his career working for DC Comics. A lot of his work was used for promotional purposes, but he did have a few prominent runs, as well as several one-shots and miniseries. Perhaps his greatest work was his Elseworlds project DC’s New Frontier, a love letter to late Golden Age and early Silver Age stories from the company. It was successful enough to get an animated adaptation through Warner Brothers, and even got a two series line of figures from DC Direct. In honor of Darwyn Cooke’s legacy, I’ll be looking at my personal favorite figure from that line, Doctor Fate.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

DrFate2Doctor Fate was part of the second series of New Frontier figures from DC Direct. His inclusion in the series was a bit of a shock, since the character doesn’t really have a very prominent role in the comic. Of course, neither did Series 1’s Black Hawk, so perhaps DCD just wanted to have one oddball choice per series. It’s also possible that the figure was requested by Cooke, as is known to happen with lines based on one specific artist’s work. Whatever the case, I don’t think anyone complained about his inclusion in the line. Doctor Fate is about 6 ½ inches tall and he has 11 points of articulation. That’s not a whole lot of movement, but it wasn’t bad for a DCD figure of the time. He’s not going to be getting into any major action poses, but the arms and head offer a pretty good range of possibilities. The figure is, obviously, based on Cooke’s illustrations of Doctor Fate from the comics. He’s not far removed from the classic Doctor Fate; in place of the usual flared gloves, he has a pair of wrist bands. It preserves all the classic Fate styling a, while still adding a nice flair of originality to the design. While some of the other figures in this line exhibited a little bit of difficulty translating Cooke’s style into three dimensions, Doctor Fate’s sculpt does a pretty fantastic job. Something about his general design just really DrFate3brings out the best of Cooke’s work, and results in a really sharp looking figure. The hands have unique posing (I especially love the right hand) and the cape has some of the best flow I’ve seen in a sculpted cape, but the best part of the sculpt is the head. The helmet is a separate piece, though it’s not removable (well, not intentionally, anyway). The use of a separate piece allows for a fully sculpted set of eyes to be visible beneath the helmet, which adds an incredible amount of depth to the figure. Even without there being a whole head below the helmet, the appearance is there. Doctor Fate’s paint work is pretty strong. The colors are well chosen, and nicely match up with the color palette of the books. The application is nice and clean. There isn’t much accent work, but that feels true to the comics. Doctor Fate’s only accessory was a display stand, which was the same stand included with all the New Frontier figures.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Doctor Fate, along with the rest of Series 2 of New Frontier, was a Christmas gift from my parents. Amusingly enough, though he’s my favorite figure from the set, he was the one figure in the Series I wasn’t sure I wanted. I’m happy to say I was wrong, and he’s remained not only my favorite New Frontier figure, but also my favorite version of Doctor Fate (which isn’t as simple a task as you might think).