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.
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 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.
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.
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?