#2602: Batman – Gotham By Gaslight

BATMAN — GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT

ELSEWORLDS (DC DIRECT)

“As a young Bruce Wayne takes up the mantle of the Bat, a series of slayings mirroring the work of Jack the Ripper begins.”

DC’s Elseworlds line allowed them to tell stories that fell outside of the confines of a normal universe story, which opened the playing field to all sorts of crazy concepts.  It also lent itself pretty well to lots of “let’s mash up this DC thing with another established thing” scenarios.  This actually goes back to the very first Elseworlds tale, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, which is “what if Batman was Victorian era and fought Jack the Ripper?”  It’s not high concept, but it’s certainly fun.  It’s also some of Mike Mignola’s earlier work, and has some pretty impressive design work.  The story’s Victorian Batman design is quite distinctive, which makes it ripe for making action figures, as DC Direct did in 2007.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Gotham By Gaslight Batman was released in the second series of DC Direct’s Elseworlds line.  He was one of two Batmen included, the other being the Red Son version of the character, which is another quite distinctive, if perhaps slightly thematically similar version of the Batman design.  The figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 13 points of articulation.  The articulation’s not a lot, but it was about what you’d expect from DCD at the time.  It’s good for some slight tweaks to his posture, but that’s really it.  It’s certainly better than nothing.  The sculpt was an all-new piece, and it was definitely DCD at their best.  They really had a lot of fun with the artist-specific work in this line, and in the case of this Batman, they’ve done a pretty spot on job of capturing that early Mignola art style.  He doesn’t quite have the extreme hallmarks of later Mignola stuff, but there’s still enough to make it recognizable.  I really like how they’ve translated the texturing of Mignola’s work into something three dimensional, and I also quite enjoy how they’ve managed to keep him rather dynamic while also keeping a fairly neutral pose.  The flow of that cape is just beautiful.  The only thing I’m not too keen on are the ears, which always point a bit inward on mine.  It’s an unfortunate side effect of how small they have to be and how they were packaged in the box, I suppose.  The paint work does a nice job of replicating the way Mignola’s work is illustrated in the book, with a subdued palette and a decent job of outlining the features on the face.  There’s also some great accenting on the belt, as well as some impressive work on the mud stains on his boots and cape.  All in all, a very well rendered paint scheme.  The only slight let down to this guy are the accessories.  All he gets is a stand.  Its not much to go on, and felt quite light given the price these things were going for relative to everything else at the time.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I picked up this guy back when he was brand new, courtesy of my usual comics haunt, Cosmic Comix.  He was the first of the Elseworlds line I grabbed, mostly because I wanted a Mignola Batman figure, and I wasn’t picky about which particular design it was.  I hadn’t even read the comic at the time (I have since).  He’s certainly a nice looking figure, even if he’s maybe not so exciting to actually play with.

#2062: Superman – The Dark Side

SUPERMAN – DARK

ELSEWORLDS (DC DIRECT)

After landing on the planet Apokolips instead of Earth, Kal-El is raised to be a merciless soldier, becoming Darkseid’s ultimate weapon in the war with New Genesis”

I’ve spoken once before of DC’s “Elseworlds” line, which they launched in 1989 as a throwback to their “Imaginary Stories” of the Silver Age.  It was actually a pretty big success throughout the ’90s, before being put on a hiatus in 2003.  While it was on hold, there was still some recognition of its importance in DC’s history, in the form of a line of dedicated figures, courtesy of DC Direct.  Numerous stories were given coverage, including 1998’s Superman: The Dark Side, a tale which, as the bio so notes, re-imagines Kal-El as landing on Apokolips and becoming a villainous New God.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Superman was released in 2007 as part of the fourth (and final) series of DC Direct’s Elseworlds line.  He was available in both “Good” and “Dark” variations.  This would be the “Dark” one.  Of the two, it’s certainly the less classically Superman-styled, and hits a lot of the same beats as the brainwashed Superman’s design from Superman: The Animated Series‘ “Legacy.”  The figure stands 6 3/4 inches tall and he has 13 points of articulation.  DCD was still kind of figuring out the whole articulation thing at this point, so Superman’s not an overly poseable figure.  I suppose he should consider himself lucky that he didn’t get stuck in an uncomfortable pre-pose, like that poor New Frontier Batman.  Instead, he’s just got a fairly basic standing pose, which isn’t that bad looking.  His sculpt was definitely a strong one, even for this line.  It’s sharply defined, and quite clean-looking.  It appears to be fairly faithful to Kieron Dwyer’s illustrations from the book (I haven’t read it myself, so I’m going off what I can find online), and nicely maintains the imposing nature of this armor’s design, as well as capturing that pseudo-Kirby styling. It’s not super detailed, erring more on the side of cleaner, bolder lines, which is again true to the source.  His paintwork is fairly standard from DCD for the time, which is to say it’s pretty solid.  The base work is clean, and sporting a real cool gunmetal grey over most of the figure.  The reds really pop from that, and there’s some really nice accenting, which brings out the details well.  The visor on the helmet is done up in a translucent red, which doesn’t quite catch the light as well as I’d hope, but is otherwise a decent break from the other reds throughout the armor.  Superman was originally packed with an alternate un-helmeted head, a sword, and a display stand.  My figure only has the sword, which, if I’m being honest, is the coolest bit anyway.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Having not read the story, I didn’t pick this figure up when he was new.  Instead, I decided to wait until he was super expensive on the aftermarket, because I’m way smart like that.  Okay, not quite.  This guy was traded-in to All Time Toys in a large lot back in December, and while I’ve never read the story, I quite liked his look, and was able to get him for a very good deal.  He’s a cool-looking based on a cool-looking design,  He’s not super-poseable or anything, but he’s certainly a cool display piece.

#1554: Red Son Batman

RED SON BATMAN

ELSEWORLDS (DC DIRECT)

“Batman uses a form of radical brain surgery to turn rebels into calm and compliant believers in his party.”

Back in the ‘50s, the writers at DC Comics had a habit of creating stories that didn’t count, dubbed “Imaginary Stories.”  Even within the already fictitious world where there characters resided, these were stories that weren’t real.  You could do radical things, like kill Superman, or give him and Batman fully grown sons.  Eventually, this sort of evolved into full blown alternate universes which, when combined with worlds populated by the Justice Society, the Crime Syndicate, or the Freedom Fighters, formed the DC Multiverse.  The Crisis on Infinite Earths came along and undid all of that.  There was only one universe again.  Of course, that proved restrictive, and slowly those alternate universes started peaking their heads out again.  When the 1989 Gotham By Gaslight proved a notable success, DC founded their Elseworlds imprint, thus allowing a place for these “Imaginary Stories” again, albeit in a format that more resembled Marvel’s What If…?  The imprint was retired in the early ‘00s, but not before spawning a smattering of figures.  Today, I’ll be looking at one of those figures, namely Red Son Batman.  Superman: Red Son, for those unfamiliar, presents the tale of Superman with a slight twist: instead of landing in Kansas, baby Kal-L instead lands on a farm in the USSR.  Where does Batman come into that?  Well, contrary to the bio up top, he’s actually an anti-Superman terrorist, looking to bring down the Russian government.  Fun times.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Red Son Batman was released in the second series of DC Direct’s Elseworlds line.  Interestingly, the Elsewords line was originally shown as a fully dedicated Red Son line, which would have had Batman in its first series.  When the line was re-fitted, this version of Bats got pushed back to Series 2, where he was one of two Batmen (the other was based on Gotham By Gaslight, fittingly enough).  The figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and has 13 points of articulation.  Batman had a totally unique sculpt, based on his rather unique design from the comic.  All of the characters in Red Son got more utilitarian and practical designs than their main universe counterparts (well, apart from Superman himself), and Batman was no exception, though, admittedly, his design didn’t stray too far from his usual look.  The basic elements remain, but are augmented by things that make this design far more “real world” than “superhero.”  There’s no denying that the Red Son take on Batman is certainly a distinctive one, though, and I certainly can appreciate some of the small details that sell him as being a totally different person within this particular story (such as the holstered gun on his belt).  For the figure, the sculpt does an amazing job of translating the gritty and stylized look from the comic into three dimensions.  There’s some fantastic detail work on the sticking of his suit, as well as the fur lining of his cap, and even the stubble on his face.  The figure is slightly pre-posed, but it’s a more purposeful hunched sort of pose, in contrast to some of the “never looked right in any pose” figures that DCD was putting out at the same time.  The figure’s impressive sculpt is topped off by a similarly impressive paint scheme.  The basic work is all cleanly applied, and there’s some solid accent work going on to keep him from looking too squeaky clean.  I particularly like the mud stains on the cape and uniform.  They add a nice bit of character to the figure.  Batman is packed holding the detonator he attempts to use to defeat Superman in the story, but it can be swapped out for a bat-shaped pickaxe.  I prefer the detonator myself.  He also includes a display stand with the Elseworlds logo and his name on it.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

When the Elseworlds figures hit, I wasn’t immediately familiar with most of the source material.  Given the choice between the two Batmen in Series 2, I went for the Gotham By Gaslight version, since that was the one I knew.  I only read Red Son many years later, and by that point, the figures had mostly picked up a hefty aftermarket value, with Batman being perhaps the highest.  Recently, Cosmic Comix purchased a rather sizable collection of action figures, and this guy was among them.  They offered him to me for a reasonable price, so I went for it.  He was definitely worth picking up.  He makes for quite a cool looking figure!