ANIMAL MAN & B’WANA BEAST
DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS (MATTEL)
Mattel’s DC Universe Classics was really all about the odd-ball characters. And it’s hard to get much more oddball than the pair of characters I’m looking at today. Born out of the ‘60s fascination with animal themed heroes, both Animal Man and B’Wana Beast have picked up their respective fanbases over the years, and, believe it or not, they’ve both manage to gain multiple action figures. Weird, right?
THE FIGURES THEMSELVES
Animal Man and B’Wanna Beast were part of DC Universe Classics, released in 2009 as the Matty Collector-exclusive “Justice of the Jungle” two-pack. This was the last of the four such two-packs released this way in 2009, and ultimately the last two-pack in this particular venture for Mattel.
“When a teenage Buddy Baker went hunting in the Adirondacks, he found more than big game – he found an alien spacecraft! After being exposed to its strange radiation, Buddy found he could take on the powers and characteristics of any nearby animal – down to regenerating severed limbs, like an earthworm. He has faced many surreal menaces, traveled through space, and seen his entire reality torn apart more than once, but he always remains plain old Buddy Baker, family man and occasional hero – an oasis of sanity in the stranger corners of the DC Universe.”
Buddy Baker sort of follows the Ant-Man model of super hero creation. His initial appearance wasn’t quite of the super heroic variety, instead just following the story of a stuntman who gained animal powers. It wouldn’t be for another year that he’d get his costume, and even then he was A-Man, not Animal Man. He was just a fairly run-of the mill forgotten hero, until Grant Morison relaunched the character in the ’80s, bringing the character to critical acclaim and giving him his own unique flavor. Animal Man’s first figure was via DC Direct’s 52 line, but that one was admittedly less on the whole “action” front, so this one was appreciated. The figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and he has 23 points of articulation. He’s built on the medium sized male body, which is a decent enough fit for Buddy. He gets a new head and arms, as well as an add-on piece for his jacket. The head is possibly the most detailed head sculpt we got out of this line. There’s a lot going on there, between the fully detailed eyes beneath his goggles and the insane amount of detail that’s gone into his face. While it certainly helps him to stand out from the pack, I do feel all of those lines on his face do age poor Buddy just a touch more than I’d like. Obviously, I’m okay with him looking a bit more experienced than some of the DC heroes, but this does feel like it goes a little far. Still, an impressive piece nonetheless. The jacket served to mask some of the same-ness that this line was really running into with the base bodies, and was very nice recreation of Buddy’s signature denim jacket. The texturing and the small detail work on all of the zippers and stuff is really top-notch. The paintwork on Animal Man is decent enough; he hails from the line’s best period in this regard. The base application is pretty sharp, and there’s even some pretty nice accent work. The only real issue is the slight mismatching of the oranges on the legs, but that’s quite minor. There were no accessories for Animal Man, which, while a slight bummer, wasn’t much of a surprise.
“While in Tanzania, Mike Maxwell found himself trapped in a cave high atop Mount Kilimanjaro. In his attempt to survive, he drank the cave’s water – which, unknown to him, was infused with a strange elixir that increased his muscle mass, making him much stronger. When Maxwell donned an ancient helmet, he discovered he could merge any two animals together into a new, hybrid form called a chimera. B’wana became a fighter for animal rights as the jungle’s premier hero.”
Despite being definitely the more obscure of the two, B’wana Beast actually has more figures than Animal Man, with this being one of four. It was his first (though not by much) and is to date his only comics based figure, but still, that’s pretty impressive. Like his pack-mate, this figure stands 6 1/2 inches tall and has 23 points of articulation. He too is built on the medium-sized male body, which is fine, except for one small problem: no nipples. B’wana Beast is supposed to be shirtless, but the sculpt doesn’t quite reflect that. Mattel had done a shirtless torso prior for Series 6’s Hawkman, but I suppose the wing attachment was too difficult to remove. Oh well. On the plus side, B’wana Beast does get a new head and shins, as well as a new add-on piece for his loin cloth. The pieces are all very nicely sculpted. The helmet definitely takes its cues from his JLU counterpart, and manages not to look totally dumb, so that’s cool. Also, despite just looking like the same cuffed shins introduced on Series 1’s Red Tornado, B’wana Beast’s shins are totally new, featuring a pretty nifty fur texturing. B’wana Beast’s paint is very nice; not only did they manage to pull off the cheat spots on his shorts, boots, and mask without getting messy, but they also did a pretty solid job accenting his skin tone, making him look appropriately tanned for someone who runs around outside in nothing more than a loincloth and boots. Like Animal Man, B’wana Beast has no accessories. Still not surprising, but still disappointing. No cool chimeras? For shame!
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
Despite Mattel’s claim that these sets didn’t perform as well as they’d hoped, this set was sold out in less than two weeks. Not a lot of time for someone without their own expendable income to get them, so I didn’t. Instead, I wound up picking them up around Christmastime in 2012, using an Amazon gift card I’d gotten over the holiday. I paid a bit of a mark-up, but they were worth it to me. Neither figure is without its flaws (the biggest for both being the complete lack of extras), but both figures are amongst the strongest that Mattel produced for this line.