Sunday, 18 May 2014

Batman the Animated Series Wave One and Two - Thoughts


Police blimps patrol the sky, spotlights rain down on to the streets below and all is silent. Suddenly an explosion at a bank disturbs the peace and two thieves run off into the night. Elsewhere a futuristic car springs to life, a burst of flame as the thruster of the car's immense engine propels the vehicle down a vast corridor. While the thieves elude their police pursuers by climbing onto a roof, they are confronted by a shadowy figure of darkness and vengeance, his eyes gleaming a piercing white in the darkness...

That is the opening to one of the greatest animated shows ever produced, Batman the Animated Series. So cross-culturally clear was the opening to the series that the word 'Batman' never appears in the sequence. In any language, in any country, this is Batman. So why the chat about Batman? Well, this show, like Doctor Who, was a huge part of my childhood and it remains a big part of my adulthood (my dissertation was basically all based on the Film Noir element of this show), and now that DC Collectibles are producing 6" action figures based on this prestigious series and its sequel, The New Batman Adventures, it seems fitting to take a look at these first two waves and speculate on what's to come. So before we start, yes, I'm buying these figures and yes, I'll be reviewing them on this site/YouTube channel. It is batmanmarch after all. Like the 1989 Burton movie and its sequel, Batman Returns, this show made me the fan I am today. While Burton's film opened my eyes to the character in a way the Adam West show didn't, BTAS fleshed out that mythos and introduced me to characters like Two-Face, Clayface, Killer Croc and all the others who had yet to appear on the big screen or the small screen. For me, and for many other people of a certain age, this Batman ins the definitive Batman. I have read a multitude comics from every decade since the character's inception, but this show will forever be the way I see Batman.

Now I have already posted news about the first wave of figures, specifically TNBA Batman and BTAS Catwoman, but since then images of the rest of wave one and two have been released online, and all I can say is "gimmegimmegimme"! Now I've not collected a figure from DC Collectibles since they were DC Direct and there's a number of reasons, money mostly, but as much as I loved their work I was always annoyed at the lack of articulation. This is not the case with this line as each figure is set to be highly articulated without damaging the look of Bruce Timm's wonderful character designs. As a kid who grew up with the Kenner figures and their, then standard, five points of articulation, this is incredibly exciting. So lets start off with the first element of this new toy line: It features the designs of both eras of the show. Generally the whole series (both designs) is given the overarching title of Batman the Animated Series, but actually that only counts for the first season and a bit before being renamed The Adventures of Batman and Robin, because Robin was popping up more frequently. The series ran from 1992-1995 before being reborn as The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999), in which all of the characters were redesigned and, in some cases, characters were recast. Despite this, the superb score of Shirley Walker et al remained, and the show was clearly the same as its early 90s counterpart. Personally I prefer the original designs, I like the curvier look to certain characters and it was this version that really influenced me as a child. Don't get me wrong, I like the redesigns too, but you do tend to lean towards what you were most exposed to. However, some of the redesigns were down right ugly such as the bizarre alterations to the Joker (thankfully fixed in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and Justice League) and Killer Croc. At present each wave is set out as three figures from one series and one from another. This seems a pretty fair way of doing things and it will stop the series from getting dull in the long run.

Wave One

Batman


Based on his TNBA appearance, the figure looks very impressive and on model to the original cartoon design. The cape is probably going to hinder the more dynamic arm poses, but this iteration of Batman was broody and stoic, so it doesn't bother me too much. I actually prefer the original design of Batman with the curvier muscles and the classic yellow emblem, so I hope it's not too long before we see that variant. Something that hasn't been revealed yet is the accessories. Each figure is said to come with a range of accessories from specific episode appearances, but for someone like Batman I would guess that it's the standard batarang, grappling gun, handcuffs etc. Perhaps there'll be a few surprises in there? Interchangeable hands that are more like clenched fists? Hopefully a display stand too, but whatever he comes with, it's a great start to the line and an improvement to the original figure I often played with as a child!

Catwoman


The only BTAS figure of the wave, again this figure seems to perfectly capture Selina's look from the show. Again, I prefer this look over the more animated pasty version of the latter show, and I think this version will look more dynamic on the shelf compared to an all black figure with a white chin. No accessories have been shown, but her whip, cat statue, throwing star thingys in the shape of cats and a camera have been mentioned, all of which appear in her first appearance, The Cat and the Claw. 

Two-Face


Now this is awesome. Two-Face was basically unchanged from his original BTAS design, he just became sleeker. I had the original Kenner version of this Two-Face, and it was by far one of my favourite Batman figures. I've always had a love for two part figures, I love Two-Bad from Masters of the Universe too. Perhaps I share Harvey's fascination with duality, or maybe I think they make for funky looking figures; whatever the reason, I cannot wait to get my hands on this one. He looks wonderful. The original digital sculpts showed the following accessories: submachine gun, gasmask, and a key to the airport loker as seen in The Sins of the Father. Wait, what, where the heck is the coin? I'm sure he will come with his trademark coin, but if that's being saved for his BTAS counterpart then that's a bit mad. A key and no coin?! Yes, the key played a key part of the story, but I don't think I'm going to be as keen to display him holding the damned thing as much as his coin! I'm also kind of shocked there's no mention of a single pistol, but again, perhaps this is being saved for the other version. Either way, he shall be mine! 

Mr Freeze


If the animated series is known for anything, it's making the villains deeper three dimensional characters than they had ever been seen in any medium. Freeze is the embodiment of that, as is Clayface and others. Although Freeze appeared in only three episodes of the entire 1992-1999 run and a movie (Subzero) he had the greatest character development that even went on to Batman Beyond (Batman of the Future in Europe). Again, I prefered the bulkier 50s sci-fi look of the original Freeze, but I was a fan of this version too in his only TNBA appearance: Cold Comfort. In this story (SPOILERS AHEAD) we learn that the chemicals that made Victor Fries become Mr Freeze has been slowly eating his body to the point where he is now only a head in a jar using a robot body. He's almost immortal and now he has no physical form. It's yet another kick in the teeth to a man who was so close to being reunited with his lost love, Nora. In a macabre twist akin to John Carpenter's The Thing, Freeze now has a set of robotic spider legs to wander around on. I loved this as a kid! I had the original toy (which I believe is quite a hard one to get hold of) and it had this very feature, which was brilliant! I am pleased to say that this new version also has it as well as his trademark freezing gun. A great way to end a very strong wave.  

Wave Two

The Joker


It didn't take long did it? And thank goodness! This is perfection! Mark Hamill is the Joker. When I think of the clown prince of crime, I think of this guy. When I read a comic featuring the Ace of Knaves, I hear his voice. I had the original figure (well, the Rogues Gallery variant) and I loved it, but this is so much more. No news on accessories yet, but I'm guessing playing cards and perhaps a few other odds and sods. His hands seem pretty clenched, so perhaps alternate hands? I doubt there'll be any laughing fish here, I think that'll be saved for a trench coat version (soon please, thank you). Needless to say, this is a top figure for me, and I'm so glad they went for this BTAS design that the weird redesign. I think pretty much everyone, Timm and Paul Dini included, feel that way. 

Robin


No surprise to see the Batman's key sidekick so early on! I love Dick Grayson's Robin/Nightwing, and I loved him in this show. Tim Drake was a bit more annoying in the cartoon (I like him in the comics), simply because he was an amalgamation of bratty Jason Todd and Tim Drake. I also prefer this outfit, but I'm urked that I can't display him with wave one's Batman! Gah! I await a proper BTAS Batman with earnest! No word on accessories, but I'm guessing he'll have a range of gadgets as per the wave one Batman. 

Poison Ivy


The only TNBA figure of the wave, and I'm a fan of both designs. I like the pale plant-ness of this version compared to the 'normal woman who is obsessed with plants' design of the original, but each has its' own individual merits. Like Catwoman, this looks to be a very nice transformation from animation cells to plastic; however, the pose shown in the image is a bit odd. Perhaps that was the only way they could hold her arms for the picture? No word on accessories yet, but perhaps it'll be something from Comfort and Joy or Chemistry. We now need a Harley Quinn for Ivy and for Joker. Maybe in wave three.

Man-Bat


Another figure I went crazy for! Probably because both me and my brother owned the original figure and now this version far more accurate (still loved the original toy though). A lot of people were expecting Penguin, heck, I was anticipating the Penguin, but I expect they're trying to pace out the heavy hitters so that later waves aren't just lesser known villains. With only one appearance to his name, Man-Bat appeared in the first episode of the series, One Leather Wings. Now this is a bit of a murky area as I know this was not the first episode to air in the US. Production order and transmission order was different, but in the UK it certainly began with this episode on Cartoon Network! There doesn't seem to be much in the way of articulation at this point, which is unsurprising given the bulk of the character. In fact that was the reason I didn't even contemplate seeing this chap so soon, he's massive! I'm guessing (hoping) that he'll come with a set of swappable outstretched flying arms to emulate him soaring through the sky. It really is a lovely sculpt, just look at that sneering expression on his face! Excellent!

So that's it for the waves thus far. It's all idle speculation as to what accessories will be packaged with who, but I'm sure we'll hear about that at SDCC. I'm also hoping that the packaging keeps the Dark Deco flavour of the series, but chances are they could try and be sleek white window boxes as per DC Collectibles other ranges. It's a very good start to the range, and there's not a figure here that I'm on the fence about getting. One of the more tantalising prospects will be getting characters who never made it into figure form or were notoriously hard to find. Roxy Rocket is a particular favourite to add to the shelf as is the Ventriloquist and Scarface (seriously, why hasn't there been more figures produced of these two?). All we know for now is that DC see this as a long running toy line, which has arrived at the perfect time for me what with the 5" Doctor Who line seemingly dead and my adventures with Masters of the Universe Classics coming to a gradual end (expect a personal MotU retrospective in the near future). Could the line pave the way for a wider DC Animated Universe line with Superman the Animated Series, Batman Beyond and Justice League in the ranks? An exciting prospect for sure, although I'd be more inclined to cherry pick those. Ideally they'll make an in scale Batmobile... but I shan't get my hopes up just yet. 

When I was about twelve/thirteen I became really engrossed in comic books, both DC and Marvel, and I decided that I'd never buy a movie or animated based figure again. I wanted to stick with comic book style figures because the comics were the originals. Thankfully I didn't stick to this rule with the release of Hot Toys 1989 Batman and Joker, and I'm pleased to say that the announcement of these figures has made me break that rule again. 

Stay tuned for more updates on the line, such as when they're coming out and when they'll be available to order from Forbidden Planet, and of course stay tuned for the reviews later in the year! 


No comments:

Post a comment