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by Artemis

There are some things that the Japanese just do better than America. Godzilla, for instance - Japanese Godzilla, classic, Western Godzilla, embarrassing (everyone cheered when Fauxzilla got killed in Godzilla: Final Wars). Iron Chef, similar situation, no matter how cute Cat Cora is. And any show consisting of contestants being hurt for the amusement of the audience - even though the US persists in calling it "football", it's just not as much fun as seeing a half-dozen serious-looking Tokyo businessmen get racked in the nuts by giant hammers.

And another example is babies - not babies themselves (which are equal parts cute and disgusting pretty much all over the world), but baby versions of adult characters. In the west, that sort of thing is basically equivalent to putting a ramp up in front of the shark tank and leaving a motorbike running nearby; even promising concepts like the Muppets struggle once someone's shrunk them and fitted them with diapers. In manga, "chibi" (Japanese for "You know, like Muppet Babies, only less crap") have a self-parodic role, often appearing in cutaways or closing scenes of real stories to make fun of themselves. If you've never read a manga, think of Squirrel Girl's introductions and animated Monkey Joe's pop-up comments in Great Lakes Avengers: Misassembled. You have read that, right? You'd better have.

Anyway, Hot Toys - makers of such figures as the She-Predator and, well, I'm sure they do other stuff but who's paying attention to anyone but Machiko? - have been cashing in on the current craze for "collectable chic" items with their chibi-themed Cosbaby line, and DC Direct (in the manner of an over-ambitious pimp, always ready to cram its characters into any damn style that they think might get a buyer) has handed over whatever percentage of the take was necessary to have its own stable added to the herd. So here we are, with Catwoman. As a baby. Considering how difficult it evidently is for an adult superheroine to not get called "girl", she must be thrilled about this.

Catbaby stands 2¾" tall - at least she's not as pointlessly bulky as a Mighty Mugg - and to her credit, she's sporting a pretty decent version of the current costume. Much of the body is just a generic form, painted all glossy black, but she's got an add-on belt (with a little whip handle stuck on the left side) and upper torso piece, which gives her her backpack and the little silver tag on her zipper at the collar. It also gives her a pair of boobs, which is really quite bizarre - I mean, she's a baby, right? They don't have those. The torso add-on doesn't really fit with the angular main body either, and I think it may have been a better idea to just leave the torso in its natural state (although given that everything else is rounded, the natural torso is itself a bit weird - I'd have gone for a rounder pear-shaped body).

The head is just over half the total height, so naturally it gets most of the attention, with an entirely custom sculpt and careful paintwork. The Catwoman mask is all sculpted, with a thick edge to the jaw sleeve, sculpted seams over the top of the head, a ribbed strap for the goggles, and of course the cutesy cat ears. The goggles are a clear piece, and thanks to the relatively large eyes work pretty well - there's plenty of open lens space to see the eyes through, and the silver paint on the edges is nice and clean, with no bleed onto the lenses. The face is painted with a nice matt skin finish, and features chubby cheeks, a button nose, and large, slightly dopey eyes, as well as cartoony lipstick and eyelashes. Her expression is a mix of wide-eyed surprise and slight confusion, which is pretty adorable once you get used to it.

Catbaby's not too shabby in articulation terms - the basic Cosbaby body is a sound design, although the boob/backpack piece limits the neck to effectively a swivel, despite there being a balljoint in there. The wrists are swivels, while the shoulders, hips, and ankles are all balljoints - with balls at both ends of the legs, and those big feet, even the fact that her head is heavier than the rest of her body put together doesn't keep her from being easy to keep upright. The hands are your standard Lego/Minimate/Everything else clips, so if you have a spare whip or something she'll hold it easily; she doesn't have any accessories of her own.

I'm not much of a fan of collector chic, generally - all things being equal, I'd rather just have the real thing, rather than a weirdly-proportioned eccentrically-stylised vinyl lump version of it. But I have to admit there's something to these Cosbaby things - a whole collection of them would be genuinely cool, if you were of a mind to amass one. I'm not, but I don't mind Catbaby, despite the odd torso, and while I left Batgirl on the pegs (Catwoman was my "buy one of these things to review" pick), if DC Direct pushes ahead with these things and does some characters I like, I can see myself getting a few more.

-- 07/21/09

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