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by Monkey Boy

Sighhhhh. Mattel's Watchmen line is nearing the end of its first year, and what an annoying road it's been. Is this what MOTU fans deal with? The initial excitement and anticipation that gives way to ambivalence and disappointment as the final product inevitably ends up being an overpriced ode to corner-cutting. I'll say it again: SIGH.

Edward Morgan Blake is and always has been a clever brute with a raging lust for violence and a severe disdain for humanity. Unabashedly crude and unnervingly cheerful in the face of incredible violence, Blake dons the disguise of the Comedian. As a masked vigilante, he gives himself a license to kill, without pity or any apparent sense of remorse.

After Rorschach, Comedian was my most anticipated figure from this line. But as his arrival grew near, I began to notice little red flags that tempered my excitement. The first thing I noticed was that the actual Smiley Face logo didn't appear on any of Mattel's Watchmen-related merchandise. We've got plenty of yellow circles, and the primary element of the front of the packaging is an extreme close-up of the Comedian's bloody button, but nobody has yet copyrighted a black oval on a yellow backdrop. The actual, iconic Smiley logo is nowhere to be found.

The full Smiley is indeed a copyrighted symbol, at least in some parts of the world. A bit of history: The "Smiley" is trademarked in 100 countries and is owned by the Smiley Company, which is headed by Nicolas Loufrani. But it's actually not trademarkable in the US. Loufrani and Walmart (who utilized the Smiley in their marketing) had been tied in a tedious legal battle over the symbol until they settled out of court in 2010, but a separate case from 2006 settled the issue: a judge ruled the Smiley is not a "distinctive mark" when Walmart attempted to block an online satirist from using the Smiley in parody images.

Possibly worried about having to license the rights in the non-US market, Mattel didn't bother to include the actual Smiley symbol on any of its Watchmen merchandising. So we get a Comedian without the most recognizable symbol from the entire graphic novel. Awesome. DC Direct's film-based figures featured the Smiley. But Mattel's premium, high-end, super-limited fancy pants figures? Nope. Blank yellow circle. Totally works...not. It's painfully obvious on the packaging graphics, of which one side features a smiling face made of bullet holes...complete with a bullet hole nose, just to make it clear THIS IS NOT THE COPYRIGHTED SMILEY.

With that out of the way, let's look at the actual figure. Comedian is mostly made up of Mattel's DCUC "buff male" body or whatever. I don't have much of a problem with this, and if this had been the only instance of corner-cutting on this figure, I wouldn't care. As it is, it just adds to the pile. The new pieces are the head, gloves, a rolled-up sleeve piece around the bicep, a webgear consisting of belt, suspenders, shoulder pad and holsters, and unique knees and lower legs.

The head is based on the Comedian's look after being slashed by his Vietnamese lover, and features a very prominent scar on on his right cheek next to his signature grin. The headsculpt is decent, if ever so slightly too small, but considering the amount of different looks the Comedian sported during the story, it's a little disappointing to only get one head. An unscarred head, or a "gimp mask" head, or an "older" head with graying hair... the possibilities are legion, and Mattel decided to include absolutely none of them.

Another thing they didn't include? His pistols. They're sculpted permanently into the holsters on his hips. The knife in the sheath on his left calf is the same deal. The knife I can kind of understand, but there's really no excuse for a 6" scale figure with sculpted guns that aren't removable from the holsters in 2013. This isn't a 4" GI Joe figure. In fact, if it were, it would probably have working holsters. Mattel can blather on about needing to keep costs down all they want, but they can't do that and then turn around and refer to their figures as "high end collectibles." It's one or the other. When I'm paying $25 per figure (and over $35 once all the fees and shipping are tallied) I don't expect this level of cost-cutting. Mattel has 6" scaled pistols already tooled; in a line this expensive I can't see how they can justify not including them as accessories.

So let's move on to paint. As mentioned, the Smiley button is now a blank yellow circle. The figure is mostly molded in black plastic, with a blue wash on the legs only, which makes total sense except for the fact that it doesn't. His blue shoulder pad features a clean white star tampo, but the same can't be said for the edges of his black domino mask, which are fuzzy and fail to cover the entirety of the sculpted areas. His hairline is pretty sloppy, as well. His red and white striped left sleeve is passable, except for the huge flesh-colored shoulder joint. This usually isn't something that I find terribly bothersome on 4" figures like some people do, but on a 6" figure (especially one touted as "premium") it's pretty inexcusable. There are silver accents on the ammo in his belt, the pistols, and the knife, and a darker silver for the buckles on his various straps. Because nothing says "quality" like slightly different silver paint apps on a figure where literally every possible corner has been cut.

Articulation is the DCUC standard, so go and check out literally any review of a Mattel DC figure to see what that entails. Some of the joints are extremely tight and sticky, especially his ab-crunch and his neck, but your mileage may vary.

Comedian is accessorized with a shotgun and a flamethrower, the latter of which is attached via hose to a backpack that plugs into his back. Both are made of very soft warpy plastic. The shotgun gets surprisingly good paint apps, including a wood-finish stock, but the flimsiness and the fact that he can't really hold it in any convincing two-handed grip brings us one step forward and two steps back. He also gets the same base as every other figure in this line, and an oversized card featuring a stylized portrait and his bio. While I appreciate the inclusion of the flamethrower and backpack, I would gladly have sacrificed that if it meant he got his actual pistols and/or at least one alternate head. Also, the backpack plugs into his back via a large rectangular plug, which leaves a pretty gaping space in his back if you want to display him without it.

Is there anyone, anyone at all, who's satisfied with this figure? Is this anyone's ideal Comedian figure? A figure with a decent sculpt and sub-par paint apps that lacks both his signature weapons and his iconic Smiley button? He's not a terrible figure, but he is by far the most disappointing. I cannot think of anyone being excited for a Comedian figure and actually being happy with the final product Mattel has given us. If he had the pistols but no button, or (maybe) even the button but no pistols, or a little bit more attention was paid to his paint apps, then maybe he'd get a pass. But all of these issues combined coupled with a premium price tag makes for a pretty lackluster action figure experience.

Fancy packaging notwithstanding, there's nothing about these figures that elevates them above typical mass-market fare. While the packaging is certainly nice, I would gladly have taken these figures in a polybag with no graphics if it meant Mattel could then splurge for the (already 100% free) "rights" to the Smiley logo, or pistols, or a decent paint job. I'm thinking of maybe customizing this figure with parts from DC Direct's Comedian film-based figure, but that would involve tracking one down and paying for a whole separate figure just to get a half decent Comedian, and since I already feel like I paid too much for this guy, that's not likely.

The masses all looked up to Mattel and shouted "please give us decent Watchmen figures" and they looked down on us and whispered "meh."

-- 10/02/13

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