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DC Universe Classics
by Poe Ghostal

Mattel's first Joker figure was way back in 2003 as part of their first comic-based Batman line. He was a rare non-Batman release, which made him popular with collectors. But he also suffered from a common issue with Mattel lines of the time: scale. He was supposed to be a wee bit taller than Batman, but instead, he was too short and small (cf. MOTU 2002 Trap Jaw, who should have been larger).

Finally - after the Joker's infamous depiction in The Dark Knight, his memorable, twisted turn in Grant Morrison's "Batman R.I.P." storyline and his recent bravura performance in the videogame Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mattel has seen fit to allow the Four Horsemen to resculpt everyone's favorite clown-based psychopath.

The Clown Prince of Crime is Batman's deadliest and most unpredictable foe. Rumored to be a failed stand-up comedian turned petty criminal who fell into a vat of chemical waste while escaping from the scene of a crime - that incident turned his skin white and his hair green. Batman knows the Joker is certifiably insane, which makes the end result of his action that much more deadly.

Nothing new about the packaging - it's the same blister card they've been using since Wave Series 1. It does feature the Joker in a delightfully mad action pose, although we're going to keep protesting having the weapons posed in the hands until Mattel stops doing it. While it actually turned out okay in this case, half the time it makes the grip too loose or bends the accessories.

We've seen much of this sculpt before on Gentleman Ghost, but it's great to see it used here. As far as I can tell, the differences (aside from the head) include: the bolo tie, the lack of a cape, the flower, and the forearms (GG had much larger cuffs). Oh, and the neck-having, of course. The result is very much the classic Silver Age Joker look. One nitpick is the left lower leg. Either it was sculpted to be a bit bent (reminiscent of Rogers' art) or it's slightly warped - kind of hard to say, but it's noticeable when he's standing up straight.

The head sculpt is great. It's unquestionably based on the Marshall Rogers Joker of Steve Englehart's celebrated 1970s run on Detective Comics (my own favorite run of Batman stories, and a source of much inspiration for Batman: The Animated Series). The head isn't quite as long and narrow as we often see on Joker figures, and that helps make it distinctive. The result is a figure that looks classic, but not too retro. (And it's 10 times better than a Joker wearing elf-booties.)

Some collectors have noticed that plastic and paint applications are areas that DCUC Series 9 and 10 seem to have improved upon, and that's true here. There's not much to comment on plastic-wise - the figure's mostly molded in purple. The jacket is a separate piece, and there's an obvious filled-in rectangle in the back where GG's cape was plugged in. The plastic seems a bit stronger and sturdier than previous waves series. Maybe Mattel (or its factory) is cutting back on the regrind plastic (the practice of melting down and re-using plastic shavings and other bits). That cost-saving measure may be behind the loose, rubbery limbs we've been seeing on the last few waves series of DCUC figures.

The paintwork is also very sharp, with some nice matte paint used for the orange of the vest. Each button, including the two above the tails in the back, is individually painted in gold, and there's a nice green trim at the cuffs. The pinstripes on the slacks are perfect. The work on the head is sharp, for the most part - they missed my Joker's philtrum when painting the lips, but it's not something you'd notice unless you're a toy reviewer taking a very close look at your subject. The only significant flaw is the paint on the neck. They went a little overboard on the dark wash, so it looks like the Joker's neck is covered in soot.

The Joker has the standard DCUC articulation: swivel/hinge shoulders, H-hips, hinged knees, elbows and torso, and swivels at the thighs, biceps, wrists, and waist. The waist articulation is severely limited by the shirt, and the thigh and bicep swivels are predictably ugly when used on a character in a suit, but that's a cross we articulation fans have borne for a long time.

You'll notice I didn't mention the usual balljointed head in there. That's because it isn't. It's supposed to be, but in practice it's just a swivel joint. This has already become the new "Big Issue" with DCUC: something about the way they're doing the head articulation is ruining the balljoint. Therefore, this Joker can't look up, and really can't even look straight ahead, either - his face is angled downward slightly. It's an annoying problem that appears to be getting worse, not better.

It seems like it's always feast or famine when it comes to DCUC figures' accessories, and the Joker definitely gets a feast. He comes with a big green mallet, obviously based on the Super Powers version. It's sculpted to look like his face, and it was my #1 request as an accessory for the Joker. I'm very pleased here. The only downside is that it can't be placed on his head like the original one. The large J's on each end come directly from the logo of Joker's own self-titled series back in the '70s.

He also comes with a set of cards (check out the tiny Joker image!), a laughing fish, and a cane with a golden Joker "jester" head. Here's an odd thing about the cane: they didn't just re-use the one that came with the original Joker, but made a brand-new one. It's made from stiffer plastic and features a nice golden tip, but I have to say I prefer the original head. The new head has two extra "tassels" going backward from the jester's cap, which means the Joker can't really hold it in his hand properly. The original cane's head has the two tassels to either side and only the one going back, allowing for a proper grip and therefore dapper poses. So while the new cane is stiffer and looks better, the original might offer some more unique poses - but I'm guessing it won't make much difference to most people.

He also comes with Imperiex's right leg. It's 5" tall, which seems to be about average for most of DCUC's build-a-figures. It has a hinged hip, knee and ankle, a thigh swivel, and all the costume details - the golden bands, the ribbed maroon band around the thigh - are sculpted elements, not just paint. And it's not just etched edges, either: they're raised pieces.

This was the last DCUC figure I really, really wanted, and as impatient a person as I am, I can say it was worth the wait. The sculpt is great, the colors are fun, and the accessories are fantastic. While the neck issue is annoying, I have hope that this figure will be re-issued (perhaps with a purple trenchcoat, thanks to the Question) and the head will finally be free to direct its manic grin at the birds as well as the moles.

-- 04/01/10

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