Mattel's Justice League Unlimited toy line is really one of those shining examples of a horribly flawed line reformatting itself, really taking off and constantly improving.
The line has its roots in Mattel's Justice League toy line based on the Cartoon Network show of the same name that follows the exploits of an updated menagerie of DC Comics superheroes. Originally the line of 4 1/2" scale figures offered limited articulation, figures stands and a price tag of about $7 - more than the figures could ever be worth. Even with gimmicky accessories and hastily added articulation, the line was still overpriced and under-wanted, especially since every series was composed of a selection of the same 5 characters (only one of which ever got a new sculpt, and even then it was only his head and torso) and only three sporadically released villains.
However, when the show re-branded itself to the half hour format Justice League Unlimited, Mattel finally had an opportunity (read: "excuse") to reformat their toy line. The figures now where available in either $5 single packs or $10 three packs, both styles offering exclusive deco's and, more importantly, characters. It was the latter part that has really caused the line to flourish, even earning it a 2005 ToY Award, increasing numbers of characters. Granted, most figures are generally repainted generic bodies with new heads and sometimes a new cape, chest plate, and so on, but the important thing is they're releasing new and popular characters.
Bizarro came out in a series of three three-packs that were exclusively carried by Target in the fall of 2005. We was packaged with Wonder Woman and Batman and came with a reprint of the first issue of the Justice League Unlimited comic book.
This is just a plain cool figure! He utilizes the standard "big body" torso and legs from the line but sports a new head, a new cape and new arms. Since JLU is done by the same creative team that brought us Superman: The Animated Series (among others), the design of Bizarro is very similar to that of the character from the previous show.
He has the same sort of "messy," oaf-ish countenance and similar monsterous proportions. The latter aspect manifests itself solely through the arms, which are slightly larger in proportion than other figures. The arms in fact offer the coolest thing about the figure, his oversized angular hands. The awkward, laxidazical pose Bizarro is usually shown in is finally almost captured through the open, oversized hands. If only the legs where slightly contrapposto with the feet turned inwards and the torso slightly hunched forward, it'd be perfect. However, with such huge overhead a conglomerate like Mattel has, it's a neccessity pieces be reused to keep costs down and keep the figures at or around the $5 price point. The cape is, though, brand-new as well, and semi-jaggedly angled on the bottom, which does add a nice extra bizarrity to the figure.
Much as with the S:TAS figure, this Bizarro also sports the jagged "S" emblem on his chest that I like so much. The "S" is not backwards, as is the typical visualization of the big B, but the "wackiness" of its design makes up for it.
Bizarro's belt is also painted on at an odd angle subtly adding to his strangeness. The overall color scheme is very dark, which, though not the preferred purples in the modern comics and the first DC Direct Bizarro, but it does provide an excellent counterpoint to Superman's bright colors quite nicely. Also, I have seen an alternate version of this figure with much brighter reds for his cape, "underwear" and boots, perhaps even brighter than Superman's red. Personally, I found it a bit too garish and quite a clash with the dark blue of the suit, so keep your eyes out for that – trust me, you'll be able to tell the difference, its quite marked.
Since Wonder Woman and Batman are constantly re-released and often available in the three-packs many of us already have army of them, so that basically means you're paying $10 for the one figure. However, this is by far one of the better figures in the JLU line and I'd recommend getting it regardless. The additional heroes could also be traded with friends, given to kids or customized. Plus, I've Target mark the sets down to $7.99 a couple of times by now, so you might potentially be able to get it for less than $10. However, do note that while the three Target exclusives (the other two include: Black Canary [the exclusive figure], Superman, & Green Arrow; and Orion [the exclusive figure], Martian Manhunter, and Green Lantern) were a limited production and, while they still might be around, they won't be forever. That being said though, be aware that Orion will be re-released later this year in the single card line packed with his famous "sled." Personally, I'm very bothered by that having spent $10 of something I was told was an exclusive only to see a better version be released later on.
With Bizarro being a fairly popular and recognizable villain, I wouldn't be too, too surprised if he gets re-released himself. That is, of course, if the line survives 2006. See, the TV show has just been cancelled and Mattel is quite notorious for dropping lines that don't have cross-media support. So, if you like the JLU line be sure to keep buying them: Toy Fair 2006 showed us a lot more new characters, many getting a figure for the first time, and even multiple all-new sculpts! So, keep your chin up and your eyes out; for Bizarro that is!
Should exclusives be re-released in a different format? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.