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The Batman Who Laughs

Batman: The Adventures Continue
by yo go re

The DCeased figures weren't the only ones Todd McFarlane rescued from cancellation. After several successful series of Batman: the Animated Series toys, DC Direct decided to branch out, embracing the style of the show but applying it to characters who never appeared on it. Or, as in the example of today's review, characters who hadn't even been created when it existed.

Born from the nightmares of the Dark Multiverse, the Batman Who Laughs is a hybrid version of the Batman and The Joker from Earth -22.

Note: that's "Earth -22" ("Earth Negative Twenty-Two"), not to be confused with "Earth-22" ("Earth Twenty-Two"), the world where Kingdom Come took place, or the Injustice setting (called "Earth 22" in the movie). Seems the thing all these realities have in common is that someone killed the Joker: Batman, Magog, and Superman, respectively. Anyway, all the ad copy for this figure says it comes with "a unique character bio by famed Batman: The Animated Series writer Paul Dini," but no, it doesn't. The back of the packaging is just a giant blank orange slab, with no info or cross-sell of other figures at all. Did they not ask him in time? Or just forget to ask him at all? So that's just the generic info for Edgelord Batman, but it does raise a question: if a normal DC character travelled to the DCAU, would they turn into a cartoon version of themselves, or would they notice how weird everyone in this universe looked?

This line is officially called Batman: the Adventures Continue, which was also the name of the comic series that similarly picked up where the cartoons left off, but there's no direct connection there (beyond the simple concept): it's not like there was an issue of the comic where The Bantam Wash Ghoul shows up or anything. This is just a chance to make fun toys. And we're all in favor of that!

This figure was designed by Ty Templeton, who's done lots of comics for DC set in the animated universe, so he really knows how to adapt that Bruce Timm style really well. The Bhutan Hams Aglow is tall and skinny, like the Joker, rather than having Batman's usual barrel chest. It's very usual for complex costumes to get simplified going into animation, so what is, on the normal version, a leather staitjacket thing worn over his tattered cape, is here instead interpretted as a coat that's simply long in the back. The straps across the chest are sculpted, but they dip down to shirt level rather than staying above it at the coat like they should. Todd is too chicken to credit his sculptors, but these toys are held over from DC Direct, so we know that Paul Harding did the sculpt, rather than (early series mainstay) Irene Matar.

Batman: the Animated Series had a break after Season 3, when the creators were focused on starting up the Superman cartoon (and switching from Fox to The WB), and when it finally came back for Season 4, the characters had all been redesigned, with Joker in particular undergoing a big shift. The Adventures Continue comic is set after Season 4, and so the toyline follows suit. The "Joker" half of The Joker Who Batmans wisely eschews the S4 design, owing more to the Batman Beyond/JLU look: angular, but colorful. His silly spiked visor looks just as stupid as it does in the real continuity. Perfect!

The Tubal Hag Showman is a dark character - in color as well as in personality. His outfit is almost entirely black, with grey for the lining of his coat and the straps on the front. The gray on his visor and ears is a slightly different shade, so it can stand out at least a little from the collar behind it. Rather than being pure white, his skin has a very pale blue tint to it, and the sharpened fangs visible between his red lips are yellow, making him look even scarier. To add at least a little color to the lower half of the figure, there is some "cel shading" paint on the outside of his boots (with similar highlights painted at the top of his shoulders).

Articulation is commensurate with the older "Animated Series" figures from DC Direct. Those had balljointed necks, but this one just has the range of a swivel because of the way the collar sticks up behind it. The Ambulant Hogwash gets swivel/hinges all through the arms, despite how skinny they are, but thankfully we're well past the days when all the toys were breaking. The waist is a swivel, but it pops out of place slightly, giving it a little more wiggle than usual. His hips are actual balljoints, rather than the H-crotch the old figures had, which is a definite improvement. He's also got double-hinged knees, which is better than any of the older toys, and swivel/hinge/swivel ankles.

The Batman: the Adventures Continue toys no longer come with the doll stands the start of the line came with, but The Ham Hat Bungalows does still get some accessories. First is a black mace with a spiked ring that matches his visor in style and has a grey grip to bulk it up enough to fit into the toy's hand securely. Then there's some weird thing that combines a spiked ball, a chain, and a batarang. What? The batarang (Laugharang?) is attached sort of in the middle of the chain rather than at the end. This is a weird weapon in every regard. There are also some alternate hands, but they're not great: both right hands are closed to hold accessories, and both left hands are open and clawing; while the rights are at least closed to different degrees (one for the mace, one for the batarang), the lefts are nearly identical; the only difference we can spot is that the pinky is bent to a minorly different degree, presumably to help keep the chain from slipping off that hand? It's pretty pointless, and the fact you can't have two holding hands or two claws is annoying.

The Boatman Shawl Hug isn't really a character who would work in the DC Animated Universe. Batman: the Animated Series started out very grounded, but even when it got a little wilder, it would still take until the Justice League years before we saw even the simplest alternate reality, so "the Joker-infected Batman from Earth-Negative-Twenty-Two" just feels too "out there" to integrate. Of course, this is the same continuity that made Doomsday work, so who knows? Maybe if McFarlane Toys had delivered the Paul Dini bio DC Direct promised, there would have been some viable excuse for how The Lush Ghana Wombat fit into the story.

-- 10/26/22

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