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DCeased Batman

DC Essentials
by yo go re

Well well well, look what's crawled its way back from the grave!

Back when DC's "Darkest Night" story was a thing, we joked that it was a ripoff of Marvel Zombies, because it came out long enough after that series that there was no claiming parallel development (the way there was was with Swamp Thing and Man-Thing, the Doom Patrol and the X-Men, or Red Tornado and Vision), and it involved lots of undead characters fighting the living. Now, do note, that comparison was just a joke, same as pointing out Marvel's "Fear Itself" was basically a ripoff in turn of "Blackest Night." But now the lines have gotten a bit more blurred, thanks to DCeased.

DC Direct was planning a line of DCeased zombie figures, with the first two series being solicited to retailers and the third shown at Toy Fair before Warner Bros. decided to shut DCD down entirely and the whole thing was cancelled in August of 2020. Then, almost a year later, Todd McFarlane announced that he'd partnered with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to resurrect the DC Direct brand, both creating new products and being the exclusive distributor for existing projects - which is why the DCeased toys have now been un-cancelled!

This is technically part of the DC Essentials line, like Cheetah and Cyborg Superman, which means it will have decent (if unadventurous) sculpt and nice articulation. The first figure ever released in the line was a "Rebirth" Batman, and this toy reuses those molds. That's more or less the costume he was wearing in the comic, so it works well enough. His bat symbol is just painted on, not sculpted, but his boots and gloves are uniquely "Batman," and he's got the stylized Rebirth belt. While the previous Essentials Batmen had a right fist and a left holding hand, both hands on this one are in more of a clawing pose, suiting his undead nature.

The head is what's really new, though. Although Batman managed to avoid being infected by virtue of being in the Batcave at the time the infection hit, Tim and Dick were up in the mansion and got turned. He ran to check on them (and Alfred), which is when he finally got bitten. Paul Harding did the sculpt, giving Bruce puckered skin, claw marks trailing from his left eye, and a portion of his right cheek ripped away. It's quite unsettling!

Unfortunately, the reused body means all the other wounds he has are just accomplished via paint - DC Essentials was just like Marvel Legends or Mattel's DC stuff in the way it repainted plain bodies to be different characters, but this is a case where they should have done more. Especially since the comic was pretty good at keeping the wounds consistent from panel to panel! Trevor Hairsine didn't just draw whatever he felt like, people had consistent injuries. So Batman, for instance, should have his costume ripped to expose both shoulders, a couple of small scratches on his right deltoid, and five deep, bloody furrows across his chest; what we get instead are a couple gentle rips allowing the skin to show through (not even as good as Mattel's ancient animated figure) and a little bit of blood spatter. It's an effort, but the body just can't live up to the head. And the black on the belt is a bit sloppy, too.

As we said,the articulation on the DC Essentials is good. It may have taken DC Direct decades to get there, but they were eventually on par with real companies. DCeased Batman reuses the body from Rebirth Batman, so he gets the same articulation: swivel/hinge/swivel ankles, swivel boots, double-hinged knees, swivel thighs, balljointed hips, a swivel waist, hinged chest, swivel/hinge wrists, double-hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge shoulders, a hinged neck and balljointed head. All the toys are stiff, but none were stuck. He's hampered a bit by the stiff rubber cape, naturally, but that would happen to anyone.

There's a great bit in DCeased where Lex Luthor brags he's the smartest man on Earth, then pauses to double-check that Batman is dead before confirming his self-assessment. Cute. Anyway, upon being infected, Batman starts experimenting on his own blood to work on a cure; to buy himself more time, he dons one of Mr. Freeze's confiscated cryo suits. That's the only thing resembling an "accessory" Batman uses in the story, so no wonder the toy doesn't come with anything. Considering the toy's head (and therefore his cape) can be removed fairly easily, it would have been awesome if they'd given us just a piece of chest armor with a clear dome to fit over the head. It wouldn't be 100% comic-accurate, but it would be a fun nod.

A limited number of the DCeased figures did make it out before the line's cancellation - that's why you could find samples on eBay selling for upwards of $100 apiece. But now they've been released for real, thanks to McFarlane Toys, and the prices are much more reasonable.

-- 03/16/22

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