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Cyborg Superman

DC Essentials
by yo go re

Why is it so hard to get a truly great Cyborg Superman figure?

Hank Henshaw was a man of great promise, traveling into space on a NASA mission that would transform him into something more machine than human. Hank would ultimately cease to be, and in his place arose Cyborg Superman, a super-being with powers like those of Superman - along with a few technological abilities.

When Mattel made a Cyborg Superman, its tech detailing was uninspired (and its eventual repaint didn't do anything to correct that). DC Direct's Sinestro Corps version had a weird head and strange articulation choices. Honestly, the best one available was the original DCD one from 2003, and that goes for stupid prices still today. So we were really looking forward to this DC Essentials release.

The figure was sculpted by Steve Kiwus, who reliably does very good work. For this figure, however, he's chosen to give Cyborg Superman a full scalp, rather than completely exposing the metal skull on the left hand side. Look at the comics: you'll see that the entire left side of the head is cybernetic, while this one still has hair and an ear.

Moving past that problem, the rest of the sculpt is superb. Perhaps the proportions are a little too narrow - you want even an ersatz Superman to have big, broad upper body - but that's the worst thing there is to say about it. Well, maybe the S shield could stand to be bigger (and be darker on the right than on the left), but that's a paint thing, not a sculpt thing. The musculature is impressive (in a way, it's reminiscent of NECA's Superman, but less "over the top"), but no one is buying this toy for its muscles, are they? No, this is Cyborg Superman, so we want cybernetics!

This figure may not have all the metal parts seen on the original design, but what he does have - face, left leg below the knee, right arm and right half of the torso - are outstanding. Steve did a hell of a job crafting shapes that look both mechanical and anatomical. This isn't just a Terminator, meant to mimic a skeleton in the broad strokes, nor is it the typical comicbook thing of "a normal limb, but banded metal." This is big, smooth plates that suggest the shape of the body, and beneath them are small tubes and wires, plus pistons that look like they'd make the whole thing move. It may not have the hollow gaps of the original design, but it looks wonderful.

This Cyborg Superman has the advantage over all previous ones when it comes to articulation. The DC Essentials line gives us the kind of toys DC Direct should have been aiming for since day one, ones with a balljointed head, hinged neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, hinged chest, swivel waist, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel shins, and swivel/hinge/swivel ankles. The right shin is hidden inside the boot, while the left is just cut straight through the leg. Why would they even include one there? The swivel at the top of the ankle duplicates the range of motion, so it's not really necessary.

Cyborg Superman stands 7" tall, and has no accessories - not even a stand to display him.

The fact that the head is wrong really does bring this figure down, but it brings him down from "the best" to "excellent." There are shortcomings, to be sure, but the DC Essentials Cyborg Superman is by far the best one you can buy (for under a hundred bucks).

-- 05/07/20

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