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DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

It's no secret that DC loves legacy characters... or at least, reusing old superheroes' names. There are been (so far) seven different characters called "Manhunter" - nine if you count J'onn J'onzz and the robots. Surprisingly, the #2 name in DC's roll call? Starman.

Ted Knight invented the Cosmic Rod which collects stellar energy and allows the bearer to fly and manipulate gravity. Taking the name Starman, he became a member of the Justice Society of America. Though The Mist was his greatest foe, Ted suffered most from his own guilt over helping to create the atomic bomb, leading to his ultimate retirement. Ted's son Jack reluctantly took up the mantle and the Mist's daughter, going by the same name, became Jack's archenemy.

That bio describes the first Starman - but that's not the figure we're reviewing here. The one-line mention of Jack Knight? That's who this is. Jack had no plans to become a superhero, unlike his older brother David (who wanted to fill Dad's boots, but died early in his career), but instead had greatness thrust upon him.

Jack Knight was a typical '90s superhero, in that he eschewed the traditional trappings of superheroics: he didn't wear a costume and mask, he wore street clothes and a pair of goggles. As such, he's not built on any of the standard DCUC bodies. He's wearing a green T-shirt and brown pants; the sculpt says "jeans," but the paint says... well, "brown jeans." Not khakis, which would have a different style. The arms are on loan from Animal Man, but the hands and feet are new. If there's one flaw with this figure, it's that the chest is too big - Jack was never as big and muscular as the other heroes, and with the coat over his torso, he looks too puffy. You know how Jakks' wrestling toys looked whenever they made someone wearing a jacket? It's the same problem here.

Since he was a '90s character, part of Jack's trademark look was a goatee. Actually, several styles of goatee - his facial hair changed over the course of the series, as he grew it in and trimmed it differently. When DC Direct made a Starman figure (in 1999) they did a smooth-faced version, and a variant with a full goatee. Since this figure already is a variant, he only gets one look: the Four Horsemen went with a small chin-scruff, walking the line between the two extremes. His goggles are sculpted on his forehead, so you won't have to worry about losing them.

Before becoming Starman, Jack was an antiques dealer, and that's where his "costume" came from: the goggles were WWII anti-flare goggles, the jacket was a vintage piece with a large astronomical symbol painted on the back, and the sheriff's badge on his lapel was actually a Cracker Jack prize. The paint on the figure is great - especially all the tiny details on the jacket's star symbol. Well, right shapes, wrong colors. The figure mostly has the same articulation as any other DCUC figure, but the new, shirted torso lacks the usual chest hinge for whatever reason.

Starman comes with one accessory: the Cosmic Staff. Though he originally used his father's Cosmic Rod, it broke, and he had to fall back to this backup. It was a prototype built in the '50s, meant to be an evolution of the Rod design, and is therefore larger and more ornate than the original device. It is, of course, stamped "CHINA," because it's a toy, but otherwise the level of detail is beyond reproach. It's 6¾" long, and he can hold it with both hands. Now Mattel just needs to get on making a Stargirl figure, so Jack can pass it down to her.

Since Jack is the variant of this "figure slot" in the Series 15 lineup, his collector button doesn't have anything to do with him. It's a picture of the Golden Age Starman (and the Atom) saluting. It's taken from the cover of All-Star Comics #22, and just furthers our belief that Ted should have been the variant, not Jack.

He does get a part of the Series 15 Build-A-Figure, Validus. He gets the left leg, twin to the piece included with Raven. It's big, it's purple, it's excatly what you expect. And you'll have two of them if you buy both versions of Starman.

Starman is considered one of the best comics released in the '90s, so it's nice to see a modern figure of him. Of course, Mattel flat-out cheated the store I ordered my Series 15 set from (Mattel cancelled their orders, filled other stores' orders first, and made them re-order a later wave with a different case packout), so I got an extra Martian Manhunter and had to buy the variant Starman from a scalper. Way to be dicks, Mattel. Starman definitely has some room for improvement, but they got a lot right, too.

-- 05/18/11

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