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Justice League
by yo go re

In 2003, Mattel began their Justice League toyline. It was blandly uninspired and swamped with stupid character variants, just like their MOTU line. In 2004, when the cartoon changed its name to Justice League Unlimited, the toyline followed suit, expanding its scope to match the new format of the show. Almost as soon as that happened, fans began to request a Lobo figure. We were told over and over it could never happen - that Lobo was too adult a character to put in a line that showed up in Target. Now here we are in 2010, four years after the show was cancelled, and it finally occured to them that there were other outlets besides the mass market.

The "Main Man," Lobo, is the most vicious and successful bounty hunter in the galaxy. He'll take any job and see it through to the end - even if it backfires on his employers! In his first conflict with the heroes of Earth, Lobo was hired by the Preserver to capture Superman for his permanent collection. It may have started with Lobo taking on the Man of Steel, but after the Preserver turned on Lobo, it ended with them working together to escape the Preserver's clutches. Despite the fact that his ruthless work ethic has brought him into conflict with several heroes, Lobo was allowed to join the Justice League. After a short while, he was forced out due to his reckless and violent behavior. You just can't keep a depraved man down. Suffice it to say, if you see Lobo on his hog in your viewscreen, don't even bother reaching for the hyperdrive, 'cause it's already too late!

Lobo was relased on Mattel's website on May 15, 2010 - four years and two days since JLU aired its last episode. For some idiotic reason, he's sold on a blister card that's bigger even than the DC Universe packaging. It matches the current design of the JLU packaging, with various character models quickly photoshopped down each side and a bio beneath some screenshots on the back. It's kind of cute that they put a photo of him punching through what looks like a candy bar wrapper in the center of the back, obscuring the (pointless) cross-sell because "you only need the Main Man!" But there's no ignoring the fact that the card is 7½" wide and a full 12" tall, meaning it's a collossal waste and just plain bad design. Leave it to Mattel to never miss an opportunity to embarrass themselves.

Once you get him out of the shameful, overdone packaging, the figure is tops, though. He's quite clearly based on the original Superman: The Animated Series model sheet, right down to the wrinkles on his shirt. That's not a complaint, though, because it's not like he was redesigned when he showed up on JLU. His personality was redesigned before he was ever introduced to the DCAU - he was still a bounty hunter, but rather than a murder-happy spree killer with a sharp metal hook, he was toned way down. He took his targets alive, and although they alluded to him being super-violent, they never actually showed any of it. He could talk in the open vacuum of space, he had the same sort of invulnerability as a Looney Tunes character... he was just treated in a much more "cartoony" way than anyone else.

The figure is 5¼" tall, to the top of his massive mane of hair - despite that, he's still not significantly taller than other characters, as evidenced by the fact that his eye-level is just above Superman's head (a fine generic representation of the JLU line as a whole). However, they haven't skimped on the mass: he measures 3½" across the shoulders. He's certainly not the biggest JLU figure ever released - that's Gorilla Grodd - but he's certainly in the club. Back in the day, he would have been able to fit comfortably on the standard Justice League card, which makes the giant one he's sold on look even worse.

Lobo's articulation is the standard selection for the JLU line: he moves at the Big Five. It's not great, but it's understandable: the big rolled cuff on his left sleeve would have gotten in the way of an elbow, and at that point, it would be ridiculous to put one on his right arm. They could have gotten away with knees, if they were willing to change the design of his star-spangled kneepads. The only real let-down is the lack of a waist - it would have been simple to hide one behind his giant belt.

The paint is very good, which is a relief, since JLU is one of those lines you always have to check, and it's impossible to do that with an exclusive. His skin isn't pure white, but rather an extremely pale gray. His pants are a nice solid navy blue, and his shirt is grey. His hair, jacket and gloves are matte black, while the boots are gloss. The hairs painted on his forearm, shoulder and chin are all applied cleanly, and his red eyes are rimmed with black.

Lobo has no accessories - no chain, no hook, no crowbar (his weapon of choice on STAS), not even a display stand. Considering the fact that we have to pay $20 for him ($30 with tax and unreasonable shipping), it would have been nice to at least get something. Hell, bump it up 10 bucks and give us his space bike. But no, it's just him by himself in the middle of that giant blister card - and confidentially, odds are they made it that big just to justify their standard s+h charge. Consider the types of figures we get at SDCC, with expertly designed packaging: those figs only cost $5 more than Lobo, and their packaging doesn't look like second-hand crap.

Back when Lobo first appeared on Superman, Kenner still had the toy license. There were plans to release the Main Man as an exclusive way back then, available only at the Warner Brothers Studio Store, but they closed before the toy ever materialized. Doubtless Mattel is already viewing the Lobo release as a failure - after all, he took five whole hours to sell out on the day he was released! That's an eternity in "Mattel time," and will probably be pointed to as the reason they never do any similar offerings in the future.

If you're a JLU fanatic, you're gonna want Lobo. No question about it. But thanks to Mattel's typical inability to stock their own products, you're off to the secondary market to get him. Just don't pay too much.

-- 07/03/10

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