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Justice League
by yo go re

Here's to being second-rate!

Mongul, the evil ruler of War World, gave Superman a paralyzing birthday present - the hallucinogenic Black Mercy plant. Wonder Woman and Batman discovered the incapacitated Man of Steel and Mongul at the Fortress of Solitude. The three heroes had to fight the Black Mercy plant's influence and stop Mongul from carrying out his plans to conquer Earth.

In the comics, Mongul has never been anything but a cheap copy of Darkseid. He's physically imposing, but lacks the regal menace of the Lord of Apokolips. Since the DCAU already had Darkseid running around, why would they need Mongul? But as usual, since they're not fettered to existing continuity, the cartoon writers could make a silk purse out of this sow's ear.

Mongul was voiced by guest star Eric Roberts, who delivered a very biploar performance: he had several different ideas on how to portray the character, and ran through all of them in the recording booth. So Mongul was sometimes suave, cometimes vain, sometimes menacing, and didn't seem like a consistent character through the episode. But the storyboard artists stepped up to the challenge, and tailored the animation to match the acting, creating a villain who was much more complex than the usual angry thug.

The figure has a 100% unique sculpt, of course. There have been big figures before, but his costume elements are all molded on, and thus unsuitable for repainting. He stands 5⅛" tall, yet only moves at the big five, because Mattel are great at making the worst toys they can. Bruce Timm actually slimmed Mongul down for his animated appearances, but the toy is still nearly 3½" across the shoulders. His hands are molded in fists, and his thumbs stick out slightly in that Bill Clinton/JFK gesture.

They also managed to make his costume look not-stupid. In the comics, he wore a pink shirt and underwear with baby blue tights. Since that would have looked ridiculous, they set to work jazzing it up. First, they decided that all those things that are pale blue should actually be metallic parts of the costume. They then added some bands to his thighs and biceps - and if you don't think those additions are very major, consider that the Four Horsemen adopted the leg-bands for their version of Mongul when he appeared in the DC Superheroes line. Anyway, the cartoon also turned his pink into purple, which helped to make him a little more butch.

Mongul comes with two accessories: a figure of Wonder Woman and one of Batman. (We count them as accessories, because there's not a person alive who bought this set because they were in it.) The WW is the one we've been getting since the Justice League line started in 2003 (not the improved version that came with Hawk and Dove); Batman is the version without the elbows and knees, for some idiot reason, but at least his costume is a nice black and gray. Since this set is sold only on Mattel's website, it's clearly intended for existing fans (there isn't even any cross-sell on the back - just that asshole). And, what, Mattel assumed fans wouldn't already have Wonder Woman and Batman? That's stupid.

Mongul could easily have been sold by himself, since the line is drawing to an end - but then, Mattel wouldn't have been able to charge us the full (overinflated) price of a three-pack, would they? It's just another example of the company gouging its own customers. This set is clearly based on the "For the Man Who Has Everything" episode - they could have given us Kryptonian Superman, his wife, his father, his son, his Brainiac drone... lots of things. Or heck, how about Batman's parents, or Joe Chill? No, Mattel did the laziest, most half-assed thing they could think of.

And we'll just say right now that it's downright shameful that Mattel didn't bother to include the Black Mercy plant in this set, either. We know they have one sculpted: it came with a single-carded Superman a couple years ago. And it's a &$%*ing professional embarrassment that Mattel would release this set without one, too. You're already selling us two figures we neither want nor need - is it really so much to ask that you throw a little icing in the package, too? A little sugar to help the medicine go down? No, it's just time to steal from the fans. It's time to get Matteled.

Anyway, are you wondering how the cartoon managed to redeem this wannabe Darkseid? By acknowledging that he is a wannabe Darkseid. He's got ambitions, but he'll never take that top prize. It's like John Kerry running for president: he didn't have any great ideas for America, he just wanted the job and the title on his resume. Mongul wants to be the biggest threat in the universe, but he's never gonna be it.

-- 09/12/12

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