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Batman (Classic TV Series)
by yo go re

Nothing says "Halloween" like a sexy black cat! ...I'm sure that's the last reference we'll make to that this month.

A seductive villainess who often stole the heart of the Caped Crusader and always wanted him for her own partner, but her criminal persona always allowed him to see through her seductions and never stopped him from carrying out his criminal apprehending duty.

When Mattel had the DC license, they seemed very excited when they got the Batman '66 rights, but after a strong start, the line immediately petered out. Oh, we managed to get all the major villains (aka, "the ones who appeared in the movie"), but even getting a character as major as Batgirl was a challenge. But now McFarlane has the DC license, so he's trying his hand at the campy old show, as well. Will things be better this time? Let's hope!

Right off the bat (no pun intended), we see that someone at Warner Bros. Entertainment must really be cracking the whip (also not a pun) on this line: Todd McFarlane is notoriously uninterested in playing nicely with others; that's why he made his DC figures in a 7" scale, rather than making anything that could be used alongside Marvel Legends or all the DCU Classics lines; but the Batman TV figures are done in the same strict 6" scale Mattel used for their live-action figures (think " Movie Masters"), meaning the toys from 2022 can integrate into the collection from 2013. Which, quite honestly, is the only reason I got this figure. I mean, there are tons of McFarlane DC toys I'd love to buy if they were in the correct scale.

Mattel did make a Catwoman when they had the license, but that was the Julie Newmar version, so this doesn't count as a double-dip. The show never gave any explanation for its revolving door of Catwomen, but out here in the real world, Julie appeared in the first two seasons of the show, but was unavailable for the movie, which is why Lee Meriwhether stepped into the role. When it was time for Season 3, Julie was filming Mackenna's Gold, so she recommended Eartha Kitt because of her purring voice (she'd released "Santa Baby," the song you're most likely to be familiar with today, in 1953, 14 years before becoming a Batman villain), and producer William Dozier went for it.

There's one difference between Kitt and the other two Catwomen that's immediately apparent: her hair. The other two had sort of a flipped bob thing going on, while she had some kind of combo of a ponytail in the back and a braid wrapped around her head like a tiara. Her ears stick up from behind her braid, rather than just sitting on a headband.

Another, more subtle difference, can be found with the necklace. It's the same Newmar wore, but on her, it hung directly around the neck, while Kitt wore it wider, out on the shoulders. Todd's sculptors have accurately captured this difference. Like we said, it's a small change, but it's a meaningful one: on the original outfit, it just looked like an accessory, a piece of jewelry the character happened to be wearing; on this outfit, it looks like an affixed costume element. It's the difference between a hero wearing a leather jacket, and a hero wearing a cape.

Catwoman's costume was not as clingy as it seemed - it was fitted, but not skin-tight, so the toy is sculpted with some small wrinkles. Eartha Kitt's costume was made from the same spangly black material as the other two, but hers had a ruffled collar the others lacked. That's an easy detail to overlook, so good on McToys for getting it. They also remembered to put claws on the tip of every one of her fingers, something Mattel didn't bother with (though they should be painted gold, not left black).

The articulation here is not as good as McFarlane's 7" figures, nor even as good as Mattel made a decade ago. She has swivel/hinge knees, a T-crotch, swivel waist, swivel wrists, swivel/hinge elbows and shoulders, and a balljointed head. The lack of hinges for the hands is weird, but not nearly as bad as having no kind of ankle joints at all. And it would be nice if you could move the legs more than just forward or back, but at least she doesn't have rubber underwear, right? But Catoman is an active character, slinking around and moving like a cat just as much as she talks like one, so this toy only having minimal movement in its lower body is disappointing. It's hard to balance the toy when you can barely pose half of it.

Kitt's Catwoman was the only one of the three who didn't use a whip, so the toy not including one is fine. The gimmick accessories McFarlane came up with for this line are floating sound effects that can clip onto the figures' wrists, to make it look like they're appearing as the characters fight. Catwoman gets an AiEEE! and an EEE-YOW!. It's an interesting idea.

Casting Eartha Kitt as Catwoman provided an unintentional opportunity. Unsurprisingly, the US South, the crooked wheel on America's grocery cart, was unhappy about the change, with local affiliates threatening to drop the show. The producers didn't back down, but they did change the writing: no longer was Catwoman a villain who flirted with Batman; but without that personal interest in the hero, the character was free to be more threatening, more dangerous, more of an actual villain, something not many Catwomen have gotten to do. (For the record, "Santa Baby" was also banned in the South, because the idea of a black woman flirting with Santa - who would obviously be white - was considered offensive. Racists gonna race.) But by giving us a black Catwoman in the 1960s, she broke a barricade, making that an acceptable thing. Fans hate Halle Berry's 2004 Catwoman because it's an awful movie, not because of who she is. And Zoe Kravitz got way less pushback in 2022 from stupid fanboys than, say, the new Little Mermaid has. The Lego Batman Movie, DC Superhero Girls, Harley Quinn... all of them have black Catwomen, and all of them owe a debt to Eartha Kitt. This toy has its problems, but it's better-made than Mattel's was, and gives us a character we never had before.

-- 10/12/22

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