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Wonder Woman

DC Universe Classics
by Artemis

What if you could travel to parallel worlds? The same year, the same Earth, only different dimensions. A world where the Russians rule America, or where your dreams of being a superstar came true, or where San Francisco was a maximum security prison - or even where DC Universe Classics figures are available in stores. My friends and I found the gateway - now the problem is, there still aren't any Artemis figures. Four cases, my comic shop got, and not a goddamn one among them. Oh, yeah, and finding a way home. I dunno, it's not so bad here; I could get used to the armoured zeppelins.

Wonder Woman began life as a child sculpted from clay by the Amazon Queen Hippolyta. She was known as Princess Diana and raised by the warrior sisterhood. In a contest to choose an ambassador to the world of man ("Patriarch's World") she bested all of her sisters and was awarded the mantle of Wonder Woman. Now she carries the Amazons' message of peace, armed with a magical golden lasso and bulletproof bracelets.

Not that I'm hugely attached to Artemis as a character - I've never even read a comic with her (though I've got an idea I have a few, among the huge pile of '90s junk I picked up for next to nothing a couple of years ago. It's just that "Artemis" is one of two screen names I habitually use online - for reasons unrelated to comics - and how cool is it to have an action figure named after you? (Well, I guess Black Canary and Zatanna kind of count. And my other handle is "Miss Kitty Fantastico," and I've got four of the "Together Forever" packs with her.) Still, even DC Artemis's most devoted followers - and I'm sure she has them, comic readers in general are geeky enough that you can find a fan of anything if you look hard enough - would have to admit that when something's threatening to destroy the world, Wonder Woman's the lady you want on your side.

Well we didn't build an Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge for nothing, so let's get to the action figure. A bit under 6½" tall, Diana's not dissimilar in many respects to her obvious competitors from Marvel Legends. Her sculpt is capable, but not super-sharp - you can see a softness around the hard-edged costume elements like her breastplate and girdle, but overall she's quite good work, capturing a slightly cartoony, bright-primary-colours rendition of Di's classic outfit. All of her skin is cast in colour, so consistency between pieces - which tends to show up worst on skin tones when it's off - isn't a problem, and where there's paint mingling with cast colours, such as the upper and lower pieces of her bodice, the match is good. There's no slop or poor coverage worth noting, so good marks there.

Put her next to a DC Direct Wonder Woman - such as the one from the namesake series early last year - and you start to see the aesthetic difference, though. The shoulders are the biggest culprit, with the two-sided balljoints being pretty unflattering compared to DC Direct's top-only swivel/pin balls; I think Hasbro may have a point with their swivel/pin elbows replacing the bicep swivel. Sad to say, the shoulder balls also suffer from a bit of poor workmanship, with the outer edges of the swivel not flush with the inner disc, and (until I cleaned them up prior to the photos) bearing a bit of flash too. That's the excess plastic left over at the edge of an injection mold casting. Mattel's a big company, they should be able to find a factory that crosses its t's and dots its i's a bit better.

Wondy's appeared in so many forms over the years that, quite apart from the individual spin a noted artist may put on her, there's developed a pretty strong image of the "generic Wonder Woman," and the face provides exactly that. She's got an elegant face, strong but not butch, a focused gaze, and vaguely Grecian lines to her cheeks and nose, but muted a bit into something not that far from the typical American ideal. Again the paintwork can't be faulted - lips, eyes with liner, eyebrows, and the gold and red tiara are all clean and bright (though personally I would've gone with a less pink lipstick; mind you, we've got different complexions, and Diana can pull the pink off better than I could). Her hair is well cared-for but windswept, and the use of a separate fringe piece allows its strands to overlap without touching as they twist about either side of her face, which helps with realism.

Articulation is one of Di's strong suits, at least against the DC Direct incarnations which have been the main source of miniature Amazons for the past few years - but it's not without a couple of niggling issues. Her neck is a three-axis balljoint, I think - the plastic quality of the figure isn't quite up to the standard you can come to expect if you deal mainly in specialty figures, and in this case it's produced a nastily sticky joint. Careful work loosened the neck up a bit, but I wouldn't rate her an A for survivability if a child got a hold of her and got a bit impatient trying to get her head to turn. For the rest of her torso she's got a rather unsightly rocker pin joint at the sternum, and a swivel concealed beneath the girdle - the lower edge is separate from her star-spangled panties, and here the plastic grade works in the figure's favour, allowing the oval cross-section hips to be (tightly) turned despite the overlapping girdle edge at the front.

The arms have the aforementioned swivel/pin/swivel balljoints, plus pin elbows and swivel wrists. The legs have swivel/pin hips, which are among the more attractive high-mobility hip joints to hit the scene of late, with unconcealed but not that bad swivels about two-thirds of the way down the thighs, pin knees, and pin ankles with, I think, a z-axis joint as well - either she's got the joint and one ankle is stuck, or she hasn't and the other is loose. In any case, she's got a good range of articulation, but the lack of double-hinge joints at the elbows and knees is a hindrance to posing.

Diana has two accessories, and the lasso isn't one of them - it's a soft plastic piece permanently attached to her girdle, and while that has the benefit of carrying a sculpt (as opposed to the loop of gold cord Wonder Woman figures usually get), it also means it can't be used. Not a great loss, those cords are pretty difficult to make look good in use anyway. Instead, Di has a shield, with a wrist clip on the back and a stars and circles pattern on the face, and an axe that... what? Yep, an axe. Granted she's the best melee fighter in the DC universe, and insanely proficient in the use of every weapon known to humankind (plus a few with "gods only" on the label), but there's no question that, when it comes to edged weapons, her Sword of Hephaestus is the obvious choice. Still, she's got an axe; whatever. It's got an eagle motif worked into the double-bladed head, and like the shield is cast in soft gold plastic with a bit of silver paint to tart it up. Both hands are capable of gripping the axe - the right a bit loosely, though - and the grips are angled to the wrists, rather than perpendicular, for a better-looking pose overall.

She also comes with the requisite BAF-bit - or rather "Collect & Connect" bit, which, even if you don't know their history, would tell you who out of Hasbro and Mattel thought of their name first, and who had to settle for a crummy substitute. Her bit is Despero's right leg. It's pretty much what it says on the tin, a big leg, in green pants and a brown boot. The piece's articulation is basically the same as Wonder Woman's, except that the level boot top has allowed a swivel to be put in there; for some reason, the thigh swivel was rotated 180° in the packaging, so that it looked like the left leg, but the sculpt does indeed match up in the right-leg orientation.

I want to really like her - after all, I'm now stuck in a parallel world (and you don't want to know what the parallel OAFEs are like), it'd be nice to think it was worthwhile. She's not a DC Direct figure, so I'm not holding her to those aesthetic standards, nor is she a specialty super-articulated figure like the original SOTA Street Fighter lot, so I don't mind the slight shortcomings in her range of motion. But... there's just something about her that bugs me. She's good, but I don't understand why she's not better - why the sculpt isn't that little bit sharper, the plastic that little bit higher quality, the articulation that little bit more comprehensive, the accessories that little bit more satisfying. Times may be tough, but when a company like Mattel can make a figure of a big name like Wonder Woman as part of an ambitious stab at a mass-market line and not go the extra mile, in some way... well, you start to wonder if the mass market has anything to offer a collector these days.

And fuck them for not shipping Artemis. Right in the ear.

-- 01/20/09

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