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DC Universe Classics
by Monkey Boy

So, before this review begins, I feel it's only fair to reveal a certain bias... I would like to punch Mattel in its face. I don't really know how that would work... maybe line up all the employees and sock them, or maybe just the top execs... basically whoever's responsible for running the company the way they do. Definitely that freckle-faced, smirky jughead bastard "Matty" who apparently represents what Mattel thinks your average toy collector looks like... or perhaps what we wish we looked like ("He's hip! He's edgy! He... smirks!").

Why does Mattel deserve my ire? There are almost too many reasons to count. Generally, it's that they just treat their fans like garbage. They repeatedly give out false information ("No re-releases! Ever! Okay, re-releases!" "Dark Knight figures are TRU exclusives! ...or maybe not!"), they run entire toylines into the ground through sheer incompetence (MotU, Batman comic line), and they do weird stuff that seems tailor-made to anger their own fanbase (Harry Potter scale changes, the Gleek debacle, claiming a product is a failure if it doesn't sell out in five minutes, etc. etc. etc.). They rely on a small but loyal fanbase who is willing to repeatedly take it on the chin from Mattel as long as they get a small chance at owning their figures.

And that's the problem. For all their chicanery, Mattel still manages to make some awesome figures. It's why they survive despite their best efforts to destroy themselves. They've got the Four Horsemen, some of the best sculptors in the industry today, on their side somehow, and they manage to come up with some pretty desirable stuff. It's getting that stuff that's the problem. Case in point: the Wal*Mart-exclusive DCU Classics Series 10.

Dr. Robert Kirk Langstrom hoped to cure his growing deafness by creating a serum that would give him bat's ability of echolocation. However, the serum robbed him of his intellect and transformed him into a man-sized bat, resulting in a crazed rampage through Gotham City. Langstrom retooled his formula, allowing him to retain his intelligence and is an occasional ally of Batman.

Now, this is the second series of DCUC that Mattel has made exclusive to Wal*Mart. The first was the infamous DCUC5 Series 5, which was nearly impossible for anyone to find and became a huge debacle that even Mattel (grudgingly) acknowledged. Their solution? Why, offer Wal*Mart yet another exclusive series, of course! This time with more well-known and desirable figures - and since scalpers were well aware of the rarity of DCUC5, odds are it would be even harder to find.

I could go on and on, but I think I've made my point. I'm about 75% convinced that someone very high at Mattel is a sadist who enjoys making toy collectors suffer. But I digress. I only ever stumbled across the remnants of Series 10 in stores, and for the heavy hitters, I found solace in our forums, where a member was kind enough to pick up Man-Bat and Joker.

As Bat-villains, both figures were very popular. Also, both figures needed to be in my collection. So, despite Mattel's best attempts to keep the figure from my hands, I eventually did acquire a Man-Bat of my own. And here's where the review really begins, if you were interested.

Man-Bat is, obviously, Batman's reflection: his polar opposite, but based on the same basic design (giant bat guy). Batman is smart and calculating, the world's greatest detective. Man-Bat is... a giant raging bat-creature. Sort of like Batman's Bizarro. Dr. Robert Kirkland "Kirk" Langstrom was the first (and most iconic) Man-Bat, though there have been a couple of others to take up the mantle over the years. Langstrom created a serum to cure his impending deafness by utilizing a bat's sonar, and ended up turning into a giant monster. Scientist who uses an animal-based serum to cure an ailment with disastrous results that transform him into a were-creature? Where have I seen that before?

Anyhoo, the figure. Man-Bat's most basic look is a sort of Hulked-out batguy, naked except for some torn jeans. That's what we get here, and this is actually the second time this sculpt has been used. If you managed to get the SDCC exclusive albino Man-Bat a couple of years ago, you can go ahead and skip the next couple paragraphs. If not, allow me to describe it. The bat angle is played up heavily in the head sculpt, with a sloping, wrinkled forehead that terminates in a piggy, leaf-shaped nose and some wicked canine and incisors. In a testament to the ingenuity of the 4H, the sharp incisor/canine combo is very reminiscent of the actual teeth array of the common vampire bat, which is neat.

The torso is bulky and hunched, while the arms are thin and elongated. Overall, his body shape largely recalls a more detailed version of Man-Bat's look from the pilot episode of Batman: The Animated Series, titled "On Leather Wings." The membranes of each wing are spread across the three arm sections under the shoulders: there's a small triangle protruding from the tricep, with four large spines sprouting from the forearm, and finally a two huge elongated, membraned fingers (and one tiny spine) on the hand. While it makes the sculpt kind of awkward, it does a nice job of preserving the articulation, and it really does look kind of cool in a lot of poses. The membranes are torn and veiny, and also slightly translucent, which is pretty awesome.

The legs are sculpted in a dog-leg stance, with short shins/calves and an ankle that serves as an extra joint, with the creature's weight resting on the balls of the foot. It lends a very animalistic quality to the sculpt, and although you might think it would case some standing problems, the figure actually keeps itself upright quite well if balanced right.

Paint-wise, Man-Bat differs from albino Man-Bat in his overall color, as well as the former lacking the flocked "mane" of the latter. DCUC10 Man-Bat is mostly a medium reddish brown, with a lighter, more yellowish drybrushing on the front and a bit of a darker wash on the back. The recessed eyes are a red rimmed with dark brown, the inside of the mouth gets a glossy deep red, and the nails on his hands and feet are black. The jeans appear to be a solid shade of dull denim blue, with some lighter blue around where the pants have been torn, and his belt is black with a silver buckle. The buckle is the only place the paint is slightly sloppy.

Kirk has some unique articulation in terms of DCUC, thanks to his unorthodox body shape. Mostly, he's the same as you'd expect, with a balljoint in the neck, a torso hinge, a peg waist, pegged and hinged shoulders, peg biceps, hinged elbows, pegged and hinged wrists, hinged knees and hinged ankles. His hips, however, are a T-crotch design rather than the pegged and hinged type usually found on DCU figs. Since his hips are sculpted to be splayed, it doesn't affect his posing too much, as Man-Bat makes sense as a hunched, skulking, creeping figure, rather than one standing up straight with his legs close together. The lack of a hinge on the ball of the foot is probably for the best, as it gives the figure some stability in standing.

Man-Bat doesn't come with any accessories save for his BAF piece, which is the left arm of Imperiex. I tossed it in a drawer as I never had a chance in hell of collecting all the pieces. Especially from this series.

There's no shortage of Man-Bat figures out there. We've had a few from DC Direct, including a Secret Files version with shoulder joints seemingly set to perma-break, and a "Ninja Man-Bat" from the Batman and Son series. There have also been a couple of animated Man-Bats from the various cartoons over the years, and the aforementioned albino exclusive version of this sculpt. The DCUC10 version, however, is by far the best. It's got the most joints, the coolest sculpt, and unlike the albino exclusive, it's the iconic version. Man-Bat has become one of my favorite figures ever, and it's a shame that so many people will probably never have the chance to get him. Although it's possible Mattel may release him again down the road on their website for an inflated price. Or not.

-- 04/25/10

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