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Bob the Goon

Batman (1989)
by Poe Ghostal

10-year-old Poe was the perfect mark for the marketing blitz for 1989's Batman. I had hardly read any comics (aside from ALF and Madballs), never collected Super Friends or Secret Wars toys, never even watched a Batman cartoon. My most recent fad at the time was Kenner's Robocop line and its attendant Marvel cartoon show. But man, did I buy into the Batman hype! I remember reading the novelization of the movie at least twice, and I owned the comic adaptation, collectible cards, and who knows what else. I also began buying some Batman comics. Of course, like many adolescents, I was a bit put off by the mature, grim and gritty themes being played out at the time in Batman comics in the wake of The Dark Knight Returns - I think one of my first Batman comics was the issue where the Joker beats Robin with a tire iron then blows his ass up.

But I digress: after my father took me to see Batman on opening weekend, we went to Child World at the Hanover Mall to see if any Batman toys were available. The ToyBiz figures had hit stores by then, but Batman himself was sold out; I had to settle for the Joker and Bob the Goon. Even back then, I both liked Bob the Goon (played in the movie by Jack Nicholson's friend Tracey Walter) because he was an odd, endearing character to have as a figure, and disliked him because he was dead. Back then - and, to a degree, now - it bothered me to own a toy of a character whom I knew could not participate in continuing adventures with. The same holds true for the Joker, I suppose, but even 10-year-old Poe knew supervillains never stayed dead.

Police intelligence has revealed that Bob the Goon has joined The Joker as his right-hand-man, during the villain's terrifying crime spree throughout Gotham City! Better known as Robert "Crazy Bob" Capistrano, his reputation as a cutthroat streetfighter, sneak thief and ace marksman earned him a place as The Joker's top henchman, Gotham's citizens are warned that Bob the Goon is armed and extremely dangerous. Beware!

Bob represented an entire third of the action figures ToyBiz produced for Batman. Many of us owned him, and he has developed a cult following over the years. As everyone knows, ToyBiz would later expand their Batman line to a comic-based DC line that produced primarily with substandard retools of Kenner Super Powers molds. Kenner would wrangle the license back in time for Batman Returns (for which they would... retool old Super Powers molds). ToyBiz had gotten its foot in the door, however, and in 1991 it got the Marvel Comics license. The rest is history (but that's a story for another day).

The packaging is your basic blister card with some original art of Bob, which is interesting in that the art for both the Joker and Batman was clearly based on their comic look and not the movie. I should also note that his name on the packaging is actually "Bob the Joker's Goon," though the newspaper "bio card" on the back does refer to him as Bob the Goon. And also tells us far more information than we learned about him in the entire Batman film.

Even for the time, Bob's sculpt isn't great. It's very soft and puffy looking. And while there don't seem to be any full-body images of Bob on the web, we're fairly certain the sculpt is inaccurate - pretty sure Tracey Walter never wore knee-high boots in the movie. He's mostly molded in black - cheap, but effective. He also has a sticker with the Joker's logo on it.

His face is the real horror though. It's always harder to portray real people's faces than someone in a mask or clown white, but why we got what looks like an Accoutrements action figure of Methuselah character is beyond me. It's his eyes that bother me. They're just tiny pinpoints - black eyes, lifeless eyes like a doll's eyes. [Wrong blockbuster --ed.]

Bob has swivels at the neck, shoulders, and hips, and hinges at the knees. The hinged knees were a bit more than you usually got at the time. He also has a "kicking" action feature, activated by a button on his back. It works fairly well and was fun to use as a kid. Unfortunately, it's also a feature that's now 25 years old and keeps going off by itself, so Bob has trouble keeping both feet on the ground.

Bob's best feature is that he comes with a hat, a gun, and a knife. The hat won't fit properly on his head, and the gun and knife are a bitch to get into his hands. As a kid, I quickly repurposed the gun for my Kenner Robocop figure, who had come with a machine pistol that looked nothing like the movie version.

Viewed by today's standards, this is a terrible figure. It would look bad next to some dollar store action figures. And even at the time, he wasn't nearly as good as what Kenner had produced in their own Super Powers a few years earlier. So my fondness for this figure is due entirely to my nostalgia. But he's still Bob the Goon, and I still love him.

-- 02/18/12

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