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DC Universe Classics
by Rustin Parr

Like most of us, I was introduced to much of Kirby's Fourth World through the figures of Kenner's Super Powers toy line. In fact, for reasons their own, Kenner focused the second series (released in 1985) heavily on these New Gods, offering up six different characters - and in a remarkably forward-thinking move, they paid the actual comic artists to design them. So while several of the New Gods figures strayed heavily from their comic appearance, rest assured that most of them still came from the hand of ol' King Kirby. Steppenwolf was one such character, and now, 14 years later, Mattel has paid homage to both looks of the character in the form of two separate figures. Like the Parademon and Mantis before him, Steppenwolf comes in a 50/50 split production run of his comic-accurate figure and his Super Powers figure, and both are simply grand!

Uncle of Darkseid, the ruler of the warlike planet Apokolips, Steppenwolf commanded the Apokoliptian military. Looking to bring about a war between Apokolips and its sister world, peaceful New Genesis, Darkseid suggested that Steppenwolf travel to New Genesis and hunt its residents for sport. In implementing the plan, Steppenwolf killed the wife of New Genesis' ruler Izaya. War commenced and Steppenwolf was slain by Izaya. Darkseid later resurrected Steppenwolf, and placed him in charge of the planet's military once more.

The Super Powers version of the character is easily the winner out of the two. His red/brown/black colorscheme stands out in the world of comicbook characters who generally tend to favor the bright, more flashy hues. Moreover, his outfit is just this side of battle armor and the several rows or notable spikes (pyramidal, rather than conical) are far, far more fitting for a denizen of Apokolips and the Uncle of Darkseid - which obviously begs the question, on which side is he the uncle? This immediately forces the fact that warmonger Darkseid has parents, which means he was a child once, which humanizes and de-mythologizes the sinister brute making him less threatening. Did Steppenwolf change his diapers or was he more the "Barnes & Noble giftcard in an envelope on birthdays" kind of guy?

The comic-accurate version is a great sculpt as well but far less impressive and appealing. Not only does he come in foppish swashbuckler attire, he's got the tootin'-horn to prove it. Add to that his color scheme: green and yellow - a shocking twist for a Fourth World villain. Put this guy on a shelf next to Mantis and a Parademon and watch how they all stand out from one another. Jack Kirby: great artist, bad colorist.

Unlike the previous two Super Powersian releases, both Steppenwolfs utilize about a 50/50 ratio of new to reused sculptural pieces (both Parademons were 100% new, though they shared the same torso and Comic Mantis was just a Wildcat-style repaint with the Super Powers version being an old sculpt totally new armor). The heads, forearms, shoulder-caps, calves and belt-to-shoulder pieces are unique to each figure and Sup-penwolf even as has unique feet. When I say "shoulder-caps" I mean that both figures use standard DCU shoulders, but where the bicep section connects to the shoulder piece, an intermediate bit of adornment has been placed. They do restrict mobility, especially on Sup-penwolf, whose add-ons are a hard plastic, while Comic Guy's are rubber, but I like 'em.

Paint is pretty good all around, but not great on Sup-penwolf's face - his head also looks to have warped in the mold, with a slight slant to the his left. Comic Steppenwolf comes with three accessories, a big ol' whip (which isn't bendy, unfortunately, but has straightened out surprisingly well after having been "posed" in the package; this just means that now there's no real flow to the whip making it hard to find a good pose with it), a sword and a golden horn. I'm sure the horn is an awesome Easter egg for fans, but I haven't gotten to Steppenwolf in the Fourth World Omnibuses yet so I'm not familiar with it, sadly.

Conversely, Sup-penwolf comes technically with no accessories. Much like his predecessor he has big axe attached via hose to a permanently affixed back pack, which also has a clip on it to store the axe freeing Sup-penwolf's hand to strangle chinchillas or change baby-Darkseid's poopy diapers. Did I mention that axe was proudly made in CHINA? Cause it is. Sorry Apokolipsian blacksmiths, China can even outbid slave labor.

Now, in every series of DCU comes a Build-A-Figure® (oh-Ho! Sue me Toybiz/Marvel Toys and/or Hasbro - you know it is!) and now that we're getting seven-figure series, one figure's gotta sit the bench out on the necessary body parts (in this case for Kilowog) and Steppenwolf is that guy for Series 11 - which is awesome. But why? Because he comes with a generic DCU stand, which is awesome. But why, Rusty-P, why is that qouth "awesome?" Because unlike every series before, we're finally not stuck with an extra limb that just goes to our spare parts box or the recycle bin. Finally we're getting something useful and, assuming you're like most DCU collectors and get everything, you're getting a spare stand as well! Both Steppenwolfs stand just fine of their own accord so their pack-ins get happily donated to Wonder Woman, Scarecrow, or any other wobbly legged toy. It's a change that's greatly appreciated!

So in final analysis, our second-to-last (I'll see you in Series 12, Desaad, you slippery bastard) Fourth World character needed to complete who was released in Super Powers is a winner. Both versions are very well executed additions to our DCU collections, and while I generally wasn't into the whole "spend new tooling money on Super Powers re-dos" approach it has paid off in spades here. If you only get only Steppenwolf, make the one from Super Powers. I'm prepared to go as far as to say he is my favorite figure of the series.

-- 03/04/10

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