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DC Direct Superman/Batman
by yo go re

It's always been tough to buy DC Direct figures. Not because you can't find them, but because of the price and the lack of poseability. And the decision has gotten even harder, now that Mattel is (theoretically) releasing rather poseable DC figures at mass retail. Why would you pay $20 for a Creeper figure from DCD when Mattel might end up releasing a cheaper, better one in the future? It's hard. There are some toys, however, that DC Direct releases which are definitely worth the gamble. Which brings us to the tale of Despero.

Chaos is sure to reign whenever this three-eyed villain turns up to battle the Justice League members he hates so deeply.

For the record, yes, using the phrase "tale of Despero" is pure Google-bait. If you're looking for the mouse, you want The Tale of Despereaux, but we thank you for your spelling confusion and thus your accidental visit. This tale of Despero (okay, last one, we promise) is about an alien tyrant, originally a physical weakling who used his mental powers to control his enemies. He was later transformed by the mystical Flame of Py'tar, given a huge, hulking form capable of dominating the Justice League's bodies as well as their minds. He's fueled by rage, which would make him an ideal recruit for the new Red Lantern Corps. I wonder how he feels about vomiting up acid-blood?

This figure is based on Superman/Batman Vol. 5: The Enemies Among Us, so of course he's the current "Hulkish" version. The artwork for that volume of the comic was by Ethan Van Scriver, who packs all sorts of detail into each page, so the figure is covered with a lot of the same - ah, but only where he needs it! Sculptor Ray Villafane has given Despero's skin a good texture, but the pants are completely smooth, other than a few simple wrinkles. It's the right balance, and better than some companies would have done.

Despero's defining feature has always been the fin on his head. Of course, in its early days, the fin ran sideways, like a triceratops' crest, but now it goes front to back. The only downside of that is that you can't really enjoy the viciously furious look on the figure's face and the warty texture sculpted on his fin at the same time - it's one or the other. His ears are pointed and angular, his teeth look like a shark's, and the wrinkles on his face help make that otherwise-improbable third eye look like a natural physical occurance.

The paint is very good - Despero's flesh is magenta, and his nails are glossy black. His pants are matte black with a brown belt and a silver buckle, and his billowing blue cape is adorned by a golden clasp. His lips and the interior of his mouth are a darker color than the rest of his skin, and though two of his eyes are white, the one in his forehead is golden. He has no accessories, other than the usual Superman/Batman base.

If you count the fin on his head, Despero reaches an even 8" tall, so he's big enough to tower over your heroes. Articulation isn't as good as Mattel's figures, of course, and not even particularly good for DC Direct. He has a ball-and-socket head, balljointed shoulders, pin elbows, peg hips and pin knees. No swivel for the shins or any sort of wrists? Definitely disappointing.

Even with the low-end articulation, I still really like this figure quite a lot. Mattel made a Despero BAF at about the same time, but it was the more "warmonger" verison, rather than this "savage" version. The sculpt here is just beautiful work, and the bulky proportions are much different than the DC Universe toy. It really is like getting two different versions of the character. You can still get some decent variety in the poses, even with the lacking joints, and Despero looks like a real threat even standing still. Will Mattel release a version of this Despero? Probably not - they've already done theirs, so if they were to make another, it would likely be the slender, sideways-fin version. Right now, this DC Direct Superman/Batman Series 6 Despero is a unique offering that will look great facing off with your Justice League.

Okay, one last time: "Tale of Despero." Come to me, wayward traffic!

-- 02/14/09

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