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DC Direct
by yo go re

Look! Over in the toy aisle!

Rocketed to Earth from the doomed planet Krypton, the infant Kal-El landed in Smallville, where he became the hero everyone knows as Superman!

Superman isn't the first superhero in history, but he's certainly the progenitor of those found in comicbooks. Born from the adventures and adventurers found in pulp novels, dressed in the uniform of a circus performer, and bursting forth in primary colors, the man from Krypton was different from anything that had come before. He wasn't alone for long, however; soon every publisher wanted a Superman of their own. Some were just inspired by the character, while others, like Captain Marvel, were blatant rip-offs. The popularity of these super men ballooned, taking over the comicbook industry until almost nothing else remained.

When DC Direct started in 1999, they actually couldn't make toys of their biggest characters: those rights belonged to other companies, so they were off-limits. That's why it was so exciting to get this Superman toy at last. It's not that he's the first - there was one boxed set featuring Superman with the Silver Age Lois Lane and another with Superboy and Supergirl - but that it's the first time we've gotten Kal-El in his modern look.

Standing 6¾" tall, Superman looks commanding next to the other DC Direct figures. While his scale puts him on par with the Marvel Legends, he's the first DCD character to stack up in the articulation department. He has 21 points of articulation: swivel head and hinge neck, balljointed shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, wrists that are both a swivel and a hinge, swivel waist, a shallow T-crotch, peg joints in the thighs, and pin hinges in the knees and ankles.

DC did a decent job with all that articulation, but they didn't pull it off as artfully as ToyBiz does. It's nice that one of their figures is finally mobile, but there's more to a good shoulder joint than just cutting horizontally through the sculpt and putting in a peg joint. At least there's enough variety to allow us to put Clark in a cool flying pose.

The Silver Age figure had the thick yet undefined build popular in Curt Swan's day, but this isn't your father's Superman - obviously patterned after the big beefy corn-fed Midwesterner of Ed McGuinness's recent run, Superman actually looks super powerful. His muscles strain against his costume, and the edge of his shield is a sculpted element (yes, only the edge - it lets them use the same mold for Superman and Bizarro). His cape flows behind him, with small wrinkles where it bunches near his neck; the shield on the back is etched in. Since it's all yellow, they wouldn't have been able to show it otherwise.

All three figures released so far in this Superman sub-line (Superman, Bizarro and Brainiac 13) come with an S-shield display base. While it's nowhere near as nice as the bases ToyBiz has been producing, a good base is never unwarranted. Only about ¼" thick, the base still has a nice heft to it, giving it enough weight to keep the figure from falling over.

If you get this figure, be sure to take a good look at him before buying: in most instances, Clark's right leg is bent by the packaging, and you may have to do some hunting before you find the best version.

DC Direct has been making figures for several years now, and it's really time for them to step up to the plate. Marvel Legends have better sculpts, more articulation, intricate bases and free comics, yet they still cost half as much as DC's offerings. Even ToyBiz's new comicshop-only line, Marvel Select, is producing better sculpts with comparable articulation. And while those figures are more expensive than even DC's, they too come with large detailed bases.

-- 04/23/03

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