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DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

Here's a very important question for you to consider: how obscure do you like your villains?

Mysterious and menacing, the man known only as Copperhead first emerged in Gotham City, carrying out a series of incredible thefts. When confronted, his poison fangs and constrictor coils were enough to defeat most opponents. Copperhead increased his powers by striking a deal with the demonic Neron, becoming a truly monstrous man/snake hybrid. In this horrific new form, he took on more lethal assignments as a super-assassin. His ghastly power and inhuman abilities make him one of the world's most frightening villains.

And then he got his dumb ass killed by Kate Spencer in Manhunter #1 and nobody ever missed him. He only appeared in about 30 individual issues bewteen 1968 and 2004, and most of those were just crowd shots or cameos. He most recently showed up as a Black Lantern, but even that was just to pad out the scenery. The guy's a forgotten loser... but he makes for a cool-looking toy.

Copperhead uses the same upper body as Aquaman, which makes a clever bit of sense - after all, the tooling for that scaled shirt had to be expensive, so why shouldn't it see more use? The smooth neck is covered by a dickie that provides contrast on his chest - more a feature of his JLU design than anything seen in the comics, so you can add him to that list. The forearms are new, since he doesn't have Aq's fin-gloves, and the legs are new because no one has had scaly legs before. This figure represents Copperhead's Silver Age costume, with green gloves, boots and unusual trunks: the legs are squared-off, like actual trunks would be, rather than the angled briefs most characters wear. He's a fashion trendsetter!

There's one thing missing from the figure, though, and it's a biggie: he's got no tail. That may seem like a minor thing, but the "constrictor" powers mentioned on the packaging? It's not something he can do himself, it's a feature of the suit, housed... in the tail. Yeah. It's like selling a Batman figure with no utility belt, or Green Lantern without a ring: sure, you can come with some excuse for why the character is lacking it, but it's stupid that you need to do it. Hell, even the JLU figure got the tail, and you know how much they hate doing new pieces!

The card also mentions that Copperhead is a "supreme contortionist," so of course he's got lots of extra articulation. What? What's that? He doesn't? He has all the same joints as every other DC Universe figure? So he's no more of a contortionist than Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot? Thanks again, Mattel! Ah, but fans, if you're smart, you can fake his abilities: just twist his limbs to their maximum wrongness and drape him over one of your dozen or so extra Batmen, and he'll look properly contorted. We're toy collectors! We're imaginative! Don't be limited by what the figure can't do, find the way to make it do the most it possibly can! Unfortunately, the hip joints are loose - a potential first for the DCU line? The legs wiggle when you pick him up.

On his many (ie, "10") Justice League appearances, Copperhead was often used as a foil for Hawkgirl - you know, hawk versus snake and all that - so it's rather amusing that, in its own way, his hat/mask thing is similar to Hawkman's helmet: it's shaped like his totem animal, and there are big creepy eyes on it. He doesn't see through those eyes, by the way: his face pokes out through the mouth, revealing a truly manic visage. His mouth is open in a laugh that would even make the Joker jealous.

Copperhead is taller than average, thanks to his snakehat, topping out at 6⅝". He's an appropriately coppery orange all over, with dark forest green for the trunks and a paler orange on the throat. The eyes are green with a thin black outline and slit pupils. The inside of the "mouth" is darker, a brick red - actually, that's true for the man's mouth as well as the mask's. The fangs are pure white, so they end up brighter than his human teeth. All the edges are crisp.

The DCU packaging has been redesigned for Series 12 - quite a shock after seeing the same old design for the past two years. It's the same basic shape, a rectangle with the top corners cut off (quite appropriate for Mattel, masters of cutting corners), but it's a brighter yellow than before, and instead of new art specific to the series, as the figures used to have, we now get a generic heroes and villains "frame" artwork showing a bunch of characters that have already been in the line, a few that haven't, and a few we can almost guarantee never will be. There's a big logo at the bottom of the blister hyping DC Comics' 75th anniversary, the putative reason for the design change.

Also in honor of DC's Diamond Anniversary, Mattel is releasing a series of exclusive collector buttons in each package. There's a molded spot in the tray to make sure the pin stays in place and is right-side up, and each character comes with a specific image (which doesn't necessarily relate to the character). Copperhead comes with a pin showing part of the the Mike Kaluta cover to Detective Comics #438.

DCU12 still includes Build-A-Figure pieces with all most of the figures, this time allowing you to build a new, bigger Darkseid. Copperhead includes Darkseid's head and little blue panties - hardly the most intimidating BAF piece ever, but a crucial one. What are you going to do, just display him from the waist up? Pretend Orion pulled off his legs? Of course not! Nothing special to say about either of the pieces, but that also means there are no problems with them, either.

Since he was introduced in Brave and the Bold, Copperhead is ostensibly a Batman villain, but no one really thinks of him like that any more. He got shuffled off to be a general Justice League threat or something - he's definitely not part of Batman's Rogues Gallery anymore. But we must say, even without his tail, this is a quite good figure of him, and the first ever done in something other than the JLU scale. He's a goofnut, a nobody, the supervillain equivalent of a set filler at the Oscars, but the Four Horsemen and Mattel made him worthwhile.

-- 06/03/10

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