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Crime Syndicate of Amerika

DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

It's rare enough to get a single villain in a mainstream toyline - getting five at once is almost too much to ask for!

The Crime Syndicate of Amerika is comprised of five villainous analogues of Justice League Heroes who live in a world where corruption and mayhem rule.

The original Crime Syndicate hailed from the alternate dimension of Earth-3, and first appeared in 1964's Justice League of America #29. They were reinvented post-Crisis by Grant Morrison in the OGN JLA: Earth 2 (their name for our Earth), and lived not in another dimension, but in the Anti-Matter Universe. Now that the multiverse is back, the CSA hails from Earth-3 yet again.

Superwoman is the evil opposite of Wonder Woman, but takes the name of Lois Lane in her human disguise. Her powers are similar to Wonder Woman's, but she also has heat vision and her lasso not only forces others to tell the truth - they readily confess embarrassing secrets. Also Superwoman is a ruthless seductress bent on getting her way. Married to Ultraman, she is having an illicit affair with Owlman.

This figure is based on the modern Superwoman, not the Silver Age version. The costume differences are minor, but they're easy to pick out: she has black boots instead of gold, her top is strapless, she doesn't have an S logo on her chest, she does have an S logo on the chain connecting shoulderpads (also new), her cape is shorter and has black on the outside, she's wearing long black gloves and has silver bracelets. It's a better costume, so let's be glad they chose this version for her - DC Direct did a set of Crime Syndicate figures in 2002, and used all the old costumes.

Another giveaway is the head. The original Superwoman wore a ponytail and had a white streak in her hair. The new version originally had a bouffant, but that was the first thing changed when any artist other than Frank Quitely was given a turn to draw her. Her hair is a bit unkempt, bit it frames her stern face nicely, but still leaves her silver earrings exposed.

In addition to the obvious - the head, the new shins to accommodate the V-cutouts in the boots, the entire cape/shoulderpad combo - Superwoman gets a new torso. No, they didn't sculpt the top edge of her bodice (because that would limit potential future re-use), but they did sculpt a blocky attachment point just above the hinge joint where a cape can be glued in. We have to ask: since the bio specifically mentions her lasso, why doesn't she come with one?

Owlman, the evil opposite of Batman, was actually born Thomas Wayne, Jr., the older brother to Bruce Wayne. When his mother and brother were killed (for which he blames his father), Owlman left home and entered a life of crime. Not even loyal to his own syndicate, he is having an affair with Superwoman and blackmailing Ultraman. Using technology and his fighting skills, Owlman is a dark criminal focused on creating mayhem.

This is the star of the set. While all the Crime Syndicate characters got new costumes in Earth 2, Owlman's was the best. His original costume was basically the Silver Age Batsuit with pirate boots, no gloves or chest symbol, and a god-awful stupid owl mask that left his entire face exposed. It was garbage. Quitely turned the character into something befitting an evil version of the World's Greatest Detective.

The costume is dark - darker than in the comic, or the (appropriately colored) prototype shown at Toy Fair - and has a new cape that does an excellent job of duplicating Owlman's odd "long hexagon" design. There's an owl logo on the clasp of the cape, and a matching version as the buckle on his utility belt. There are ribbed bands on his wrists and ankles, and the fact that Mattel paid to tool those means those of you who joined the DCUC subscription will probably be seeing a modern Dr. Mid-Nite sometime next year.

In the comic, Owlman's new helmet was nearly a geometric impossibility, but the Four Horsemen have managed to wrestle it into three-dimensional space. Most people seem to interpret it as a variation of Wolverine's mask, but that's not right - it's its own unique shape, and it turned out well for the toy. Since only his mouth is showing, a more exaggerated expression might have been called for. A deeper scowl? An unsettling smile? Something. It's not bad, but there's room for improvement.

Owlman gets the only accessory in this set, as disappointing a fact as that is. He gets a batarang - or, I suppose in this case, an owlarang. It's a decent piece, definitely sculpted to look more like an owl than a bat, but it's molded from such soft plastic that it's warped all to hell by the time you get it out of the package. Having characters hold their accessories never works out well, does it?

Ultraman, leader of the Crime Syndicate and evil opposite of Superman, has similar powers to the Man of Steel; however, he is not a son of Krypton. Born human, Clark Kent was a deep space astronaut who imploded into hyperspace. An alien gave him a superhuman body, with a twisted mind, and sent him back home. Ultraman is a megalomaniac and uses his extraordinary powers for evil.

The pre-Crisis Ultraman was Kryptonian, so clearly this is the modern version. And where the original Ultraman gained new powers every time he was exposed to Kryptonite, the new one only has powers when he's exposed to a constant source of "Anti-Kryptonite" - he keeps it in those silver pods on his costume. Rather than just a red U shaped vaguely like horns, this Ultraman's symbol is the same shield design as Superman's, just turned upside down and filled with a U rather than an S. Or, if you look at the negative space, it looks like an arrow pointing up.

The head is shared with the previous Ultraman figure, but the eyes are painted normally, rather than in "heat vision" mode. It's not the bone-ugly face Frank Quitely gave him, but since Frank Quitely is the Rob Liefeld of the '00s, that probably wasn't meant to be indicative of what the character actually looked like.

Something interesting of note: as Poe said, the last figure had hands that were clearly gloves painted pink. This figure has bare hands... but his costume is supposed to have blue gloves built into the sleeves. Yes, it swings bac and forth whether his hands are exposed or not, but having blue there would have helped set him apart from Superman. The error was pointed out at Toy Fair, but apparently there wasn't time to fix it.

Johnny Quick is the evil opposite of The Flash. Unlike The Flash, who gained powers by absorbing supercharged fluids, Johnny Quick uses "Speed Juice" and an enhancement helmet to give him super speed. Without regular doses, he loses his powers completely. However, the world's leaders supply him with plenty, making sure that Johnny Quick remains a superfast, evil maniac.

It's really nice that the bio describes the modern, Earth 2-introduced Johnny Quick, but the figure is the old Earth-3 version. See, developments on the Crime Syndicate's world (wherever that world is) mirror developments on the real world: so when Barry Allen died and was replaced by Wally West, the evil Johnny Quick got a young replacement, as well. It was the young guy who had the special helmet and the Speed Juice (which was made from his predecessor's blood). But now that Barry's come back for no good reason, the same is true for this guy.

Sadly, that means we don't get a toy of the helmeted look. And while we'll admit that it was rather stupid-looking, it was still better than the Silver Age version. His face is entirely exposed, and the lightning bolts on his ears are comically huge. The edges of his mask are sculpted, which is nice, and there's a seam running all the way over his bullet-shaped head. It's done well, but that doesn't make it not wrong.

Power Ring is the evil opposite of Green Lantern Hal Jordan. A Tibetan Monk named Volthoom offered him a mystical ring and power battery capable of great power. But the ring came with a curse. Despite the warning, he accepted it and was possessed by the spirit of Volthoom. A coward, Power Ring uses the ring's incredible power to cause chaos and destruction.

The original Power Ring's name was "Joesph Harrolds," so he wasn't literally the evil opposite of Hal Jordan. He does present some interesting storytelling possibilities, though: he wields a green ring in the Anti-Matter Universe, right? But Sinestro's yellow ring comes from the Anti-Matter Universe, too; does that mean there are Anti-Matter equivalents of the rest of the rings? And a positive-matter equivalent of the yellow ring that's hiding somewhere out there, waiting to be found? And the emotions will all be reversed, of course. Maybe this time they can be emotions, instead of things like "will."

Power Ring gets a new head, with a pointed mask and a very angry scowl. It's not a perfect match, but you could easily see this as the head on a DCUC Parallax. For once, not painting the gray temples on a Hal Jordan head is the right choice: Power Ring never had them, because he didn't exist while Hal was showing his age.

I'm not sure what Power Ring's logo is meant to represent: obviously the GL logo is meant to be a stylized lantern, but this definitely isn't meant to be a stylized ring. It looks like a butterfly. Or a soft, rounded X. Maybe it's supposed to be a V for Volthoom (the entity that lives inside the ring and provides the power), but it doesn't look much like one. Make up your own explanation for what the hell it is. His right hand is new, as it's sculpted with the proper Power Ring ring, and he's painted with light green stripes on the outside of his arms.

Most of Mattel's DC Universe Classics box sets have been very disappointing. The first one had only one new figure, and the GL one only had two. The Crime Syndicate of Amerika set has four characters who haven't been made before, and even the one who was is in an entirely different costume. Yes, the version of Johnny Quick that they chose to make is the last one anyone would want, and Power Ring is just as boring as Hal Jordan normally is, but Ultraman and Super Woman are pretty good, and Owlman is just outstanding. This set is hard to find right now, but if you can get it, it's the first one that's even come close to being worth the money.

-- 09/08/11

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