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Solomon Grundy

Justice League
by yo go re

Here's to the man of the hour! Or, well, "the week."

Mattel always seems to make fans want to pull their hair out with the summer convention exclusives. If it's not one thing, it's another: character choice, raffles, limits, a variant, nine variants... it's enough to make you want to firebomb their offices.

It's always annoying when a company offers a new character (as opposed to a new version of a character) as an exclusive, but it's even worse when the character is 1) a villain in a series that's sorely lacking them and 2) as popular as this one is. For SDCC 06, Mattel offered an exclusive Justice League Unlimited Solomon Grundy, based on the Season 3 episode "Wake the Dead."

When Solomon Grundy is dragged back to the mortal plane due to a magical incantation gone awry, he is now nothing more than a vessel of rage fueled by chaos magic. The Justice League, Dr. Fate and AMAZO prove ineffective in stopping the beast, but Hawkgirl may have what it takes to grant her old friend the peace that he seeks.

There have been a lot of different versions and interpretations of Solomon Grundy over the years, and many of them contradict one another. The simple, boiled-down version is that in the late 19th century, wealthy Gothamite Cyrus Gold was murdered and dumped in nearby Slaughter Swamp. As the years passed, the biological muck of the swamp began to congeal around his bones, forming a new life. He rose from the swamp 50 years later (on a Monday), with no memory of who he had once been. Every time he dies, Grundy comes back to life with a new and unpredictable personality.

Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday,
Christened on a stark and stormy Tuesday,
Married on a gray and grisly Wednesday,
Took ill on a mild and mellow Thursday,
Grew worse on a bright and breezy Friday,
Died on a gay and glorious Saturday,
Buried on a baking, blistering Sunday.
That was the end of Solomon Grundy.

Grundy is a huge figure, about the same height as Darkseid, but much, much bulkier. There's no way this figure would ever have fit on a blister card hanging on the pegs down at your local store. He's 5⅛" tall and his shoulders are 3½" wide. Mattel has, sadly, abandoned the idea of elbow and knee joints on their JLU figures, so Grundy just moves at the Big Five. The prototype had elbows and knees, but that got scrapped. Fortunately, he's a big, dumb slow guy, so you don't really need much more.

Grundy is detailed with only four colors of paint: his skin is white, his hair is pale gray and his clothes are two-tone grey. The jacket is actually a floating rubber piece above his torso. The whole thing is sculpted really well, with just the sort of blocky, ragged look he had on the show - his sleeves and pantlegs are torn, his shirt fits loosely and there's a big rip over his right breast. There was also a variant available, with green splash marks all over him and glow-in-the-dark yellow eyes. Given the choice, the plain one is a better figure: being episode-specific is all well and good, but if you want to re-create any non-sewer scenes, you need the one who hasn't been jumping in puddles.

Originally just serving as muscle for the bad guys, Grundy really came into his own as a character when the show's creators had the bright idea of casting him as the Hulk in a cross-dimensional analogue of Marvel's Defenders, first in the overtly Cthonic Season 2 episode "The Terror Beyond" and then again in "Wake the Dead." The big white zombie probably earned more new fans in those two episodes than he has in 60 years in the comics.

There are no accessories with this guy, unless you count his packaging - and really, you might. If there's one thing that Mattel does well with their exclusives, it's the packaging. Whether it's the Batcave or a bank vault, the packaging always looks nice and adds to the figure. Grundy's, however, really goes above and beyond. The outside box is a brown brick pattern with the figure's name on the front, but it's what's inside that's really impressive.

The interior box is a complete playscene, inside and out. The finale of "Wake the Dead" took place in the sewers, so the box is designed to replicate that. The outside is grey brick, while the top panel shows us a paved street. There's a double yellow line on the cracked asphalt, some Grundy-sized footprints and an open manhole that lets you see down into the sewer. Hold your nose - we're going in.

The stone pattern continues on the back wall, but the green sewer goop is the focus, here. The ground is covered with it, and it spews forth from three pipes. The center pipe is just printed on the back, while the two on the sides are raised elements. They're not glued in place - just hanging loose - and green foil fringe spills out to simulate the water. It's actually a pretty cool design by Frank Varela.

A little plastic skull sticks out of the front of the package. Pull it out and release, and the whole box shakes and rumbles. So what's with the rumble pack? Supposedly the tremors are a direct result of Grundy's chaos magic fueled rampage. Pretend he's slamming his fists against the walls down there, shaking the street above. White "cracks" are painted on the clear front panel to suggest the same. The back panel has an image of Grundy fighting Hawkgirl, and while she's letting out a mighty "Hee-yaa!" he's apparently shouting "Born on a Monday!" What? He may say it all the time, but it's not his battle cry.

Solomon Grundy is another example of a must-have figure being denied from the average fan. He looks great and he plays well, and once again the packaging is awesome. Best of the year awesome. You have to wonder if Mattel figures out how much they'll have to charge for their exclusives to cover the show, how much the figure will cost to make, and then designs the packaging to cost out somewhere in between the two. "How much can we cram into the design of this box before we start cutting into our own finances?" Last year's Catwoman did finally see release as a TRU exclusive this year, so hopefully Grundy will, as well.

-- 08/17/06

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