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Superman Beyond

Justice League
by yo go re

Back before they introduced Supergirl, DC tested the waters a few times. Lois Lane would temporarily gain powers, Superboy would get gender-swapped, Jimmy Olsen would wish one into being (for those times when being a "pal" isn't enough), etc. This allowed the company gauge readers' response to the idea of a Super-girl before going ahead with her. Similarly, the Batman Beyond episode "The Call" was a test to see if the Justice League could work in the animated format.

Years ago, Superman discovered several alien starfish stranded on a faraway planet and transported them to his Fortress of Solitude. One day, while feeding his ever-growing collection, Starro jumped onto Superman's body and linked to his mind. Using the powers of the Man of Steel, Starro planned to invade Earth and call it home!

Well, "spoilers," I guess. For a 13-year-old episode of a cartoon that we would have spoiled for you by the end of this review anyway. Eh, whatever. The bio is incorrect, by the way: 1) Superman didn't discover several alien starfish, and B) he didn't discover them on a far away planet; there was just one of them, and it was on the ship of The Preserver (the alien who hired Lobo to kidnap Superman, because he collected creatures that were the last of their species).

This figure came out in 2009, and in what is legitimately a shocking turn of events, it does not use the exact same mold that Mattel had been using for Superman since 2003! The head has been redesigned, to match Superman's aged appearance in the show - his hair is graying, his neck is longer, he's got a more square chin and lines on his cheeks.

The body is generic re-use, of course. The Justice League cartoon started a year before Mattel first got the DC license, and it would have taken at least another year of design and engineering for Matty to get JL toys to market, making the toys lag way behind the debut of the show they were supposed to be tying into. To trim that deficit, Mattel simply took prototypes that DC Direct had produced in 2001 (in case [then-licensee] Hasbro/Kenner didn't want to do toys for the cartoon) - prototypes which themselves were basically just the animated maquettes that Karen Palinko had sculpted, with articulation cut in. That's why the early part of the line had no villains, and why the articulation was so lacking. Unfortunately, that decision reverberated all the way to the end of the line in 2012, so Superman only moves at the Big Five. Sad.

By the time of Batman Beyond, Superman is wearing a more Kryptonian costume. It's a black suit with white panels on the outsides of the arms and legs, and a white patch over his shoulders that also features a highly stylized S logo on his chest - it's so abstract that if it weren't stuck to Superman's pecs, you wouldn't even know it was meant to be a letter. You'd think he was Moutain Peak Man or something. The line between the black and gray areas of his hair is sculpted, meaning the paint is easier to get right.

The "alien starfish" is, of course, Starro. A small Starro, but Starro nonetheless. It's a desaturated lavender, with black spots on the limbs, a pale grey area in the center, and a big red and black eye. The underside is sculpted to look like suckers, and he's sculpted to fit over Superman's torso (and a lot of other figures, obviously, but that kind of goes without saying). It's a nice inclusion, even if it only ever appeared beneath Superman's costume, not above it - who cares about that?

"The Call," the episode of Batman Beyond that introduced the Justice League Unlimited, was a lot of fun, even if it did have a few major plot holes: A) if Superman was being controlled by Starro, why was he the one to ask Batman to find the traitor, and 2) Starro can't really be the "last" of his species if he can crank out an army of offspring at will, can he? Still, the episode led to JLU, and JLU led to getting this toy. Put him next to Aquagirl, Static and Pendrake "Micron" VonCrackenwhore and you'll have yourself a nice future Justice League.

-- 13/15/13

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