ME and My Batmans

by Joe

I like Batman.

I like action figures.

Ergo, I like Batman action figures.

Let's take a look at some of the best, shall we?

It is Bat-Week after all.

I will be going in chronological order, more-or-less, and will be focusing on the figures released in my lifetime - That means no MEGO, old timers! And, as the title suggests, we're going to be looking at Batman action figures, of the eight inches or shorter variety (there's a joke in there somewhere) with moving parts-- no Barbie dolls or large, Inaction figures (e.g., statues, busts, etc.) and fully-licensed (sorry, Super Amigos fans).

Let's get this out of the way: Yes, I play with toys. Screw you.

And I currently have no pants on. Ha!

Let's (Batman) Begin our journey . . .

1. Super Powers Collection - Kenner - Batman:
For a toy released in 1984, this version holds up remarkably well. As with all of the Super Powers line, it was comic-accurate and elegant in its simplicity. It even came with a tiny comic book that could not be read anywhere else. Except for now if you download it from the Internets, but I digress. And, just like Batman screams at you on the backing card, the figure came with a "Power Action Bat Punch" that proved itself an invaluable tool in the torturing of one's younger siblings.

2. The Dark Knight Collection - Kenner - Thunder Whip Batman:
This was the first time that a Batman figure actually looked like Michael Keaton. After the success of Batman Returns, Kenner released a set of action figures based on Keaton's likeness in the early 90s. The "Thunder Whip" variation wore the movie costume and featured an arm that rotated 360 degrees at the wrist. I can see that coming in handy. And yes, that is really Michael Keaton's face on the backing card. And yes, he is watching you, it's not just a mind trick.

3. Legends of the Dark Knight - Kenner - Dark Knight (Detective) Batman:
After the success of McFarlane Toys and their highly-detailed Spawn line, Kenner decided to release this line of similarly-detailed figures aimed at a slightly-older audience in 1997-98. There were two variations of this Dark Knight figure, one with the comic book colors, the other with the movie colors. This was the first Batman action figure that was truly worthy of being put on display and labeled as "bad-ass". I remember at the time, this figure was almost impossible to find. Now, a decent picture of it is impossible to find.

4. The New Batman Adventures - Hasbro - Detective Batman:
Batman took the cartoon world by storm with Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. In 1996, the series added Nightwing and the younger Tim Drake Robin to the cast and changed its name to The New Batman Adventures. Detective Batman featured a "Dark Knight Returns"-like costume and looked as if he stepped right off the animation frame and into your lap, except far less painful than you'd expect Batman stepping onto your lap would be.

5. Total Justice - Hasbro - Batman:
Hasbro released this Justice League-themed line in the late 90s to give DC Comics the excuse it needed to publish the awful mini-series of the same name. The figures, though, were remarkably well done considering their smaller size. Though you'd have to ignore the armor accessory that, if worn, would effectively immobilize Batman.

6. Hush - DC Direct - Batman:
This is my favorite Batman action figure. Ever. As far as I am concerned, Jim Lee's version of Batman is as definitive as it gets (though many would argue that). This figure, released in 2004 after the success of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's Batman: Hush storyline, launched DC Direct's artist-centric lines of figures which has been their mainstay ever since. The Hush line's Batman is a milestone in action figure achievement. It is damn near perfect, and Lee's art lends itself perfectly to the action figure form.

7. Justice - DC Direct - Batman:
Painter-extraordinaire Alex Ross designed this figure, giving Batman a more majestic and elegant look, as only Ross could. This is, like, my third favorite Batman figure. Ever. In fact, if the Hushfigure above was never made, I'd be saying all those things about this one, except that Ross's art doesn't cross-over quite as nicely as Lee's.

8. The Dark Knight Returns - DC Direct - Batman:

I won't insult you by explaining why this figure made the list. Freakin' amazing.

9. Batman (1989) - Kubrick - Batman:
OK, the fact that this is a slightly-larger-in-size Lego man, and still looks exactly like Michael Keaton warrants it a mention in this article (and it comes from Japan, to boot!). And not only does that fact warrant it a mentioning, it's also quite scary. Those eyes . . .

10. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies - DC Direct - Batman:
DC Direct does it again with another line focusing on the artist. This time, Ed McGuiness gets the spotlight circa 2005. The opening arc of the Superman/Batman comic series drawn by McGuiness and written by Jeph Loeb was a huge seller for DC, so a line of figures based on it was a no-brainer. Just like Jim Lee, McG's art lends itself perfectly to a three-dimensional rendition, with a certain amount of "fun" thrown in. Never has a Batman figure looked so good yet been so anatomically wrong.

11. DC Universe BatmanMattel – Armor Attack Batman:
The majority of the figures listed thus far have only been available in specialty stores or online. This was the first Batman figure that you could walk into Wal-Mart or Target to buy that was on par with DC Direct as far as articulation, detailing, and “displayability” went. Released in 2005, this figure from Mattel took the best of both Toy Biz’s Marvel Legends line and DC Direct and rolled them up into one nice looking figure. And, if you look real close, Batman can tell that something stinks . . .

12. Crisis on Infinite EarthsDC Direct – Batman:
Did you really expect to get through a DC Comics-themed post and not read about a “Crisis” of some kind? Not these days! Twenty-two years after DC’s highly-successful, continuity-destroying maxi-series ended, its toy line began. As far as the “classic” Batman look goes, this figure cannot be beat. Designed by George Perez (while channeling Neal Adams), this figure seemed like an odd choice for the CoIE line. But, who cares? It’s awesome, while still being “your Daddy’s Batman”.

Did anyone get that?

13. The Dark KnightMattel – Movie Master Batman:
Holy crap! It’s Christian Bale in your hand! I’m not kidding. This is a spitting image of the actor, and my second favorite Batman action figure. Ever. It takes the idea that Thunder Whip Batman started and knocks it out of the park. As it should, considering Bale’s likeness was scanned in using a laser beam-- LASER !!!-- to mold this figure. And it manages to maintain its detail while still being highly poseable, something that most action figures these days struggle with. Kudos to Mattel, and designers The Four Horsemen, for this figure. I LOVE this figure. I carry it with me all over the place. In fact, it stares at me as I type this.

14. All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy WonderDC Direct – All-Star Batman:
"I'm the Goddamn Batman Action Figure!” HA! I’m clever. Ahem. We’re looking into the future slightly with this figure, as it’s not scheduled to be released till September 2008. (Though, if it ships at the same schedule as its comic book counterpart, that means we’ll be seeing it in Summer 2009). Jim Lee comes back to lend his designs to another set of action figures from DC Direct, this time bringing us the deranged and unhinged All-Star Batman as written by Frank Miller. Say what you will about the comic series (and I’m sure you have a lot to say), but this “younger Dark Knight Returns Batman” totally works for me visually.

And that concludes our journey down Batman-figure lane. I hope you found it enjoyable. If not, well, hey, you’re reading this which means you got through the whole article, so my job is done. But before I go, I leave you with this quote from the late Hunter S. Thompson:

“We can’t stop here! This is Bat Country!”

Be careful out there.


Yas said...

So tell me, Joe... how much do you REALLY like Batman?

Cool post, mate. Love the figures. I think my favourite is the Crisis Batman as I love that it channels Adams and Perez. Shame about the yellow logo as I prefer it without.

Matt said...

I really really like that All Star Batman. Fun article!