Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mattel Retro-Action DC Super Heroes Batman

This is Mattel's brand spankin' new 8" Retro-Action DC Super Heroes Batman. Batman is from wave 2 of the Retro Action figures line and is hitting Toys R Us and Comic Book store shelves as I type.

Mattel's Retro-Action line of figures are an homage to the highly-successful Mego figures of the 1970s that were produced in the same 8" scale. For those of you that "weren't there," you may not see these figures through the same rose-colored glasses that many of us old-timers do. To us, there's a certain charm in the slightly "clunky" look of these figures. These new Retro Action figures aren't so much replicas of the original figures as they are a re-imagining and tribute to the Megos we knew and loved as kids (well, some of us). Many Bat-fans, like myself have been anxious to see how the new Mattel Mego-style Batman would turn out. (I should mention Emce Toys, as well. Emce Toys is Mattel's partner in this endeavor and they are doing a great job with the design of these figures, including things like head sculpture and costuming. In a nutshell, they are the creators and driving force of this line.).

Original Mego Batman (left) with 2010 Retro-Action Batman (right)

Original Mego (left) and Retro-Action (right) card backs

As you can see, Mattel really tried to capture the look of the packaging of the original Mego action figures. While not a 100% copy, it's apparent that many of the same design cues were used in designing the new package. The new package even goes so far as to include a bit of "distressing" in the printwork to make the new package not look quite so new. Notice that both packages are pink, as well. While all four figures released in this wave (Batman, Aquaman, Two-Face, and Black Manta) are on pink card backs, I'm sure pink was chosen because Batman is the most popular character in this wave and the original 1970s Mego Batman's packaging was pink.

I really like the artwork that Mattel is using on the packaging. It's very cool to see Silver Age style artwork representing all the characters on the back of the package.

The figure itself is also a nice homage to the original Mego Batman. Both the current and vintage figures feature removable cowls (although, Mego would go on to release a molded, non-removable cowl version of Batman after the first year...see packaged photo). Both figures also have very similar jumpsuits, belts, and boots. The new Retro-Action Batman figure even features a similar nylon cape to the original. With all the similarities, there are also differences. The gloves are a major difference with the original Mego wearing "oven mitts" and the new version utilizing a different approach. The new figure uses molded blue hands and vinyl cuffs attached to the suit to give the illusion of gloves. While I'm an advocate of making these new figures as close to the originals as possible, I do like the new figure's solution for gloves. Even Mego started using this same solution on some of the characters they produced in later years.

All in all, I think this and other figures in Mattel's Retro-Action line are very well-done and are wonderful tributes to the original Megos. However, I feel I need to mention a problem or two that I have with this Batman and the Retro-Action line, in general.

Specifically, Batman's emblem wasn't heat-sealed properly (it's like a mini iron-on) and mine started coming loose from the costume almost as soon as I had the figure out of the package. I managed to use heat to re-seal the emblem back on the costume. However, the results ended up a bit uneven.

The other issue is with the body of the figure. Every Retro-Action figure utilizes the same body... and every Retro-Action figure I've purchased is extremely loose in the waist and hips. Also, I don't think there is enough friction in the waist and hip joints for the figure to hold any kind of pose below the waist. So, if you lift one of the figure's legs, it will "flop" back down into it's original position. If you bend the figure at the waist... or twist it, the figure will snap back the moment you let go. This issue wasn't a problem with original Mego figures, although they shared the same internal elastic band design for construction.

I sincerely hope that Mattel will address these issues with the articulation of the body at the waist and hips in further waves of these figures. I know it's a major point of concern for collectors and I would imagine children playing with these would take issue, as well. These are wonderful figures with just a few "kinks" that need addressed. I know that some collectors are currently avoiding this line because of the body issues present. I do have to say that with 45 or so years of action figure history behind us, a working base body should be a "given."

With all that said, I really do like this figure very much. The costume and head sculpt are a nice tribute to the original Mego Batman. I guess it's just frustrating that it would take so little (it seems) to make this figure (and other Retro-Action figures) a complete "homerun." Although original Megos had a certain "clunky charm," the problems with the new Mattel body do not fall under "clunky charm" territory, so to speak. Some of Mego's design choices may have been questionable (oven mitts), but their base bodies held pretty much any pose you put them in. We should expect no less from Mattel... and for the asking price, we deserve no less.

2010 Retro-Action Batman (left) with orginal removable cowl Mego Batman

Look Ma, no cowls! ... and one of us is baking cookies.

Retro-Action Batman sans cowl...WAIT, Bruce Wayne is Batman?!!


60'schild said...

Well done sir.. a fair and balanced review (a rare thing to be sure, on the Net). Careful... you might accidentally start a trend!

Brian B said...

Nice review.

I have only seen one of these "new Mego's" out and about and it was Superman. I hope I can find one of these.

At first glance the cowless figure has a slight hint to Adam West in his appearance. At least that is how it struck me.

I like that you have the side by side photos of the figures for comparison too.
As I looked through the pictures for the second time I had to chuckle at something I noticed. The original Batman wore briefs whereas the new Batman goes for a french cut style look. Lol!

chunky B said...

Very nicely done review, I appreciate all the comparison photos and once again the photos are terrific.

guenter said...

Thanks for information.
Great pictures.
Now i am looking for the BOY-WONDER ;-)