Bootleg Heroes
Posted 10/11/00

For years, Asian and European manufacturers have produced knock off versions of popular toys.  These are usually referred to as 'bootlegs', and are often cheaply made imitations of favorite comic book and movie heroes.

A whole sub genre of collecting has resulted - the collecting of odd and unique bootleg figures.  These collections can be quite extensive, and often feature some truly unusual items.  Also, it's usually a fairly inexpensive habit, as bootlegs are normally quite cheap, and often available at flea markets, dollar stores, and other lower end venues.

The quality of these figures is usually very low.  But there are exceptions.  One of the best known is the Iceman figure produced for a line called X-Team.  What's being ripped off here is pretty plain, but the figure certainly isn't.

The size of this figure is interesting.  The normal X-men figures of the period were 5", but this figure is larger, between 6-7".  The quality of the plastic is actually quite good, and the clear look well executed.  He comes with a silly ass blaster, another common occurrence with bootleg figures.  Often the figure is packed with some sort of accessory that is from a completely different figure.

There was also a Storm figure produced in this line, and although she's good for a bootleg, she doesn't compare on the coolness meter with Iceman. 

One of the reasons the quality on most of these figures is so poor is that the molds are not produced from a sculpted figure, but from another toy itself.  This process produces molds that are not as detailed or defined as the original.  Therefore, most bootleg figures look like fuzzy versions of the originals.

X-men figures have not been bootlegged quite as often as Batman though.  Just about every line of Batman figures has had a corresponding bootleg line, including Batman: The Animated Series, Total Justice, and Legends of the Dark Knight.  Interestingly, they usually only produce Batman and Robin bootlegs, with any villains very rare.  They seem to be following Hasbro's lead on that one.

One of the better sets was the ripoff of the Legends of the Dark Knight line, called the Legends Extreme Bat Knight.  These figures matched several of the actual figures from that line, and while they were clearly made from the figures themselves, the quality is still above average.

One of the things that set this line apart is that there are actually pictures on the back of the card of other figures from the line.  This is very unusual for bootlegs, as the packaging is normally very cheap, with no printing on the back of the card at all.

Only four figures were produced - Dive Claw Robin, Assault Gauntlet Batman, Spline Cape Batman and Neural Claw Batman.  As is the norm, no villains were made.

While this is one of the better sets, Batman has had his share of truly God awful bootlegs produced.  Two of those are pictured below - Total Justice and Bat Hero Companion.

The Total Justice line is obviously intended as a rip of same said line, but had a weird combination of movie based bootlegs and animated show bootlegs.  None of the bootlegs were actually from the Total Justice line.  On top of that, on the back of the card is pictured the series from the early Animated Series line.  Why they would do that, I have no idea.  There is actually another set of bootleg Total Justice figures that ARE actually based on that line - that's what makes this set so unusual!

Bat Hero Companion was one of the more prolific bootleg lines, having quite a few animated series Batman and Robin figures, including some done in two packs.  The quality of the figures and accessories is pretty good, although the cards are extremely cheap.  Still, they are very obvious bootlegs, having that 'fuzzy' look to their sculpts.  The one I have pictured above also has the D.U.O. Force label on the front.

Bootlegs aren't limited to smaller figures either.  To the right you can see a fairly nice Batman bootleg, based on the characters from Batman and Robin.  It doesn't have any sort of name, but the use of the recognizable symbol and actors give it away.  These are above average in their execution, and rare since it isn't obvious what production figure they actually stole the sculpts from.

There was also a Robin done in this line, and the sculpting on it is slightly better.  They come with silly, inappropriate accessories, but that's just part of the charm of bootlegs.

Batman and X-men aren't the only figures that get appropriated by the less-than-ethical.  Any popular figure is likely to be ripped, and I've seen bootlegs of Pokeman, Dragonball Z, Barney, Simpsons, and Star Wars.  The Star Wars bootlegs, called Galaxy Wars, are quite highly sought after, since Lucas does such an excellent job of sniffing the manufacturers out and shutting them down quickly.

To the left you'll see a Spiderman bootleg, with the actual name being used on the card art.  This Carnage figure is of extremely poor quality though, and is far scarier looking than he was intended to be.  This kind of bootleg, where everything is copied from the name of the line to the name of the character, and even the name of the TV show, is rare because of the legal implications.  Using the exact card art like this opens them up even more to being sued, and so most bootleg companies will use other toy names in an attempt to mask reality.

Some of the more unique examples I've seen of this include Bat Hero, the often used but straight forward Super Hero, and BatmEn the Animated Movie.

Finally, bootleg toys aren't limited to figures.  To the right you can see a very nice example of a bootleg Batmobile - Super Bat Car.  This is a radio controlled car, based on the design from the first two movies.

Collecting bootlegs can be fun and exciting, and you can find some very unusual items.  There are several websites out there devoted to these orphaned toys, and if you're interested in finding out more check out two of the better ones:

The Island of Bootleg Toys -

Bootleg Toys the Undiscovered Playthings -

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