One of the big events for 2003 is the release
of new Batman and Superman toys under the new ownership of Mattel.
Hasbro had the license for many years now,
well over a decade. People loved some of it, hated quite a bit of the
rest, but constantly wondered what it would be like if another company
snagged the license away.
Now, we get to see what happens.
Mattel has picked it up, and have released the very first in what is likely
to be many, many DC superheroes - The Justice League.
The cartoon has been fairly popular,
certainly enough to justify a line by now. But Hasbro had other things
on their mind and their plates, and it never happened. Mattel is using
this show as their very first foray into the license.
There are initially four figures - Batman,
Superman, Green Lantern and Flash. Two more are pictured on the back
(and necessary for the overall base - more on that later), Wonder Woman and Martian
Manhunter. Hawkgirl is likely at some point, and Aquaman would be
another obvious choice.
These are hitting Targets first, retailing
Packaging - ***
The card backs are fairly small, only about half the size of the old Hasbro
style. The graphics are great though, very eye catching and
distinct. Using images of the animated characters, along with a psuedo-embossed
Justice League label at the top, Mattel has managed to put together a nice
looking, easy to store (for the MOCers), sturdy package.
Sculpting - ***1/2
The style of these are very much like the maquettes - static poses.
Each of the four stands on his own, even though the animated style of the
JLA show means small feet, tiny ankles and huge torsos.
The sculpting is solid, with
the characters matching the source material, with an appropriate amount of
detail. I'm particularly happy to see no sign of any ridiculous,
constipated action poses or face sculpts. I like the style of the
maquettes, so for a first offering, that's fine by me.
Of course, once we get through
the initial figures, you'd assume they style of the sculpt would alter as
The scale is also fairly close
to what we're already used to. They may seem a little smaller to you
at first, but much of that is due to the smaller card back and the thin legs
and ankles. In reality, they are very close to the same scale as
previous lines, particularly when you take the style of the JLA show into
account. The figures look great on the shelf along side previous
lines. I've included some photos at the bottom to give you a
Paint - **1/2
Mattel appears to be using the same people on their paint ops as
Hasbro. While they aren't as awful as that last Batgirl Hasbro put
out, they are certainly sloppier than the competition seems to be capable
There's at least some bleed and fuzziness on the lines on
every figure. I looked through a whole case, and while some were
better than others, it's clear that getting the lines straight wasn't a top
priority. Flash has the most problems, with the yellow and red having
The colors themselves were consistent however, both on the
bodies and on the capes. Large expanses of red, black and blue can be
tough to keep even in tone, but they've done a decent job here.
Articulation - **1/2
Again taking a page from the Hasbro bible, Mattel has provided five points -
neck, shoulders and hips. Perhaps we'll see some cut elbows, wrists
and other joints on future releases, but for now you'll have to be satisfied
with the same articulation you've had since Super Powers.
Accessories - **
I suppose you could argue that these figures don't need accessories, but
I'm not buying it. There's certainly plenty of items from the show
they could provide, and even giving them some pieces to build a larger
diorama (other than these silly foot stands) would have been great.
Instead, we get zippo in the accessories department, except for a foot
stand that spells out Justice League across the front when all the figures
are together, and a small motion card that attached to the base as
well. Since without Wonder Woman and MM, you can't even put the entire
name together, it seems like a pretty silly idea.
Value - **1/2
Hasbro DC Superheroes have been $5 - $7 for some time, depending on the
retailer and the line. Therefore, the $7 price tag on the new line
isn't particularly surprising. However, it's a far worse value than
we've been accustomed to.
Why? Because of the lack of accessories. Sure, Hasbro didn't
always do a very good job of figuring out appropriate accessories, but at
least they took a shot at it. Kids like extras, and so do I.
Without them, and with such a steep price, Mattel seems to be targeting
collectors with these, and I'm not sure that ignoring kids is a wise move.
Perhaps we'll see some decent accessories once we get past this first
series and the silly foot base.
Overall - ***
Some people have been treating the Mattel acquisition of the DC license
as the second coming of Jesus Christ. That was expecting far too much.
Mattel and Hasbro aren't all that different, at least when
it comes to the bottom line. As huge companies, they are going to
treat the license in a similar manner, and it's not surprising to see what
Mattel is doing.
Still, it's absolutely wonderful for the big DC fans to see
these figures back on the shelf. After years of repaints and re-issues
by Hasbro, with only the occasional new figure, it looks like we'll get a resurgence
in animated figures from Mattel, at least for a little while. I'm
going to be picking them up, and I can't wait to see how they do with
Hawkgirl and MM, two of my favorite JLA figures.
Where to Buy -
Target is the first store to pick them up, although I'm betting both
Wal-mart and TRU will be carrying them soon. I haven't found an
on-line retailer with them yet, so let me know what you see!
I've got some photos down below that show the group
together, and with other animated style figures. Enjoy!
Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.