Secret Files Series 2 - Unmasked
Batman, Batgirl, Superman,
Martian Manhunter and Red Hood

The second wave of the DC Direct action figure series called Secret Files hit stores this week.  The first series you might remember was the Batman Rogues Gallery set, released back in August of 2005.

This set is called Unmasked!, and gives fans something they've been looking for a long time - secret identity versions of some of their favorite characters.  We get a Bruce Wayne/Batman, Clark Kent/Superman, Barbara Gordan/Batgirl, and, well, a couple slightly odd birds as well - Martian Manhunter/J'onn J'onnz and Red Hood/Joker.

There's heavy re-use here, and I'll do my best to point out differences from the previous places you've seen some of these 'parts'.  They retail for around $15, but some comic shops may charge as much as $20.  Batgirl is the technical shortpack, only coming when stores order inner cases of full sets, so you may find her slightly more expensive than the others. 

Packaging -  ***
I'm breaking two traditions in this category tonight.  First, I generally complain about the dull and interesting artwork on DC Direct packaging, and I'm not doing that.  Here we actually see some creative work that's eye catching and makes sense.

Second, I usually prefer boxes or clamshells to cardback/bubble packages, but I'm not going to complain about that either.  I'm willing to live with this style if the appearance of the package improves.

Sculpting - ***
All five of these figures sport newly sculpted heads, but re-used bodies.  Each of the alternate heads pops on and off pretty easily, but just about all of them have some slight difference in how they connect.  All but Manhunter are ball jointed, some have the peg attachment on the head, some on the torso, etc.  However, they all pop on and off pretty easily with little risk of damage.

Bruce Wayne has perhaps my favorite head, although the regular Joker head is fairly cool as well.  The regular Batman head looks decent, but with that head on this body, you just have the Hush Batman repainted.  Actually, considering the popularity of this paint scheme, that might be something you want, but I think most folks will be displaying this figure with the Bruce sculpt.  One other change to the body is the symbol, which had a sculpted outline in the Hush series, but here has a tampo symbol.  

He does appear to have a slight smile, but not so much as to be silly.  His look is also more 'animated' than comic book perhaps, and really seems to me to be an amalgamation of the two styles.

Batman's hood is sculpted as a separate piece.  It is made of soft rubber, and hangs down over the cape.  When you pop the head off, it can be removed as well.  You can actually take it off with the Bruce version, and have him hold it around one arm, which makes for a neat display.  Had he actually gotten a grasping hand that could hold it, it would have been perfect, but both hands are sculpted as closed fists.

Batgirl is on the body from the old Silver Age version, and it looks to me like the regular head sculpt is also from that figure.  She's lost the purse, and has a new paint scheme, but otherwise is the same figure.  Her alternate head also sports the sculpted hood intertwined with her hair.  Unlike Batman, hers is part of the head sculpt and not removable.

The regular Joker head is a nice sculpt, and for the life of me I don't remember seeing this exact sculpt before.  I'm thinking it's new, but someone will be sure to correct me.  The detail work on the hair and teeth is very nice, and it's a more 'traditional' look.  The Red Hood version includes the cape as part of the one complete piece, and while it's a pretty basic design, it looks pretty good.  I'll be displaying him with the Red Hood head on.  BTW, that body is from the Hush series 3 Alfred figure, again repainted.

With the 'regular' Martian Manhunter head in place, what you really have is the equivalent to the Martian Manhunter released by DC year's ago.  Swap to the more alien head, and you get a new look for him.  Since I have the old one around, I'll be displaying him with the slightly more alien head.  Of course, it seems odd that his head is like this, but the body is not altered.  There is one other change though from the original MM body, as this one has a soft rubber cape.  I like that better than the original.

Finally, there's that young reporter, Clark Kent.  The Clark head is new, but with only one hair style, adding the glasses looks even MORE like Superman in glasses than usual.  DC continues their streak with glasses for their figures, with another set that's oversized, fragile, and sit funny on his face.  *sigh*

I can't recall any time we've gotten this body from DC Direct before, but again, I'm sure someone will correct me.  The thing that's really throwing me is the articulation, since I don't remember a suited DC Direct figure with cut biceps.  The body sculpt looks good, and the removable soft rubber shirt looks good on, and comes off easily.  I wish his arms could actually reach his jacket/shirt, to pose him pulling them open, but I'll end up going for the next best pose, glasses in hand, but shirt torn open, transforming into Supes.

The scale on these is really 7".  Both Supes and Batman are just a squidge under 7", and the do fit in very nicely with lines like the Hush series.  That should be no surprise considering that the Joker's Body and Bats body are from the Hush series.  Batgirl is smaller - the Silver Age figures were closer to a 6" scale.  However, that's not a bad thing, since the female figures in many of these lines tend to be way too tall.  Here, Batgirl fits in fairly well with the other male figures.

You might notice that this Batman looks a little taller than the Hush version.  That's because this Bruce head sculpt sits higher on the neck post that then old Hush head sculpt did.

Paint - ***1/2
I suspect some folks won't like all the color schemes, such s the metallic gold on Batgirl's belt, but in terms of general quality, this set is extremely good.

That's a good sign too.  Remember, it wasn't that long ago that collectors were up in arms over the shoddy paint jobs.  Now this is three series in a row that I've seen that have shown improved overall quality and most importantly, consistency.

But as I said, color schemes might be a problem for some.  I don't mind the rather gaudy metallic gold on Batgirl's belt, but the green on MM is lighter than the original, and lighter than I really would prefer.  You're personal preferences in this area may effect your score more than it effects someone else's.

Also worth noting is the metallic finish on the interior of both Batgirl and MM's capes.  It is a nice contrast to the flatter exterior side of the cape.

Articulation - Clark, Bruce, Red Hood ***; Batgirl **1/2; MM **
The level of articulation varies across this line, but since most of the bodies came from different lines, that isn't much of a surprise.

Clark has a ball jointed neck, connected up under the jaw.  It has a good range of movement, and looks decent as well.  He has cut shoulders, pin elbows and knees, a T crotch, and cut wrists.  No waist of course.  I do wish I could pose him tearing off the shirt, but different shoulders would have been required to do that.

Bruce also has a ball jointed neck, and it's also connected under the jaw.  Again, it has excellent range of movement.  He has ball jointed shoulders with limited movement, pin elbows and knees, cut forearms at the glove tops, and the DC Direct version of the T crotch.  Oddly, I have more trouble getting this version to stand than the regular Hush version.

Red Hood/Joker has a ball jointed neck with the Joker head, but not with the hood of course.  He has the T crotch, pin elbows and knees, cut shoulders and cut wrists as well.

Batgirl has a ball jointed neck with either head, but the movement is limited by the hair. She has ball jointed shoulders, but again, the movement is severely limited.  She also has pin elbows and knees, a T crotch, and cut forearms at the gloves.

Martian Manhunter has the least amount of articulation, since his body is based on the oldest DC Direct figure of the bunch.  He has a cut neck, ball jointed shoulers (with a very limited range of movement), pin elbows and knees, and a T crotch.  You'll notice no cuts at the boots, no cut wrists, and certainly no waist joint.

Accessories - **
After getting some cool accessories with the Long Halloween set, we go back to the usual here.

Each figure comes with a display base, emblazoned with the "unmasked" logo.  There are also pegs to attach the feet.

Four of the five figures also comes with two heads.  Batgirl has the masked and unmasked, Batman has the masked and unmasked, Red Hood has the masked and unmasked, and Martian Manhunter has the ugly and slightly more ugly.

The problem is that we've already got most of the extra heads.  It's unlikely that the Batman head, Batgirl head, or Joker head are going to get much use - and if they do, the alternate heads go to waste.  There may be some collectors that really do appreciate the original MM head, since they may have missed out on this older figure.  But the other three don't add a lot of additional value.

Clark actually has two accessories, his glasses and shirt front.  The shirt front is nice, but the glasses are better off held in his hand, and not worn on his face.

Batgirl also has one additional accessory, the batarang from the Silver Age version.  It's a reuse though, and one that's not doing a lot for me.  Perhaps it's good that they skipped the purse this time though.

Value - *1/2
If these were new figures at $15, they'd get a **1/2 star score at best considering the lack of accessories.

However, these aren't new figures, and DC Direct has reused molds to create these figures.  While you might not paying that, since these are characters you might want to add to the shelf, it's certainly not as good a value when they cost as much as a newly sculpted character.

Fun Factor - MM, Batman **1/2; Batgirl, Red Hood, Clark **
While these aren't the most articulated figures, they are well made and for the most part, would hold up to a normal play situation.  Kids are unlikely to be drawn to Red Hood, and even Clark is likely to bore them, but someone like J'onn J'onnz is sure to catch their eye. 

Things to watch out for - 
It's always good to watch the paint apps if you can, even with the improvement in quality.  You'll want to take care with Clark's glasses as well, and Bruce's rubber hood has a fairly thin section that wraps around the neck, that could tear easily.  Other than that, you should be good to go!

Overall -  Bruce, Clark, Red Hood ***; MM, Batgirl **1/2
In general, this set is unlikely to generate too much excitement.  It's a nifty idea, but in reality, only the Clark and Bruce are likely to be big sellers.  With the heavy re-use, figures like J'onn and Barbara won't stand out too well on the shelf, but the continued improvement in paint ops is a good sign.

This is one of those series that's not terrible, but not exciting.  Lots of people will want one or two for sure - for example, if you missed out on the first MM, you may pick him up, or if you're a Bat-fan you'll probably grab Bruce - but as an overall series, there won't be a lot of jumping up and down.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - Clark, Bruce, Red Hood ***; Batgirl **1/2; MM **
Accessories - **
Fun Factor - MM, Batman **1/2; Batgirl, Red Hood, Clark **
Value - *1/2
Overall -  Bruce, Clark, Red Hood ***; MM, Batgirl **1/2

Where to Buy -
You can pick these up at comic shops, or online at:

- Circle Red has the for just $50 for the full set, or $13 - $15 for the individuals.

- Alter Ego Comics has the full set for just $50 as well.

- YouBuyNow has a good price on the individual figures at just $12 each.

- Amazing Toyz has the individuals for $12 - $13 depending on the character, or the set for $55.

- CornerStoreComics has the set for $55, or the individual figures for $14.

- Yikes Comics has the individuals for $15 each, including Batgirl, or the set for $60.

Related Links:
DC Direct has had quite a few Batman related figures and lines in recent months:

- most recently, they released the first series of Elseworlds figures, and the Long Halloween set.

- The Public Enemies line included Batman of course.

- The Alex Ross version of Batman was definitely a collector favorite.

- Last summer we got the Rogue's Gallery series.

- and of course my favorites, the series 1 (where the Batman body comes from), series 2 and series 3 (where the Alfred body came from ) Hush figures.

- if you are wondering about Batgirl, here's the review of the SA version where her body originated.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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