DC Superheroes
Parasite and Steel

The DC Superheroes line from Mattel seems to be doing quite well, despite some odd case packs. For example, this latest wave (another Superman wave) includes Superman (again), Bizarro (again), and the Superman variant (again), along with a repainted Doomsday, Supergirl, Steel and Parasite. And yet, the new figures are short packed...and there's actually cases shipping that have none of the new figures in them!

I managed to find the Parasite and Steel so far, but I'm still on the hunt for Doomsday and Supergirl. Steel actually comes in three varieties as well. One has a silver vac-metalized "S" on his chest, and is the one I'm reviewing tonight. One has a brass or bronze colored vac-metallized "S" (I have not seen one in person yet though, so it's still a rumor at this point), and the other bears a gray "S" that matches the rest of his body. Oh, and yes, the Supergirl is a new sculpt, so don't go thinking they've just re-issued the earlier one.

You should be able to find these at big retailers like Toys R Us and Target eventually, but they're just trickling out now. Expect to pay around $10 each, depending on the retailer.

Packaging - ***
While the packaging isn't particularly innovative, I do like the switch to the new color scheme. They've also included photos on the back of the various figures in the wave, which is always helpful for the casual buyer to see what else might be available.

The backgrounds for the dioramas are also figured prominently behind the figure, making each package slightly more individualized, another big plus in my book. Sure, there aren't completely unique backgrounds for each character, but the few they have give them a little more diversity.

Sculpting - Steel ****; Parasite ***1/2
I'm assuming - though I haven't called for actual confirmation - that the Four Horsemen did both sculpts here. That's pretty obvious to even the casual observer, because both of them are excellent.

I love the face sculpt on Parasite. Yes, you can do an exaggerated open mouth without it looking ridiculous, and here's the proof. The expression works with the character and with most of the poses you'll give him. The body sculpt is slightly unique, with the ball jointed shoulders pushed forward and down on the torso. This gives him a more hulking, hunched appearance, even when he's standing up straight.

Steel looks even better, with a fantastic body sculpt right down to every last rivet. Every detail on this figure is terrific, from the gauntlet to the boots, right down to the huge "S" symbol riveted to his chest. This is easily my favorite sculpt on this character that we've ever gotten.

I'm a little iffy on the plastic cape. Generally, I can take them or leave them, and in this scale I generally prefer the plastic. Cloth would have probably been too thin and not hung quite right, so I'm betting that we're better off with the plastic/rubber version.

Paint - ***
The paint on these isn't quite as good as the sculpt however. Still, it's above average for a mass market line.

Steel is actually well above average in terms of quality. The paint ops are clean and neat, with great consistency in the gray and silver pieces of armor. There's not much small detail work outside of the eyes, but that's fine and works perfectly with his overall design.

The reason I'm knocking him down in this category is that damn big silver "S". That high gloss metal version of the S is just too much visually, and throws off the look of the entire character. I know they were trying to throw some visual punch in there, but they over did it. It's not God awful, but I think the version with the matte silver S is probably going to be more popular with most folks.

Parasite actually does have a few quality issues, most notably with the white bands on his suit. These aren't consistent in their coverage, and the lower color shows through in some areas. Also, these were painted first, then assembled, so the seams along the sides of the body are extremely obvious when they cross the white bands. I love the choice of colors, but the general quality is lower here than on some of the other figures we've seen in this line.

Articulation - ***
Mattel has managed to get the articulation to *almost* the right spot. You want enough to be able to pose and play, but not too much so that it ruins the appearance or makes play frustrating. With the joints supplied, they're just about there.

Parasite has a ball jointed neck, but the neck sculpt is soooo fat that the head operates as if it were a cut joint. The ball jointed shoulders work great though, with joints on both sides of the ball, and full movement around both. The elbows and knees are single pin joints, and the waist is a cut joint. His pin chest joint actually works, unlike some earlier attempts by other companies, and allows him to hunch over or lean way back.

His wrists are just cut joints, but the ankles are pins. He tops off his articulation with the somewhat unique DCSH hips. They've also improved these with some slight engineering changes. Owners of early series figures know that they tended to only stand in wide stances, and the legs couldn't really be brought inward together. That's gotten much better here, and the legs can be in a normal standing pose, or in a much deeper stance. The him joints also allow for decent forward and backward movement, and both of these figures can actually sit in a chair or on the edge of a shelf quite easily. The big advantage with these hips (now that they've been slightly redesigned) is that they have almost all the range of movement of a ball joint, yet look far, far better to the eye.

The only downside still is that the hips are a bit too loose. While the legs can hold different stances, the body weight tends to want to pull them into deeper stances over time. Tighten up those hips, and give us a better ball jointed neck, and these will be pushing four star scores.

Steel has a better ball jointed neck than Parasite, since his sculpt is less restrictive. It's still not great though, and this is an area that needs a little improvement. His ball jointed shoulders are every bit as good as Parasites, but the shoulder armor does restrict the arms from moving up or out from the body too far.

He sports the single pin elbows, knees and ankles as well, along with the pin chest, cut wrists and cut waist. And yes, his hips work as well as Parasites (and look as good), but have the same issue with being loose.

He adds one extra point of articulation to each leg in a thigh cut. I'm not sure why they left it off Parasite, since he actually has sculpted bands on his upper thighs that would have hidden the cut, but it's a nice extra for Steel. (EDIT:  The word on the street is that he does have cut thighs at the bands, but I sure as Hell can't get mine to budge...) 

The rubber hose that runs down the outside of both legs is soft enough that it provides very little interference with any of his leg articulation.

Accessories - Steel ***; Parasite **
This is the one category where both these figures come up a bit short. 

Both figures come with cardboard dioramas. These were included in wave 3 as well, but disappeared with wave 4. They're back again, and I like them for photos. They make nice backdrops for close ups. But that doesn't mean they work all that well on the shelf, and I'll be the first to admit that you won't see the figures on display in my collection standing on these things. Of course, it doesn't help that these aren't completely unique from character to character, and instead like characters share the same exact background.

That's it for Parasite, hence his lower score. Sure, he's not a big weapons kind of guy, but I'm sure with all the creative juices flowing over there at Mattel, they could have come up with something.

Steel does go one better though, including his big ol' hammer. It's an interesting design, leaning more towards medieval mace/spear than hammer, and the spiky half ball on top is unusual. But it fits well in his hands, and looks pretty impressive when he's wielding it menacingly.

Steel's cape is not removable, making it part of the overall figure rather than an accessory.

Fun Factor - ****
Wow, who would have thunk it - you can make great mass market toys that kids will love AND collectors too. Parasite and Steel are going to look fantastic on your shelf with Superman, Batman, Supergirl and the rest of the line up, and little Billy is going to have a great time battling it out with these figures as well. Kudos to Mattel for producing some of the best DC based TOYS we've ever seen. Now if they could just manage to follow this pattern with their movie based figures.

Value - **1/2
The $10 price tag has become the new average in mass market lines. You shouldn't be happy about it, but it is what it is. With very little in the way of accessories, these are a pretty average value on the current market.

Things to Watch Out For - 
When you grab them off the self, in the highly unlikely event that you have multiples to choose from, watch for the best paint on Parasite. Oh, and don't forget that Steel also comes with the flat gray "S" symbol, a look I think works far, far better for him. Other than that, you should be good to go!

Overall - ***1/2
Like Darkseid and Brainiac, this is another terrific pair of figures in the DCSH line up. For the money, this is the best DC line we have going right now, and displayed together they look terrific. Sure, individual figures have their individual issues, and some are much better than others, but as a whole I'm extremely happy with the series.

Wave 6 should be bringing us some more Batman themed figures, and I personally can't wait til Toy Fair to see what Mattel has in store for us in 2007.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - Steel ****; Parasite ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Steel ***; Parasite **
Value -  **1/2
Fun Factor - ****
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
Retailers like Toys R Us and Target are going to be stocking these soon, along with regional retailers like Meijers.

Related Links - 
I've covered quite a bit of the line so far:

- last up was the 12" version of the smaller Batman.

- in this smaller line, the fourth series was Superman themed, with Brainiac and Darkseid. There's also the Batgirl and Superman from the two packs. 

- there's the guest review of series 3 Batman and Azrael.

- a guest review of series 2 Doomsday, and another of the series 2 Superman.

- my review of the series 2 Bizarro and Supergirl.

- my review of the Batman and Killer Croc from wave 1.

- and finally, my review of Bane and Scarecrow that were released internationally as part of the old Mattel line, and then re-released with wave 1 of the DCSH.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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