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Superman
Retro-Action DC Superheroes

Retro Action DC Superheroes Superman action figure by Mattel


If you're a child of the 70's, you'll remember Mego. Done in an 8" scale with cloth outfits, these action figures covered just about every license of the day, from Star Trek to the Planet of the Apes, with the one painful exception of Star Wars. Let that be a lesson to you, Marty.

Not only did they do licensed characters, but they covered cowboys and indians, knights, and other historic heroes. But perhaps their most popular figures were the superheroes, from both Marvel and DC. They are the last company to be able to produce action figures in the same scale and style at the same time for both comic book giants, and these figures are in high demand with nostalgic collectors today.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of retro style figures based on this 8" scale and style. Companies such as Cast-Away and EMCE have been bringing nostalgic versions back to market, with a fair amount of success.

Mattel recently partnered up with EMCE to produce a new series of DC based heroes to be sold at mass market. The first wave of these hit Toys R Us last week, and includes Green Lantern, Sinestro, Green Arrow (actually, while he's technically part of the first wave, he was sold through Matty Collector), Lex Luthor and Superman. I grabbed a Superman to check out, and being the total Batman fool that I am, you know I'll be picking up all the Bat-verse characters they do as well.
Retro Action DC Superheroes Superman action figure by Mattel
Retro Action DC Superheroes Superman action figure by Mattel
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Retro Action DC Superheroes Superman action figure by Mattel
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Retro Action DC Superheroes Superman action figure by Mattel
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Retro Action DC Superheroes Superman action figure by Mattel
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Retro Action DC Superheroes Superman action figure by Mattel
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Retro Action DC Superheroes Superman action figure by Mattel

These run $20 each, and you should be able to find them in the TRU aisle with DC Universe Classics.

Packaging - ***1/2
One of the coolest aspects of the EMCE re-creations of the Mego Star Trek line was the artwork on the packaging. In fact, for new characters who had not be created in the original series such a Sulu, they commissioned the original artist to produce new artwork to match the old style!  Now THAT was some smokin' hot packaging.

Mattel did a similar thing here, and included 70's style comic book art for the characters pictured on the front and back of the card. It's a great touch, and I suspect that there will be quite a few collectors - even die-hard openers - that keep these figures mint on card for display.

Sculpting - ***1/2
When you're looking at these, you need to keep 'retro' in mind. These aren't supposed to be modern - they really are your daddy's action figures.

That doesn't mean there shouldn't be improvements, but the upgrades should maintain the traditional flavor. This new head sculpt is a great example.

Superman has a very George Reeves vibe here, with the addition of the golden age hair curl just for good measure. With the hair curl, this figure also looks more than a little like Christopher Reeves, although it's more of a resemblance than a portrait.

While the head is still hollow like the old Mego version, the sculpting is sharper, with greater depth and definition to the details. I particularly like the hair, with it's finely sculpted strand patterns.

The hands are sculpted in a loose grip, useful for many poses. He stands 8" tall, perfect to add to the shelf with your Megos, EMCEs, Cast-A-Ways, and Flatts.

Paint - ***
There's not a whole lot to say in this category. There are very few paint ops - hair, eyebrows, eyes, that's about it. What's here is fairly clean if simple, and fits with the overall retro styling.

Articulation - **1/2
The underlying body is all new construction since the days of Mego, and as such should be theoretically light years (or at least miles) ahead of the decades old Mego body. Sadly, that's not really the case.

The body uses a similar internal rubber band construction, with a similar number of points of articulation. There's a cut neck, pin elbows, ankles and knees, post/disc wrists, and a traditional ball jointed waist.

The two major issues are the floppy hips, which seem to be a common issue across the line, and the too tight band in the torso, which forces him into a hunched position.

If you'd like to correct the hunchback issue, check out Spy Magician's article over at Action Figure Insider, where he details a very simple process to give him a nice posture once again.

There's also a couple minor issues, largely around the joints that are a bit lacking. For example, there's no real reason the neck had to be a cut joint, and a basic ball or pin would have been much appreciated. Also, without any sort of cut bicep or post joint on the bicep side of the shoulder, or even a post/disc type elbow, there's no ability to turn the arms in toward the body. This is another pretty basic move that I think most modern collectors will expect. It's also something that is present with the Cast-A-Way 8" body.

Then again, if you don't take this guy out of the package, you probably won't care.

Accessories - Bupkis
Nope, you won't be getting anything for Supes here. Some of the other figures - like Green Lantern - do have an extra item, but Supes got stiffed. I suppose the excuse is that he didn't have an accessory back in the day either, so why provide one now, but let's face it - sometimes trying to match nostalgia is more about cost than concept.

Outfit - ***1/2
Like the sculpt, they've tried to capture as much of the original Mego look without the inherent quality issues of old.

The blue and red suit is held in place with large plastic snaps in back. Something a bit less obtrusive would have been nice, but fortunately the cape hides them pretty well. The suit is made from high quality material, and appears to be far less prone to snagging then the old rayon type outfits.

The cape is sewn in at the neck, much like its ancestor, but the stitching and thread are very strong. As in the past, the cape is nylon and sticks up at the shoulders, but this time they hemmed the edge to avoid the unraveling and fraying that was so common with the old toys.

The S on both the cape and chest look terrific, and they are properly sized. This is particularly important with the chest emblem, which (like the old days) covers most of his pecs.

Finally, there's the boots. The old version was made from a hard plastic, which often cracked and which was extremely attractive to cats and dogs, who loved to chew on them. These are made from a thicker, softer rubber, and they slide on and off very smoothly. Cracking is far less an issue now, although I'm betting Fido would still love to get his canines on these.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
Contrary to some folks belief, kids do care very much if an action figure has trouble standing on its own. You can't knock a figure down if it can't stand up. Because of the floppy hips and wonky waist, I'm deducting slightly here.

That being said, these are still great toys, just like their predecessors. I suspect that the production numbers on these, especially the first wave or two, are going to be so low that most of them will end up with collectors, but it's nice to know that they are just as good at being toys as they are at sparking nostalgia.

Value - **1/2
Without an accessory, Supes is definitely pushing it. Twenty bucks at Toys R Us should get you more than an 8" action figure, but sadly, that's not the case right now. I almost dropped this to a slightly below average ** rating, but then remember that the old 9" Famous Covers figures were pushing $15 each as singles, and that was almost ten years ago.

Things to Watch Out For -
Not much. As I posted above, there's a good fix out there for the mid-torso joint problems, and you could also pick up one of the Cast-A-Way bodies and do a swap pretty easily if you are bothered enough by the underlying articulation. One warning though - sometimes the Cast-A-Way bodies can have issues with the bands as well, but they do have more articulation (particularly in the arms ans waist) than these. And they only cost $8 a pop.

Overall - ***
While I'm not thrilled with the underlying body, I have to admit that seeing these on the pegs was mightily cool. I'm not in for the entire line...I don't think...but I will be snagging everyone of the Batman related releases, and this is one of those rare occasions where I'll be keeping them mint on card.

If you do open them though, share them with the kids in your life. While you might think they'll view them as silly, you could get a very pleasant surprise - great toys like these can transcend generational changes.

And also if you open them up, I'd recommend working on the underlying body, or replacing it. The short inner band is the one issue holding this guy back from an additional half star overall. Add that little plastic tube, or pop him on a better body, and you'll be much happier.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - **1/2
Accessories - Bupkis
Outfit - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***

Where to Buy -
Your best bet for picking these up is Toys R Us, although Matty Collector sold the first one, Green Arrow, through their site.

Related Links -
There are other 8 - 9" figures in this style floating around out there:

- as I mentioned, Cast-A-Way has been doing some, including the Phantom, Dr Evile and Captain Action.

- and back in the distant past, we saw the Famous Covers 9" series, with characters like Red Skull and Carnage, Storm, Wolverine, Toad and many more.

- Not to be outdone, Hasbro did some 9" figures based on DC, including Batman and Penguin, Joker, Superman Blue, Martian Manhunter and Batman Beyond.

- they even did a few NASCAR drivers!

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Retro Action DC Superheroes Superman action figure by Mattel


This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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