Superman Returns
Super Breath Supes and Clark-to-Superman

With all the success of the Marvel based movies, and last year's Batman Begins, it should be no surprise to see Superman coming to the big screen once again.  Whether or not this film is a Batman Begins hit or a Catwoman litter box will remain to be seen, but the toys are already hitting, and it's time to pass judgment on them.

I picked up two of the five available in this first assortment.  I'll be reviewing Clark to Superman (a quick change/secret identity figure), and Super Breath Superman.  Expect a guest review of Kryptonite Smash Supes, X-Ray Vision Supes, and Wall Blast Supes in the coming days.

These retail for around $7 or $8 each, depending on the retailer.  Wal-mart seems to be the first big boy to get them in, but you can expect them to show up at stores like Meijers, Target and Toys R Us very soon.

Packaging -  **
It's a traditional mass market bubble/cardback package, with a nice diecut style, but fairly weak graphics.

The backer card is also quite flimsy, thinner than most, and will probably suffer a fair amount of peg damage.  The ice and snow theme (we now that the Fortress of Solitude is featured prominently in the new film) looks good, but the shot of Supes himself, and the weak appearance of the film title, do little to catch your eye.

Sculpting - Breath Supes *1/2; Clark Supes **1/2
If you hated the Batman Begins line from Mattel, then odds are pretty good you'll hate these.  Even if, like me, you could find a few good points in the BB line, it's unlikely you'll be so kind here.

There is some good news - the head sculpt on Clark Supes (and most of the other figures) isn't a terrible Brandon Routh (the new actor portraying the man of steel), but it's not a great one either.  It's generic enough to pass in this scale, but no one is going to be wowed by the likeness.

In general, the bad news is that you get the same body (and almost the same head) on all five figures.  We saw some heavy reuse on the BB line too, but nothing quite this bad.  The hands vary on a couple of the figures, and old pucker lips, uh, Super Breath has a new head sculpt of course, but that's not necessarily a good thing.

Super Breath looks to be blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.  Or perhaps something far less innocent - it doesn't help that Routh was a guest star on Will and Grace.  And the guy's nickname is "B.J."  Really, I couldn't make up something that good.  It's just not a sculpt that anyone is going to find appealing, and since the action feature is lame as well (more on that later), it scores very poorly here.

The body sculpt is identical on both these figures, with a weird scaly looking pattern over most of the suit. I suspect they were trying to match the look of the material in the movie, but at this scale, it didn't really work.

The body proportions are extra super of course, and the hands are sculpted to use accessories that neither figure possesses.  My other issue is the cloth cape, which is attached inside the neck on the very back.  It doesn't lay well because of this cheap, quick fix method, and tends to bunch up at the shoulders.

Both figures do stand on their own, although I had warping in the right leg of both that required the legs and feet to be at a slightly odd pose to get him to stay upright.

Scale matches the previous BB line, at about 5".  At least Supes and Bats can hang out together, although Bats may pass on the opportunity.

Paint - **1/2
There's nothing special here - but nothing particularly terrible either.  This is a mass market toy from a big name company, and the basic paint ops, with some slop on the small details and poorly cut colors on the belt and symbol, are pretty par for the course.

Articulation - Breath Supes **; Clark Supes **1/2
Since the bodies are the same between these two, the articulation is almost the same.  The breathing feature takes away one joint, however.

Clark Supes has a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows and knees, hips, and a cut waist.  Nope, no wrists.  The ball jointed neck does allow some 'personality' posing, but it doesn't allow the head to move back far enough for a flying pose.

B.J. Supes (hey, it's the actor's nickname!) has one less joint, as the neck is glued solid to allow for the goofy action feature.  He also has cut shoulders, rather than ball joints.

Action Feature - Breath Supes Bupkis; Clark Supes N/A
Clark Supes doesn't have an action feature, so this category doesn't apply.

Super Breath Supes has...super breathing action!  No, it doesn't mean he uses Claritin.  Instead, his puckered lips are connected via tube to the awful looking pump on his back.  Push it in, and some air - not much - puffs out of his mouth.  It's a weak feature that really, really hurts the look of the figure.  Ugh.

Accessories - Breath Supes *1/2; Clark Supes **
SB comes with one accessory, what appears to be a Lex Luthor standee in 5" scale.  There is a small plastic clip that is supposed to keep him standing, but not so well that Halitosis Superman here can't knock him over.  Since he can't muster up much wind, the plastic stand is actually designed to barely keep the standee up.  But if you can never get the damn thing to stay standing, you just end up frustrated all the way around.

Clark to Supes does a little better, coming with a pair of shoes, pants, shirt and wig/glasses disguise.  Everything is a big oversized of course, just so it can fit on his body in this scale.  But since the wig makes the head bigger, and the clothes makes the body bigger, it actually doesn't come out TOO bad, scale-wise, once it's all on.  No one is going to mistake it for great art, but it's serviceable.

However, Mattel decided to go as cheap as humanly possible here, and made the cape permanently attached.  That means you have to tuck it all up in the back of the shirt (and/or pants), giving Clark some sort of weird Quasimodo look, and stretching the hell out of the clothes.  Since we've gotten removable capes on previous animated Batman figures (with a nice little plastic clip that just fits around the neck), the fact that Mattel opted not to do that here really hurts the score.

Fun Factor - Breath Supes *1/2; Clark Supes **
Considering the idea that these are supposed to be toys for kids, the score here is awful.  But there's not much fun to be had, especially with Super Breath.  There's a Superman superpower that I could have never seen translated into action figure form and been quite happy, thank you very much.

I suppose if he could actually push enough air to knock something over, he might be slightly amusing.  But he can't even muster that, and with the huge ugly pump on his back, will end up tossed aside by most kids pretty quickly.  Clark to Supes does a little better, and kids may enjoy dressing and undressing him a little more - but that's just not a play activity most boys get into.  Had the cape been removable, he would have looked much better in the Clark outfit, and score considerably better here.

Value - *1/2
At around $7, these really are at least a buck to high.  You're getting a ton of reuse in the figures, so you're really only getting some new accessories with each one.  Considering most only have one accessory, that's a pretty bad value.

Things to watch out for - 
Not much.  All the paint I saw looked consistently mediocre, so there's not much you can do there.

Overall -  Breath Supes *1/2; Clark Supes **
Do yourself a huge favor, and avoid Super Breath Superman at all costs.  There is no place in your collection, or in your kid's toy box, for this abomination.

The Clark to Superman figure isn't quite so gawdawful, but he's not much to look at.  The non-removable cape really hurts his ability to look even half way decent in the Clark outfit.  If you absolutely have to have a Superman to go with your Batman Begins figure, pick him up and toss the outfit.

Some people are going to say "but these are for kids so that's okay".  No.  Kids shouldn't be treated as though they are a) blind and b) stupid.  They know when something looks like a squirrel's butt, and while they might still buy it - even they fall prey to temptation when there is nothing else offered - that doesn't mean it's okay to go this cheap.  With just a little effort this line could have been miles better, but unfortunately, Mattel appears to think that kids aren't worth the effort.  Too bad that when these figures hang on the pegs for months, they'll blame video games instead of themselves. 

Packaging - **
Sculpt - Breath Supes **; Clark Supes **1/2
Paint - **1/2
Articulation - Breath Supes **; Clark Supes **1/2
Action Feature - Breath Supes Bupkis; Clark Supes N/A
Accessories - Breath Supes *1/2; Clark Supes **
Fun Factor - Breath Supes *1/2; Clark Supes **
Value - **
Overall -  Breath Supes *1/2; Clark Supes **

Where to Buy -
The first major retailer to put these out is Wal-mart.  I'm sure Toys R Us and Target will follow closely.

Related Links:
If you're looking for a good Superman action figure, try one of these:

- For a cool silver age variant, try the Composite Superman

- my current favorite is the Alex Ross Justice League version.

- or you could try one of DC Direct's earlier attempts at Superman.

- and if you'd like to see what I thought of the Mattel Batman Begins figure he's posing with, check the review here.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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