Mattel Bane and Scarecrow

Mattel's best Batman line since taking over the helm from Hasbro is easily their 6" comic based line. Oh, sure, there have been more Bat-variants than collectors like, but that's minor when you consider the quality of the Zipline Batman, Joker, Mr. Freeze and Killer Croc.

Ah, but then the movie came along, and the hype machine started up, and most of Mattel's energy - and retailer's pegs - were earmarked for Batman Begins merchandise. Mattel laid the collectors down on the table and cut their heart out - at least the U.S. based ones.

It's not quite that bad, because they did work out an arrangement with Diamond where they will be distributing the next wave in the U.S. They'll be hitting comic shops this summer, but this wave is already available overseas, and includes two very desirable villains - Bane and the Scarecrow.

Since these two villains are likely to be short packed even in the Diamond cases, I suspect it's going to be tough to get them. There are rumors floating around that Mattel might be working with a retailer in the states to get these out as an exclusive, but there's been nothing concrete yet.

I managed to get this pair from a tremendously helpful reader in Australia. I actually got them a couple weeks ago, and hemmed and hawed about opening them. See, while most of my collection is loose these days, there are some subsets that I still keep carded. I have an almost complete collection of Batman villains, all still carded or boxed, all the way back to the Mego Comic Action Heroes and Pocket Heroes of the seventies. You might be able to imagine how tough it was for me to open this pair, unsure if I'd be able to replace them. But I figured that the opportunity would arise eventually, and I wanted to get a review up sooner rather than later.

If you are one of my international readers, and can come up with this pair for me (or the super articulated deluxe Batmen that are also shipping internationally), please let me know. I'd be forever in your debt!

Packaging - ***
The packaging remains the same - although it's multi-lingual of course - and it's not bad, but no great shakes. I still like the embossed bubble including the bat signal, and there is a unique photo of each character on the back with a short description, so for mass market work it's decent.

Sculpting - Bane ***1/2; Scarecrow ****
The sculpts on both these figures are excellent, and will stand up against any of the specialty market stuff. Done by the Four Horseman, they are excellent examples of what can be done even with a mass market kid's line, that will still appeal to collectors.

Both are done in the exaggerated comic style - the Scarecrow extremely thin, and Bane more bulked up than any human could be. Of course, that fits the style and look of the overall line, and also fits in nicely with other comic lines like Marvel Legends. Since these are a 6" scale, they actually do work pretty well some *some* of the ML stuff, as well as *some* of the DC Direct stuff.

The Scarecrow is more traditional than the new film version, but yet captures a unique look. There's plenty of evil in his expression, and I've thought that scarecrows were always so damn scary to begin with. The hand sculpts are designed to work perfectly with the accessories, and the sculpting also works great with a majority of the articulation.

Bane is cut, veined and pumped, just like you expect. I'm particularly happy with his scale, because in photos I was worried that he'd be a tad too small. That's not the case though, and he fits in very nicely with the rest of the line. 

His juice box and feed system are well designed, and don't get in the way of his ability to pose or play. The head sculpt/mask is slightly different than past versions, with a little more detail, and while his noggin' is mighty small, it adds to the impression of size for the rest of him.

The small sculpt details on both are very impressive, such as the zipper on Banes mask, or the rope tied around Scarecrow's appendages.  This is the kind of work you'd expect on $15 - $20 figures at your local comic shop, not something intended for the mass market.

I did have one issue though with the sculpt. The upper half of his leotard is not part of his sculpt, but a separate piece made from a softer rubber. It doesn't fit particularly tight though, and the suspenders buckle outward. That's definitely not something that Bane would be happy about. Of course, I'm not sure if he realizes that a leotard is just a little lace away from being a tuu-tuu, but I'm not going to tell him.  If they were going to go with separate pieces, which isn't a bad idea in itself, they should have glued them down. That's what I'm going to end up doing with mine, because they're driving me nuts as it is.

Paint - ****
I'm going to give Mattel a lot of credit in this category, because these figures show paint quality that you never see in toys from the big boys.

The Scarecrow has a darker wash, used to bring out the highlights, but it's not over done or excessive.  The small details jump out at you, and just to keep him from being too brown, there's a single patch (literally) of blue on his right leg.  Actually, there's another one on his back, but you won't notice that one quite as quickly.

The only slight mistake is the darker brown color of the ankle joint pegs, right in the center of the much lighter brown boots.  Making these the same color would have been nice, but since the pegs are identical to the knee joints, it was probably a cost cutting move.

Bane has a wash as well, with the darker paint filling in his upper torso details.  His is a little heavier, bordering on too much, but it's not as bad as we've seen with some companies.  It works particularly well on his back, where they added sculpted hair, and the wash filled it in to look just like disgusting back hair! The work on the mask is amazingly good though, especially with two tough colors like silver and black.  The colors are clean, consistent and sharp.

Even though the material used for the upper half of Bane's tuu-tuu, uh, I mean leotard, is different than the plastic used for his legs, the color and finish still match.  Thank you!  He even has his small knuckles painted flesh at the end of his gloves, a touch I was really surprised to see.

Articulation - Bane ***; Scarecrow ****
After seeing these figures, I can't wait to get my hands on the deluxe Bat versions with the enhanced articulation!  Mattel really went out of their way on this line.

Scarecrow is really impressive, with a cool ball jointed neck that allows for not just side to side and front to back, but allows him to go waaaay forward.  The shoulders are ball jointed as well, and the arms also have cut biceps and wrists, and pin elbows.

He has a waist joint of course, along with ball jointed hips, cut thighs, cut calves, pin knees and pin ankles.  The joints on mine were all tight and held him up in plenty of poses.  The articulation works great with the sculpting, allowing for lots of creepy cornfield poses.

Bane's sculpt and action feature interfere a little more with his poseability, but he can still put the beat down on you.

He has a ball jointed neck, although it doesn't have the range of movement that Scarecrow's does, ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows, ankles and knees, cut wrists and calves, and waist.  Oh, and he does have hip joints, which are an interesting kind of T-joint that works best in a crouching position, but CAN stand him up straight as well (see the photo to the left).  It's not really a good look for him, but the legs have quite a few more poses in them than I initially assumed.

Again, Bane's joints were nice and tight, and he had no trouble holding stances.  The right arm is restricted a bit by the action feature, and you'll have to click it into place, but it's not as bad as we've seen in some cases. 

Action Feature - Bane **1/2; Scarecrow **
I suppose that with two accessories, Mattel figured Scarecrow didn't need an action feature. Since they did such a terrible job on the movie version, that is probably a good thing.

EDIT - my mistake!  It looks like he does have an action feature (couldn't figure it out from the cardback!), and his waist is spring loaded.  Turn him just right and he'll pop back in scythe swinging motion!  Okay, not that exciting, I know.

Bane did get the action treatment though, and I'll bet you'll never guess what he can do! Yep, that's right, his right arm moves in a bashing/throwing manner (and can also click into various poses). Obviously I was being sarcastic about being able to guess, since I'm pretty sure every previous Bane (all three of them) had this same ability. I didn't have one of the Batman and Robin versions around handy, but I did compare him to the Animated version and the LODK version, both of which have similar action features.

While not particularly creative, the feature works well enough. Lift the arm up, and it snaps back down on an unfortunate Batman. The feature works fine with the articulation, and you can still pose the arm in quite a number of ways.

Accessories - Bane **; Scarecrow ***1/2
Bane doesn't quite hold up in this category, but that's probably due to his inclusion of an 'action feature'. He comes with one accessory, a very nasty looking set of brass knuckles. In this case, they're actually silver, and sporting spikes. It clips over his fist easily, and has little pegs to help it stay in place.  There was originally going to be a teddy bear - what happened to him, I'm not sure.

The Scarecrow comes with two accessories, and both are very well done. There's one of his trademark fear gas bombs, done like a small skull. It has a variety of gizmo and gadget like silver attachments, so that it's clearly electronic, but looks enough like a skull to get the point across. It fits nicely in his left hand, due to both the hand sculpt and the soft rubber used for the hand.

He also has his required scythe, but this time it's double ended. One end has a nice, long, wicked looking blade, just like a traditional scythe, but the other end is a pitchfork. First you cut the hay, then you pitch it. As a farm implement, it makes perfect sense. As a wicked implement of death, it will suffice as well.

There are two handles on the pole, and he can use them to hold the weapon in various poses. The right hand is sculpted to hold a peg perfectly, and while the scythe is large, I found that you could still get him to stand even while holding it in various ways.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
These are both great toys, with nice, solid articulation that can add to the fun and not detract from it. While the accessories are a tad light, what's here is good, and the action feature on Bane actually works pretty well. It's too bad most kids in the states will never even get to see these, let alone play with them.

Value - it depends!
I can't even begin to figure out how to rate this. If these were at the store for the usual $7 - $8, they'd get a *** rating. Great looking figures for that price, good articulation, but just a little light on the accessories.

But since you're probably going to end up paying $25 each or more, this whole category gets completely screwed up. I'm still hopeful that Mattel works something out for a U.S. release of the entire wave, getting the cost down for folks here.

Things to watch out for - 
Not a thing here - although if you have choices when picking them out (as highly unlikely as that is), you might try to find a Bane with costume straps that fit as tight as possible.

Overall - Bane ***1/2; Scarecrow ****
These figures really break my heart - just think of how great this line could have been.  While the first couple waves were good, these latest villains, along with the more articulated Batmen, are really outstanding for the price point.  Of course, I'm assuming a price point of around $8, not some ridiculously inflated price due to the secondary market forces.

I don't want to drive those prices even higher, but the Bat-fan really does need to pick these up.  The Mattel line is my current favorite, easily surpassing anything (other than the Hush Batman) that DC Direct has done recently.

You will have to glue Bane's straps, and he's not quite as nice of a figure as the Scarecrow, but these simply blow away the Begins line, and just about everything else.  This line could easily be the Marvel Legends of Batman lines, if it had only had a chance.

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - Bane ***1/2; Scarecrow ****
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - Bane ***; Scarecrow ****
Action Feature - Bane **1/2; Scarecrow Bupkis
Accessories - Bane **; Scarecrow ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - it depends!
Overall - Bane ***1/2; Scarecrow ****

Where to Buy - 
Right now, you're options are limited if you're in the U.S. International readers can find these at the usual local toy retailers, but for those in the States, you better contact your comic dealer. Or suck up to that long lost Australian Aunt.

Related Links:
This is a new section I'll be adding to the reviews, recapping any related review links I might have had in the text above, or additional ones that make sense.  I have reviews of many of the other figures in this line:

- my review of the Zipline Batman and Joker from wave 1.

- my reviews of the Mr. Freeze and Killer Croc.

- and guest reviews of the SDCC Comic Convention exclusive Batman, Batman/Superman two pack, 12" Batman, and Batman/Nightwing two pack.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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