First Appearances Series 3
Riddler, Nightwing, Batgirl and
Composite Superman 

The third series of successful First Appearances figures from DC Direct hit shelves this week.  This set includes Batgirl, Composite Superman, Nightwing and the Riddler.  Rather than explain it in my words, I'll get lazy and use DC Direct's - here's the basis for this set:

"After being taken in by Oracle, the original Batgirl, Cassandra Cain donned the cape and cowl of the all-new Batgirl in 1999's BATMAN #567!  

After earning his stripes as Batman's sidekick Robin, Dick Grayson became Nightwing, leader of the Teen Titans, in 1984's TALES OF THE TEEN TITANS #44! 

Edward Nygma turned to a life of crime as The Riddler, donning this costume in BATMAN #171!

When a lightning bolt bestowed all the combined powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes to janitor Joe Meach in 1964's WORLD'S FINEST #142, the villainous Composite Superman was born!"

Okay, so maybe I should have used my own words.  Still, you get the general idea.  These will run around $13 each at most comic shops, and I have some sponsor suggestions at the end of the review.

I do have to register one general complaint before I get going on the review though. The past series have all been pretty much 'first appearances'. This time though, we start to slide into shaky territory - not really 'first appearances', but first appearances looking like THIS.

My problem with that is the sheer number of cool DC characters that we could still be getting actual first appearances of, rather than recycling some of these characters we've gotten before. Case in point is Batgirl of course. We pretty much already have her in her first appearance outfit with the Silver Age version that DC Direct did, so doing it again here would be moot. But why give her to us in this series in a new outfit? Can't we get someone who we haven't seen a half dozen times already, new outfit or not?

Riddler is in the same boat. This version isn't his actual first appearance, but is mighty close. Fortunately, both Nightwing and Composite Supes are truly 'first appearances', and I'm hoping we don't see the line stray too far from that theme just to include the characters they are most comfortable re-doing.

Packaging - **1/2
I'll give them this - they're clearly trying. The boxes are still easy to damage, and won't hold up to much peg abuse, but they are more colorful (each one in it's own color) with improved graphics. Still, you have to destroy the box to get the figure out, and considering these are more boxes than cards/bubbles, I'm not sure why that continues to be the case.

Sculpting - Riddler ***1/2, Composite Superman, Nightwing ***; Batgirl **1/2
Of this set, I like the Riddler's overall sculpt the best. The detail on the face is excellent, and we can even see the strap for his mask across the back of his head. The body is done in a silver age style, with less muscle definition, but the proportions are good and seem to match up with the source material well. He stands great on his own, and one hand is sculpted open with the other closed to give him a little variety. Spice of life and all that, don't you know.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Batgirl. If you check out the nifty little reprint comic, you'll see what I'm talking about. They've taken a dynamic, deadly looking Batgirl and funked her all up. The final version has knock knees and a weird twist to the legs you can't get rid of with the limited articulation, huge feet, a massive noggin, and a rather odd slumped appearance. Add in the oversized belt - which she had in the comic but which didn't look so tremendously out of place there - and you get a truly goofy looking end result.

In between we get Nightwing and Composite Superman. The Nightwing sculpt isn't bad because he looks like a extra from Saturday Night Fever, because that's exactly how he looked. They managed to capture that wild, disco's dead but I don't care look just right. No, it's the weird twist in his upper torso that's bugging me, permanently turning him to one side ever so slightly. Without waist articulation, a problem that goes without saying in the DC Direct world, there's nothing you can do about it, and I found it really annoying.

Composite Superman is much cooler than I figured he would be, but maybe that's because I read this great article about him. The two halves work well together, and he matches up with the comic better than I expected. I'm not a huge fan of the cape length - in the books it looks longer to me - but it has the right style and cut otherwise. He also has one hand open, and one hand fisted, which adds some additional visual appeal. If I had one nit to pick, it's the sculpted line down the center of his body, separating the two halves.  This just doesn't look right to me (it's not there on the head, thankfully), and I could have done without.

All the figures stand great on their own, so the included stands aren't really necessary, but the sculpt and the articulation don't always work that well together. More on that particular topic later.

These figures are in a 6" scale, fitting in better with the smaller DC Direct figures (like the Silver Age for example, which they look great with) or the Mattel figures.

Paint - ***
The paint ops are all acceptable, if not outstanding. On every figure there were minor issues, bleed and poor definition between colors being the most common, but if you're not a serious nit picker like me, you should be okay. I would pay extra attention when picking them out though, especially with the reds and yellows, or blacks and yellows.

There are some highlights to the paint work as well. The green skin on Composite Superman turned out quite well, as did the masks on the faces of Riddler and Nightwing. Only Batgirl has a lackluster color combination, due largely in part to the more modern desire for all superheroes to look like Johnny Cash wannabees.

The sparkly finish on Nightwing's outfit doesn't do much for me, but in many other places they used a combination of gloss and matte finishes to imply various materials, and it worked quite well.

There's some nice use of gloss black paint on parts of Batgirl's uniform, especially the cape and gloves.  The boots also got this treatment, but since they look goofy to begin with, highlighting them with shiny paint doesn't actually help much.

Articulation - ***
If you're looking for super poseable versions of these characters, these ain't them. Still, DC Direct has given the basic articulation, with a little extra thrown in.

Every figure has ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows and knees, cut wrists, and a T-Joint at the hips. Some folks are not fond of this particular T-Joint, sighting the fact that it makes them appear to have rather large packages. This is particularly true again here with Composite Superman. But these are supposed to be SUPERheroes, right? Thanks to readers bringing up this very subject, I can no longer look at these figures without noticing it, and I may have to resort to gouging my eyes out with a fork.

Three of these four figures also have DC Direct's version of a ball jointed neck. These work quite well, and really add to the lifelike nature of some of the poses. Oddly, Superman does not. The JL version I reviewed earlier this week didn't either. I smell a conspiracy.

Batgirl has a waist joint.  Let me repeat that, since DC Direct seems to be so against such things - Batgirl has a waist joint.  It's either proof there is a God or a sign of the coming Apocalypse.

Accessories - Batgirl ***; Supes, Riddler, Nighwing **1/2
Each of the figures comes with a round gold stand, labeled with the name of the figure and the comic he or she is from. The stand are a nice combination of consistent design with simple personalization. They aren't really necessary, since the figures stand fine without them, but cool nonetheless.

The also each come with the comic book reprint that the outfit/appearance is based on. That's a very nice addition, and even displays well on the shelf with them.

Batgirl has one additional accessory, a small batarang. She can hold it in her left hand, and while it's sculpt is a little dull, it's at least another accessory.

Fun Factor - **1/2
I bet the average six year old would have a ton of fun with these if he could just stop laughing at them. Really, give Nightwing or Superman to a kid and see what their reaction is. I bet they think the crime fighters lost a bet with some truly evil super villain.

Value - **1/2
I paid about $14 each for these at the local comic shop today. I'm betting that if you can hold out, you'll find them at specialty retailers like Suncoast or Media Play for around $12 in the coming week or two. Online options can be even cheaper, but I'm grading these on the assumption of $13 - $15 each.

At $13, they are a very average value. Nothing stupendous in articulation or accessories, and only the low number produced is really causing them to be so expensive. At $15 or above, you can drop off another half star, but if you can pick them up for $10 or less, you can add a half star.

Things to watch out for - 
As I mentioned earlier, you'll want to be sure to look for the very best paint jobs possible, but that does seem to be a little less of an issue with this series than some past DC Direct work.

Overall - Composite Superman, Riddler, Nightwing ***; Batgirl **1/2
None of these figures is the definitive version for the character (okay, maybe Composite Superman is, but you know what I mean), but you'll find they make a nice, reasonable addition to your DC display shelf. Considering that all four have a relation to Batman, at least visually if not directly, then you can see where the Bat fans will probably want the whole bunch.

As I played with these, I found that I liked the Riddler more and more, and found the Composite Supes to be a pretty cool looking figure on the shelf.  He'll also be quite a conversation starter for folks that don't know of the character.

Unfortunately, the longer I looked at Batgirl, the less I liked her.  She could have been so cool - and yet she ended up so silly.  She was fairly photogenic, but that's only if you ignored her legs and feet completely.  Nightwing is wearing a silly outfit, no matter what decade you live in, and over time is likely to be the first of the set to end up hitting the storage box.

I haven't seen an announced fourth wave of this line yet, but I'm just hoping that we don't see too much excessive reissue of characters that really don't need a First Appearances version, but are just the current flavor of the day. Instead, why not give us more of the odd, unique and often overlooked characters, who really deserve a shot at at 'first appearance'?

Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt - Riddler ***1/2, Composite Superman, Nightwing ***; Batgirl **1/2
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Batgirl ***; Supes, Riddler, Nighwing **1/2
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - Composite Superman, Riddler, Nightwing ***; Batgirl **1/2

Where to Buy - 
Your local comic shop should have these in now.  Online options include:

- Circle Red has a great price on all four for just $40.

- Alter Ego Comics has the set of all four for just $40 as well. 

- Krypton Collectibles has the set for $44.

- CornerStoreComics has the set for $45, or the individual figures for $12 - $15 each.

Related Links:
I've reviewed the previous waves of course:

- Here's my reviews of series 1 Batman and series 2 Robin and Hawkman.

- and here's that nifty article all about Composite Superman.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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