DC Direct 13" Martian Manhunter

For fans of the Justice League, the Martian Manhunter is a key hero. J'onn might not have his own movie in the works, and maybe he's not the first guy the average kid thinks of when you say 'superhero', but he has quite the fan club nonetheless.

He's had his fair share of action figures too, but the latest release from DC Direct in their 13" 'deluxe' line is the first time I can remember that we got a theoretically sixth scale version of the big green guy.

Since they've released versions of Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman in the series, with J'onn J'onzz now available, you can have an almost complete Justice League. I gotta admit, that while I haven't been snagging most of these up to now (for reasons that will become apparent in the review), it's awfully tempting to go back and pick up the ones I need to complete the group.

The Manhunter hit comic shops last Wednesday, and retails for anywhere from $50 - $80, depending on your local CBG.  I paid $70 for mine from a local shop, and that's the price I'll be using to judge his value rating, but I'll put in caveats in case you manage a better deal.

Packaging - ***
The package sports some decent graphics, but could use a little more background text.  Rather than waste almost the entire fifth panel with another head shot of MM and just a small paragraph of character information, I would have preferred a much broader chunk of history.

The box is also pseudo-collector friendly. Considering that this is a specialty market toy, they should go the extra mile and drop all the twisties though.  there's no reason for him to be held in with five twist ties when the interior tray is already designed to hold him quite tightly.

Sculpting - ***1/2
This score is largely based on the two head sculpts and the hand sculpts. I'll get to my complaints around the body itself in the Articulation section.

Let's get the bad out of the way first - the hands.  The sculpts themselves aren't terrible, but the size and style still make the hands one of the least attractive features of this whole line.  The fisted hands are small, dainty hands, that look out of proportion on a superhero with this much upper body bulk.  The bendy open hands are a slightly too big, but they don't look as bad here as they've been on characters like Two Face.  So you get one set of hands that look slightly too small, and one set that looks slightly too big.  Neither look horrendous, but at this price point they should be spot on.

I also hate the bendy hands, since the fingers never quite look realistic in any pose.  I'd much prefer a second set of hands sculpted in a classic pose, much like what we get from Sideshow.

Still, the hand sculpts aren't bad enough to detract from the very nice head sculpts.  I really like the normal head, with it's contemplative yet stern expression.  It's recognizable as J'onn, and yet has it's own feel to it.  The Martian version isn't quite as good, but I do like the expression once again.  The heads also pop on and off fairly easily, yet stay in place and work extremely well with the neck articulation.

Paint - ***
If you're looking for paint, you won't find much.  I'm amused that Hasbro and NECA start casting certain parts of $10 action figures in the actual color (especially skin tones), and the collecting world screams.  But DC Direct produces a 13" high end figure entirely cast in the body color, with no sign of paint, and no one seems to mind.

Don't get me wrong - I don't have a huge issue with it.  But then, I haven't been one of the folks complaining about Hasbro or NECA doing it either, except when it looks bad.  It's how it looks that matters to me, not necessarily how they got to that result.

Here, it looks fine. There's a little variation, particularly between the rubbery bendy hands and the body.  Those variations are usually due to the different porosities of the plastic, and how they take and hold the color.  It's not a huge problem though, and because the body is made from a very hard ABS-like plastic, the color has less of that cheap shine that you get with a softer PVC type plastic.

There are a few paint ops, notably the eyes and the gold attachments to his red harness.  The gold/bronze is a little inconsistent, which is common with that color, but the eyes are clean and well done.  There also appears to be a little paint work on the skin of the face, where there's some slightly darker areas around the cheeks.  It's tough to tell though, which means if they did paint the face, they did it well enough to match the rest of the body. 

Articulation - **
This category remains my biggest issue with this entire line, if you don't consider Value.  This body had issues from day one, and as time goes by and other sixth scale companies continue to improve their figures, this body ages even worse.

Let's start with the positive - the ball jointed neck.  This is a joint that has been poorly handled on some of the past figures, like Batman Begins (where the cowl interfered) or Two Face (where the head sculpt interfered).  Here, it works fantastic.  You can get all kinds of personality and expression out of the joint, and the heads even swap easily.  You can't ask for much more in a ball jointed neck.

The ball jointed shoulders are okay, but with only joints at the shoulder and not the arm, it means that you will depend heavily in the cut bicep joint.  Since these bodies are hollow - very hollow - this cut joint (and the one at the thigh) actually show the interior of the upper body part when they are turned.  These cut joints looked bad on figures in tight suits, and they don't look any better when they're nekkid.

The double jointed elbows and knees work fine, and they are tight as well.  The hips suffer from the same issue as the shoulders - since the style of joint is only at the torso and doesn't allow the leg to turn, you have to depend on the very ugly cut thigh joint.  The hips also suffer from being very loose, and getting him to hold any deep leg stances was almost impossible.  The loose ankles didn't help that situation any either, knocking this score some more.

There's also cut calf joints, well hidden by the tall boots, and the cut wrists.  The cut wrists are totally underwhelming on a figure in this market and price category, although I'm sure the excuse is to make the joint less obvious.

Finally, there's the waist and chest joint.  Yes, they're both there, but the harness does an excellent job of hiding both.  Of course, the harness also makes both pretty useless, but I wasn't too concerned about that in this case.

You'll notice that I haven't complained about scale.  Normally, the oversized body that DC Direct decided to use bothers me, but this time around I don't mind.  J'onn J'onzz is supposed to be a big guy, and at 13 1/2" - 14" tall depending on the head you have on him, he actually fits in pretty good with normal sixth scale figures for me.  Unlike Batman or Flash, this is a character I don't mind having some extra size.

Accessories - **1/2
There's the extra set of bendy hands, which I've already mentioned a couple times.  However, what I haven't mentioned is how easily (once again) they fall off.  The pegs are short and wide, and the bendy hands are soft enough that you'll be knocking them off repeatedly  just trying to pose the arms and hands.  The fisted hands won't have this problem, because they are made from such a hard plastic that once you get them on, they stay on.  But the bendy hands remain a huge problem for these figures. If the hands actually stayed in place reasonably well, he would have gotten another half star in this category.

I've also mentioned the extra head, which looks good and swaps well.  Unlike the dopey hands, this extra head was critical to be included with this character, so it's great to see it turn out well.

The other accessory is the display stand.  It works alright, although I'm a big believer that any sixth scale figure like this should be able to pose and stand pretty well on his own.

For your rather large payment, that's all you get, and that's what really drops this score.  This isn't a guy that uses a lot of stuff in his crime fighting, so I'm not surprised he's skimpy on the accessories.  What I am surprised by is what I'm paying for him.

Outfit - ***
The general quality of the outfit is good, with some areas reaching excellent.

The boots are a little dorky, and that's partly due to the body underneath.  The skin ankles are made all the more obvious by the vinyl boots, and the large cuff at the top only makes them look that much skinnier.  These boots provide no additional support either, so the floppy ankle joints get no help here.

The red harness looks terrific, and probably comes off somehow, but I didn't press my luck.  It fits pretty well, even though it's made from a fairly stiff material.

The shorts were the most annoying feature, at least when it came to the outfit.  The look good when pulled down covering his legs as intended, but as soon as you move him, they snap up into the joints, turning into a Martian thong.  You'll be constantly pulling these things out of the poor guy's ass, but with the cape in place, it becomes a little less of an issue.

Which brings us to the best part of the skimpy outfit - the cape.  Made from a nice thick material and seamed in all the right places, the cape looks terrific on the figure.  While you can remove and replace it pretty easily (two thin elastic bands hold it to the harness), I'd be surprised if you displayed him without it.

Fun Factor - **
The sloppy joints make this guy tough to stand, and even tougher for a kid to enjoy.  While most of the figure and outfit appear able to withstand play, not being able to do much with the legs would get frustrating for the average 8 year old.

Value - *1/2
If you pay $50 for this figure, you can add another half star.  Yep, that's all.  Why?  Because what you have here is a $40 figure, tops.

The only new sculpting here that I can see is the two heads.  One of the excuses about why a figure like this costs more than, say, a 12" Marvel Icons figure is that the Icon is 'mass produced'.  However, when you've been using the body for these figures over and over and over, you start to reach mass produced numbers even with a specialty market figure.  At this point, the idea that this figure is a lower run than the Icons Thor and thus needs to cost more is a crock.

The costume is also about as basic as you can get.  Yes, the cape is nice, but so was the aforementioned Icons Thor cape.  There's vinyl boots and a vinyl harness to go with the speedo.  Add in very few accessories across this entire series, and you get a situation where the buyer is getting stiffed in a major way.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not much.  The elastic strings that hold the cape to the harness are very thin, and taking off and putting on the hard plastic fisted hands can be a real effort.  Take your time - or use some hot water on the hands only - to avoid damaging the pegs.

Overall - **1/2
Of the 13" Deluxe figures I've picked up, only the classic styled Batman has managed to pull a B grade.  That's largely because of the hugely inflated price tag on these guys.  If you can pick this guy up for $50 or less, I can see getting him up to that three star category, because he does look good on the shelf.  He fits in nicely with the rest of the Justice League characters, and it's certainly great to be able to have a full display of them in this style of figure.

But even if he's cheaper, he still has his issues.  The body has the same problems as always, as do the hands.  The loose joints and useless bendy hands are something I don't expect on a figure at any price, and when you're playing the the high end market, you have to get everything right.

If all you want though is to complete the Justice League in this scale (minus Wonder Woman so far), and you can muscle your way past the gag reflex when swallowing the price tag, you'll be happier with the figure than I was.

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

Where to Buy -
If your LCS didn't pick him up (or is charging and arm and a leg), there's plenty of good online options including these sponsors:

- CornerStoreComics has him at just $55.

- Alter Ego has him for just under $60.

- For the U.K. collectors, Forbidden Planet has him for 55 pounds.

Related Links -
Other DC Direct Deluxe figures include - Batman Begins, Two Face, and classic Batman.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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