Jack Nicholson Joker - Batman
Hot Toys

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

It's another terrific Hot Toys guest review from Jeff tonight, as he looks at the Nicholson version of the Joker. Take it away, Jeff!

A big thank you to Mike, the man who put the Bat in Bat-Fink… I mean Man ;)

I was a little late to the table with my review of the 89 Batman figure (as I probably will be with this one by the time it’s written, edited, the pictures are taken and prepared and it finally goes up), but it was a figure of such phenomenal geek cultural importance that it was impossible for me NOT to review him. Lets face it, we are living in increasingly enlightened times for us more mature collectors, or indeed for those with a healthy respect for the classics. I don’t of course mean Homer or Plato, but more the Donner’s and Burton’s of this world (and I should also add that I don’t mean the kebabs or Richard).

Indeed, not only do we now have striking renditions of both Reeve as Superman and Keaton as Batman, but now we also have the Yang to Bats Yin in the form of the Joker. Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the psychotic Machiavellian criminal mastermind set a new cinematic benchmark for this particular character, especially considering the (remembered fondly but) camp goofball that the Caesar Romero’s depiction gave us in the Adam West 60’s TV series.

Though made far grittier and darker twenty years later by Chris Nolan, the skewed gothic fable that Burton delivered was still very brave for its time, both in terms of investing big money into an area of pop-culture that was still then considered a risky genre, but also in respecting the fans enough to take the characters seriously… well, semi-seriously. I guess you gotta ask yourself, would Nolan’s Bat Man or Whedon’s Avengers have done the phenomenal business they did without the groundwork this earlier blockbuster forged?

I freely admit it still had elements that were more ‘fantastical’ than some would have liked. But the brooding depiction of Gotham was far more epic in its scale than I feared it might be, and the Joker managed to create a real sense of menace. A sense of menace that I also feared might be purely played for laughs (when I heard Jack Nicholson was on board, as lets face it, he’s a solid enough character actor with an impressive back catalogue. But in his later roles he does tend to play Jack Nicholson phoned in as ‘enter character name here’ with Ray Ban Clubmasters strapped to his face).

As it turned out Nicholson played an ace… well, a joker, but he played it pitch perfect for the tone of the move that Burton wanted to deliver. He displayed the same manic schizophrenic qualities that Keaton did as the Batman. But where as Bruce Wayne controlled and used his anger to try and effect change for good, Jack Napier was a psychotic, bi-polar time-bomb just waiting to explode and take as many people with him as he could.

So lets imagine you are now the proud owner of the Hot Toys 89 Batman figure (and lets face it I’m sure a lot of you are). He stands there resplendent on your shelf in all his dark brooding finery. Does he need a companion piece; is the Joker an essential companion to stand along side him?

What the freakin hell do you think?

Packaging - ****
Once again showing just how it should be done.

When you invest a large percentage of your hard earned cash in a collectible it’s important that all areas of its production are well considered and well designed. Packaging is one of the areas that is all too often over looked, and ends up feeling like an after thought. An ill conceived, rushed and shoddy bit of design is always evident, even to the most undiscerning of eyes. The funny thing about good design is that it is often unnoticeable (as it should be), where as bad design just screams ‘look at me’ for all the wrong reasons. Consumers are far more sophisticated than many manufacturers credit them for. And in the times we live, where global marketing is achieved very rapidly when done well. After all, a few happy campers on a forum can make a small detail go viral for all to see within seconds, it’s more important than ever to get it right… it ain’t rocket science.

But enough with the marketing spiel, we are here to look at this particular cardboard can, and it’s fair to say that it follows the classic DX format, making it a perfect shelf partner not only the rest of the range, but also more importantly for Batman figure.

The front has a montage duotone image of the Joker on a dark mauve, semi-metallic background, whilst the edges are a bright contrasting purple. This has a magnetic side panel that unwinds to show the card and foam cover with the DX gimmick, which on this occasion is a projectable ‘comic book’ face of the Joker, similar to the Bat Signal that came with Bats (I have to admit I’m not feeling this feature as much as I did with the caped crusader, this seems a little forced and laboured). Under this layer is the figure held within a die-cut foam surround. His various hands are in smaller cut-outs within the foam, whilst the light up figure stand and the rest of his accessories are on the final layer beneath this.

So, a good sturdy well designed box. Not as breathtaking in terms of inventive design as some we have received from Hot Toys (lets face it the DX range is a little samey now that we are into double digits), but still of a high enough production standard that anything less than a full score would be a crime. A working pair of ‘Joker monikered’ wind-up chattering teeth as the gimmick might have garnered a ****+ though!

Sculpting - ****
In the past there have been some amazing bootleg, low edition fan made versions of this figure, and they have been truly outstanding. Expensive when they were first made, and demanding even more impressive prices on the secondary market when they came up for re-sale, which was pretty rare.

If you do own one of them already, you are amongst the hallowed ranks of a chosen few, I salute you, you are obviously a serious collector, but do you need this one?

The simple answer is yes… YES… YES I SAY!

Hot Toys once again give a classic character the true love and attention to detail that it deserves, and there is a level of finish and dare I say it ‘manufactured perfection’ that can only come from a release like this, and the fact it’s part of the DX series makes it even more of a bonus.

The actual portrait here is the work of Yulli Choi, who shows once again why her talents are so very revered, and also why she is the chief creative portrait artist within the company. This is just bang on the money, capturing Nicholson’s/the Jokers wide manic sh*t eating grin to perfection. And even though a lot of teeth are on show, it still manages to looks great. The hair is worn in a slick backed style and has tons of deep crisp detailing in the individual strands as they radiate out over the back of the head, and even though the hair is removable to access the PERS feature, the division seam is incredibly well concealed, if you didn’t know it was there I doubt you would notice it.

The skin also exhibits a fantastic texture application with not only the wrinkles and creases on show but also with each and every distinct pockmark and pore. The arched eyebrows work well with the positionable PERS eyes, allowing for everything from a crazy laughing pose right through to a very threatening fixed stare. In short this head sculpt is virtually perfect, and like on the companion Batman figure, it shows just how impressive the PERS feature can be when it works well, and here it works fantastically in bringing the portrait to life.

He also comes with a selection of gloved hands in various poses. All are convincing and work well with the accessories they are designed for. They are of the classic formal ‘evening’ design, think Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse (but with four fingers instead of three), clad in purple leather with a rolled back cuff… nice!

Paint - ****
When a sculpt turns out this devastatingly good, you had better back up that cool work with a paint app to match, and here Hot Toys have again delivered a job that is truly awesome (a word, that as a Brit I try not to overuse, but is fully worthy of use here).

The fact that Nicholson has his face covered in white greasepaint does mean that warm subtle flesh tones aren’t required here, but that’s not to say what we end up with is any less impressive. In the movie it is not meant to be make-up, but rather a bizarre side effect of falling into a vat of toxic chemicals, his ghostly pallid complexion is his actual skin. So, to do justice to the amazing sculpt JC Hong has created a work of understated finesse that exhibits outstanding delicacy not only on the gentle graduations that give the face definition but also on the eyebrows, teeth and the hairline. The tiny glass eyes that are fitted as part of the PERS feature also help in completing the illusion of the tiny real person, and the way they catch the light is as always spookily convincing!

There is little more to say in this category, other than I fail to see how a mass-produced figure could actually improve much at this scale. They shoot… they score!

Articulation - ***3/4
This is based around a classic True-Type design, a base body I described so many times in the past that I wont insult you with another low-down here. Suffice to say you can find a concise breakdown of the joints (not to mention a ton of pics in the three base body breakdowns I did here-

TT low-down 1 
TT low-down 2
TT low-down 3

And I intend to cover the muscle body real soon.
I will say that because of the padded fat-suit and the multiple layers of clothing, you do lose some of the more extreme poseability. However you will still be able to get him into pretty much any key pose from the movie, and the ankle articulation is great, so standing with both feet flat on the ground isn’t an issue.

Accessories - ***1/2
This guy comes pretty loaded with a good selection of goodies consisting of-
- Eight hands consisting of-
- One pair jazz hands
- One pair relaxed hands
- Two right gesturing hands
- One right gun grip
- One right tight grip (for card and cane)
- One long purple over coat (described above)
- One purple Fedora hat (described above)
- One loud haler (HELLO!)
- One long-barrelled revolver
- One short-barrelled revolver with ‘BANG’ flag
- One orchid buttonhole
- One remote control
- One walkie-talkie
- One set of joke chattering teeth
- One walking cane
- One gas mask/respirator
- Two wads of Benjamins
- One Joker playing card
- One light up figure base with Bat emblem

If I am gonna be truthful, and dare to look a manic grinning gift horse in the mouth, then I admit I would have dearly loved a second head, one with a more serious and psychotic expression, but that is pure wishful thinking, as to be honest you can get a good range of psychotic expressions with a simple tilt of the head and repositioning of the eyes.

So on with what we do get. The two guns have rotating ‘flip out’ barrels and cockable hammers, the shorter one has a removable post with a unfurled ‘BANG’ flag, whilst the other has a obscenely, ridiculously long barrel (it’s the gun he brings down the Bat Wing with, packs quite a wallop… yeah, that one). The joke teeth don’t actually wind up and ‘chatter’, but they do have a tiny spring loaded action so they can open and close. The rest of the sculpted accessories have no moving parts, but the attention detail is uber accurate and they look like they came straight out of the movie… lurid orange and green colour schemes and all. The respirator is made from a soft pliable vinyl, and holds to the face by simply gripping it like a small suction cup… an easy solution, but ingenious. The paper items, being the small-scaled playing card and wads of cash are also expertly crafted with some super fine printing.

Lastly we have the light up figure-stand; this is a reuse of the one that came with Bats, but with a nice shiny metal plaque on the front with the Jokers name.

So, a solid well observed and executed selection… but it just feels like there could have been something more… perhaps the alternate ‘artists’ floppy hat/beret?

Outfit - ****
When a figure wears a multi layered outfit the biggest challenge is always going to be getting a natural look. We’ve all seen 1/6th figures that end up looking like the Michelin man when swaddled in layers of shirts, vests, jackets and coats. But Hot Toys have already proven themselves to be past masters in this arena with the outstanding work they have pulled off on figures like the first DX Joker (amongst others).

The thing about Nolan’s Joker was that he was grounded in a real world aesthetic. His clothes were lived in, dirty and used, but Burtons Joker had a sartorial elegance far closer to that of the comic book villain. Here he was dressed in vivid purples, oranges and greens, a proper Gotham dandy! But it was a palette that worked oh so very well when set against the drab backdrop of the city, and the Batman’s all new dense black S&M ensemble.

His ‘ringmasters’ jacket is a deep purple with working pockets and minutely observed details on its scaled stitching and seams. This is worn over his double-breasted emerald green waistcoat that also has miniature buttons and a working ‘sliding’ adjustor belt on its back. That is in turn worn over his vivid orange satin shirt; to finish the look he has a foppish green cravat tied in a bow at his collar, the patterned colour nicely complementing his waistcoat.

The trousers borrow accent tones from all of his other garments, creating a loud vulgar tartan/checked fabric that few people could get away with apart from the crown prince of Gorham’s crime world (and a few sad golfers). Tasteless in palette they may be, but the cut and tailoring is impeccable. Hidden under the waistcoat he sports a pair of black braces that attach to the inside yoke of the trousers waistband. The style is generous and roomy with pleats at the waist, but due to the fact they owe more to a zoot suits high waisted tailoring rather than Saville Row, there are no working pockets. When you unpack the figure you will find the lower sections of the trouser leg is stiff, this is just down to the card inserts placed to keep the trousers in good shape whilst in the box, and should obviously be removed before posing.

Being a dandy, the Joker isn’t going to spoil his look by failing to give his footwear due consideration, so as you’d expect his shoes tie in beautifully with the rest of the outfit. The style is a classic lace-up ankle boot design but with a dapper two tone purple finish, and he even has flash of white sock to compliment the final look.

He is also equipped with a long purple overcoat as an extra accessory. This is just as immaculately tailored as the jacket and again has well observed detailing on the scaled buttons, seams, hems and working pockets, it is worth noting that this is intended to be worn instead of the jacket rather than with it.

To complete the image he has a snazzy purple fedora. This is made from flocked vac formed plastic with a fabric band running around the crown, it fits comfortably and works well in finishing off the characters trademark look.

There is one other garment that I haven’t ‘truly’ made part of this review and that is the padded fat suit that is hidden beneath all his clothing. I can’t actually review it because I don’t want to disrobe the figure fully to get to it, but if you check out Martin Myatt’s old review for the Hot Toys Godfather figure over on Cool Toy Review you can see the one he wore here, and I have a feeling this one would look pretty similar. The fact it is there does tend to have some minor impact on his poseability, but the tailoring of the clothes are cut to fit around the extra padding comfortably, and it works well in getting the final look of the figure just right. And lets face it, Nicholson wasn’t exactly a ‘fightin’ action man in the movie, that’s what Bob and the rest of the ‘Goons’ were for.

In short this is once again a superb showcase for Mr Tsang and the talented team who put this outfit together, and shows a number of fine tuned improvements since the proto pics were unveiled like the better detailing on the trousers and cravat’s pattern… perfection!

Action feature ****
When the PERS feature doesn’t work, it can detract from a figure, and sadly like in the case of the Indiana Jones it can even end up detracting from the likeness.  But luckily that is rare. The figures where it has looked great and given the character even more personality far outstrips the ones where it didn’t.

It always seems to work better on figures that have make-up on or are masked (duh). As has been the evident with the Nolan Joker and Batman, Jack Sparrow, and of course the Burton Batman. So it stands to reason that because of the theatrical make-up the Joker wears, it works wonderfully and certainly enhances the figure, giving the ability to inject even more personality into your chosen pose.

As has been the case before, you simply remove the back section of the hair, which has the division line well disguised within the hair sculpt. Once removed you have access to the small joystick that controls both eyes at the same time, it's simples ( to use and is far more fluid in its movements and more robust in its construction than on its first outing on the Nolan/Ledger Joker. There’s no two ways about it, it’s a cool feature that improves the figure a lot and contributes greatly to its fun factor.

Value - ***
We all know that the good things in life are not actually free, very far from it; they are in fact pretty darned expensive. And the world of 1/6th figure collectibles is much like every other. Just as you can buy a basic trailer home or Ford car, you can also purchase a massive mansion with tennis courts and a pool plus a fleet of Aston Martin’s (or Ferrari’s… if your taste is thus)… or even a Lear jet should you be particularly fiscally flush this month. Choice is everything in the free market. And as much as we try to convince ourselves that we are happy with our lot, we also hanker after those elusive luxuries.

As such, when you see the RRP for this figure is an eye-wateringly exorbitant $264.99, many will baulk and shake their heads at the madness that is grown men and women frittering away their ‘hard earned money’ on an indulgent non essential luxury item like this.

But luckily it is not ‘ALL’ people. If it were I’d have nothing to review. Well, I would, but the quality would not be at this level, we’d still be scrabbling in the mud like Neanderthals with our Hasbro 12 inchers. Indeed there are many people out there, with the ranks ever growing who can totally understand why a small work of art like this is worthy of demanding such a high price, and that word I used earlier… luxury… isn’t lost on them.

Of course I’m not mad enough to totally defend it, I have a reputation to protect. But when you take into account the PERS feature, stunning portrait, amazing paint, sublime outfit, cool accessories, its ability to pose well even in all those layers and of course not overlooking the very well designed box, well then the hefty two and a half Benjamin’s+ actually doesn’t seem quite so bad!

Fun Factor - ***3/4
I guess the amount of fun this figure can deliver might well depend on whether or not you already own the Batman figure. If you do, then as far as I’m concerned it’s a no brainer… the only thing that hurts is it’s combined RRP of over 500 big ones, which makes the term no brainer a little more difficult to stomach… ouch!

However, as far as all the key elements go for this section it is a clear out of the park home run. I can’t remember the last time I grinned so much posing a figure. Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight, I always ask that of my friends?

Overall- *** 9/10
When I look at this figure there is a big part of me that just wants to throw caution to the wind and give it a full score. After all I’m becoming more emotionally numbed to the price with each new release since the DX Jack Sparrow.

However, even though I am quite frankly knocked sideways by this figure, I can’t ignore that price. $265 is very hefty chunk of someone’s income, and in these uncertain economic times it is sadly gonna keep it from being in some of the very deserving hands of people who I know would dearly love to hold it.

So, I guess it is a mark of just how incredibly impressive this release turned out, that I am awarding such a very high score. In terms of quality I find it hard to imagine a 1/6th depiction of this character ever beating this (which is just plain throwing down a gauntlet I know), so that high RRP is all that keeps it from perfection…. And it came very darned close

Where to Buy -
Sideshow still has The Joker available in-stock at $264.99 here … yeah, you read that right… how close are we to the $300 1/6th figure… too freakin close is the answer!

Alternatively you can try some of Mike’s sponsor below where you could potentially save up to $20 on the RRP… or maybe even spend $20 over if you are that way inclined!

Fan Boys $244.99

BBTS $249.99

Alter Ego $251.99

Urban Collector $284.99

Or hit eBay where the BIN prices are between $245 to $315, and that’s no joke.

This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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