DC Direct 13" Deluxe Collector's Figure
Batman Begins

I don't know what it is about the new Batman Begins film, but it sure has ended up with a lot of sixth scale Batmen. Maybe it's not so much the license, as the overall boom in 12" product these days. Whatever the case, there are going to be sixth scale versions of the master detective from Mattel, Medicom, Takara (no images yet), Kotobukiya, and just released, DC Direct.

While they all have scale in common, that's about it. Mattel's version is a mass market item, selling for less than $20 many places. Kotobukiya's is more vinyl model than action figure. Takara and Medicom are both in the $100 - $200 range, with low runs and high quality.

DC Direct has come out with something in between. It's still expensive, at around $70 - $80, but not nearly as bad as the versions from Takara and Medicom. And while it's unlikely that it will have quite the same level of quality, they are certainly shooting for something above the usual 12" American figure release. But did they manage to pull it off? Let's see!

Oh, before we get into the review...the figure just started shipping to comic shops last Wednesday, so it should be available. I have some online options at the end of the review where you might be able to snag it cheaper, even with shipping. Now on with the review!

Packaging - **
The front of the large box is extremely attractive, with a great shot of Bale as Batman, and the movie logo.  It's done in the same earthy tones as the film of course, and the cover graphic is very eye catching.

The rest of the graphics aren't as great, and the interior fifth panel has very little text and no graphics.  It's lacking in much text all the way around actually, and considering the history of this character, that seems a tad strange.

The box is also not collector friendly - not even close.  Considering that every company doing collector level sixth scale product has figured this out, it seems out of place.

The figure is twisted into a rather basic pose in the box, but that's not the issue.  The accessories, rather than being in a tray, are blistered against the inside.  There's really no excuse for that, and considering the cost of this figure, this type of cheap cost cutting is out of place.

Sculpting - ***
The sculpting is decent, but nothing to write Gramma a long letter over.  The problems with the sculpt tend to be more in terms of scale, not detail.

Still, there's some detail issues as well.  The belt was my biggest problem in this regard, as it seemed far less detailed than I expected, and ends up looking more like a mass market toy than a high end collectible.

The armor detail is great though, very much like the film from what I've seen at this point.  The boots are particularly well done, but the rest of the armor is tight fitting, attached closely to a tight black body suit.  Rather than go with a more open mesh lycra, they went with a very tight mesh material, that approximates the real suit better.  More about that later in the Outfit section.

Unfortunately, that tight body suit will hurt the character later in the articulation section, but it gives the armor a much better appearance.

The standard hands are sculpted into closed fists.  The alternate hands are rubbery with bendy fingers, so that they can be positioned to hold the accessories if you want, or he can flip off the Joker.

You might have issues with the costume design, but it continues to grow on me the more I see it.  My only complaint with the general design for the film is the lack of color on the emblem, since it blends into the rest of the uniform.

My biggest issues with the figures sculpt are really scale.  The head sculpt looks great, although again I don't really see Bale.  I've said it before though and I'll say it again - if you could recognize Bale with the mask on, wouldn't that pretty much defeat the purpose of the mask?

Ignoring whether it looks like Bale or not, the facial sculpt is very realistic.  The work on the cowl is quite detailed, and the eyes look great.  Too bad the head is about 25% too small.

My God, if this is the guy's head WITH the cowl on, how itty bitty must it be without?  He could fit three heads this size across those shoulders, and it really looks out of place.

Another scale issue for me is simply the size DC Direct has decided to use for the figure.  They call this a 13" figure, which is bad enough - why the hell can't people stick with a scale so that we can have some consistency?  We complain about this all the time with the smaller lines, but in general, we've had less trouble with it in sixth scale.  But now DC Direct figures they need to be even bigger, and the produce a Batman that stands a whopping 14" to the top of his ears!  He's not going to fit in with any other sixth scale figures in your collection, and once again, a company has decided there stuff is so special it needs to be on a shelf by itself.

Paint - ***1/2
Easily the best feature of this figure is the clean, well done paint ops.  The face is the highlight, with a nice, natural skin tone, a perfect lip color (so often it ends up looking like the guy is wearing lipstick, but not here), and clean, bright eyes.  There's no bleed, no slop, and good definition around the few painted details.

I mentioned how the emblem blends in with the rest of the armor sculpt earlier, and there's nothing in the paint or finish to help.  At least Mattel's version used a gloss finish on the emblem to help it stand out - here, there's nothing like that.

The belt is a very light gold, different from other versions we've seen so far.  I have no idea how accurate it is without having seen the film, but at least it's well done.

There is something really weird about the palms of the extra hands.  They have white spots on them.  Now, it's possible that these are some sort of special feature that you see in the film.  Except, it's just white paint.  Nothing additional in the sculpt, nothing special about the areas painted, and it isn't in consistent spots on the two palms.  I'm really trying to give them the benefit of the doubt here...

Articulation - **1/2
The box claims 28 points of articulation, which is low for a sixth scale figure on today's market.  Still, I think it would be enough if not for the restrictive nature of the outfit.

Because of that, most of the joints have a very limited range of movement, limited enough that the Mattel cheapy version is more poseable.

I can cut them some slack there though, sice the nude body shows that there is plenty of joints.  Check out the article at the Action Figure Insider for some photos of what the body looks like.

From the photos, it appears as though this body has a ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders (with the ony joint at the torso, none at the arm), cut biceps, double jointed elbows and knees, a torso and waist joint, cut thighs and calves, cut wrist joints, hips, and a cut and pin joint for the ankles.

In general, that only leaves a couple issues.  The wrists are easily the worst basic joint on the body, and allow for very little movement.  Worse, as is seen with the Batman figure, the posts going into the wrists are far too short, and the hands fall off if you look at them cross eyed.

The hips have very little range of movement, far less than other figures currently available.  No deep fighting stances for Batman.

The shoulder joints really needed the second joint at the arm, rather than the cut bicep.  Better yet, why not both, like most other sixth scale bodies on the market?

And that's really the point - if you're trying to sell us an eighty dollar 'deluxe' figure, it damn well better be deluxe.

The implementation of this body with Batman had three major flaws.  First, there's the tight suit I already mentioned, which restricts most of the joints quite a bit.  Since that's inherent though in the suit, I'm not docking them for it.

The next big issue though is the wrists.  Again, I've already mentioned it, but simple cut wrists that don't work particularly well are not 'deluxe'.  There's no excuse again, since other sixth scale makers give us swappable hands on much more articulated wrists.

Finally, there's that ball jointed neck.  Unfortunately, with the thick cowl, that's non-existent here.  Worse, with the way the cowl and cape fit on the shoulders, the head is barely able to turn side to side.  You've lost the single most important joint in making him look cool, and instead he is forever stuck in this straight ahead, wooden appearance. 

Accessories - **1/2
There are six accessories, plus a display stand.  Bats comes with two itty bitty batarangs, one small batarang, one itty bitty batphone, and extra set of hands, and one grapple launching gun.

When I say itty bitty, I'm not joking.  The cel phone is way undersized, even in this day and age of small phones.  On top of it, it's very plain and lacks detail.  On the plus side, it does fit on the belt, but beyond that, it's worthless.

The batarangs are of the small variety, more like throwing stars than weapons of death.  Sure, you could put Butters eye out with one of the smaller versions, or perhaps bust a light bulb, but it seems like such a waste.  Wouldn't a pouch of marbles work so much better in that case?  And while we're on the subject of a pouch, how's about a simple pouch or slot in the belt to hold these itty bitty batarangs?  Doesn't seem to much to ask at this price point.

Neither of these batarangs are going to scare too many bad guys, and appear to be closer to utilitarian.  I can live with that, although the one sided nature of these seems awfully plain.  Again, withougt seeing the film, I can't say they aren't accurate, but having the beveled edge on only one side, with the other side simply flat, seems really unlikely.

They do fit in between the fingers of his hand though, for those Freddy Kruger moments.  Now let's talk about those extra hands.

Touch, bump or wave the regular hands and they'll come off, so that the extra pair of fully extended hands can be popped on.  These are made from a rubber material, and have bendy fingers.  The theory is that you can bend the fingers into any pose you like, and even hold the accessories.

This works better in theory than in reality.  The hands are oversized, again at least 10% too big.  Hell, they're even bigger than his head, although with the tiny head that's probably not saying much.

The rubber fingers are fat and long, and when used make the overall figure look much more toy-like, and far less deluxe collector like than he already does.  It was a cute concept, but one that should have been left behind.

Swappable hands sculpted to hold the actual accessories would have made far more sense.  This isn't a toy - don't try to make it one.  Figure out what your market is, and develop the figure for the people you want to buy it.  Collectors aren't interested in rubbery oversized hands, and if you really want to give them poseable hands, look to what Toybiz has accomplished with plastic articulated fingers on figures far cheaper than this.

The best accessory of the bunch is the nifty gun, with the most detailed sculpt of any aspect of this figure.  It looks great, is scaled well, and even fits on the back of his belt with the use of a peg and cradle.

Outfit - ***
There's very little wrong with the basic outfit, outside of the issues I've mentioned.

Yes, it restricts the articulation, but that's not a surprise.  Yes, the paint or finish on the emblem could have been different to bring it out. But in general, the outfit is well executed, nicely sculpted and sewn (there's even a tiny zipper down the back, although you'll never get to it), and looks great.

I do have one huge issue though.  What's up with the cape? I like the inclusion of the wire to make it more poseable, although with the limited arm poses, you won't find a whole lot to do with it.  But when did Batman start taking fashion tips from Dracula?  This version has a soft, velvety exterior on his cape, which seems completely out of place.  Does he wear that in the film?  I suppose only time will tell, but I sure hope not.

The velvet does do one thing though - it makes the cape appear a nice jet black.  The cape also has a hemmed edge, and it's clear that the material wasn't cheap. The length is good, better than the Mattel version. I really wish it had been designed to be removable though, instead of being attached up under the cowl.  This is one of the major reasons the head had such a hard time turning left and right.

Fun Factor - ***
This is actually more of a toy for kids than a collectible for adults.  The articulation is good enough for fun, the bendy hands are something a kid would enjoy (although they might get frustrated with them falling off), and the accessories (minus the tiny batarangs) would work well for them.

There's also nothing fragile or easily broken here, and Bats could probably put up with quite a bit of abuse.

Value - **
I've been playing around with this figure for three days now, and the thought that keeps returning, over and over, is "I paid eighty bucks for this?".  This is not a high end sixth scale figure - pick up something by Dragon, bbi, Hot Toys, Sideshow or Ignite and you'll know what I'm talking about.

Ignite is a good example.  Real metal accessories, a half dozen weapons, amazing outfits, excellent articulation, all for about the price of this figure.  They don't have licensing costs of course, but with the relationship of DC Direct to WB, I don't think that should be the overriding issue that drives the cost of this figure up.

Things to watch out for - 
Nothing!  That's always a good sign, but in this instance, it simply means that the real problems are ones that all the figures will have, not just the one you buy.

Overall -  **
I'm extremely disappointed with this figure, and that's directly related to what we got for the money.  Had this figure cost $40 or $50, I could have been far more forgiving, but at this price tag, it's inexcusable to see cheap packaging, oversized hands and an undersized head, hands that fall off when you breath on them, and a figure far less poseable than the $20 version from Mattel.

There's a natural inclination to like something you spent a lot of money on - you don't want to admit you don't like it, since that will make you feel bad about an expensive purchase.  But there's no getting around the simple fact that this is a tremendously overpriced figure, and that DC Direct appears to be trying to make up the entire cost of getting into a new body size off the first two figures (BB and Superman).

DC Direct decided that when they got into this new market, that they would swing for the fences.  Too bad they aren't power hitters.  This is supposed to be a high end item, or at least it better be for this price tag.  It isn't though, and it pales in comparison with the competition.

I have the Medicom version coming as well, and will hold out hope that that one is the definitive version.  At twice the cost of this figure it's going to have to be mighty good, but at least they have the excuse of being an imported toy. 

Based on my experience with this Batman, I won't be picking up any more DC Direct 12" figures unless the price drops in half.  Considering just how big of a Batman fan I am, that's saying quite a bit.

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

Where to Buy -  
You should be able to find these at your local comic shop, but I'm betting the price tag will be steeper than online options, even when you add in the shipping:

- Dark Shadow Collectibles has him for $71.

- Fireside Collectibles has him for $71.

- Alter Ego Comics has him for $72.

- CornerStoreComics has him for $75.


Related Links:
I've already reviewed quite a bit of the new merchandise:

- here's a review of the Action Cape Batman, and the smaller Battle Gear Batman and Scarecrow.

- and here are guest reviews of the Battle Gear Batman, the special Collector's Edition (available only internationally right now), and the Batman Begins Batmobile

- finally, here's some photos of the Medicom version, and Kotobukiya versions.

REVIEW UPDATE!  I don't do this too often, but a reader from the U.K., Mukesh Chauhan, sent along some great movie stills.

First, they answer a couple questions.  It does look like the cape is a velvet-like material, so I'm glad that I gave them the benefit of the doubt.  While I don't like the material in person, it does give the cape a nice, dark look, which I mentioned earlier.

Second, the emblem isn't at all highlighted, not even in finish, on the actual costume.  Too bad, since it makes for a much less visually interesting look (and takes away that one, heavily armored spot that would draw fire).  Still, that's another basic issue with the costume, and not with this figure.

However, it highlights the biggest issues I had with the figure - the odd proportions, the undersized head, the oversized hands, etc.  I think a lot of that is due to using a body designed for comic book characters - and their more stylistic proportions - on a figure that is grounded in reality, and is a real guy wearing a real costume.

DC Direct did a good job approximating a rather difficult all rubber costume, but the final remaining major issue is still simply this - in today's market, this is no where near a $70 - $80 figure.  At $40, he would have been *** - ***1/2, but at this price point, they've simply put themselves out of the league.

Will Medicom manage to impress at twice the price?  Tough to say, although the figure looks more articulated, the head size is closer to reality, and I'll be able to actually put theirs with other sixth scale figures.  Time will tell...

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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