DC Direct 13" Deluxe
Dark Knight Batman and Joker

DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Batman and Joker action figures

When the expectations for a movie are extremely high, it can sometimes mean certain disappointment. They are just movies after all, and not the answer to the meaning of life. Too much anticipation makes it tough for a film to live up to the audience's expectation, and can hurt a film as much as help it.

One film with a ton of anticipation and expectation is The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan's first shot at the caped crusader, Batman Begins, had the luxury of moderate expectations. Folks were certainly interested in seeing it, but they were holding their breath, hoping it would be good but not too sure. This time around, they expect perfection, and the previews and trailers have them salivating for what could be the greatest comic book hero movie ever done. See, that's what I call expectations!

Everybody and their cousin's best friend jumped on the license this time around. Mattel is doing the regular toys of course, but companies like Hot Toys, Kotobukiya and DC Direct are shooting for the higher end collectibles market.

Tonight I'm looking at the DC Direct 13" Deluxe Batman and Joker based on the film. These follow in the basic DCD Deluxe line, but are different than almost all the rest in that they are based on real people versions of the comic book characters, rather than comic book versions. The only previous DCD Deluxe figure like that was the Batman Begins Batman, which was a very weak entry into the high end market.

Hot Toys will also be doing a pair (with other goodies to come), but their figures will cost $130 and up. These two from DCD run about $80 at most retailers, and are available now. I have some terrific sponsor suggestions for picking these up at the end of the review.
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Batman action figure

DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Joker action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Joker action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Batman action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Joker action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Batman action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Joker action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Joker action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Batman action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Joker action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Batman action figure
DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Batman and Joker action figuresDC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Batman and Joker action figures

Packaging - ***1/2
These two are some of the nicer boxes in the line so far. The graphics are good, with a very nice incorporation of the movie logo and general feel. While there's not a ton of text, there's a reasonable amount of background information, both on the back and on the inside of the fifth panel.

The box is a little weak, bowing in even when it hasn't seen any time on the shelf. They also have a bit to go if they want to be truly 'collector friendly', with still too much tape and too many twisties. But it's not too bad, and I found putting them back in the box for storage relatively easy.

Both figures also come with a Certificate of Authenticity, a somewhat unique situation. They aren't numbered however.

Sculpting - Joker ***1/2; Batman ***
When you're sculpting a new figure based on a new character in an unseen - and usually, unfinished - movie, getting the sculpt to be screen accurate can be tricky. Because of the long lead times necessary to product any sort of pop culture collectible, "screen accurate" doesn't even exist when the sculptors get started.

So while I have a few nits with my Joker, I'm going to cut them some slack here. Most of my sculpting issues are probably due to the fact that they were working off early versions of the character.

Like the hair. It's too matted down here, and not was wavy as what we've seen in the trailers and previews. The color is off too, but I'll get to that in the next section.

However, the Ledger likeness under the Joker makeup is definitely top notch. There's also a really nice realsim to the skin texturing and wrinkling, particularly in this scale. And another huge plus - no bendy hands! He has sculpted hands made of hard plastic, with extra sets to boot, designed to work with the various accessories.

My only other nit with the Joker head sculpt is the scarring, or generaly lack thereof. He does have the damaged and misshapen lips, and these look spot on, but the scarring on his cheeks where the red 'lipstick' smile is painted on is missing. Nolan's version of the Joker has a truly gruesome visage, and I'm a little disappointed that some of that is missing here.

The Batman's head sculpt is a real mixed bag. The likeness to Bale and to the character in general is quite good, but I think they meant to put this on a completely different body. He looks like Beetlejuice after getting his wish for 'a little head'. Superheroes tend to have pin heads in relation to their steroid inflated torsos, but this is ridiculous. His head is even smaller than his neck, a condition normally reserved only for the truly deformed, like Elijah Wood.

I'll take about his body armor as part of the Outfit section, but I do want to include his hands here. The pair of fists that he wears in the box suffer the same problem as the head. They look like two tiny little nubs on the ends of these huge arms. Unfortunately, your only other choice is to go with the God awful bendy hands. These are scaled a little better than usual (the fingers still look like sausages, but it's more like breakfast sausages, not Johnsonville Brats), but they work as poorly as they did with every past release.

Bats stands about 13 1/2" tall, not even including the pointy ears.  The Joker is about 12 1/2" tall, making him about a half inch taller than Robin.

Paint - ***1/2
DCD has certainly upped the quality on the paint work with this line, and the Joker is a fantastic example. He's not perfect, but the work has a gritty, realistic feel to it.

The white skin tone is offset with a wash that brings out the details in the skin, and the raccoon eyes and red smile are done with an intentional asymmetry, to mimic a person painting their own face. The eyes are very straight and clean, and they bring out the sculpted intensity of his gaze.

The hair color seems a shade dark to me, but it's not a major issue. There's also some issues along the hair line where the white is riding up on the sculpted hair, but this is obvious only from certain angles.

Bats doesn't have the same level of detail work, but they did a nice job with what was necessary. The lower face, including the lips, is very well done, with a wonderful shading of the skin tone and glossy, clean lips. His eyes are straight and clean as well, making the head look very realistic.

The suit has a nice combination of matte black and gloss black to give it some visual pop, and he thankfully lacks the sort of gray 'bra' that we saw on the Mattel 12" version. The metallic color of the belt offsets the dark suit nicely, although it does seem that having his bat belt be the brightest thing on his body would draw a lot of gunfire to that area. I'm not sure I'd want folks aiming at my crotch.

Articulation - Joker ***; Batman **
What do we have here with the Joker? Is this a new body? While there was some supposition that it might just be the Robin body with some leg extensions, I'm not so sure that's the case. The proportions are too good - it doesn't seem like the legs, arms and torso are out of scale with each other. In fact, the body looks surprisingly good when dressed! Someone who is more interested in stripping the Joker nekkid - Harley perhaps? - can investigate fully and let us know, but I think this could very well be a new body.

Even if it is just a creative re-use of the shorter Robin body, I have to say that they did a great job. The body isn't on par with something like the Hot Toys TrueType, but there's an improvement here over the standard Deluxe muscle body.

Of course, one big plus is the lack of bendy hands. While it still has the cut wrist joints only, the hard plastic hands pop on and off better, and more importantly, they stay on better when you're posing the figure.

Since this figure is wearing low cut shoes, you can actually take advantage of the swivel pin ankle joint, as well as the cut joint a little further up on the ankle. Had the shoes worked a bit better (more on that in the Outfit section), he would have been able to take some even more radical poses.

The most notably improved joint here (which we also saw with Robin) is the ball jointed neck. You can get the Joker's head into much more realistic and lifelike poses because of this ball joint.

The Batman has a good ball jointed neck too, with an excellent range of movement. However, because he has such a pin head, and such a huge neck, the head can look awkward posed at some angles.

Batman's body is the usual Deluxe superhero body, with all the expected joints, and all the expected problems. The tight fitting and bulky suit doesn't allow for much posing, and it forces the arms and hands to stay below chest height. The legs can take deeper stances than I expected, but upper body is quite constricted.

The teeny fist hands stay in place well enough because they are hard plastic, but the awful bendy hands fall off when you breath on them. The bendy fingers actually worked a little better than usual this time, but they are too sausage-like to appear realistic.

Accessories - Joker ***1/2; Batman **1/2
Too often with the Deluxe line, the figures lack in the accessories department. Occasionally you get a Green Arrow, but more often you get a Bizarro. Thankfully, the Joker is one of the best equipped figures in the series.

He comes with two extra sets of hands; a pair of open, gesturing hands, and a pair of fisted hands. He's wearing the gripping hands in the box, and this set of three nicely sculpted, nicely proportioned, HARD PLASTIC hands work great. They swap easily, they stay in place when you're posing him, and the hold the accessories quite well.

The one exception to that is the gun, since the gripping hands don't have an extended index finger to put in the trigger guard. That's a minor nit though, since they do work extremely well with the knives, and after all, those are the weapons of choice.

Speaking of the knives, there are three very different blades included. There's a large Buck or Kabar style, a medium double edged dagger style, and a small straight razor style. The scale on these is a little small, but the sculpts and paints are top notch.

I already mentioned his other weapon, a handgun. It's a very nice sculpt complete with separate clip and movable slide. The scale and proportion to his body is better here than with the knives, and it has a great paint job as well.

We now from the trailers that the Joker is involved in a bank robbery, and wears a clown mask. They've included that mask, made from a fairly hard plastic. Be careful putting it on and taking it off, since it could damage the face paint. It's held in place with a piece of elastic, and while it looked way oversized to me in photos, I can live with the large size in person.

He is the Joker, and that means playing cards. There's a set of 15 included, all scaled extremely well and decorated with terrific graphics. They're a little tough for him to hold, but if you pack two or three together it works better.

Batman isn't as well outfitted, and several of his items appear to be straight re-uses from the Batman Begins figure they did a few years ago. He has the grappling gun once again, as well as four batarangs (instead of 2) molded from the original release. There's also the Batphone/remote, which fits on his belt in back.

The grappling gun fits on his belt too, just like it did before. He can hold it in his bendy hand if you work at it, but since the arms can't really pose higher than his mid-section, there's not too much you can do with it. It's the best accessory of the set, however, and it does look good on the back of his belt. Well, it would if you could see it - the cape covers it entirely of course.

His only new accessory is what appears to be some sort of restraint or capture device, or perhaps something he uses on his arm. It's called the "pneumatic wrangler" on the box, hinting at the restraint angle. I couldn't figure out exactly what to do with it without having seen the movie.

I understand the reuse of accessories, since I'm sure he'll reuse both the batarangs and grappling gun in the new movie. But that kind of re-use, in concert with a price tag like this, should mean MORE accessories. Joker puts him to shame, and that's not right - he's Batman!

Both figures also come with the standard Deluxe display stands, but you won't need them.

Outfit - Joker ***1/2; Batman **
While some of the DCD Deluxe outfits have been extremely nice - see the Green Arrow for an example - they have always been generaly simplistic. Superheroes by nature tend to stick with fairly basic attire.

But the Joker let's DCD show what they can do with this line, and they do him up right. There's the outer long coat, sport jacket, vest, and shirt, all done with the highest quality materials and stitching. The long coat even has a nylon lining in the goldish/bronze color! They fit well, although with that many layers you're bound to get some bunching around the neck. That happens here, particularly around the back of the neck and shoulders, but because Ledger gives the character a bit of a rounded back and stooped shoulders in the film, this bunching up of the clothing actually looks more accurate to the character.

The tailoring is also A game - just look at the pants and how they hang and fit around his pelvis! Because all the buttons and pockets are properly scaled, and because of the excellent tailoring, he truly does look like an actual person. That's hard to pull off in sixth scale with this many layers of clothes.

His outfit is fairly intricate in terms of colors and patterns too, and from the stills we've seen so far, they managed to get it pretty close. The shirt pattern looks a *little* different, but that might just be my eyes playing tricks on me. I do think the tie is a smidge big, but it's much closer to reality than say, Shaun's tie from the Shaun of the Dead review last week. A big reason for this is the material they used is much, much thinner.

My one area of issue was on his shoes. Not the sculpt or quality, because those areas are excellent. In fact, while the laces themselves are sculpted on the top of the shoes, the tied bow at the top is actually laces. It blends perfectly with the rest of the show, and adds another dimension of realism.

No, it's not the quality of the shoes, but the fit, at least on mine. The left shoe doesn't really seem to fit on the foot properly, causing it to lean to one side. This makes it a lot tougher to get him into a good standing pose than it should be, and I found that to be frustrating.

The Batman has many more costume issues than the Joker, and ends up being similar to some of the early releases. Yes, the suit is more complex, and this time they went with a tight cloth nylon undersuit, with the rubbery spiderweb like armor over it. That was probably the best idea, but it didn't execute all that well. It's the weird proportions again - the thighs are HUGE (it's hard to tell that in photos with the black legs against the black cape, but trust me, they're HUGE), the boots are HUGE, and from the waist down he seems wider and larger than from the waist up. 

His cape has a wire running along each edge to improve it's posability, but the material they chose for it is rather cheap. They used a velvet type material for the outside, with a nylon lining. The velvet is similar to what we see in the film (at least it was in Batman Begins), but the material they went with is the type that rubs down very easily, creating flat shiny spots on the velvet. It's also a bit crinkly and stiff, certainly more so than more expensive velvet.

The quality of his suit overall isn't terrible, but the wonky proportions really ruin the look. This is a weird looking Batman.

Fun Factor - Joker ***; Batman **
The Joker, for all his deranged appearance, would actually make a good toy. The costume is sturdy enough for basic play (he might lose a button or two), and the accessories will only break under direct and hostile pressure. Sure, you could put an eye out with those knives, but that's the kind of action figure accessories we had when I was a kid, and I still have one reasonably good eye.

The Batman would be much more frustrating for most kids due to the limited articulation and goofy appearance. No kid is going to think those huge hams he has for thighs look good, and those God awful bendy hands are worthless and annoying.

Value - Joker **1/2; Batman *1/2
You'll spend around $80 on the Joker, similar to a high end Sideshow figure or a low end Hot Toys figure. And for the first time in the history of this line, I'm going to say he's worth it. He's not a special value, and nobody is going to think he was cheap. But you are getting close to what you're paying for, at least in the current market, and I won't be hitting him up at all in my own Overall based on his price.

I can't say the same for Batman. With the re-used accessories, and the less than stellar appearance, you aren't getting an $80 figure. $50? Sure, and he'd score much better at such a price point. But there is no way this guy is worth the extreme price that they've started charging for the Deluxe line. The other upcoming figures, like Supergirl, are going to be in a similar boat.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Not much. I'd be a bit careful when working with the cape, as it appeared as though you could have issues where it connects to the front of the suit. But I messed with both of them for quite awhile, and didn't break anything on either figure.

The tight fitting and hard mask might cause some paint rubs on the face if you don't take your time with it, and you certainly wouldn't want that.

Overall - Joker ***1/2; Batman **
This Ledger Joker is the best Deluxe 13" figure DCD has produced. It's still not perfect, but they're reaching the kind of quality in the sculpt, paint, accessories and outfit to actually make it worth the price tag. Please bear in mind that this is coming from someone that has been very hard on this line through it's history. I'm really hoping we see them tackle a new Dark Knight Two Face at some point.

Unfortunately, the Batman is about as bad as the line has been. While the costume is more intricate than the Batman Begins Batman they did, and I'm happy for the ball jointed neck, but the accessory re-use, huge thunder thighs, itty bitty fists, and damn rubber bendy spare hands are all huge knocks. Hold these two figures side by side, and it's almost like they're from two completely different lines.

I have no doubt that the more expensive Hot Toys Batman will blow this one out of the water. However, there will be some question as to whether they can up the ante on the Joker - can they make it worth your while to spend the extra $50 or more? We'll find out soon, but you might want to snag this Joker now, just in case. You can always sell him later down the line if the Hot Toys version is that much better, and I'm betting he won't be available for very long.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - Joker ***1/2; Batman ***
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - Joker ***; Batman **
Accessories - Joker ***1/2; Batman **1/2
Outfit - Joker ***1/2; Batman **
Fun Factor - Joker ***; Batman **
Value - Joker **1/2; Batman *1/2
Overall - Joker ***1/2; Batman **

Where to Buy -
Several of my excellent sponsors have these available right now:

- CornerStoreComics has them at $73 each.

- ShowPiece Collectibles has them at $75 each.

- Alter Ego has just Bats still around at $76.49.

- Dark Shadow Collectibles has them for $77 each.

- Urban Collector has them for $80 each.

- Andrew's Toyz has them for $89 each.

- YouBuyNow has them at $90 each.

- if you're in the UK, Forbidden Planet has them for 45 GBP each.

- Or search ebay with MyAuctionLinks.

Related Links -
If you're looking for other Dark Knight goodies, check out:

- Mattel's version of the 12" Dark Knight. Cheaper, but there's a reason.

- there is also the slightly larger Action Cape version from Mattel - even cheaper!- in the small scale action figures, I looked at a couple of the regular figures.

- and for comparison sake, check out the Batman Begins figure that DCD did in this line.

Want to chat about this review?  Try out one of these terrific forums where I'll be discussing it!

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DC Direct Deluxe 13 inch Dark Knight Joker action figure

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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