Batman and Son

I'm not a huge fan of goofy story lines involving surprise kids that characters never knew they had.  Let's just say it stems from my aversion to daytime soap operas, where such themes are common.  Needless to say, I'm not a big fan of the Batman and Son concept.

In Batman: Son of the Demon,  Batman married Talia, long time love interest.  She became pregnant, but believed that Batman and fatherhood was never going to work out, and told Bruce that she lost the child.  The boy was supposedly shipped off to an orphanage after it was born, and then adopted.

Batman and Son followed up this story a good decade later.  Batman finds out about his son, know called Damian.  Damian is a chip off the old block, a little ass kicker in his own right, but tends toward his mother and grandfather when it comes to issues of morality and ethics.  It should be no surprise that he and Tim Drake don't get along, and that his more violent answer to crime doesn't jive with dad.  By the end of the book, he is injured in an explosion, but survives. He's popped up a couple times since including another graphic novel, and I doubt we've seen the last of the punk.

DC Direct has produced a set of figures based on the story arc, which I like a whole lot more than I like Damian.  There's a Damian of course, but also Batman, Robin, Joker and a ninja Man-bat.  

The artwork these are based on is from Andy Kubert, who is one of my favorite Bats artists, so I've been looking forward to these plastic incarnations.  How did they turn out?  Let's see!

Before I get started though, I wanted to mention that Robin and Damian come packed together, but I'm treating them as two separate figures for this review.  The only exception to that will be in the Value section, since you can only buy them together, not singly.

Packaging - ***
While this packaging lacks a couple things I really like - such as character personalization - it does sport some terrific graphics based on the original artwork.  There's also a decided lack of twisties with the exception of a few on Manbat, and that's always a good thing.

On the downside, the interior tray caused some issues on two of the figures.  Robin's right ankle was badly warped, as were two of the 'spikes' on Batman's right glove.  With some hot and cold water I was able to get Robin's ankle in a decent place, but the thinner strips of plastic on Batman are always going to be a bit warped now.

Sculpting - Batman, Joker ****; Manbat, Robin ***1/2; Damian ***
This is one of my favorite DCD lines in ages, and that's largely due to the terrific sculpts. As I said, I'm a fan of Andy's artwork, and I think this line captures it extremely well.

If you already purchased the Hush Batman, you might be tempted to skip this version.  It's quite clear this figure was created using that figure as a base, but there are sculpting and articulation changes.  If you remember the Hush version, you'll remember that the legs were sculpted in a slightly wonky pose.  That's been corrected here, although the legs are still a bit too far apart.  The musculature over the entire body is more defined and cut on this figure, and the pockets around the belt are very different. The symbol on the chest is also not sculpted in but rather simply painted this time, and obviously the head sculpt has been adjusted to Kubert's artistic style.  Finally, the long cape with curled up almost Mcfarlanesque ends is very different than the shorter Hush version.  In fact, there doesn't appear to be ANY reuse here, as the entire figure is different - albeit slightly in some cases - than the Hush version.

The Joker is terrific as well, with a very detailed and maniacal facial expression and excellent pose to the torso and neck.  This may now be my favorite Joker figure in my collection, and is certainly right at the top of the list.  One of the best aspects of the design is how well the sculpt and articulation work together, allowing you to get a lot more out of the joints than you'd expect.  This is similar in a way to the result that we had with the Hush Joker, but I much prefer this appearance.

The Manbat is also exceptional, although there's a couple minor aesthetic issues that gum it up for me a bit.  I love the use of the heavy rubber for his wings, because they even have a realistic feel to them.  They don't restrict the shoulder articulation as much as you'd expect, and the texture detail work on them - and on the hair covering the body - is extremely well done.

He's also another figure that has a good marriage between sculpt and articulation.  While he's not super poseable, the sculpt and materials don't hinder the articulation as much as I expected.

His head to body proportion is a bit off for me, but that might simply be my perception.  Remember, this isn't the actual Manbat, but rather one of the ninjas from the Legion of Asssassins who has taken the Manbat serum.  Some latitude is therefore necessary with the design.

Robin is one of the better Robins we've gotten from DCD.  The head sculpt looks great, and the size and scale of the Boy Wonder in relation to the rest of the line is great.  I think what really makes his overall appearance though is the cape, and how it covers the shoulders at a slight angle, running long in back and out in those curly spikes, similar to Batman's.  This is easily my favorite Robin cape they've ever done.

Damian brings up the rear, although he's not a bad figure by any means.  Partly the lower score is due to my own complete lack of interest in the character, and partly to the extremely basic design of his costume.  Outside of getting the head accurate (which they've done), there's not much to screw up - or to excel at.

The hand sculpts on all of them work well.  While Batman just got the standard closed fists, the Joker got hands that match the overall pose quite well and can hold his accessory.  Robin got fists as well, with skinny hooked wrists, which are probably the least attractive and useful of the bunch.  Damian has fists too, but his have spikes on the knuckles.

Manbat got the best hands though.  The left hand is a fairly normal fist, with a hole to place one of his swords.  The left hand is somewhat open, in more of a clutching pose, yet the design of the index finger, thumb and pinky allow him to hold the second sword perfectly as well.

These are done in DC Direct scale, which means someplace between 6" and 7", and they may or may not fit in with some other DCD figures.  Nothing new there.  Batman is about 6 1/2" to the top of his head, while the Joker is closer to 6 5/8".  Joker's design makes him appear even taller than that over Batman, because of the higher waist and shoulders.  Robin is 5 3/4", a good size next to Batman, and Damian is 4 3/4".  Manbat finishes out the set at just under 7" at the top of his head, not counting the long ears.  These figures should fit in terrific with any figures from the Hush line, and other figures that are in that same general scale.

All the figures stand great on their own, even though they do come with display stands.  You won't be forced to use them though, which is always a plus.

Paint - Joker ****; Robin, Damian ***1/2; Manbat, Batman ***
The paint work on my set is generally good, but not as great as it could have been.  Some of these issues though are specific quality problems that you may or may not see.

An example of that is my Batman.  He looked great in the package, but once I had him out I realized he had a run of glue down the front of his shoulder joint, coming from where the cape was attached to the top of his shoulder.  It damaged the surface of the paint, making it look quite a bit different than the rest of the torso.  There's also a rub mark on his chest that extends into the Bat symbol.  Had these two issues not existed however, he would have gotten an easy four stars in this category, with terrific work every where else.

Manbat has a bit more of an aesthetic issue.  The dark wash used on the 'fur' is overdone (especially on the feet and hands), covering up some of the cool detail rather than highlighting it.  He also has a couple quality issues, with stray marks of darker paint on the back of his wings.

The Joker is almost...almost...perfect.  The cuts between the vibrant colors are clean, and the paint job on his detailed face is fantastic.  They even used a nice gloss finish on his shoes to differentiate them from the suit.  There's a few of those annoying rub marks on the finishe of the pants and jacket, but you have to catch them in the light just right to notice them.  They're light enough to go almost unnoticed, and therefore he still got the perfect score.

Robin isn't quite as clean, but he's pretty good considering the difficult black and yellow combination.  The edge of the yellow interior on the cape is a little sloppy, but still better than I had expected considering how hard it is to get yellow to cover black.  There's a few sloppy spots here and there, but they are few and far between.  The vibrant colors and the generally clean cuts really make this guy stand out on the shelf.

Damian is also stuck with two very tough colors to put next to each other - black and white.  Again, there were enough spots along the edges where the cut wasn't quite as clean as it could be, holding him back from a perfect score, but he's still quite a bit better than some of the specialty market work we've seen lately.

Articulation - Joker ***1/2; Batman, Robin, Manbat ***; Damian **1/2
If you're expecting articulation like we get on the Legendary Comic Book Heroes or Marvel Legends, then you'll be greatly disappointed.  These aren't super articulated, but they are articulated about as well as they can be considering the designs.

The Joker gets high marks because his articulation isn't obvious, and yet it allows for some real variety. He has a ball jointed neck that works well, allowing for some tilting along with the forward/backward and turning movement.  His shoulders are only cut joints, but he also has pin elbows, pin knees, cut ankles and cut wrists.  These joints, in combination with the T hips and waist joint (yes, he is a DCD figure with a waist joint!) allow for more variety than I was certainly expecting.

Batman is very much like his Hush predecessor, with the addition of one cut joint.  He has a ball jointed neck that works great, ball jointed shoulders, pin elbows and knees, and T hips.  He also has cut joints at the top of BOTH gloves, not just the left one.  A waist joint would have been nice, or perhaps some sort of cut joint somewhere on the calf or ankle, but I can certainly be happy with what he has.

Manbat has the ball jointed neck too, but his sculpt restricts it a bit more than the others.  I wish he could pull his head backward a bit more, but it's a minor nit.  he has ball jointed shoulders, pin knees, cut ankles and T hips as well.  Like Bruce, the addition of a cut waist and cut wrists would have been icing on the cake, but I'll survive.

Robin has similar articulation, with a ball jointed neck (again, my favorite single joint because of the expressiveness it brings to any pose), pin elbows and knees, ball jointed shoulders, T hips, and cut joints at the top of the gloves.  These cut glove joints don't work quite as well as Batman's though, because as you turn the lower arm it becomes quite odd looking in relation to the upper arm.

Finally, there's dear old Damian.  Thankfully they gave him that super ball jointed neck, but he only gets ball jointed shoulders and T hips to go with it.

Accessories - Manbat, Joker **1/2, Robin, Batman *1/2; Damian Bupkis
Since I'm counting Robin and Damian separately, then Robin gets the score for the included display stand, and Damian gets bupkis.  Of course, another way to look at this is to say Damian is an accessory to Robin and not give him any score here, but rather bump Robin's score up considerably.  I did it my way - you will most certainly do it yours.

Batman also only comes with his display stand.  Considering how much cool stuff is possible for both Bruce and Tim, that's a smidge disappointing.  It's not enough to take the bloom off these figures entirely for me, but I would have liked something extra.

The Joker comes with a crowbar...I think.  You see, mine did not.  It simply wasn't in the package anywhere.  Damn it!  In this age of ordering on line, DC Direct has to make sure that the stuff is IN the package.  I'm going to give them a call and whine, but we'll see where it gets me.

It appears as though the Joker would be able to hold his accessory just fine though, if he had it.  *sigh*

Manbat comes with the display stand too of course, but he also has two swords that slip either into his hands or into straps on his wings in back.  The fit perfectly, and while they are a mite under scale, they still look pretty good in his hands.

Fun Factor - ***
Even though these aren't really intended as true 'toys', there's still plenty of good articulation and great looks to make these fun for younger fans of Batman.  Also on the upside is the sturdy joints, with no sign of weak pins or easy to break pegs.

Value - Damian/Robin ***; Batman, Joker, Manbat **1/2
You can expect to pay around $14 - $15 each for these, which is about where most DCD figures have settled these days.  Considering that when they first started producing lines like these several years ago, it was not uncommon to see them going for $18 - $20, this ain't bad.  Of course, it ain't great either, but it's the kind of value score that won't hurt or help the overall for me.

Things to Watch Out For - 
If you're buying them off the peg, make sure the Joker has his accessory!  Obviously, you'll also want to watch the paint carefully, especially up around the shoulders of Batman where glue could leak down.  Like it did on mine. ^&$(@#!

Overall - Joker ****; Batman, Manbat ***1/2; Robin/Damian ***
If I could only buy one figure from this series, it would certainly be the Joker.  Yea, we've got a lot of versions of him, but this one really is smokin'.

If you don't own the Hush version of Batman, then you absolutely should pick this one up.  He would have gotten four stars from me if he had not had the glue stain on his left shoulder - it was that close to perfect overall.  But if you already own the Hush version, it's a tougher call.  You are getting a fresh sculpt here, just one that is very similar.

Manbat is also a great version to pick up.  Since this technically isn't Langstrom, it's a completely different character, and the scale of this guy should fit in pretty well with a couple of the more recent Manbats that DCD has given us.

Finally, there's Robin and Damian.  Robin is getting pulled down from ***1/2 to *** by the inclusion of Damian, who is pretty much a throw away figure to me.  If you're a huge fan of that particular story arc you'll feel differently, but if you aren't, his plain outfit isn't going to do much for you.  Still, this is one of the best Robins we've gotten, and I'd recommend picking up the pair simply on the strength of that figure.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - Batman, Joker ****; Manbat, Robin ***1/2; Damian ***
Paint - Joker, Robin, Damian ***1/2; Manbat, Batman ***
Articulation - Joker ***1/2; Batman, Robin, Manbat ***; Damian **1/2
Accessories - Manbat, Joker **1/2, Robin, Batman *1/2; Damian Bupkis
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  Damian/Robin ***; Batman, Joker, Manbat **1/2
Overall - Joker ****; Batman, Manbat ***1/2; Robin/Damian ***

Where to Buy -
Several of my sponsors are carrying these:

- CornerStoreComics and Amazing Toyz have the singles for $12 - $14, depending on the character, and the full set for $44.

- Alter Ego has the singles for $13 each.

- Circle Red has the singles at $12, and the set at $60.

- Related Links -
I've reviewed a TON of DC Direct product over the years.  Here's some samples:

- one of my all time favorite lines is the Hush series, including series 1, series 2 and series 3.

- the most recent other lines were the Infinite Crisis Batman, Elseworlds Batgirl and Supergirl, and the latest wave of Superman/Batman figures.

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Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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