Artist Signature Series
Batman Hush

There once was a time when I would buy something, look at it later, and ponder "what the hell were you thinking?". Fortunately, this has happened less and less over time. In fact, most of it stopped about the same time I stopped collecting the bulk of Star Wars stuff. I wonder if there's a connection?

But no one is immune from bad decisions, and tonight's review covers something that *MIGHT* turn out to be one of those. I can't quite say for sure yet, and it's going to take a few weeks or perhaps months before the jury gets tired of eating free donuts and actually comes back with a verdict. But this bad boy has every early indication.

DC Direct knows there's lots of collectors interested in the entire process involved in manufacturing action figures. They also know there's a whole subset of collectors who are into pre-production figures, and yes, I'm one of those as well. Fueled by this knowledge and their desire to have more of my money, they are releasing two special boxed sets, one for Superman and one for Batman. Along with collecting pre-production items, I'm also a complete sucker for all things Batman, so it is only reasonable that I would fall prey to the Batman set.

This set is called the "Artist Signature Series: Batman Hush". The set includes three action figures: a resin reproduction of the original sculpture by Tim Bruckner, an unpainted test shot, and a final painted version that is a variant of the regular release Hush Batman. It also includes a reproduction of an original sketch by Jim Lee, a COA signed by Bruckner, and a little booklet that tells the basic story of how the figure was produced.

All this, and the admiration of fellow collectors, can be yours for just $250. That's the suggested retail anyway - I have some suggestions at the end where you can save 25% or more.

Packaging - ****
This type of 'collectible' really does depend on the packaging. And I have to admit that what DC Direct did here is just about perfect. I've taken more shots of the package than usual, since it's such a crucial part of the overall presentation of the figures.

All three figures come in a large, black, rectangular box. This box comes in a white shipping sleeve. Everything - the white box, the outside of the black box, and the COA inside the black box - are marked with the edition size of 1500 and your number.

There's nothing fancy about the outside of the box. That's good, because it's not about the box, it's about presenting what's inside. The box is completely collector friendly, intended for you to store the figures there if you like, and yet open and close it easily (with velcro tabs) to show people what prize it holds. Okay, so it's not the Hope diamond inside, but if you did have the Hope diamond, you'd keep it in a box like this.

The box is nice and sturdy, but be careful opening it to avoid ripping the velcro tabs off the cover. Once open, you are presented with the drawing on the left flap, sealed behind plastic, and the COA (again sealed in plastic) and booklet on the right flap. The three figures are placed in a soft foam center, with foam squares covering and protecting each one like babies in a blanket.

I'm normally not this impressed with packaging, but they did an exceptional job here, and certainly added quite a bit of additional value to the basic three figures. Sure, I would have liked an actual original drawing from Jim for this kind of price, but that's not the box's fault.

Sculpting - ****
When I reviewed this Batman as part of Hush Series 1, I gave him four stars in this category. The oddly positioned right leg was my only real issue, and one that I could work with. It's no surprise that he's still a four star sculpt, and one of my favorite Batman figures.

This time we get three versions of him, and it's quite interesting to see how that right leg started out cool and ended up dorky. The reproduction of Bruckner's original sculpt - which isn't a true pre-production item of course, but a REproduction of a pre-production - shows how cool he looks when he is a stationary subject. It's a sharp looking pose, and a great looking statue. It's been cast in a resin like material, not PVC, so be careful that you don't break any of the delicate parts.

Then come the joints. Once you cut in joints, he no longer looks quite as cool. It's a pity too, but without the joints, he wouldn't be much of an action figure, would he? The test shot is really a pseudo-test shot. You see, test shots are done to test the molds and check for any final revisions before the actual production run. Companies usually have first shots, perhaps make minor revisions, and then might do second or even third shots. But there's never more than a handful of the actual test shot figures.

Here, they didn't really make these to test anything, and they aren't part of the actual production process. Instead, they took off colored plastic, ran it through the molds just like an production figure, did a run of 1500 of them, and called them 'test shots'. It's not the same thing, but that's not a problem as long as you understand it.

I'm actually working on putting together my toy room online again, and I've started with the pre-production items. I have a big intro on what the various terms in the early production process mean if you're interested in learning more.

The final figure is identical to the Hush Batman, except with a new paint job.  The sculpt is no surprise, any more than it is on the test shot.

Paint - ***1/2
This category only applies to one of the three figures of course, since only one is actually painted.  The other two are simply presented in the material they were cast in.

The variant is based on the classic black and gray costume, similar to the Zipline Batman from the standard 6" Mattel line.  This is my favorite color combination, and one of the reasons I still have a slight preference for the Zipline Bats over the regular Hush Bats.  This variant is now my new favorite Batman figure in my collection - too bad I had to sell my children into the slave trade market to afford him.

The quality of his paint application is higher than the original Hush Batman as well. Of course, considering that these are marketed as super ultra extra secret sauce special, it's not surprising that there's no slop.

Articulation - ***
Obviously, the first figure has no articulation, but the other two have the same standard articulation that we already saw with the Hush Batman that was released in production. It works well enough for basic posing, and is actually better than some of the earlier DC Direct work.

Batman has neck, shoulders, elbows, cut forearm on the right hand, hips and knees. He won't ge giving Super Poseable Spidey a run for his money, but he can hold his own with most DC themed products.

Accessories - **1/2
I'm counting the COA, drawing and booklet as accessories here, since they were clearly advertised as selling points. Each figure also comes with a display stand.

The display stands are the same bat-emblem stand that the Hush figures came with. The paint job is slightly different, but otherwise it's the same stand. There are also pegs for the feet of each figure. The stands are alright, though largely unnecessary, since the figures stand great on their own.

The COA, drawing and booklet are nice, if not stupendous. Had the drawing actually been an original (how long would it take Mr. Lee to do 1500 sketches? Quite awhile I'd imagine...) it would have really been a major boost to this set.

I'm not sure really where to mention this, so I'll throw it in here. Each figure has a little 'name tag' around his right leg. These are just little pieces of paper with the words "test shot" or "variant" written on them, on the off chance you forget. It reminds me of writing your name in your underwear in case you forget who you are.

Fun Factor - **
The original Hush Batman did much better in this category, with the reasonable articulation and great sculpt. But at this price point, and with the likelihood of damage, nobody is ever going to get to 'play' with any of these. That's not what they or the box is designed for.

Value - *
Up to this point, I've been pretty happy with this set. It's a cool concept, even if none of the figures are really pre-production figures. The presentation is great, and your getting three nifty versions of a great looking figure. If you were to buy three Batman Hush figures, you'd spend $50, so you expect it to cost at least that much. Add in the limited number of 1500 for what is a pretty cool set of a major character, some great packaging with fairly interesting pack ins, and I can easily see paying $100 - $125 for this set.

But $250? What are they smoking? And more importantly, what was I smoking that was so good I don't even remember it? It does help that I picked this up on a pre-order for under $200, but not much.

What's really painful here is if you start thinking about how much margin there is on this set.  There's no new sculpting, no new molds, no new anything.  The only cost is the actual unit cost to manufacture this limited run of figures.  And it's not quite as limited of a production run as you first think - remember, while there are only 1500 sets, there are 4500 figures.  This set, including making the nifty boxes, couldn't have cost $30 each to make, $40 tops.  That is one huge profit margin!

You might want to watch ebay, but don't wait too long. I saw one of these sets go for just $105 last week, but I'm betting prices start to go up as the 1500 sets start to disappear.

Overall - **
The ridiculous price point on this set hurts what is otherwise a great looking trio.  I love the packaging, and the concept is interesting if not completely truthful.  This is one of those sets for only the most psychotic Batman fans, and only then if they're also off their medication.

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

Where to Buy - 
I bought mine through Alter Ego Comics, and their pre-order price was just $188. I pre-ordered this thing almost a year ago though - how time flies! They have the Superman set up for pre-order right now at $212.50. Other on-line options include:

- you can still get it at Alter Ego, but now it's $200.

- Killer Toys has it listed for $220.

- Southern Island has it in stock for $240.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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