First Appearances series 2
Robin and Hawkman

My High School Reunion is coming up this weekend, and looking back at all those faces in the old year book, I realize that no one - no one - ever looked cool when they were young. Oh sure, some people THOUGHT they did, and other people reinforced that idea by voting them Person You'd Like To Be Stranded On a Deserted Island With, but in reality they were simply hot bodies wrapped in goofy looking clothes and bad hair styles.

Think the seven chunks of sharpened metal poking through your face and the outfit you mugged off Wednesday Addams makes you the bomb diggity? Thank those slightly baggy jeans with the nifty Old Navy sweater make you slicker than spit on a door knob? Think again. It might take ten years, it might take fifteen, but eventually you're going to look at those old pictures and realize just how dorky you looked.

This truth isn't simply universal for teenagers, it's universal for super heroes, perhaps even more so. Maybe it's because, just like teenagers, they're trying way too hard to be cool. Superhero costumes are so tough to do well anyway, what with all the spandex and masks. There isn't a superhero alive who didn't start out looking like complete doofus. Oh, you could claim that it's only true for heroes from back in the day, when it was a simpler time and everyone looked like they belonged in Mayberry. But trust me, 30 years from know someone will look at Spawn circa 1990 and wonder who the hell thought THAT cape looked good.

DC Direct is bringing us action figures of those goofy old versions of our favorite comic heroes. The first series included Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman and Shazam, although I only picked up Batman. I have this Batman thing, you see. Don't go there.

his second series, released to comic shops just this week, includes Robin, Superman, Hawkman and Green Lantern. One thing that can be said for this line is that they are pulling out a lot of the heavy hitters, and while they might look like complete fools, I'm betting the line continues in its popularity.

I picked up Robin of course (please see discussion of Batman thing), but couldn't pass up Hawkman. I may end up with Superman as well, and my local shop had them at the fairly reasonable (at least by DC Direct standards) price of $15 each. Your shop should have them as well, and perhaps the Musicland family of stores (including Media Play and Suncoast) will pick them up.

I'm going to end up with even more of wave 3, since it's Batman character heavy, with Nightwing, Batgirl (the latest incarnation from 1999), and the Riddler to go along with the Composite Superman, who it just so happens is half Batman.

Packaging - ***1/2
While these boxes aren't fantastic, they're a step up from both the Hush series and the Dark Knight Returns series. They're also growing on me a bit more in terms of their appearance, but it still bugs me that they are fairly easy to crush, and tough to store. MOCers aren't likely to be thrilled, but if you're opening these up, they'll serve their purpose of catching your eye and your attention.

One of the pluses here is the nice blurbs on the back about each figure. For example, under Hawkman it says "Archaeologist Carter Hall discovered that he was the reincarnation of ancient Egyptian Prince Khufu in 1940's FLASH COMICS #1. Using an experimental antigravity metal, Hall took flight as Hawkman!" While every package has all four blurbs, the cover of the comic for that specific character is featured prominently on the back.

Sculpting - ***
Both of these sculpts are excellent, with all the detail in the right spots, and none of it in the wrong.

These are characters from over 50 years ago, when comic book characters didn't look like something off the pages of Gray's Anatomy. The muscles are defined without being overt, and proportions are reasonable. There's lots of clean lines and smooth skin, but when you need detail work - like in the hair or expressions - it's there in spades.

Both characters are given rather static, duck footed poses, which work well enough I suppose. I'm a little concerned that Robin's stance will widen with time, due to the slightly softer plastic being used.

The real beauty here though is in the head sculpts, and in particular in Robin's expression and Hawkmans helmet and wings. Robin looks even goofier than what's on the comic page, yet the wide smile and lifted eyebrows scream a naiveté and innocence that the Batman books haven't seen in decades.

I'm counting Robin's cape as part of the 'sculpt', just like Hawkman's wings, even though it is cloth. It has a lining, although it is all yellow. The cape is removable, if you don't mind popping off his melon. It's worth noting that I'm happy that the cape goes on and off this way, since that means no big snaps or bulky velcro to ruin the appearance.

As I mentioned, the plastic used is fairly soft, and that effects the sturdiness of these figures in a couple places. First, Robin's knees are pretty weak, and while he is able to stand on his own right now, I'm worried that his legs will start to bow over time. Second, there's the way Hawkman's wings attach to his back. Remember, this was the mostly mechanical Hawkman, so the wings attach to a pack on his back. The pins are very soft though, and don't hang as well as I'd like.

Finally, I can't not mention Robin's scale. He is slightly shorter than most other versions, but that's *slightly*. If you're expecting a big difference here, you won't see it, but I think he does look pretty good with the First Appearances Batman, even if he is a little larger than I expected.

Paint - ***
The paint ops on both figures are certainly well above the mass market standard, but are fairly typical of the current specialty market work we should compare against.

The small detail work is generally good, but there is still some bleed and poor definition between the tougher colors, like the yellow of Robin's belt buckle and the black of his belt, or the green of his shirt and the skin tone of his arms.

Hawkman exhibits some of these same issues, particularly with the red and green of his shorts/tights, and the yellow/red of his boots. It's not terrible, but definitely in the average range for this price point and for 'collector' action figures. Hey, I didn't call them that, DC Direct does right on the box.

Articulation - ***
Neither figure has stupendous articulation, but it's adequate for this style action figure. There's ball jointed shoulders, ball jointed neck, elbows, hips and knees. Robin also has cut biceps at the sleeve, and Hawkman has wrists. Of course, Hawkmans wings also move at the point they attach to the body.

You won't be able to do a lot with the leg articulation, beyond getting them to stand easily on their own. The arm articulation is more useful though, and you'll find a few nifty poses..

However, both figures sport the single most important joint on any action figure - the ball jointed neck. All toy companies currently reading this please listen! Going from a simple cut joint to a ball joint - and it doesn't have to be fancy, as proven here - adds so much to the overall poseability and looks of a figure, that it's truly amazing.

This ball joint is simply a peg with ball coming down from the head that snaps into a hole in the neck. While a simple design, it works great, and looks even better.

Robin's cape has a wire through the bottom as well, and while that's not technically articulation, it does add quite a bit to the various poses and looks of the figure. It's another nice touch, and unlike the FA Batman, I'm not having any trouble with the wire poking out of the fabric.

One negative for both figures is the softness of joints, particularly the knees. It looks like at least one of Robin's knees will break here pretty soon if I don't stop moving it around. This softness also effects the wing joints on Hawkman, and they don't move in and out as smoothly or as uniformly as you'd expect.

Accessories - Hawkman ***; Robin *1/2
Accessories never seem to be something DC Direct has much interest in, and that's apparent here once again. Both figures do include two accessories that are part of the overall line - their display stand, and a mini-copy of the original comic book.

The comics are cute and make for a nice backdrop to the figure, but are never going to be a major selling point. The display stand work fine, although both these figures work well without them. Oddly, they've dropped the black line paint ops on the center embossed logo, which hurts the appearance a bit.

I suppose that you could call Robin's cape an accessory - it is cloth and can be removed by popping off the head, but I included it with the sculpting info above. That means Robin is done in this category, and considering how many Bat-gadgets the could have gone with, I'm a bit disappointed.

Hawkman does better, with both his shield and his cool knife. The blade is clear, with a gold hilt, and the sculpting is excellent. The shield might appear a bit plain, but that's comic accurate. The soft plastic hurts this one again, since they went with a very soft material for the 'band' that attaches the shield to his arm, so soft that it doesn't hold. While the bar for his hand is nice and solid, you'll find that keeping the shield in one position is tricky with the poor quality clasp.

His hawk-hat is also removable, and fits nicely. I was a little worried that it would fall off constantly, but the fit is tight enough that it is not an issue.

Fun Factor - **
The general mechanics of these figures would make them fine toys, if little Johnny didn't keep giggling uncontrollably every time he sees them. It's tough to have fun with your action figures when you're curled up in a ball on the floor, barely able to breathe, while the adult in the room preaches on about how these costumes were the bees knees when he was young.

Value - **
I'm starting to get used to the feeling of paying $15 for a basic action figure. I didn't say I liked it, but I'm starting to get used to it. It's sort of like getting used to being repeatedly poked in the face with a sharp stick.

Even though my tolerance for wallet discomfort is going up, these figures are at least $3 overpriced. At $12 each you could add another half star.

Overall - ***
I applaud DC Direct for giving us these old versions of our favorite heroes. The price is still a tad steep, especially when the paint ops continue to be hit and miss and the number of accessories is light, but they're still worth a solid B.

I am a little concerned that the next series seems to be getting away from the real 'first appearances' theme with Batgirl. While it's the first time she looked like THAT, it's not really her first appearance, now is it? I'm hoping this simply doesn't turn into another line that they can put odds and ends into, especially when there are still so many characters that could use a great first appearance version.

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

Where to Buy - 
I picked these two up at the local comic shop for $15. Online options include:

- Qwiksand Collectibles has them available for $12 each, a pretty decent price and better than what I paid.  They also have the wave 3 available for preorder for just $40 for all four!

- CornerStoreComics has the whole wave for $50, or each of the four for $13. They also have pre-orders up for the next wave.

- Killer Toys has them listed at $13 each as well.

- Alter Ego Comics has them at $13 each, and has the full set of four for $50. However, if you're looking to pre-order wave 3, they have the full set - all four! - for just $40!

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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