DC Universe Series 1
Batman, Etrigan and Penguin

DC fans have been begging for years for a well articulated, well sculpted, high quality series of action figures of their favorite comic book characters.  But what about DC Direct?  I said 'well articulated'.  And while some of the DCD sculpts are great, others aren't up to the same level of quality.  Oh, and let's not forget the cost.

Mattel has been producing something close for a few years now - the DC Superheroes line.  The line has had two problems though - only some of the figures had the level of articulation folks were looking for, and the assortment of characters was very, very limited.

This last year they announced that was going to change though with the DC Universe line.  I found the first series at a local Toys R Us this week, and I was thrilled to see that they were every bit as good as they'd promised.  I've only found Batman, Etrigan and Penguin so far (the wave also contains Red Tornado and Orion), but I wanted to get this review up asap.

If you do pick up all five figures, you can create a BAF...excuse me, 'collect and connect' figure...of the Element Man.  He's not a large BAF, but the same size as the other figures in the series.  Still, we'd never get him on his own.

These run $10 a pop at mass market retailers, but you can get them through some online sponsors as well.

There's also a couple variants in the wave, one on Red Tornado, and the other one still unknown.  Keep your eyes peeled!

Packaging - ***1/2
Since these are mass market, the bubble/cardback style is not surprising.  It's a little oversized, but the graphics are attractive and eye catching.  More importantly, at least to me, is that they went through the trouble of personalizing all the cardbacks with bios and backgrounds on the characters.

Sculpting - Etrigan, Penguin ****; Batman ***1/2
The sculpting is outstanding - the Four Horsemen can be proud.  The work here shows much, much more detail and expression than you normally find on a mass market toy.  If you've been buying the DCSH line, think Clayface or Mongul, and you'll get the idea.

Batman ended up with a slightly lower score because of some weirdness with his sculpted legs and shoulders.  I found that the right leg didn't quite work right with the articulation - there was something a bit odd about the angle of the calf and hip.  The ball part of the shoulders also seems hunched in toward the chest too much, giving him a slightly odd look.  It's not a huge problem, but compared to the other two, he fell just a tad short.

He's done in the 'classic' style, aka mid-70's.  The black and grey costume looks good, and the half length cape is appropriate to the style.

His hands are sculpted to work with the accessories, which they do well, but they also look good empty.

Etrigan's head sculpt is outstanding, and is one of the best of the series including the previous DCSH figures.  His torso feels a bit light (its hollow), and it doesn't have the level of texture or detail that the legs, hands and head do, but it's a minor issue with an otherwise overall amazing job.

His hands are gesturing ominously, and the sculpt has the same kind of detail as the head.  He didn't come with any accessories, so going this route made the most sense.

The big surprise for me in this set of three is the Penguin.  The head sculpt is stupendous, also done in a 'classic' style.  His clothing has more texture and detail than the other two, and his tubby little body is in the right scale for the other characters.  This is easily my favorite Penguin figure to date, and there have been plenty made.

His hands work well holding his accessories, but like Batman, they also look good simply posed by his side.  That's a tough thing to pull off - they usually either look good posed or holding something, but not both.

All the figures stand great on their own in any number of poses, but they also have holes in the bottom of both feet if you want to use generic display stands.

These figures are in a six inch scale, just like DCSH.  They'll go perfectly with those previous figures.  Batman stands 6 1/2" tall (without the ears), Penguin is just 5 3/4" (with the hat), and Etrigan towers over them at almost 7 1/4".

Paint - Penguin ****; Batman ***1/2; Etrigan ***
Lets start with Etrigan.  The wash on the face is just right, with enough to pull out the highlights but not so much that he looks like he washed in mud.

The legs also have a bit of a wash, which brings out the highlights.  The torso and cape are both fairly straight in color, but the hands have plenty of detail too.

My only real complaint is that mine has some glue slopped on the front of the chest.   I'm hoping that problems like this aren't common, and if yours is clean, he's worth another half star at least.

The Batman has very few quality issues, with clean cuts and even lines.  He has a lot less detail than some figures, with most of the costume in one of the basic colors, but the work on the eyes, eyebrows (on the mask of course) and face is very clean.

The face is actually what pulls him down a half star though.  It's too tan, making him look like he just spent a month on the beach. 

I can't find a thing wrong with the Penguin.  Like with the sculpt, his paint has more detail work on the body, including some wonderful rubbing on the high points of the vest that makes it appear like worn clothing.  The buttons are perfectly round, and even the cut line between the black tie and white shirt is quite clean considering the scale.

Articulation - Batman, Etrigan ****; Penguin ***1/2
While these figures are not as 'super articulated' as something like the Marvel Legends or the Legendary Comic Book Heroes line, they have joints that provide for a terrific range of movement and poseability without being too ugly or obvious.

The highlight here is the ball jointed necks.  Regular readers know how much value I place on a good ball jointed neck - it adds personality to every pose.  All three of these have a very wide range of movement, forward, backward, side to side and even tilting at various angles.  The sculpts don't seem to hinder this range of movement at all, including Batman.

All the figures have ball jointed shoulders as well.  The shoulders on Etrigan and Batman are jointed on both sides of the ball, while Penguin has a cut bicep to make up for the single sided nature of his ball joint.

The elbows and knees are single pin joints, with sturdy solid pins.  The ankles are single pin joints as well, with a very good range of movement.  The wrists are just cut joints, but that's better than we usually get in mass market superheroes - or DCD versions.

All the figures have cut waist joints, but Etrigan and Batman also have the cool pin chest joints.  They work quite well, allowing for both forward and backward tilting.  Because of the tux on the Penguin, he lacks the chest joint.

His hips are also slightly different, and can only move forward and back.  They don't go fully forward and back either, so he can't sit or take extreme stances.  It's not a huge deal, but it does drop his articulation score below the other two.

They have the unusual DCSH style hips that don't just move forward and back, but out to the side up to 90 degrees as well.  They also both have cut thighs, adding to their ability to take interesting stances.

Accessories - Batman ***1/2; Penguin ***; Etrigan **
Each of the figures comes with a BAF piece, as I mentioned earlier.  The Penguin has the head, torso and pelvis as a single piece, while Batman has the left arm and left arm elemental attachment, and Etrigan has the right arm and right elemental attachment.

Those two BAF pieces are all Etrigan comes with.  That cuts back on his score naturally, since if you aren't interested in the BAF, it's pretty useless.

The Penguin has a spiffy umbrella with removable Gatlin gun style machine gun.  This attaches to the handle, or can be removed.

Batman comes with a batarang, naturally.  This fits in his hands well. He also comes with a grappling hook gun, and the hook can be removed from the top of the gun, and there's a length of string (8 inches or so) that he can climb.  This winds around a reel on one side of the gun.

Fun Factor - ****
Great articulation, great sculpts - kids would love these.  If they know who they are, anyway.  Can Mattel sell enough of these to collectors that the lack of interest from kid's will not matter?

Value - ***
These figures are better than most DCD figures - at a price 30% or more less.  That's a solid value.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Watch for sloppy glue - I wasn't paying enough attention when I grabbed mine.  Then again, since there was only one Etrigan on the peg, I probably would have bought him anyway.

Overall - Penguin, Etrigan ****; Batman ***1/2
I'm a huge fan of the DCSH line, but even I have to admit that other than Batman and Superman, the lines been pretty lacking.  Even for them, the selection of characters has been pretty thin...and repetitive.

This line is starting out terrific, with some amazing sculpts and solid articulation.  These are TOYS first, and yet they look amazing.  Thankfully, Mattel is taking a chance on these, and I know I'll be doing what I can to convince them it was worth the risk.

I hate how movies that come out late in the year end up getting so well received for the Academy Awards.  And yet here's a line of figures that I didn't see until December 18th, that may end up taking my pick for the best line of the year.  But you can't argue with something that turned out this well, no matter what month it is!

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Etrigan, Penguin ****; Batman ***1/2
Paint - Penguin ****; Batman ***1/2; Etrigan ***
Articulation - Batman, Etrigan ****; Penguin ***1/2
Accessories - Batman ***1/2; Penguin ***; Etrigan **
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ***
Overall - Penguin, Etrigan ****; Batman ***1/2

Where to Buy -
Toys R Us is getting them in, but online sponsors might be your best bet considering the spotty distribution that we've seen from Mattel on past lines:

- CornerStoreComics and Amazing Toyz has a set of 6 (and that hopefully means at least one of each of the 5 unique figures) for $60.  They also have waves 2 and 3 on pre-order.

- Or you can check out the Ebay action by using to help you find them.

- Related Links -
I've covered quite a few of the DCSH figures:

- last up was the Clayface and Bruce to Bats figures.

- before that was Mongul, who is also one of the best figures this year and Parasite and Steel

- don't forget the 12" version of the smaller Batman, and the 12" Cyborg Superman.

- in this smaller line, the fourth series was Superman themed, with Brainiac and Darkseid. There's also the Batgirl and Superman from the two packs. 

- there's the guest review of series 3 Batman and Azrael.

- a guest review of series 2 Doomsday, and another of the series 2 Superman.

- my review of the series 2 Bizarro and Supergirl.

- my review of the Batman and Killer Croc from wave 1.

- and finally, my review of Bane and Scarecrow that were released internationally as part of the old Mattel line, and then re-released with wave 1 of the DCSH.




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Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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