31 May 2012

The DC nU 52 Batman Action Figure Review!


It's hard to imagine, but last September DC COMICS decided to re-invent their line of characters with all-new comicbook series.  The notion of these new comics (52 different titles in all) was that they cut themselves loose of the last 72 years worth of history and continuity, with an appeal to attracting new readers.  Part of this rebooting of their comics included new costumes designs, most of which were done by acclaimed artist Jim Lee.

Due to his enduring popularity, Batman's appearance in the "nU" DC Universe remains largely consistent with his 70 year publication history: He's still Bruce Wayne, his origin is pretty much the same, and there's still Alfred tending the Batcave (He's the lucky one- Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman and others have been re-imagined more severely).  His new costume reflects this Let's-Not-Mess-Much-With-Greatness approach, but slightly revising his utility belt and removing his trunks (neither design choice is original, as past artists have done similar revisions in the last twenty years of comics).

The biggest design revolution of the nU DC?


Jim Lee re-designed most of the Super-suits to have seams, perhaps in an effort to appeal to Hollywood wardrobe departments.  Batman's costume is now covered in seams.

DC Entertainment's BATMAN (2012)

To inaugurate the nU Universe of characters, DC Entertainment will release figures of the seven member Justice League, starting with Batman.  As you can see with the packaging, the box front has a "peel away" motif similar to the new DC company logo.

In the "nU 52", Batman's Mom made his costume (I kid)

The Batman figure is about what you would expect- he has hip and knee articulation that doesn't allow for a lot of options in posing.  Perhaps in a nod to recent MATTEL figures, the nU Batman has jointed shoulders and biceps that allow for arm rotation.

In the "nU 52", Batman drags his cape
 The figure is light on accessories.  There is no batarang and no base, which was a DC standard in past figure offerings.  The paint job is modestly done, with some black dabs on an inner elbow and paint marks on the back of the cape.

The Dynamic DnUo
An interesting aside is that this figure does not appear to be the first nU Look Batman figure! On the side of the box is another Batman that is a completely different sculpt!

This Batman, apparently, was not "seamy" enough...

Editorial policies and fan preferences may come and go, but Batman appears to remain resilient throughout them all.  I've never liked any of his trunkless costumes and the two-tone look without the trunks looks wrong.  It would have been more interesting to see what fashion designers would do with the Bat-suit, but then we probably only need to go the movies to see what that would look like...
In the "nU 52", boys have seams and girls have a zipper? 

22 May 2012

Happy Birthday TOM MANDRAKE!

Is it always Halloween in the art world of Tom Mandrake?

The Dark Knight of Tom Mandrake, circa 1983

My first exposure to Tom’s art was the BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS work he did in the mid Eighties.  I dug his compositions and use of ink, but found his characters a bit blocky.  By pure chance, I met Tom at a comic show at Eastern Michigan University and he drew a Batman pencil commission for me.  I was blown away- his delicate pencil shading conveyed more depth than the inked stuff in the comics- and hooked forever after that.

The Wraith of the God, by Sir Tom of Mandrake!

For my money, Tom hit his stride in his collaboration with John Ostrander on THE SPECTRE.  It was the perfect match for the character, as Ostrander understood how to blend the horror and mystery genres with the potent consideration of The Spectre as the biblical Wrath of God.  Tom took this narrative as a prime directive to - literally- unleash Hell onto the page.  Serial killers looked more depraved and the tropes of super-villains took on aspects of a Hieronymus Bosch painting.  Like Rodin’s Gates of Hell, the pages became wrought with the writhing damned.

Recently, Tom was featured in BATMAN RETROACTIVE 70’s, a new Batman story set in the conventions of his mid-1970’s appearances.  At the time, Len revived a large number of old villains, slightly updating their goofy appearances to make them more action-adventure story oriented.  While this new story was penned by Len Wein, the writer of those stories and the creator of character Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman in the movies), Tom might seem an odd choice as he wasn’t working on BATMAN at that time. 

Tom's most recent BATMAN publication (2011)

It’s become one of my recent favorite stories.  Len pitch-perfect nailed his style from those old BATMAN comics.  The new Retro story fits to his stories like a lost chapter, advancing the sub plot of Lucius Fox and inserting a new twist into the motives for all of the returning goofy golden age villains.  

Tom’s pages are filled with black- shadows, skyscrapers, and night scenes.  Mandrake returns the Batcave to an appearance of 40 years ago, with huge lumbering banks of computers with magnetic tapes maintaining the Bat Crime files on dated-looking terminals.  The colours also match Tom’s art- deep blues, dark greys, and none of the bright palette found in the reprinted story.

Tom Mandrake takes the Batmobile out for the night! 

I couldn’t resist and grabbed my favorite of Tom’s original pages for the book.  The top panel has Tom’s sole rendering of the golden age Bat-villain 3-pack, THE TERRIBLE TRIO.  This group of gangsters super power was to wear ridiculous masks while plotting crimes.  Then we get classic Alfred and Bruce in the 70’s Batcave illustrations in the center panel.  Finally, the bottom third of the page is the crème de la crème: Tom’s loving take of the classic “Super Powers Batmobile”.  Tom used a great deal of splattered paint to convey the movement and energy of Batman heading off to kick some Batusi.  I love it.

So, if you’re tired waiting for the new season of WALKING DEAD episodes, do yourself a favor and pick up Tom’s SPECTRE comics, or if you need more superheroics with your Halloween monsters, grab his BATMAN AND SUPERMAN VS. VAMPIRES AND WEREWOLVES and it’s sequel BATMAN VS THE UNDEAD and celebrate the man!

Happy Birthday!

19 May 2012


The boys in the lab are pleased as punch to unveil their latest creation:  Catwoman from "The Night of the Batmen" episode!


 Pops was over tonight and nixed the pipe cleaner tail.  I think he was right.

We're very happy with the outcome and we hope our GIVEAWAY winner is happy with it too!

Our next Brave & Bold Lady?  Someone priceless...  How's that for a hint?

3, 2, 1...