Thursday, July 18, 2013

Batman Classic TV Series: Batman & Robin

I guess Mattel realized that when you wait nearly fifty years to produce action figures for a show, expectations are going to be awfully high, and they'd better step up. Fortunately, they appear to be taking this property extremely seriously: the first set of Adam West Batman figures has been released, and I'm extremely pleased with how they came out.

First, let's take a minute to appreciate the packaging. These are packaged standing on their side, which shows Mattel trusted in the premise of this set - a gag likely lost on anyone not familiar with the show. In addition, they went out of their way to deliver some great box art.

Let's move on to the figures. The sculpt and paint are stellar for mass market. These definitely look like their onscreen counterparts.

I can't overstate how happy I am that Mattel didn't impose their normal hero bodies on these. Adam West and Burt Ward were in fine shape, but they weren't bodybuilders. These figures are realistic, and it's appreciated.

The figures sport fabric capes, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, they certainly seem more appropriate here than on more modern interpretations of the characters. In addition, there are wires embedded in the fabric, providing some extra articulation.

The wires are ostensibly present to allow the figures to pose upright with the capes extended behind them, but this doesn't quite work. There's a separate wire running down each side of the cape, which limits the posing (but of course looks better than the alternative).

You'll want to cut the tags off the fabric, obviously: they're extremely obtrusive.

Still, you can get some good flare effects, so it's not all bad. Nevertheless, I can't help but think this particular set would have been better with sculpted, outstretched capes.

Let's talk accessories. This set comes with Batman, Robin, the base, and a batarang. I'm not counting the "rope", since it's just made of paper. Odd they didn't include a piece of actual string or a sculpted version.

The base is a lot of fun. It recreates the famous wall scaling scenes from the show. In theory, it can be displayed hanging on a wall or on a flat surface, depending on whether you want it to look like it did on screen or when it was filmed. It's always great to see a decent sized base. In addition, the windows open: nice touch.

The problem with hanging it is that there's not enough holding the figures up. I was able to get them to remain in place for a few pictures, but I wouldn't expect them to remain that way indefinitely. You'll probably have to get creative with rope or wire if you want to display these vertically.

On the table's probably a better option, but you will run into issues getting the capes to look right. I think I prefer the figures better on their own, though the base is a great extra.

The batarang isn't much, though it's one of the better ones. It's made from relatively stiff plastic, it's a good shape and color (at least for this Batman), and it fits into Batman's hand. I'm a little irritated they didn't give us a second one for Robin, but I'll let that slide.

The figure's in scale with the Movie Masters line, in case you want to build a display where Christian Bale is beating up Adam West. That does mean he's quite a bit smaller than the 7 inch DC Universe Classics and related lines, but that actually seems right to me.

Finally, if you bought one of the Hotwheels 1:12th scale Batcycles a few years ago, now is the time to pull it out: it works great with West.

I picked up this set from Big Bad Toy Store for $33, plus shipping. That seems surprisingly reasonable for a starting price: I half expected these would be going for $40 or more.

I'm extremely happy with how this figure came out. It's great to finally have action figures from this show. I guess Mattel's designers agreed, since they put some effort into this set. I just hope the other figures in this line turn out as good.

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Real" Barbie

I saw this on a few news sites, and it caught my attention. The short version is that an artist, Nickolay Lamm, has made a prototype of what Barbie would look like with proportions matching an average woman's.

By and large, I'm generally a defender of Mattel's when it comes to Barbie's design (more on that in a minute), but that doesn't mean I don't love what Lamm's created here. His doll is awesome - I'd love to see this (or something like it) appear in toy stores. It'd be great to have a realistic option along with the more stylized Barbie.

In addition, as many will no doubt notice, the doll looks far more realistic in a bikini than her official counterpart. But therein lies the defense for Mattel's doll: Lamm's version wouldn't work as well in most other outfits.

Mattel takes a lot of heat for making Barbie in unrealistic proportions. It's important to keep in mind that the clothes Barbie wears are also in unrealistic proportions. Namely, the fabric is about six times thicker than what humans wear - it has to be, since it's generally real fabric tailored to fit a twelve inch figure.

If you want a fashion doll to look normal (or at least close to normal) in a flowing ball gown, you actually want to skew the doll's proportions and make her inhumanly skinny. If you put a 1:12 scale dress on Lamm's doll, it wouldn't look right (unless the dress was carefully tailored using extremely thin fabric, but that would introduce several issues in a production run).

Of course, Barbies aren't solely packaged wearing dresses: they're also produced wearing swimsuits like the ones above. In those cases, I think the above image makes it perfectly clear a realistic proportioned doll would result in a far better product. Speaking as a toy collector, I'd far rather have the one on the right standing on a shelve than Mattel's.

I understand that Mattel has a lot a factors to consider when designing dolls (including trying to maintain a small number of body molds to keep costs down), but there are a lot of people out there who boycott Barbies due to the body shape who might be interested in another option. In addition, there are quite a few collectors - young and old - who'd like some diversity in their collection.

I sincerely hope Mattel - or one of its competitors - takes a good long look at Lamm's mock-up. It's extremely cool, and I'd love to see something like it available for purchase.