Toys / Comics to Toys

Mattel Batman

By Hervé St.Louis
December 16, 2003 - 13:23

If you come to the Comic Book Bin regularly, you know I've been meaning to get my hands on those and review them for a while. This is going to be fun. For years, Hasbro held an exclusive license on all Superman and Batman related characters. In 2003, this license ended. Warner Brother, the parent company of DC Comics negotiated a new deal with Mattel, but all DC Comics characters and others.

The new license finally fixed a long-standing loophole that many fans saw as an injustice. DC Comic's merchandising harm, DC Direct could now produce Batman and Superman related action figures. Mattel's take has also been different from Hasbro's. Unlike Hasbro who concentrated mostly on animated version Batman and Superman characters, they have attacked the lucrative sis inch market.

In the past Hasbro has created five inch figures. Very few could fit the new six inch action figures preferred by several collectors. Smaller scale figures appeal to kids. Larger ones such as the twelve inch military figures appeal to another type of adult collector. Between, we have the six-inch figures that to be more detailed than the four inches ones, but less of the intricate props and removable clothes of the larger type.

Obviously, Mattel released animated-based figures first but finally branched out into the six-inch area by introducing a series of convention exclusive figures and announcing the Batman and Superman Two Pack. The moment I saw those figures, they were on my order list. Compared with DC Direct figures, they are cheaper. Mattel's Four Horsemen team has also sculpted them.

The Horsemen are excellent sculptors known for their excellent work on the He-Man action figure relaunch. Their style is certainly more dynamic than the usual vanilla pose DC Direct has used in its action figures. Even the relaxed Batman and Superman action figures are more angular and ready to jump than the regular DC Direct product. Mattel's products are not primarily comic book influenced like DC Direct.

It doesn't matter. Mattel has carved itself a nice niche. DC Direct action figures are not distributed to regular retail stores to the same extent as Mattel products. For years DC Comics fans got action figures that based on animated versions or completely irrelevant for serious collectors. Mattel is striking both markets and I hope its strategy works.

Mattel continues to produce the odd looking coloured super hero figures for the kid's market, like Hydro Barman and all the useless props collectors usually throw in a stupid spare part bag. Mattel also gives collectors a product worthy of their demands with the almost comic book accurate characters. A DC Direct Batman will always look more like the real thing than its Mattel version, however, they are good enough.

Mattel started to release several major Batman characters quite ahead of competitor DC Direct. We now have a Nightwing, a Robin, a Joker, a Killer Croc, several Batman and Mr Cold. Many collectors had asked for these, especially Nightwing. Great going Mattel. They can make some money until DC Direct releases their own version one of these days.


There are several Batman action figures from Mattel. Many collectors will ignore the various coloured version such as the Snow Batman, Desert and Jungle Batman. It feels like G.I. Joes, suddenly. The most comic book accurate Batman is the Zipline Batman, the one in the Batman and Superman set and the exclusive ones offered only in conventions. I have heard reports that all three accurate Batmen figures are the same! The only difference is that convention exclusive is grey and blue and Zipline comes with props.


There are so many Batman interpretations that it's useless to compare this figure with a specific comic book version. This figure and its variants resemble the current look the character sports in the comic books. The yellow oval around the bat emblem is gone. Full pockets replace the tube-like belt packs prevalent in the Silver and Bronze Age. The Zipline and Two pack Batmen have black rather than blue.


The sculpt is great. Batman's shape is almost angular. He is extremely muscular. His thighs are a bit shorter than they should be while his calves are longer. However, given the look and style of the figure, it works remarkably well. Batman's soles have sculpted in designs including a Bat-logo. Batman's ears are not too long, and not too short. The only flaw is the small scale of the stern looking Batman's head.


The paint job is extremely simple. Things are either black or grey, except his face, belt and eyes. The paint used on the belt is not thick enough to cover the base plastic's colour underneath. I also wonder how much time will the logo last.


The scale is where some collectors might have some problems. As weird as it seems, th six inch scale used by DC Direct is different from Mattel's. All of Mattel's figure fit well together however, they feel too small for DC Direct characters. The major problem is the size of Mattel's head. They are too small. Other parts of Batman, such as his feet are actually larger than those of the Silver Age Batman.

If Mattel made their character's head larger, they would fit perfectly. As it stands, Batman will fit well with the Birds of prey, although his head is smaller. He also looks good next to the Silver Age Robin and even some Justice League figures. However, he is just too short for the modern Age DC Direct Superman. Next to Mattel's Superman, there are no problems.


This figure is very stable. He can even stay up on a small desk fan sitting on an uneven surface like a bed! I know few figures who can do that. Strangely, Mattel does not put peg holes in their figure's feet. I guess they're confident about their products.


The articulation of this figure has annoyed some fans. There are ten points of articulations in the neck, the shoulders, the waist, the hips, the knees and the forearms. There are no elbow joints. Frankly, he doesn't need them. He looks good without them. The articulations are all smooth and offer a large range. Mattel has used a smart crotch design that reduces the cuts and gaps in the figure. The hips are tight.

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