Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Greatest dream DCUC lineup, or nightmare? You tell me!

While DC Universe Classics isn't a perfect line, it's a pretty damn good one. Yet, while any errors seem to fall on Mattel's shoulders (like distribution, figures posed in positions that cause them to get warped and bent, the occasional misassembled or mis-scaled figure) everyone seems to agree the sculpting from the Four Horsemen is above reproach. And while I don't share their love of the classic Super Powers lineup, there have been more than a couple figures that I thought were oddball choices, yet ended up liking a lot. For example, they made a strikingly great figure of the 80's Vigilante, a character who killed himself in his last appearance. (Commander Steel and Guardian, who probably had a fanbase in the dozens before, would be two more I'd put on that list.)

But that's the thing about a company with as deep a well of characters as DC (or Marvel, for that matter): there are any number of characters that may not be anyone's first choice for an action figure, or third choice, or even twenty-third choice. That doesn't mean the characters couldn't be excellent, eye-catching figures; and a figure that attracts attention could feed back into comics or other venues. And frankly, it would pad out the line, rather than going with Superman or Batman variants.

This list is some characters that could make great action figures, based on sculpt and design alone: not only are they not household names, they aren't even necessarily cult favorites, fondly remembered by fanboys. Nor are they characters that had figures back in the 80's, or appeared on Super Friends, or were re-imagined for a Vertigo series. Not to belabor the point, but these characters make Captain Comet look like an A-lister. (And he only didn't make the list because he's a bit bland for my tastes, but Mattel could slap together a figure of him from existing parts inside of five minutes.)

But get the Four Horseman to sculpt the bejeezus out of this lot...and they could be something.

1. The Viking Commando

One of Robert Kanigher's more endearingly crazy ideas: Viking Warrior Valoric is taken for Valhalla by the Valkyrie that loved him, but too soon, before he was quite dead. A cosmic storm dumps him in the middle of World War II, where Odin decrees Valoric will stay until he dies in battle. So, he's a big burly, slightly-suicidal Viking, with a battleax and hand-grenades, fighting the Nazis ("HUNS!") while his invisible yet hot Valkyrie girlfriend waits around for him to snuff it. Also, his advice column still makes me laugh.

Friends, I'm not one for hyperbole, but if the Viking Commando's action figure hit the shelves, the testosterone content of this country would increase a billionfold. And I assure you, not in a bad way, just men standing up for themselves and others, and generally taking no crap. Well, that and little boys would become goddamn sexual tyrannosaurs at the age of six.

2. G.I. Robot

Kids love robots. Kids love army guys. Ergo, kids will double love robot army guy J.A.K.E. 2, who in his first appearance (after the first J.A.K.E. was destroyed, during a team-up with the Creature Commandos) beat the hell out of an indestructible samurai robot with his own decapitated head. Oh, hell yeah.

Robert Kanigher again, thank you very much. J.A.K.E. stood for Jungle Automatic Killer Experimental; and the character was also set in World War II, although I want to say later stories were set in a post-apocalyptic future. I may have halluncinated that, let me get back to you...

3. Dolphin

Aquaman's wife (or ex-wife?) Mera is currently more popular than she's been in years, from her appearance in Blackest Night; but Aquaman's squeeze in a good chunk of Peter David's issues was the mysterious underwater blonde. What was her origin? Why didn't she remember her past? How did she get her powers? Dude, I don't know if we ever found out; but she was hot, and funny, and a pretty good match for Arthur at the time. (She would later end up with former Aqualad Tempest, which is not a case of trading up...)

For some reason, the only issues I could find of her were when she was wearing Aquaman's old orange shirt. (She was even wearing that when she later hooked up with Tempest, which should've been a hint for him.) Her previous outfit was cut-off shorts and a tied-off tee-shirt, and if Mattel can't sell a female figure wearing that, they have failed.

4. Black Spider

The original Black Spider was a former junkie turned murderous vigilante, who eventually blew himself up to get the dealer that killed his family. The second, created by Doug Moench and Kelley Jones, was a hired gun who stole the name, as well as being a swarmy bastard whom you couldn't wait for Batman to cave his face in.

Admittedly, Killer Moth has more name recognition; I don't think Black Spider has appeared in any of the animated series or prior toy lines. He's a glorified thug, true; but he could also be made with a repaint of Blue Beetle and some guns. He's a gimme for Mattle, easy as pie. (In all honesty, there's a couple of other never-before-made Batman villains that I would prefer, but both Anarky and KGBeast could require more tooling, or get hung up on their names. And Clayface III, the crazy one that melts people? He would be toyetic as all get out, but scares the hell out of me.)

5. Monarch

The big bad of 1991's Armageddon: 2001, this armored baddie was famously supposed to be revealed as Captain Atom, then last minute revisions made him Hawk, of Hawk and Dove. Exactly. Still, he's a bad guy in an armored suit, and we sure as hell don't have to ask for a removable mask for him. Make Monarch whoever you want him to be: Guy Gardner, Kid Eternity, Awkwardman, whoever. You really couldn't make a worse choice.

He's a nice, all-purpose bad guy; with almost no characterization that I can recall, which means for play purposes the sky's the limit. I for one would not request an unmasked variant.

6. Manhunter (Mark Shaw)

MAKE ME THIS GODDAMN FIGURE. Ahem. Sorry. I just love the hell out of that costume, though. John Ostrander and Doug Rice didn't create the character of Shaw, but they built him up quite a bit; and Suicide Squad fans may recall not only did his book crossover there, this Manhunter was a bounty hunter that often captured villains that would later end up on the Squad. (He catches the Penquin and Captain Cold his first issue, and not just in an attempt to sell the new character as badass: he legitimately outsmarts them both, sort of: catching the Penquin in the bathtub, and the drunk and disorderly Captain after his beloved Cubs lose.)

7. The Heckler

Mattel. Psst. Come here. Lemme tell you a secret: some buyers are going to like the Heckler from the start: he's a bold choice, he's got a different color scheme than most of the previous DCUC figures, and he's never been made before, in anything, ever. And you could probably make him, with zero sculpting, just existing parts. He's basically a blank body. OK, the paint apps are going to be a pill, but even so: A blank body. There may be fans that don't like him, but they can lump it and customize him into whomever else they want.

Plus, the Heckler. That would be like walking into the toughest bar in town and saying you could whup any man in the joint, like throwing the gauntlet: like saying you could do anything.

Now, every DCUC wave up to now has come with a Collect and Connect figure, ranging from the normal sized like Metamorpho, up to the goodly-sized like Giganta. Lately, they seem to be going with bigger-but-not-gigantic characters, like Kilowog or Darkseid; neither of whom would probably fit comfortably in your car, but nor could they eat it, either. My recommendation? Go the other way this wave. Go smaller characters, that couldn't be sold by themselves, but don't need to be packed with Superman to sell either: Krypto, Streaky, Mr. Mxypktk and Bat-Mite (both just over a head tall and possibly with an armature or something, to attach them to their hero's back or shoulder)...um...

Or, before we get down to characters like Doll-Man, what about in-DCUC-scale props, like the Bottle City of Kandor? Or the Phantom Zone Projector? A Flash-puppet, or vinyl-like empty Flash costume, for the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths?

I may have to double-down and see if I can pick even more obscure choices. Yeah, probably.

Viking Commando coming at you on the cover of All-Out War #1 by Joe Kubert.

G.I. Robot page from Weird War Tales #113, created and written by Robert Kanigher, with art by Fred Carrillo.

Tempest finds out about Dolphin in this page from Aquaman #37, "One Demon Life" Written by Peter David, pencils by J. Califiore, inks by P.L. Palmiotti.

The new Black Spider masks up in Batman #519, "Web of Scars" Written by Doug Moench, pencils by Kelley Jones, inks by John Beatty. His face gets wrecked up in this one, so an unmasked version would be fun.

Monarch panel from Extreme Justice #8, "Before You Quantum Leap!" Written by Charley Bracey, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Ken Branch. Ugh...

Manhunter demolishes Dumas' mask collection in Manhunter #4, "Through the Mask" Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale, pencils by Doug Rice, inks by Kelley Jones. If you're good, later I'll show you why Manhunter should come with a wearable Peacekeeper mask...

Heckler image taken from the Keith Giffen Resource Page, since I couldn't find any of my Heckler comics and I'm getting irked about it.

1 comment:

MrGBH said...

To be honest, from that list I would probably only buy the Viking Commando, purely because it sounds like an awesome idea. (Plus, I'm sure you would have him and 'Pool doing some kind of TV advice show).