Review: Batman Unlimited Toys

These Batman Unlimited toys are from Mattel, and feature Batman characters with updated futuristic looks and gadgets. The first thing I noticed were the key differences to the classic depiction of the three characters.

Batman and Robin look broadly similar to what we’re used to, but their outfits are more like hi-tech armour than a costume. Robin also has a hood, which makes him appear more mysterious – just like Batman.

But appropriately, the weirdest one was the Joker. His look has been completely revamped from the purple suit wearing clown to become a muscled up thug with a crew cut and a sash of bullets draped over him. While he is clearly the Joker – with his green hair, white face, red lips, and magical yellow toothed grin – it took my daughter a while to feel confident in identifying it was him.

These are pretty sturdy looking figures, with Batman & Robin’s fabric & vinyl  capes being the only potential weak link. Anatomically, it’s fair to say these are somewhat stylised. For instance, they have lower legs that are 2-3 times longer than their thighs.

While they offer 8 points of articulation (POA), additional movement in the legs would’ve been welcome – there’s no knee joint for instance, which really limits how these figures can be posed by a child. They can’t even sit properly. My daughter sometimes likes her figures to have a rest, enjoys a tea party, or go to the loo!

Actually, The Joker isn’t the weirdest of these Batman Unlimited Toys in this set. It also includes what appears to be a Robot Batdog. It has no limb or head movement. It does have a removable tail, which the characters can also hold as some kind of sword/club/furry duster. Robo-batdog (as we call it) isn’t even named on the packaging. It feels like this part of the set is a toy they had left over from another line.

My daughter even asked “What is that dog doing there?”. Not knowing how to answer, a visit to BatmanUnlimited.com (as the packaging suggests) indicates it may be one of The Penguin’s robotic Cyber Animals. Who knows? Anyway, while it feels out of place in this set, and is little more than an immovable toy dog, it does look kind of cool.

Overall, my daughter loves that these figures are of Batman, Robin, and The Joker, and they are funky and colourfully designed. But I feel the lack of movement in the legs in particular will be a big drawback for her long term, as she is unable to pose them in a way that she does other figures of this size (about 15 cm high). And the inclusion of robo-batdog is a mystery worthy of investigation by the Batman.

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UPDATE: Batman Unlimited Toys Vehicles

Turns out the Batman figure fits a random Bat Jet I bought my daughter second hand for 80p, so there’s life in these figures yet.

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Disclosure: We received these Batman Unlimited toys as part of the Toys R Us Toyologist programme. They send us toys in exchange for honest reviews. You can read the original post here.

Family Fever

Review: DC Comics Secret Hero Society – Study Hall of Justice

Existing somewhere between a comic and a book, DC Comics Secret Hero Society – Study Hall of Justice, is a fun way to explore the characters of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman in an all new setting.

Set in an alternative timeline, this sees a young Bruce Wayne attending the exclusive school Ducard Academy, where he befriends a certain Kansas farm boy and a foreign young woman of royal descent (Superman and Wonder Woman in case you were wondering).

But all is not right in the school, and if you’re a follower of the DC universe in either it’s comic, film, or TV forms, the names of the teachers – and the academy itself – should be a hint at what’s really going on there.

It’s written by Derek Fridolfs and illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, who were the team behind a similarly cute Li’l Gotham. While ostensibly a comic book, this also has tracts of text and graphics as part of the story – such as text messages, letters, articles, diary entires, and more. It’s a book equivalent of a multi-media story telling approach that works really well, and encourages more reading than your usual comic book.

The characterisations are spot on, and close in spirit with their comic equivalents while being a wry commentary on them. While this centres on the young dark knight detective, it’s also nice to see the bond forming (and sometimes cracking) between him and Superman & Wonder Woman.

I liked a sequence when Diane Prince (Wonder Woman) tried to go undercover and get on the cheerleading team, followed by an unsuccessful athletics try-out. There is also a nice nod to her mission in fighting war – by trying to stop Superman and Batman fighting. Plenty of other female characters from the DC universe show up too such as girls called Harley, Pamela, and Talia 😉

This is a fun little book, that’s may be of particular interest to a young reader looking for something a little more relatable to them, while still staying true to the classic characters.

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DC Comics Secret Hero Society – Study Hall of Justice

by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen, is published by Scholastic and is available now.

Has the New Big Screen Batgirl Been Revealed?

We knew Jena Malone (The Hunger Games: Catching FireInherent Vice, Contact) was cast in the forthcoming Batman V Superman movie, and it was assumed that she was most likely being set up as a female Robin, as depicted in The Dark Knight Returns comic.

However, Latino Review reports that this may not be the case – that she may in fact be playing Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. The character was previously seen onscreen in the critically mauled Batman and Robin, played by Alicia Silverstone.

What do you think? Would she make a good onscreen Batgirl?

Who created Batman? His secret identity isn’t Bruce Wayne – it’s Bill Finger

Who created Batman? If you know a little bit about comics, you probably think that Bob Kane created the caped crusader. In fact if you know a lot about comics you still might think he created Batman. That’s exactly what Bob Kane always wanted you to think.  But Bob Kane lived in the Batcave that Bill Finger built.

Bob Kane's original Batman - Birman
Who created Batman? Bob Kane’s version before showing it to Bill Finger

On a Friday sometime prior to the character’s 1939 debut comic hitting the stands, Kane had promised his publisher a great new character by Monday. In his struggle for an idea, he came up with ‘Bird-Man’, a masked Flash Gordon rip-off with wings. Kane had the good sense to show his work in progress to his friend – a writer named Bill Finger, who set about creating a better character instead.

So who created Batman?

Basically, almost everything that is iconic and cool about Batman, Finger came up with – his outfit, his origin, his alter-ego, his lack of superpowers, being a detective, the Batmobile, Gotham City, and even (in collaboration) supporting characters like Robin, Catwoman, Riddler, and the Joker.

“Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot,” – Bill Finger, Detective Comics (1939)

It was an instant hit. What followed for Kane was a career of taking credit for Finger’s and then others work, and being paid handsomely for it. The writers and artists got what Kane considered a fair page rate, but far less than he was paid by the publisher and with no credit or royalties. As a businessman, you have to admire Bob Kane – in the way you might admire Donald Trump or Tony Montana.

Despite the fact that this all is common knowledge in the comics industry, for decades DC would not name Finger as co-creator of Batman. The rumour is that Kane pretended he signed his original contract as a minor (which would’ve been illegal), and blackmailed DC precursor National into a new contract naming him as the sole creator of Batman, in perpetuity.

If it wasn’t for Bill Finger, ‘Bird-Man’ not Batman would be the icon we know today. No, scratch that. Kane’s Bird-Man would have obviously faded into obscurity as the highly derivative creation it was.

Like many of his peers, Bill Finger’s comic book career consisted mostly of anonymous writing for a basic page rate. He passed away over 40 years ago in 1974. Bob Kane survived him a further 24 years until 1998. But in death, Bob did acknowledge a co-creator for Batman on his headstone – but sadly, it’s not who you think…

Bob Kane's headstone. No mention of Bil Finger as co-creator of Batman - Only God.
Who created Batman? Bob Kane’s headstone. No mention of Bil Finger as co-creator of Batman – Only God.

Yup – God. As co-creators go, you could do a lot worse than THE creator I guess. God was not available for comment.

As mentioned, DC have not actually named Bill Finger as a Batman creator, but they have done the best they can – crediting him as the writer of Detective Comics no.27, the first appearance of The Bat-Man, on the cover of DC’s 75th anniversary edition of the issue.

Despite my love of superheroes, I’m not one to advocate violence because a) it’s usually wrong, and b) I’m a coward. But I can’t help thinking about the following tale that famed comicbook artist & writer Jim Steranko told his followers on Twitter.

So, as well as remembering Bill Finger, the man who basically created the Caped Crusader as we know him today, Bat-fans can also celebrate the time Jim Steranko bat-slapped Bob Kane 🙂

Bob Kane – you’ve been Steranko’d!

Jim Steranko slapped Bob Kane
Jim Steranko

‘I hadn’t encountered Kane in my travels, but at one rockin’ SDCC (San Diego Comic-Con), an associate asked me if I wanted to meet him, and walked me into a hallway.

There he was, in a small group of people, wearing patent-leather shoes– and an ASCOT, like he was Vitamin f******g Flintheart in a Dick Tracy cartoon.

For years, I’d heard how he’d taken credit for Bill Finger’s contributions (in addition to half his pay) and other despicable tales from his associates. But nothing aces an in-person encounter.

We were introduced and Kane began talking about my Batman chapter in the HISTORY OF COMICS, which treated him–and everyone else–very respectfully. He felt I credited Robinson & Finger (both of whom I knew intimately) too much. Kane (aka Kahn) was beyond pretentious, an intolerable ass as pompous as they come. I bit my tongue while he regaled us with his many achievements.

The group was waiting for an elevator, which they stepped into when the door opened. Our conversation ended, but not before he said: “See you later, Jim, baby,”and cuffed me across the face–like some rat-pack street gesture he’d seen in some cheap flick. The doors closed…I was stunned by the sheer audacity of a stranger–like him–to lay a hand on me, and boiling with anger.

That night, I couldn’t sleep and the next morning began combing the halls for his Bat Majesty. Around noon, I found him in another group, which I walked into. “Good to see you, Bob, baby!” I said, then bitch bat-slapped him across the face.

But this time, there was no elevator door closing between us. I stood there for about 15 seconds, waiting. He did nothing. I turned and left. But I regret it now. I regret that he didn’t do anything about it, even though he was at least a head taller than me. I wouldn’t have minded bleeding at all for one more opportunity to give Kane the kind of Bat Lesson that Finger, Robinson, Sprang and others only dreamed of.

Finger was THE creative force behind Batman.

ALL the cool Bat elements are his concepts.’

The Batman
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Batman © DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.