Thursday, January 24, 2013

Toy Review – DC Signature Collection John Constantine By Mattel

I think I'm going to stop taking pictures of these Matty DC figures' packaging. I don't know what the problem is, but every one I take is awful.
This started off as a review of DC Signature Collections’ Uncle Sam, but I don’t know jack-squat about DC Comics’ version of Uncle Sam. I like the figure, but it’s honestly kind of boring. It’s good, I just don’t want to talk about it.

I bought the DC Direct Uncle Sam years ago without even realizing there was a comic book version of the character. I thought they were just making a piece of Americana, which I liked. I’ve still got him in the package up on the wall.

Side Note: Yes, this is a review of the Constantine figure. I’m getting there.

Uncle Sam showed up in one of DC’s big crossovers that I was reading – Blackest Night, I think – and was pretty cool. I don’t know what his deal is, but he seemed to adhere to the whole life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness thing without having any agendas snuck in by the writer or editors. That’s what makes me nervous about the character. Comic book creators are a notoriously political lot who have a tendency to shoehorn their own beliefs into their work. As inappropriate as that might be for Superman or Batman; Uncle Sam is one character that needs to remain pure.

Anyway, I was perfectly happy to be getting a Sam that sits in with the DCUC line. I don’t have any particular use for him, but he’ll be neat to have standing around. He’s a good re-use of a Joker body and has a good paint job. The little Dollman that comes with him is kind if crappy, but I’m not familiar with Dollman, either. Well, except for this Dollman:

So Sam gets a 4 out of 5.

John Constantine, on the other hand, is a character that I am very familiar with. Not so much lately (Well, that’s not true – I’ve been enjoying Justice League Dark quite a bit; I just haven’t kept up with Constantine’s Vertigo self in several years. I can’t remember who it was, but somebody had a long-ish run on the book that I didn’t care for and I never got around to returning.), but for a long time Hellblazer was the only comic I picked up on a regular basis. It was also my entry into the Vertigo books.

Glenn Fabry’s cover art was what drew me to the book. I was in a comic shop called Dark Adventure, flipping through a cheap-o bin (Fifty cents? Dollar seems too high…) looking for long runs of books and came across these amazing, painted covers. There was a run of maybe twenty or so issues starting with (?). The covers were what drew me in, but the story inside is what made me a fan of both Constantine and Garth Ennis. I had never read anything like what was going on in those books. John had a best friend named Chaz, but he was a total prick to him. He was a total prick to pretty much everybody. But he got things done. The mix of magic and noir was awesome, and to this day I credit my interest in blends of those particular genres to Hellblazer. From Cast A Deadly Spell to The Dresden Files (the books and the show); I’ve always enjoyed the mix.

So now we have a Mattel version of John Constantine to hang out with Zatanna and (Mega) Swamp Thing and Deadman.

First Glance: Weird. This likeness is terrible. He doesn’t look anything like Keanu Reeves.

Ha! Just kidding. That movie was a piece of shit.

What’s with the scar? I’m not up-to-date. Well, actually I am, as New 52 Constantine is now the only official version of the character. But he doesn’t have a scar. Otherwise this figure is definitely John Constantine.

Articulation: This figure has the articulation we’ve come to expect from Mattel’s DC figures.

Head – ball joint

Shoulders – swivel/hinge

Biceps – swivel

Elbows –pivot

Wrists – swivel

Abdomen - pivot

Waist - swivel

Hips – swivel/hinge

Thighs - swivel

Knees – pivot

Ankles - pivot

The head doesn’t move quite as much as I’d like. For a guy with short hair, it’s oddly restricted.

Obviously the figure’s posability is restricted somewhat by the long coat, but not as much as you might think. Besides, it’s not like Constantine gets into a whole lot of wrestling matches or something. He’s pretty much either standing or running most of the time and this figure can do both of those things.

The ankle joints move just a tiny bit more than other figures with pants like The Question or Joker. I don’t know why, but they seem to.

All of the joints on my figure are tight and move easily. They hold poses and do everything they are meant to. The only real problem is that the right bicep swivel on mine isn’t joined quite right and has a fairly wide gap. I can’t seem to do anything about it. It isn’t terrible , but it should really look better than it does.

Sculpt: The new head looks great, though I would honestly have preferred it to be scar free. The hair is detailed and sculpted specifically to look like Constantine’s and looks a bit more real than some other figures’ hair. That’s not to say others looked bad at all, just that there seems to be an awful lot of detail here.

I believe everything else comes from other figures, but it all comes together well. There just isn’t a whole lot to say, as John Constantine is pretty basic. He has a button-up shirt, jeans, and shoes. I’ll get to the tie and trenchcoat below.

Constantine has hands that are posed to hold things, which is odd considering he didn’t come with jack-shit to hold. I have to say, I would have preferred either relaxed hands or completely closed hands to hands that taunt us with their unfulfilled prupose. Of course, ideally we would have gotten both.

Coloring: The head is what really had to sell this figure and it definitely does. The hair is the right shade and has a darker wash for detail, the eyes are nicely detailed and well-placed, and the scar isn’t overdone. It looks kind of grisly, but isn’t ridiculous.

I used to want stubble to be sculpted. It never looked right to me when it was just a paint job. But nowadays the toy designers seem to have figured out the right combination of dappling and shading to make it look good. Constantine has such a paint job and it really works.

The shirt has a grey wash to bring out the folds and rumples. It gives it more character and also makes it seem more worn, which is a good thing.

The belt looks good and is accurately painted. The jeans are maybe a little too painted. They look just a bit more acid washed than I’d like. But in the designers’ defense, it seems to be very difficult to properly paint jeans on an action figure. At a smaller scale you can get away with just making them blue, but once you get into the 6” scale you have to add some sort of texture and I can’t think of any figures in that scale that I’ve ever owned that had good-looking denim blue jeans. For some reason they always look like pants with a weird blue paint job.

The shoes, on the other hand, are great. They look nice and worn – broken-in.

Flair: Constantine has a long coat and a tie.

I think the coat comes from that Silver Age Joker they did in the Batman line a year or so ago. It looks great and works perfectly for Constantine with the upturned collar. I like the design with the front more open at the chest and the bottom portion being closer together. It lends the figure a slightly more dynamic look. I will say that the coat could have used a bit of a wash. To have this big, bland, tan piece on top of such weathered and well-done pieces as the rest of the figure is kind of weird.

The tie adds to that as well. This is a new piece that really nails Constantine’s look. It is loosened a good bit and hangs low on the chest. I like how it is sort of off to the side, though it’s a tad more than I would have done it. The red is good. I’m glad they didn’t go with a design on this one.

Accessories: Constantine comes with fuck-all as far as accessories go. This is stupid, and only made worse by the fact that his hands are clearly intended to be holding things. He could have come with all kinds of different mystical implements.

Bad form, Matty.

Notice I didn’t say he should have come with a cigarette. I mean, he should’ve, but I’m not ridiculous. I get why he didn’t and I’m okay with that.

Packaging: It’s a neat little window box. I dig the packaging and I love the art on the backs. It looks very classy and does work to make these bare-bones figures seem more special than they really are. The bio on the back tells you as much as you need to know:

Yep. That's a fairly PG summary of Constantine.

Value: $23.70 (including shipping) is pretty much a rip-off for this figure. It’s a very good figure, but it is very basic, has lots of shared parts, and does not come with a single accessory.

Overall: It’s not that this is a bad John Constantine figure, it’s just that it’s about the laziest Constantine we could have gotten. Head sculpt aside, he’s very plain and nothing was done to spice that up. I think the lack of accessories in this line is absurd, particularly given Matty’s statement that this would be the place to get really awesome things that simply couldn’t be done at retail. 

3 out of 5

As is the case with most Vertigo characters, you action figure options are pretty limited if you have to own a John Constantine. It’s either this one or the DC Direct one, which is actually pretty great. I like the coat on that one a lot more. But it doesn’t fit in with the Mattel figures. If you need one that does, this is it. Go to BigBad or eBay and order him for an even more ridiculous price.



  1. Somehow I get the feeling you're a little peeved that Constantine didn't come with any accessories XP. Decent review. Not a character I'm really familiar with but I've always kind of wanted to check him out.

  2. Check out Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's run. It's the best.

  3. Im not the only one that see the same coath that Joker Classic of Batman Legacy use but with a change of color

    1. Yeah, I don't think it's a secret that Mattel likes to farm parts.