Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Toy Review – Batman ’66 TV Masters Joker By Mattel

Like yesterday's pics, these were taken under less-than-ideal circumstances.
As much as I was looking forward to the Batman and Robin figures from this line, I might have actually been most excited about this figure of Caesar Romero as Joker.
This interpretation of Joker isn't the best that has ever been offered, but thanks to the power of nostalgia it will always be one of my favorites. With his pink suit, yellow hair, and mustache the Batman ‘66 Joker almost looks like some kind of bootleg toy (I’m talking here about the one from the show, not even the figure). And there really wasn’t much remarkable about the character. Riddler’s maniacal laughter and constant attempts to murder the Dynamic Duo stand out in my mind. Catwoman’s sultry purr and fake aliases (and glittery catsuit) make her memorable. Penguin’s trademark speech impediment and umbrella-based gimmickry made a character that is usually fairly unremarkable in the comics one of the top tier villains. Even Egghead seemed more impressive than the Clown Prince of Crime.
But Romero was still Joker. And it’s not that his performance wasn’t good, it’s just that Joker then was not what Joker is now. All of the other wild and outrageous criminals seemed to stand out more.
Having said all of that, I do love Caesar Romero as Joker. And that signature mustache is very much a part of the character. Time to take a look at the figure and see how Mattel handled it.
If you are familiar with my reviews you probably read that last sentence with a sense of foreboding. Good for you.
First Glance: Wow. That’s some finger. Overall all my initial impression is positive. The colors look great, good proportions, and the face sculpt looks amaz… what the fuck?
Don’t worry. I’ll get to it.
Articulation: Joker has most of the standard DCUC articulation.
Head – ball joint
Shoulders – swivel/pivot
Biceps - swivel
Elbows –pivot
Wrists – swivel
Waist - swivel
Hips – swivel/hinge
Thighs - swivel
Knees – pivot
Ankles - pivot
Joker’s head is pretty much just a swivel, though you can get a tiny bit of up and down motion if you try really hard.
The figure’s knees bend a bit more than other DCUC figures with trousers and so do his ankle pivots.
The bicep swivels aren’t great. They turn as much as you could want, but the arms aren’t round so when you do turn the biceps it looks awful.
All of the joints on my figure are solid and move easily. Nothing is stuck or too loose.
Sculpt: Joker is 100% new tooling. I’m pretty sure even his shoes are new.
Okay – let’s go on and talk about the head. More specifically, what a terrible job Mattel did on the mustache. Rather than sculpting the mustache and painting it white, they left Caesar’s upper lip appallingly bare and painted a grey mustache on. It looks like utter crap. And wrong.
The rest of the head sculpt is fantastic. They nailed the gleeful mania with which Romero played Joker. If there’s one facial expression that is signature to his portrayal, this is it. And this is coming from somebody who almost always prefers neutral expressions. This one just looks so damn good. The hair is also great. The shape is just right and there’s plenty of sculpted detail rather than just paint shading like Robin’s.
The overall shape of this figure is spot-on. The shoulders are slightly raised to suggest the hunched over, scheming posture Romero typically had. The lower abdomen is particularly wide and long to resemble the almost zoot suit-like trousers. The vest above that is nicely detailed. Joker’s tie is a little flatter than I’d like, but that’s just a restriction of the scale and material – not much the creators could have done there. It had to fit under the jacket.
The hands are weird. The left one is a closed fist, which isn’t that weird except that it might have been better as an open fist. The right hand features the most terrifyingly long finger I have ever seen on an action figure that wasn’t E.T.:
What, exactly, is up with that? I mean, I get the pose. Joker ’66 did that a lot. Almost as much as Harrison Ford. But that finger just seems really long and – dare I say it? – probing.
Coloring: The suit is perfect. Well, maybe not perfect. I wish it weren’t so glossy. But the shade is perfect. Joker ’66 didn’t have a purple suit. His was pink. And this is the right pink. The pinstripes on the pants are precisely applied, but it bugs the heck out of me that the knee joints were left bare. I realize that’s a common practice with action figures, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
All of the extra details are tightly done – the buttons and tie and shirt are all solid and the colors stay where they are supposed to be.
All of the paint on the head is in the right place and the color usage is very good. The inside of his mouth is a different shade than his lips. His eyes are outlined nicely and the irises are centered. The eyebrows are painted and not sculpted, but I can live with that. The hair actually isn’t the right color, but looks better than what was on the show. I can’t decide how I feel about this. The green looks really good, but Caesar Romero’s was very light – practically yellow, as I mentioned above.
Then there’s the attempted mustache. Fail.
Flair: Joker has a separately molded tail coat. It’s a soft plastic, so it doesn’t interfere with his hip joints too much. The arm holes are nice and tight so that the figure’s torso doesn’t show through. The shape of this piece is really well done, as it is stylized with broader shoulders rather than just looking like a regular suit coat. The color matches the arms almost perfectly and the buttons are glossy and precise.
Accessories: Joker comes with the lowest common denominator of action figure accessories – a stand. He also comes with a “Collector Card”.
The stand is a piece of crap with a sticker on it that is already coming off. Also, the peg is situated so close to the front that the figure’s foot hangs off. It’s pretty bad. Good thing I hate stands and will be throwing it out anyway.
The “Collector Card” is also a piece of crap. It’s extremely flimsy cardboard with a(n admittedly nice) painted picture of Caesar Romero on one side and part of a diorama on the other. When put side-by-side with the other “Collector Cards” in the series it forms a picture. The diorama doesn’t make a lick of sense because it is of a countertop in the Batcave. Also, the stands are too large to allow the cards to sit right next to each other to form the picture. What morons come up with this stuff?
An extra pair of hands would have been perfectly acceptable. I can’t think of a specific item that would have been appropriate to Joker. But more neutral hands would have been a nice option.
Packaging: I don’t like the bland packaging for this line, but it is slightly less offensive on the single-carded figures. I do like that these are simple blister cards rather than the ridiculously overdone things Mattel has been using over the past few years.
There’s a bio on the back written in sufficiently hyperbolic language to be reminiscent of the TV show. And I absolutely love the fact that they used that weird green-suited Joker for the picture. That showed up on a lot of the merchandise back in the day. My theory is that manufacturers were afraid boys wouldn’t buy something with a man in a pink suit on it. I dunno. But I like green suit Joker. Of course, we’re probably just being set up for a green repaint of this figure in Series 3.
Value: I got this guy for $15.99 with free shipping from Amazon. I find his lack of accessories disturbing, but for today’s standards – particularly from Mattel – I have to call this a decent deal. Certainly better than the $19.99 Toys R Us is charging.
Overall: We’re not going to get a better Caesar Romero Joker in this scale. And that’s not really bad. Aside from the lazy mustache this figure is pretty much perfect. I really wanted to score it lower because of the mustache, but I just can’t.
4 out of 5
If you’re patient you will probably be able to find Joker at retail. If not, you can pay slightly more from BigBad or Entertainment Earth.

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