Monday, September 30, 2013

Toy Review – Batman ’66 TV Masters Penguin By Mattel

To me, Penguin is the main bad guy of the old Batman TV show.
Side Note: I have been struggling with how to refer to the show. It has been known colloquially as “Batman ‘66” for a few years now and I think that can be almost 100% attributed to Chris Sims. But that’s not the actual name of the show, so I don’t want to call it that. But I also can’t just call it “Batman” because that encompasses lots of things. So I guess I’m taking the less concise route and calling it “the old Batman TV show”. Thankfully I don’t feel the need to add in “with Adam West” every time.
Penguin felt like the legit criminal to me. In my memories he was the strongest, most present villain and definitely took the lead in the movie. For whatever reason, he was the #1 Bad Guy with Riddler a close second.
It turns out that reason is that Penguin was featured in more episodes than any other villain. I found this out the other night while watching an excellent documentary on PBS called Pioneers of Television: Superheroes. It’s part of a series about the history of TV and I highly recommend at least this episode (I haven’t seen any others). Naturally a large portion of the episode was devoted to Batman; featuring commentary from Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar. There wasn’t necessarily a whole lot I hadn’t seen before, but the episode also featured segments on Superman, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and The Greatest American Hero. At the least it was a nice retrospective about the history of comic book-based television.
As campy as Burgess Meredith’s Penguin voice was – complete with his “Whauk, whauk, whauk” chuckle – his remains the definitive portrayal. Sure, Batman: The Animated Series and Arkham City provided… well, not more realistic, but more serious portrayals. But when I‘m playing with Lil’ Troublemaker and his action figures, I use the Burgess Meredith voice (I use Schwarzenegger’s for Mr. Freeze, just so you know where I’m coming from).
In short, it’s entirely possible that I would pass on other Penguin action figures. I skipped the DCUC version that came out recently. But Burgess Meredith as Penguin goes straight onto my “Must Have” list.
First Glance: Like the rest of this line, Penguin is 100% new tooling. These are properly twelfth-scale figures where 1” = 1’. I’m not saying they’re totally accurate to that, but an attempt is made to reflect realistic height differences and proportions. As a result, Penguin looks short and fat and pretty great.
Articulation: Due to his unique shape, Penguin has less articulation than most releases.
Head – ball joint
Shoulders – swivel/pivot
Biceps - swivel
Elbows –pivot
Wrists – swivel
Waist - swivel
Hips – swivel/hinge
Knees – pivot
Ankles - pivot
Like Joker, Penguin’s head pretty much just swivels. And not all that well. The joint is on an angle so that when you turn the Fowl Feathered Fiend’s head the whole thing goes to the side. Kind of like a bird, actually. But what looks right on a bird does not look so good on a fat villain.
The bicep joints are awful. The figure’s upper arms are so narrow that if you utilize the bicep swivels at all it looks bad. This is a case where a swivel concealed above the elbow would have been really great.
The rest of the joints work fine and in all honesty this Penguin has a better range of poseability than some other hefty or squat figures I own.
Sculpt: Penguin’s head is awesome. Normally I would like a removable hat, but we never saw Burgess Meredith without the hat. The face sculpt is spot-on and I’m happy with how they handled the monocle. Sure – it would look better as a separately molded piece of clear plastic. But I think we all have to accept that Mattel is simply not going to make that kind of toy line, no matter how many “Adult Collector” designations they slap on the packaging. The expression on the figure’s face is great. He looks like he’s right in the midst of gleeful criminal activity. The cigarette is absolutely bizarre, as it has a distinct bend just after it exits the mouth and is very thick and all black. But I suppose I should feel lucky there’s anything there. I’m actually surprised any kind of toy would come with a cigarette nowadays.
Penguin’s overall shape is a pretty good representation of the wide, low-crotch costume Burgess Meredith wore on the show. The shirt is the show version, without the feather detail seen in the movie. The buttons are nice and whatever you call the little pointed parts at the bottom; they look good. The arms are sculpted to more realistically resemble what human arms look like in a suit, but I think they’re actually too narrow from the front. I’d honestly rather just have round arms that didn’t look awful when the bicep joints were used anyway.
Coloring: Penguin's head looks great. The facial features and eyebrows are accurate and well done. The monocle even has a little gold rim that is precise.
The rest of the figure is honestly a little spotty. The colors are correct, but there are some sloppy applications. His bow tie isn't painted all the way down to where it meets his shirt. His shirt is painted too far down onto his pants. The buttons on his jacket are glossy and precise. The ones on his shirt are, as well. I particularly like the pearlescent sheen used.
Oh, and I'll admit to something right now – I would have sworn up and down that Burgess Meredith had purple pants on the show. I was wrong.
Flair: Unlike Joker, the gloss of Penguin's coat does not match the rest of his suit. It's different enough to be distracting. Sculpt-wise it's just as good, though. The tails are appropriately penguin-esque and the sleeve holes are tight enough that his white shirt does not show through.
Accessories: Penguin comes with the lowest common denominator of action figure accessories – a stand. He also comes with a “Collector Card”. Fortunately, he alos comes with his signature weapon – an umbrella!
The stand is a piece of crap. 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 an excellent painted picture of Burgess Meredith 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?
But at least we got an actual accessory with Penguin. The umbrella is, of course, made of rubber. It has a great paint job – with metallic lavender highlights and a brown handle. It fits into Penguin's hand with a little work and looks pretty good. It would have been nice to have some interchangeable tips – a knife and a gun barrel – or even an open one in addition to this one. But Mattel is lame.
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. The picture on the back is of fat cartoon Penguin. This is actually the image that was used in relation to Burgess Meredith's Penguin when an actual photo was not.
Value: I got this guy for $15.99 with free shipping from Amazon. It's not a bad price in this day and age.
Overall: Once again Mattel has delivered a figure that is just shy of perfect. Overall it looks very good, but the gloss differences and sloppy paint prevent perfection.
4 out of 5
As much as I hate to say it, Penguin will probably be a peg warmer. But if you don't want to wait I'm sure you can find him at BigBad or Entertainment Earth. Try keeping an eye on Amazon, as well. 
Be sure to come back tomorrow for the very first installment of this year's

31 Days of Halloween

same Pahntom-time, same Phantom-channel!


  1. Thanks for a great review. Just a couple of points of Bat-history, because you sound like someone who would be interested. First, Penguin and Joker actually tied for first place in number of Bat-episodes, at 19 apiece. It is commonly thought that Pengy had 20, but in the Zodiac Crimes three parter (with Joker), Penguin never appeared in the middle segment. So he had six shows in the first season, nine in the second, and four in the third, the same as Joker. In fact, it could be argued that Joker had one more, because in the third season, each show ended with a "teaser" for the next. Since Pengy kicked off the season, he only got to be in two teasers (one appearance was a two-parter), but Joker did three.

    I agree with you that Penguin seemed to be the main villain... you could do more with a character that was not quite so outlandish as, say, the Joker. Having the Joker run for mayor, open a successful restaurant, or woo the leading lady would have been too unrealistic, if I may use that word in connection with Batman. Penguin and Batman had a lot more interaction that Batman did with most of the other villains, in non-combat situations. And often the Penguin stories revolved around the Penguin character rather than the Batman character.

    One last minor point, you mentioned we didn't see Penguin without his top hat on. But we did briefly in "The Penguin Goes Straight" when Alfred literally pulled the rug out from under him, and again after a fight in "Enter Batgirl: Exit Penguin" (I believe). Thanks again. - J.D. Lees

    1. Thanks for the info! As you can tell if you spend any time here, I am not a research guy. I like to talk off the top of my head.