Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Toy Review – DC Signature Collection Ra’s al Ghul from Mattel

Ra’s al Ghul is my favorite Batman villain. That’s the only reason I always get his stupid name right. The correct pronunciation has varied across media, which drives me insane. Before I ever heard it, I pronounced it “rohz”.

Side Note: I do not understand how dictionary pronunciations work. I never have.

Arrow has recently started mentioning Ra’s and are pronouncing it “rays”. In Nolan’s Batman movies I think it was more like “rash”. And unless I’m mistaken, the DC Animated Universe (Batman: TAS, Justice League Unlimited) used my way. But I’m not positive. What I’m saying here is this: DC and Warner Bros, you need to hire somebody to get your shit together. And that somebody should be me. Despite the fact that I do not understand dictionary pronunciations.

 The first I ever heard of Ra’s al Ghul was the excellent and mythology-defining Son of the Demon by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham. Between the art and the writing this was sequential storytelling of the highest caliber. I hadn’t read anything quite so impressive at the time I read this one, and it is still one of my favorites. I had never heard of Ra’s, and the idea that there was this character that thought he was so incredibly awesome that only Batman was good enough to be or provide his successor was a powerful concept. It was this weird Moebius strip of character reinforcement. Ra’s was saying Batman was awesome and Batman was admitting that Ra’s was awesome and it was this whole pro wrestling logic cycle of making everything seem even more awesome.

Since then, Ra’s has been used somewhat sparingly. I haven’t seen or read that many stories with him and when he is used as the Dark Knight’s antagonist, the instances I have seen were well done. 
Ra’s al Ghul is a character that doesn’t allow for much interpretation. While most of Batman’s rogues gallery is filled with folks who look like clowns or scarecrows or penguins and leave a lot of room for alterations; Ra’s is defined by his motivations, not his looks. He is as smart as Batman. He is as skilled as Batman. He wants to reshape the world into a more perfect place. I think this lack of malleability is why I like him so much – no writer is going to be able to come along and make him something other than what I think he should be. Also, Ra’s is not a crazy person (except for his post-Lazarus pit mensies). The crazy thing gets old sometimes.

Having said all of that, I fully expect a New 52 Ra’s to be introduced that is just some crazy person that lives in the alleys of Gotham.
Oh, look – it’s that suit again. And is it just me or does that head look super-cartoony?
I like the DCSC window box, but I have to admit to being excited that Batzarro in December marks the last time I will see it. Okay, well – not the last time. I’ll probably order Damian Wayne and Ice whenever they get around to offering them. But overall the Infinite Earths sub has been a chore. I freely admit that I was dumb to sign up.
That’s not a bad summary of Ra’s. Mattel has been doing a pretty good job with these bios. The art on the back of the box is pretty nice as well. But is it just me, or does this painting of Ra’s look sort of like Billy Bob Thornton?:
The more I think about it, the more I think Billy Bob would be a fantastic Ra’s if he can do a different accent.

More on that in Needless Things’ upcoming review of the ENTIRE DC Signature Collection, so stay tuned. It should post around the end of January/beginning of February.

Yes, it’s the ol’ suit body shared by so many DC figures, plus a new head and cloak.

The head looks pretty bad. I think it’s a combination of the sculpt and the paint job, but whatever the case, it’s way too cartoony when compared to most of the other figures in the Mattel DC lines. It looks mushy and the paint is a sloppy mess. The eyebrows and… uh… beard thingies are way off-target and the dry brush on the hair looks half-assed. The eyes themselves look pretty good, but I think some sort of shading around them would have helped a lot. The profile of the sculpt is okay, but there needs to be more fine detail.

Especially when this is one of only two new parts on the figure.

I don’t like the suit, but it’s only because I prefer the bare-chested, tights-and-tall-boots wearing Ra’s. And I don’t care how ticklish that makes me sound. If I’m getting an action figure of al Ghul, I want The Demon’s Head in his full glory, not Mr. al Ghul the real estate magnate. Heck, Kenner took it a step further with their Ra’s al Ghul from Batman: The Animated Series:
I’ve never seen a Ra’s as badass as that one. Then again, comparing anything to Batman: TAS is a sure road to disappointment.

So the suit is basically okay. As far as the color goes, this is a pretty accurate depiction. The character has often been seen I just such a suit with a red tie, even on The Animated Series (though Kenner was wise enough to avoid that version). In the pictures it looks like the thighs of the figure are a noticeable different shade of green from the rest, but in person you can barely tell. And trust me – this is the sort of thing I call out all the time if it’s bad. This isn’t bad.

The cloak has a great collar and a slightly too-big clasp thing, but is oddly narrow in the shoulders.

Ra’s comes with a scimitar that is ludicrously huge.

It’s actually a pretty good-looking sword and it’s actually made of a rigid plastic, but it’s so damn big!

"Overcompensating? No - why do you ask?"
The only other things I could think of that Ra’s might have come with were a briefcase and a Lazarus Pit. I would totally buy a Lazarus Pit playset. It could have a pit that was either full of foam blocks like the old Trash Compactor from Kenner’s Death Star playset or just a foam top like the little mud puddle on the Dagobah playset. Or it could come with a tub of Lazarus Slime/Ooze/Gak.

Can we start a petition for this playset that would also include a good, shirtless Ra’s with an alternate “post-Lazarus Pit mensies” head and hands (they’d be all clawed). I’m sure Matty would only charge us $300 for it.
This figure is not fun. It is an ugly man wearing an ugly suit with an ugly cape. It can’t pose much and it’s not even all that nice to look at. Oh, and it’s worth noting that his ball-jointed head can’t look up or down at all.
This isn’t the Ra’s al Ghul I wanted, but I suppose it’s the Ra’s al Ghul I deserve.
And no – I will never get tired of abusing that quote. But I will try to limit it to Batman-related things.

The head looks bad, the look is utterly unexciting, the sword is so big it makes the most ruthless leader on the planet look like a child. This figure gets a double blech.

The only reason I’m keeping it is because there’s no other Ra’s in the DCUC style.
If you – like me – won’t consider your DC collection complete without The Demon’s Head, check out the usual suspects – BigBad, eBay, your friendly neighborhood con – and be prepared to pay a premium.

2 out of 5

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