Monday, 8 February 2016

Toybox REVIEW: DC Collectibles "The New Batman Adventures" Batgirl

Although my relationship with DC Collectibles’ animated Batman figures has been rocky to say the least, there were always some characters I was going to by without question. And perhaps the biggest of those was Batgirl. Whether it’s her tenure as Batgirl (particularly in her utterly fantastic current ongoing) or assisting the Bat family and the Birds of Prey as Oracle, Barbara Gordon is undoubtedly one of my favourite DC Comics characters. So there was some considerable excitement when Batgirl was revealed to be joining the line, with a figure based on her black-costumed appearance in The New Batman Adventures – where she was promoted to main character and full-time member of the Bat family. As well as a new costume, Batgirl received a new voice actress in the form of Tara Strong – taking over from Melissa Gilbert and the late Mary Kay Bergman (who voiced the character in Batman: The Animated Series and Batman & Mr Freeze: Sub Zero respectively).

Batgirl comes packaged with the standard blue The New Batman Adventures card back like all the figures part of that series, which contrast nicely with the burgundy red of the Batman: The Animated Series cards. The plastic bubble has the character name printed along the side, together with the fact that this set contains 17 pieces (which again is less impressive than it sounds). Any other vital information is printed on the small card insert in front of the figure, which also credits the sculptor. 

On visuals alone Batgirl can’t be faulted. Cartoon accuracy has never been a problem for this line and Batgirl is another figure that jumped straight out of the screen, with Barbara’s wide grin a much-needed boost of expression that many of the other figures could have benefitted from. The headsculpt does suffer from one minor inaccuracy (on the figure the cowl sits directly under the eyes while in the cartoon the eye hole section was much bigger and revealed some skin underneath) but in general Batgirl feels like another winner as far as aesthetics are concerned.

That’s where the praise sadly ends though, as handling Batgirl sadly reveals another mess of articulation that could have easily been avoided. The biggest offender is the head, which has absolutely no articulation thanks to the solid hairpiece that sits directly against her neck and the top of her back. Along with no waist joint this severely limits Batgirl’s already minimal posing options. The feet being as tiny as they are balance is always an issue, along with elbows and ankles that can barely move without a fair level of stress on them (and with these figures, stress almost always means breakage). Batgirl has hinged wrists like most figures in the line, but the hands are so thin and the hinges so tight that you can feel the plastic bend just trying to move them even slightly. The shoulders, hips and knees are about the only parts that don’t suffer from any significant problems but even they aren’t enough to make this figure feel restricted.

Although the flyer insert suggests that this figure is “based” on the episode Torch Song, the Bat family figures’ accessories are so painfully generic that it seems almost pointless to assign them an episode other than for uniformity. Batgirl comes bundled with ten swappable hands, a batarang (which is thinner than the one included with TNBA Batman) and her grappling gun broken down into two parts. Why these two pieces needed to be split and pegged together is unclear, especially since Batman and Robin both came with theirs as one piece. It also doesn’t help that the peg is soft and incredibly flimsy, resulting in it breaking immediately as I tried to put the two together (the one pictured above is from one of the other figures and simply included for context). Thankfully one of the hands included has the gun moulded into, but then DC Collectibles went and left the yellow plastic completely unpainted. So a problematic set of accessories, but problems just seem par the course for these figures now.

Finally we come to the character-specific display stand, featuring turnaround art of Batgirl on the base along with the New Batman Adventures logo. For some bizarre reason DC Collectibles have also gone against their usual pattern when it comes to this figure, giving Batgirl a stand with a depth slider rather than the static arm included with all of the previous caped characters. It’s a very minor thing to complain about in the grand scheme of things, but not only does this type of stand take up more room but it means the cape can’t freely slip over the arm – instead it’s left there bent out of shape draped over the top. Moving the arm to grip further down the body isn’t much a solution either as the waist is the only place the claw can get decent purchase to hold the figure in place.

After Harley Quinn turning out as a huge disappointment and now Batgirl following suite, I’ve come to the conclusion that the female figures are obviously where the real problems lie with this line. The frames are simply too thin to withstand the badly implemented articulation, and the two that I’ve handled have also suffered from their own unique problems on top of that. The fact that (from what I’ve heard) this line was delayed to retweak Poison Ivy in particular worries me as to what they were like BEFORE they did whatever they’ve done now to make these figures “better”. Batgirl is a great looking statue, but that’s really about it. Hopefully if a B:TAS version ever rolls around DC Collectibles will have gotten their act together by then.

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