Wednesday 1 July 2015

Toybox REVIEW: DC Collectibles "Batman: The Animated Series" Robin

Joining the Joker as part of wave two of DC Collectibles new range of figures based on Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures is the Boy Wonder himself, Robin! More specifically, the original Dick Grayson variety. Although Robin made regular appearances in the first half of B:TAS, he really came into his own in the later half - at which point the show became titled The Adventures of Batman & Robin. Just how much of the show falls under this banner is up for debate - production wise there are only two seasons (with the second using this name) but the DVD releases split it up into three, with only the third using that name. Either way it doesn't really make a whole lot of difference, because this line isn't acknowledging the name or logo change anyway. I can kind of understand since it isn't a major difference like the huge change between Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures, but it would have been nice to get it acknowledged somewhere.

With the packaging identical for each figure (well, out of the two varieties available anyway), there isn’t a whole lot to say on a case by case basis so for more detail I shall once again point you in the direction of the Joker review. Such plain packaging is a bit of a double-edged sword really – the big series logos certainly make them visually striking, but with it lacking that personal touch for each figure they do get rather dull quickly. Even just a little bio somewhere would have been better than nothing, and a pretty good idea too considering DC Collectibles’ insistence that these figures are derived from specific episodes.

Despite only being a handful of figures into this line DC Collectibles have unsurprisingly already been met with their usual criticisms, and personally I found their endeavours to fix things with the Joker figure to hardly be worthy of any grandstanding either. But my personal issues with that figure aside, it is good that DC Collectibles took a long hard look at the shortcomings of wave one and at least tried to make improvements. And unlike the Joker, Robin here does feel like a step in the right direction. There are still little QC issues that could do with some definite improvement (missing paint, mould flash on some of the joints etc.), but the joints are all nice and flexible - nothing is either too tight or too loose. Given the spindly arms and legs this figure has usually I'd immediately fear breaking it, but at the time of writing I haven't had a single issue with the figure. The limbs all have this nice bit of give to them, so if by chance they are being pushed or pulled in a way they shouldn't be you'll have plenty of warning before a snap happens.

The sculpt is an excellent likeness of Robin as he appeared in Batman: The Animated Series, and as expected a considerable improvement over the original Kenner figure from the 90s. The sculpting is smooth, the paint applications are largely flawless and the head sculpt looks perfect with that trademark Dick Grayson smirk. In terms of articulation there's a ball jointed neck, ball-hinge shoulders, hinged elbows, swivels at the bicep and forearm, waist rotation, peg hinge hips, hinged knees, calf swivels and finally an ankle hinge. Despite all that it's the addition of the ball joint neck that I love the most - it just adds so much more personality to the figure.

Robin's accessory selection is pretty generic and could easily apply to any of his appearances in B:TAS, but according to the checklist insert included DC Collectibles have chosen the two-part adventure "Robin's Reckoning" specifically for this release.Makes sense - the episode not only deals with Robin's origins, but is also Emmy Award winning and generally considered one of the best stories in the whole series. Seems like an obvious choice to get a shout out in a line celebrating all the best parts of both Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures.

Robin comes packaged with seven swappable hands (the odd one is a right hand with Robin's grappling gun moulded into it), grappling gun and bolo whip/rope. Though a little on the short side, the whip is made of rubbery plastic and so can not only be held in both hands but is also super flexible for specific poses. The grappling gun proves to be an utterly pointless accessory however, just like it did with Batman. The loose accessory can't fit properly into any of the included hands, and just seems completely redundant when the version moulded into a hand is perfect. Surely there must be SOME reason why DC Collectibles keep including loose versions of them with these figures, but I'll be damned if I know what it is.

That's not all though, as Robin also comes with an additional cape slightly different to the one initially fitted to the figure in package. With Batman the difference between these two capes was a bit more noticeable/substantial, but here things are a bit more minimal. The only real difference is between the two is that the alternate one features more of the cape draped over Robin's right shoulder. It adds a bit more of "I am the night" aura to the figure, but the trade off more limited articulation in that area of the body.  Even the folds in the cape don't look to be all that different, despite this being the perfect opportunity to provide a more billowing version for action poses. On the upside though, Robin looks a whole lot better without a cape than Batman does.

Then finally of course there’s also the personalised display stand, featuring turnaround line art of Robin on the base along with the Batman: The Animated Series logo. Unlike the depth-control arms included with the villain figures this stand is of the simple pole and claw just like the one Batman had. Practically this is only because the two have to have their capes drape over behind the claw, but visually it’s much more appealing thanks to the smaller size.

After being rather disappointed with the Joker, my expectations were set pretty low when opening Robin for the first time. However I’m very pleased to say that this is much more what I was expecting from these “new and improved” animated series figures. There’s still room for improvement in the way of quality control, but to have flexible articulation on spindly limbs that don’t feel like they’re about to crumble in your hands is a big step forward. Arguably one of the best B:TAS/TNBA figures to hit stores so far, and if things just keep improving from here than we may just end up with a toy line deserving of it’s source material.

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