“Freeee!”

DSC_3211DSC_3214DSC_3217DSC_3216SUPERMANIA closes out the month the way it began with a pictorial review of Mattel’s DC Comics Multiverse General Zod from Superman II.

As of now only the third figure ever to bear the likeness of Terrance Stamp as everybody’s favourite Kryptonian villain, this release had credible competition as its 1/6 counterpart (from the 12″ Movie Masters series) was far and away the best of the trio with its all-round superior sculpt.

Thankfully nothing has been lost in the character’s translation to 4″ scale, with crisp details similar to the Superman figure and splendid articulation.  Perhaps wisely this time the maroon highlights (a subject of contention with the 12″ figure) were dropped in favour of the perceived all-black costume as seen in Richard Lester’s footage.  Zod even has an accessory in the bendy shape of an M-16 rifle which is a nice little touch but again, given the authenticity promised, a straight one with strap would’ve been welcome (and where was Superman’s accessory?  is a tiny crystal too much to ask??)

Only minor quibbles then in an otherwise solid release – now, can/will Mattel follow through and fulfil collectors dreams by rounding out the group with Ursa and Non or are they to remain in the eternal void that is the toy Phantom Zone..?

Barbie Lane…

Lois Barbie ArtsexyLOISLois_Mego_CustomPictures6-001Right up there with the figure enthusiasts question of why the Mego Corp. failed to produce a 12″ WIlma Deering from Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (in the likeness of Erin Gray) is where was the Lois Lane figure in the Superman line?

Its not as if Mego had any prejudice regarding female figures – see Ilia from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Holly Goodhead from Moonraker and Kate McCrae from the Black Hole being fine examples from the Sci-Fi genre alone, arriving long after such Mego staples as Farah Fawcett & Cher.

Besides the ever-present rights/licensing issues (as documented here) inhibiting the Superman series, could the absence of the feisty Daily Planet reporter be a result of Mattel’s plans to add Lois Lane to their own ever-expanding Barbie doll collection?  This newly-discovered concept art from the late 1970’s (top) would certainly suggest as much.

Presumably following the established Barbie tradition of offering a basic doll followed by a plethora of outfits, whether or not the dolls would bear the likeness of the divine Ms. Kidder (second pic) in her most famous role is unclear but the fact a Superman sweater worn by her for numerous publicity shoots represented in illustration here would hint at the possibility.

While this proposal sadly never came to fruition, ironically by 2006 Mattel did finally get to produce an official Lois Lane (in the likeness of Kate Bosworth) for Superman Returns – leaving fans deprived to this day of an official Lois Lane from the classic movies.

Thankfully, talented and creative Superfans frustration has evolved to fill the void with custom figures arguably tailored to a higher standard than the unmade figures may have been.  I defy even the most fervent toy historian to look at the custom Mego Lois Lane (third pic) and deny it was anything other than a genuine factory prototype.  In fact Ray Flores unmistakable Margot Kidder is a reworked Lynda Carter Wonder Woman housed in a reproduction box.  And just to give a taste of how a Barbie Lane may have looked, check out ferdalump.com’s pitch-perfect Lois from Superman II (bottom pic)…

SUPERMANIA extends its thanks to Trev2005 for use of the Mattel art from his awesome flickr page

Everyman…

Superman-IV-The-Quest-for-Peace_bf81fa0815086064228_c648915ea6_oCW-SIV-Kent-farm-continuity-Polaroid-0114635346175_de85562b7f_o“I look at Superman IV as the unmasking of Superman, with much more emphasis on the Kal-El, the being from Krypton.  It becomes clear in the film that both of his identities are a job – both Superman and Clark Kent are personae that he has to become for other people…”

To aid Christopher Reeve on his ambition to give Kal-El his own identity, costume designer John Bloomfield would select an understated casual wardrobe befitting a contemporary farmer for his Smallville homecoming in the opening scenes of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace.

Always trying to add new dimensions to the character, Reeve would pepper his story (to be adapted by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal) with subtle vignette’s expanding on the quote above by showing Kal-El just as ‘himself’ rather than his other assumed identities.  Whereas the comics would typically portray Clark Kent as permanently bespectacled whether ‘on duty’ or no, it was refreshing for audiences to see Superman’s transformation to ‘Everyman’ in very human (but ultimately deleted) scenes as visiting his adoptive parents graves (Top pic).

Today, that costume resides in the halls of The Super Museum in Metropolis, Il, where, it stands (seemingly unprotected) among hordes of other artefacts from the classic movies and beyond.  While it may not be the most memorable costume from the franchise, it does symbolise an advancement in the character that would be adapted in some form for every incarnation of the character going forward, most prevalently in Superman Returns years later…

Thanks to Jim Bowers of Capedwonder.com for the one-of-a-kind continuity Polaroid of Reeve in costume (Third pic – note his stand-in wearing an identical gilet).  To see more behind the scenes stills of this costume in action go here

DCM STM…

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SUPERMANIA welcomes one and all to 2015 with a Christmas show & tell.  It may have taken over 30 years but at last a childhood dream of having a Superman figure you could jam into a toy X-Wing fighter has finally been fulfilled.

The announcement earlier last year that Mattel was planning to add a 4″ Superman and General Zod from the classic movies to their expanding DC Comics Multiverse line was met with curious indifference from fans, having been reared for years on what had now become standard 6″ and suitably outraged that such an beloved version of the character should be produced in an unfashionable scale.

The reveal of the prototypes (alongside characters from Tim Burton’s Batman movies) did little to silence the cynics, if anything fuelling fans scepticism that finer details would be lost in translation to the smaller scale.  Where Zod came off best with his minimalist design, Superman, though nicely rendered, suffered from a highly questionable sculpted chest logo (which had the unfortunate effect of looking like stuck-on confectionery).

With the initial excitement somewhat dampened by the preview, fans hope for an improvement in the production samples would be subject to a considerable wait, with Michael Keaton’s Batman first to hit shelves followed closely by General Zod. The unveiling of the packaging did generate more enthusiasm, with early word that the final products were surprisingly good (see an excellent pictorial review of the ’89 Batman figure here)

Indeed, when the Superman figure was finally released it was universally acknowledged that seeing Christopher Reeve’s portrait on any action figure was worth the whole endeavour regardless of the quality of the finished product.  With that in mind, come Christmas morning and with figure in-hand, it was SUPERMANIA’s turn for a slice of humble pie.

Having expectations firmly in-check based on Mattel’s first foray (1/6 Movie Masters) into figures from the Superman franchise (with the sculpt of The Man of Steel easily the most disappointing) it has to be said the likeness captured in this scale is genuinely impressive. Distracting cocked eyebrow aside, the face is clearly Reeve and captures his demeanour and Hawk-nose perfectly (even in profile, something the Hot Toys figure actually failed to do).  The hair sculpting is also top-notch and the paint (traditionally a stumbling block for Mattel) is flawless.

Now, as the backing card (second pic) claims “These figures are meticulously designed to be truly authentic” and without subjecting it to the kind of scrutiny reserved for figures twenty times the price, (see Hot Toys again) its sad to see the godawful chest shield (third pic) made it past prototype stage and that somebody who obviously didn’t see the movie slapped on the massively oversized and inaccurate cape shield (bottom pic). These details, (I refer to the above quote) are not only overlooked but simply let the whole thing horribly down.  Not even the excellent body proportions and extraordinary articulation (even in the wrists!) can save it from the shoddy finish.  Overall the figure (and its copy – Time travel ability??) deserved a little more care.

SUPERMANIA hopes to address this by presenting a reworked custom version of this figure in a future post.  This will feature corrected details and a replacement fabric cape..!

And coming soon – General Zod…