Sunday, 21 September 2014

DC Universe Classics: POWER STRUGGLE 2-pack -- SUPERMAN VS PARASITE (Part 1 of 2)

Pic from
LINE: DC Universe Classics
YEAR: 2010
Earlier this year, Mattel announced that it was re-releasing several of its DC figures in Super Powers- themed colours and packaging – a tribute to Kenner’s seminal 1980s toyline.  Though I didn’t have the Super Powers line as a kid, the announcement pushed my nostalgia button firmly – especially with the Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez-inspired artwork! If it looks familiar, that’s not surprising – DC is currently using his work on quite a lot of merchandise.
I wasn’t interested in the Riddler, Gold Superman, Mr Mxyzptlk or the Collect-and-Connect Kalibak, but the core trio of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman rapidly became must-have items. It’s not hard to find figures of these core three, but it’s hard to find three that look cohesive together – well, ones that aren’t based on the New 52, anyway. But as the release date started to grow closer approach I began to wonder whether I could justify the not inconsiderable price tag.
“Hmm…the packaging does look nice, but it’s going in the bin anyway…this kind of blue Batman isn’t really my favourite style of Batman…Wonder Woman isn’t going to include her axe and shield…”
Deliberations such as these went on for a few weeks, but I eventually decided I’d be better off looking up earlier releases of these figures, and comparing costs. If older versions were cheaper, I’d go with them instead. Superman was surprisingly easy to find, and this 2-pack was the most cost-effective method for getting him – and as far as I can see, this is identical to the figure that’s been re-released for the Super Powers tribute, bar the colouring. And he came with Parasite, too – SCORE!

If I am not very much mistaken, I don’t think there was ever really a proper “Classic” Superman in the main series of DCUC. Not long before the debut of DCUC, Mattel had done a series called DC Superheroes, a line that focused almost exclusively on Superman, Batman and their respective allies and rogue’s galleries. For the most part, the two lines gel with one another, and have a similar aesthetic. But part of what killed that initial line was endless variations of Superman and Batman – they’re both awesome characters, but most people are not interested in owning 32903750923 different versions of them.
Hence, when DCUC came around, there was no Superman until wave 6 – and that was 1990s Superman, complete with long hair. It was a cool look, but it instantly marked it out as a Superman of a specific era. So a more “iconic” Superman never got a release in the main line, but there were a couple that showed up in a related 2-pack and 5-pack – and then there was this one, cobbled together from the existing “large male” DCUC body and the Eradicator’s head.
The DCUC line tended to try and replicate how a character looked on the page, rather than worrying too much about “realism”. That yielded some mixed results from time to time – some costumes work better in print than in 3D – but it’s the right call on this occasion. Superman has always been a big guy, and this figure maintains an appropriately exaggerated physique.

Somewhat curiously, he’s been sculpted without a smile. Without it, it’s actually a bit difficult to tell which artist’s work this is based on – there’s arguably a little of Jose Luis Garcia Lopes in there, but that still doesn’t seem quite right. In fact, the head is a little on the odd side in general. Front on, it looks great – maybe a little too thin at the sides, but definitely workable. From an angle, it tends to look a bit odd as the face is actually quite flat. This isn’t restricted to this figure – Wonder Woman has the same thing, and looking at one of the recent Masters of the Universe Classics toys, I noticed the same thing there too. So presumably it’s a Mattel house style thing, or possible a Four Horseman sculptural quirk.
The cape is also a little odd. The material is soft but sturdy, so I don’t really have any concerns about it rotting away, but it sticks out at the back quite a bit. Secured by a hole in his back, it’s fine from the front but looks odd side-on. From the back it works okay, though the lines are cut a little too deeply.

Articulation is standard for the DCUC line:
*ball-jointed neck

*ball-jointed shoulders

*swivel biceps

*hinged elbows

*cut wrists

*ab crunch
*cut waist

*t-hinged hips

*cut thighs
*hinged knees

*hinged ankles
The neck is technically a balljoint, but it's not super manoeuvrable. The shoulders are a bit restricted due to the cape, and the swivel biceps feel a little tight. However, these are pretty minor issues and none of the other joints gave me any problems at all. It was a welcome contrast to Hawkman. I've grown to like that figure a little more since I wrote that review, but he was extraordinarily disappointing and I was worried I've have a repeat issue.

Curiously, it’s kind of hard to get him into a good flying pose. I think this is partially down to facial sculpt, both hands being fists and the way the neck moves. It doesn’t bother me a lot, but I can definitely see it upsetting some fans.   

Superman (and the two-pack as a whole) comes with no accessories. Some Kryptonite, Fortress of Solitude Crystal or a miniature Bottle City of Kandor would have been nice, but really he doesn’t need anything.

Most of Supes is just cast in dark blue, and then paint is applied accordingly. There are no major issues with slop, but it does seem odd that – his hands also seem to be cast in blue, and painted in skintone. I’m not really sure why they went with this option rather than just casting them in skin colour, but I assume it’s a costing thing.  

As a nice little touch, his hair features little light blue highlights, just like in the comics.

The entire DCUC range relied heavily on parts re-use, with a great deal of the main characters just reusing one body or another. The upside of this was that the line was able to pump out a number of B-, C- and D-list characters that were unlikely to get an appearance elsewhere.  The downside is that reusing bodies tend to give certain characters odd quirks. In Superman’s case, there’s no sculpted line where his neck gives way to the suit – it’s just painted on. I might complain about this elsewhere, but the paint line is neat, so it works well enough.   

A few tampographs are used. The back of the cape has a yellow “S” symbol tampoed on – as all Superman capes should – and the chest logo is tampoed too. Additionally, the eyes have been tampoed on. They’re pretty much even, which is great. Too many action figures have an awkward or cross-overed look.  

I bought this two-pack brand new from a third-party seller, for what I assume was just above retail price. eBay and Amazon seem to indicate you’re in for a difficult and/or expensive time if you want any of the other DCUC Supes figures. However, at time of writing the Super Powers figures were still in stock at

My very first action figure was a Superman one. Working from an approximate timeline, I don’t think it was a Super Powers figure – I’m a little young for that – but rather from ToyBiz’s DC Superheroes series. It followed only a few short years after the end of Super Powers, reused many of the same moulds and had a very similar design aesthetic, but was never quite of the same standard. Sadly, he lasted only a few months before one of the knee joints gave way, and for whatever reason he was never replaced. It’s easy to remember how much we enjoyed a toy; it’s more difficult to remember how poorly some of them were made (and I have to say, I don’t remember the Kryptonite ring at all)!

So from a nostalgic perspective, this Superman had quite a bit to live up to. He’s not quite everything I’d like from a figure of Superman, but for this price point, he’s still pretty darn good. I don’t have Hot Toys kind of money at this point, so this guy will do nicely.

Part two coming soon – we take a look at Superman’s boxmate, Parasite!


  1. Looks good, and reasonably moveable if the articulations work well.
    Mr Mxyzptlk rocked, though, and considering he was from the 5th Dimension (the concept from physics, not the singing group) was remarkably easy to trick into saying his name backwards to send him back whence he came -- Seymour Knutts

    1. I like Mr Mxyzptlk as a character. You should read "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow", which was the last Superman story before they rebooted him in the 1980s. Though of course the "real" Superman was relegated to being Earth-2 Superman back in the 1960s or thereabouts...