The DC Gallery collection presents reproductions of some of the most iconic props and art from across the DC Universe. For the latest release, the team has launched a collection of Batman cowls, each representing a beloved rendition of the Dark Knight’s headgear from comics, games and much more.
The latest piece in the series comes from the 1986 classic BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. The cowl design is based on Frank Miller’s illustrations of an aging Batman; the mask is set to showcase a wider, tired and grimaced face. The design was already iconic then, and its influence has since been seen in comics, games and movies alike.
Sculpted by Alterton
Limited Edition of 5,000
Measures Approximately 8.4″ Tall
Each $90.00 US • On Sale September 2019 from DC Collectibles
I’ll approach this review two different ways. To start, you’ll get “First Impression,” a quick overview with anecdotes from my own experience showing off the statue in my home. Then there’s the “Scrutinized” section, which goes into more detail about the paint, sculpt, assembly, packaging, etc. etc. That portion of the review is going to be overly critical because it’s geared toward anyone who is on the fence about dropping $90 dollars on this collectible. If you can make it through all the nitpicky commentary from the Scrutinized section with your desire for the item still intact, well, you should go out and buy this item with confidence.
I want to like it more than I actually do like it. The idea of amassing a full gallery’s worth of Batman cowls that represent multiple eras from film, comics, and animation is an exciting prospect, but as of right now I just own the one. This one here. And it alone does not move me as much as I would expect a Frank Miller-inspired Dark Knight cowl ought. And it isn’t wowing my house guests, either. So far the response has included such quotes as…
“Where’s his mouth? It looks creepy.”
“I think I’d like it if it was life-size, but this is too small.”
“It looks like he’s missing his mouth. It might look cool if it had a mouth.”
“Why does he have eyes but no mouth?”
“Why is this part open? Do you put stuff in it?”
Granted, if I had a several of these cowl busts on a shelf or in a display case with a spotlight above each and every one, I think the reaction would be dramatically different. After all, the title on the box reads “DC Gallery” and a single item ain’t a gallery. So right now, I find myself most excited by the potential that the DC Gallery cowl line promises. But as a standalone piece? It seems like this particular bust is underwhelming half of my friends and confusing the other half completely. And it’s not like this is a crowd that’s unfamiliar with Batman or comic-related collectibles in general. It’s simply not a hit in my household. The only way I’ve managed to get my friends excited about it is by asking them to imagine a vast assortment of cowls on display, but even that only manages to convince 30-40% of my audience. The rest merely shrug and say, “I still think it’d look cooler if it was a complete bust that had a mouth.”
The third release in DC Collectibles’ Batman Cowl series is based on Frank Miller’s artwork from The Dark Knight Returns. Although this is part of a whole new line from DC, the cowl arrives in a box sporting art that’s almost identical to the Dark Nights Metal figures and recent Batman: Black & White statues. And, really, the concept behind these cowls is quite similar to that of the existing Black & White series: get fans to collect sculptures that represent different interpretations of Batman. The difference is that rather than buying a monochromatic, full-body polyresin figure you’re instead getting a completely colorized polyresin bust of a specific cowl. There will be no face filling out the open mouth and (in cases where the mask has no lenses) no eyes peeking through the eye holes. And since these busts are all around 9 inches tall and weigh about 5 lbs. they will be made available at about the same price point as the Black and White figures as well (typically $80-90 bucks each). I’ll also point out that the cowl comes with a cardstock certificate of authenticity, which is a new addition to DC Collectibles statues, and I like having that certificate.
The number on your certificate will match up with hand numbering located on the bust’s padded base. Round pads supporting the four corners will protect your tabletop/shelving from scuffs and scratches, which is nice because the Dark Knight Returns statue is surprisingly hefty at 4.4 lbs. and you will likely find yourself repositioning it each time your collection grows.
The statue’s foundation is quite simple, stealing no attention away from the sculpt itself. The tiered design is reminiscent of a classic trophy base, and every step’s surface is embellished with black grooves. A polished metal nameplate is stamped on the front of the base and is carved with the Dark Knight Returns bat-logo and title. Also, these carvings are filled in with black paint to be more pronounced. It’s just like what we saw from the Arkham and Rebirth cowls that came before it, and I think the minimalist, uniform approach to all of the bases in this series is a good idea– as is the way the cowls all appear to be constructed to the same scale. I want to be able to compare and contrast the different looks fairly, and keeping to a standard encourages that.
If you look at the Dark Nights: Metal statues from DC Collectibles that are modeled after the art of Greg Capullo you’ll see sculpts and paints that perfectly capture the colors and textures seen in the comics. This sculpture of Frank Miller’s Batman cowl does not seem to be striving for that same level of authenticity.
Now, some of you might’ve read that sentence and shouted “What the heck is this guy talking about?” but hear me out. This cowl and the Batman: Rebirth cowl that came before it have been designed to look lifelike, wouldn’t you agree? To appear as if they were crafted from leather or rubber and would be wearable in the real world if only they were the same size as an actual human head. This Dark Knight Returns cowl does NOT look exactly like the cowl from the comic, but it sure as heck looks how a real life cowl from a true-to-the-source-material Dark Knight Returns film should. Or at least it’s what one would look like in a film that’s drawn its inspiration heavily from Frank Miller’s artwork, and as a result of the bust being more of a tribute than an exact replica we end up with something that looks and feels closer to the mask from Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Every additional scratch and wrinkle that was added to give this piece the touch and texture of a wearable, real world cowl took it farther away from the pages of the comic. I find the sculpture to be too realistic, and I find myself comparing it more to the statues from Prime 1 than I do the panels of the original graphic novel.
However, if you adore the idea of translating the comic cowl into a lifelike mask, you will probably dig this sculpture far more than I do. After all, the musculature, the scars, the ripples in the material around his neck and shoulders is all excellent. And the subtle shadows on the dark blue surface exaggerate the furrowed brow so well that even without a mouth, the bust is remarkably expressive. The matte black finish of the open mouth also adds a little something special to the mask. Display it in the proper lighting and you’d swear the void beneath his nose and cheekbones goes on forever and ever. One element you will want to be wary of, though, is the white of the eyes. I found that a glue or gloss seemed to pool slightly at the lower lid of each of Batman’s eyes. It isn’t something that’s terribly noticeable, but it could be a source of aggravation for some collectors. And speaking of collectors, die-hard Frank Miller fans who already in the habit of purchasing Dark Knight Returns merchandise might find this bust to be a little to familiar for their liking. Take a look at the photos below…
That’s the 30th Anniversary bust from 2016, my crude attempt at toning down the color and blacking out the mouth, and a shot of the newly released DC Gallery Cowl. Both the 2016 and the 2019 busts were sculpted by the same artist, Alterton, who does exceptional work. But the cowl we’ve been talking about today seems a little too derivative of that anniversary edition, doesn’t it? For the launch of a brand-new line and a design that’s paying tribute to such an important chapter of the character’s history, I wish that the product we got didn’t look so close to a piece that was already sold to us three years ago.
I am excited for how complete collections of these new DC Gallery cowls will eventually look when displayed together with dramatic lighting illuminating each one individually, but a single bust? Just a single bust– even the well-made Dark Knight Returns cowl you see here, fails to resonate with me. It’s a cool concept, and it sounds exactly like the sort of thing I would be totally into, but for some odd reason I’m just not sold on the Dark Knight Returns cowl. If you find yourself more attracted to the minimalist styling of this new line, go for it. But for my money, I would rather spend $90 on a full Batman statue from the Black & White or DC Designer Series that shows off a dynamic pose.
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