When reviewing toys and collectibles, I generally avoid critiquing what the manufacturer can’t control. It isn’t Sideshow’s choice to give the Justice League Batman goggles, or Kotobukiya’s call to put a Harley Quinn based on Batman: The Animated Series in her classic costume. It wouldn’t be fair of me to evaluate design choices made by the source material when what I’m supposed to be reviewing is the statue, figure, or what have you.
But what’s the best play when a collectible is wholly original? In these situations, I think it would be silly not to talk about concept and design, because that’s work the manufacturer did, and that’s what I’m reviewing. Such is the case with McFarlane’s new Gold Label Batman, based on a design from the big man, Todd McFarlane, himself. So how did Todd—and the company bearing his name—do with this one? Read on.
A word about the Gold Label Collection
So what is the Gold Label Collection? As we reported last year:
…the Gold Label Collection will feature new designs for iconic characters, as well as more articulation. The first figure in the series will be a Walmart exclusive in the U.S. and will feature a new Batman design by Todd McFarlane himself.
New designs for iconic characters sounds great—DC Collectibles/Direct (may it rest in peace) did some of its best work when it was pumping out Black and White or Artist Alley pieces featuring artistic rejiggerings of Batman and other DC characters, and who better to helm such an effort than Todd Freaking McFarlane?
Design is about choices
Todd is awesome, and he’s got one of the most impressive bodies of work in comics. And when it comes to Batman, he’s had some righteous takes. But this? I don’t think this is one of them.
French writer/aviator/whatever else Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is quote as saying (loosely-translated): “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” This Batman design looks like a physical repudiation of that idea. Batman’s suit is, at its core, a collection of a few simple elements, such that when you Injustice the hell out of it, you tend to lose what makes it special in the first place. Sure, there are contexts in which a tricked out, toothy Batsuit like this one might work, but context is precisely what’s missing; without some story to connect this to, we’re left with what appears to be Todd saying “this is Batman, to me,” and I’m not sure there are many of us who would share the sentiment.
Who’s it for?
This is a design that seems more kid-friendly—like when Mattel gave Superman a “strike shield” and battle staff:
Or a “mega tire blaster”:
Kids like it when a toy is adorned with doodads, and all of the doodads on this Gold Label Batman seem better suited to doodad-craving kids than grown-up Batfans. And at $19.99 retail, this is definitely priced for the latter more than the former.
In the end, your personal taste will determine whether or not you want this figure. It’s well-made, like all of McFarlane’s stuff, and if the look does it for you, by all means, track one down and get your own. For me, though, it’s a weird start to what sounded like a promising sub-line in McFarlane’s Multiverse, and I’m hoping whatever comes next is a step in a different direction.
DISCLAIMER: McFarlane provided this figure to Batman News for review.