Welcome back to what is turning into a recurring column, wherein I look at Batman toys from yesteryear and judge them (almost) solely on pictures I find on the internet. There’s hardly a character out there with more action figures based on them than the Dark Knight himself, so there’s plenty of toyetic goodness to look at. Last week we dove into the toy line based on 1997’s Batman & Robin, so I’m working backward this week by turning back the clocks two years earlier for a look at “my” Batman movie, Batman Forever. Prepare for lots and lots and lots of green.
8. Radio Control Batmobile: It looks almost the exact same as the Remote Control Batmobile, but not as exciting in box for whatever reason.
7. Remote Control Batmobile: Maybe it’s just the angle in the photo, or the fact that we can see the remote alongside the Batmobile, but this one looks a little more inviting than the previous Batmobile. There are still better ones to be had later down the list, though.
6. Batboat: Of the three vehicles in the movie, this one stands out the least. It looks okay in film, especially with that one shot where it goes airborne coming out of the Batcave. It’s really just a normal boat with a cool fin on the back, though the picture on the package promising that it separates to reveal some sort of missile launcher is kind of neat.
5. Electronic Batmobile: Even almost thirty years later, it still stings a bit that we went from the greatest Batmobile of all time in any medium in Batman and Batman Returns to this one in Forever. Though it isn’t the worst Batmobile, it’s the biggest downgrade from film to film, so even the coolest of toys of it I’ll keep at arms length. The packaging for this one makes it look like a lot of fun, at least, with lights and a firing missile. Too bad it can’t climb walls.
4. Batwing: Yes, the Batwing from ’89 is better, but this isn’t nearly as drastic a change as the Batmobile. In fact, the silhouette is still largely the same, with the changes coming on the body of the plane. All told this toy looks pretty sweet, and relatively close to the Batwing in the film.
3. Robin Cycle: Kind of chunky body, relatively nondescript housing, and no basis on anything that actually appeared in the movie. Yet the sticker in this image reminds us that there was a time when this could be obtained for a mere five dollars from KB Toys, one of the long gone institutions of our childhoods, and I’d love to go back and get one for myself.
2. Super Soaker Batmobile: This is a Batmobile powered by pressurized water. I want this. You want this. We all want this.
1. Triple Action Vehicle Set: Now we’re talking. It’s like Batman meets Transformers, which we all also want. It didn’t work for Batman & Robin because they were Batman Forever vehicles, so it gets the top spot because it actually fits the movie and it’s awesome.
10. Wayne Manor Batcave Compound: Is this the same set from the Batman & Robin line? Possibly. Am I too lazy to check and confirm? Definitely.
9. The Riddler Power Center: As much as I love fun little micro playsets, there’s just something… unsettling about Riddler’s eyes here. Like they’re constantly watching… observing… waiting…
8. Batcave Power Center: Less creepy than the Riddler set, and with what appear to be some cooler play features. There’s a better micro set later, though, as well as better looking toys overall. I’d still buy it.
7. Road Race Set: Honestly, I’ve never been huge into remote control cars and racing sets like this. They’re big, have limited functionality, and something always seems to break after playing with it once or twice. I won’t deny the charm in seeing the old-fashioned Two-Face car, though.
6. Aerodisc Shooter: Simple, sleek, and classic. One of those toys that might not be at the top of a kid’s Christmas list, but the one that they’d end up holding on to for longer than any others, given its low maintenance and high play value.
5. Combat Utility Belt: More desirable than the Aerodisc shooter, and with good reason. Packed with accessories, you’ll definitely feel like you’re Batman with this set. You can’t beat a dart launcher and a water gun, really. The only major drawback is at least one of the pieces will be lost within a week of opening the set, but that’s just how things go.
4. Batmobile Power Center: This is better than the Batman and Riddler sets just on account of the fact that it’s larger and has more play area. That by itself nudges it up the list, but the fact that closing the lid gives you a full Batmobile and that means this is practically two toys in one. Out of creative ways for Batman to blow up that giant midwave blender thing of the Riddler’s? Just clamp it shut and BAM you can drive the Dark Knight’s whip around the living room floor.
3. Bat-signal Blaster: A pretty standard dart launcher, which I always enjoy. That it looks like the grapple launcher from the movie is a great touch, and the added Batsignal light is pretty sweet.
2. Electronic Pinball Game: Look, this is probably a pretty crappy pinball game. I do not care. I love Batman. I love pinball. I love this.
1. Batcave: The U.S.S. Flagg of Batman playsets, this is everything a kid (or adult) would want in a Batcave. Multiple levels of play, packed with features, and still compact enough that you can fold it up for easy storage, this thing rocks.
37. Night Flight Batman: Slightly better than Wing Blast Batman, but only just so. Please stop with this copper color.
36. Attack Wing Batman: This is okay, save for those hideous giant talons. Take those away and this might be a top 20 Batman figure, but since the entire crux of this toy is the “Attack Wings” with those claws it lands here.
35. Laser Disc Batman: Now if this were a Batman that doubled as a Laser Disc player, that might be something. It’s not, so it isn’t.
34. The Riddler Target Exclusive: The Riddler has some really, really bad action figures in this line. Most of them are based on the same sculpt, which would be okay save for the fact that the left arm is crooked out at a weird angle, and he has a handle molded into his left hand. That means only his right hand can hold any accessories, which severely limits play. Plus, his “brain drain” backpack accessory looks big and unwieldy, when even a simple question mark cane would do.
33. Lightwing Batman: This is one of those arbitrary rankings, because I don’t have any strong feelings toward this one way or the other. I will say that every time I look at it I think that gray block in the middle is Han Solo in carbonite for a hot second.
32. Blast Cape Batman: Arbitrary ranking. Not a fan of where some of the reddish maroon is painted on, though I can appreciate the attempt at something different. Also, this might work better as, like, “Attack Claw Batman” because I am not getting “Blast Cape” vibes from this.
31. Fireguard Batman: That deep red suit is kind of cool, and reminds me of the posters for Batman: The Movie, which is never a bad thing. The figure is nice and the accessories are kind of neat, this just might have fit in better with Batman & Robin.
30. The Riddler: Same as 34 in pretty much every way, I just think the black chest and leg pieces look a little better than the gray.
29. Ice Blade Batman: This is like if one of the Kenner BTAS figures was run through a filter to make it slightly more realistic and lifelike. It’s a fun sculpt with lovely accessories, it just doesn’t make any sense with this movie.
28. Batman 16″: Like with a lot of these figures, make this the “Panther suit” with the yellow oval instead of the sonar suit and it would look at least 40% better. As it is, it’s fine, just kind of bland.
27. Bruce Wayne Target Exclusive: It’s okay, just needs a bit more color.
26. Electronic Talking Batman: Relatively the same as the 16″ plush Batman, just this one talks. Hopefully it says iconic lines like “How about Dick Grayson, college student?” and “the Batsignal is not a beeper.”
25. Triple Strike Robin: This is what the superior Triple Strike Robin from the B&R line is based off of, right down to the identical accessories. While I’m digging that blue and black together, I just like the colors of the other one more.
24. Transforming Bruce Wayne: Oh look! A bit more color!
23. Night Hunter Batman: In comics published around this time, Batman had “Starlite lenses” in his cowl that helped him to see in low-light environments. This action figure, on the other hand, has bulky night vision goggles so he can properly operate his clawed wing cape, and I think that’s beautiful.
22. Solar Shield Batman: Another figure that doesn’t make a lot of sense with the film it’ supposedly based on, but has a nice design with striking colors. Nothing more to say than that.
21. Tide Racer Robin Target Exclusive: Hey look, a toy that kind of makes sense with the movie! There’s a Batman figure further down the list that does this concept even better, but I still like the bandolier across Robin’s chest, and the ski blade thing he comes with looks neat too.
20. Wing Blast Batman: This makes me think of the insane designs in Knight Gallery so that’s an automatic four stars.
19. Street Racer Batman: Sometimes you just like a red and black Batman with a weird motorcycle. I like this red and black Batman with his weird motorcycle.
18. The Riddler: Despite having the same sculpt as the earlier Riddler figures, I like this a bit more due to the sharp black body suit. The green question marks look great with this inverted color scheme, even if the overall mold doesn’t do it for me.
17. Robin 16″: I’m only including this so high because I’ve almost bought one of these off eBat more than once and only held off at the last minute, so there’s some primal urge I have to own this plush. Some things we can’t explain, as it’s just in our nature.
16. Transforming Dick Grayson: Not as big a transformation as the Bruce Wayne figures, and I kind of like that. That makes this a pretty solid Robin figure, and the color change effect for the mask is neat.
15. Sonar Sensor Batman: In broad strokes, this makes sense with the movie, what with Batman wearing a suit with sonar capabilities. Unless I’m not remembering things correctly, I do not believe he had a shoulder-mounted scanner or giant black discs, but it’s been a few months since I last watched the movie so I could be wrong.
14. Batarang Batman: Batarangs are cool. Two Batarangs are even cooler, especially if one is huge. Batman and purple go together, in a strange way. This hits all the right notes.
13. Hydro Claw Robin: I really don’t know why I like this one more than the Tide Racer Robin from earlier. Maybe the exclusivity bug didn’t bite me this time. Maybe I accidentally swapped them when loading them into the gallery. The world may never know.
12. Martial Arts Robin: This would have been better if it were Karate Laundry Dick Grayson. Even still, it’s a cool looking figure with a neat sculpt, though I wish the accessories were a different color.
11. Neon Armor Batman: It’s neon. And Batman Forever. It just works.
10. Manta Ray Batman: If you’re going to give Batman some wild weapons and outfits, make at least a few of them make some sort of sense with the film. Manta Ray Batman could potentially work in the climax of Batman Forever, what with the aerial and nautical attack on the Riddler’s island. I have a certain soft spot for underwater themed toys too, and I really like the blues used on the body suit here.
9. Street Biker Robin: I unironically love this totally radical figure and have one hanging on the card in my office. It is amazing. I want to write this comic.
8. Power Beacon Batman: Not sure what it is about this that I find so appealing, honestly. I should hate it, as it’s almost a nice, simple Batman in a fully black suit. Instead, it has a translucent green chest symbol and abs, as well as a weird yellow… bat… baton thing. The heart likes what it likes, though, and sometimes it just can’t be explained.
7. Two-Face: As a Two-Face figure, this is pretty great. The dual-patterned suit looks nice and colorful, and bonus points for a life-size collectible coin. Like Riddler, one of his hands is rendered unusable thanks to a gun permanently molded in his grip, so that knocks this down a few notches.
6. Recon Hunter Batman: This isn’t a suit I’d want to see in live-action, but I can’t deny how cool that huge silver bat logo looks against the all black costume. I can take or leave the weird drone.
5. The Riddler and Two-Face: Most of the figures in this series are at least fun, even for how ridiculous they can be, yet the villains really got short shrift. Two-Face makes a cool too, even with the gun plastered in his left hand, but most of the standalone Riddler figures are pretty lackluster. That streak is broken here, though, with this pretty killer two-pack. Harvey has a new color scheme and still holds that gun in his hand, but Eddie has an entirely new sculpt and screen-accurate costume and staff accessory. For toys based on a movie that’s full of color and excess, having some nice looking toys that are so simple is a pleasant surprise.
4. Skyboard Robin: Simple, clean, and elegant. The best looking Robin figure of the bunch, with a fun little mini vehicle. Can’t go wrong with this.
3. The Talking Riddler: Crazy how most of the Riddler figures in this line are pretty bad, yet two cracked the top ten. Granted, they’re the same sculpt, just different paint designs. Still, not having one hand fitted with an immovable accessory will go quite a ways to increasing a toy’s appeal. I love this garish question mark suit, I love the giant question mark staff, and chances are I’d also love that talkbox with “3 real movie phrases!”
2. Ultimate Batman: What a beauty. Great sculpting and a cool pose, this is more display piece than action figure. Still, pop the Batarang in his hand, fit him to the base, and place this on your shelf and you have one cool Batman to guard your office/bedroom/fine dining area.
1. Guardians of Gotham City: It’s a shame there aren’t more traditional, film accurate takes on the characters in the line, but man they sure look great in this two-pack. The molded, soft plastic capes are a bit of a bummer, and it would have been nice if Robin were in the final suit from the film. Other than that, these figures look great, and the accessories are really nice too.
All images were obtained from Figure-Archive.net, unless otherwise noted.