In discussions about the greatest Batman films of all time, most moviegoers would probably name Batman, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Batman as some of the strongest contenders for the top spot. With good reason, as they are all good to great in their own ways. There are two movies that are often overlooked with the general public, though, that most hardcore fans would agree need spots on those lists: the animated films Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
Phantasm was a theatrical relase, but unfortunately didn’t do well on its initial run, and Return of the Joker was a made-for-video film that ended up with two very different cuts. If most moviegoers haven’t heard of these, then, it’s no real surprise. That just means you can introduce someone to one what is sure to be one of their new favorite movies, when the topic of Batman movies arises. And in this day and age, you can bet that topic will come up.
Since these are great films in their own right, and great Batman films in general, let’s take a look at the toy lines inspired by each movie. Generally speaking, most of these are genuinely great figures, though there are a few real oddities and stinkers in here.
11. Total Armor Batman: What even is this supposed to be? I almost admire it for its strangeness, but can’t move past just how ugly it looks.
10. Decoy Batman: This I don’t hate, it just doesn’t wow me. Instead of a “quick change” concept, it would have been cool to have a figure based on Bruce’s first night out, before he became Batman and just wore a ski mask and black clothing. The red snap-on Batsuit here is kind of sharp, and the red paneling on the arms and legs is cool too. That cheap looking grapple accessory isn’t doing this any favors, though, so swap that out for something better and this might climb the list.
9. Tornado Batman: Kind of random, and not associated with the movie at all. Due to that this is fairly charming, with an interesting costume design. Disc launchers are always fun too, though less so when they have those bulky ripcords.
8. Retro Batman: As a proto-Batman suit this looks pretty great, with the plain Batsymbol on his chest and a brown belt that predicts The New Batman Adventures design years before the cartoon hit the air. The shiny silver of the suit is an interesting choice, which holds the figure back from true greatness, as do the kind of neat but nevertheless random accessories.
7. Gotham Defender Batman: Speaking of TNBA designs, this one isn’t too shabby at all. Frankly, I never liked the brown belt, so it’s nice to see yellow here. A solid figure, though one that’s been repurposed from the main series toy line, accessories and all.
6. Jet Pack Joker: It’s the little details on this that truly make it, like the jodhpur pants, the leg and chest straps, and the little leather flight cap and goggles. That this is ripped right from the Mask of the Phantasm climax makes it all the more appealing, in addition to it being a great Joker figure besides.
5. Rapid Attack Batman: It’s amazing what the inclusion of the yellow oval can do. Like Retro Batman from earlier, this Batman figure also has a shiny silver finish. The fact that the black of the boots, gloves, cowl, and trunks are several shades darker makes it look better, though, and the oval breaks it up even more. It’s not a look I’d normally want from Batman, to be sure, but it really doesn’t look too shabby. Lots of accessories too, which is also nice.
4. Arkham Assault Joker: No, this Joker design isn’t the best. Taking away the red lips and giving him black eyes is an odd choice, as was removing the orange shirt under his purple jacket. That said, this figure looks great, and translates the look from the cartoon really well. The giant launching playing card is a fun touch, as are the two revolvers. It’s not my preferred design by a long stretch, but I can’t deny a good figure when I see one.
3. Rapid Switch Bruce Wayne: This isn’t Bruce Wayne, it’s Dick Tracy looking for his hat.
2. Gotham Knight Batman: In some ways, the way to tell if an action figure is successful is if you strip away all the extras and accessories and it still looks great. That’s definitely the case here, as this is a genuinely fantastic Batman Beyond figure. In fact, it’s designed and sculpted so well that it’s made better by removing the accessories, which are just kind of random hooked staffs. Give him some Batarangs instead and this might compete for the top spot, but instead he’ll have to settle for a strong second place.
1. Phantasm: Spoiler alert! Yeah, it’s unfortunate that this spoiled the big twist of the movie, though it’s not the only toy to ever do that. Despite that, it’s a perfect Phantasm figure, without any unnecessary extras or flourishes. She’s simple, elegant, and kind of spooky, just as the Phatasm should be.
All images were obtained from Figure-Archive.net, unless otherwise noted.