The ’90s were a wonderful, weird time. It was the heyday of grunge music and teenybopper boy bands, an era when being a summer blockbuster actually seemed to mean something, and a time when seemingly anything could get a toy line. That was especially true for comic book characters, as we got some pretty sweet action figures for characters like Superman, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and even Ghost Rider.
Oh, and Batman, of course, and boy oh boy were there some Batman action figures. I’ve already covered several Batman lines based on the live-action films of the ’90s, along with two critically-acclaimed animated movies. Instead of going the obvious route of ranking figures from the Animated Series, I decided to look at two similarly-named but very, very different Batman toy lines from this wild, wacky, and radical decade: Legends of Batman— smaller scale figures that were a mix of traditional characters and Batman from different historical periods– and Legends of the Dark Knight— taller, more detailed figures that boasted some truly ambitious and bizarre designs. Prepare yourselves, because things are about to get extreme.
Oh, but first, let’s watch some toy commercials:
Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
7. Power Spark Accessory Set: This looks like a bootleg toy you’d find in a dollar store. Four stars. 10/10. No notes.
6. Batcycle: Considering the ridiculous excess and overdesigned figures from each of these lines, this relatively subdued Batcycle is a nice changed of pace. It’s so plain and simple that it almost feels out of place, though, but trust me. That’s not a bad thing, considering some of what’s coming.
5. Skybike: As far as I can tell, this and the next one are the exact same thing, just with different names. It feels like something Batman would ride in an Elseworlds book, and I can all but guarantee Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo at least drew some unintentional inspiration from this for Death Metal.
4. Skywing Street Bike: See 5, this just has a better name.
3. Batmobile: Why this is white, I do not know. Regardless, it’s a pretty good Batmobile, all told. I like the shape and nice, sleek contours.
2. Skybat: Insane in all the best ways, it’s Batman flying a jet that may or may not be a giant, living bat. That is ridiculously metal.
1. Dark Rider Batman: Is a horse a vehicle? For the purpose of this post, yes. Batman riding a horse always looks cool.
50. Batgirl: Alright, to be entirely fair, this design isn’t any skimpier that other characters from the time like Witchblade or Fathom. Batgirl is not Witchblade of Fathom, though, so even in a line of figures with such bold reimaginings of characters, seeing her with bare thighs and midriff just feels wrong.
49. Egyptian Batman and Egyptian Catwoman: Get ready for lots of cultural appropriation, friends. Even with some interesting sculpting and design choices, like the loincloth tucked into Batman’s belt, this two-pack feels misguided at best, insensitive and offensive at worst.
48. Samurai Batman: Like I said, lots of this. The club accessory is interesting, as is the Bat banner and standard. Not a fan of the pose, though.
47. Bat Attack Batman: As you’ll see, the Legends of the Dark Knight line went for it more often than not, swinging for the fences with their concepts and designs. I wouldn’t consider any of the pieces lazy or uninspired, but there are several that feel like they were made to hit a quota. This is one of them.
46. Underwater Assault Batman: This is another.
45. Glacier Shield Batman: And another. I do like the bright white and blue together, though. It catches the eye for sure.
44. Neural Claw Batman: The way the black fades into the gray with that ombré effect is really nice. Still, this is just another Adjective Noun Batman figure.
43. Cyborg Batman: In some ways this is worse than the Egyptian, Samurai, and other historical name and place Batman figures from the Legends of Batman line, because it’s just boring. An awkward pose, bland accessory, and a few mechanical attachments to make him look like a cyborg don’t do much to make this figure very interesting.
42. Gladiator Batman: Also kind of boring, though the sculpt is better than Cyborg Batman.
41. Viking Batman: I actually really like the patchwork cape and the shield. This still just screams pegwarmer before finding its way to a Big Lots.
40. Desert Knight Batman: Something about the flat gray coloring of this figure compels me, and having four different accessories is kind of cool. Said accessories look really cheap and flimsy, though, and as fun as a “whirling attack” action feature would be, eventually those wrists are going to wear out and just flop around in the socket.
39. Spline Cape Batman: This made me look up the word “spline” and I learned something about polynomials in mathematics. Toys are for playing, not learning. F-.
38. Energy Surge Batman: Shiny Batman is just weird, though believe me, I will contradict this statement later. This is fine, just kind of… there.
37. Flightpak Batman: This isn’t too bad, really, and would rank higher if it didn’t make me think of the AzBats suit. That itself isn’t why it’s ranked so low, but because we literally get multiple AzBats figures in this line, all of which look cooler than this.
36. Shatter Blade Batman: Also reminds me of Knight Gallery.
35. Silver Knight Batman: The wavy sword and mace are kind of cool, and props for giving the figure an action feature. Since he can only hold his arms above his head or at his waist, without any other articulation, that’s incredibly limiting when you want to pose him.
34. Bat Attack Batman Toyfare Exclusive: Or “If Batman Took Fashion Tips From X-O Manowar.”
33. Assault Gauntlet Batman: I remember seeing this figure a lot as a kid, so it’s oddly nostalgic in that way. The firing gauntlet fins are pretty fun, and this almost looks like a costume Batman might bust out for some flame protection or something.
32. Power Guardian Batman: This has lots of things I’ve been knocking other figures for (weird pose, action feature that will eventually wear out) but for whatever reason I think it kind of works here. Maybe it’s the idea of a swashbuckling, fencing Batman I like. Or that it makes me think of the story “Blades,” which is excellent.
31. Dark Warrior Batman: I know a lot of people dislike purple on Batman, and I understand why. It’s the Joker’s color, after all. Still, I like it when it works, and it works here. The odd accessories hold it back a bit, but I genuinely like this Batsuit design, and it feels like a look Batman would wear in an Elseworlds story from the era.
30. Lava Fury Batman: Nice colors, and one of the more subdued “capes” for the Legends of the Dark Knight Batman figures.
29. Crusader Batman: Really, this could be a pretty solid plain old Batman figure. Calling it “Crusader Batman” isn’t necessary, unless you add “Caped” to the front. It’s relatively nondescript among stranger, more interesting toys, but where Cyborg Batman didn’t do enough with its idea, this is just a simple old Batman, and that’s good enough.
28. Panther Prowl Catwoman: Not a bad ’90s Catwoman figure, with the thigh-high black boots and purple bodysuit. The bulky “panther” armor isn’t necessary, but I guess you could pretend it’s some treasure she burgled.
27. Laughing Gas Joker Toyfare Exclusive: A strange figure with a pretty cool action feature, I just like the colors on the standard version more.
26. Dive Claw Robin: Another toy I remember seeing everywhere way back in the day. The fact that I love Robin so much probably helps push this up the rankings, and maybe subconsciously this makes me think of Gargoyles, which marries two of my favorite pop culture properties.
25. Future Batman: Close to AzBats, but unique enough that it doesn’t feel entirely derivative. Love the colors.
24. Panther Prowl Catwoman Toyfare Exclusive: The standard version is more comic accurate, sure. There’s just something about that lighter purple I really dig, and the white armor isn’t as garish as the copper.
23. First Mate Robin: Genuinely love this design, which translates Tim Drake’s Robin costume to pirate wear really well. A great sword and firing cannon just add to the appeal.
22. Long Bow Batman: Or “If Batman Took Fashion Tips From Green Arrow” and then stole his whole gimmick too. Take that, Ollie.
21.The Laughing Man Joker: Exactly what you imagine when you think of “Joker, but a pirate.” Love that hat so, so much.
20. Laughing Gas Joker: Like I said before, these colors just work better, especially on that creepy smiling jester thing.
19. Crusader Robin: This at least makes sense with that name, and it looks like a good Robin to boot. Nice variety of accessories and a design that makes sense with the theme, as well as just a different take on the Robin costume.
18. Nightwing: While I could be wrong, I believe this toy was the first time I’d seen Nightwing in any medium, ever. For that reason alone, he gets placed in the top 20. The weird pose and massive neck keep him on the lower end, though.
17. Jungle Rage Robin: Over-designed and incredibly bulky, I should hate this, but for whatever reason I don’t. Maybe because it at least keeps Robin’s basic color scheme and signature weapon, where some of the Batman figures are just way too bizarre and outlandish.
16. Ultra Armor Batman: A solid AzBats figure. There are just better ones later on.
15. Buccaneer Batman: If First Mate Robin was great, this Batman is just fantastic. A wonderfully silly pirate costume and excellent cutlass accessory are great enough, and the fact that his mask is apparently tied at the back and he still has the ears is just incredible.
14. The Riddler: I can take or leave the question mark blaster, which is fun enough I guess. The figure itself is just a really well done, simple Riddler, and that’s more than welcome among some of the insanity and excess of these lines.
13. The Penguin: As you’ll soon see, the Legends of the Dark Knight line is really a showcase for some truly stellar villain figures. Penguin here is no exception, with a nice, unsettling design. Take a closer look at the umbrella and it looks like it’s made out of bird wings, which is just chilling.
12. The Joker: Like Riddler, this is a really well made, solid Joker action figure. Unlike Riddler, he comes with some strong accessories, especially that giant laughing mouth bazooka thing. And those long, wavy tails from his jacket? Incredibly nice touch.
11. Knightquest Batman: The AzBats suit was made to be a toy, what with the spiky cape and armored look. These colors look great together, even if they aren’t as accurate Ultra Armor Batman, and the flames on that missile fill me with joy.
10. Batman The Dark Knight: Like a Kelley Jones drawing come to life. Brilliant.
9. Clayface: I love Clayface so much. No lie, he’s one of my favorite Batman villains, and it doesn’t really matter which one. This figure is giving off some Preston Payne Clayface III vibes, without the full containment suit, and I dig that a lot. He’s creepy, kind of gross, and monstrous, just like Clayface should be.
8. Pirate Batman and Pirate Two-Face: Fantastic pirate designs on both of these, especially Two-Face. The best part is Harvey has a hook hand that’s also a sword, which is absolutely amazing. Avast and what have you.
7. Bane: An incredible figure any way you look at it. The only drawbacks are the red tubes, which would work better if they were green, and those long, flowing locks coming out of the back of his mask. Good on Bane for having a great hair care routine, it’s just an unnecessary added element to an otherwise amazing toy.
6. 100th Batman: It’s shiny and has a weird pose, which we all know by now that I love. For real, though, this looks really cool as an idea for a display piece, and as the 100th Batman figure made (supposedly) it at least means something. Plus, blue, gray, and yellow oval all day every day.
5. Knightsend Batman: A terrific AzBats, right down to the thigh belt. Nice and simple, it’s a jagged metal cape away from perfection.
4. Twister Strike Scarecrow: Tall, lanky, and sinister, this is one of the best Scarecrow toys I’ve ever seen. If the heroes in this line were over-designed in every conceivable fashion, the villains show how some restraint can make for far more effective pieces. The wood posts at his shoulders are an amazing touch, like he was a real scarecrow standing watch in the middle of a field who was granted sentience. Great scythe too.
3. Dark Knight Detective: Like a Kelley Jones drawing come to life, but in all black, so even more like a Kelley Jones drawing. Even more brilliant.
2. Catwoman: A simple design and good accessories go a long, long way in making a great toy. This Catwoman figure doesn’t have any frills or added elements to take away from her costume, and the bullwhip, grappling hook, and net accessories make perfect sense with the character. Simplicity truly is key.
1. Man-Bat: Like I said, simplicity is key. Wonderful sculpting, a huge wingspan, and a spot-on design makes this a terrific Man-Bat figure. The wings, ears, and fangs look incredibly menacing, and the lithe, sinewy body is more bat-like than human. It doesn’t have anything else, and it doesn’t need anything else.
All images obtained from Figure-Archive.net, unless otherwise noted.