I sure do miss the days when you could go to a toy store and…
Well, I could just leave it at that, really, since standalone toy stores are few and far between. Still, I used to love going to a store and seeing all sorts of toy lines, some of them cool, some of them crazy, all of them appealing. Nothing really beats the excitement of seeing a brand new set of figures on the shelves, especially if they’re related to your favorite characters.
I mean, sure, you can still find plenty of toys these days, but there’s just something missing with broad lines like McFarlane’s DC Multiverse or Hasbro’s Marvel Legends figures. Sure, you get a lot of figures and a lot of different characters, but lines with names like Secret Wars, Super Powers, or Total Justice had a certain charm and appeal.
And Total Justice was certainly memorable too, as it seemed to be on toy shelves everywhere in the 90s, and for years and years too. Centered around DC’s most popular heroes and their battles against Darkseid, the line had multiple waves of figures, a tie-in comic written by Christopher Priest of all people, and… let’s say “inspired” several more lines of action figures after it was ultimately canceled. This week, let’s take a look at the good, bad, and weird of Total Justice, JLA, and DC Super Heroes action figures.
60. DC Super Heroes Batman: Get ready for a lot of this, as these lines were very, very 90s with their designs. Scaly armor, big projectile launchers, and weird statue-like sculpts. I’ve never, ever liked the Total Justice Batman figure, and this is nothing more than a repaint, so it ranks last on account of being an imitation.
59. Fractal Armor Batman: The exact same figure as the one above, except if you could take off the armor it would actually look like a typical Batman design. You can’t, though, so he doesn’t.
58. Cyber-Link Batman: As much as I like me a mailaway figure and can appreciate different takes on characters, this guy just looks like a rejected prototype before they finalized that Fractal Armor design. It’s not nearly as bulky, which is a plus, and the transparent cape is kind of neat.
57. DC Super Heroes Robin: Nearly identical to a Robin figure that ranks higher, except it looks like it was colored with off-hue markers that have since faded.
56. JLA Batman: It’s not too bad, really, save for the awful cape. It’s big, bulky, and clunky, looking more like giant black bat wings than an actual, you know, cape. The stiff pose isn’t doing it any favors either.
55. Superman (gold chest plate): Take away that chest plate and this would be a pretty cool Superman. I like the pose, the colors are great, and the spit-curl even looks like it’s going the right way. As is quite common with these lines, though, there are just too many “extreeeeeeeme” extra bits and details for their own sake that hold this figure back.
54. Total Justice Batman: Better than the JLA Batman on account of it being blue and gray. Otherwise, exact same guy.
53. JLA Aquaman: Kind of plain and boring, though I do like the pop of green on his legs. Honestly, I love this Aquaman costume, and there are better takes on this sculpt further down the list. This could have ranked higher, if the shoulder armor was the right color. Going with black instead of a metallic gray was a bland choice, so here he sits.
52. Cyber-Link Superman: Looks like a precursor to the Injustice video game designs, which are almost universally terrible. The translucent red plastic on his legs is kind of neat, though, I’ll give it that.
51. JLA The Flash: Decent, but also just kind of boring. Granted, it’s the Flash, and he doesn’t need a lot of extra details and accessories. Since it’s a toy, though, you kind of want a little bit more, and this falls short because of that. Unlike Aquaman the coloring is otherwise spot-on, though, so that’s why it gets a bump.
50. JLA Bruce Wayne: Come on, Bruce. At least throw on a coat or something, or else everyone will know you’re Batman!
49. Total Justice Aquaman Gold Armor: Once again, almost a great, comic accurate Aquaman. Points off for the gold shoulder armor. Too samey with the hook.
48. DC Super Heroes Aquaman: Why is this a notch above the last Aquaman, when it looks less like the comics from the time? It’s my list, and I like the blue of the pants.
47. 5-Pack Collection IV: The last of the 5-Packs, all of the figures included are pretty nice. The problem is save for “Hologram Aquaman,” every other character can be purchased individually, without any alterations. Plus, why are Aquaman and Dr. Polaris packaged with the founding members of Young Justice? Weird.
46. Deluxe The Flash: Nice and simple, with kind of a retro vibe thanks to the slightly baggy costume. I wouldn’t mind getting this if I were a huge Flash fan. Not much more can be said about it than that.
45. Total Justice The Flash: At the risk of sounding contradictory, the inclusion of weird armor and accessories makes this more appealing than the figure from earlier in the list. It’s flashy, if not very Flashy, but as a toy it looks fun. That it’s one slot ahead of the Deluxe figure is nothing more than a bookkeeping error, most likely.
44. 5-Pack Collection I: The first– though definitely not last– appearance of “Electric Superman” on the list. I really like the Green Arrow and Green Lantern figures here, and while I don’t remember the specifics of the story, I remember seeing that “evil Superman” in JLA around this time. Like the previous 5-Pack, most of the figures can be obtained elsewhere, and the “Awful Cape Batman” isn’t helping things.
43. Total Justice Superman: By itself, a great Superman figure. Cool sculpt with great details, and those flowing locks are just gorgeous. The bulky armor and Kryptolightning accessories are charmingly silly and completely unnecessary.
42. Total Justice The Huntress: Honestly, this Huntress is really good. The costume looks fantastic, even with the unwieldy cocked-hip, asymmetrical pose. There’s just a better one later on.
41. JLA 5-Pack Collection III: Zauriel? Yes. Lex and Joker? Yes. Superman without the accessories? Yes. Best 5-Pack? Alas, not quite.
40. JLA 5-Pack Collection II: This is the best set, for two main reasons. One, the repackaged figures it comes with are really good. Two, it has two hologram versions of different Leaguers. It gets a slight edge over the previous set, simply because the Electric Superman, Green Lantern, and Huntress figures are just slightly cooler than regular Superman and Martian Manhunter. Just barely, though, because Zauriel gives them a run for their money.
39. JLA Superman Red: No joke, I love the electric Superman suit. In blue. Red always looked weird and kind of ugly to me, and that’s no different here.
38. JLA Superman: I love that this is Superman in his classic duds, and he generally looks great. The main issue I have is it has the same “awkward pose” problem that runs rampant throughout this line, and it’s a pose that’s recycled for several other characters to boot, like the electric Supermen/Supermans/Supersman.
37. Deluxe Martian Manhunter: Kind of an arbitrary ranking, because this is a nice larger sized figure. Cool cape, and great colors. The deep green of J’onn’s skin looks fantastic in particular. I just like some other figures more for whatever reason.
36. JLA Superboy: I love 90s Superboy so, so much. He would be a top ten figure if they’d included his sweet leather jacket, but alas…
35. JLA Martian Manhunter: Great representation of J’onn, save for the fact that it’s the exact same sculpt as Superman. I wish it was more of an original design, but thankfully it looks like he still has his pirate booties.
34. Deluxe Superman Blue: Like the Deluxe Flash, I like the Mego-esque baggy costume, and genuinely love this look for Superman. It’s not traditional, no, and I don’t want it as a permanent outfit or power set, of course. Given the specific time and change to his powers, though, this is the best he could have possibly looked. Minus the Handsome Squidward lips.
33. JLA Dark Knight Batman: Now that’s how you do Batman. Nice, stalwart sculpt, great costume and colors, and the cape actually looks like a cape instead of tattered rags. Calling it “Dark Knight Batman” also helps set it apart from other figures in these lines, which is nice.
32. Total Justice Aquaman: Comic accurate. That’s what I like to see. I also kind of like the silly crab-leg spiky armor things.
31. JLA The Huntress: Stripped away of the armor and crazy huge blaster accessory, this Huntress comes packed with that great design and her trusty trademark crossbow. Great figure to round out this group.
30. Darkseid: Before he was frankly an overused, catch all “cosmic big bad,” Darkseid had a sense of mystique and grandeur that made him truly frightening. He’s used best when he’s used sparingly, so including him in a popular toy line was genuinely surprising. The sculpt is fantastic, and he looks positively Kirbyesque. Just… what’s with that capture claw?
29. Total Justice Black Lightning: One of the more surprising inclusions in this line, I think this is actually where I first learned about Black Lightning. He looks cool, with a similar sculpt to the Green Lantern figure that is enhanced with that sweet collar and those wrist buckles. The lightning attachments rock too. Not much more I can say about him other than that.
28. Total Justice Robin: This Tim Drake is just shy of greatness. His suit looks great, and I even love the silly armor and spinning staff, which almost makes sense. The problem is he has one of the worst poses of anyone in the line, with both of his hands pointing downward, along with legs that look like he’s doing lunges. Makes it really hard to get a good pose out of him, and he can only hold his accessories one particular way. It’s still cool and I still love it, I just wish it was better.
27. Total Justice Emerald Twilight Parallax: Now this is an action figure. The dramatic pose, over-dramatic cape, and menacing accessories almost make me forget that this is Hal Jordan. Who sucks. For real though, I’ve never liked Hal at all, but I actually have this toy and have had it since these figures were on shelves. It’s awesome, even if it is Hal.
26. DC Super Heroes Batman & Superman Super Hero Pack: While this set has a pretty solid Batman, a classic Superman that’s… okay, and a Superman Red with a better pose, it ranks this high for one reason and one reason only. You know it, I know it, it’s “Knightfall Batman.” The only thing better would be if he was actually colored correctly, but I won’t lie and say that the black and gold doesn’t look positively swell.
25. Deluxe Aquaman: Giant-sized, comic accurate, and no extraneous accessories. Can’t beat that.
24. JLA Red Tornado: If you’re going to recycle sculpts, at least make interesting characters out of it. Do I love Red Tornado? Not especially. Would I take a Red Tornado figure over a 15th Batman? Absolutely.
23. Total Justice Hawkman: Strip away the armor and this is pretty much a perfect Hawkman. The only problem is he doesn’t come with a mace. Bummer.
22. Total Justice Green Arrow: Yes, I am a child of the Nineties, and I have unironic affinity for a lot of the characters from that decade. That explains AzBats, Electric Superman, Scarlet Spider, and all sorts of other characters I genuinely love. That goes for Conner Hawke as Green Arrow too, since he’s the Arrow I read about when I first got into comics. From JLA to crossovers in Robin, I dug me some Hawke. Weirdly, I don’t see him as The Best Green Arrow like I see Kyle as the best Lantern or Wally as the best Flash, but that might be because the predecessors were both super lameos. Either way, this is an awesome figure with a fixed pose that actually makes sense, what with the bow and arrow accessory he comes with.
21. Total Justice Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner, the Best Green Lantern (child of the Nineties, remember?), in all his verdant glory. He’s a character where it totally makes sense to have armor and weapons and all sorts of accessories, and the bright green plastic attachments look fantastic, since they’re totally constructs Kyle would come up with. Frankly, I’m surprised this didn’t make the top twenty or even ten, but there are some truly great figures coming later, and the lack of articulation kind of hurts him. Not much, but just enough.
20. DC Super Heroes Green Lantern vs. Dr. Polaris: This Green Lantern is kind of odd, because I’m not entirely sure if it’s supposed to be Hal or Kyle. That Dr. Polaris is awesome, though, and absolutely fits because he’s, ya know, Green Lantern’s villain. Great color scheme and a cool cape equal one menacing figure.
19. JLA Impulse: I love Bart Allen oh so much. This figure is okay, but it’s just nice seeing some young hero representation during this era. The likeness is really good, I just wish he was in a better pose. Looks a bit too stiff.
18. DC Super Heroes Superman vs. Metallo: Usually, battle-damaged figures don’t do an awful lot for me, and that goes for this Superman. He has a good sculpt, and the tears to his suit aren’t too extreme, I’d just take most of the other Superman figures from elsewhere in this post over him. Metallo, on the other hand, is awesome. A nice, big, hulking sculpt, and the solid silver plastic with the translucent green details are really striking.
17. DC Super Heroes Despero: Despero had a bit of a resurgence for a hot minute back in the Nineties, so of course they were going to capitalize on that with some action figures. It makes sense, too, because he has a great look and cool design, with that sweet fin and third eye really standing out along with his purple skin.
16. JLA Robin: All of the things I like and dislike about the figure itself are the same as the earlier Robins on the list, without the baggage of extraneous pieces. Just Robin and a bo staff, that’s all you need.
15. DC Super Heroes Superboy vs. King Shark: If you’re not going to give Superboy his rad jacket, then at least give him something tubular, like a surfboard. The short sleeves and red “heat vision” glasses make this feel different enough from the other Superboy figures in the line. The real looker is King Shark, though, who just has such a fun sculpt and design that’s perfect for toys.
14. JLA Batman: Blue and gray with a good cape. Can’t beat it.
13. DC Super Heroes Blue Beetle and the Flash with the Atom: Flash is okay, if just a recycled figure with some interesting if not superfluous plate armor. The real standouts are Blue Beetle, who doesn’t have a standalone figure, and that tiny little Atom. Why these three are bundled together, I do not know, but I will not complain if we get both Kord and Palmer in one package.
12. JLA Green Lantern: Yes, I like the accessories that came with the Total Justice figure, and this is the same toy otherwise. There’s something about including a stand that makes this feel more like a display piece, though, and I can just imagine placing him on a shelf and raising his right arm to proudly show off that power ring.
11. JLA Wonder Woman: Most of the figures in these lines have had questionable poses, the (few) women in particular. That doesn’t apply to Wonder Woman at all, as she stands straight, tall, and strong. No cocked hip or flared fingers for her, like Huntress. In that classic suit with those gorgeous colors, and packaged with her trademark lasso, that’s all you need for a great Wonder Woman.
10. Despero: The earlier Despero looked good, and this one looks great. The green pants and gold armoring really make his purple skin pop, and I love the two-toned coloring on his blaster and sword. For a line that was all about being over the top, they went relatively simple and subtle with Despero, and he’s all the better for it.
9. DC Super Heroes Hawkman: Sure, it’s just a repaint of the Total Justice Hawkman, and he’s still missing his sweet, sweet mace. There’s just something about the black pants, brown wings, and silver accessories that I find really striking, though. After all, these lists are meant to be about first impressions and visual appeal, and I find this figure to be pretty appealing.
8. JLA Zauriel: Speaking of Hawkman, here’s Zauriel. He’s literally an angel who wields a flaming sword, who teamed up with the JLA when some rogue angels tried to overthrow Heaven itself. Grant Morrison created him because Hawkman was off limits from DC editorial, and frankly we’re all the better for it. Zauriel’s introduction led to a story where Electric Superman literally wrestles an angel that looks like a bull. It was amazing, and so is this toy.
7. JLA Superman Blue: Seriously, I love this look, for this specific Superman. The blue and white are so sharp together, and you couldn’t come up with a better costume for the concept “Superman, but give him electricity powers” than this. Sure, it’s very dated and specific to a time and place in Superman’s history, but it still looks great as an action figure.
6. JLA Green Arrow: The greatness of the Total Justice figure, without the extra accessories and with a slightly better color scheme. Seriously, I love the dark green and brown together, and that JLA stand would make this a great display piece.
5. JLA Batman: Better blue with a better gray and a great cape. I guess you can beat it.
4. JLA The Atom: To me, the Atom has one of the all-time great costume designs in comics, so getting two for the price of one is quite the deal. You’ve got your standard-sized Atom for interacting with other Leaguers, and then an adorable little miniature Atom for when he needs to show off his power. Awesome play value.
3. Deluxe Green Lantern: Look, I’ve already said how much I love Kyle Rayner enough in this post. It should not be surprising at all that I love a giant-sized figure of the Best Green Lantern more than all the others, even if he didn’t come with some cool accessories. He does, though, so all the better.
2. JLA Steel: Much as I love Superboy, of all the characters introduced during the “Reign of the Supermen” arc, Steel is far and away the best. He’s a normal guy, inspired by Superman to do good, so when his hero falls he does just that. He has a great look and a sweet hammer, which are perfect designs for an action figure.
1. JLA Plastic Man: Let’s be real here. If Plastic Man is part of anything I’m covering, he’s going to rank near the top. He’s a character whose mere presence sparks joy, no matter the material or medium, and has one of the best costumes and powers in all of comics. This figure, with elongated neck and arms that are made out of posable soft rubber, looks like it would be one of the most fun toys in the line, which is kind of the entire point of getting a toy to begin with.
All images were obtained from Figure-Archive.net, unless otherwise noted.