Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Review: Batman Classic 60s TV Batman & Robin

Ask someone to sing the Batman theme. Without a doubt they'll start humming the tune from the 60s TV series. Despite the Nolan trilogy, the Burton duo and all the other incarnations, it's the Adam West version that remains the most famous in popular culture. Why? It's hard to put a finger on. It's very much a product of the 60s, with limited special effects and high amounts of cheese, but despite this it's remembered with a fondness that none of the others have managed to capture.

Due to a convoluted rights situation, a DVD release has never happened. TV repeats still occur sporadically - we had a joyous time not so long ago watching episodes on ITV4 in a morning - but it's not been exactly 'high profile' for a long, long time. And yet not so long ago, somehow, a deal was struck and brand new merchandise has begun to appear.

Amongst this merchandise is a 6" line of action figures from Mattel. The first (only?) wave contains Batman, the Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, and...Surf's Up Batman? I can only guess this came from the mind of the Mattel employee who came up with Disco Skeletor.

Bizarrely, the only way to get Robin is in a Batman-Robin two pack which is the subject of this review (I get round to the subject matter in this reviews eventually).

We'll start off with the Boy Wonder himself, since there's a good chance he's the only reason why most people will pick up this pack. Robin is wearing his regular costume, as seen in every episode of the TV show. His articulation is extensive, though doesn't ruin the aesthetics of the sculpt. Well, apart from that ab-crunch, but I'll forgive this since it does come in useful for the 'climbing' pose, but more on that later.

The head sculpt is a reasonable likeness of Burt Ward, though isn't going to win any awards. It may just be my figure, but there's what looks dirt but may in fact be 'shading' on the lower portion of his face. This shading continues throughout the rest of the figure, where it looks a little better. Being based on a 'real' person, the body is sculpted to be more 'normal', rather than the super-muscular look of a lot of comic book figures.

The knees on my Robin are warped, which means that it looks like someone's taken a mallet to his legs, Kathy Bates-style. This isn't noticeable when he's pegged to the display base, but is damn annoying the rest of the time.

Robin's (and indeed Batman's) cape is fabric, with wire running through it. The assumption is that this is so the cape that be shaped to look as though Robin (and Batman) are vertical, when they're in fact horizontal, on the display base. I've read complaints about this wire, saying that it looks stupid when the figure is standing normally, however it's not too difficult to shape the wire to get it into a decent-looking pose. Of course if you really hate it, you could always remove it. I'd definitely remove the stupidly large label.

On to Batman. Well, everything I said about Robin really holds true for Batman. He's identical to the single-release figure, though with added wire. The likeness is at the same level of Adam West-ness that Robin is Ward-ness. Not terrible, but...

Batman also comes with a batarang. This is red, small and doesn't stay in Batman's hand particularly well. I'd recommend keeping hold of the little rubber bands that hold it in place in the packaging, otherwise you're going to be like me and immediately lose the thing.

Finally, we come to the display base. In the series it was common for Batman and Robin to climb the side of buildings, in a way that looked nothing like West and Ward were walking horizontally and the production crew had turned the camera sideways. The rope - aka bit of paper packaging - is tied through a hole in the top, Batman & Robin placed on the pegs and - posed well - the result is a pretty good recreation of the classic 'walking up building' pose. The base can either be laid horizontally or hung on the wall - either of which is screen-accurate, I guess.  The windows open, thus making it possible for 'guest stars' to poke their heads through, should you wish.

This set is a bit mean on the part of Mattel. Making Robin exclusive to this set is going to annoy a lot of people - especially as you can then only get him in 'wired' form. Of course you could just forget getting the individual Batman, but then he's unwired and you need the card that comes with him to complete the 'diorama'. But putting that aside, this is a fun set. I've enjoyed posing the dynamic duo on their wall-stand more than I thought I would and it would look great hung on a wall.

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