Thursday, 6 February 2014

Mattel Batman Classic TV Series Surf's Up! Batman

The old Batman TV show, it was awesome. Virtually everyone on the planet has either seen it or heard of it, as it has been perpetually re-run on TV stations around the globe. Defining the character for many different generations of people.

Characters tend to be defined, to each person, by the first version they were introduced to. So for many kids now when they think of Batman, their first thought is of Christian Bale growling. That is their Batman.

For me, when I read or hear the name Batman, the first thing that pops into my head is Jim Aparo's Batman. His work, was the first I was introduced to for Batman, when I was a child in the mid 80's as his was the standard from the comics at that time, and made its way into most of our British Annuals (hard back books that are particularly prevalent at Christmas time).

Not a week goes by, when I don't growl at Mattel or DC Collectibles for still not having put out a figure that matches that design. Grrrr.

But I was still a big fan of the old TV show as a child, as it was constantly on the TV.

For kids of the 60's, the Classic Batman TV series will always define Batman for them, and finally it seems to have made out of licensing hell so Mattel, DC and Warner Brothers can unleash a merchandising onslaught upon us.


First up, Mattel has made a range of figures, following in the style of their now dearly departed DC Universe Classics lines, based on this brilliant TV show. The first one I managed to acquire, thanks to an early Valentines Day present from my amazing Girlfriend was "Surf's UP! Batman!"

Based on this iconic scene from the TV show

There is no way I was going to avoid this figure, even if I hadn't got it as a gift, as it is just too crazy and amazing to skip. Mattel tried their best to make this happen, by not releasing them in the UK at places other than import stores - and we think Hasbro UK are bad.

So how does it stack up? Hit the button, and read the review after the jump.

First, I have to quickly talk about the boxes. Its rare I mention packaging, as I like to get the toys out of their mini prisons, and usually the packaging either gets binned or put in another box for storage. Kind of ironic, who boxes the boxes? Sometimes, I amuse myself.

The reason I feel I should mention the box, is because looks wonderful and Mattel have done a fantastic job with the look and design. Not only do you have the vintage logo, but you have a great image of Batman and Robin climbing up the side of a building, though it looks like they are climbing up the side of the package. Its an instantly recognisable, iconic picture and it matches the colours they have gone for too.

Flipping the package round, has a bio done in the style of the narrator from the TV show which is absolutely wonderful touch.

I adore the artwork on the back. Its very retro and is my favourite style of batman, with the grey suit, blue cape and yellow oval.

Batman doesn't always have to be grim and miserable

Whilst the look of the package is brilliant, and I cannot give Mattel enough plaudits for it - the actual physical side of the packaging is less impressive.

Its nothing to do with the quality of the card, or the actual fee, instead its the classic Mattel thing of making it really hard to get it open without wrecking it, which is a problem that afflicts their Masters of the Universe Classics line.

These are figures for collectors, as pointed out on the packaging, so if they cannot appreciate that collectors like to keep the packaging and put the figure back into it - then its no wonder so many gripe about Matty Collector.

The odd thing is, there is an extra piece of the backing card inside, weird.

Once you free him from his cardboard prison, its hard not be instantly impressed. You have, in your hands, a tiny Adam West.

Just amazing.

What I love, is that whilst it clearly is based off the DCUC line, and has all the joints and articulation that comes with that - it is entirely its own body type. So instead of the standard muscular, heroic figure bodies we usually get, this is much more fitting to a normal person. I swear, the figure almost has a pot belly!

The legs are particularly different, being very slim and pointy - but they look spot on.

Batmans head is the best thing on this though, with his cowl being perfectly replicated right down to his funny eyebrows. His eyes are actually recessed a little, so it does feel like he is wearing a mask and there could be an Adam West face hiding under there.

The level of detail is excellent without ever being over the top, there is no hyper detailing here and the designers have wisely avoided the temptation to modernise the design or add in any new elements.

This is very much a love letter to fans of this particular iteration of the character. Even the body lacks any kind of muscle definition, and thank god as it would have looked weird. But looking at an action figure, and being conditioned to expect big hulking muscles - its jarring at first.

The blue is the right shade, the bat oval has the right bat on it, the belt has a bat logo on the buckle which is hard to see unless in the right light.

His shorts match the ones he wore in the episode, and don't have a great deal to them. But that is part of the brilliance of this figure- they should not have lots to them. The original costumes were all very simple, lacking all the extras and insane level of  design you get now, and this captures these figures capture that look perfectly.

                                                "Break down the walls of Jericho"

Even the cape feels retro. Its made of cloth, so there is no extra dramatic detailing. He does look like a guy just with a giant bit of clot dangling off his back, as he should.

There is a two pack version of this figure, also containing Robin, where the cape actually has a wire frame built into it. I do have that set, and will be reviewing it at some point (I just wanted Surfing Batman to get the glory first!), but I will say its not very successful and I wish they had just kept the cape like this.

Whilst it is based off the DCUC style, it does not look it at first glance. But in hand, you notice all the excellent articulation you would expect from that line is carried over here. Ab crunch, ball jointed head, thigh cut, ankle joints - its all here.

Now, Adam West was not particularly dynamic, or athletic as Batman, so you are unlikely to have him doing the splits anyway.

Surfing Batman would not be complete without an actual Surfboard, otherwise he would just be "Yellow Shorts Batman!TM"
It is of course necessary to the figure, but its just a thin bit of plastic and does not feel very sturdy. Kinda feels like they cheaped here.

Once he's on it, he does like great, but a problem presents itself with the fin that is correctly on the underside of the Surf board. As the plastic is so thin and weak, and there is no stand to prop up the Surf board itself (not to be confused with the figure stand he does come with), it means that the board will bend and warp.
That is not what you want with a collector figure, or anything at all, so he won't spend much time on the board.

He can also hold the Surf board, and he holds it quite sturdily. Though on mine, one of the hands is looser than the other so it has a tendency to slide.

The last accessory he comes with is an a cool figure stand. It has a great "Biff!!!" sign for him to stand on, and looks very nice. The card backing card it comes with, is a part of the Batmobile, and I believe forms a Diorama if you have all of the other figures. Its could have done with being a little taller though, as it only reaches up to Batman's lower back, so is largely hidden.

As I mentioned earlier, this is nowhere to mount the Surfboard, so the only way to pose him with it is to just stand him up holding it. I can't complain too much, as that's how I would likely have displayed him anyway, and he looks great like that.

You cannot talk about a Mattel product without mentioning Quality Control, and sadly this is no exception. For the most part mine is fine, but the head is clearly damaged. You could not really tell in the package, but once its out, it looks like he has had a terrible accident. You can see it in some of the photo's above, and its a poor show from Mattel. Not all of them are like this, it could be only me who has a figure with this problem, but it is "classic" Mattel - why is it so hard for them to put out figures that are just fine?

So on to final thoughts then, and I have to say this a brilliant figure. Mattel have achieved amazing results in capturing Adam West's likeness, and the figure has a great base which fits the aesthetic perfectly.

I love it, and its currently got pride of place on my desk, but the QC problems spoil the figure just a touch, whilst the thin plastic on the Surf board means it has very little play value and is mainly just a decorative piece for him to hold.

We can all appreciate that companies have to cut costs to keep prices down, but Mattel seem to be the only company who so consistently puts out figures aimed at collectors, which visibly suffer from cost cutting measures in the worst ways. Not only that, but they are the only ones who run to the Internet to highlight this.

So the moral of the story is, really check the figure's head before you buy it as it is a great figure. I cannot stress enough how good this figure is, and the whole line, its just I got one with a small problem.

Surely everyone wants their own Surfing Adam West Batman?

Yes, I am aware of the hypocrisy of claiming its weak plastic and then doing this, but come looks awesome!

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